Average Pay For Class Of 2013: $44,928

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The class of 2013 is starting their careers with a modest pay hike, an average starting wage 5.3 percent higher than 2012 U.S. graduates, a survey said.

The average salary for graduates this year is $44,928, the National Association of Colleges and Employers said.

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday engineers will be at the top of their class, as far as income goes.

Among the Top 10 paying jobs, the very top three are engineering jobs, as are the fifth, sixth and seventh top paying jobs.

Petroleum engineers will have an average starting salary of $93,500. Computer engineers are next in line with an average starting salary of $71,700. Chemical engineers will average $67,600 to start. Computer science majors can expect an average salary of $64,800. Aerospace, aeronautical or astronautical engineers can expect and average of $$64,400.

The next top paying jobs grouped by college majors include mechanical engineers, 64,000; electrical or electronics and communications engineers, $63,400; management information systems in business, $63,100; engineering technology, $62,200; and finance, $57,400.

U.S. To Pay Down Debt — First Time Since 2007

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Washington plans to pay down part of the national debt for the first time since before the global economic crisis, the Treasury Department said.

The government’s ability to pay back $35 billion from April through June, by retiring bonds, notes and bills, comes from increased tax revenues and greater spending cuts, which are improving Washington’s finances and helping the government ratchet down the deficit, the department said.

“The decrease in borrowing relates primarily to higher receipts, lower outlays and changes in cash-balance assumptions,” it said.

As a reflection of changing cash-balance assumptions, the government projected three months ago it would have to borrow $103 billion during the April-June period.

“The paydown this quarter, the first since 2007, is emblematic of the turn in budget finances from horrible, to grim on their way to steadily better,” Eric Green, global head of research at TD Securities in New York, said in a note.

The second quarter is typically the best of the year for government cash flow because of April tax payments.

But in the same quarter last year, the Treasury added $172 billion to the U.S. debt, The Wall Street Journal said.

At the same time, the Treasury said Monday it would likely have to borrow a net $223 billion in the July-September period.

The U.S. budget deficit will likely hit $845 billion when the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, down from more than $1 trillion the past four years, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says.

The overall U.S. debt was $16.72 trillion Friday.

U.S. Home Prices Show Sustained Growth

NEW YORK (UPI) — U.S. home prices in February posted their highest annual gains since May 2006 in two closely watched indexes, a private report said Tuesday.

On an annual basis, the 20-city Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller composite index showed a gain of 9.3 percent in February. The comparable 10-city index showed an annual gain of 8.6 percent in the month, the monthly report said.

On an annual basis, “home prices continue to show solid increases across all 20 cities,” David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in a statement.

“Seasonally adjusted monthly data show all 20 cities saw higher prices for two months in a row — the last time that happened was in early 2005,” Blitzer said.

Double-digit annual increases in January were posted in Phoenix, up 23 percent; San Francisco, up 18.9 percent; Las Vegas, up 17.6 percent; Atlanta, up 16.5 percent; Detroit, up 15.2 percent; Los Angeles, up 14.1 percent, Minneapolis, up 12 percent; and Miami, up 10.4 percent, San Diego, up 10.2 percent and Tampa, Fla., up 10 percent.

“At the other end of the rankings, three older cities — New York, Boston and Chicago — saw the smallest year-over-year price improvements,” Blitzer said.

The lowest was posted by New York, a 1.9 percent gain, followed by 5.1 percent in Chicago and 5.2 percent in Boston.

Consumers A Bit More Confident In April

NEW YORK (UPI) — U.S. consumer confidence rose unexpectedly in April after falling in March, the Conference Board said Tuesday.

Economists had forecast the index would fall from 61.9 to 60. Instead, it rose to 68.1, the Conference Board said.

The index has been trending lower. April’s gain was only the second time in the past six months the index has climbed.

The index is a comparison from 1985, which was assigned the value of 100.

In April, 17.2 percent of respondents to a survey that involves more than 5,000 households indicated they believed business conditions were “good,” up from 16.4 percent in March.

Responses indicating a belief that business conditions were “bad” fell from 29.1 to 28.1 in the month.

The percentage of respondents indicating jobs were “plentiful,” rose from 9.5 percent to 9.8 percent, while those indicating jobs were difficult to get rose from 35.4 percent to 37.1.

“Consumers’ confidence has been challenged several times over the past few months by such events as the fiscal cliff, the payroll tax hike and the sequester. Thus, while expectations appear to have bounced back, it is too soon to tell if confidence is actually on the mend,” said Conference Board Director of Economic Indicators Lynn Franco in a statement.

Retail Up Modestly In Week

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. retail receipts rose modestly in the week ending Saturday, climbing 0.4 percent from the previous week, a U.S. trade group said.

The International Council of Shopping Centers-Goldman Sachs weekly sales report said sales receipts for the week topped the same week of 2012 by 2.6 percent.

The trade group said the year-over-year gain was the strongest in nine weeks. Traffic at drug store and wholesale clubs improved “markedly” in the week, the report said.

Weather Trends International Inc. said the week’s temperatures, on average, were “a hefty 4.7 degrees Fahrenheit colder than last year and 2.2 degrees below its long-term trend.”

Meanwhile, gasoline prices dropped for the ninth consecutive week, the Energy Information Administration said.

In the latest week, gasoline prices shed 1.6 cents to an average Monday of $3.52 per gallon.

Bubba Echoes Biden

Former President Bill Clinton discussed how politicians should go about passing more gun-control legislation, his sadness that his assault weapons ban has expired and where public opinion splits on gun control during a recent event at Georgetown University.

Clinton said that politicians should measure the intensity of the opposition when introducing gun-control legislation, intensity that he believes can be overcome in the current debate over guns.

He went on to add that he believes the difference of American opinions on gun control is primarily between urban and rural citizens.

He then channeled Vice President Joe Biden, saying: “If you live in a city and you think you need protection of your home, you’re way better off with a shotgun than an assault weapon. Trust me. It’s not even close.”

 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaOl8oOvHs0&w=560&h=315]

 

H/T: The Examiner

 

Forced Exercise Reduces Anxiety, Depression

BOULDER, Colo. (UPI) — Rats forced to exercise in a study were protected against stress and anxiety the same as rats who ran without being forced, U.S. researchers say.

Benjamin Greenwood, an assistant research professor in University of Colorado at Boulder, said there was a question whether people reap the same mental benefits of exercise if they are forced to do — as is common among high school, college and professional athletes, members of the military or those who have been prescribed an exercise regimen by their doctors.

Greenwood and colleagues, including Monika Fleshner, a professor in the same department, designed a lab experiment using rats. During a six-week period, some rats remained sedentary, while others exercised by running on a wheel.

The rats that exercised were divided into two groups that ran a roughly equal amount of time. One group ran whenever it chose to, while the other group ran on mechanized wheels that rotated according to a predetermined schedule. For the study, the motorized wheels turned on at speeds and for periods of time that mimicked the average pattern of exercise chosen by the rats that voluntarily exercised.

After six weeks, the rats were exposed to a laboratory stressor before testing their anxiety levels.

“Regardless of whether the rats chose to run or were forced to run they were protected against stress and anxiety,” Greenwood said in a statement. “The implications are that humans who perceive exercise as being forced — perhaps including those who feel like they have to exercise for health reasons — are maybe still going to get the benefits in terms of reducing anxiety and depression.”

The findings were published in the European Journal of Neuroscience.

Regular Exercise Reduces The Risk Of Liver Cancer

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (UPI) — Swiss researchers say patients at risk from hepatocellular carcinoma — the most common form of liver cancer — may reduce their risk by regular exercise.

Jean-Francois Dufour of Inselspital, the Bern University Hospital, said two groups of mice were fed a control diet and a high-fat diet. The mice were divided into separate exercise and sedentary groups. The exercise groups ran on a motorized treadmill for 60 minutes per day, five days a week.

After 32 weeks of regular exercise, 71 percent of mice on the controlled diet developed tumors larger than 10 millimeter versus 100 percent in the sedentary group. The mean number and volume of hepatocellular carcinoma tumors per liver was also reduced in the exercise group compared to the sedentary group.

Dufour said the data showed the significant benefit of regular exercise on the development of  hepatocellular carcinoma.

“We know that modern, unhealthy lifestyles predispose people to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease which may lead to liver cancer; but it’s been previously unknown whether regular exercise reduces the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma,” Dufour said in a statement. “This research is significant because it opens the door for further studies to prove that regular exercise can reduce the chance of people developing hepatocellular carcinoma.”

The research was presented at the International Liver Congress in Amsterdam.

Study: Belief In God Positively Influences Psychiatric Treatment

BOSTON (UPI) — Patients’ belief in a deity may have a significant positive effect on the outcome in short-term treatment for psychiatric illness, U.S. researchers say.

The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, suggested people with a moderate to high level of belief in a higher power do significantly better in short-term psychiatric treatment than those without, regardless of their religious affiliation.

“Belief was associated with not only improved psychological well-being, but decreases in depression and intention to self-harm,” David H. Rosmarin, a McLean Hospital clinician and instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said in a statement.

The study looked at 159 patients, recruited during a one-year period. Each participant was asked to gauge his or her belief in God. Levels of depression, well-being, and self-harm were assessed at the beginning and end of the treatment program.

More than 30 percent claimed no specific religious affiliation yet still experienced the same benefits in treatment if their belief in a higher power was rated as moderately or very high.

Patients with “no” or only “slight” belief in God were twice as likely not to respond to treatment than patients with higher levels of belief.

“Belief in God is associated with improved treatment outcomes in psychiatric care,” Rosmarin said. “More centrally, our results suggest that belief in the credibility of psychiatric treatment and increased expectations to gain from treatment might be mechanisms by which belief in God can impact treatment outcomes.”

Sleep-Deprived Men Have Lower Sperm Count, Smaller Testicles

ODENSE, Denmark (UPI) — Men who consistently lacked sleep had a higher risk of deformed and lower sperm counts than men who were well rested, researchers in Denmark say.

Tina Kold Jensen of the University of Southern Denmark and colleagues said they found the sleep-deprived men also had a higher risk of lower testosterone levels and observable testicular size shrinkage.

Jensen and colleagues surveyed 953 men in their late teens and early 20s. All of the men delivered a semen sample, had a blood sample drawn, underwent a physical examination and answered a questionnaire including information about sleep disturbances.

Sleep disturbances were assessed on the basis of a modified four-item version of the Karolinska Sleep Questionnaire, which includes questions on sleep patterns during the past four weeks.

The study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found men with sleeping problems — insomnia, staying awake late, inconsistent sleep — had an almost 30 percent lower sperm count, their sperm was more deformed, and their testicles were smaller.

Fasting May Help Those With Diabetes, Heart Disease

BIRMINGHAM, England (UPI) — A British researcher says existing research indicates intermittent fasting may help those with diabetes and cardiovascular disease, alongside with weight loss.

A review led by James Brown from Aston University in Birmingham, England, evaluated the various approaches to intermittent fasting — fasting on a given number of consecutive or alternate days — in the scientific literature.

The basic format of intermittent fasting is to alternate days eating “normally” with days when calorie consumption is restricted. This can either be done on alternative days, or where two days each week are classed as “fasting days,” Brown said.

The review, published in the British Journal of Diabetes and Vascular Disease, found evidence from clinical trials showed fasting could limit inflammation, improve levels of sugars and fats in circulation and reduce blood pressure. In addition, the study found fasting bodies change how they select which fuel to burn, improving metabolism and reducing oxidative stress.

Fasting also appeared to aid those with ischemic heart disease. Fasting may even protect the heart by raising levels of adiponectin, a protein that has several important roles in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism and vascular biology, Brown said.

Nearly Half Of Americans Don’t Realize Obamacare Is Law

With five months left until health coverage exchanges are due to release their insurer lists for those who’ll be “opting in” to Obamacare in 2014, a poll has come out revealing that a staggering 42 percent of Americans don’t even know that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is — as it has been since 2010 — the law of the land.

Of those surveyed, 12 percent also believed Congress had already repealed the law, and another 7 percent thought the Supreme Court had overturned it.

Ironically, those for whom the law ostensibly was passed, the poor and the uninsured, turned out to be the least informed about what Obamacare is and how it affects them.

At least the number of people who reported having a negative impression of how the law will be implemented outnumbered those who had a positive one — by roughly 3-to-1 — across all income brackets.

Lawmakers Like Schumer, McCain Promise More Gun Control To Come

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have vowed that the assault on Americans’ 2nd Amendment rights will resume soon.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that a plan to expand background checks for gun purchases created by “pro-gun Senators” will receive support from the “broad middle” among lawmakers in coming months.

“My own little prediction: I think we’re going to bring this bill back before the end of the year, and I think you may find some changes,” Schumer said during a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor last week. “We may change the bill a little bit, but I think you may find some changes out there in the public. Lots of Senators who thought it was safe to vote against it because of the intensity are not so sure anymore.”

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), who was one of the four Republicans to vote in support of the failed initial background check expansion bill, said it was “common sense” to support such legislation.

 

Study: Unexpected Volcano Activity Can Still Be Useful Prediction Tool

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Volcanic eruptions that deviate from normal patterns of pre-event unrest can still help improve forecasts of volcanic activity, U.S. researchers say.

A research team led by the Carnegie Institution analyzed the period immediately preceding the 2009 eruption of the Redoubt volcano in Alaska, characterized by an abnormally long period of pre-eruption seismic activity that’s more usually associated with short-term warnings of eruption, an institution release reported Monday.

Usual warnings can include a gradual increase in the rate of seismic activity, a progressive alteration in the type of seismic activity, or a change in ratios of gas released, they researchers said.

“But there are numerous cases of volcanic activity that in some way violated these common patterns of precursory unrest,” Carnegie scientist Diana Roman said. “That’s why examining the unusual precursor behavior of the Redoubt eruption is so enlightening.”

About six to seven months before the March 2009 eruption, Redoubt began to experience long-period seismic events that intensified into a sustained tremor over the next several months. Then short-period earthquakes were observed at an increased rate below the summit leading up to the eventual eruption.

This was unexpected because precursor observations usually involve a transition from short-period to long-period seismic activity, not the other way around, the researchers said.

The unusual seismic pattern could suggest some unique aspect of the volcano’s magma system, knowledge of which could improve predictions of future eruptions, they said.

“Our work shows the importance of clarifying the underlying processes driving anomalous volcanic activity,” Roman said. “This will allow us to respond to subtle signals and increase confidence in making our forecasts.”

Study Finds Unexpected Plant Diversity In North America Vital For Crops

MADISON, Wis. (UPI) — North America, while not known as a plant diversity hot spot, in fact has nearly 4,600 wild relatives of crop plants grown in the United States, scientists say.

Those wild varieties include close relatives of globally important food crops such as sunflowers, beans, sweet potatoes and strawberries, they said.

The findings are good news for plant breeders who’ve relied increasingly in recent years on the wild kin of domesticated crops as new sources of disease resistance, drought tolerance and other traits, a release from the Crop Science Society of America said Monday.

Unfortunately, many of these “crop wild relatives” are threatened by habitat loss, pollution and climate change, said lead study author Colin Khoury of the International Center for Tropical Agriculture in Cali, Colombia.

An estimated 30 percent of U.S. plant species are now of “conservation concern,” he said, and are possibly even more vulnerable because they’ve tended to be overlooked both by agricultural scientists and the conservation community.

“We always say that crop wild relatives are important and that they’re threatened,” he said. “I think what this study does is takes those general statements and puts some good evidence and documentation behind them.”

“The window for securing these plants so that they’re safe and can be used, it’s narrowing for sure,” Khoury said. “So it’s really time to move forward and get these resources protected.”

European Commission To Ban Pesticides Linked To Bee Deaths

BRUSSELS (UPI) — The European Commission says it will ban the use of a class of pesticides linked to bee deaths by scientists despite a split among member states on the issue.

Pesticides containing chemicals known as neonicotinoids are believed to be contributing to collapses of bee populations and the European Commission says they should be restricted to crops not attractive to bees and other pollinators, the BBC reported Monday.

Fifteen EU countries voted in favor of the ban, eight voted against it while four countries abstained from the vote.

Under EU rules the Commission will now have the option to impose a two-year restriction on neonicotinoids; officials said they want the moratorium to begin no later than Dec. 1.

There has been considerable argument over what has caused reported declines in bee populations thought to be responsible for pollinating around one-third of the world’s crop production.

Some farmers and crop experts argue there is insufficient data to link neonicotinoid pesticides to those declines.

But environmentalists have applauded the EU decision on a ban.

Monday’s vote “makes it crystal clear that there is overwhelming scientific, political and public support for a ban,” Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said.

Alabama Senate: We Won’t Enforce Federal Gun Laws

By a 24-6 margin, the Alabama State Senate just passed a bill that, if approved by the State’s lower chamber, would nullify all Federal gun control measures that are in “violation of the Second Amendment.”

Alabama Senate Bill 93 declares: “All federal acts, laws, orders, rules, or regulations regarding firearms are a violation of the Second Amendment” and “are invalid in this state, shall not be recognized by this state, are specifically rejected by this state, and shall be considered null and void and of no effect in this state.”

If the Alabama House passes the bill and it is signed into law, no local official, employee of the State or State asset could be co-opted in in the enforcement (or assistance in the enforcement) of Federal gun-control measures.

The bill also puts measures in place for the State to work out any problems posed by not enforcing Federal laws, stating: “The Legislature shall adopt and enact any and all measures as may be necessary to prevent the enforcement of any federal acts, laws, orders, rules, or regulations in violation of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Pick Your Sport, Locker Room And Public Restroom Under Proposed California Law

The California Legislature is considering a bill that would give kids in the State’s public schools the option of choosing which public bathroom they use, based on the “gender” with which a student most readily identifies.

The bill also would force schools to allow boys and girls to choose whether to participate on boys’ or girls’ teams in all sex-segregated sports activities — again, with their gender identity forming the basis for their choice.

Opponents haven’t had trouble envisioning scenarios, ranging from grave to ridiculous to comical, that would inevitably arise in California schools if the bill is approved. The Pacific Justice Institute has set up a “Gender Insanity” website arguing, in common-sense language, against the bill:

Under this legislation, there are absolutely no safeguards against abuse. Any teenage boy who “identifies” with teenage girls must be given full access to girls’ teams and facilities—including showers, bathrooms and locker rooms. Coaches and parents would have no say in the matter. This is not equality; it is insanity. We cannot stand by and allow politicians controlled by radical special interest groups to sacrifice the privacy of the 99% of our students who are not confused about their biological gender for the 1% (or less) who are. It is incredibly naïve for the Legislature to believe that such a law would never be abused or exploited by a predator.

No mention of how many times adventurous, locker-room-hopping students would get to “re-identify” their gender affinity under the proposal.

Lawsuit: Rolex Irked By Roll-X Deli Name

NEW YORK, (UPI) —  The New York deli formerly known as Rolex Deli is being sued by luxury watchmaker Rolex for the second time due to its sound-alike new name, Roll-x Deli.

Shawqu Ali was forced to change the name of the deli last month after Rolex Watch U.S.A. won a lawsuit alleging customers would be confused into thinking the eatery’s wares match up to the “quality and prestige” of diamond-studded Rolex watches, the New York Daily News reported Monday.

Ali is facing $20,000 in civil contempt fines for taking too long to change his sign — it was changed in March instead of by October as ordered by the court — and Rolex has filed a fresh suit alleging the new name, Roll-x Deli, is still too similar to the watch brand name.

Ehab Moustafa, a lawyer for the deli, said the owner was unaware of the $500 per day fines for the late change to the new name, which the lawyer said is legally distinct from Rolex.

“[It] is sufficient,” Moustafa said. “Roll-x is totally different.”

Police: Man Tried To Flee Arrest To Attend Prom

O’FALLON, Mo., (UPI) —  A 19-year-old accused of leading Missouri police on a high-speed highway chase allegedly said he was trying to dodge arrest so he wouldn’t miss prom.

Police said an officer patrolling Highway 61 Friday night spotted a sport utility vehicle bearing license plates registered to a different vehicle, and a computer check found the owner of the vehicle, Daniel Buck of O’Fallon, had his license revoked and had several active warrants for his arrest, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported Monday.

The driver of the truck, who matched Buck’s description, sped up when he spotted police following him and drove onto another road while traveling at a top speed of 80 mph, police said.

Police said Buck drove through a front yard and nearly struck a utility pole before his truck was disabled with stop strips. He attempted to flee on foot but was caught by officers.

The suspect allegedly told police he fled because he knew he had nine warrants for failure to appear in court on various charges, and he did not want to go to jail because he was supposed to take his girlfriend to prom Saturday night.

It was unclear whether Buck was able to post $15,000 cash bond in time to attend the prom.

91-Year-Old Tax Dodger: Authorities ‘Can Take My Coffin’

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, (UPI) —  A 91-year-old woman convicted in Sweden of committing tax fraud on five occasions said authorities “can have my coffin when I’m gone.”

The Local.se reported the woman, whose name was given only as Ingrid, was convicted on five counts of tax fraud dating back to the 1960s and was spared jail due to her advanced age.

Ingrid was sentenced to probation and a large fine, which she said she does not have the money to pay and she does not have any valuable possessions for Swedish Enforcement Authorities to take.

“The house isn’t in my name, there is nothing they can take,” she said. “They can have my coffin when I’m gone.”

Ingrid, who authorities said owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes, said she never intentionally cheated on her taxes.

“I have worked like a dog my entire life and never purposely tricked any person or the state,” she said.