McCain Touts Berlin Wall-Style U.S. Borders

Immigration reform is an issue that could be tackled in a number of ways by Federal lawmakers. And depending upon how much you trust government, you may or may not like an amendment to the current Senate immigration proposal being touted by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.). He says the amendment would provide the U.S. with “the most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall.”

It also allows for a renewed push for amnesty for what would amount to about 16 million new Americans.

“The legislation concerning beefed up border security removes any validity to the argument that border security is not sufficient,” McCain said on CNN of the amendment from Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

The amendment, designed to warm conservative holdouts to the amnesty-laden Banda de los Ocho immigration proposal would, according to McCain, provide for 20,000 additional Border Patrol officers and 700 new miles of border fence.

“This is a border security measure which I think should suffice to satisfy any critic and it is a tough way forward and it is a way forward, a tough way forward so that we can resolve this and bring 11 million people out of the shadows,” McCain said.

Indeed, the measure made progress in the Senate Monday with a 62-27 vote — meaning 15 additional GOP lawmakers jumped on board with the proposal.

The promise of a heavily militarized boarder is contingent upon de facto amnesty for illegal aliens already in the Nation.

While the heavy-handed border proposal may seem like a good idea to many conservatives, reports of a border patrol checkpoint popping up more than 100 miles away from the southern border in recent years may make some civil libertarians uneasy.

In September 2011, former Representative Ron Paul discussed his concerns over exactly the sort of proposal McCain is now championing during a Presidential primary debate.

“The people that want big fences and guns, sure, we could secure the border,” the congressman noted. “A barbed wire fence with machine guns, that would do the trick. I don’t believe that is what America is all about.

“Every time you think about this toughness on the border and ID cards and REAL IDs, think it’s a penalty against the American people too. I think this fence business is designed and may well be used against us and keep us in. In economic turmoil, the people want to leave with their capital and there’s capital controls and there’s people controls. Every time you think about the fence, think about the fences being used against us, keeping us in.”

Paul was criticized for his remarks by conservatives at the time. But revelations about National Security Administration spying, massive government ammo buys and the Internal Revenue Service being used to attack dissidents may have more people thinking like the retired lawmaker than ever before.

Dems Play Race Card From SCOTUS Ruling; NSA Scandal Throws Pelosi Off Game; Rubio Comes Full Circle On Amnesty; Nobody Corrupts Like The IRS — Personal Liberty Digest™ P.M. Edition 6-25-2013

Brush up on the day’s headlines with Personal Liberty’s P.M. Edition news links.

Fallout Predictable Over SCOTUS’ Voter Rights Act Ruling

Tuesday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Shelby V. Holder case struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965. The Internet went nuts, with ignorant Twitter users firing off lamentations about the end of voting equality in America. President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder gave them great fodder. Read More… 

No More Sunshine And Butterflies: NSA Fallout Broadsides Lib Lawmakers

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has had a pretty fail-safe formula for her “preaching to the choir” speaking engagements over the past few years: Praise Obama, demonize conservatives and talk about rainbows, butterflies, abortion and homosexuality. Read More… 

Gang Of Eight Conversion Has Rubio’s Star Falling Among Conservatives

A new poll from the Rasmussen Report shows Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has lost much of the good will he’d cultivated among conservatives since his election during the Tea Party’s 2010 midterm surge. Blame the Gang of Eight. Read More… 

IRS Handed Out Tax Dollars To Friends

House investigators reveal in a recent report that one businessman’s friendship with an IRS official allowed him to accrue $500 million in taxpayer-funded Federal contracts. Read More… 

Fallout Predictable Over SCOTUS’ Voter Rights Act Ruling

Tuesday’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Shelby V. Holder case struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965.

The Internet went nuts, with ignorant Twitter users firing off lamentations about the end of voting equality in America. President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder gave them great fodder. Here’s Obama:

I am deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision today… Today’s decision invalidating one of its core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent.

Like Chicago?

Here’s Holder:

Let me be very clear: we will not hesitate to take swift enforcement action – using every legal tool that remains available to us – against any jurisdiction that seeks to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s ruling by hindering eligible citizens’ full and free exercise of the franchise…

…As the President has made clear, Congress needs to act to make sure every American has equal access to the polls.

Here’s Nancy Pelosi:

This decision weakens the cause of voting rights in our time, disregards the challenges of discrimination still facing our country, and undermines our nation’s ongoing effort to protect the promise of equality in our laws.

Not quite. The court simply ruled that Section 4 of the VRA has outlived whatever usefulness it had four decades ago in subjecting States with a demonstrated history of racial discrimination to Federal oversight in the drawing of Congressional voting districts.

In effect, the court said, “The law worked. States more or less discriminate at about the same rate now when they draw their maps. Let the VRA States draw their maps the same way the rest of the Nation does — without having to beseech the Federal government for approval.”

Chief Justice John Roberts noted the culturally inculcated belief that the Deep South is a hotbed of institutional racism isn’t recognizable in an examination of the facts of the post-civil rights era.

“If Congress had started from scratch in 2006, it plainly could not have enacted the present coverage formula. It would have been irrational for Congress to distinguish between states in such a fundamental way based on 40-year-old data, when today’s statistics tell an entirely different story.”

The Court didn’t strike down the entire VRA, and racial discrimination against would-be voters remains as illegal as before. Racist liberal politicians know this, but are all too happy to trot out the race card once again in their ongoing, condescending effort to hypnotize minorities into voting blue.

Amateur Lawn Chair Balloonist Gets Stuck In Tree

BATTLE GROUND, Wash. (UPI) — A Washington state man who flew at a height of 15,000 feet in his balloon-powered lawn chair said he wasn’t frightened until getting stuck 40 feet up in a tree.

Joe Barbera, who built his balloon-and-chair craft in his garage and launched at 7:30 a.m. Saturday north of Battle Ground, said he remained in radio contact with his support team during his adventure, but the team lost track of his flight on an online tracking system, The (Vancouver, Wash.) Columbian reported Tuesday.

Barbera told his team he was stuck about 40 feet up in a tree.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better tree,” Barbera said.

“The craft was suspended upright in an amazingly stable posture,” he said. However, the height was “too far to jump and too far to fall.”

Barbera said the craft dropped suddenly a minuscule distance but it was enough to frighten him for the first time during the adventure.

“Things were settling, and it dropped an inch,” he said.

A Skamania County sheriff’s deputy and the Volcano Rescue Team responded to the scene to scale the tree and bring Barbera back to the ground.

The team located Barbera around 2 p.m. and were able to rig up a rope system and bring the balloonist back to earth around 3:30 p.m.

Barbera said he would like to repeat the stunt, but he does not believe he will.

“I would do it again in a minute,” he said. “And I would do it better.

“Will I? Highly unlikely. I can’t imagine mustering that much manpower again,” Barbera said.

Portugal Fines 28 For Playing Bingo For Cookies And Drinks

ALBUFEIRA, Portugal (UPI) — A group of 28 British and Irish expatriates and vacationers in Portugal said they were fined for playing an unlicensed game of bingo for cookies and drinks.

Marianne Pittaway, 34, a former North Yorkshire, England, resident and owner of The Yorkshire Tavern in Albufeira, said she was fined  $915 and sentenced a four-month suspended prison term for hosting the Friday night game for British and Irish expats and vacationers at the tavern, the BBC reported Tuesday.

Pittaway said she was “still in shock” about her arrest and considers Portuguese authorities to be “wrong in a lot of aspects” as a result of the incident.

“I put on the bingo for some entertainment and a bit of fun. We were only playing for some biscuits and drinks,” Pittaway said. “One minute we were all playing, having a bit of fun and then we were just bundled off in three police vans and taken to the police station.”

She said all of the bingo players were fined and some other customers at the tavern were slapped with smaller fines for “witnessing illegal gambling.”

Authorities said a license is required for bingo games in the country.

It said officers found people were playing “games of luck and chance” outside an authorised place.

Portuguese police, Faro GNR, released a statement saying “information reported by anonymous citizens” led to the arrests for playing “games of luck and chance” outside an authorized place.

Police: Man On Mushrooms Tore Off Part Of Own Penis

YPSILANTI, Mich. (UPI) — Authorities in Michigan said an Ohio man is recovering after ripping off part of his own penis while under the influence of hallucinogenic mushrooms.

The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office said deputies responding to a burglar alarm at Ypsilanti Middle School found the 41-year-old Columbus man naked, screaming and bloody from the waist down outside the school around 1 a.m. Tuesday, the Detroit Free Press reported Tuesday.

“He really wasn’t saying much at all — a lot of yelling and screaming,” sheriff’s Sgt. Geoff Fox said. “He wasn’t making sense. They couldn’t really communicate with him in terms of constructive conversation.”

Fox said the man had broken a window to the school but hadn’t stolen anything. He said the man was holding a piece of his own penis, which he had apparently ripped off.

The man and the severed part of his organ were taken to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Superior Township.

Fox said the man had been close to death.

“In terms of vital signs, they were as low as they could go without being dead — I could only assume due to the blood loss and the shock and trauma to the body,” he said.

It was unclear whether the severed portion of the man’s penis was reattached.

Fox said the man did not have a history of mental health problems or hard drug use. He said the man apparently consumed hallucinogenic mushrooms prior to the incident.

“We’ve sent his blood off for further analysis to see if there was anything else, if the mushrooms could have been laced with something,” Fox said.

Delta CEO Gives Seat To Mom On Overbooked Flight

WASHINGTON (UPI) — A mother’s Facebook post said the head of Delta airlines gave up his seat on a flight in Washington to allow her to pick up her diabetic daughter from camp.

Jessie Frank’s Facebook post, which she labeled “An Open Letter to Delta CEO [Chief Executive Officer] Richard Anderson,” said she was on the standby list for an overbooked Delta flight from Washington to Atlanta when someone with a “vaguely familiar face” told her she would be given a seat and helped her with her bag, ABC News reported Tuesday.

Frank said she was grateful to the man, who then sat in a jump seat, for surrendering her seat so she could make it to pick-up day at her 12-year-old daughter’s summer camp, which caters to children with type 1 diabetes.

The mother said she finally recognized the man when a flight attendant introduced the “special guest,” the company’s chief executive officer, to the passengers.

“You, Richard Anderson, the CEO of Delta, did all that for me, just an average, middle-aged, woman with, as far as anyone at Delta knew, no special reason to get home,” Frank wrote.

She said she admires Anderson because he “leads by example, and does not set himself above all those who allow this airline to exist.”

Frank said being able to see her daughter at camp was an important part of her year.

“Camp Kudzu gives my daughter 5 days a year when she feels ‘normal.’ Pick-up day gives me a glimpse into that special world where she’s just like everyone else, and she’s a little bit of a different person for the rest of the day. By the next day, it’s back to the harsh realities of managing a difficult, deadly, incurable disease that kills 1 in 20 before the age of 18. Most people just don’t understand how different it is from regular diabetes,” she wrote.

Sanitation Workers Fined $2,000 Each For $10 Tip

NEW YORK (UPI) — The city Conflict of Interest Board in New York fined a pair of sanitation workers $2,000 each for a $10 tip they received for hauling off a big pile of trash.

The board ruled Monday to fine Robert Bracone, a 26-year veteran of the department, and Rene Torres, a 23-year veteran, after hearing of a Dec. 12, 2011, incident at a three-story building in Queens’ Corona neighborhood, the New York Daily News reported Tuesday.

The board said a resident placed trash including five bags of household garbage, two bags of recyclables, two bundles of wood, a rug and two wooden boards at the side of the curb and Torres then asked about $20 he said the resident’s girlfriend had promised them as a tip.

“The resident informed us that he had only $10. Bracone and I then removed all the waste, after which the resident gave Bracone and me five dollars each,” Torres told the board.

Torres and Bracone admitted to soliciting gratuities, a violation of a policy against city employees using their jobs to “to obtain a personal benefit,” as well as a policy banning a “public servant” from “receiving compensation except from the city for performing any official duty.”

The men, who retired while the investigation was ongoing, were each fined $2,000.

Report: Home Prices Find Momentum In Upswing

NEW YORK (UPI) — U.S. home prices headed higher in April, posting double-digit gains in a closely watched private report.

The Standard and Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price report said its 10-city index rose 11.6 percent from April 2012. Over the same period, the report’s 20-city index rose 12.1 percent.

In addition, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said Tuesday that prices of homes with mortgages backed by the Federal National Mortgage Association or the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. — Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae — rose 0.7 percent in April from the previous month.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index for March was also revised higher, from 1.3 percent to 1.5 percent, the agency said

From April 2012, the agency said home prices included in its survey rose 7.4 percent. The index, meanwhile, is 11.7 percent below its peak in April 2007.

Home prices, the FHFA said, are currently on par with prices in January 2005.

The S&P/Case-Shiller report said prices in all 20 metropolitan markets that it tracks posted year-over-year gains for the fourth consecutive month.

Home prices in four markets — Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit and Minneapolis — had their highest annual gains in the history of the S&P/Case-Shiller survey, the report said.

Both composite indexes, the 10-city and 20-city sets, also posted their largest monthly gains in the history of the the survey, said David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

“Thirteen cities posted monthly increases of over two percentage points, with San Francisco leading at 4.9 percent,” he said in a statement.

“The recovery is definitely broad based. The two composites showed the largest year over year gains in seven years. Atlanta, Las Vegas, Phoenix and San Francisco posted year over year gains of over 20 percent in April. San Francisco was the highest at 23.9 percent. Phoenix posted 12 consecutive months of double-digit growth,” he added.

Consumer Confidence Rises For Third Consecutive Month

NEW YORK (UPI) — U.S. consumer confidence rose for the third consecutive month in June, the Conference Board said Tuesday.

June’s gain is also the fourth increase in the past eight months. In June, the index climbed to 81.4, up from 74.3 in May.

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

In the most recent confidence survey, 19.1 percent of respondents to a survey that involves more than 5,000 households indicated they believe business conditions were “good,” up from 18.8 percent in May.

Responses indicating a belief that business conditions were “bad” fell from 26 to 24.9 in the month.

The percentage of respondents indicating jobs were “plentiful,” rose from 9.9 percent to 11.7 percent, while those indicating jobs were difficult held close to steady, but climbed from 36.4 percent to 36.9.

“Consumer confidence … is now at its highest level since January 2008 (when the index stood at 87.3). Consumers are considerably more positive about current business and labor market conditions than they were at the beginning of the year,” Conference Board Director of Economic Indicators Lynn Franco said in a statement.

“Expectations have also improved considerably over the past several months, suggesting that the pace of growth is unlikely to slow in the short-term, and may even moderately pick up,” Franco said.

New Home Sales Rose In May

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Sales of new single-family homes rose 2.1 percent in April to May, the U.S. Commerce Department said Tuesday.

At an annual rate of 476,000, sales for the month increased over April’s revised annual rate of 466,000 and came in 29 percent higher than the May 2012 estimate of 369,000.

The Commerce Department said the average price for a new home sold in March was $307,800.

At the end of March, there were an estimated 161,000 new homes on the market, representing a 4.1 month supply at the current rate of sales.

Long-Term Unemployed Mired Down, Economists Say

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. workers unemployed long-term and those unemployed briefly are experiencing two different labor market recoveries, an economist said.

“Once you are long-term unemployed, nobody calls you back,” said economist Rand Ghayad, who said he applied to 600 jobs with mock resumes set up so the only real difference in candidates was the length the applicant was unemployed.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday data support Ghayad’s observations. About 25 percent of those defined as short-term unemployed find work each month, compared to about 10 percent of those defined as long-term unemployed, the newspaper said.

On a national level, the economy has added about 175,000 jobs per month since the labor market turned around toward the end of the recession that officially lasted from December 2007 to June 2009. The trouble, economists say, is that just isn’t fast enough.

Take the current rate of new jobs created each month and double that and it would still take three years for the job market to return to pre-recession levels, the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project found.

In effect, the unemployment rate decline from a recession peak of 10.1 percent to the current rate of 7.6 percent reflects the point that millions of workers have given up looking for work. Many of these former workers may never find work again and that slows the recovery further, given the long-term support they will need with shelter, food and healthcare.

By the numbers, the peak of 15 million unemployed has dropped to 12 million. Prior to the recession, the number of unemployed was about 8 million.

Currently, the Journal said, the percentage of the population that is considered part of the workforce — those working and those looking for work — is at a low unseen in nearly 30 years.

Barnes & Noble To Bow Out Of Manufacturing Its Nook Tablets

NEW YORK (UPI) — Bookseller Barnes & Noble says it will no longer manufacture its Nook tablets, turning that task over to third-party partners to design co-branded tablets.

In a statement, the retailer said ongoing losses were behind its decision to pull out of the tablet manufacturing arena, CNET reported Tuesday.

“The company plans to significantly reduce losses in the Nook segment by limiting risks associated with manufacturing,” the statement said.

The company said it would retain manufacturing of its e-reader products.

“Thus, the widely popular lines of Simple Touch and Glowlight products will continue to be developed in house, and the company’s tablet line will be co-branded with yet to be announced third party manufacturers of consumer electronics products,” it said in its statement.

Barnes & Noble’s financial results for its fiscal fourth quarter showed Nook revenues dropped by 34 percent to $108 million as sales of the devices declined.

While saying it would sell off its existing inventory of the Nook HD and Nook HD+ tablets through the holiday season, the company said it would still offer support for the tablets in its retail stores and provide software upgrades via its digital bookstore.

Too Much, Too Little Fish Increases Irregular Heartbeat Risk

ATHENS, Greece (UPI) — Eating too little or too much fish may increase the risk of atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, Danish researchers say.

Dr. Thomas Rix and colleagues from Aalborg University Hospital in Denmark found a U-shaped association between consumption of marine n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids — n-3 PUFA — and the risk of developing an irregular heartbeat, with people who have both low and high intakes found to suffer more from atrial fibrillation than those with median intakes.

However, the study, presented at the European Heart Rhythm Association EUROPACE Congress in Athens, found the lowest risk of atrial fibrillation was found in those who consumed about two servings of fatty fish per week.

“Since atrial fibrillation is present in more than 6 million people in Europe and associated with considerable morbidity, mortality and economic costs, preventing atrial fibrillation by achievable dietary changes would be of major public interest,” Rix said in a statement.Robotic pet increased pleasure of dementia patientsMonday, June 24, 2013 11:52 PMBRISBANE, Australia, June 25 (UPI) —  A robotic harp seal increased quality of life, increased levels of pleasure and reduced anxiety of dementia patients, Australian researchers say.

Professor Wendy Moyle from Griffith University in Australia, Professor Glenda Cook of Northumbria University and researchers from institutions in Germany investigated the effect of interacting with PARO, a robotic harp seal, compared with participation in a reading group.

PARO is fitted with artificial intelligence software and tactile sensors that allow it to respond to touch and sound. It can show emotions such as surprise, happiness and anger, can learn its own name and learns to respond to words its owner uses frequently, Moyle said.

Eighteen participants living in a residential aged care facility in Queensland, Australia, took part in activities with PARO for five weeks and also participated in a control reading group activity for the same period.

Following both trial periods the impact was assessed, using recognized clinical dementia measurements, for how the activities had influenced the participants’ quality of life, tendency to wander, level of apathy, levels of depression and anxiety ratings.

Research has already shown interaction with animals can have a beneficial effect on older adults, but they can place residents at risk of infection or injury and create additional duties for nursing staff.

This latest study suggests PARO companions elicit a similar response and could potentially be used in residential settings to help reduce some of the symptoms of dementia such as agitation, aggression, isolation and loneliness.

Type 2 Diabetes: Losing Weight Helpful, But Not For Heart Risk

CHICAGO (UPI) — Overweight people with type 2 diabetes who lose weight get health benefits, but lower risk of heart attack is not one of them, U.S. researchers say.

Rena R. Wing of Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I., and colleagues said half of the 5,145 participants in a trial were assigned to an intensive diet and exercise program involving individual and group meetings on strategies for weight loss. The other half received a general program of diabetes education and support several times a year.

Participants were tracked for about 10 years.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found those in the lifestyle group lost about 8.6 percent of their starting weight the first year and maintained an average 6 percent of weight loss after 10 years. Those in the diabetes education group lost about 1 percent of their starting weight after one year, and 3.5 percent after 10 years.

Those in the lifestyle group were 30 percent less likely to develop chronic kidney disease, had better average blood sugar levels, had better high-density lipoprotein, the good cholesterol, and required less medication.

The study found no difference between the two groups in the number of heart attacks and strokes — but the heart risk was low in both groups.

The findings were presented at the American Diabetes Association’s annual scientific meeting in Chicago.

Half Of U.S. Youths Exercise Enough, Most Don’t Eat Produce

BETHESDA, Md. (UPI) — Half of U.S. adolescents are physically active five or more days of the week, and fewer than 1-in-3 eat fruit and vegetables daily, researchers say.

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health surveyed 10,000 students ages 11-16 in 39 states about their  physical activity levels, eating habits, emotional health, body image and general life satisfaction.

“The students showed a surprising variability in eating patterns,” lead author Ronald J. Iannotti of the Prevention Research Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, said in a statement. “But most — about 74 percent — did not have a healthy pattern.”

The researchers found that the adolescents’ diet and activity habits could be classified into three general categories: 26 percent were categorized as unhealthful; 27 percent were described as healthful and 47 percent were classified as typical.

The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, found the typical youth were least likely to exercise five or more days each week or to eat fruits and vegetables at least once a day. They were more likely to spend time watching television, playing video games or on a computer than the healthful group and the unhealthful group. They infrequently ate fruits and vegetables but also infrequently ate sweets, chips or fries, or had soft drinks. This group was most likely to be overweight or obese and dissatisfied with the appearance of their bodies.

Most in the healthful group reported exercising five or more days per week — the highest rate of the three groups. They were least likely to spend time in front of a TV or computer screen and were most likely to report eating fruits and vegetables at least once a day, while the least likely to consume sweets, soft drinks, chips and French fries. They reported the lowest rates of depressive symptoms and the highest life satisfaction ratings, the study said.

The unhealthful group consumed the most sweets, chips, french fries and soft drinks; were most likely to spend 2 hours or more time in front of a screen. Despite the caloric foods they consumed, these youth were more likely to be underweight and to report needing to put on weight. They were also more likely to report symptoms of depression and of poor physical health, such as backaches, stomachaches, headaches or feeling dizzy, the study said.

U.S. Gasoline Prices Lower Ahead Of Holiday

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Retail gasoline prices in the United States moved closer to the expected summer average as commuters settled into the last work week before the July 4 holiday.

AAA reports U.S. consumers paid an average $3.55 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline Tuesday, down 5 cents compared to the same time last week. California drivers paid the most with an average price of $4.06 per gallon. Commuters in Illinois paid $3.89, down 19 cents from last week.

The U.S. Midwest region was in the grips of a temporary price spike because of refinery issues in the Chicago area. South Carolina reported the lowest average price of $3.23 per gallon.

The Energy Information Administration, the U.S. Energy Department’s statistical arm, reports an average price of $3.57 for Monday, down 5 cents from the previous week. The EIA predicted regular gasoline will average $3.53 a gallon for the summer driving season, which lasts from April through September.

AAA reported last week it expects 40.8 million travelers will drive more than 50 miles from their homes during the upcoming July 4 holiday, a 0.8 percent decrease from last year.

Panda In China Has Twins In Successful Birth

BEIJING (UPI) — A giant panda has successfully given birth to twins in southwest China’s Sichuan province, the first such birth in the world this year, wildlife officials said.

‘The panda dubbed Haizi gave birth to the two cubs 10 minutes apart Saturday, workers at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda at the Wolong Nature Reserve said.

The firstborn cub appears to be healthy, they said, based on its size and the volume of sound it is making. The second cub is slightly smaller but also appears healthy, they said.

Haizi got pregnant after mating with two male pandas in March, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Most giant pandas are not good breeders when in captivity and remain sexually inactive much of the time, officials said.

Afghan Bomb Makers Shift To New Explosives Materials

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Afghan insurgents have switched from fertilizer to potassium chlorate, the material that makes matches fire, to make homemade bombs, Pentagon research shows.

U.S. officials have attempted to stop the flow of fertilizer from Pakistan to Afghanistan. To an extent they succeeded, only to see a new source of explosives emerge. For the first time in the 12-year war, potassium chlorate is the most common ingredient of homemade explosives, fueling 60 percent of improvised explosives devices, or IEDs, USA Today reported Tuesday.

“What we have seen over the year is its use spreading across the country at an increasing rate,” said Al Sweetser, researcher at the Joint IED Defeat Organization, the Pentagon’s primary agency for combating homemade bombs.

Potassium chlorate is legal in Pakistan, and used in manufacturing matches and textiles. It is also cheaper and easier to use in manufacturing bombs than ammonium nitrate, the chief ingredient in fertilizer, Pentagon documents indicate.

Insurgents typically pack explosives into plastic jugs used for cooking oil. The bombs are detonated when stepped on or driven over, USA Today said.

Sweetser referred to it as a “victim-operated IED. It’s kind of the signature device of the conflict in Afghanistan. Very simple to construct with readily available materials, and very hard to counteract.”

Gang Of Eight Conversion Has Rubio’s Star Falling Among Conservatives

A new poll from the Rasmussen Report shows Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has lost much of the good will he’d cultivated among conservatives since his election during the Tea Party’s 2010 midterm surge.

The poll finds Rubio slipping among his base, with his approval rating among conservatives standing at 58 percent — a drop of 10 percentage points since May, and 15 points since February.

Blame the Gang of Eight. Rubio’s involvement in the push for a bipartisan agreement to effect immigration reform, and especially the inclusion of President Barack Obama’s sine qua non condition to allow amnesty and a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal aliens, has incensed the majority of Rubio’s conservative base.

He also hasn’t helped himself by flip-flopping on his election-year stance, when he famously slammed the immigration plan put forward by his present-day colleague in the Gang of Eight, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.). “‘Earned path to citizenship’ is basically code for amnesty,” Rubio had said back then. “It is unfair to the people that have legally entered this country to create an alternative pathway for individuals who entered illegally and knowingly did so.”

Enjoy a walk down memory lane with this helpful graphic produced by the Federation for American Immigration Reform:

Marco Rubio_amnesty_timeline_2-15-2013

Colorado’s West Fork Complex Wildfire Expected To Grow

PAGOSA SPRINGS, Colo. (UPI) — The Colorado wildfire known as the West Fork Complex has burned more than 79,000 acres with zero containment and potential for growth, fire officials said.

Conditions for fighting the fire, near Pagosa Springs, Colo., north of Denver, improved Tuesday with winds up to 20 mph through most of the fire zones, the National Weather Service reported.

The fire is a combination of three wildfires — West Fork, Windy Pass and Papoose – in the area, The Denver Post said.

It is regarded as “very active” and “extreme fire behavior,” Inciweb, the U.S. Forest Service information management system, said.

Police Officers Wounded In Los Angeles Ambush

LOS ANGELES (UPI) — Officers were assigned to guard Los Angeles police stations Tuesday after two detectives were wounded in an early morning ambush.

The detectives, who were in an unmarked car, were shot outside the Wilshire station about 4:30 a.m. as the driver used a card to open the gate to the parking area, the Los Angeles Times reported. Both suffered minor injuries.

Commander Andrew Smith said the shooter knew the officers, who were in plain clothes, were with the Police Department.

A 25-block area around the Wilshire station was closed to both foot and vehicle traffic while officers searched for the gunman. Security was tightened at stations around the city.

“While this seems like an isolated incident, out of an abundance of caution, all of our stations are on heightened alert,” Smith said.

Three people had been detained, but Smith said none was believed to be the gunman.

Val Jones, 48, who lives near the Wilshire station, said she made a quick trip to an ATM at 6 a.m. to provide a friend with bus fare and was unable to return home.

“I’m tired, I’m ready to go home and I want some breakfast,” Jones told the Times. “Other than that they have to do what they have to do. I’m fine. I’m glad I used the bathroom before I came out.”

Sandy Death Toll Increases With April Discovery In Queens

NEW YORK (UPI) — New York City’s death toll following Hurricane Sandy has risen by one after the medical examiner’s office revealed a man was found dead long after the storm.

Keith Lancaster, 62, was found dead inside his trailer home in the Rockaway section of Queens on April 5, 150 days after the storm hit. The New York City Medical Examiner’s Office said Lancaster drowned inside the home.

Rockaway was devastated by the storm surge. Lancaster’s trailer had a high water mark of 5 feet, The New York Daily News said Tuesday.

Neighbors made the discovery five months after the storm.

The city’s death toll now stands at 44.