B&W Subsidiary To Manufacture Nuclear Power Systems For Navy

CHARLOTTE, N.C., April 30 (UPI) — A subsidiary of The Babcock & Wilcox Company is to manufacture nuclear components to support U.S. Defense programs, B&W reported on Wednesday.

Work by subsidiary B&W Nuclear Operations Group Inc., under a $23.7 million incremental order, includes the manufacture of U.S. Navy nuclear power systems for submarines and aircraft carriers, and is part of a previously announced $1.3 billion contract.

The order is also one of $195 million in orders and contracts B&W Nuclear Operations Group has recently received from the U.S. Naval Reactors Program.

Four new incrementally funded contracts totaling $76.8 million were awarded for engineering design, fabrication and further development work on the Ohio-class submarine replacement program; a contract — with a value of $18.8 million — was received for the disassembly and recovery of highly enriched uranium materials; and an order for $76 million was received for the procurement of material to be used in the assembly of nuclear propulsion components, part of a previously announced $366 million contract.

“B&W is pleased to receive these contracts supporting the U.S. defense programs, including the Ohio-class submarine replacement program and the overall mission of the U.S. Navy,” said Peyton S. Baker, president and chief operating officer of B&W’s government operations. “Smart execution in our shops is of paramount importance to the safe, reliable and cost-effective delivery of this hardware and design services to the U.S. government.”

Babcock & Wilcox said the work will be conducted at B&W NOG facilities in Virginia, Indiana and Ohio.
Richard Tomkins

U.S. Economy Grows At A Glacial 0.1 Percent

WASHINGTON, April 30 (UPI) — The U.S. economy seems to have felt the effects a harsh winter, weak exports and lower spending by businesses, which brought the economy to a near standstill.

The economy grew a meagre 0.1 percent in the first three months of the year — the slowest pace since 2012. Economists had expected a slowing down in growth after the robust growth seen in the second half of 2013 and the cold weather in January and February. But Wednesday’s numbers were drastically lower than the 1.2 percent growth Wall Street had been expecting.

But the underlying numbers suggest that there is still some strength in the economy. The Commerce Department said that economic activity already appeared to be bouncing back.

“This is certainly a mediocre report but not as terrible as the headline looks,” said Guy Berger, U.S. economist at RBS. “Final domestic demand is growing at the same pace as it did in the fourth quarter, and consumer spending was much better than we had thought.”

While consumer spending grew 3 percent, exports dropped 7.6 percent, coupled with a 5.5 percent reduction in spending on equipment by businesses. Residential construction was understandably affected by the cold weather but was also affected by higher housing prices, falling 5.7 percent.

Dropping exports widened the trade deficit to 0.8 percentage points in the first quarter. Cutbacks in state and federal spending offset a rebound seen after the 16-day federal government partial shutdown.

Consumer activity was spurred by higher spending on healthcare services and utilities. The higher utilities spending can be attributed to the cold weather, whereas the higher healthcare spending can be traced to the Affordable Care Act, according to Berger.

Analysts had predicted that 2014 will be the year of strong growth, and that this growth will increase hiring and lower still-high unemployment.
Ananth Baliga

Private Businesses Add 220,000 Jobs, Highest In Five Months

NEW YORK, April 30 (UPI) — U.S. employers upped their hiring in April, with private businesses adding 220,000 new jobs, as the economy seems to be brushing off the effects of a harsh winter.

The employment report complied by payroll processor Automatic Data Processing and forecasting firm Moody’s Analytics also revised March’s figures up from 191,000 to 209,000. April’s hiring was higher than the 210,000 estimated by economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal.

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said that the trend suggests the labor market is strengthening.

“After a tough winter employers are expanding payrolls across nearly all industries and company sizes,” Zandi said. “The recent pickup in job growth at mid-sized companies may signal better business confidence.”

According to ADP, small businesses, those employing 1 to 49 workers, hired 82,000 workers this month. Medium-sized businesses with 50 to 499 workers added 81,000 employees, whereas large firms, who employ more than 500 people, hired 57,000 workers.

ADP’s numbers come two days before the government releases its employment report. Economists expect the Bureau of Labor Statistics to report that non farm payrolls increased 215,000 in April. The figure is higher than the 192,000 jobs added in March and the most encouraging estimate since mid-2010 when temporary U.S. Census hiring boosted job numbers.
Ananth Baliga

Apple Releases New Sub-$1,000 Macbook Air

CUPERTINO, Calif., April 29 (UPI) — Apple released Tuesday its updated versions of the Macbook Air line, making them faster and dropping $100 off the price of all four models.

The price drop puts the 11-inch Macbook Air at $899, making it the first time that Apple has sold a notebook to the public for less than $900. The price cuts in all four models represent a 7.7 percent to 10 percent discount depending on the model.

The refresh centers around Intel’s Haswell CPU, with the 11-inch base model MacBook Air getting a speed bump thanks to a 1.4GHz Core i5 processor. For an extra $ 150, buyers can opt for the 1.7GHz Core i7 processor.

The new processor, along with the power saving features of OS X 10.9 Mavericks, gives the Macbook Air all-day battery power with the 13-inch MacBook Air capable of lasting 12 hours.

Apple has upgraded the storage on the notebooks as well with the faster PCI-e storage replacing the mSATA-based SSD found in previous models.
Ananth Baliga

Crude Oil Train Derails In Lynchburg, Virginia, Causes Explosion

LYNCHBURG, Va., April 30 (UPI) — A train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in downtown Lynchburg Wednesday, causing a massive fire.

The CSX train crashed around 2 p.m. with 12 to 14 tanker cars, three or four of which were breached.

No injuries are reported at this time but residents are encouraged to stay away from the downtown area. Lynchburg police and emergency personnel are on the scene, and after assessing the situation, the fire department decided to let the fire burn out.

“The cause of the derailment has not been determined at this time,” the city said in a statement. “CSX officials are working to remove the portion of the train that is blocking workers from leaving Griffin Pipe Foundry located in the lower basin.”
Aileen Graef

Debate On Safety Net Programs Exposes Divisions 50 Years After War On Poverty

WASHINGTON, April 30 (UPI) — Paul Ryan pitched another battle Tuesday in his ongoing war against the American War on Poverty Wednesday, blaming President Lyndon Johnson’s 50-year-old program for making things worse for the nation’s poor.

The Wisconsin Republican, who also authored the House-passed 2015 budget that includes broad cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, and other traditional programs benefitting the poor, held a hearing of the House Budget Committee with the stated goal of finding new ways to fight poverty. While the budget is unlikely to ever be signed into law, many of the social safety net programs targeted in Ryan’s plan will likely see some cuts in the eventual appropriations process.

Ryan’s committee has held two previous hearings on the subject, and in early March, the committee released a report deeply critical of both the level of spending on existing programs and their effectiveness.

“Right now, the federal government spends $800 billion a year on 92 different programs to fight poverty,” Ryan said at Wednesday’s hearing. “Yet the official poverty rate is the highest in a generation. And over the past three years, deep poverty has been the highest on record.”

The hearing got to the heart of the deepest divisions between a Republican party that favors individual responsibility and improvement-by-bootstrap and Democrats who believe the American dream should come with a safety net.

Two of the witnesses testifying, Bob Woodson, the founder of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, and Bishop Shirley Holloway, the founder of House of Help City of Hope, espoused similar ideas in how to help lift troubled people out of dire economic straits. Both Woodson and Holloway’s programs focus on rehabilitating people whose “self-destructive behavior and… serious character deficits” contributed to their financial problems.

“Poverty is a state of mind,” Holloway said. “Somebody must deal with the mindset. You can put money at it, but money does not always take care of the issue with poverty.”

Woodson, in particular, accused the federal government of indiscriminately throwing money at the problem without working to distinguish successful programs from failures, a sentiment echoed by several of the Republican members of the committee.

“We have in fact created a commodity out of poor people, where those who are providers are not responsible for producing outcomes, but they measure success by how much we spend,” he said. “I think its a false dichotomy to assume that a compassionate approach to serving the poor is determined by how much we spend, and that if we reduce expenditures, that means less help for the poor.”

Nearly everyone present touted some version of the belief that “the best anti-poverty program is a job,” but Democrats’ views differed widely on how to help the unemployed. Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., slammed hints from his GOP colleagues that War on Poverty programs have discouraged people from working, and challenged the two witnesses’ implications that the poverty and joblessness only effected people whose behaviors led them there.

“Of all SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] households, 58 percent are working and those with children, you have 62 percent working,” he said. “But their wage is not enough to lift them out of poverty.”

Van Hollen repeatedly criticized both the Ryan budget and the House’s failure to bring up for a vote a Senate-passed measure to restart lapsed emergency unemployment insurance benefits for long-term jobless. And a third witness, Children’s Defense Fund president Marian Wright Edelman, dismissed the notion that the programs were both fiscally inefficient and ineffective.

Edelman, who advocated for programs to help boost health and development of children from an early age, said that anti-poverty programs have been largely responsible for helping poor families survive, even as the economy has struggled in the past six years.

“The War on Poverty has lifted millions of children and families out of poverty,” Edelman said, “and I am very concerned that 50 years later some people think the best way forwards is backwards — trying to unravel the very investments that have had such an impact and given millions of children a news lease on life and hope for the future.”

Edelman pointed to research that shows the importance of the first few years of development in a child’s life, including nutrition, education, and home life, to that child’s ability to grow up to be a contributing member of society.

“The poorest children with the greatest needs have the least resourced schools, and so really all along, they face an unfair playing field,” she said. “We’ve got to break that up and make sure they get through school and are able to get a job and to have a chance at a life.”

“We want the same as the other side wants, which is to get rid of the programs that don’t work,” said a worked-up Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J. “But damn it, many of these programs do work. And many of these programs are the difference between life and death in our community.”

War on Poverty: 50 Years later
Gabrielle Levy

Oklahoma Governor Promises ‘Thorough’ Review Of Apparently Botched Execution

OKLAHOMA CITY, April 30 (UPI) — The apparently botched execution of Clayton Lockett will be thoroughly reviewed, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin promised Wednesday.

At a news conference, Fallin said the Department of Corrections will be in charge of the review. She said the information to be gathered includes the cause of Lockett’s death as determined by a pathologist and whether the correct protocols were followed Tuesday night.

“I expect the review process to be deliberate, to be thorough, and it will be the first step in evaluating our state’s execution protocols,” Fallin said.

Lockett, who was sentenced to death for killing a 19-year-old woman during a botched home invasion in 1999, died Tuesday night. While the execution was scheduled for 6 p.m., he was not pronounced dead until 8:06 p.m., and observers said they saw him lift his head and try to talk minutes after doctors had said he was unconscious.

Oklahoma, like other states, has been struggling to obtain execution drugs because pharmaceutical companies have banned their products from being used. Lockett’s execution was postponed for a week by the state Supreme Court because of a legal challenge to Oklahoma’s law protecting the identity of compounding pharmacies.

After Lockett’s death, Fallin postponed the execution of Charles Warner for at least two weeks. Warner had been scheduled to die at 8 p.m. for raping and killing his girlfriend’s 11-month-old daughter in 1997.

Fallin refused to answer reporters’ questions. She said that Oklahoma needs to make sure that its protocols for executions are as good as they can be but that she believes the system is working.

“He had his day in court,” Fallin said. “I believe the legal process worked. I believe the death penalty is an appropriate response and punishment.”
Frances Burns

Russian Official: NASA Can Use A Trampoline To Get To Space

MOSCOW, April 30 (UPI) — Deputy Prime Minster Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Russian space program, suggested NASA use a trampoline to get to space rather than Russian rockets.

The biting suggestion was tweeted by Rogozin on his Russian language Twitter account after U.S. sanctions were implemented on Russia’s export license for high-tech items and froze Rogozin’s operational accounts.

“After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline,” tweeted Rogozin.

Проанализировав санкции против нашего космопрома, предлагаю США доставлять своих астронавтов на МКС с помощью батута http://t.co/8zGQhr9GVi— Dmitry Rogozin (@Rogozin) April 29, 2014

The U.S. currently relies on purchasing seats on the Russian Soyuz rocket in order to reach the ISS since NASA ended its shuttle program in 2011. This is one reason Russia might want to reconsider that threat. The U.S. purchases each seat on the Soyuz for $71 million per person per flight and owes Russia $457.9 million in service fees.

The use of the Russian Soyuz is a stop-gap until private companies such as SpaceX and Orbital Sciences have vehicles ready for manned spaceflight. Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, took the opportunity to make a quip on Twitter saying his company could definitely take advantage of the Russian animosity.

Sounds like this might be a good time to unveil the new Dragon Mk 2 spaceship that @SpaceX has been working on w @NASA. No trampoline needed— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 29, 2014

There are two U.S. astronauts aboard the ISS and continuing sanctions between the two countries could endanger the future of both nations’ space programs.
Aileen Graef

Montana Supreme Court Orders New Sentencing For Teacher Convicted Of Rape

HELENA, Mont., April 30 (UPI) — A former teacher should spend at least four years behind bars for raping a student who later killed herself, the Montana Supreme Court said Wednesday.

The justices were critical of the judge who gave Stacey Dean Rambold a 15-year sentence — and then suspended all but 31 days. The court, in an opinion handed down Friday and released Wednesday, said a new judge should be assigned for the re-sentencing.

Judge G. Todd Baugh, when he sentenced Rambold last year, suggested the victim, Cherice Morales, was “older than her chronological age.” Morales was a 14-year-old freshman at Billings High School when she had sex with Rambold.

Baugh’s finding that the teenager had some control in the relationship “is directly at odds with the law, which holds that a youth is incapable of consent and, therefore, lacks control over the situation whatsoever,” the high court said.

“There is no basis in law for the court’s distinction between the victim’s ‘chronological age’ and the court’s perception of maturity,” the justices added.

Baugh’s remarks and the short sentence ignited a firestorm of criticism in Montana and across the country. He responded by moving to increase the sentence a few days later but was blocked by the state Supreme Court.

Morales killed herself shortly before her 17th birthday.
Frances Burns

Senate GOP Blocks $10.10 Minimum Wage Bill

WASHINGTON, April 30 (UPI) — A measure to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour failed to advance in the Senate Wednesday, with all but one Republican member voting to block the measure.

Members voted 54-42, short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster to move the bill forward for passage. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., switched his vote to no after it became clear the measure would fail so he could file a motion to reconsider the bill, which he did so immediately.

“The fact that in America there are full-time working mothers and fathers, who must juggle two to three jobs, just to provide food and shelter for their children is unconscionable,” Reid said.

One Republican, Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, was the only member to break with his caucus and vote for the bill, but had said he planned to vote against its final passage. Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat, said ahead of the vote he would have opposed it, but was in his state due to the tornadoes that have killed 19 people, including 14 in his state.

While Wednesday’s outcome was expected, Democrats were more than willing to force their Republican colleagues to go on the record in opposition to raising the minimum wage, hoping to paint their opponents as out-of-touch with the average American and a friend to only the wealthiest.
Gabrielle Levy