Scientists Suggest Cosmic ‘Billiards’ To Protect Earth From Asteroids

MOSCOW (UPI) — One way to protect earth from the risk of asteroid collisions would be to use tame asteroids in a serious game of cosmic billiards, Russian scientists suggest.

Several near-Earth asteroids could be towed closer to Earth to serve as a cache of celestial projectiles against incoming space threats, Natan Eismont of the Space Research Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences said.

The orbiting captured asteroids could be “lined up” so that one passes 50,000 to 100,000 miles from Earth every few weeks or months, ready to be used as projectiles to target non-catalogued and hazardous asteroids, research by the Space Research Institute and the Higher School of Economics in Moscow suggested.

“I was skeptical about it myself, until we actually tried to do computer modeling of the situation,” Eismont, one of the project’s authors, told RIA Novosti.

It is currently possible to send an unmanned Proton rocket — a staple of the Russian space program — to land on an asteroid, carrying up to 2 tons of rocket fuel, Eismont said.

Properly anchored, the rocket fuel could then ignite at a designated time, changing the tame asteroid’s orbit to intercept an asteroid dangerously approaching Earth and diverting it.

The program would cost about $1 billion per Proton launch, he said, and the equipment needed to maneuver an asteroid into position could be developed within 10 to 12 years.

“Nobody can tell you when the next asteroid will come, but everyone would tell you that come it will,” Eismont said.

U.S. Consumer Spending Down In April

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Consumer spending dropped 0.2 percent in April, despite expectations of a slight rise, the U.S. Commerce Department said Friday.

Economists had predicted spending to climb 0.1 percent, which would have matched March’s spending increase. Spending gains peaked in February, when spending rose 0.8 percent. Gains in January and March were modest.

As spending dropped, incomes also fell slightly — less than 0.1 percent — which caused disposable incomes to drop 0.1 percent, $16.1 billion.

Small shifts in spending are major economic news, as consumer spending makes up about 70 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the country’s economic performance.

April’s figures bring March gains back down. In March, incomes rose 0.3 percent, while disposable personal income rose 0.2 percent, or $25.4 billion.

The department said payrolls decreased $2 billion at goods-producing companies after rising $700 million in the previous month. Payrolls in April increased $3.7 billion at service-oriented firms, a relatively muted gain compared with March, when payrolls at service-oriented firms rose $15.6 billion.

Personal spending rose $21 billion in March while personal incomes increased 0.2 percent, $30.9 billion, after rising 1.1 percent in February.

Disposable income, which also rose 1.1 percent in February, was up $20.7 billion — 0.2 percent — in March, the department said.

Wages rose for the second consecutive month, gaining $14.9 billion in March after a solid $44.6 billion gain in February. Wages at manufacturing jobs fell $100 million in March after rising in February.

At service-oriented jobs, payrolls increased $15 billion after a jump of $29.5 billion in the previous month.

Personal savings in March totaled $329.1 billion, down from $330.9 billion in February. The savings rate — personal savings as a percentage of disposable income — rose to 2.7 percent from 2.6 percent, the department said.

Police: Disneyland Blast Suspect Set Off 2 Dry-Ice Bombs

ANAHEIM, Calif.,  (UPI) —  A Disneyland employee charged with setting off a dry-ice explosion at the California theme park pleaded not guilty Thursday in Orange County Superior Court.

Christian Barnes, 22, of Long Beach, is charged with felony possession of a destructive device in a public place. If convicted, he could be sentenced to six years in prison, the Los Angeles Times reported.

He entered his plea via video from his cell at the Orange County Jail, where he was ordered held on $500,000 bail — down from the $1 million set when he was initially arrested.

Prosecutors said Barnes — who worked as an outdoor vendor, selling water and soft drinks at the theme park — set off a dry-ice explosion in a vending cart in the park’s Mickey’s Toontown section at about 4 p.m. Tuesday before dropping a water bottle containing dry ice into a trashcan, which exploded as a park employee was changing a full bag for a fresh one.

The second blast, at about 5 p.m., prompted an hours-long evacuation of Mickey’s Toontown.

Disneyland said on its Twitter account there were no injuries and no reports of damage.

Sgt. Bob Dunn of the Anaheim Police Department said Wednesday Barnes was cooperating with investigators and “has indicated this is an isolated incident with unanticipated impacts.”

Some of Barnes’ relatives attended the court session Thursday, including his grandmother, Flora Barnes, who said her grandson is “the nicest person I know,” the Times said.

“He’s a wonderful kid,” she said. “He’s a kid who wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

Although the explosion did not cause significant damage, Disneyland spokeswoman Suzi Brown said in a statement the park takes “matters like this very seriously.”

Baby Shower Being Planned For Kate Middleton

LONDON, (UPI) —  Kate Middleton, the duchess of Cambridge, will be the first member of Britain’s royal family to have a baby shower, a family friend said.

Her sister, Pippa, is organizing the event celebrating the impending birth of Kate’s first child with her husband, Prince William, The Sun newspaper reported. The baby is due in July.

“It isn’t royal tradition but Kate isn’t a traditional royal,” a friend told The Sun about the baby shower.

“She is modern and wants a normal life. Prince Harry, Kate and William are the royal family’s link to the younger generation. A baby shower wouldn’t normally happen if you’re in the royal family, but there is now a modern way of thinking.

“It will be a great day for everyone and Kate is doing this with the blessing of the queen.”

The party will feature a pacifier-shaped cake from the bakery run by Kate and Pippa’s brother, James, the newspaper said.

The date and location of the shower weren’t reported.

Survey: Marriage Larger Factor In Happiness Than Children

LONDON, (UPI) —  Britain’s Office of National Statistics said its study indicates marriage makes people happier than religion, money or children.

The office said 165,000 people were asked to rate their lives in the areas of how satisfied they are, how worthwhile they viewed their lives as, their happiness and their anxiety, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.

The office said it found marriage was the largest factor in happiness, far eclipsing earnings, home ownership, religious beliefs and having children.

The ONS said its analysis indicates having children had very little effect on happiness but boosted people’s perception of their lives as “worthwhile.”

“It [marriage] gives people a sense of stability, and a greater sense that their life is worthwhile,” said Dawn Snape, one of the report’s authors. “I think that the issue with children is that we probably all recognize the saying ‘you are only as happy as your unhappiest child.’ Parents have a responsibility and that in itself can add to the perceived burden. People are happiest in their youth and when they are older. Middle-aged people are the least happy because they have the most responsibility.”

Police Selling Guns From Buyback Program

ST. CHARLES, Ill.,  (UPI) —  A police department in the Chicago suburbs said some of the guns obtained from a buyback program will be sold to a pair of licensed dealers.

St. Charles Police Chief James Lamkin said about 20 firearms obtained through a gun buyback program and seized by courts will be sold to the dealers, the Chicago Tribune reported Friday.

“There’s value in these guns,” Lamkin said. “They’re not illegal guns. Quite honestly, it’s a bottom line for us.”

Most other area departments, including the Chicago Police Department and the Illinois State Police, destroy the guns obtained through buybacks.

“There are individuals who will say, why not simply destroy them?” St. Charles Mayor Raymond Rogina said. “But when that happens, there will be someone saying that’s taxpayer dollars [at stake] and you’re throwing it away.”

Poll: 17 Percent Of Fliers Don’t Mind Diaper Changes

CHARLESTOWN, Mass.,  (UPI) —  Massachusetts website Airfarewatchdog said its poll found 17 percent of fliers see nothing wrong with using a seatback tray table as a baby changing station.

The survey of 740 airline passengers found 60 percent of those polled said they would discuss the issue with the passenger and complain to a flight attendant, while 10 percent said they would be disgusted, but not take any action.

“Obviously, when there’s turbulence and passengers can’t make it to the [lavatory], there’s no choice but to ‘change in place,'” Airfarewatchdog founder George Hobica said. “And some older planes don’t have changing tables in the lavs. But when and if it’s possible to changes babies in lavatories, most passengers would prefer that parents use them. After all, people eat on those tray tables.”

Poll: Clinton Leads Rand Paul, Jeb Bush In Hypothetical 2016 Race

HAMDEN, Conn., (UPI) —  U.S. voters prefer Democrat Hillary Clinton over Republicans Rand Paul or Jeb Bush in hypothetical 2016 presidential matchups, a poll indicated.

Clinton, the former secretary of state and U.S. senator from New York, leads Sen. Paul of Kentucky, 49 percent to 41 percent, and former Florida Gov. Bush 48 percent to 40 percent, a Quinnipiac University poll released Friday indicated.

Vice President Joe Biden trails Bush 44 percent to 38 percent and lags behind Paul 43 percent to 39 percent in hypothetical matchups, the poll found.

Clinton had a 52 percent to 40 percent favorability-to-unfavorability rating, off from an all-time high 61 percent to 34 percent in a Feb. 8 survey by Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.

Results indicated Biden had negative ratings, 37 percent to 44 percent. Paul had a positive rating, 32 percent to 24 percent — with 42 percent saying they didn’t know enough about him to form an opinion.

Results indicated neutral attitudes about Bush, with both favorable and unfavorable ratings at 29 percent. Forty-two percent said they haven’t formed an opinion.

Even though her favorability rating dropped, Clinton “remains the queen of the 2016 hill at this point, but the wide gap between her and some of the leading Republican contenders on favorability may be closing, as her overall favorability has taken a hit,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Results are based on a survey of 1,419 registered voters conducted May 22-28. The margin of error is 2.6 percentage points.

Moms Now Primary Breadwinner In 40 Percent Of U.S. Households

WASHINGTON,  (UPI) —  The number of American families where the mother is the sole or primary breadwinner nearly quadrupled in a half-century, a study indicated.

Women were the main providers in 40 percent of U.S. households in 2011, up from just 11 percent in 1960, the Pew Research Center reported this week.

The “breadwinner moms” were overwhelmingly single, Pew found.

About 63 percent, or 8.6 million, were single mothers and 37 percent, or 5.1 million, were married women who earned more than their husbands.

The income gap between the two groups was significant. In households where the wife earned more than her husband, the median total family income was $80,000, the study said. In families headed by a single mother, the median income was $23,000.

The report was based on Pew’s analysis of Census Bureau data and a Pew survey conducted in April of 1,003 adults in the continental United States.

What Recovery? Despite Fed Boasts, Americans Have Regained Only 45 Percent Of Recession Losses

In March, the Federal Reserve chirped that Americans had, as a whole, recouped 91 percent of the aggregate wealth the Nation lost during the economic crisis of 2007-2009.

But Thursday, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis released a report that strays pretty far from the Fed’s earlier, optimistic message. Unlike the March report, the current version adjusts for inflation, and averages all gains and losses across population demographics.

It’s a completely different picture. Instead of being on the cusp of full recovery, we’re not even halfway there. With the corrections in place, the average U.S. household appears to have recovered only 45 percent of whatever wealth was lost between 2007 and 2010.

For one thing, there are more 3.8 million more American households now than in 2007; for another, almost 70 percent of the post-recession gains have come in the form of stock surges, which benefit upper-income Americans in far greater proportion than those living in a middle-class household. And the value of homes, where most middle-class Americans’ wealth is stored, is still down almost 16 percent from pre-recession levels.