Food Advocates: Some Reddish Dye In Yogurt Made From Bugs

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Strawberry, Cherry, Boysenberry and Raspberry flavors of Dannon’s “Fruit on the Bottom” line get their color from an insect, a U.S. non-profit group says.

Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, said Dannon uses carmine — a dye extracted from the dried, pulverized bodies of cochineal insects — to give fruit-flavored yogurt their pink color.

The dye is used in the Strawberry flavor of Dannon’s Oikos brand of Greek yogurt, two flavors of Dannon’s Light and Fit Greed use the extract, as do six of its Activia yogurts.

However, Dannon uses other natural colorings, such as purple carrot juice, in its Danimals line of yogurts marketed to children, CSPI said.

CSPI’s Chemical Cuisine guide to food additives says “certain people should avoid” carmine since a small percentage of consumers can have reactions ranging from hives to anaphylactic shock after eating it, Jacobson said.

“I have nothing against people who eat insects, but when I buy strawberry yogurt I’m expecting yogurt and strawberries, and not red dye made from bugs,” Jacobson said in a statement. “Given the fact that it causes allergic reactions in some people, and that’s it easy to use safer, plant-based colors, why would Dannon use it at all? Why risk offending vegetarians and grossing out your other customers?”

The cochineal is a scale insect native to tropical and subtropical South America and Mexico. It lives on cacti and produces carminic acid used make carmine dye used as a food coloring and for cosmetics, especially lipstick.

Itching Can Have Hundreds Of Causes, But Therapies For Most

ROCHESTER, Minn. (UPI) — There’s no one-size-fits-all treatment for persistent itching, but there are therapies for most types of severe or persistent itching, U.S. researchers say.

The Mayo Clinic Health Letter reported itching can have hundreds of possible causes, but itching with a rash could be the result of dry skin, allergic reactions, skin disorders, or infectious diseases such as chickenpox or shingles.

Treatments vary due to the cause of the rash and include:

— Oral antihistamines ease itching due to allergies or hives. Corticosteroids help with itching caused by skin inflammation.

— Medicated cream is applied to the affected areas and covered by wet cotton cloths. This approach often is effective when other therapies fail.

— The skin is exposed to certain wavelengths of ultraviolet light several times a week over the course of weeks or months.

Itching that occurs without a rash can be the result of diseases such as liver disease, kidney failure, anemia, some cancers and many other conditions; medications such as narcotic pain relievers and some cancer medications; and nerve dysfunction such as pinched or irritated nerves, the newsletter said.

Treating the underlying condition or adjusting medications can provide relief, but anti-depressants may be helpful in select situations where other therapies haven’t worked.

A number of topical creams and ointments can help relieve an itch immediately. Options include topical anesthetics such as lidocaine or benzocaine and ointments and lotions such as peppermint, camphor or calamine.

When itching persists, it’s a good idea to check with a physician for a diagnosis and treatment, the newsletter said.

ProPublica: Six Ways Congress May Reform NSA Snooping

This article, written by Kara Brandeisky, was originally published by ProPublica,  July 25, 2013, 4:39 p.m.

Although the House defeated a measure that would have defunded the bulk phone metadata collection program, the narrow 205-217 vote showed that there is significant support in Congress to reform NSA surveillance programs. Here are six other legislative proposals on the table.

1) Raise the standard for what records are considered “relevant”

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has reportedly adopted a broad interpretation of the Patriot Act, ruling that all the records in a company’s database could be considered “relevant to an authorized investigation.” The leaked court order compelling a Verizon subsidiary to turn over all its phone records is just one example of how the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has interpreted the statute.

Both Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have introduced bills requiring the government to show “specific and articulable facts” demonstrating how records are relevant.  Similarly, legislation introduced by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., would require any applications to include an explanation of how any records sought are relevant to an authorized investigation.

2) Require NSA analysts to obtain court approval before searching metadata

Once the NSA has phone records in its possession, Sen. Dianne Feinstein has explained that NSA analysts may query the data without individualized court approvals, as long as they have a “reasonable suspicion, based on specific facts” that the data is related to a foreign terrorist organization.

A bill from Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., would require the government to petition the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court every time an analyst wants to search telephone metadata. From there, a surveillance court judge would need to find “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that the search is “specifically relevant to an authorized investigation” before approving the application. The legislation would also require the FBI to report monthly to congressional intelligence committees all the searches the analysts made.

3) Declassify Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions

Right now, court opinions authorizing the NSA surveillance programs remain secret. Advocacy groups have brought several Freedom of Information Act suits seeking the release of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court documents, but the Justice Department continues to fight them.

Several bills would compel the secret court to release some opinions. The Ending Secret Law Act 2014 both the House and Senate versions 2014 would require the court to declassify all its opinions that include “significant construction or interpretation” of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Under current law, the court already submits these “significant” opinions to congressional intelligence committees, so the bill would just require the court to share those documents with the public.

The bills do include an exception if the attorney general decides that declassifying an opinion would threaten national security. In that case, the court would release an unclassified summary of the opinion, or 2014 if even offering a summary of the opinion would pose a national security threat 2014 at least give a report on the declassification process with an “estimate” of how many opinions must remain classified.

Keep in mind, before Edward Snowden’s disclosures, the Justice Department argued that all “significant legal interpretations” needed to remain classified for national security reasons. Since the leaks, the government has said it’s now reviewing what, if any, documents can be declassified, but they said they need more time.

4) Change the way Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges are appointed

Current law does not give Congress any power to confirm Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges. Instead, the chief justice of the United States appoints the judges, who all already serve on the federal bench. The judges serve seven-year terms. Chief Justice John Roberts appointed all 11 judges currently serving on the court 2013 ten of whom were nominated to federal courts by Republican presidents.

A bill introduced by Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., would give the president the power to appoint surveillance court judges and give the Senate power to confirm. The president would also choose the presiding judge of the surveillance court, with Senate approval.

Alternatively, Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., has offered a bill that would let the chief justice appoint three judges and let the House Speaker, the House minority leader, the Senate majority leader, and the Senate minority leader each appoint two judges.

5) Appoint a public advocate to argue before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

Currently, the government officials petitioning the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court do not face an adversarial process. Surveillance targets do not have representation before the court, and they are not notified if a court order is issued for their data.

In 33 years, the surveillance court only rejected 11 of an estimated 33,900 government requests, though it the government has also modified 40 of the 1,856 applications in 2012. 

Two former Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judges 2013 Judge James Robertson and Judge James Carr 2013 have argued that Congress should appoint a public advocate to counter the government’s arguments. Carr wrote in the New York Times, “During my six years on the court, there were several occasions when I and other judges faced issues none of us had encountered before. [2026]Having lawyers challenge novel legal assertions in these secret proceedings would result in better judicial outcomes.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has promised to introduce a bill that would provide a “special advocate” to argue on behalf of privacy rights and give “civil society organizations” a chance to respond before the surveillance court issues significant rulings.

The surveillance court can actually invite advocates to argue before the court, as the Supreme Court did when the Obama administration refused to defend the Defense of Marriage Act.  

“There’s nothing in law that would prevent the FISA court from hiring an advocate as an additional advisor to the court, except the need to obtain security clearances for that advocate, which would have to be granted by the executive branch,” explained Steven Bradbury, who served as the head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice from 2005 to 2009.

Bradbury has argued that the surveillance court may not need a permanent public advocate because its legal advisers already fulfill that role.

6) End phone metadata collection on constitutional grounds

The Justice Department has maintained that mass phone metadata collection is “fully consistent with the Fourth Amendment.” That reasoning is based on the 1979 Supreme Court decision Smith v. Maryland, where the Court found that the government does not need a warrant based on probable cause to collect phone records. The Court reasoned that whenever you dial a phone number, you voluntarily share that phone number with a telecom, and you can’t reasonably expect a right to privacy for information shared with third parties. As a result, the Court ruled that the collection of phone records is not a “search” and does not merit protection under the Fourth Amendment.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has introduced a bill declaring that the Fourth Amendment “shall not be construed to allow any agency of the United States Government to search the phone records of Americans without a warrant based on probable cause” 2014 effectively shutting down the NSA’s phone metadata collection program.

Study: Some Hot Sauces From Mexico May Contain Lead

LAS VEGAS (UPI) — A study of 25 bottles of imported hot sauces from Mexico and South America found 16 percent contained lead levels, researchers say.

Shawn Gerstenberger and Jennifer Berger Ritchie of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said the hot sauces were purchased from local ethnic markets, grocery stores and a swap meet. Product selection included a variety of manufacturers and types.

Bottles were shaken for 60 seconds and analyzed for lead concentrations and pH levels. The lead content of the packaging was also evaluated because lead content in packaging has been known to leech into and contaminate other food products, the researchers said

The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part B; found four brands of hot sauces exceeded 0.1 parts per million lead, the current U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s standard for unsafe levels of lead in candy. All four of these brands were imported from Mexico, but were from four different manufacturers, the study said.

There is no known safe level for lead exposure.

In young children, lead poisoning has been known to cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems and even seizures, comas and death in extreme cases, the researchers said.

“The results indicate the need for more rigorous screening protocols for products imported in Mexico, including an applicable standard for hot sauce,” Gerstenberger said in a statement.

Marijuana Use In Adolescence May Cause Permanent Brain Harm

BALTIMORE (UPI) — Regular marijuana use in adolescence, but not adulthood, may permanently impair brain function and cognition, U.S. researchers say.

Senior author Asaf Keller, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said regular marijuana use in adolescence might also increase the risk of developing serious psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.

“Over the past 20 years, there has been a major controversy about the long-term effects of marijuana, with some evidence that use in adolescence could be damaging,” Keller said in a statement.

“Previous research has shown that children who started using marijuana before the age of 16 were at greater risk of permanent cognitive deficits, and had a significantly higher incidence of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.”

Study co-author Sarah Paige Haughwout, a research technician in Keller’s laboratory examined cortical oscillations — patterns of the activity of neurons in the brain — in mice.

Young mice were exposed to very low doses of the active ingredient in marijuana for 20 days, and then allowed  to return to their siblings and develop normally. The experiment was repeated in adult mice never before exposed to the drug.

The study, published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, found cortical oscillations and ability to perform cognitive behavioral tasks remained normal in the adult mice, indicating it was only marijuana exposure during the critical period of adolescence that impaired cognition through this mechanism.

“We looked at the different regions of the brain,” Keller said. “The back of the brain develops first, and the frontal parts of the brain develop during adolescence. We found the frontal cortex is much more affected by the drugs during adolescence. This is the area of the brain controls executive functions such as planning and impulse control. It is also the area most affected in schizophrenia.”

U.S. Areas With A High Well-Being Index Have Lower Heart Risk

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Adults living in U.S. metropolitan areas with the lowest well-being index are about twice as likely to report having a heart attack, a survey indicates.

The findings are based on an analysis of more than 230,000 interviews across 190 metropolitan areas conducted in 2012 of U.S. adults aged 18 and older, collected as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

An average of 5.5 percent of U.S. adults living in the 10 metro areas with the lowest well-being reported having had a heart attack, compared with 2.8 percent of residents in the 10 metro areas with the highest levels of well-being.

The metropolitan ares with the highest well-being index scores in 2012 included: Lincoln, Neb.; Boulder, Colo., and Provo-Orem, Utah. Those with the lowest Well-Being Index scores included Charleston, W.Va.; Huntington, W.Va./Ashland, Ky./Ironton,Ohio, and Mobile, Ala.

Of the approximately 3 million U.S. adults living in the 10 metro areas with the lowest well-being, about 161,000 experienced a heart attack. If these cities experienced the same rate of heart attacks as what is found in the 10 metro areas with the highest well-being, nearly 80,000 fewer residents would be heart attack victims, Gallup said.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey was conducted nationwide Jan. 2-Dec. 29, 2012, with a random sample of 353,563 adults. The margin of error ranged from 1 percentage point to 6.5 percentage points.

Jobless Claims Climb In Week, Up By 7,000

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The U.S. Labor Department said first-time jobless benefits claims rose by 7,000 to 343,000 in the week that ended Saturday.

The four-week rolling average fell, dropping by 1,250 to 345,250.

The previous week’s first-time claims figure was revised higher from 334,000 to 336,000.

The largest increases in initial claims for the week that ended July 13 were in Georgia, where claims rose by 7,027, California with 6,799 additional claims and Texas with 6,001 new claims.

The largest decreases were in Michigan, down by 11,969, New York, down by 4,743 and New Jersey, where first-time claims fell by 4,477.

U.S. Housing Market Exhibits More Signs Of Recovery

IRVINE, Calif. (UPI) — The U.S. housing market is improving bit by bit as data from a first-ever Residential Sales report from RealtyTrac shows, a company executive said.

“The U.S. housing market is slowly but surely moving toward a more normalized and sustainable pattern after a flurry of institutional and cash buyers flocked to residential real estate last year,” Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac, said in a statement.

Institutional buyers, measured by the number of sales to non-lending entities that purchased at least 10 properties in the last 12 months, rose to 9 percent of all residential sales in June, up from 8 percent in May, but down from 10 percent in June 2012, the firm said.

Institutional buying pushes up prices quickly and often snatches up the best inventory available in a local market, Blomquist said.

In turn, as prices go up, institutional investors fade back into the woodwork.

“Rising home values should continue to unlock more non-distressed inventory while also pricing institutional investors out of more markets, which, combined with rising interest rates, will cool off the pace of price appreciation,” Blomquist said.

The Residential Sales Report showed other signs of a market in recovery.

The report found the national median sales price in June was $168,000, up 3 percent from May and up 5 percent from June 2012.

The median price for distressed homes — homes in foreclosed or bank-owned — was $120,000, while the median price of non-distressed homes was $181,500, RealtyTrac said.

Short sales, which are sales at a price below what is owed on the mortgage, fell to 14 percent of all residential sales in June, down from 15 percent in May, but up from 8 percent in June 2012.

In five western city markets the annual increase in median sales prices topped 20 percent, including Sacramento, Calif., where the median price rose 35 percent in 12 months and San Francisco, where the median price rose 30 percent.

The median price rose 27 percent in Los Angeles, 26 percent in Las Vegas and 25 percent in Phoenix, the report said.

But short sales, a sure sign of a wobbly market, are still occurring in significant numbers.

Short sales, which are sales at a price below what is owed on the mortgage, fell to 14 percent of all residential sales in June, down from 15 percent in May, but up from 8 percent in June 2012.

In June, 30 percent of all sales in Nevada were borrowers selling short. In Florida, short sales accounted for 29 percent of all sales. In Maryland, it was 21 percent and in Tennessee and Arizona, short sales made up 19 percent of the total.

Obama: Reporters Say My Ideas Are ‘Great’

Who needs state media when you have the MSM?  President Barack Obama told an Illinois audience Wednesday that reporters are sympathetic toward his policies, but that they advise him Congressional Republicans will never let those good ideas take root and blossom.

“It’s interesting, in the run-up to this speech, a lot of reporters say that, well, Mr. President, these are all good ideas, but some of you’ve said before; some of them sound great, but you can’t get those through Congress. Republicans won’t agree with you,” said Obama in Galesburg, Ill.

In fact, Republicans like Obama’s ideas too – they just won’t say so out loud, for fear of their constituents and other Republicans, he added.

“I know because they’ve said so. But they worry they’ll face swift political retaliation for cooperating with me. Now, there are others who will dismiss every idea I put forward either because they’re playing to their most strident supporters, or in some cases because, sincerely, they have a fundamentally different vision for America.”

H/T: The Hill

Durable Goods Orders Rose In June

WASHINGTON (UPI) — New orders for durable goods climbed higher than expected in June, the U.S. Commerce Department said Thursday.

Durable goods orders jumped 4.2 percent to $244.5 billion in June, coming in well above the consensus forecast that called for a 0.5 percent increase.

It was the third consecutive month in which growth exceeded expectations and the fourth month out of the past five in which fresh orders for factories rose.

In May, new orders rose 5.2 percent.

The U.S. Census Bureau said orders for big-ticket transportation items — ships, trucks, planes and railroad cars — also rose for the fourth month out of the past five, climbing by $9.9 billion or 12.8 percent to $87.1 billion.

Excluding transportation orders, durable goods orders still rose slightly. Without defense included, new orders rose 3 percent, the Bureau said.

Shipments of durable goods, down in two of the past three months, declined slightly after rising by 1.3 percent in May, the monthly report said.

Unfilled orders, also up four of the past five months, rose by 2.1 percent to $1,029.4 trillion.

The Commerce Department revised figures for May. New orders were revised from $485 billion to $488.9 billion. Shipments were revised from $483.6 billion to $484.1 billion. Unfilled orders in May was revised from $1,004.8 billion to $1,008 billion.

Chevrolet Impala Wows Consumer Reports

YONKERS, N.Y. (UPI) — Consumer Reports said the 2014 Chevrolet Impala earned the best scores in its class, making a U.S. model the top large sedan for the first time in 20 years.

The product testing organization praised the Impala’s handling, braking and its “refreshingly intuitive and easy to use” interior controls. “When pushed to its handling limits, the Impala proved secure, responsive, balanced, and easy to control,” CR said.

Further, the Impala has gone from a “mediocre” score of 63 to an “excellent” score of 95, Consumer Reports said.

“That places it not only at the top of its ‘Large Sedan’ category, but also among the top-rated vehicles Consumer Reports has tested. Only two vehicles have a higher test score – the [all-electric] Tesla Model S hatchback and the BMW 135i coupe,” Consumer Reports said.

Consumer Reports, however, said the 2014 could not be placed in its “Recommended” category, because it was too new to have met other requirements, including doing well in government crash tests and in the company’s Annual Auto Survey.

But Jack Fisher, director Consumer Reports automotive testing, said the Impala was “one more indicator of an emerging domestic renaissance,” for the U.S. automobile industry.

“We’ve seen a number of redesigned American models — including the Chrysler 300, Ford Escape and Fusion, and Jeep Grand Cherokee — deliver world-class performance in our test,” he said.

U.S. Prosecutors: Moscow-Based Hackers Stole Millions

NEW YORK (UPI) — A Moscow-based “worldwide hacking conspiracy” broke into the networks of major companies to steal sensitive data, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

The victims included the NASDAQ, Dow Jones and major retailers like Carefour SA, Citibank, PNC Bank, Heartland Payment Systems, 7-Eleven, JCPenney, Hannaford Brothers and others, investigators said. The defendants include four Russians and a Ukrainian.

“This type of crime is the cutting edge,” U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said. “Those who have the expertise and the inclination to break into our computer networks threaten our economic well-being, our privacy and our national security. And this case shows, there is a real practical cost because these types of frauds increase the costs of doing business for every American consumer, every day. We cannot be too vigilant and we cannot be too careful.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Mythili Raman said the scheme cost their victims hundreds of millions of dollars.

“The defendants charged today were allegedly responsible for spearheading a worldwide hacking conspiracy that victimized a wide array of consumers and entities, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in losses,” Raman said.

Those charged in a superseding indictment released Thursday were Vladimir Drinkman, 32, of Syktyykar and Moscow, Russia, and Alexandr Kalinin, 26, of St. Petersburg, Russia. Prosecutors said they specialized in bypassing security and gaining access to computer systems.

Roman Kotov, 32, of Moscow, allegedly specialized in stealing data once the networks were breached. Mikhail Rytikov, 26, of Odessa, Ukraine, is charged with providing an anonymous Web-hosting service while Dmitriy Smilianets, 29, of Moscow, allegedly sold the information.

The hackers allegedly stole information on 160 million credit cards, which were sold for $10 to $50 each, the lower price for U.S. credit card information and the top price for European credit card information.

The companies lost a combined $300 million, prosecutors said.

College Republicans Banned From Obama’s Campus Speech

A group of College Republicans who held tickets to an on-campus economy speech by President Barack Obama was denied admittance after civilly protesting the President’s fiscal policies in the hours leading up to the event.

According to The College Fix, “security personnel” Wednesday at the University of Central Missouri turned away the students, who were wearing a variety of Republican accessories and/or Tea Party T-shirts, after they put away their protest signs and attempted to join the 2,500 other ticketholders who’d waited hours to hear the President.

Why? Well, the “security personnel” (never named in the article as the Secret Service or campus security) told the students their political views weren’t the problem, but the President’s safety was.

Wait – isn’t that essentially telling them, in totalitarian fashion, that their political views were the problem?

“It just didn’t make any sense,” said one College Republican official. “A lot of us traveled several hours to watch the speech. We were very disappointed not to be able to attend.”

The College Republicans had joined with others from the State Republican Party for a 60-person protest that, according to the article, consisted of holding signs and talking to people passing through. Their protest was held in a “public speech area” of the campus and was nowhere within sight, or earshot, of the building where Obama delivered the speech, nor of those ticketholders who had already queued up to be let inside. The report indicates that no other groups or individuals who held tickets were scrutinized or turned away in similar fashion.

Obama’s speech Wednesday marked one stop along his newly-launched Nationwide tour to evangelize the President’s economic policy and stump on jobs growth.

Feds Raid Legal Medical Marijuana Dispensaries In Washington

Despite State legalization and promises from President Barack Obama that raiding medical marijuana facilities was not a priority of the Federal government, medical marijuana dispensaries in Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia and Gig Harbor, Washington were raided by Drug Enforcement Agency agents on Wednesday.

Casey Lee, the owner of one of the facilities, said Federal agents took 16 marijuana plants, edible marijuana products, employees’ cellphones and paperwork from the store during the raid.

“I kept saying, ‘We don’t feel like we’ve done anything wrong. Why are you guys here?’ And they said, ‘Well, you guys are state legal, but you are still not federally legal,’ that’s all they could tell me,” said Lee.

According to DEA officials, the raid of several dispensaries in Washington was part of a two-year investigation.

Via KIRO 7:

Facebook: Women More Interested In Royal Baby

MENLO PARK, Calif., (UPI) —  Facebook, based in California, said its analysis of royal baby Prince George mentions on the site found women were more interested than men.

The social networking site said its analysis of mentions of the son of Prince William and Kate, duchess of Cambridge, during the first hour after his birth found women ages 18 to 44 were the most likely to post about the infant, followed by men ages 18 to 24, reported Wednesday.

Facebook said the male age group was followed by women ages 45 to 54.

The website said British Facebook users were the most likely to mention the baby, followed by users in the United States, Canada, Italy and France.

Honest Tea Says Hawaii, Alabama Most Honest In United States

HONOLULU, (UPI) —  Beverage company Honest Tea says its unattended drink experiments in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., found Hawaii and Alabama to be the most honest.

The company said it compiled the National Honesty Index with experiments in all 50 states involving kiosks loaded with Honest Tea bottles and a locked box labeled to accept $1 payments for the beverages, The Indianapolis Star reported Wednesday.

Honest Tea said the experiments determined the tea drinkers across the United States were honest an average 92 percent of the time, while people who took bottles in Hawaii and Alabama were honest 100 percent of the time.

“We’ve conducted our experiment in different cities over the past few years, but this is the first time we’ve conducted the experiment on a national scale,” said Seth Goldman, co-founder and chief executive officer of Honest Tea. “Even though my bicycle was stolen the same day as our D.C. experiment, it’s reassuring to know that 92 percent of Americans will do the right thing even when it seems no one is watching.”

The company said all of the money collected during the experiment is being donated to non-profit FoodCorps, which aims to feed children.

Homeless Man’s Honesty Lauded By Police

KINGSTON, N.Y., (UPI) —  A Kingston, N.Y., homeless man who turned in a wallet containing $485 he found on the street is being applauded by police and city residents.

“Thanks to the decency and honesty of a person that most likely could have used the cash — for food, shelter or any other number of reasons — the wallet and cash were reunited with its owner,” Detective Lt. Thierry Croizer posted for the department on Facebook.

Hassel “Junior” Barber, 50, who sleeps in midtown Kingston doorways and is often seen searching for bottles and cans to convert into cash, told police when he turned in the wallet “he felt bad that someone had lost money and knew that returning it was the ‘right thing to do,'” Kingston police said in a follow-up Facebook posting.

Both postings can be found at

“I looked at the wallet and I seen money,” Barber told the Times Herald-Record of Middletown. “I didn’t bother to count it. It wasn’t mine. I didn’t want it.”

“It’s that type of honesty and integrity we should all follow,” Timothy Halpin, who owns a Kingston auto repair shop, wrote on the Kingston police Facebook page Wednesday. “Mr. Barber is leading by example. We should all take notice.”

After Croizer posted the deed online, police in Kingston, a Hudson Valley city 90 miles north of New York City, were flooded with calls from people wanting to help Barber, but Barber declined the offers, police said.

“He said that he does not need or want any reward, he just wanted to ‘do the right thing,'” the department said on Facebook.

“Many times we make judgments because of another person’s appearance or circumstances,” Croizer wrote, urging city residents to “keep an open mind and not make that rush to judgment.”

“Let us all try to live by what [17th century French poet] Jean de La Fontaine said, ‘Beware, so long as you live, of judging men by their outward appearance.'”

Record Powerball Winner Offers To Fix Maine High School’s Roof

EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine,  (UPI) —  An 84-year-old Florida woman who won a record $590.5 million Powerball jackpot has offered $2 million to repair the roof of a high school in her Maine hometown.

Quenten Clark, superintendent of Maine’s East Millinocket School District, said family members of Gloria MacKenzie, who claimed her $370.9 million lump sum — $278 million after taxes — June 5, visited his office Tuesday to say the Florida woman was planning to donate $2 million to fix the roof at Schenck High School, the Bangor (Maine) Daily News reported Wednesday.

“They want their privacy respected so I don’t think they will have any comment publicly,” Clark said.

MacKenzie’s son, Larry MacKenzie, is a former East Millinocket selectman and her daughter, Mindy, teaches biology at Schenck High.

MacKenzie’s relatives could not be reached for comment, the Daily News said.

Poll: Weiner Loses Lead In NYC Mayoral Race After New Sexting Scandal

NEW YORK,  (UPI) —  Former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., has lost his lead over rivals for the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York, a poll released Thursday found.

The NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll of 1,199 New York City adults was conducted Wednesday, after Weiner publicly acknowledged he texted sexual images to women after resigning his House seat for similar behavior in 2011.

The poll found City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is favored by 25 percent of Democrats, with Weiner slipping to second place at 16 percent, ahead of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Comptroller Bill Thompson, tied at 14 percent. In the most recent previous NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal/Marist Poll, conducted in June, Weiner led the field with 25 percent, followed by Quinn at 20 percent, Thompson with 13 percent and de Blasio with 10 percent.

The poll released Thursday found 43 percent of New York Democrats want Weiner to get out of the race.

Also Thursday, U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the behavior of Weiner and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner — also a Democrat, who has been accused by at least three women of sexually inappropriate behavior — is “reprehensible,” The Hill reported.

“The conduct of some of these people that we’re talking about here is reprehensible,” Pelosi told reporters on Capitol Hill.

“It is so disrespectful of women, and what’s really stunning about it is they don’t even realize,” she said. “They don’t have a clue.”

“If they’re clueless, get a clue,” Pelosi said. “If they need therapy, do it in private.”

Weiner and Filner both served in the House when Pelosi was speaker.

Poll: Most Americans Support Affirmative Action

PRINCETON, N.J., (UPI) —  Two-thirds of Americans think college applicants should be admitted based solely on merit, yet most approve of affirmative action, a Gallup poll indicates.

Twenty-eight percent of Americans think a college applicant’s race and ethnic background should be a factor when granting admission to promote diversity on college campuses.

Seventy-five percent of whites and 59 percent of Hispanics believe applicants should be evaluated based on merit alone, while black people are more evenly divided on the topic, the poll said.

In a separate question, Americans largely support the idea of affirmative action programs more generally. Fifty-eight percent of Americans support affirmative action, including 51 percent of whites, 76 percent of blacks and 69 percent of Hispanics.

Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to favor such programs, the poll found.

“Americans are not averse to having the government take steps to help improve the conditions of minority groups in the United States, and in a broad sense express support for affirmative action programs,” Gallup said. “One of the clearest examples of affirmative action in practice is colleges’ taking into account a person’s racial or ethnic background when deciding which applicants will be admitted.

“Americans seem reluctant to endorse such a practice, and even blacks, who have historically been helped by such programs, are divided on the matter.”

Gallup interviewed 4,373 adults by telephone for the survey between June 13 and July 5. There was a 2 percentage point margin of error.

Vermont Rule Sets Conditions For Homeless To Stay In Motels

BURLINGTON, Vt., (UPI) —  If shelters are full, homeless people out in the freezing cold or in the third trimester of pregnancy may stay in a motel room, Vermont officials said.

The rule written by the Department for Children and Families also allows people who are homeless because of fire or flooding, under threat of domestic abuse, collecting Social Security, older than 64 years of age or in a family with a child younger than 7 years of age to stay in a motel, the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press reported Wednesday.

People who don’t immediately qualify under those conditions may also stay in a motel if they accrue four points in a system meant to assess one’s “vulnerability,” the rule states.

“The system awards applicants one point if they are a disabled veteran, were recently discharged from the custody of the Department for Children and Families, were recently released on probation or parole after spending at least a year in prison, have an open case with the Family Services Division, have applied for Social Security or receive Reach Up benefits,” the wording of the rule says. “It awards them two points if they are either in a family with a child 7- to 17 years old or were recently discharged from a hospital after a stay of at least two days.”

The state Legislature ordered the Department for Children and Families to draft the new rule after lawmakers reduced the state’s budget for motel rooms for homeless people from $4 million to $1.5 million.

The Legislature’s initial plan would have been far more restrictive, the Free Press said.

“We listened to our community partners and advocates,” said Richard Giddings, deputy commissioner of the Department for Children and Families. “These were tough choices that were made to get us where we’re at. We tried to revise it, and we’re going to look at it on a month by month basis.”

House Defeats Effort To Rein In NSA Phone-Tracking

WASHINGTON, (UPI) —  A rare left-right bloc of House members vowed after a narrow loss to redouble efforts to curb a national-security program that amasses Americans’ phone records.

“This is only the beginning,” Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said after the House voted 216 to 205 to defeat a proposal he sponsored with Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., to restrict the National Security Agency’s ability to collect Americans’ phone records.

The measure — an amendment to the military-spending bill that later passed — would have limited NSA phone surveillance to specific targets of law-enforcement investigations, not broad dragnets.

It would have also required the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s secret opinions to be made available to lawmakers and opinion summaries to be made available to the public.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said lawmakers would keep coming back with legislation to curtail the dragnets for “metadata” records, whether through phone records or Internet surveillance.

At the very least, the USA Patriot Act section the NSA and FBI cite to justify mass phone surveillance will be allowed to expire in 2015, he said

“It’s going to end — now or later,” Nadler said. “The only question is when and on what terms.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., promised to draft a bill in the fall to add more privacy protections to government surveillance programs.

Their threats and promises came after the House vote, which was far closer than originally expected, despite last-minute lobbying by the Obama administration and House intelligence panel members.

Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, who as head of the House rarely casts a ballot, voted against the amendment.

Indeed, Boehner found himself in the rare position of being on the same side as President Barack Obama. He was joined in opposing the amendment by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., a supporter of the Tea Party movement.

Ultimately, 83 Democrats joined 134 Republicans to defeat the measure. Voting for the measure were 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats.

The unusual alliance of the House’s right and left wings was dubbed “the wingnut coalition” by Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, who called Amash “the chief wingnut.”

He said he jokingly gave it that name because “you have the right wing and the left wing working together and trying to get things done.”

“Wingnut” usually refers pejoratively to a person in politics who holds extreme, often irrational, political views, usually with a religious overtone.

The fight will now shift to the Senate, where Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore. — longtime critics of NSA dragnet collection and storage of personal records — have promised to take up the cause.

“National security is of paramount importance, yet the NSA’s dragnet collection of Americans’ phone records violates innocent Americans’ privacy rights and should not continue as its exists today,” Udall, a member of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Unconventional Threats, said after the vote.

“I am urging the president and the NSA to join this growing bipartisan coalition and work with Congress to focus the NSA’s surveillance efforts on terrorists and spies — not innocent Americans.”

The White House has said Obama would veto any proposal to limit NSA surveillance.

Texas Holder ‘Em; Amash Amendment Goes Down; Weiner’s ‘Sex Bunker’; Pelosi Anchors A ‘Conversation’ About Race; George H.W. Bush Shaves His Head – Thursday Morning News Roundup 7-25-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories making the Internet rounds this morning. Click the links for the full stories.


  • Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced on Thursday that the Justice Department would ask a court to require Texas to get permission from the federal government before making voting changes in that state for the next decade. (No word on doing the same in Illinois.) Source: New York Times…


  • The House of Representatives voted 217-205 to defeat an amendment to the defense appropriations bill that would have limited the National Security Agency’s ability to collect electronic information, including phone call records. Source: Reuters…


  • The man who broke the most recent Anthony Weiner sexting scandal said that the embattled New York politician presented his marriage to young women as a sham and even planned to purchase a “secret bunker” in Chicago that could house real-life trysts. Source: The Daily Caller…


  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is hosting a “Conversation on Race and Justice” on July 30 on Capitol Hill, welcoming buddies from the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Center for Social Inclusion to use the George Zimmerman trial as the jumping-off point for a “broader conversation.” Source: Washington Examiner…


  • Former President George H.W. Bush, 89, sported a clean-shaven head in solidarity with a 2-year-old named Patrick, who lost his hair when he started being treated for leukemia. Source: ABC News…


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