Two New Species Added To World Lemur Count

DURHAM, N.C. (UPI) — Scientists say genetics have helped them identify two new species of mouse lemur, tiny saucer-eyed primates native to the African island of Madagascar.

The finding brings the number of recognized species of the teacup-size creatures — specimens of the new species weigh less than 3 ounces — to 20.

Because these shy, nocturnal primates look so much alike, it’s only possible to tell them apart with genetic sequencing, researchers said.

“You can’t really tell them apart just looking at them through binoculars in the rainforest,” Peter Kappeler of the German Primate Center in Goettingen, who earned his doctorate a Duke University in North Carolina, said.

One of the new species has been name the Marohita mouse lemur, after the forest where it was found. In Malagasy, the word “marohita” means “many views,” a Duke release said Tuesday.

Much of the forest home of the mouse lemur has been cleared for logging and agriculture in the last decade, prompting the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to classify the new species as “endangered” even before it was formally described.

“Despite its species’ name, this mouse lemur is threatened by ongoing habitat destruction, and ‘many views’ of its members are unlikely,” the researchers wrote in the International Journal of Primatology.

EPA: Most U.S. Waters Polluted

WASHINGTON (UPI) — More than half of U.S. rivers, streams and other waterways are in too poor of a condition for aquatic life, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

The EPA said most the nation’s streams, rivers and other waters were in poor health.

EPA analysis said that 27 percent of the nation’s waterways have high levels of nitrogen and 40 percent have high levels of phosphorus. Those chemicals lead to algae blooms that can deprive water of oxygen.

In terms of mercury, potentially harmful to developing nervous systems, the EPA said that more than 13,000 miles of rivers contained fish species with elevated levels in the systems.

For bacteria, about 9 percent of the nation’s rivers and streams were considered unsafe for swimming while vegetation, which can help filter out pollutants, was down in about 24 percent of the waters monitored by the EPA.

“The health of our nation’s rivers, lakes, bays and coastal waters depends on the vast network of streams where they begin, and this new science shows that America’s streams and rivers are under significant pressure,” Acting Assistant Water Administrator Nancy Stoner said in a statement.

Low Rates Prompt Gain In Mortgage Activity

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. mortgage activity rose last week, as long-term interest rates fell slightly, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday.

The association said mortgage activity rose 7.7 percent a week after falling 7.1 percent, when long-term interest rates were headed higher.

From the previous week, the MBA’s refinancing activity index rose 8 percent, the trade group said.

Interest rates for 30-year, fixed-rate conforming mortgages decreased from 3.82 percent to 3.79 percent during the week. Points for 30-year conforming loans rose from 0.38 to 0.44.

The average interest rate for 30-year contracts on jumbo loans — larger than $417,500 — fell from 3.95 percent to 3.9 percent. Points for 30-year jumbo loans rose from 0.36 to 0.42.

Interest rates for 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages were unchanged at 3.02 percent, with points rising from 0.36 to 0.42.

The average rate for 30-year loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration fell from 3.53 percent to 3.51 percent with points rising from 0.31 to 0.43. The average rate for short-term, adjustable-rate mortgages decreased in the week from 2.59 percent to 2.58 percent in the week, with points falling from 0.4 to 0.32, the MBA said.

Pending Home Sales Steady In February

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Pending Home Sales Index was little changed in February, holding close to a 36-month high, a trade group in Washington said Wednesday.

The National Association of Realtors said the index that tracks contracts of intention, called the Pending Home Sales Index, shifted lower by 0.4 percent to 105.2 in February, but managed to settle at the second highest rate in nearly three years.

In February, the index was 8.4 percent higher than February 2012,  as the index posted its 22cnd consecutive months of improvements on an annual basis.

NAR said the market is recovering too fast for the current supply. “Only new home construction can genuinely help relieve the inventory shortage,” NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said in a statement.

“Most local home builders are small businesses and simply don’t have access to capital on Wall Street. Clearer regulatory rules, applied to construction loans for smaller community banks and credit unions, could bring many small-sized builders back into the market,” Yun said.

The Pending Home Sales Index for the Northeast fell 2.5 percent to 82.8, while the index in the Midwest rose 0.4 percent to 103.6. The index slipped 0.3 percent in the South to 118.8 and rose 0.1 percent in the West to 101.4, NAR said.

The index is a comparison to the monthly average for 2001, the first year the index was monitored, which was assigned a value of 100.

Atlanta’s Airport Is Busiest In 2012

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The busiest U.S. airport in 2012 was Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Airports Council International reported.

The trade group said 95.4 million passengers flew in and out of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport last year.

The second busiest U.S. airport last year was Chicago’s O’Hare International with 66.3 million passengers followed by Los Angeles International with 63.7 million passengers.

The busiest travel hubs in the United States included Dallas/Fort Worth International, Denver International, John F. Kennedy International in New York City, San Francisco International, Charlotte Douglas International in North Carolina, McCarran International in Las Vegas and Sky Harbor International in Phoenix, Airport Council International said.

Retail feels a chillWednesday, March 27, 2013 10:41 AMWASHINGTON, March 27 (UPI) —  U.S. retail receipts dropped 1.7 percent in the week ending Saturday, a trade group in Washington said.

The International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs weekly sales report said sales fell week to week, but rose 1 percent over the same week of 2012.

The trade group said Tuesday that an abnormally cold bout of weather curbed consumer demand for spring goods, especially apparel.

While receipts climbed from the same week a year earlier, the year-over-year increase was the slowest it has been in more than three years.

Weather Trends International said the average temperature nationwide was 15.2 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the same week in 2012 and 4.5 degrees cooler than the long range average for the week.

Vitamin D May Help Insulin Levels In Obese

COLUMBIA, Mo. (UPI) — Vitamin D supplements may help obese children and teens control their blood-sugar levels, which may help stave off diabetes, U.S. researchers say.

Catherine Peterson of the University of Missouri and colleagues studied 35 pre-diabetic obese children and adolescents who were undergoing treatment in the university’s Adolescent Diabetic Obesity Program.

All had insufficient or deficient vitamin D levels and had similar diets and activity levels.

Half of the study participants were randomly assigned either a high-dose vitamin D supplement or a placebo daily for six months, Peterson said.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found those who took the supplement developed sufficient vitamin D levels and lowered the amount of insulin in their blood.

“By increasing vitamin D intake alone, we got a response that was nearly as powerful as what we have seen using a prescription drug,” Peterson said in a statement. “We saw a decrease in insulin levels, which means better glucose control, despite no changes in body weight, dietary intake or physical activity.”

The vitamin D dosage given to the obese adolescents in the study was not something recommended for everyone, Peterson said.

“For clinicians, the main message from this research is to check the vitamin D status of their obese patients, because they’re likely to have insufficient amounts,” Peterson said. “Adding vitamin D supplements to their diets may be an effective addition to treating obesity and its associated insulin resistance.”

Youth With Diabetes Have Tough Transition

LOS ANGELES (UPI) — Youth with type 1 diabetes are at greater risk during their transition from pediatric care to adult care, U.S. researchers suggest.

Lead author Dr. Debra Lotstein, an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, said as children with type 1 diabetes grow into young adults, they leave their pediatric healthcare providers for adult providers.

The study, scheduled to be published in the April issue in the journal Pediatrics, found young people — median age 20.1 — with type 1 diabetes who had transitioned from pediatric to adult care were 2.5 times more likely to have chronically high blood glucose levels, putting them at higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, blindness and kidney failure later in life.

“The transition to adulthood can include changes in healthcare providers, insurance and often living situations as patients move from high school to college or work,” Lotstein said in a statement.

“These transitions can be challenging for anyone, but youth with a chronic health problem like diabetes are at risk of losing the support of their health care providers and their family that helps them stay healthy.”

Some Organic Food May Be Healthier

DALLAS (UPI) — Fruit flies fed an organic diet did better on tests of general health and two significant measures of health — fertility and longevity, U.S. researchers say.

Ria Chhabra a student at Clark High School in Plano, Texas; biologist Johannes H. Bauer of the Southern Methodist University in Dallas; and Santharam Kolli, a research associate at SMU, said the data demonstrated fruit flies raised on organic food extracts performed better on the majority of health tests.

“We don’t know why the flies on the organic diet did better. That will require further research. But this is a start toward understanding potential health benefits,” Chhabra said in a statement.

Chhabra said the study was inspired by a conversation her parents had on the merits of buying organic food.

Bauer said his laboratory utilized one of the most widely used model systems, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, often used to study human diseases such as diabetes, heart function and Alzheimer’s disease because of the fruit fly’s short life cycle and low cost.

The study, published in PLoS One, also found some negative or neutral results using diets prepared from organic raisins, which might suggest the beneficial health effects of organic diets might be dependent on specific food items, Bauer said.

Social Isolation Can Kill Seniors

LONDON (UPI) — People age 52 and older who are socially isolated are at higher risk of dying, than those not socially isolated, British researchers say.

Andrew Steptoe, Aparna Shankar, Panayotes Demakakos and Jane Wardle of the University College London said they assessed social isolation in terms of contact with family and friends and participation in civic organizations in 6,500 men and women age 52 and older who took part in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging in 2004-05. A standard questionnaire measure of loneliness was also administered.

The researchers monitored all-cause mortality up to March 2012 — mean follow-up of seven years — and analyzed results using Cox proportional hazards regression.

After adjusting statistically for demographic factors and baseline health, social isolation remained significantly associated with mortality for the top 20 percent of the most isolated but loneliness did not.

Both social isolation and loneliness were associated with increased mortality but the effect of loneliness wasn’t independent of demographic characteristics or health problems and didn’t contribute to the risk associated with social isolation.

“Although both isolation and loneliness impair quality of life and well-being, efforts to reduce isolation are likely to be more relevant to mortality,” the researchers wrote in the study.

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

High Protein Breakfast May Limit Snacking

COLUMBIA, Mo. (UPI) — Overweight/obese, “breakfast skipping,” teen girls who ate a high-protein breakfast reduced their unhealthy snacking later in the day, U.S. researchers say.

Heather Leidy of the University of Missouri said the study involved 20 overweight or obese adolescent females ages 18-20 who either skipped breakfast, consumed a high-protein breakfast consisting of eggs and lean beef, or ate a normal-protein breakfast of ready-to-eat cereal.  Each breakfast consisted of 350 calories and was matched for dietary fat, fiber, sugar and energy density, but the high-protein breakfast contained 35 grams of protein, Leidy said.

Study participants completed questionnaires and provided blood samples throughout the day. Prior to dinner, functional magnetic resonance imaging brain scans were performed to track brain signals that control food motivation and reward-driven eating behavior, Leidy said.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found the consumption of the high-protein breakfast led to increased fullness or “satiety” along with reductions in brain activity responsible for controlling food cravings.

The high-protein breakfast also reduced evening snacking on high-fat and high-sugar foods, the study said.

“Eating a protein-rich breakfast impacts the drive to eat later in the day, when people are more likely to consume high-fat or high-sugar snacks,” Leidy said in a statement. “These data suggest that eating a protein-rich breakfast is one potential strategy to prevent overeating and improve diet quality by replacing unhealthy snacks with high quality breakfast foods.”

Funding for the research was provided by the Beef Check-off and the Egg Nutrition Center/American Egg Board.

TSA And Pepper Spray Don’t Mix

Good grief.

A Transportation Security Administration agent sent six people, including himself, to the hospital this week by being an idiot. (He’s clearly not alone.)

The New York Post reports the agent, Chris Yves Dabel, spotted a pepper spray container at a security checkpoint and evidently mistook it for a laser pointer.

Well, everybody knows how fun those are to play with — especially while in the employ of a government security agency whose sole mission seems to be letting would-be bad guys get onto planes while making the flying experience nearly unbearable for everyone else.

So Dabel started “playing around with it,” according to an official at Kennedy Airport. He ended up squirting himself and five of his good TSA buddies, and they all went to the hospital together.

Mercifully, no passengers were injured. The security lines at Kennedy were delayed about 15 minutes.

JPMorgan Chase Under The Microscope

NEW YORK (UPI) — A spokesman for JPMorgan Chase, acknowledged the U.S. financial giant is currently the subject of numerous regulatory probes.

“Jamie and other executives feel terrible that the bank’s self-inflicted mistakes have put regulators in an awkward position,” said bank spokesman Joe Evangelisti, referring to the bank’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James Dimon.

Evangelisti said the bank was cooperating with authorities “to make things right.”

JPMorgan Chase is currently the target of investigations by at least eight agencies including Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the FBI, the New York Times reported Wednesday.

In addition, Congress has called bank executives to testify in Washington concerning a highly publicized trading loss of $6.2 billion that occurred in a JPMorgan office in London last year.

The investigations include attempts to ferret out criminal behavior and bank carelessness that may have contributed to those losses.

JPMorgan is also under investigation by authorities looking to see when and how much bank officials knew about New York investor Bernard Madoff’s multi-billion Ponzi scheme.

At issue is how early bank officials may have suspected or known Madoff’s firm was illegitimate and how long they might have kept quiet about their suspicions.

Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee charged with retrieving as much of the lost funds as possible has filed a lawsuit against JPMorgan claiming at least one official at the bank knew Madoff’s operation was fraudulent 18 months before he was arrested.

The myriad investigations are somewhat new for JPMorgan, which was seen as one of the large U.S. banks that survived the 2008 financial crisis in relatively good shape, the Times said.

Sources familiar with another investigation said JPMorgan is suspected of botching a review of mortgage files that were mandated by a multi-bank settlement over foreclosure abuses.

The bank may have incorrectly reported on more than 5,000 mortgage files out of 880,000 that it had to review.

Other banks have also made mistakes in their reporting, the Times said and the mistakes appear not to be deliberate. People close to the issue said JPMorgan may have over-estimated the problems found in the review.

Man Sets Out On 5-Year ‘Earth Wide Walk’

MALAGA, Spain, (UPI) — A Spanish man said he plans to walk around the world in five years, covering 12 to 18 miles per day, to “promote love and respect for the environment.”

Ignacio Dean Mouliaa, 32, of Malaga, set out March 21 on his “Earth Wide Walk” to raise awareness of environmental problems and raise money for charity, The Local.es reported Wednesday.

“This is day six, and everything’s going really well,” Mouliaa said.

Mouliaa said he initially came up with the idea a couple of years ago.

“It came out of two things: a dream and a need. The dream was my personal dream to walk around the world while the need was to promote love and respect for the environment. Our job is to look after the earth for our children, and the most environmentally friendly mode of transport is walking. Walk around the world is the best way of getting this message across.”

Mouliaa said he plans to walk across 40 countries on six continents.

Gov. Christie To Keep Eye On Prince Harry

TRENTON, N.J., (UPI) — Gov. Chris Christie has promised to keep Prince Harry of Britain on a short leash during an upcoming visit to New Jersey.

Harry will be in the Garden State in May to get a firsthand look at damage caused by Superstorm Sandy. The prince, an army officer who saw combat service in Afghanistan, is scheduled to be in the United States May 9-15 on a trip to raise money for U.S. and British troops.

Christie said Monday he will be with Harry for the day he is in New Jersey, the Asbury Park Press reported.

“If you trust me, all will be fine, because I’m going to spend … during his entire trip, I will be with Prince Harry,” Christie said on “Ask the Governor” show on FM-101.5.

Harry got into trouble during his last U.S. trip when photographs showing him in the buff during a game of “strip billiards” at a Las Vegas hotel went viral on the Internet.

Christie said Harry has apologized for last year’s incident.

“I certainly don’t want to get all over the prince,” Christie said. “I’m thrilled that he wants to come and see the destruction himself first hand and he wants to be helpful. And I’m going to be spending the entire day with Prince Harry.”

Prosecutor Drops Charges Against Groundhog

HAMILTON, Ohio, (UPI) — An Ohio prosecutor said he is dropping charges against Punxsutawney Phil after the groundhog’s handler took responsibility for spring’s late start.

Michael Gmoser, Butler County prosecutor, filed court documents announcing he was dropping the fraud charges against the Pennsylvania groundhog as the animal “has a defense with teeth in it — his handler stepped up to the burrow to take full responsibility for misinterpreting said defendant’s prediction of an early spring.”

“In these serious times, I hope this case brought a light-hearted moment to all concerned with a warm welcome to spring ahead,” Gmoser wrote in the memorandum in support of his dismissal of the charge.

Court Hears DOMA Challenge

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court resumed its examination of same-sex marriage Wednesday, this time considering the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Justice Anthony Kennedy indicated the act, known as DOMA, violated states’ rights and four other judges indicated they considered it a gay-rights issue, a tweet by Scotusblog.com said.

“#scotus 80% likely to strike down #doma,” the tweet said “J [Justice] Kennedy suggests it violates states’ rights; 4 other Justices see as gay rights.”

Before getting to the merits of the case, the court spent about an hour discussing whether the matter was properly brought before it, The Washington Post reported. The Obama administration has said that it would not defend the law, and lower courts have ruled DOMA unconstitutional but the administration has said it would enforce the law until the Supreme Court rules.

During Wednesday’s oral arguments, Justice Antonin Scalia commented on the contradictory positions, saying it was a “new world” when the attorney general could decide a law is unconstitutional but still enforce it, Post said.

Kennedy, considered a potential swing vote in the case, called it a “questionable practice.”

Chief Justice John Roberts criticized the administration’s decision, saying he didn’t understand why Obama “doesn’t have the courage of his convictions” and refuse to apply the statute.

Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan said Obama was trying to show respect for Congress by enforcing the law until the high court could rule on its constitutionality.

Arguments focused on one section of the 1996 act that states a range of federal benefits and considerations for married couples apply only to heterosexual unions.

Kennedy told the advocate defending the law it did promote “uniformity” in federal law, noting that there were 1,100 references to marriage in the federal code, and that the definition of a married person is “intertwined with daily life.” Kennedy questioned whether the federal government may impose its view of marriage, which has “always thought to be” the domain of the state.

Nine states and the District of Columbia permit same-sex couples to marry.

Paul D. Clement, representing Republican House leaders who are defending the law, said Congress wasn’t discriminating but keeping hands off experiments by the states on same-sex marriage.

The law does not punish states for allowing such unions, but allows the federal government to decide how it chooses to allocate its benefits, he said.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said federal rules that apply to married couples are so enveloping that in states allowing same-sex marriages, married same-sex couples can’t get the federal benefits available to heterosexual couples, which creates “a skim milk marriage.”

In the underlying case, Edith Schlain Windsor, an 84-year-old New Yorker, married her same-sex partner of 40 years, Thea Spyer, in 2007 in Canada. When Spyer died in 2009 of multiple sclerosis, she left her estate to Windsor.

As executor of Spyer’s estate, Windsor paid approximately $363,000 in federal estate taxes, but filed a refund claim under a federal statute that says “property that passes from a decedent to a surviving spouse may generally pass free of federal estate taxes.” The Internal Revenue Service denied the claim on the ground that Windsor is not a “spouse” within the meaning of DOMA Section 3 and thus not a “surviving spouse” within the meaning of the statute.

A federal appeals court ruled in her favor.

The justices heard arguments Tuesday on California’s Proposition 8, a referendum that stripped same-sex couples of the right to marry. California voters approved Proposition 8, the California Marriage Protection Act, in 2008 with slightly more than 52 percent for, nearly 48 percent against but a federal judge declared Prop 8 unconstitutional and a three-judge appeals court panel in San Francisco agreed.

Iran Wants Action, Not Talk, From U.S.

TEHRAN, (UPI) — The U.S. government must back its rhetoric with action if it wants to open communication with Iran, a senior Iranian legislator said.

The U.S. government is party to multilateral talks with Iran as a permanent U.N. Security Council member. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said last week “there is an opportunity to work diplomatically to reduce tensions and address the mistrust between our two countries, to the mutual benefit of both of our people.”

Iranian lawmaker Mohammad Ali Pourmokhtar said the United States could lift some sanctions on Iran to improve relations.

“The United States must end its enmity with the Islamic Republic of Iran,” he was quoted by Iran’s Press TV as saying. “Otherwise, its offers of direct talks would be nothing more than a deception.”

Iran is suspected of pursuing the technology needed to manufacture a nuclear weapon, an allegation Tehran denies. The government described February negotiations in Kazakhstan as positive, though no breakthroughs were announced.

Negotiations between Iran, the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany are scheduled for April in Kazakhstan.

Petraeus Apologizes For Affair

LOS ANGELES, (UPI) — Former CIA Director David Petraeus, during a dinner in Los Angeles, apologized for an affair that led to his resignation.

Petraeus, the U.S. Army general who led coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, has maintained a low profile since he resigned the directorship after admitting to an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, in November.

Petraeus told about 600 guests at Tuesday’s event honoring veterans and ROTC students at the University of Southern California he is “regarded in a different light now” than he was a year ago, the Los Angeles times reported.

“I am also keenly aware that the reason for my recent journey was my own doing,” he said. “So please allow me to begin my remarks this evening by reiterating how deeply I regret — and apologize for — the circumstances that led to my resignation from the CIA and caused such pain for my family, friends and supporters.”

Petraeus, 60, considered the architect of the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency doctrine, also said he wants to move forward, the Times said.

“One learns after all that life doesn’t stop with such a mistake,” he said, “it can and must go on.”

Before his speech, Petraeus generally stayed out of the public eye.

“I know that I can never fully assuage the pain that I inflicted on those closest to me and on a number of others,” Petraeus said Tuesday. “I can, however, try to move forward in a manner that is consistent with the values to which I subscribed before slipping my moorings and, as best as possible, to make amends to those I have hurt and let down.”

One friend told the Times Tuesday, “I don’t think it’s in his DNA to just retire.”

Petraeus has been mum about his plans, except to say he agreed to support several non-profit organizations that assist veterans.

Petraeus received two standing ovations during his speech in which he said the nation has a responsibility to look after families of fallen soldiers, care for the wounded, help veterans move into to civilian life and honor their service.

“We can and must do more,” he said. “Helping those who have given so much is simply the right thing to do.”

Obama Signs Appropriations Bill

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — President Obama signed a continuing appropriations bill Tuesday that will keep the U.S. government running for six months, the White House said.

The measure, passed by Congress last week, means there will be no government shutdown this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Spending will remain at current levels under the continuing resolution.

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters during his daily briefing in Washington that the president still plans to submit a budget the week of April but declined to specify which day of the week.

Carney also sought to separate the continuing resolution from the issue of sequestration.

“There’s no question that we believe regular folks out there are being unnecessarily harmed by imposition of the sequester — which was designed by Democrats and Republicans purposefully never to become law, to be filled with nonsensical approaches to deficit reduction,” Carney said.

“And yet here it is. So we would love to see Republicans change their mind about imposition of the sequester. We would welcome a change of heart, maybe a change back to the position they held for much of 2012, which was sequester’s imposition would be cataclysmic and terrible for the economy and for our national defense — that is what they said at the time — instead of doing what they did on Jan. 1 … instead of doing it, which was to postpone or delay the implementation of sequester with a balanced buy-down, which they were willing to do two months ago and now are suddenly unwilling to do — or recently became suddenly unwilling to do. We would welcome a reversal of that position.”

Carney said Obama has offered proposals multiple times “to eliminate the sequester entirely, to do that in a balanced way, to do that in a way that asks those who are well-off and well-connected to participate in further deficit reduction.”

When a reporter suggested the president has lost that debate, Carney responded, “No, absolutely not,” and Obama believes a compromise is still achievable.

“It’s going to be hard, because as we’ve seen in the House, there is an embrace of — by some — of the idea that the well-off and well-connected should not only be held harmless, but they should get a huge tax cut,” Carney said.

“Republicans chose to impose the sequester. So if you’re asking me does the president regret that Republicans would not make a common-sense, balanced proposition to postpone or eliminate the sequester — you bet. Is he continuing to work with lawmakers of both parties on a bigger deal that would not just eliminate the sequester, but reduce our deficit beyond the $4 trillion target that we’ve all talked about? Yes, he is. And he hopes that Republicans will go along with that, because the American people overwhelmingly support it.”

First Woman Named To Head Secret Service

WASHINGTON, (UPI) — President Barack Obama announced Tuesday he will appoint Julia Pierson to become the first woman to head up the U.S. Secret Service.

Pierson will succeed Mark Sullivan, who has been director since 2006. Sullivan announced his retirement last month.

“Over her 30 years of experience with the Secret Service, Julia has consistently exemplified the spirit and dedication the men and women of the service demonstrate every day,” Obama said in announcing his intention to appoint Pierson director.

“Julia is eminently qualified to lead the agency that not only safeguards Americans at major events and secures our financial system but also protects our leaders and our first families, including my own.”

Pierson began her career in the Secret Service, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, in its Miami and Orlando, Fla., field offices. She also has served as deputy assistant director of the Office of Protective Operations, assistant director of Human Resources and Training and most recently as the director’s chief of staff.

“Julia has had an exemplary career and I know these experiences will guide her as she takes on this new challenge to lead the impressive men and women of this important agency,” the president said.

Sullivan’s tenure was marred last year by allegations that about a dozen agents, along with military personnel, had been involved with prostitutes while on assignment in Colombia ahead of a presidential visit.

SCOTUS Hesitant On Nixing Prop 8, Cyprus Thugs Ready To Impose State Control, Gorbachev Says Putin Has ‘Destroyed’ Progress, Gun Rights Supporter Flips Jim Carrey Autograph To Buy Handgun: Wednesday Morning News Roundup 3-27-2013

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 U.S. Supreme Court may have sent a signal during Tuesday’s oral arguments that it’s in no hurry to play the role of lawmaker when it comes to overturning California’s voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony Kennedy cautioned that same-sex marriage advocates are asking the high court to “go into uncharted waters.”

 

  • You knew this was coming: Cyprus is contracting with a giant British security company to deploy guards to control the mobs angry that they’ve been ripped off. State-sanctioned theft and brutality: The system works!

 

  • A candid Mikhail Gorbachev says the reforms he tried to institute after the former Soviet Union dissolved have been “distorted or completely violated, destroyed” under the hawkish Vladimir Putin, a man who thinks the breakup of the USSR was the biggest “geopolitical catastrophe” of the past hundred years.

 

  • One enterprising gun rights supporter (and former Jim Carrey fan) decided he’d had enough of Carrey after watching the actor’s gun-grabbing “Cold Dead Hands” propaganda video. So he put his autographed photo of Carrey up for sale on eBay.  His goal? $640 to buy a Glock.

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

 

California’s Drone Rush

State agencies in California are working feverishly to declare a large area in the southern portion of the State as a “drone zone” where unmanned aircraft can be tested.

The San Diego Military Advisory Council (SDMAC) and the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) filed an application with the Federal Aviation Administration to create the drone zone. The groups reportedly believe that being on the forefront of drone development will help the financially suffering State stimulate its economy.

The drone industry in San Diego County alone is worth roughly $1.3 billion and growing. Major drone producer Northrup Grumman has relocated branches of its drone program to other areas of Southern California; and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, which produces Predator drones, is located in Poway.

Other States are following California’s lead in attempting to garner a chunk of the $10 billion dollar drone industry. About 40 applications have been or are being filed with the FAA by various groups throughout the Nation.

The American Civil Liberties Union, a constant voice of concern over privacy with regard to drones, issued a statement this week calling for clear rules before the unmanned aircraft take to the skies.

It reads, in part: “Unmanned aircraft carrying cameras raise the prospect of a significant new avenue for the surveillance of American life … The technology is quickly becoming cheaper and more powerful, interest in deploying drones among police departments in increasing, and our privacy laws are not strong enough to ensure that the new technology will be used responsibly and consistently with constitutional values.

“We need a system of rules to ensure that Americans can enjoy the benefits of this technology without bringing our country a large step closer to a ‘surveillance society.”’

SCOTUS Rules Cops Can’t Just Show Up With A Dog And No Warrant

A majority opinion of the U.S. Supreme Court this week frustrated the State of Florida (as well as the Federal government and 26 other States) by ruling that police who bring a sniff dog onto a homeowner’s property and turn up evidence related to the dog’s signaling are conducting a “search” as defined by the 4th Amendment.

That means cops can’t suspect you of growing marijuana in a house, turn up casually at your front door with a dog — you know, just to ask a few questions — and thereafter develop probable cause to search the house, as the dog sniffs around at the front door and begins indicating there’s something illegal inside.

That’s exactly what happened to one homeowner in the Miami area in 2006, when police acting on an unverified tip visited the home of Joelis Jardines, with Drug Enforcement Administration agents waiting in the wings. They didn’t have a warrant, and the tip alone wasn’t sufficient probable cause to obtain a search warrant. The cops let the dog sniff at the front door. The dog signaled that narcotics were somewhere nearby. And the cops then applied for and received a search warrant.

The police had initiated no contact with Jardines during this episode. That contact came only when they returned to the house with the search warrant, found the marijuana being grown inside and arrested Jardines.

The Florida Supreme Court had already sided with Jardines after he appealed a lower court’s ruling that dog searches aren’t covered under the 4th Amendment. Realizing the broad implications the decision could have to limit search powers, the State then appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

And lost.

It’s worth culling the high points from Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion:

Since the officers’ investigation took place in a constitutionally protected area, we turn to the question of whether it was accomplished through an unlicensed physical intrusion…

…As it is undisputed that the detectives had all four of their feet firmly planted on the constitutionally protected extension of Jardines’ home, the only question is whether he had given his leave (even implicitly) for them to do so. He had not.

…We have accordingly recognized that “the knocker on the front door is treated as an invitation or license to attempt an entry, justifying ingress to the home by solicitors, hawkers and peddlers of all kinds.” This implicit license typically permits the visitor to approach the home by the front path, knock promptly, wait briefly to be received, and then (absent invitation to linger longer) leave.

Complying with the terms of that traditional invitation does not require fine-grained legal knowledge; it is generally managed without incident by the Nation’s Girl Scouts and trick-or-treaters. Thus, a police officer not armed with a warrant may approach a home and knock, precisely because that is “no more than any private citizen might do.”

But introducing a trained police dog to explore the area around the home in hopes of discovering incriminating evidence is something else. There is no customary invitation to do that. An invitation to engage in canine forensic investigation assuredly does not inhere in the very act of hanging a knocker. To find a visitor knocking on the door is routine (even if sometimes unwelcome); to spot that same visitor exploring the front path with a metal detector, or marching his bloodhound into the garden before saying hello and asking permission, would inspire most of us to — well, call the police.

Well said.

Two disappointments, though, about Tuesday’s decision:

  • It was close. The majority decision came after a 5-4 vote.
  • Tuesday’s victory for 4th-Amendment freedom stands in contrast to a misstep the court made in January, when it held that police dogs’ training and certification is itself sufficient grounds for courts to admit evidence based on the accuracy of their signaling. That decision came in spite of evidence that “real-world data demonstrate that even trained or certified dogs have a high rate of false alerts” and can take their signaling cues from handlers or from other stimuli in their environments.