North Korean Bank, Company And Individual Sanctioned By Treasury Department

WASHINGTON (UPI) — A bank, a front company and an official tied to North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction programs are subject to sanctions, the U.S. Treasury Department said.

Daedong Credit Bank — along with its front company DCB Finance Limited and DCB’s representative Kim Chol Sam — were designated under an executive order that targets proliferators of WMD and their supporters, the Treasury Department said Thursday in a release.

Financial operations carried out by DCB, DCB Finance Limited, and Kim Chol Sam are responsible for managing “millions of dollars” in transactions that support the North Korean regime’s “destabilizing activities,” the department said.

The Treasury Department said Son Mun San, the external affairs bureau chief of North Korea’s General Bureau of Atomic Energy, would be subject to sanctions for his work directing North Korea’s nuclear-related research efforts.

The GBAE, already under U.S. and U.N. sanctions, is responsible for North Korea’s nuclear program.

“North Korea’s dangerous and destabilizing illicit nuclear and ballistic missile program continues apace, supported by North Korean financial institutions like Daedong Credit Bank,” said David S. Cohen, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence. “We are committed to increasing the sanctions pressure on North Korea until it complies with its international obligations.”

Japan Approves World’s First Human Stem Cell Clinical Trial

TOKYO (UPI) — A Japanese government panel has approved the world’s first clinical research using human induced pluripotent stem cells, officials said.

The panel of the country’s Health Ministry has issued approval for governmental scientific research institute Riken and the Foundation for Biomedical Research and Innovation to conduct a clinical research plan to use iPS cells for retinal regeneration, Kyodo News reported Wednesday.

Kyoto University Professor Shinya Yamanaka co-won the 2012 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his development of iPS cells, which can grow into any type of human body tissue and are seen as candidates for regenerative medicine and drug development.

The clinical research team will try to develop treatment techniques using iPS cells to cure age-related macular degeneration, a condition that can cause sudden vision loss due to retinal damage.

The team said it would extract skin cells from several patients, create iPS cells from them, develop them into pigment epithelium of the retina and transplant them into the patients’ retinas.

The researchers said they would attempt the transplants next year.

U.S. To Reduce Use Of Chimps In Government-Funded Research

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. National Institutes of Health announced Wednesday it plans to reduce substantially the use of chimpanzees in biomedical research it funds.

The NIH said in a release it would designate for retirement most of the chimpanzees it currently owns or supports.

NIH Director Francis S. Collins has accepted most of the recommendations made by an independent advisory council for implementing a set of principles and criteria for the use of chimpanzees in NIH-funded research, the release said.

While the NIH plans to retain but not breed as many as 50 chimpanzees for future biomedical research, the chimpanzees designated for retirement could eventually join more than 150 other chimpanzees already in the Federal Sanctuary System, operated by Chimp Haven in Louisiana under NIH oversight.

“Americans have benefited greatly from the chimpanzees’ service to biomedical research, but new scientific methods and technologies have rendered their use in research largely unnecessary,” Collins said.

“Their likeness to humans has made them uniquely valuable for certain types of research, but also demands greater justification for their use.

“After extensive consideration with the expert guidance of many, I am confident that greatly reducing their use in biomedical research is scientifically sound and the right thing to do.”

Swarming Ants Wrecking Air Conditioners Along U.S. Gulf Coast

AUSTIN, Texas (UPI) — An invasion of “crazy” ants in areas of the U.S. Gulf Coast has wreaked havoc on electronic devices, especially air conditioning units, experts say.

Tawny crazy ants, named for their color and their “herky-jerky” pattern of foraging, first showed up near Houston in 2002.

Hailing from northern Argentina and southern Brazil, they seek out cavities to nest in, like walls, basements — or air conditioning units.

Less than 1/8 inch long, their small size allows them to crawl inside cellphones, computers and appliances, where protected cavities are “just great” for them, Edward LeBrun, a researcher at the University of Texas, told LiveScience.

Reproducing in large numbers, sometimes outnumbering local species of ants 100-to-1, they’ve developed a preference for swarming into electronics devices like air conditioners and farm equipment like pumps, experts said.

In one case, the ants quickly spread to 90 out of 150 air-conditioning units in an apartment building in Waco, Texas, said Mike Matthews, who works for Austin-area pest control business The Bug Master.

“When you open these things up, you see thousands of the ants, just completely filling them up,” he said.

That infestation took about two months to control, he said.

Fourth Of July Is The Deadliest Day On The Road

NORTHBROOK, Ill. (UPI) — The Fourth of July is the deadliest day on U.S. roads, killing an average of 135 people each year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says.

Sanjay Gupta, executive vice president of marketing, innovation and corporate relations at Allstate, said car crashes are the No. 1 cause of death for everyone ages 1-34, but teens crash four times more often than any other age group.

Teens accounted for 6 percent of the driving fatalities on July 4 but continue to be particularly susceptible to distracted driving incidents. The Allstate Foundation found 75 percent of teens said reading and responding to texts is distracting behind-the-wheel, up from 49 percent in 2009.

“Putting down the phone, never texting while driving and always wearing a safety belt can help make sure that everyone returns home safely after their Independence Day celebrations,” Gupta said in a statement. “It’s great to see that teens are evolving in their behavior and perceptions around texting, but our research still found that 39 percent of teen drivers admit to texting behind the wheel and 6 percent said they do it a lot.”

Parents should be positive role models when they’re behind the wheel, Gupta said.

All drivers — parents and children together — can pledge not to text and drive, and help reduce distracted driving deaths and injuries at www.facebook.com/XtheTXT.

No survey details were provided.

Jobless Claims Drop By 9,000

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Labor Department said first-time jobless benefits claims dropped by 9,000 to 346,000 in the week that ended Saturday.

The department revised the previous week’s estimate from 354,000 to 355,000. This set the four-week rolling average at 345,750, down 2,750 from the previous week.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week that ended June 15 were in California, where claims rose by 15,341, Pennsylvania with a gain of 4,882 and Florida with a gain of 4,850).

The largest decreases were in Illinois, down by 3,401, New York, down by 2,090, and Georgia with 1,893 fewer claims.

Consumer Spending Rose In May

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Consumer spending rose 0.3 percent in May, the Commerce Department said Thursday, climbing out of a deeper rut in April than previously reported.

In April, spending declined 0.3 percent, the department said, revising a previous release that pegged the decline at 0.2 percent.

The rebound for May was in line with economists’ expectations. It was the largest gain since February, when personal consumption expenditures jumped 0.7 percent.

With an adjustment for price changes, spending rose 0.2 percent in May, following an inflation-adjusted decline of 0.1 percent in April.

Disposable incomes rose 0.5 percent in the month with personal wages and salary disbursements up by $19.7 billion after a $6.5 billion gain in April.

The gain in incomes was also the largest since February, when they rose 1.2 percent.

Personal savings rose to $387.6 billion from $359.2 billion in April. The personal savings rate — savings as a percentage of disposable incomes — rose to 3.2 percent in May, compared to 3 percent in April.

The price index linked to consumer spending showed a gain of 0.1 percent in May after dropping 0.3 percent in April. The index for core prices, which leaves out food and energy items, also rose, climbing 0.1 percent after an increase of less than 0.1 percent in April.

Higher spending, incomes and price pressure points to an economy making incremental gains. Small shifts in spending are magnified by its importance in the grand scheme of things, as consumer spending makes up about 70 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the country’s economic performance.

Pending Home Sales At Post-Recession Peak

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Pending Home Sales Index rose in May to its highest level in more than six years, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.

The NAR said the index that tracks contracts of intention rose 6.7 percent month-to-month to 112.3.

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

The NAR said it had revised its April reading for the index to a slightly lower 105.2.

In May, the 25th consecutive month of improvements on an annual basis, the index was 12.1 percent higher than May 2012, when the index stood at 100.2.

“Even with limited choices, it appears some of the rise in contract signings could be from buyers wanting to take advantage of current affordability conditions before mortgage interest rates move higher,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun in a statement.

“This implies a continuation of double-digit price increases from a year earlier, with a strong push from pent-up demand,” he said.

The Pending Home Sales Index for the Northeast held steady in May at 92.3, but is 14.3 percent higher than May 2012.

In the Midwest, the index, at 115.5, jumped 10.2 percent from April and 22.2 percent from May 2012.

From April, the index rose 2.8 percent in the South to 121.8, which is a gain of 12.3 percent over the past 12 months. In the West, the index came to 109.7 in May, up 16 percent from April, but up only 11 percent from May 2012 due to limited inventory of homes on the market, NAR said.

Indiana Man Says Thieves Took Keys, Phone, Wallet — And His Pants

INDIANAPOLIS (UPI) — An Indiana man told police a woman he encountered late at night said she was a prostitute, then she and two men stole his keys, phone, wallet and pants.

Police said the 26-year-old Carmel man told them he was driving around the East Washington Street area of Indianapolis around 10:30 p.m. Tuesday “looking at properties” when he encountered a woman wearing a white tank top and blue jeans, The Indianapolis Star reported Wednesday.

“She told him that she was a ‘working girl’ and asked him if he wanted to have a good time,” the police report states.

The man answered affirmatively and the woman instructed him to follow her into an apartment, police said.

Police said the man told them two men in hoodies were waiting inside the otherwise empty apartment and one of them displayed a handgun and instructed the man to lie on the floor.

After robbing the man, the thieves fled and he  went to a neighboring apartment to call police.

Investigators said the man’s pants were found in an alley behind the building, but there was no sign of his other belongings.