U.S. Faces Fines For Coral Reef Damage

MANILA, (UPI) —  The United States could face fines of about $90 per square foot of damaged coral after a minesweeping vessel became grounded in the Philippines, officials said.

The USS Guardian has been stuck on the Tubbataha Reef, which is part of the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park in the Sulu Sea since Jan. 17. The reef is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Grace Barber, an administrator with the park’s management office, said the U.S. Navy vessel committed at least three violations when it struck the reef. The minesweeper did not obtain permission to enter the park, it did not pay a fee for entering the park and it obstructed the work of park rangers, she told The New York Times.

“The rangers have a protocol,” Barber said. “They are required to board and inspect every boat that enters the park. When the rangers asked the U.S. warship for permission to board, they were told to call the U.S. embassy.”

Additionally, the United States could be fined $90 per square foot of damage done to the coral reefs. An early estimate said 10,763 square feet of coral had been damaged.

Lt. Cmdr. James Stockman, a U.S. Navy public affairs officer, said the United States has sought permission from the Philippine Coast Guard to scrap the $277 million minesweeper to avoid further damage to the reefs by towing it out.

“The plan is to dismantle the ship into three pieces and remove the sections by crane,” he said.

Governor Wants Pennsylvania Out Of Liquor Business

PITTSBURGH,  (UPI) —  Gov. Tom Corbett Wednesday announced he plans to privatize Pennsylvania’s system of state liquor stores, using the proceeds for public schools.

Corbett said selling off the licenses would bring in $1 billion, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. But his plan must pass the Legislature, which has rejected earlier privatization efforts.

“The selling of alcohol is not a core responsibility of government, but education is,” the Republican governor told reporters at a news conference in Pittsburgh. “I believe it’s time to give Pennsylvanians what they want: choice and convenience.”

Dominic Pileggi, the Republican majority leader of the Senate, said he is not sure total privatization is needed. He suggested state laws could be changed to allow more sales of beer and wine in supermarkets and convenience stores without selling off the state stores.

Costs Mount For ‘Sandwich Generation’

WASHINGTON, (UPI) —  Costs are rising for the so-called sandwich generation, middle-age Americans with aging parents who also are raising children, U.S. researchers said.

A Pew Research Center report on social and demographic trends, issued Wednesday, said 47 percent of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a child age 18 or older. Fifteen percent of middle-age Americans provide financial support to both an aging parent and a child, the study found.

The percentage of sandwich generation adults hasn’t changed substantially in recent years, but the financial burden of providing care for again and younger family members is growing — with providing for grown children accounting for most of the added financial pressure.

The survey found 48 percent of adults ages 40 to 59 have provided some financial support to at least one grown child in the past year. Twenty-seven percent provided the primary support for their grown children.

Those numbers are up significantly from 2005, Pew said.

Twenty-one percent of middle-age adults have provided financial support to a parent age 65 or older in the past year — about the same as in 2005.

The survey was conducted Nov. 28-Dec. 5 among 2,511 adults nationwide. The margin of error is 2.2 percentage points.

Kerry, In Senate Farewell, Scores Gridlock

WASHINGTON,  (UPI) —  U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., about to take office as secretary of state, warned in a farewell speech in the Senate Wednesday about political gridlock.

Kerry didn’t mention names or parties, but in an emotional speech suggested some lawmakers have put their own interests ahead of the national interest, The Boston Globe reported. Gridlock threatens the U.S. reputation abroad and erodes relationship-building and bipartisan cooperation in the Senate, Kerry said.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved Kerry’s nomination Tuesday.

“As I prepare to represent our nation in capitals around the world,” Kerry said in prepared remarks, “I’m conscious that my credibility as a diplomat — and ours as a country — is determined to a great degree by what happens in our own capital city. We can be no stronger abroad than we are at home.

“If we posture politically in Washington, we weaken our position across the world. If democracy deadlocks here, we raise doubts about democracy everywhere. If we do not in our deeds prove our own ideals, we undermine our security and our sacred mission as the best hope of Earth.”

Kerry said the nation’s problems “come from individual choices made by senators themselves not the rules.”

“When an individual senator — or a colluding caucus — determines the comity essential to an institution like the Senate is a barrier to individual ambition or party ambition, the country loses,” he said. “Those are the moments in which the Senate fulfills, not its responsibility to the people, but its reputation as a sanctuary of gridlock.”

Kerry said a “dangerous but reversible” erosion in the quality of U.S. democracy is caused by “the decline of comity, the deluge of money, and the disregard for facts.”

Kerry, who was elected in 1984, paid tribute to colleagues, and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, who died in 2009.

Thursday Morning News Roundup 1-31-2013, It’s Getting Weird Out There

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • The dollar is at a 14-month low performance low against the euro as the Federal Reserve announced yesterday that it would keep pumping the fiat.
  • Is there an active shooter in your workplace? The Department of Homeland Security has some advice: Run with scissors.
  • Another youngster has been kicked out of school for bringing a toy gun to school. This time a 6-year-old girl was expelled for the rest of the year for bringing a clear plastic toy gun to school.
  • Meanwhile, Bronx cops spent 10 hours interrogating a hardened 7-year-old over a $5 dispute with another child. Sadly, the photo below is real.cuff0131_image

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook.

DHS Echoes The Founders On Defense

Gun grabbers like to ask the question: “Why do you need an ‘assault weapon?’”

As the Department of Homeland Security so aptly put it in its own request for proposal for 7,000 .223 cal. select fire weapons, they are for personal defense.

In Thoughts on Standing Armies, Josiah Quincy Jr. wrote in 1774:

No free government was ever founded or ever preserved its liberty, without uniting the characters of the citizen and soldier in those destined for the defence of the state…. Such are a well regulated militia, composed of the freeholders, citizen and husbandman, who take up arms to preserve their property, as individuals, and their rights as freemen.

Gun grabbers lack the moral authority to determine what weapon a lawful gun owner needs for defense or target shooting or whatever. Only the gun owner can make that decision.

Unsurprisingly, The Fed To Continue Money Pumping

At a Federal Open Market Committee on Wednesday, officials at the Federal Reserve said they would continue to pump money into the economy via an $85 billion bond-buying stimulus scheme, despite a stall in economic activity in recent months under the same policy.

Citing its statutory mandate, the Fed said that the continued stimulus is an effort to maintain price stability and encourage employment growth, the latter of which must improve substantially before the central bank will back off of its ongoing stimulus.

From an FOMC statement:

The Committee expects that, with appropriate policy accommodation, economic growth will proceed at a moderate pace and the unemployment rate will gradually decline toward levels the Committee judges consistent with its dual mandate.  Although strains in global financial markets have eased somewhat, the Committee continues to see downside risks to the economic outlook. The Committee also anticipates that inflation over the medium term likely will run at or below its 2 percent objective.

As unemployment rates are expected to remain around 7.8 percent for the month of January, Fed officials say that they will hold interest rates near zero until unemployment is down to 6.5 percent. Central bankers say the only way the policy will change is if inflation climbs above 2.5 percent in coming months.

The Federal Reserve’s balance sheet is estimated to have expanded in excess of $3 trillion in recent years. Recent meeting minutes of the FOMC show signs of disagreement between members of the committee over how much longer the central bank can continue quantitative easing without major and obvious economic consequence.

Some economic experts say that Americans can expect soaring food and fuel prices as early as 2014 if the Fed policy doesn’t produce dramatic economic growth this year.

Emotion, Lies And Propaganda From Anti-Gun Advocates On Capitol Hill

The politically charged American conversation about gun violence continued yesterday with the first Congressional hearing related to the matter since the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. The conversation was complete with the same tired pleas to emotion and talking points that have been parroted from both sides of the debate, but the anti-gun lobby pulled all the stops.

Emotion

The image from the hearing that will undoubtedly be etched into the American psyche as it is played over and over by mainstream media will be that of the speech given before lawmakers by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the survivor of a mass shooting carried out in 2011 by a maniacal gunman in Arizona.

“This is an important conversation, for our children, for our communities, for Democrats and Republicans,” she said with exertion stemming from brain injuries caused by her attack. “Speaking is difficult but I need to say something important. Violence is a big problem. Too many children are dying. Too many children. We must do something. It will be hard, but the time is now. You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.”

Lies And Half Truths

Another anti-gun highlight of the day involved remarks by infamously anti-gun Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) who flipped through what appeared to be a gun catalog making such absurd (or woefully ill-informed) claims as retail AR-15s are easily modified to fire up to 800 rounds per minute and two, three or four rounds at a time. She also lamented that these firearms are capable of “tremendous velocity and tremendous killing power,” which “I suspect tears young bodies apart.”

Propaganda

Following the hearings, a number of heavily slanted news reports hit the Internet.

One such example was this vilification of National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre from CNN:

Wayne LaPierre is not a large man. He does not move with the easy assurance of a skilled fighter. His head sits low on his neck, and he seems to turn from the shoulders.

His swept-back, graying hair and rimless glasses make him look like a Central Casting accountant who sleeps with a tie on. Yet, in Washington, LaPierre is a heavyweight of the first degree, a brawler who can make even brave politicians toss in the towel at the first sign of a scuffle.

As the debate about guns continues, there are still several factors related to past mass killings that are not receiving media attention or due diligence from lawmakers. Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) pointed out the foolishness of a Senate hearing completely focused on categorically banning guns and magazines or implementing new license requirements without addressing issues of enforcement and mental health.

“I have a hard time telling my constituents in Texas that Congress is looking at passing a whole raft of new laws, when the laws that we currently have on the books are so woefully unenforced,” he said, criticizing the Justice Department.

The Senator went on to suggest that legislation incorporating mental health screenings with already existing gun laws could help Congress come to an agreement that offers comprise to individuals on both sides of the debate.

“Perhaps it’s time to consider our background checks laws to see if they need to be updated to screen out the growing number of people who are subjected to court-ordered outpatient mental health treatment,” he said. “…There are areas where Congress can come together right now, examine the nexus between gun crime, violence, and mental health care. I’m willing to listen to serious ideas, not just window dressing, to try to come up with solutions.”

As an aside, a recent Reason/Rupe poll demonstrated that 52 percent of Americans believe that politicians are joining the likes of Piers Morgan — who recently said he was “standing on the graves of dead Sandy Hook children” — in exploiting tragedy for political gain. Also, 51 percent of respondents to the same poll rejected the notion that American citizens should be barred from owning so-called assault weapons.

Yes, Ma’am!

As of last week, the armed forces of the United States will henceforth allow women to join front-line combat units. Defense Secretary Leon “Panther” Panetta directed the military to prepare to rotate members of the fairer sex into firing position. The decision has touched off a fairly predictable firestorm of controversy, with some stating the complete gender-integration of the military was likely overdue and others saying women in combat is an idea whose time should never arrive.

I’m of two minds on the topic. While I fully understand the desire to preserve some semblance of gender roles in an increasingly confused society, I struggle to comprehend the idea that women are somehow unable to perform properly in a firefight because they’re using different plumbing. There are no ladies’ rooms “outside the wire.” And the enemy certainly doesn’t display any hesitation about, or even awareness of, gender differences when rigging improvised explosive devices or aiming B-40s at a passing convoy. Already, women go through the same training expected of any service personnel and engage in air, ground and sea combat, although their primary assignments may vary. Indeed, the lone distinction is essentially a matter of paperwork.

Not too far off in American history, integration meant including blacks in front-line combat units. Conventional wisdom of the time stated that racial integration of the armed forces posed a danger to everything from command structure to unit morale. Find former Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Carlton Kent and tell the men under him that he was not fit to serve with them. I strongly suggest you start running before you finish. Should you survive, try out the same logic on one of the senior officers serving under Vice Adm. Carol Pottenger. Bring your floaties.

I have encountered some people who think women lack the detachment to kill without reservation. I need only two words to gun that down: Janet Reno.

From an anecdotal perspective, with whom would you rather fend off an armed assault, much less participate in one: Sarah Palin or Dennis Kucinich? Ask that same question of some half-starved North Korean zombie or cave-dwelling Akbar who smokes hash to keep the hunger pangs at bay. Something tells me Private Jong-Sun will seriously reconsider just how badly he wants Alaska after he runs into the “Mama Grizzly.”

On the other hand, I once asked Cmdr. Dick Marcinko about women serving in combat units. If that name sounds familiar, it’s probably because he’s the bestselling author of the Rogue Warrior series of novels, and he also happens to be the founder of SEAL Team Six. This guy seriously knows his warfare. Marcinko told me he opposes women in combat not because they can’t be effective soldiers — he noted Israeli military servicewomen and Eastern Bloc snipers as examples — but because of the effect their capture might have on their own units. Marcinko worried that units might take extreme risks should a female member be captured — especially given the fact that the captors are almost routinely islamofascists who force women to dress like beekeepers, find 12 year-old girls alluring and kick back with a nice “honor killing.”

Marcinko’s point is well made. But women who enlist in the military know what they might face. To suggest that they’re unaware of the occupational hazards is to diminish their quality, and I think that’s a bit unfair. If the military — which actually tends to be ahead of the curve when it comes to integration — could learn that the only color that matters is green (or Army Combat Uniform, MARPAT or MultiCam), then I have no doubt that they can learn that the gender of their colleagues matters as little in combat as the gender of the enemy.

I am not proposing some massive social engineering experiment that uses the military as the petri dish. I just honestly believe that women can be just as effective in combat roles as men. In some cases, they might even be a little bit better. My mother is a graceful, delicate woman who makes drinking a martini look like ballet, whereas I have watched my father tear tree stumps out of the ground with his bare hands. And he does what she tells him to with the unblinking obedience of a Marine boot running into the ghost of Lt. Gen. Chesty Puller. With that in mind, imagine the reaction of a cadre of hajis confronted by a battalion that includes women with Hillary Clinton’s disposition.

–Ben Crystal

Texas Governor’s Novel Idea: Give Back Tax Money Under Budget Surplus

During a State of the State address this week, Texas Governor Rick Perry called for returning taxpayer money to the taxpayers of his State when the government is operating at a surplus.

“Today, I’m calling for a mechanism to be put in place so when we do bring in more than we need, we’ll have the option of returning tax money directly to the people who paid it,” the Governor said Tuesday. “Currently, that’s not something our constitution allows. We need to fix that.”

Perry, whose State is currently operating at a budget surplus, went on to say, “We’ve never bought into the notion that if you collect more, you need to spend more.”

As the Texas economy has improved in recent years, the State’s Governor has doubled down on calls for lawmakers to keep taxes low and government spending at a minimum. In 2011, Texas faced a budget shortfall of as much as $27 billion; but because of deep spending cuts and increased oil and gas revenues, the latest budget estimates for the State indicate a surplus estimated around $8.8 billion today.

Other States are looking to Texas to come up with plans to realize similar budgetary success. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal proposed recently that lawmakers in his State should be more Texas-like by doing away with State income taxes. Meanwhile, lawmakers in Oklahoma are trying to cut taxes to remain economically competitive with their neighbor to the south.

The Lesson Of The Amazing Harbaugh Brothers

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I’m Wayne Allyn Root for Personal Liberty. For one week, let’s take a break from President Barack Obama and politics. This week is all about the most popular and celebrated event in the world: the Super Bowl. And there is a very special lesson in this year’s game for all of us to study, learn and implement in our lives.

John and Jim Harbaugh are American idols. They just became the biggest story, on the biggest stage, in sports history: two brothers who rose quickly to the top of their demanding high-profile profession, two brothers who now face off in the biggest event in the world – literally. More than 1 billion people across the globe will be watching as these two brothers, who grew up sharing the same bedroom, fight for victory in the Super Bowl. And because of the made-for-television drama of two brothers fighting for the Vince Lombardi Trophy, this will undoubtedly become the most-watched program in the history of America. There is a gigantic lesson to be learned.

The lesson is the importance of enthusiasm.

It could not come at a better time for Americans experiencing this horrible Obama economy. The reports on debt, taxes, unemployment and foreclosures are dismal. That’s the bad news.

But there’s good news, too. What’s happening around you doesn’t matter. In the Great Depression, amid all the pain and wreckage, there were success stories. It was the greatest wealth transfer in world history. A select few made a fortune. What was the secret? It’s an attitude that enables anyone to beat the odds, to overcome any challenge, to make the impossible possible. Few people have it. Many on the left disparage it. It’s called enthusiasm.

Exhibit A: the Harbaugh brothers, John and Jim. They are just a year apart, and they spent their entire childhood sleeping inches apart in the same bedroom. Today they are National Football League head coaches of the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers. What are the odds? One in a million? One in a billion? Well the odds before now were zero. Because in the 93-year history of the NFL, it never happened before. At least not before PHE, the pre-Harbaugh era.

But enthusiasm sells. The Harbaugh brothers grew up with one saying on their minds 24/7: “Attack this day with enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”

That saying was drummed into their heads daily by their football coach dad, Jack Harbaugh. Years later, in 2011, they found each other coaching two of the best teams in the NFL and, remarkably, facing each other on national TV on Thanksgiving night. That competition excited America so much, that game became the most watched cable TV show in the history of Thanksgiving.

But that was just a warm-up for Super Bowl Sunday. Jim and John Harbaugh will be leading their teams onto the field that day. They are the two coaches left standing out of 32 NFL teams. They will be playing each other for the greatest prize in all of sports. And the foundation of all of that success — hard work and enthusiasm — was drummed into their heads by their father/coach Jack Harbaugh.

The first Coach Harbaugh understood that enthusiasm is contagious. Now it has led to his two sons’ beating out every other coach in football to reach the Super Bowl. Most coaches, no matter how good, will never make a Super Bowl in their entire career. These two brothers both made it in the same year.

Enthusiasm works in any field.

Barry Goldwater is the father of conservatism in America. Yet he lost the 1964 Presidential election by a landslide. Ronald Reagan took Goldwater’s exact philosophy, but spread it with tremendous enthusiasm. With the exact same political philosophy and agenda, Reagan won the Presidency in two landslides. Enthusiasm was the big difference.

There were many great generals in World War II, but only one instantly comes to mind today: Gen. George S. Patton. He exuded confidence and enthusiasm. He inspired his men to do remarkable things. They’ve since made Broadway plays, books and movies about the legend of Gen. George S. Patton.

Can enthusiasm promote religion? Ask Billy Graham. The most enthusiastic preacher ever, he traveled the United States with his evangelical Billy Graham Crusades in the 1950s. Millions of people came out to see this passionate, enthusiastic communicator. But those were all “country people.” When Graham announced he was going to preach evangelical Christianity in the middle of New York City, the critics laughed. They predicted his show would close in a day, like a failed Broadway play.

Graham was undeterred. He went ahead with his plans with unmatched enthusiasm. Well more than 2 million New Yorkers came out to see Graham preach at Madison Square Garden — an all-time record. Graham’s revival in New York City was extended. Enthusiasm had sold even evangelical Christianity in the middle of cynical New York City.

Soon thereafter, NBC offered Graham $5 million (in 1957) to host a television variety show. Even Hollywood was sold by his enthusiasm. His lifetime audience is now stands at 2.2 billion people. More than 15 million of them came to the front of the stage and took Jesus as their savior. No preacher in history has reached more people.

There have been many fitness gurus over the years, but only one “godfather of fitness.” Jack LaLanne’s fitness television show ran from 1951 to 1985. He opened the nation’s first chain of gyms. He sold millions of juicers on TV infomercials. At the age of 54, he beat a 21-year old Arnold Schwarzenegger in a bodybuilding competition. LaLanne celebrated his 70th birthday by pulling 70 people in 70 rowboats through San Francisco harbor — with his teeth. He wrote his last book at age 95. His enthusiasm for life made him one of America’s biggest stars for seven decades.

What makes all these legends successful? What makes them leaders? The answer is enthusiasm. Enthusiasm makes people want to follow you anywhere — even through hell (ask Patton or Robert E. Lee or Winston Churchill).

On Sunday, sit back and watch John and Jim Harbaugh work their magic. They are the greatest family coaching duo in the history of sports. And while you’re watching, just think of the brilliant words that made it all happen: “Attack this day with enthusiasm unknown to mankind.”

Deep-Fried Food Ups Prostate Cancer Risk

SEATTLE (UPI) — Men who eat a regular diet of deep-fried foods such as french fries, fried chicken and doughnuts have a higher risk of prostate cancer, U.S. researchers say.

Janet L. Stanford, Marni Stott-Miller and Marian Neuhouser, all of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Public Health Sciences Division in Seattle, analyzed data from two prior population-based case-control studies involving 1,549 men diagnosed with prostate cancer and 1,492 age-matched healthy controls.

The men were Caucasian and African-American Seattle-area residents ages 35 to 74. Participants were asked to fill out a dietary questionnaire about their usual food intake, including specific deep-fried foods.

The researchers controlled for factors such as age, race, family history of prostate cancer, body-mass index and screening history when calculating the association between eating deep-fried foods and prostate cancer risk.

“The link between prostate cancer and select deep-fried foods appeared to be limited to the highest level of consumption — defined in our study as more than once a week — which suggests that regular consumption of deep-fried foods confers particular risk for developing prostate cancer,” Stanford said in a statement.

Deep frying may trigger formation of carcinogens in food. They include acrylamide, found in carbohydrate-rich foods such as French fries, chemicals formed when meat is cooked at high temperatures, aldehyde, an organic compound found in perfume, and acrolein, a chemical found in herbicides.

These toxic compounds are increased with oil re-use and increased length of frying time. Foods cooked with high heat also contain high levels of advanced glycation endproducts, associated with chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. A chicken breast deep fried for 20 minutes contains more than nine times the amount of advanced glycation endproducts as a chicken breast boiled for an hour, Stanford said.

The study, published online in The Prostate, found men who ate one or more of these foods at least weekly had an increased risk of prostate cancer that ranged from 30 percent to 37 percent.

Winter To Hang On In U.S. Northeast

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (UPI) — The U.S. Northeast is likely to experience six more weeks of winter weather lasting into March, long-range forecasters at AccuWeather.com say.

The Northwest is also likely to have winter maintain its grip on the region, regardless of what Punxsutawney Phil has to say on Groundhog Day, forecasters said.

A couple of winter storms may impact the Northeast in February and March, they said.

“I think we could still see some late-season winter storms [in the Northeast],” AccuWeather lead long-range forecaster Paul Pastelok said.

Snow along the Interstate 95 corridor from Washington to New York City and Boston is not unusual, he said; “Typically, February to March is the season on the East Coast.”

AccuWeather meteorologists said a stormier pattern, similar to what occurred in early December, is predicted for the Northwest, and snowfall could impact travel through the heavily traveled mountain passes of the region.

For the rest of the country, a near-normal tornado threat may be in store this spring especially across the Mississippi and Tennessee valleys, AccuWeather said, while another warm spring is expected across the Plains and Rockies.

Drought is expected to continue in the hardest-hit areas, it said, with extreme and exceptional drought conditions gripping Colorado, Wyoming, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and portions of Texas.

BP ‘Very Sorry’ For 2010 Gulf Spill

NEW ORLEANS (UPI) — British company BP is “deeply sorry” for the loss of life and damage caused by the 2010 gulf oil spill, BP Vice President Luke Keller told a U.S. federal court.

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana accepted a guilty plea from BP that resolves “all federal criminal charges” against the company for the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

BP in November agreed to plead guilty to 14 criminal charges stemming from the accident as well as to $4 billion in fines and penalties.

Keller told the court that BP was profoundly sorry for the accident, in which 11 rig workers died and resulted in the worst offshore oil spill of its kind.

“We … are deeply sorry for the tragic loss of the 11 men who died and the others who were injured that day,” he said. The guilty plea, he added, indicates BP “understands and acknowledges” its role in the incident. The company also apologized for environmental harm caused by the spill.

BP’s guilty plea means it’s no longer eligible for new contracts or leases in the area where violations of the Clean Water Act occurred. Existing contracts and leases aren’t affected. BP’s guilty plea included one misdemeanor count under the act.

Transocean Deepwater Inc., owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig, leased to BP, agreed to pay more than $1 billion in fines and penalties in early January.

BP last year claimed oil services contractor Halliburton destroyed test results regarding cement used to seal the Macondo well beneath the rig. Halliburton said the charges are baseless.

South Korea Launches Its First Rocket

NARO SPACE CENTER, South Korea (UPI) — South Korea’s science minister said Wednesday the country placed a satellite into orbit with the successful launch of its first space rocket.

Yonhap News Agency said whether the Korea Space Launch Vehicle has positioned its satellite correctly will be determined early Thursday.

“At 4 p.m. today [Wednesday], the Naro was successfully launched. The satellite was deployed 540 seconds after the launch and an analysis of related data shows the satellite has successfully entered its target orbit,” Minister of Education, Science and Technology Lee Ju-hu said told a press conference.

The satellite began transmitting signals shortly after its deployment, Yonhap News Agency reported, which were then received by a ground station in Norway.

Officials there said the transmittal of signals means the satellite is working properly.

Yonhap said officials will know if the satellite is fully functional when it makes its first contact with the county’s own station at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology at 4 a.m. Thursday.

Snail Shells Yield Ancient Climate Clues

YORK, England (UPI) — An old wives’ tale that snails can be a sign of changing weather should not be dismissed out of hand, European researchers say, as they may give climate clues.

Snails climbing a plant or post supposedly means rain is coming, the tale goes, but a study led by the University of York in Britain goes one better: It shows snails can provide a wealth of information about the prevailing weather conditions thousands of years ago.

Analysis of the chemistry of snail shells recovered from Mediterranean caves, and dating back as far as 9,000 years, shows the western Mediterranean was not the hot dry place it is now but warmer, wetter and stickier, a university release reported Wednesday.

Archaeological sites around the Mediterranean basin from the time when the first farmers arrived in Italy and Spain contain an abundance of land snail shell remains, the researchers said.

“By putting together research on snails from multiple sites across Spain and Italy, we were able to produce a large scale regional picture for weather conditions over the western Mediterranean area,” York archaeologist Andre Carlo Colonese said.

“Interestingly, when compared with previous studies, we found that while conditions on the Atlantic coast of northern Spain were probably much like those of today, on the Mediterranean side in locations such as southern Spain and Sicily, conditions were much more humid,” he said.

Study: People In Power Happier

TEL AVIV, Israel (UPI) — Being in a position of power makes people happier, and people who feel powerful in any context tend to be more content, researchers in Israel said.

Yona Kifer of Tel Aviv University in Israel and colleagues hypothesized that holding a position of authority might enhance subjective well-being through an increased feeling of authenticity.

In their first experiment, the researchers surveyed more than 350 participants to determine if internal feelings of power are associated with subjective well-being in different contexts: at work, with friends, or in romantic relationships.

The study, published in the journal of the Association for Psychological Science, found people who feel powerful in any context tend to be more content.

The most powerful people surveyed felt 16 percent more satisfied with their lives than the least powerful people. This effect was most pronounced in the workplace: Powerful employees were 26 percent more satisfied with their jobs than their powerless colleagues.

The power-based discrepancy in happiness was smaller for friendships and romantic relationships, perhaps because friendships are associated with a sense of community rather than hierarchy, and therefore having power in this kind of relationship is less important.

“By leading people to be true to their desires and inclinations — to be authentic — power leads individuals to experience greater happiness,” the researchers concluded.

Heart Disease Linked To Brain Impairment

ROCHESTER, Minn. (UPI) — Cardiac disease is associated with increased risk of mild cognitive impairment involving language, thinking and judgment, a U.S. researcher says.

Lead author Rosebud Roberts, a health sciences researcher at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said mild cognitive impairment — known as non-amnestic — because it doesn’t include memory loss, may be a precursor to vascular and other non-Alzheimer’s dementias.

Mild cognitive impairment is an important stage for early detection and intervention in dementia, Roberts said.

“Prevention and management of cardiac disease and vascular risk factors are likely to reduce the risk,” Roberts said in a statement.

Researchers evaluated 2,719 people ages 70-89 at the beginning of the study and every 15 months after.

Of the 1,450 study subjects without mild cognitive impairment at the beginning, 669 had heart disease and 59  developed non-amnestic mild cognitive impairment; in comparison 34 of 781 who did not have heart disease developed non-amnestic mild cognitive impairment.

The association varied by sex; cardiac disease and mild cognitive impairment appeared together more often among women than in men, Roberts said.

The findings were published in the journal Neurology.

Using GPS With Dementia Patients Effective

TRONDHEIM, Norway (UPI) — GPS helps achieve an increased sense of security, freedom and quality of life for those with dementia and family, researchers in Norway suggest.

Dag Ausen of SINTEF and manager of the Norwegian research project Trygge Spor said the study involved more than 50 dementia sufferers, who used a Global Positioning System for several weeks or up to a year.

Five municipalities worked together with researchers to benefit the nursing and home care services.

“Our aim has been to develop GPS systems with component sensors and support systems as a means of monitoring the movements of dementia sufferers,” Ausen said in a statement. “It’s a major step forward to record that these 50 users can now demonstrate the effects and benefits over time.”

The study was based on observations of sufferers living at home, in institutions, and in other forms of shared accommodation facilities.

“We observed the use of alarm and localization technologies were the least intrusive interventions, allowing those with dementia increased levels of freedom, mobility and independence. They do not experience these types of intervention as being forced on them,” said Klara Borgen of Trondheim municipality.

“Our experience is that this approach demands a great deal of evaluation and follow-up in terms of establishing a service structure. It shows that we also provide next of kin with a degree of security in the early stages of the illness, and that this helps them remain longer in their jobs and better cope with their day-to-day situation.”

Food ‘Porn’ Holds No Allure When Full

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (UPI) — Canadian researchers say they can explain why enticing pictures of food — often dubbed “food porn,” affect people less when they are full.

“We’ve known that insulin plays a role in telling us we’re satiated after eating, but the mechanism by which this happens is unclear,” senior author Stephanie Borgland, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia, said in a statement.

Borgland and colleagues found insulin — prompted by a sweetened, high-fat meal — affects the ventral tegmental area of the brain, which is responsible for reward-seeking behavior.

When insulin was applied to the ventral tegmental area in mice, they no longer gravitated towards environments where food had been offered.

“Insulin dulls the synapses in this region of the brain and decreases our interest in seeking out food, which in turn causes us to pay less attention to food-related cues,” Borgland said. “There has been a lot of discussion around the environmental factors of the obesity epidemic.”

Borgland said there have been fast-food advertising bans in the Canadian province of Quebec, Norway, Britain, Greece and Sweden.

“This study helps explain why pictures or other cues of food affect us less when we’re satiated — and may help inform strategies to reduce environmental triggers of overeating,” Borgland said.

The findings were published online in Nature Neuroscience.

Expert: Everyone Is A Bed Bug Magnet

CHICAGO (UPI) — If you are alive, warm and breathing, you are a bed bug magnet, says a Chicago physician and medical spokesman for the National Pest Management Association.

Dr. Jorge Parada, medical director of infection control at Loyola University Health System in Chicago, said bed bugs are on the rise and $1,000 per day ordinances are being suggested in cities like Chicago to enforce combat of the pests.

“Know thy enemy,” Parada said in a statement. “There are lots of myths out there about bed bugs and people may be getting caught up over nothing.”

Just because bed bugs — about the size of an apple seed — might not reveal themselves doesn’t mean they’re not there, look closely because they love to hide in cracks and crevices of mattresses, cushions, bed frames and other structures, Parada said.

“They are rarely seen out in the open or on the resting surface of beds or chairs,” Parada said. “It is not uncommon to miss them altogether, look for tell tale signs — specks of blood or feces on the linens, mattresses or behind wallpaper.”

Bed bug bites can look a lot like other insect bites.

“Clues that can suggest the presence of bed bugs include finding red, itchy bites upon awakening — especially if the bites line up in a row on the skin,” Parada said. “However, while some people develop a bite reaction immediately, others may take two to three days before a reaction becomes noticeable.”

Bed bug bites do not typically require treatment.

“Clean the bite site(s) with soap and water and avoid scratching to prevent infection,” Parada said. “If secondary infection occurs it should be managed with antibiotics as appropriate.”

Unlike mosquitoes and ticks, bed bugs are not associated with disease transmission.

“It is bad enough if you get bed bugs. At least it is good you won’t get anything else from them!” Parada said.