Study: People Yawn To Cool Overheated Brains

VIENNA (UPI) — Researchers at the University of Vienna have found that yawning cools down the overheated brain.

Jorg Massen and Kim Dusch conducted the study, which tried to find the range of temperatures that causes yawning frequency to increase or decrease. They conducted identical studies on pedestrians yawning patterns in Vienna, Austria and Arizona in the winter and summer months.

They concluded that people are most likely to yawn at 68 degrees. When it is warmer outside, people are less likely to yawn, because it has little effect on the brain’s temperature. In freezing temps, yawning may be unnecessary or even harmful.

Factors like lack of sleep and stress can also contribute to the brain overheating, causing a person to yawn more frequently. Scientists are still searching for the cause of contagious yawning, which happens when a person sees someone yawn and feels the need to yawn, too.

The researchers said they have a strong hypothesis, but it’s not definite. Since yawning cools the brain and improves mental efficiency, they think that contagious yawning could be an effort to enhance group vigilance.

Large Tech Companies Slam FCC’s Proposed Net Neutrality Rules

WASHINGTON (UPI) — A group of large tech companies, including Google, Facebook and Amazon, have written a letter to the Federal Communications Commission expressing concern over proposed net neutrality rules.

The companies expressed their desire for a free and fair internet saying their success could be attributed to “a world without discrimination.” They want users on fixed-line and mobile networks to be protected from Internet providers slowing or blocking content.

“According to recent news reports, the Commission intends to propose rules that would enable phone and cable Internet service providers to discriminate both technically and financially against Internet companies and to impose new tolls on them. If these reports are correct, this represents a grave threat to the Internet,” the letter read.

The letter was signed by close to 150 technology-related companies, including Microsoft, Dropbox, Mozilla and dozens of other smaller companies.

The letter came as FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel said they had serious concerns with Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposed rules.

Wheeler needs the support of his fellow Democratic members on the commission, as the the two Republican members are opposed to enacting net neutrality rules.

Critics of Wheeler’s proposal said he has gone back on promises to maintain equal treatment of all content by proposing a pay-for-priority arrangement between Internet providers and content companies, like Netflix.

Both Rosenworcel and Clyburn have asked Wheeler to postpone the May 15 vote by a month and allow the public more time to comment on the proposal.

“His proposal has unleashed a torrent of public response. Tens of thousands of emails, hundreds of calls, commentary all across the Internet,” Rosenworcel said in a speech to a meeting of the Chief Officers of State Library Agencies in Washington. “We need to respect that input and we need time for that input,” she said.

“Over 100,000 Americans and counting,” Clyburn wrote in a blog post Wednesday. “I am listening to your voices as I approach this critical vote to preserve an ever-free and open Internet.”

Wheeler has been attempting to fast-track the net neutrality issue after Verizon won a challenge against net neutrality regulations, on the grounds the FCC didn’t have the authority to regulate internet service providers, with a federal appeals court in January sending the contested rules back to the FCC for updating. The FCC intends to vote on and adopt new rules by the end of this year.

Shinseki, Subpoenaed By House VA Committee, Orders Face-To-Face Audit Of All VA Clinics

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki ordered a face-to-face audit of all VA clinics Thursday. The VA Chief was also subpoenaed by the House Veterans Affairs Committee earlier in the day.

It’s fair to say: Eric Shinseki is having a rough week.

Monday, Daniel Dellinger, the national commander of the American Legion, issued a statement calling for Shinseki’s resignation.

Tuesday, Representative Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Arizona) wrote a letter to Shinseki, calling for a nationwide audit of the VA’s scheduling system.

Wednesday, several GOP representatives echoed Dellinger’s call, publicly asking the secretary to step down from the floor of the Senate.

Thursday, the house panel agreed in a verbal vote to subpoena the secretary.

The subpoena, the demand for the audits, and the calls for Shinseki’s resignation all come in response to a recent records falsification scandal at the Phoenix VA. Allegations that veterans died avoidable deaths due to delays in healthcare caused by the department and covered up by its administration with a secret waiting list have put a target on Shinseki’s back.

Shinseki was quick to respond when CNN broke the original story about the scandal at the Phoenix VA, saying: “These allegations, if true, are absolutely unacceptable and if the Inspector General’s investigation substantiates these claims, swift and appropriate action will be taken.”

The secretary immediately launched an investigation and placed the director and other management of the facility on administrative leave pending the findings. However, veterans and Congress still seem to want accountability to come from the top.

But Shinseki told The Wall Street Journal Tuesday that he would not step down. “I serve at the pleasure of the president,” Shinseki said when asked if he would resign. “I signed on to make some changes. I have work to do.”

Through his press secretary, Jay Carney, Obama voiced his continued support of Shinseki, “The President remains confident in Secretary Shinseki’s ability to lead the department and take appropriate action.”

Bachmann Lobbies Against National Women’s History Museum

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) lobbied against the establishment of a National Women’s History Museum on the House floor Wednesday, because she believes it promotes radical feminism and the pro-choice movement.

“I rise today in opposition to this bill, because I believe ultimately this museum, that will be built on the National Mall, on federal land, will enshrine the radical feminist movement that stands against the pro-life movement, the pro-family movement and the pro-traditional marriage movement,” said Bachmann before the vote. “As it’s currently written, the legislation lacks the necessary safeguards to ensure the proposed museum will not become an ideological shrine to abortion that will eventually receive federal funding and a prominent spot on the National Mall.”

The bipartisan bill, co-sponsored by Representatives Carolyn Maloney (R-N.Y.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) would only establish a commission to study the possible creation of a privately funded women’s history museum in Washington, D.C. The bill does not discuss the museum’s content or authorize any Federal funding.

The oddest part is that Bachmann is set to be featured in one of the exhibits, should Congress decide to proceed. She would be featured in an exhibit on motherhood for her work as a foster mom.

Bachmann said that while she is flattered, it is other people who would be seen in the museum that raises her concern. She fears that other women such as Margaret Sanger, who established the country’s first birth control clinic, would also be a part of the museum.

The bill’s supporters believe that with national museums dedicated to science, natural history, American history and other genres, there should be one for the women who shaped history.

“Women’s contributions to our country are largely missing from our national museums, memorials, statues and textbooks,” Maloney told fellow members of Congress. “The bill before us today seeks to finally change that.”

The House passed the measure with a 383-33 vote Wednesday afternoon. Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) introduced a companion bill on the Senate side.

Indiana Ordered To Recognize Lesbian Couple’s Marriage Because One Partner Is Terminally Ill

INDIANAPOLIS (UPI) — A Federal judge ordered Indiana officials Thursday to recognize the marriage of a lesbian couple because one partner is dying of cancer.

Amy Sandler and Niki Quasney, who married in Massachusetts last year, asked for an emergency order because Quasney has been diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer. U.S. District Judge Richard Young’s ruling does not affect the ongoing legal fight over same-sex marriage in Indiana.

Young granted the couple a temporary order last month that expired Thursday. His new ruling extends that indefinitely.

The State attorney general’s office issued a statement suggesting it will appeal.

“The motion should not have been granted since the current rule of law does not allow for a hardship exception from the statute for one person or two people, as that would create inconsistency for all other citizens of Indiana,” officials said.

Gay rights activists are seeking an order, like the one recently issued in Ohio, that would require the State to recognize same-sex marriages performed in States where they are legal. Young has not yet ruled on a request to decide the issue without a trial.

The Ohio ruling has been stayed pending appeal.

“We are relieved and happy to send our congratulations and best wishes to Amy, Niki and their family,” Lambda Legal, which is representing the couple, said in a statement. “We applaud their courage and commitment to each other and to equality as they fight Niki’s illness.”

Same-sex marriages are now legal in 17 States, the District of Columbia and some Native American tribal jurisdictions. In the first States, the change came about by court order but more recently a number of States have legalized gay marriage by referendum or legislative action.

Obama Administration Issues New Guidelines For Schools On Children Of Undocumented Immigrants

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The Barack Obama Administration reminded local officials Thursday that all children in their districts have the right to go to school, even those in the United States illegally.

The Administration said it has issued new guidelines for local districts, replacing ones released in 2011. A 1982 Supreme Court ruling barred schools from discriminating against children because of their immigration status.

“Sadly, too many schools and school districts are still denying rights,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said, joining Attorney General Eric Holder on a conference call with reporters. “Our message is simple: Let all children living in your district enroll in school.”

Under the existing Federal guidelines, schools can ask for proof that a student lives in the district like a utility bill or a lease. But they cannot demand Social Security numbers or birth certificates, although they can ask for Social Security numbers to be given voluntarily.

A 2013 survey in Alabama by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that enrollment forms in 81 districts did things like asking for Social Security numbers without saying they could be withheld, Jerri Katzerman, the center’s deputy legal director said. One magnet program in Mobile County also asked for the numbers of a would-be student’s brothers and sisters.

German Spying Investigators To Call On Snowden

BERLIN (UPI) — Edward Snowden will be called to testify as a witness, the German parliamentary committee investigating the U.S. National Security Agency’s activities said Thursday.

Testimony from the American whistleblower and former NSA contractor was agreed to by all political parties in the investigative committee, said Martina Renner of the socialist Die Linke party. Since the German government will likely prevent Snowden from attending a hearing, he is expected to be questioned by either a video link, or a visit from a parliamentary delegation to Moscow, his current home.

Snowden could be extradited to the United States if he leaves Russia for Germany. His questioning could begin by early July.

The committee intends to question German Chancellor Angela Merkel, current and former cabinet ministers and the heads of German intelligence agencies.

Klein: Unionizing Student-Athletes Is ‘not The Answer’

WASHINGTON (UPI) — At a hearing on Capitol Hill Thursday, critics of a recent National Labor Relations Board decision to allow Northwestern University’s football players to vote to form a union cautioned that allowing student-athletes to be identified as employees could touch off a domino effect of unintended consequences.

While agreeing with the need to protect the educational opportunities of student-athletes in the event of injury, House Education and Workforce Committee Chair John Klein (R-Minn.) slammed the regional NLRB decision and bemoaned the “rubber stamp” he suspects is coming from the national board.

Following the regional NRLB’s decision to identify Northwestern’s athletes as “employees,” members of the university’s football program voted on whether to unionize. The results of that vote were impounded, pending a decision by the national NLRB, after Northwestern appealed the ruling.

“No student athlete injured while representing their school on the field should be left behind because of the misplaced priorities of a college or university,” Klein said. “Does that mean unionizing student athletes is the answer? Absolutely not.”

Collective bargaining, he warned, would throw into chaos practices and game schedules, put schools at risk for tangled negotiations, or even open up the possibility of player strikes.

But Ranking Member George Miller, D-Calif., said the days of ignoring the pressures on student-athletes are over.

“During the last four decades, colleges and universities — through the NCAA — have perfected the art of monetizing the athletic play of their best football and basketball players and teams — while steadily encroaching on the players’ academic opportunities,” he said.

“In the end, this is a classic labor dispute,” Miller said. “The NCAA empire is holding all the cards, making all the rules, and capturing all the profits.”

Testifying before the committee, Baylor University President Ken Starr imagined a “hornet’s nest” of problems in which low-income athletes would be forced to pay taxes on the scholarship for the “sticker price” of their education, throw Title IX regulations out of balance, and raise legal issues with regards to fair labor, occupational safety, and immigration laws.

Instead, he contended, student-athletes were far better positioned to succeed as both students and athletes as they are.

“For decades, the term ‘student-athlete’ has been widely employed to describe the primary relationship of the student to the institution of higher learning — at bottom, an academic relationship which provides a college education during the students’ formative years,” Starr said.

Andy Schwarz, an economist who specializes in antitrust economics, challenged Starr’s analysis.

“The NCAA’s former Executive Director Walter Byers has acknowledged that the NCAA coined the term ‘student-athlete”‘ to specifically to dodge legal responsibilities for athlete safety and medical expenses,” he said.

There was general agreement that, union or no, student-athletes require better, fairer treatment.

Patrick Ellers, a former Notre Dame football student-athlete, who also holds a masters degree from Northwestern, suggested a minimum of a guarantee of a 4-year scholarship that could not be revoked in the event of injury; full coverage of medical costs, including lifetime benefits for permanent injuries; and stipends for out-of-pocket expenses.

Representative Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) warned change would have to come by force.

The “only thing that changes the NCAA is external pressure,” he said.

Poll: Support For The Tea Party Movement Has Dropped Among Republicans

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Support for the Tea Party movement has dropped among Republican voters and those who say they tilt that way, said a Gallup poll released Thursday.

Only 41 percent of Republicans surveyed said they support the Tea Party, Gallup reported. Fewer than one in four, 22 percent, of the entire sample described themselves as supporters.

In November 2010, when Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, 61 percent in the party supported the Tea Party. Almost one-third, 32 percent, of all adults were supporters.

Support for the Tea Party among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents has changed little, dropping from 9 percent in 2010 to 7 percent in the recent poll.

Gallup cited the Republican primary in North Carolina where Thom Tillis, speaker of the state House of Representatives and generally perceived as the establishment candidate, defeated Greg Brannon. Brannon, a political novice, had the support of Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and was seen as the Tea Party choice.

But some commentators suggest that Tillis won because he campaigned by advocating a smaller government and the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. In effect, they say, the party establishment has adopted Tea Party ideas.

Gallup surveyed 1,513 adults, including 1,336 registered voters, between April 24 and April 30. The margin of error is 3 percentage points.

Oklahoma Agrees To Delay Next Execution For Six Months

OKLAHOMA CITY (UPI) — The next execution in Oklahoma has been postponed for six months, state Attorney General Scott Pruitt said Thursday.

Pruitt’s office responded to a request for a stay by lawyers for Charles Warner. In court papers, officials said the execution is now set for Nov. 13.

Warner was scheduled to be put to death at 8 p.m. April 29, two hours after Clayton Lockett. Lockett died of a heart attack 10 minutes after the execution was officially halted, and Warner’s execution was rescheduled to May 13.

In its filing with the Court of Criminal Appeals, Pruitt’s office said that the six-month stay will allow time for an investigation into how Lockett’s execution went wrong.

Warner was sentenced to death for raping and killing his girlfriend’s 11-month-old daughter in 1997.

Both Warner and Lockett challenged Oklahoma’s secrecy policy on execution drugs. They won a stay from the state Supreme Court, which reversed itself under pressure from Governor Mary Fallin and the State Legislature.

Oklahoma has put 111 people to death since it resumed executions in 1990. The state is second only to Texas and Virginia in the number of executions in the modern era.