Russia Tried To Use VKontakte To Spy On Ukrainian Protesters

MOSCOW (UPI) — Russian authorities tried to get the social media website VKontakte to hand over the personal data of organizers of the protests in Ukraine.

Pavel Durov, the founder of VKontakte, said he refused the request and posted a statement saying so on his page.

“Our response remains a categorical refusal — Russian jurisdiction does not extend to Ukrainian users of VKontakte…Giving personal of Ukrainian to Russian authorities would not only be against the law, but also a betrayal of all those millions millions of people in Ukraine who have trusted us.”

Earlier this month, Durov resigned as CEO of VKontakte, saying that since December 2013 when Russia requested the information, he has not had any property but still has a “clean conscience and ideals that I am willing to defend.”

In an interview just this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his government did not engage in mass surveillance or the collection of people’s personal data.

9/11 Tribunal Adjourned Until June

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba (UPI) — The Sept. 11, 2011 military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was adjourned until June, with the judge considering the appointment of independent lawyers to advise the accused of their rights.

The move, in hearings prior to the trials of alleged World Trade Center masterminds Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, came after the FBI allegedly attempted to turn a legal team member into an informant.

The judge, U.S. Army Col. James Pohl, said independent lawyers may be assigned to the case, to advise the defendants of possible conflicts between their defense team’s capability of defending them, and their lawyers’ interest in defending themselves against an apparent FBI investigation.

On April 6, a classification adviser on Bin al-Shibh’s legal team signed a document indicating an ongoing role in informing on the team for the FBI. At issue was the release of an unclassified manifesto of Mohammed’s. The chief prosecutor in the case, Brig. Gen. Mark Martins, provided the document to an FBI agent on his team. Martins and his team have denied knowledge of any contact between the FBI and the defense.

Family members of Sept. 11, 2001 victims, who attended the proceedings this week, expressed anger and frustration at the lack of progress in the trial. They referred to FBI involvement as an act of sabotage, and added the defense counsel was disrespecting the memories of the victims by filing motions to delay the trial.

IAEA Confirms Iran Continuing To Meet Nuclear Reduction Mandate

VIENNA (UPI) — International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano has submitted his report to the IAEA’s Board of Governors regarding the status of Iran’s compliance in reducing its nuclear program.

The IAEA report, which has been reviewed by the U.S. Department of State, confirms that Iran has diluted half its enriched uranium to 20 percent and is in the process of converting the other half, as mandated by the Joint Plan of Action.

“Based on this confirmation and consistent with commitments of the United States made under the Joint Plan of Action,” State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said Thursday, “the Department of Treasury took the necessary steps pursuant to the JPOA to facilitate the release of a $450 million installment of Iran’s frozen funds.”

Delegates from Britain, France, Germany, China, Russia, and the United States — known as the E3+3 or P5+1 — met with Iranian officials throughout 2013 to negotiate a cessation or reduction in Iran’s nuclear program. The JPOA was signed on November 24, 2013, and went into effect on January 20.

Texas Seizes Yearning For Zion Ranch, HQ Of Imprisoned Polygamist Warren Jeffs

ELDORADO, Texas (UPI) — Yearning for Zion Ranch, the former home of dissident Mormon Warren Jeffs and his followers, is now State property, Texas officials say.

The Texas Department of Public Safety said Thursday that the remaining residents have agreed to leave. Officials said there were eight adults living on the 1,700-acre property, where 400 children were removed in a 2008 raid.

“Law enforcement personnel are working with the occupants of the ranch to take all reasonable actions to assist with their departure of the property, to preserve the property, and to successfully execute the court order,” the DPS said.

Jeffs, president of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, is currently serving a life sentence in Texas for sexual assaults on children. A conviction in Utah for facilitating marriages between underage girls and adult men was overturned on appeal.

State agents and Schleicher County deputies served court papers on the residents Wednesday. The church did not fight the state’s effort for seizure.

In a 2012 court filing, the State charged that “proceeds from illegal activity were used to purchase the ranch, which FLDS leaders bought in a failed attempt to establish a remote outpost where they could insulate themselves from criminal prosecution for sexually assaulting children.”

The 2008 raid followed an anonymous telephone call that later proved to be a hoax. The children were eventually returned.

Most members of the FLDS live in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz. The group was founded in the early 20th century after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, popularly known as Mormons, abandoned the practice of polygamy and said it was grounds for excommunication.

Dog Fingered As Culprit After Six Months Of Tire Slashings In England

BRAMPTON, England (UPI) — Residents of a neighborhood in England were finally able to discover who was responsible for six months of tire slashings — but the culprit was a bit of a shock.

Jess the border collie.

A camera was set up to catch the vandal and it captured CCTV footage of Jess biting tires and causing puncture wounds in the rubber during her daily walk.

Her owners, the Morgans, had been letting her off leash and didn’t notice that it was happening.

“We are both just mortified,” Jean Morgan told the Daily Mail. “She is the most obedient and affectionate dog we have ever had and it is just shocking to hear this terrible news. We are very distressed by what has happened. I couldn’t believe it when I saw the CCTV footage. To think that Jess has done this has made me feel very sad.”

The Morgans have reimbursed their neighbors for the damage.

“From now on though, we will have to start to walk her on her lead,” Morgan said. “Border collies are hard working dogs, and are trained to nip sheep. I think she must get over-excited when she has had a good run.”

Michigan Mayor Rejects Atheist’s Request To Place ‘Reason Station’ Inside City Hall

WARREN, Mich. (UPI) — A Michigan mayor has turned down an atheist’s request to place a “reason station” inside the atrium of city hall which would “promote free thought” and the “use of reason” because he claims it would disrupt an existing prayer station.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts denied Freedom From Religion member Douglas Marshall’s request in a letter.

“To my way of thinking, your group is strictly an anti-religion group intending to deprive all organized religions of their constitutional freedoms or at least discourage the practice of religion. The City of Warren cannot allow this,” Fouts wrote. “Also, I believe it is group’s intention to disrupt those who participate in the Prayer Station which would also be a violation of the freedom of religion amendment. For these reasons, I cannot approve of your request.”

Marshall said that he expected six people to come to the reason station.

“I do view this as a violation of my free speech rights,” Marshall told the Detroit Free Press. “It seems to me that the mayor allows free speech in the atrium as long as he agrees with the speech. If he doesn’t, he denies speech he doesn’t agree with in the atrium.”

This is not the first time Fouts has rejected one of Marshall’s proposals, so he wasn’t all the surprised with the mayor’s letter and “more or less expected” it.

He plans to visit with counsel to “determine what my options are.”

S.C. Man Gets Federal ‘Theft Of Government Property’ Charge After Not Paying Soda Refill

CHARLESTON, S.C. (UPI) — A South Carolina construction worker who didn’t pay 89 cents to refill his soda is now out $525 and a job.

After Christopher Lewis refilled his soda at the VA Medical Center in Charleston without paying, he was hit with Federal theft charges.

“As I was filling my cup up, I turned to walk off and a fella grabbed me by the arm and asked me was I going to pay for that, and I told him I wasn’t aware that I had to pay for that,” Lewis told WIS TV. “I never had an option to make right what I had done wrong.”

Refilling the soda without paying for it, which a hospital spokesperson called a “theft of government property,” resulted in Lewis being given a $525 ticket for shoplifting. He was also told not to come back to the property.

“I’m done there, at the VA hospital,” Lewis said. “I’m not allowed to go on the premises anymore. I asked him can I still work on the job site and just bring my lunch and not go to the cafeteria and he said he wanted me off the premises.”

The medical center released the following statement:

The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center is fortunate to have a highly trained Federal police force to ensure the safety of our patients, visitors and employees. As Federal police they are responsible for enforcing the law. Today a Federal citation was issued for shoplifting in the VA cafeteria to an individual who stated to VA police he had not paid for refills of beverages on multiple occasions, even though signs are posted in the cafeteria informing patrons refills are not free. Shoplifting is a crime. The dollar amount of the ticket is not determined by VA as it is a Federal citation. The citation may be paid or the recipient may choose to appear in Federal court to contest it.

Lewis plans to fight the fine in Federal court.

“Every time I look at the ticket, it’s unbelievable to me,” Lewis said. “I can’t fathom the fact that I made a 89 cent mistake that cost me $525.”

38 Million Gallons To Be Flushed From Mt. Tabor Reservoir After Man Urinated In It

PORTLAND, Ore. (UPI) — In order to clean out the city’s drinking supply, Portland officials will flush 38 million gallons of water from the Mt. Tabor Reservoir after a man was seen urinating in it.

Portland administrators became aware of the health risk after a security officer who monitors video cameras at the reservoir complex spotted the public urinator.

“When you see the video, he’s leaning right up because he has to get his little wee wee right up to the iron bars. There’s really no doubt what he’s doing,” Water Bureau administrator David Shaff told the Oregonian. “It’s stupid. You can see the sign that says: ‘This is your drinking water. Don’t spit, throw, toss anything in it.’ He’s four feet away from that sign. Unless he’s from North Dakota and just moved here, he’s got to know that’s our drinking water.”

The reservoir will be flushed over the next four to six days.

“Even though there is very minimal public health risk, the bottom line is that our commitment is to serve water that’s clean, cold and constant,” Shaff said. “That doesn’t include pee. Not from people, at least.”

It’s unclear how much the forced spring cleaning will cost the city.

“I didn’t have a choice. I don’t have the luxury of slicing it too thin when there’s a potential risk, however small, to public health,” said Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish. “Frankly, it’s one of those calls where you know you’re likely to be criticized no matter what. The professionals who report to me all said, ‘Dump the water. Don’t take any chances.’ It’s the conservative but correct call.”

Florida Judge Is Surprised At Defendant Edward Cocaine Appearing In Court On Drug Charge

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (UPI) — A Florida judge was a little surprised when a bailiff announced the name of a man who was appearing in his courtroom on drug possession charges.

Edward Cocaine.

“What?” Judge John “Jay” Hurley responded. “You know, I’d thought I’d seen it all.”

Cocaine explained.

“My last name is Cocaine,” he said. “My great-grandparents came over here from Greece and they changed it. That was like in the 1920s.”

“How many times have the police told you to step out of the car during your life?” Hurley asked.

“Just about every time I get pulled over,” Cocaine replied.

The 34-year-old, who was accused of possessing Xanax, was released on his own recognizance.

Casual Marijuana Use May Alter Brain Shape And Function In Young Adults

BOSTON (UPI) — A new study on the effects of marijuana smoking on the brains of young people raises new questions about risks of casual drug use.

MRI images showed pot smoking affected the size and shape of areas of the brain that are known to play an important role in emotion, motivation and decision making.

Marijuana is the most commonly used drug in the U.S., and part of the reason for its popularity is its perception as mostly harmless — its side effects, like increased hunger or forgetfulness, minimal and short-lived.

But previous studies have shown marijuana use to have detrimental effects on motivation, attention, learning, and memory impairments. This new study lends credence to neurologists and public health officials who’ve previously suggested even casual pot smoking — a joint or two per week — might effect brain function and formation in young adults.

“This study suggests that even light to moderate recreational marijuana use can cause changes in brain anatomy,” explained Carl Lupica, a drug addiction researcher at the National Institute on Drug Abuse, but who did not participate in this latest research effort.

“These observations are particularly interesting because previous studies have focused primarily on the brains of heavy marijuana smokers, and have largely ignored the brains of casual users,” Lupica added.

Published this week in The Journal of Neuroscience, the study details the work of researchers Jodi Gilman, Anne Blood and Hans Breiter. The scientists, who conducted their work at Massachusetts General Hospital, used MRI imaging to study the brains of 18- to 25-year olds, comparing those who reported casual marijuana use and those that did not. They found more frequent smoking habits were associated with abnormalities in the nucleus accumbens and amygdala — areas of the brain that affect emotion and motivation.

“This study raises a strong challenge to the idea that casual marijuana use isn’t associated with bad consequences,” Breiter, of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said.

Evolution Explains Facial Hair Trends

KENSINGTON, Australia (UPI) — Beards may have once served an evolutionary purpose, providing men warmth and protection against the elements, but today they’re mostly a fashion choice. Right now, they’re a pretty popular fashion choice. And evolutionary biologists at the University of New South Wales think they know why.

Beard trends follow an evolutionary principle known as “negative frequency-dependent sexual selection,” whereby rare traits become more attractive to the opposite sex. The basic principle: the fewer beards, the more attractive they’re perceived. And a trend is born — at least until beards become commonplace.

“Big thick beards are back with an absolute vengeance and so we thought underlying this fashion, one of the dynamics that might be important is this idea of negative frequency dependence,” Professor Rob Brooks, a co-author of the new study, told BBC News. “The idea is that perhaps people start copying the George Clooneys and the Joaquin Phoenixs and start wearing those beards, but then when more and more people get onto the bandwagon the value of being on the bandwagon diminishes, so that might be why we’ve hit ‘peak beard’.”

According to the new study, which was published this week in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters, so-called “peak beard” — or beard equilibrium — may be approaching. In other words, clean-shaven could be the new go-to look.

Evolution isn’t just about survival; it’s also about sex, and attracting a mate can be difficult. One way to do it, nature has shown, is to stand out.

The many bright colors of male guppies, one of the world’s most common tropical fish, vary wildly, as males evolve to appease females’ changing preferences for vivid pigment. If too many guppies take on orange and turquoise, for example, that combination can become passé. As reproductive competition heats up, guppies will evolve toward a new wardrobe in order to gain advantage. And the cycle continues.

In a recent social experiment, researchers found that facial hair trends mimic the same evolutionary pattern. When asked to judge the attractiveness of faces, surveyed men and women found heavy stubble and full beards more attractive when they were rare, and less so when common.

The authors concluded: “Negative frequency-dependent preferences may therefore play a role in maintaining variation in men’s beards and contributing to changing fashions.”

[BBC News]
Brooks Hays

U.S. Jobless Claims Rise Marginally; Near Lowest Level Since 2007

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits is sticking close its seven-year low, signaling that employers aren’t laying off as many employees.

Initial claims for unemployment benefits for the week ending April 12 was 304,000, rising 2,000 from the previous week’s number, according to data released by the Labor Department. The four-week average, which evens out volatility, was at 312,000, its lowest since October 2007, two months before the recession began.

Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected 315,000 new claims last week. Many economists consider weekly jobless claims below 400,000 a sign of stable job growth and an improving labor market.

Jobless claims, along with employment rates and job openings have begun to show promise after volatility during the winter months. But long-term unemployment remains a worrying factor and quitting levels are still below pre-recession levels.

The number of continuing claims for benefits, those drawn by workers for more than a week, decreased by 11,000 to 2,739,000 for the week ended April 5, the lowest its been since December 2007. Continued claims are reported with a one-week lag.

Iranian Woman Stops The Execution Of Son’s Killer

TEHRAN (UPI) — An Iranian woman surprised crowds when she halted the public execution of her son’s killer.

A 24-year-old man named Balal felt the noose around his neck Tuesday when the mother of the 18-year-old boy he killed seven years prior, Samereh Alinejad, came up to the gallows and instead of kicking the chair, slapped him across the face.

She then halted the execution and said she forgave him. The family of the victim is the only one who has the right to halt the execution of a murderer in Iran.

“Now that I have forgiven him, I feel relieved,” said Alinejad.

Balal will now have to wait for Iranian authorities to waive his sentence. He described the slap as, “the space between revenge and forgiveness.”

Iran averages about two executions a day according to its official reports, not including the ones performed secretly, estimated to number in the hundreds.

Putin: Alaska Is Too Cold To Annex

MOSCOW (UPI) — Russian President Vladimir Putin jokingly said during a Q&A on RT that Russia would not annex the U.S. state of Alaska because it’s too cold.

“We are a northern country. Seventy percent of our territory is in the north and high north. Alaska — is it in the south? It’s quite cold up there. Let’s not be overenthusiastic about it because if we have our people there, employers would have to pay them extra because they live in the north,” said Putin with a tone of sarcasm.

Russia sold the region to the U.S. in 1867 and it officially became a state in 1959. Even though Putin may have been joking, there are Russians who would like to reclaim the former colony or at least parts of it.

Putin was not joking when he said during the same Q&A that he has been given authorization to protect ethnic Russians in Ukraine and is willing to do so. Representatives from the U.S. EU, Ukraine, and Russia are in Geneva trying to find a diplomatic solution to deescalate the the tensions in eastern Ukraine.

Beau Biden Plans To Run For Governor Of Delaware In 2016

DOVER, Del. (UPI) — Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, announced Thursday he plans to run for Governor in 2016.

Biden said on his campaign website that he has dropped plans to run for a third term as attorney general this year.

“Over the past few months, as I’ve been planning to run for reelection, I have also been giving a great deal of thought to running for governor in 2016,” he said. “What started as a thought — a very persistent thought — has now become a course of action that I wish to pursue,” he said. “After careful consideration, I have concluded that it is not right to ask for your support in 2014, knowing that my focus would be divided between doing my job as attorney general while at the same time running as a candidate for governor.”

Biden, 45, was first elected attorney general in 2006. In October 2008, a month before his father was elected Vice President, he began a year’s service in Iraq as an officer in the Delaware National Guard, where he is now a major in the Judge Advocate General Corps.

Biden’s service as attorney general has also been interrupted by health problems. In 2010, he suffered what was described as a “mild stroke,” and in August 2013, he had surgery in Texas for what doctors said was a small brain lesion.

Joe Biden was born in Scranton, Pa., and spent his early childhood there, moving to Delaware with his family at the age of 10. He represented the State in the U.S. Senate for more than 30 years before President Barack Obama tapped him as his running mate.

Father and son could be running for office at the same time. Joe Biden has not ruled out a run for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2016, when he will be 73.

The U.S. Is Not A Democracy But An Oligarchy, Study Concludes

WASHINGTON, April 16 (UPI) — Oligarchy is a form of government in which power is vested in a dominant class and a small group exercises control over the general population.

A new study from Princeton and Northwestern Universities concluded that the U.S. government represents not the interests of the majority of citizens but those of the rich and powerful.

“Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens” analyzed extensive data, comparing nearly 1,800 U.S. policies enacted between 1981 and 2002 with the expressed preferences of average and affluent Americans as well as special interest groups.

The resulting data empirically verifies that U.S. policies are determined by the economic elite.

“The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence,” says the peer-reviewed study.

The 42-page study analyzes U.S. politics through the framework of four major theoretical traditions — Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic Elite Domination, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism — concluding that U.S. political policies rarely align with the majority of citizens.

What do our findings say about democracy in America? They certainly constitute
troubling news for advocates of “populistic” democracy, who want governments to respond
primarily or exclusively to the policy preferences of their citizens. In the United States, our
findings indicate, the majority does not rule — at least not in the causal sense of actually
determining policy outcomes. When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or
with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias
built into the U.S. political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy
change, they generally do not get it.

The report consoles that “Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association” but goes on to warn that “we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.”

Former N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg To Spend $50M Promoting Gun Control

NEW YORK, April 16 (UPI) — Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said gun control advocates need to make opponents “afraid” as he announced funding for a new group.

Bloomberg said Tuesday he will donate $50 million to Every Town for Gun Safety. He described the group as a counter to the National Rifle Association.

“They say, ‘We don’t care. We’re going to go after you. If you don’t vote with us we’re going to go after your kids and your grandkids and your great-grandkids. And we’re never going to stop,’ ” Bloomberg said of the N.R.A. “We’ve got to make them afraid of us.”

Bloomberg already backs Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. He plans to move both groups into the new one.

The mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December 2012 appeared to give more traction to supporters of background checks and other limits on gun ownership. But those stalled, and Bloomberg has little to show for the millions he has already spent.

Polls suggest a majority of U.S. residents support stricter gun laws, and background checks have strong support. But Larry Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America, told The New York Times that supporters of gun rights are more passionate on the issue.

“He’s got the money to waste,” Pratt said of Bloomberg. “So I guess he’s free to do so. But frankly, I think he’s going to find out why his side keeps losing.”

Denver Woman Fatally Shot After 13 Minutes On 911 Call

DENVER (UPI) — Kristine Kirk spent the last 13 minutes of her life terrified and frantically telling a 911 dispatcher that her husband was hallucinating, that he “was talking about the end of the world,” that her three small children were scared, that there was a gun in the house and “he wanted her to shoot him.”

In the end, he shot her.

Kristine can be heard screaming when she realizes her husband has removed the gun from the safe, telling the emergency dispatcher that he has the gun in his hands.

And then a shot rings out, ending Kristine’s life and her desperate 13-minute call for help.

Richard Kirk shot his wife in the head, he told police after being arrested according to the probable cause statement.

The call was dispatched at 9:32 p.m., and Richard Kirk, 47, was taken into custody on suspicion of first-degree murder at 9:55 p.m. Kristine Kirk was pronounced dead at the scene of a fatal gunshot wound to the head.

Kirk admitted to killing his wife on the way to the station.

Police are investigating whether the time it took to respond to the 911 call was reasonable.

“Any time a person dies while communicating with Denver’s emergency services, we examine the circumstances to ensure that the incident was handled properly and we look for areas to improve upon,” the department said in a news release.

According to the Denver Post, the Denver auditor’s office launched a study this year to examine police response times. Auditors examined multiple factors that may be the cause of the increase in response times, said spokesman Denis Berckefeldt.

The audit is expected to be finalized in June.

Judge: North Dakota ‘Fetal Heartbeat’ Abortion Law UnConstitutional

BISMARCK, N.D. (UPI) — North Dakota’s ban on abortions once a fetus has a detectable heartbeat contradicts U.S. Supreme Court rulings, a Federal judge said Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland’s decision is certain to be appealed. Last year, he blocked the State from enforcing the law, the strictest of new limits on abortion passed recently by Republican State legislatures.

“The North Dakota strict ban on abortions at the time when a ‘heartbeat’ has been detected — essentially banning all abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy — cannot withstand a constitutional challenge,” Hovland wrote Wednesday.

The Center for Reproductive Rights in New York, which challenged the law on behalf of North Dakota’s only abortion clinic, hailed the decision.

“Today’s decision puts a stop to this attempt by North Dakota politicians to send the women of their state back to the dark days before Roe v. Wade, when reproductive health care options were limited at best and deadly at worst,” Nancy Northup, the center’s president said.“Women in North Dakota already face innumerable obstacles to safely and legally ending a pregnancy — and this law would have completely eliminated all safe or legal options for hundreds of miles in every direction.”

The Legislature passed four new abortion laws last year. One that restricts abortion after 20 weeks has not been challenged because the Red River Women’s Center in Fargo only performs the procedure up to 16 weeks.

Last year, Governor Jack Dalrymple called the laws “a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.”

Physicists Discover New Type Of Particle Using Large Hadron Collider

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (UPI) — A new and exotic atomic particle — one that doesn’t mesh with traditional particle physics models — has been discovered by researchers at Syracuse University.

The discovery was made as part of the Large Hadron Collider beauty Collaboration, a multinational research project aimed at finding and studying new quantum forces and particles. Led by researchers from Syracuse, the project is headquartered at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland, the biggest particle physics laboratory in the world.

In a new paper, scientists working on the LHCb team claim to have discovered a brand new type of particle.

“We’ve confirmed the unambiguous observation of a very exotic state — something that looks like a particle composed of two quarks and two anti-quarks,” explained Tomasz Skwarnicki, one of the paper’s lead authors and a specialist in experimental high-energy physics. “The discovery certainly doesn’t fit the traditional quark model. It may give us a new way of looking at strong-interaction physics.”

Quarks are hard, point-like building blocks of an atom’s nucleus. Never observed in isolation, quarks combine to form compound particles. They most frequently combine three-at-a-time to form a baryon. Protons are best-known known examples of baryons.

When quarks interact with corresponding anti-particles, or anti-quarks — a particle with the same mass but opposite charges — they form mesons. Meson compounds are most commonly observed as a byproduct of radioactive decay.

Together mesons and baryons form a classification of observed particle interactions. Ordinary baryons are made up of three quarks, and ordinary mesons feature one quark bound to one anti-quark.

But the new evidence found by LHCb proves the legitimacy of previous experiments showing the likelihood of a different type of hadron, a tetraquark — featuring two quarks and two anti-quarks.

“This experiment is the clincher, showing that particles made up of two quarks and two anti-quarks actually exist,” Skwarnicki said. “There used to be less-clear evidence for the existence of such a particle, with one experiment being questioned by another. Now we know this is an observed structure, instead of some reflection or special feature of the data.”

Biologists Detail Four New Deep-Sea ‘killer Sponges’

MONTEREY, Calif. (UPI) — Carnivorous sponges are the venus flytraps of the ocean floor; they’re also exceedingly rare. Scientists have only discovered seven since the first was observed 20 years ago.

But now, marine biologists have found and studied in great depth four new species found off the California coast, from the Pacific Northwest to Baja California: Asbestopluma monticola, Asbestopluma rickettsi, Cladorhiza caillieti and Cladorhiza evae.

The new study was written by marine biologist Lonny Lundsten, of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, with the help of two Canadian researchers. It was published this week in the journal Zootaxa.

Sea-floor sponges are typically filter feeders, meaning they subsist off of bacteria and tiny, single-celled organisms sucked up by their cells from the surrounding ocean water. Many sponges wave long tentacle-like branches back and forth, creating a current. The small current draws in nutrient-rich water and nourishes their specialized cells called choancytes.

But carnivorous sponges, like the ones detailed in this latest paper, don’t employ choancytes. “To keep beating the whip-like tails of the choancytes takes a lot of energy,” explained author Lonny Lundsten. “And food is hard to come by in the deep sea. So these sponges trap larger, more nutrient-dense organisms, like crustaceans, using beautiful and intricate microscopic hooks.”

While these various sponges all continue to feed on small bacteria, their tiny hooks are also capable of trapping small sea animals such as shrimp-like amphipods. Once in the grasp of the killer sponge, these crustaceans only take a few hours to be digested. Soon, all that is left is the shell.

Food Texture Affects Calorie Perception And Portion Control

TAMPA, Fla. (UPI) — Previous research has revealed color, taste and smell all affect the way humans eat and enjoy food. But what role does texture play in our consumption habits?

According to a new study led by Dipayan Biswas, a marketing professor at the University of South Florida, consumers perceive harder or more rough-textured foods to have fewer calories.

Published this month in the Journal of Consumer Research, the paper suggests how a food feels inside our mouth influences how estimate caloric intake. Thus, eaters might be influenced to consume more of a food that feels harder or rougher.

Biswas’ work was aided by Courtney Szocs, also of the University of South Florida, as well as University of Michigan researcher Aradhna Krishna and Columbia University researcher Donald R. Lehmann.

“We studied the link between how a food feels in your mouth and the amount we eat, the types of food we choose, and how many calories we think we are consuming,” the authors wrote.

The researchers reached their conclusions by recruiting volunteers to taste a variety of foods — some hard, some rough, others soft and smooth — and then asked eaters to make calorie estimations for the food.

The researchers found that participants in the study were not only more likely to estimate lower calorie totals, but were also more likely to eat more of foods that were harder and rougher.

Biswas and his fellow researchers hope their findings won’t be used to manipulate consumers into eating more unhealthfully, but instead to aid health food proponents on how to encourage better eating habits.

“Understanding how the texture of food can influence calorie perceptions, food choice, and consumption amount can help nudge consumers towards making healthier choices,” the authors

Across Cultures, Acting Extroverted And Outgoing Linked To Happier People

PULLMAN, Wash. (UPI) — Across cultures, people who act extroverted — energy, positive emotions, assertiveness, sociability and stimulation seeking and talkativeness — feel happier.

Timothy Church, a professor and associate dean of research in the College of Education at Washington State University, and his team used a “Big Five” personality trait survey to measure behavior and mood in college students in the United States, Venezuela, China, the Philippines and Japan.

The big five factors are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.

Using the big five personality trait survey, the study, published in the Journal of Research in Personality, found people across the board reported more positive emotions in daily situations where they felt or acted extroverted.

“We are not the first to show that being more extroverted in daily behavior can lead to more positive moods. However, we are probably the first to extend this finding to a variety of cultures,” Church said in a statement.

“Despite all of our cultural differences, the way personality is organized seems to be pretty comparable across cultural groups.”