Cantor Won’t Ask Grimm To Resign

WASHINGTON, April 30 (UPI) — House Majority Leader Eric Cantor will meet with embattled Rep. Michael Grimm Wednesday to discuss his way forward after he was slapped with a 20-count indictment this week.

The Republican leader has indicated he is unlikely to ask Grimm, R-N.Y., to resign, despite Grimm’s being charged with various counts of fraud related to a health-food restaurant chain in Manhattan. Grimm has said he plans to not only remain in his seat — although he did step down from his position on the House Financial Services Committee — but also run again for a third term.

Cantor took a harder line against another troubled member of his caucus, La. Rep. Vance McAllister, who was caught on tape kissing an aide.

On Monday, McAllister said he would finish out his term, but not run for reelection, but Tuesday, Cantor urged him to resign immediately.

For their part, Democrats slammed what they saw as a disproportionate response from the GOP leadership.

“Republican leaders made one thing clear today; it is worse to kiss the wrong person in a safe Republican seat than to face a 20-count criminal indictment in a swing district,” said Josh Schwerin, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement.

Grimm is accused of concealing about $1 million in gross receipts and hundreds of thousands of dollars in wages to employees at his Healthalicious chain of restaurants, all before his election to Congress in 2011. The former FBI agent is also charged with perjury for allegedly lying about his business practices under oath in 2013.
Gabrielle Levy

Poll: Americans Want Less Involvement Abroad

WASHINGTON, April 30 (UPI) — Americans want to step back from the world stage, disapprove of the President’s foreign policy and believe the country in general is headed in the wrong direction.

As the U.S. has been distracted by unrest in Ukraine and the consequential tension with Russia, President Barack Obama is taking a hit from the American people on his handling of foreign policy. In a new WSJ/NBC poll, only 38 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s foreign policy while 53 percent disapprove.

The numbers have been mostly influenced on the handling of the Ukrainian crisis, during which the Obama administration has exchanged rhetoric with Russia as they impose sanctions on top Russian officials and businesses. According to the IMF, the U.S. economic sanctions along with those imposed by the EU may have already had an impact on Russia as their economic growth has lowered. This strategy hasn’t done much to deter Russian President Vladimir Putin or stop the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine from continuing to extend their control of the region.

Prior polls have shown that Americans do not want to get very involved in Ukraine and many of those who want a “firm stance” cannot place the country on a map.

This is not the first time the Obama administration has received backlash on public opinion regarding the idea of U.S. intervention in another country. There was significant outrage when the president proposed sending airstrikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in September after a sarin gas attack killed hundreds of Syrian civilians on August 21, 2013.

Though Americans disapprove of how Obama is handling Ukraine, they also want the U.S. to stay out of other countries’ affairs. Only 19 percent of Americans want the U.S. more active in the world stage, 30 percent want it to remain at its current level of involvement, and 47 percent want the U.S. less active.

This is part of a larger trend of discontent, with 63 percent of Americans saying the country is going in the wrong direction and a majority feeling the system is “stacked against” them.

Many Chipotle Customers Underestimate Calories Of A Burrito

DURHAM, N.C., April 29 (UPI) — A survey of more than 300 Chipotle customers before they ordered their food found they underestimated the number of calories in their planned orders, on average, by 21 percent.

Researchers at Duke University and the University of Southern California conducted experiments testing the effectiveness of calorie labeling on menu boards for servings of food.

Some question if menu board calorie ranges help consumers make accurate calorie estimates because some of the ranges are very large.

The study, published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, found 326 Chipotle customers guessed their burritos were about 630 calories each when they were closer to 900 calories.

Chipotle said their restaurants have a harder time complying with the calorie labeling requirement because they customize food servings to the customer’s requests.

“Putting calorie counts on things is super easy when it’s a packaged product and it’s made exactly the same every time or it’s a restaurant where you order a number one and always get exactly the same thing,” Chris Arnold, Chipotle’s communications director, told Time magazine.

“The degree to which people may misestimate calories is really a product of a menu labeling law that doesn’t work so well for a restaurant like ours.”

The researchers found consumers tended to think of the low end of the burrito range of calories as the “healthiest” version, while the restaurant chain said the burrito with the fewest ingredients was at the low end of the calorie range.

For instance, the burrito range started with a tortilla and pinto beans, instead of lower calorie black beans.

“We recognize it’s not ideal, but there’s not really a better way to do it when you can put it together in so many different ways,” Arnold said.

The study found calorie range information on menu boards improved calorie estimation accuracy, but defining the meaning of the end points — high and low calorie ends — further improved accuracy.

“We suggest that when restaurants present calorie range information to consumers, they should explicitly define the meaning of the end points,” the study authors said.
Alex Cukan

Grad Student Creates World’s Smallest Nanowires

NASHVILLE, April 29 (UPI) — A Vanderbilt doctorate student has found a way to construct the world’s thinnest nanowire — at just three atoms wide — using a finely focused beam of electrons.

Junhao Lin, who has been conducting his research as a visiting scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), was able to create wiring out of atomic monolayers of transition-metal dichalcogenides, a special family of semiconducting materials. A monolayer is the thinnest possible form for solid objects — like a single sheet of interconnected atoms.

Monolayers are of great interest (and value) to electronic engineers and other scientists, as they offer incredible strength and flexibility properties, as well as transparency and high electron mobility. Lin’s discovery is another giant step forward in realizing their potential.

“This will likely stimulate a huge research interest in monolayer circuit design,” Lin said. “Because this technique uses electron irradiation, it can in principle be applicable to any kind of electron-based instrument, such as electron-beam lithography.”

To put things in perspective: the microscopic wires currently used in modern integrated circuits are a thousand times bigger than the nanowires Lin was able to fabricate.

Lin carved the wires using an a tiny beam of electrons — with help from his ORNL mentor Wu Zhou.

“Junhao used a scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM),” Zhou explained, “that is capable of focusing a beam of electrons down to a width of half an angstrom (about half the size of an atom) and aims this beam with exquisite precision.”

Beyond enabling the wiring of even smaller, more durable transistors and flash memory drives, the greater potential for Lin’s nanowires and monolayer technology is not entirely clear. But the possibilities are exciting.

“If you let your imagination go,” said Sokrates Pantelides, Lin’s adviser at Vanderbilt, “you can envision tablets and television displays that are as thin as a sheet of paper that you can roll up and stuff in your pocket or purse.”

Lin’s discovery was detailed this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Scientists Find Birds Adapting To Chernobyl Radiation

CHERNOBYL, Ukraine, April 29 (UPI) — No humans live in the 19-mile exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl, the nuclear disaster which devastated the Ukrainian countryside in 1986, but as ecologists recently showcased, birds have slowly adapted to the area.

To better understand how birds were coping with the region’s dangerous radioactivity, researchers captured 152 birds of 16 species at various sites within Chernobyl’s exclusion zone. The researchers collected feather and blood samples from captured birds.

The samples were used to test for levels of glutathione, an antioxidant vital in protecting plants and animals against oxidative stress and DNA damage. Researchers also tested for levels of melanin pigments in the bird feathers. Pheomelanin, a certain type of melanin, depletes the body’s antioxidant supply.

Surprisingly, scientists found many birds had adapted to high levels of radiation by minimizing pheomelanin production and pumping out glutathione. Birds that had not initiated this adaptation showed visible signs of physical deterioration.

“Previous studies of wildlife at Chernobyl showed that chronic radiation exposure depleted antioxidants and increased oxidative damage,” Dr. Ismael Galván, of the Spanish National Research Council, told the International Business Times. “We found the opposite — that antioxidant levels increased and oxidative stress decreased with increasing background radiation.”

The 16 species studied included: Red-backed shrike, great tit, barn swallow, wood warbler, blackcap, whitethroat, barred warbler, tree pipit, chaffinch, hawfinch, mistle thrush, song thrush, blackbird, black redstart, robin and thrush nightingale.

“The findings are important because they tell us more about the different species’ ability to adapt to environmental challenges such as Chernobyl and Fukushima,” said Galván.

The study was published last week in the journal Functional Ecology.

Twin Astronauts To Participate In Long-term Space Travel Study

WASHINGTON, April 29 (UPI) — Identical twin astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly are going to be part of an experiment in long term space travel to gauge the health effects of a mission to Mars.

Scott will spend a year on the International Space Station while Mark will stay here on Earth. Tests and measurements on the two will be conducted before, during, and after Scott’s time in space. The tests will likely include blood and urine samples, ultrasounds and CT scans.

The experiment will try to measure the genetic effects of long-term space travel as a stepping stone to completing NASA’s mission to send humans to Mars by 2030. Space travel has been known to dramatically decrease bone and muscle mass and increased exposure to radiation can raise the risk of cancer. Astronauts have to exercise several hours each day to counteract the loss of bone and muscle mass.

“It was kind of ironic or interesting — maybe serendipitous — that after this flight I will have flown about 540 days compared to [Mark's] 54, so an order of magnitude more,” Scott told NPR’s Eric Westervelt.

Mark will be remaining on Earth since he retired from NASA in 2011 after his wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., was shot in the head. He will not have to exercise like his brother every day, but it might encourage him to get a mile or two in during the year-long experiment. He will undergo the same experiments and tests as the control subject.

After 15 years of being a NASA astronaut, Mark said, “I’ve had a lot of science done on me already, so I kind of know what I’m getting myself into.”

Kurdish Oil Exports Set For May

OSLO, Norway, April 29 (UPI) — The semiautonomous Kurdish government of Iraq is expected to start selling exported oil within the next few weeks, Turkey’s energy minister said Tuesday.

A pipeline from the Kurdish north is sending oil to storage tanks in Ceyhan, a Turkish sea port. Exports of Kurdish oil, however, have been on hold because of the lingering stalemate between the Kurdish and central governments over who controls what in the Iraqi energy sector.

Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz said from Oslo the Kurdish oil will be leaving storage.

“This oil belongs to Iraq [and] they may begin its export in May,” he said.

Oil from northern Iraq has been flowing north at around 100,000 barrels per day since the start of the week, he said. He gave no indication of the export destination, noting it was up to private sellers to determine who gets Kurdish oil deliveries.

“[Turkey’s oil refiner] Tupras has its own contracts as a private company,” he said. “I always say, they can make their proposal to the private sector and carry out their trade if they agree on a contract.”

Last week, the Kurdish government said it generated “billions of dollars” from the oil and gas sector.

Pipeline Proposed To Feed Wyoming Rail Terminal

HOUSTON, April 29 (UPI) — Genesis Energy, which has headquarters in Houston, said it was soliciting interest for a crude oil pipeline that would run 70 miles through Wyoming.

The company said it was seeking shipper commitments for a 70-mile oil pipeline that would run from Casper, Wyo., to the Pronghorn rail facility in Douglas, Wyo.

Genesis Energy CEO Grant Sims said the proposed pipeline would give shippers additional options to transport crude oil by rail.

Pronghorn is the only regional facility serviced both by BNSF Railway and Union Pacific Railroad.

“As Canadian [oil] volumes continue to increase over time, along with local production, Pronghorn is best positioned long‐term to provide shippers with the flexibility to load trains and facilitate the movement of these barrels directly to the most attractive markets,” Sims said in a statement Monday.

An increase in North American crude oil production has strained existing pipeline capacity, forcing some energy companies to turn to rail as an alternate transit method. The safety of rail transport has come into question because of a series of derailments involving railcars carrying crude oil.

The solicitation period ends May 30. If there’s enough interest, Genesis said the new pipeline could go into service by the middle of next year.

U.S. Probes Waves As Source Of Energy

WASHINGTON, April 29 (UPI) — More than $10 million will be invested into a program that will test the ability to convert wave energy into a source of power, the U.S. Energy Department said.

The Energy Department announced the test program for wave energy off the coast of Hawaii.

“The Energy Department-supported demonstrations at the U.S. Navy’s wave energy test site off Hawaii’s island of Oahu will help develop reliable wave energy options and collect important performance and cost data for wave energy conversion devices,” it said in a Monday statement.

Two prototype wave energy converters will be deployed in open waters at depths of 196 feet and 260 feet.

The demonstration projects are aimed at examining wave energy technology that’s in the late stage of development or close to full-scale operations.

The test program will run for one year. The project gives the federal government the ability to evaluate the performance, reliability and cost associated with converting the kinetic energy from waves into a renewable power source.

Florida Man Accused Of Throwing Bucket Of Urine On Building Inspector During Investigation

SARASOTA COUNTY , Fla., April 29 (UPI) — A Florida man who was under investigation for 19 counts of scheming to defraud didn’t help his cause on Monday when he allegedly threw a bucket of urine on a Sarasota County building inspector.

Craig Siegel is accused of dousing the code enforcement officer with pee while he was investigating the rental property owner for advertising a five-bedroom home as a 12-bedroom house.

When renters showed up to the home and found it was short seven bedrooms, Siegel allegedly refused to give back their money and told them to sue, netting himself more than $53,000 in the process.

“(I said) You give me my money back. He said no, we are not in the financial position to do that,” renter Denise Blair told My Fox Tampa Bay.

Siegel has been charged with criminal mischief and battery on a code enforcement officer in addition to the fraud charges.

While leaving court, Siegel called the urine bucket story “an allegation.”

Blair was happy to hear about his court appearance. “Love it, that’s where he deserves to be. I asked him many times to make it right,” she said. “Doing that to someone, come on, that’s just disgusting.”
Evan Bleier