Amazon Offers California Jobs, Centers

SACRAMENTO, Sept. 1 (UPI) — Internet retailer Amazon.com offered to build distribution centers and hire 1,000 workers if California drops, even temporarily, its sales tax collection law.

The proposal was made in the form of draft legislation offered during a meeting between Amazon lobbyists and representatives of companies belonging to the California Retailers Association, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

Supporters of the state’s attempt to collect about $300 million a year in unpaid taxes on Internet sales called Amazon’s effort a ploy.

“It’s a totally cynical maneuver that’s part of their game that they try to play in every state that keeps them from getting the sales tax,” said Lenny Goldberg, a legislative advocate for the California Tax Reform Association.

The Times said an informal memo indicated the Internet retailer wants the California Legislature to repeal a law that took effect July 1 requiring Amazon and other out-of-state Internet sellers to collect California sales taxes.

Amazon said it wouldn’t and is underwriting a referendum campaign to repeal the law. Amazon also would like California not to force the company to collect the sales tax until at least January 2014.

In return for either delaying collection or repealing the law, Amazon said it would hold back signatures it said it already had collected and drop its effort to put the matter before voters on the ballot next June. Amazon also said it would build two fulfillment centers in the state and would hire 1,000 employees.

The state retailers association dismissed the proposal as “not serious,” the Times said.

Retailers President Bill Dombrowski said the deal “will only prolong the harm to small businesses that employ Californians.”

Engaged Dads Boost IQ, Behavior In Kids

MONTREAL, Aug. 31 (UPI) — Dads engaged in raising their children — not necessarily living with them — can help make offspring smarter and better behaved, Canadian researchers say.

Erin Pougnet, a doctoral candidate at Concordia University in Montreal and a member of the Centre for Research in Human Development, says the study involved 138 children and their parents, who were assessed by researchers in three separate sessions.

Children were evaluated between the ages of 3-5 and again at 9-13. They completed intelligence tests, while their mothers completed questionnaires on home environment and couple conflict.

School teachers were also recruited as observers of child behaviors outside home.

“Teachers were a somewhat more independent source of information than mothers, fathers or children themselves, because a father’s absence can result in home conflict, maternal distress and child distress,” Pougnet says in a statement.

“Fathers make important contributions in the development of their children’s behavior and intelligence. Compared with other children with absentee dads, kids whose fathers were active parents in early and middle childhood had fewer behavior problems and higher intellectual abilities as they grew older — even among socioeconomically at-risk families.”

The study, published in the Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, finds girls to be most affected by absentee dads, although the researchers caution that paternal absence can foster other problems such as lack of support or discipline.

“Girls whose fathers were absent during their middle childhood had significantly higher levels of emotional problems at school than girls whose fathers were present,” Pougnet says.

Military Family Reunions Can Be Rocky

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., Aug. 31 (UPI) — Deployed U.S. troops often want nothing more than to be back home but a reunion period can be more emotionally taxing than deployment, researchers say.

Leanne Knobloch of the University of Illinois and co-author Jennifer Theiss of Rutgers University say returning service members are at greater risk of both depressive symptoms and relationship distress. Research shows the two often go together — a troublesome combination, since someone suffering from depressive symptoms “really needs the support of their romantic partner.”

The study is based on a one-time online survey of 220 service members — 185 men and 35 women from 27 states — who had been home less than six months from their last deployments.

Sixty-four percent were in the National Guard and 28 percent in the Army, with the Air Force, Marines and Navy each representing 3 percent or less. Fifty-seven percent had completed multiple deployments, the researchers say.

The study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, in a special issue on military families, finds feelings of interference from a partner are also not unusual — given that each person has grown accustomed to doing things on their own during the deployment.

Knobloch and Theiss offer advice for returning service members –recognize the uncertainties you might have about the relationship and address them.

“Anticipate sources of interference from your spouse or partner in everyday life and routines, and attempt to resolve them,” the researchers say.

Parents Should Know Signs Of Concussion

DALLAS, Aug. 31 (UPI) — Parents should take time to review the latest guidelines about concussions before their children head for the practice fields, a U.S. physician says.

Dr. Robert Dimeff, director of family sports medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, advises parents to look over the athletic equipment to be used and make sure it fits properly, particularly the helmet.

Make sure your child-athlete knows how to wear it properly and does so in practice, Dimeff says.

“Parents, coaches and student athletes should know what symptoms to pay attention to,” Dimeff says in a statement. “The signs and symptoms can come immediately after the impact or even days later.”

In addition, athletes need to let a parent, coach or other adult know if they are feeling signs such as headache or “pressure” in their head, nausea or vomiting, balance problems or dizziness, blurry vision, sensitivity to light or noise, drowsiness or fatigue and concentration problems or confusion, Dimeff advises.

Parents should also note mood or behavioral changes, including athletes appearing stunned, dazed or confused about homework, particularly work that was not difficult before an injury, Dimeff says.

“Those symptoms justify a doctor’s visit so a concussion isn’t overlooked,” Dimeff adds.

Exercise Works As Second Depression Drug

DALLAS, Aug. 31 (UPI) — Exercise can be as effective as a second medication for depressed patients whose condition has not been cured by a single medication, U.S. researchers say.

Dr. Madhukar Trivedi of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas and colleagues had

Study participants diagnosed with depression — ages 18-70, who had not remitted with treatment using a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressant medication — divided into two groups. Each group received a different level of exercise intensity for 12 weeks, with sessions supervised by trained staff at the Cooper Institute and augmented by home-based sessions.

Participants, whose average depression length was seven years, exercised on treadmills, cycle ergometers or both, kept an online diary of frequency and length of sessions, and wore a heart-rate monitor while exercising. They also met with a psychiatrist during the study.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, found by the end of the investigation, almost 30 percent of patients in both groups achieved full remission from their depression and another 20 percent significant displayed improvement, based on standardized psychiatric measurements.

Moderate exercise was more effective for women with a family history of mental illness but intense exercise was more effective with women whose families did not have a history of the disease, the study found.

The higher rate of exercise was more effective for men regardless of other characteristics, Trivedi said.

Social Media: Recruiting Tool For Studies

ROCHESTER, Minn., Aug. 31 (UPI) — Social media and online networking offer a novel way to recruit study participants for rare diseases, U.S. researchers suggest.

Dr. Sharonne Hayes is reaching out to survivors of spontaneous coronary artery dissection, also known as SCAD, a poorly understood heart condition that affects just a few thousand Americans every year. SCAD is a traumatic cardiac event that often induces heart attack but physicians have no clinical studies on which to base treatment plans, Hayes says.

The study, published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, finds study recruitment through social media and online networks could help researchers assemble large and demographically diverse patient groups more quickly and inexpensively than they can using traditional outreach methods.

“Patients with rare diseases tend to find one another and connect because they are searching for information and support,” Hayes says in a statement. “Studies of rare diseases often are underfunded, and people with these conditions are quite motivated.”

A SCAD survivor approached Hayes asking how she could spur more research into the unusual condition. Hayes’ research team asked the survivor to help recruit participants through an online support community on the Web site for WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, www.womenheart.org.

“This is a completely different research model than Mayo Clinic is used to,” Hayes says. “Investigators here typically rely on the stores of patient information from the clinic. This was truly patient-initiated research.”

Study: Tool Use Came Earlier Than Thought

NEW YORK, Aug. 31 (UPI) — Our early ancestors, Homo erectus, were shaping stone axes in Africa 1.8 million years ago, 300,000 years earlier than previously thought, U.S. researchers say.

Homo erectus appeared about 2 million years ago and lived until hitting a possible evolutionary dead-end about 70,000 years ago.

Some researchers think Homo erectus evolved in East Africa, but the discovery in the 1990s of Homo erectus fossils in the country of Georgia has led others to suggest an Asian origin.

A study of the ancient stone axes found in Africa doesn’t solve the debate, researchers say, and in fact raises new questions.

At about 1.8 million years ago, Homo erectus in Georgia was still using simple chopping tools while in Kenya, the study found, the population had developed hand axes, picks and other innovative tools anthropologists call “Acheulian.”

“The Acheulian tools represent a great technological leap,” study co-author Dennis Kent, a geologist with joint appointments at Columbia University and Rutgers University, said in a Columbia release Wednesday. “Why didn’t Homo erectus take these tools with them to Asia?”

Some scientists theorize Homo erectus may have migrated to Georgia from Africa but “lost” the Acheulian technology on the way.

Distant Star May Be Oldest Ever Seen

MUNICH, Germany, Aug. 31 (UPI) — European astronomers say they’ve discovered a faint ancient star in the constellation Leo that, given its elemental makeup, “shouldn’t exist.”

The star has been found to have the lowest amount of elements heavier than helium of any star yet studied, a mass smaller than that of the sun, and is probably more than 13 billion years old, a release from the Munich, Germany headquarters of the European Southern Observatory said Wednesday.

Astronomers refer to any element heavier then hydrogen or helium as “metals.”

“A widely accepted theory predicts that stars like this, with low mass and extremely low quantities of metals, shouldn’t exist because the clouds of material from which they formed could never have condensed,” astronomer Elisabetta Caffau said. “It was surprising to find, for the first time, a star in this ‘forbidden zone,’ and it means we may have to revisit some of the star formation models.”

The astronomers found the proportion of metals in the star is more than 20,000 times smaller than that of the sun. Cosmologists believe the lightest chemical elements — hydrogen and helium — were created shortly after the Big Bang, while almost all other elements were formed later inside stars and then spread throughout the universe by supernova explosions.

New stars formed from this enriched medium have higher amounts of metals in their composition than older stars, so the proportion of metals in a star can indicate how old it is.

“The star we have studied is extremely metal-poor, meaning it is very primitive,” ESO astronomer Lorenzo Monaco said. “It could be one of the oldest stars ever found.”

Canadian Oil A Better Option, Chu Says

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1 (UPI) — Regardless of the type of oil, having Canada as a main oil supplier to the United States is much better for energy security, the U.S. energy secretary said.

U.S. celebrities, scientists and executives at leading environmental advocacy groups are among the growing number of critics of the planned Keystone XL pipeline, a project that would carry oil from tar sands projects in Alberta, Canada, to Texas oil refineries.

They’re worried that heavy crude is more corrosive and lingers in the environment much longer than conventional crude oil. Workers are still dealing with an oil spill more than a year after a pipeline carrying Alberta crude ruptured in southern Michigan.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, during an interview with energyNOW!, said there was a tradeoff when considering crude type over the security of the supplier.

“It’s certainly true that having Canada as a supplier of our oil is much more comforting than to have other countries supply our oil,” he was quoted as saying.

TransCanada, the company planning Keystone XL, said the project would use puncture-resistant steel and a variety of other safety features that would make the pipeline one of the safest ever built.

The current Keystone network, however, has suffered a series of minor spills since it went into service last year.

The U.S. State Department has the ultimate say in the project because it crosses national borders.

New Mexico Has New Solar Options

PRINCETON, N.J., Sept. 1 (UPI) — A solar power facility in New Mexico has started churning out renewable energy for thousands of homes, an energy company announced.

NRG Solar, a subsidiary of NRG Energy Inc., announced its 20-megawatt Roadrunner facility near the New Mexico border with Texas is now operating at full capacity.

The facility uses a series of solar panels that track the movement of the sun. This lets it produce more electricity when compared with fixed tilt installation panels, the company said.

The solar power facility sits on 210 acres of private land near El Paso, Texas. The electricity generated by the Roadrunner facility will be sold to El Paso Electric under the terms of a 20-year agreement.

The New Mexico project is NRG’s third-largest facility and the first outside California.

U.S. President Barack Obama said he’d like to see more renewable energy projects come online in the country. NRG, based in New Jersey, has more than 2,000 megawatts of solar projects under development.