Official: Guards Used Taser On Clayton Lockett Hours Before Apparently Botched Execution

OKLAHOMA CITY, May 1 (UPI) — Prison guards used a Taser to restrain Clayton Lockett hours before he died in an apparently botched execution, Oklahoma’s top corrections official said Thursday.

The information was provided in a timeline that Robert Patton, director of the department of corrections, sent to Governor Mary Fallin. Patton said Lockett was supposed to be X-rayed Tuesday morning as part of the execution procedure and was tasered shortly before 6 a.m. when he refused to allow guards to put restraints on him to escort him to the medical unit.

Lockett was pronounced dead at 7:06 p.m., more than 40 minutes after midzolam, the first of three drugs, was administered. Patton had announced a halt to the execution 10 minutes earlier because the doctor present said Lockett had not gotten enough of the drugs to kill him.

The cause of death is believed to be a heart attack.

Patton in his report also said that at the medical unit staffers found an apparently self-inflicted wound on Lockett’s arm that did not require stitches.

Lockett was sentenced to death for the 1999 murder of Stephanie Neiman, 19, of Perry, Okla. Neiman was buried alive after she became involved in a bungled home invasion while dropping a friend off.

Another inmate, Charles Warner, was scheduled to be executed at 8 p.m. Tuesday. That execution has now been stayed for at least two weeks.

Fallin announced Wednesday that the state will investigate what happened and determine if changes need to be made to execution protocols, promising the review will be independent. Dean Sanderford, Lockett’s lawyer, said no investigation by the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety will be truly independent.

“In order to understand exactly what went wrong in last night’s horrific execution, and restore any confidence in the execution process, the death of Clayton Lockett must be investigated by a truly independent organization, not a state employee or agency,” he said in an emailed statement.

US Nuclear Arsenal Still Controlled By Floppy Disks

WASHINGTON, May 1 (UPI) — A Minuteman-3 missile with the power to cause 20 times the damage as the bombs dropped on Hiroshima lies underground in Wyoming, a relic of the cold-war still very much capable of being fired, controlled by archaic equipment also left over from that era.

In a special titled “Who’s Minding the Nukes?” by Leslie Stahl on CBS’ 60 Minutes, the U.S. nuclear arsenal was revealed to rely on incredibly dated technology — analog phones and eight-inch floppy disks.

A 23-year-old missileer working at the facility told Stahl, “I had never seen one of these until I got down in missiles.”

An audit of the nation’s nuclear weapons systems conducted in March of this year by the U.S. Department of Energy found the safety and reliability of America’s nuclear facilities could soon be a concern, noting “that irreplaceable nuclear weapons CM [configuration management] information is degrading. Specifically, film media and microfiche are being lost due to degradation, and radiographs are beginning to stick together causing extensive damage and making the data unrecoverable.”

It’s estimated it would cost $350 billion over a decade to modernize the systems.

But an official who oversees three nuclear bases, Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein, told Stahl that the outdated system has security benefits, as the old technology is not easily hackable. “A few years ago we did a complete analysis of our entire network,” Weinstein said. “Cyber engineers found out that the system is extremely safe and extremely secure in the way it’s developed.”

President Obama Congratulates Iraq On Holding First Parliamentary Elections Since U.S. Military Withdrawal

WASHINGTON, May 1 (UPI) — U.S. President Barack Obama offered his congratulations to the Iraqi people for holding the country’s first parliamentary elections since the U.S. military withdrew in 2011.

Despite concerns about election day violence, Iraqis cast ballots on Wednesday at some 50,000 polling centers across the country. The 328 parliamentary seats in contention were sought by 9,000 candidates.

“Millions of Iraqis embraced their democratic right to vote,” Obama observed. “Yesterday’s turnout demonstrated to the world that they seek to pursue a more stable and peaceful future through the political process.”

Concerns about violence prompted authorities to lock down the capital city of Baghdad. No cars were permitted in the city in an effort to curb the possibility of suicide attacks and car bombings, forcing Baghdad residents to walk to polling stations.

BBC correspondent Rafid Jaboori reported that despite concerns about violence, the Iraqis he spoke to throughout the country said that they would not be deterred from voting on Wednesday.

China’s Plan To Stop Pollution: Ban Outdoor Grilling

BEIJING, May 1 (UPI) — The Chinese government banned outdoor grilling Sunday in an effort to curb the pollution that plagues the country.

The ban prohibits all outdoor grilling and food preparation. Chinese officials say the regulation will help cut down on smog.

The smog and pollution levels in China have reached up 15 times higher than deemed safe by the World Health Organization and is mainly attributed to the lightly regulated industrial sector and the millions of cars on the road.

The ban could hit the food industry as many people line the streets with grilling stands to purchase food during the warmer months. People who violate the ban could face up to a $3,000 fine. They will now have to either move their operation indoors or shut down completely.

The ban has been widely criticized with many calling for Beijing to focus on the real problems of industrial and automobile pollution.

Marathon Bombing Suspect’s Lawyers: Citizenship Status Should Not Be Used In Bid For Death Penalty

BOSTON, May 1 (UPI) — Lawyers for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev said Thursday federal prosecutors in Boston should not use his citizenship status against him in an effort to get a death sentence.

The lawyers filed a motion in U.S. District Court asking for removal of Tsarnaev’s alleged “betrayal” of the United States as an aggravating factor. They said the factor has not been used in any of the 493 federal death penalty cases since 1988.

Tsarnaev, now 20, allegedly worked with his brother to set off two bombs at the finish line of last year’s Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring many more. His older brother, Tamerlan, 26, was killed in a confrontation with police a few days later.

The brothers came to the United States as children with their parents, who are ethnic Chechens.

Defining “betrayal of the United States,” prosecutors said: “Dzhokhar Tsarnaev received asylum from the United States; obtained citizenship and enjoyed the freedoms of a United States citizen; and then betrayed his allegiance to the United States by killing and maiming people in the United States.”

The defense lawyers described the move as unprecedented.

“But in not one of the 492 cases before Mr. Tsarnaev’s has the government cited the fact of a defendant’s American citizenship, the way he became a citizen, any aspect of his immigration history or his enjoyment of the freedoms of an American citizen as a reason to sentence him to death,” the motion said.

The federal government has held three executions since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1976 that capital punishment is constitutional and now has 59 people on death row. The U.S. military has executed no one in the modern era and has six prisoners under death sentences.

Seattle Mayor Plans To Raise Minimum Wage To $15 Per Hour

SEATTLE, May 1 (UPI) — Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced a plan Thursday that would give the city the highest minimum wage in the United States, $15 an hour.

The increase would be phased in and small and large businesses would have different timetables, the mayor said. Businesses with more than 500 employees that do not provide health benefits would have three years while some small businesses would have seven.

“No industry, organization or class of employer is exempt,” the mayor said.

Washington State already has the highest minimum wage in the country, $9.32 an hour. Hawaii and Maryland have adopted plans to increase the minimum wage in their states, while a plan backed by President Obama to raise the national minimum to $10.10 stalled Wednesday in the U.S. Senate.

Murray, a left-wing Catholic, made the announcement on May Day, celebrated as International Workers Day by many around the world.

The mayor got support from most members of an advisory committee he set up. Maud Daudon of the Metropolitan Seattle Chamber of Commerce abstained and Craig Dawson of Retail Lockbox voted against the plan while Kshama Sawant, a Socialist member of the city council, opposed it on the grounds that the increase should come sooner.

Councilman Nick Licata, who spoke after the mayor, promised to work to get the increase passed.

Russians Are Happier Than Ever, Survey Says

MOSCOW, May 1 (UPI) — Even though their country is preparing for military conflict and its economy is in recession, Russians, a survey released Thursday said, are the happiest they have been in 25 years.

In its annual “Happiness Index,” the VTsIOM public opinion research center said 78 percent of Russians declared themselves content with their lives, a one percent increase over last year’s statistics. Those in the 18 to 25 age group were the happiest, with 92 percent of respondents saying they were happy.

One in three respondents noted happiness, for them, was linked to family life, their children and grandchildren, and an interesting work life. The number of those simply thankful to be alive has doubled, the survey said.

Those unhappy complained of bad health and a low standard of living.

The survey was conducted among 1,600 respondents across 45 Russian regions.

Poll: Residents Of Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland Most Eager To Move To Another State

WASHINGTON, May 1 (UPI) — Residents of Illinois, Connecticut and Maryland most want to move elsewhere, a Gallup poll says.

On the other side, those living in Montana, Hawaii and Maine tend to want to stay put with only 23 percent saying they would like to move to another State. In Illinois, exactly 50 percent would like a change of State.

Overall, about one-third of those in the United States would like to move to a different State. In Nevada, where 43 percent of the residents would like to move, one in five says they are actually planning to do so in the next year, the highest of any State.

The findings are based on the same data as a Gallup report earlier this week on residents’ attitudes towards their States. They tend to track the same way — with some interesting exceptions.

Alaska tied with Montana in its percentage of satisfied residents, but Alaskans are about average in their desire to move. Maine was not in the top 10 in happy residents, but it ties with Montana and Hawaii in desire to move elsewhere and only 8 percent in the State plan to do so in the next 12 months.

Gallup found that only 24 percent in New Hampshire, Oregon and Texas want to move, followed by 25 percent in Colorado and Minnesota, 26 percent in South Dakota and 27 percent in Wyoming. In Connecticut, 49 percent want to move, 47 percent in Maryland, 43 percent in Nevada, 42 percent in Rhode Island, 41 percent in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, 40 percent in Louisiana and 39 percent in Mississippi.

In the top 10 States for people planning to move soon, almost one-third, 31 percent, said it was for work or business reasons. The other top reasons for relocating were joining family and friends, getting better weather or an improved location and enjoying a better quality of life.

Gallup surveyed at least 600 people in every state in the second half of 2013. The margin of error is 5 percentage points for each State sample.

U.N. Calls For Free Media Worldwide

UNITED NATIONS, May 1 (UPI) — Ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3, the United Nations Thursday urged governments worldwide to defend free media as a fundamental right.

“Freedom of expression, independent media and universal access to knowledge will fortify our efforts to achieve lasting results,” U.N. secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at a meeting at U.N. headquarters on “Media Freedom for a Better Future.”

He mentioned that, in the line of duty, 70 journalists were killed in 2013, many caught in the crossfire of armed hostilities, and 14 have been killed thus far in 2014. Over 1,000 journalists have been killed, and more imprisoned or forced into exile, since 1992.

“These are alarming statistics. Behind each statistic stands a man or woman simply going about their lawful business,” he added.

General: We Never Thought Benghazi Was Because Of A Video

WASHINGTON, May 1 (UPI) — Military and intelligence officials in Africa during the September 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya said they quickly ruled out that the attack had been sparked by a controversial YouTube video, a general who was in Africa at the time of the attack said Thursday.

Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Robert Lovell, testifying before the House Oversight Committee’s fourth hearing on the attack, said he and others at U.S. Armed Forces headquarters in Africa quickly came to the conclusion the attack was unrelated to the video, which had sparked a protest in Cairo earlier that day.

“As the attack was ongoing, it was unclear whether it was an attempted kidnapping, rescue, recovery, protracted hostile engagement or any or all of the above,” Lovell said.

New documents released by court order Wednesday provided an opening for renewed criticism of the White House from Republicans, who repeatedly asked whether the State Department had shirked its responsibility to protect Americans abroad.

“The military could have made a response,” said Representative John Mica (R-Fla.), “See, I believe we had the capability” to save at least the two Navy SEALs who died several hours after the beginning of the attack.

But Lovell said he agreed with the conclusion of Armed Services Committee Chair Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), who said last month he believed “that given where the troops were, how quickly the thing all happened and how quickly it dissipated, we probably couldn’t have done more than we did.”

And yet, Lovell said, he felt the military could still have tried.

“We should have continued to move forward with whatever forces we had to move forward with,” he testified.

Lovell’s testimony comes in direct contradiction to that of then-Deputy Director of the CIA Michael Morell, who last month testified his analysts considered for several days the possibility of the attack having been brought on by extremists who took advantage of a protest over the video.

Thursday’s hearing comes just hours after the release of 41 documents of State Department communications, declassified by court order Wednesday. Included among them was an email from then-White House aide Ben Rhodes, now a deputy national security advisor, outlining a communication strategy for then-U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s television appearances for the Sunday after the attack.

The goals, Rhodes wrote, were “to convey that the United States is doing everything we can do to protect our people and facilities abroad; to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not in a broader failure of policy; to show that we will be resolute in brining people who harm Americans to Justice, and stand steadfast through these protests; to reenforce the president and administration’s strength and steadiness in dealing with difficult challenges.”

Republicans pounced on the documents, calling them proof that the White House “orchestrated an effort to deflect attention away from their failed Libya policy and the resurgence of al Qaeda another other terrorists.”

“The emails provide additional evidence that senior officials knew the attack on our mission in Benghazi was a complex attack and not a spontaneous reaction to a YouTube video,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in a statement Wednesday.

But the White House denied the emails were the smoking gun Republicans have been looking for, saying that Rhodes’ email was actually addressing the larger situation of unrest, including the protests in Cairo and fears others might break out.

“In the e-mail, Ben Rhodes makes clear that our primary goals included making sure our people in the field were protected and bringing those responsible for the attacks to justice,” said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. “The content reflects what the administration was saying at the time and what we understood to be the facts at the time.”

West Virginia Man Arrested Three Times In One Day

VIENNA, W.Va., April 30 (UPI) — A West Virginia man had quite a day Tuesday, somehow managing to get arrested three separate times on three different charges, according to Vienna Police Chief George Young.

Gregory Allen Horner was arrested the first time while police were responding to a call about someone — who turned out to be Horner — using a fake prescription for Xanax at a Rite Aid pharmacy on Monday. While police were at the pharmacy investigating on Tuesday morning, Horner walked in with another fake prescription.

After being arrested for forging a prescription, Horner posted bond and was released.

A few hours later, police went to Horner’s home for a domestic dispute and arrested him for domestic battery after his wife got a protective order, the NewsCenter reported.

Horner posted bond, returned to the home on Tuesday evening, and was arrested again for violating the protective order.

After his third arrest in seven hours, Horner was arraigned and immediately sentenced to a mandatory 10 days in jail.
Evan Bleier

Donald Sterling Also Receives Lifetime Ban From Nevada’s Bunny Ranch Brothel

CARSON CITY, Nev., April 30 (UPI) — Donald Sterling can’t watch his players on the court in California — and now he can’t play in Nevada.

A day after he was banned from the NBA for life and fined $2.5 million, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling also got the boot from the infamous Bunny Ranch brothel outside Carson City, Nevada.

The owner of the legal brothel, Dennis Hof, also announced that Sterling is banned from entering any of his six other brothels in the state.

“A lot of NBA players come here to party,” Hof told the Huffington Post. “Out of respect to them, we have banned Sterling from coming here.”

Hof issued the ban on behalf of his employees as well.

“At any given time, 20 to 23 percent of the prostitutes here are African-American,” Hof said. “And they’re smoking hot. Some of them were crying this morning so we’re doing this for them as well. We don’t need racists or bigots at the Bunny Ranch.”

The owner would neither confirm nor deny whether Sterling had ever visited in the past.

“I can tell you this: Johnny Buss, one of the owners of the Los Angeles Lakers, and I have had a dual birthday party at the Bunny Ranch for the last 18 years, so a lot of NBA people have been here,” Hof said.

The “Duck Dynasty guys” and Michael Vick have also been banned from the Bunny Ranch and its subsidiaries.
Evan Bleier

Florida Senator Introduces ‘zombie Apocalypse’ Amendment

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., April 30 (UPI) — A Florida senator introduced an amendment to state Senate Bill 296 on Tuesday that would change the title from “An act related to carrying a concealed weapon or firearm” to “An act relating to the zombie apocalypse.”

The bill, which would eliminate criminal prosecution for carrying concealed firearms during a mandatory evacuation, was first introduced by Sen. Jeff Brandes last fall.

Despite the seemingly humorous nature of the name change, Sen. Dwight Bullard wasn’t joking when he filed for the name change.

“For me, as laughable as the amendment might seem, it’s equally laughable that people who haven’t gone through the proper training, the background check, the license to carry — we’re saying because of a hurricane or flooding or sinkhole, these individuals have gone from gun owners to concealed carry permit holders,” Bullard told the Huffington Post.

“I’d argue a crisis is probably the last instance in which you want someone who is not a concealed permit holder to carry a weapon.”

When he introduced the bill, Brandes said that emergency evacuees would “have enough to worry about without having to cross-check themselves to be certain they’re in technical compliance with concealed weapon transport laws.”
Evan Bleier

89-year-old WWII Veteran Leo Sharp Hoping To Avoid Jail For Huge Cocaine Haul

MICHIGAN CITY, Ind., April 30 (UPI) — An 89-year-old World War II veteran will be sentenced on his 90th birthday in Detroit federal court after allegedly transporting more than 1,000 pounds of cocaine across the country.

Leo Sharp of Michigan City, Ind., was caught with more than 200 pounds of cocaine on Interstate 94 in 2011, and prosecutors determined that it was not his first time transporting the drug across the U.S. while serving as a mule for an Arizona drug ring.

Sharp, who pleaded guilty last fall, is set to be sentenced on May 7.

The veteran’s attorney, Darryl Goldberg, is hopeful that his client will be sentenced to home confinement because of his age and health.

“He is a colorful, self-made, charitable man who has worked hard throughout this entire admirable, extraordinary, and long life,” Goldberg wrote in a court memo. “Mr. Sharp made a monumental mistake at a moment of perceived financial weakness, and was exploited and threatened, but his conduct in this case was truly an aberration from a law-abiding life.”

Goldberg also noted that Sharp was awarded the Bronze Star for his service.

Prosecutors are believed to be seeking a five-year sentence.
Evan Bleier

Cornell Study Finds Children Who Eat Chicken On The Bone Are More Aggressive

ITHACA, N.Y., April 30 (UPI) — Researchers at Cornell University conducted a study about biting versus chewing habits in children and found that kids who eat chicken on the bone are more likely to disobey adults and be aggressive.

The study, which was published in Eating Behaviors, found that children were “twice as likely to disobey adults and twice as aggressive toward other kids” when eating food they had to hold and bite.

Researches found that children were more docile when eating cut-up pieces of food, results which would seem to indicate that there is a connection between having to use teeth to eat and aggressive behavior.

Not everyone agrees with the study’s findings.

“I think people have been eating chicken wings, chicken drumsticks for a millennia and I don’t think it’s made them any more aggressive than they otherwise would have been,” clinical psychologist Dr. Brian Russell told Fox News.

The children that the researchers studied were between the ages of 6 and 10.
Evan Bleier

Scientists Grow Functional Human Cartilage In Lab

NEW YORK, April 30 (UPI) — For the first time, scientists have successfully grown fully functional human cartilage in a lab setting, using stem cells derived from human fat tissue.

Scientists have previously been able to create cartilage out of animal cells, but attempts to cultivate cartilage from human stem cells has, until now, resulted in a weak, substandard product.

To produce cartilage able to substitute for the real thing — strong and durable — Sarindr Bhumiratana, a biomedical engineer at Columbia University’s Laboratory for Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering, developed a new approach: subjecting the stem cells to a “condensation stage,” mimicking how a human skeleton develops in the womb.

As head researcher Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, Bhumiratana’s advisor, explained: “Our whole approach to tissue engineering is biomimetic in nature, which means that our engineering designs are defined by biological principles.”

In other words, engineers at Columbia’s lab are continually try to recreate the biological environment and conditions that naturally enable tissue formation.

It’s a general approach, Vunjak-Novakovic admits, that has been used successfully before, to replicate bone and heart tissue. “Still, we were really surprised to see that our cartilage, grown by mimicking some aspects of biological development, was as strong as ‘normal’ human cartilage.”

Though the researchers’ new study — which was published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences — suggests the cartilage produced is fully functional, they still need to test its durability once implanted in a human body.

“This is a very exciting time for tissue engineers,” says Vunjak-Novakovic. “Stem cells are transforming the future of medicine, offering ways to overcome some of the human body’s fundamental limitations.
Brooks Hays

Astronomers Measure Length Of A Day On Alien Planet, A First

LEIDEN, Netherlands, April 30 (UPI) — Tired of the nine-to-five, the eight-hour work day? At least Earth’s 24-hour day leaves some time for eating and sleeping. On Beta Pictoris b, the alien planet with only eight hours in its day, there’d only be time for work, work, work.

Beta Pictoris b is the first alien planet to have its rotation speed successfully clocked by astronomers.

The eight-hour day of Beta Pictoris b, a gas giant roughly 10 times the size of Jupiter, is thanks to its quick rotational speed. The equator of Beta Pictoris b spins around the planet’s axis at a rate of 62,000 mph, much faster than any other planet in our solar system.

By comparison, Jupiter’s equator rotates at a rate of 29,000 mph, and Earth’s equator spins at a speed of 1,060 mph.

“It is not known why some planets spin fast and others more slowly, but this first measurement of an exoplanet’s rotation shows that the trend seen in the solar system, where the more massive planets spin faster, also holds true for exoplanets,” said study co-author Remco de Kok, an astronomer at the Leiden Observatory in the Netherlands. “This must be some universal consequence of the way planets form.”

The planet in question orbits Beta Pictoris, a star which lies some 63 light-years from Earth and can be seen with the naked eye in the southern sky constellation Pictor, Latin for “The Painter’s Easel.”

Because of the planet’s exceptional rotation speed and gaseous state, it features an apparent oblong shape — disproportionally wider at its center than toward its poles.

The astronomers used a analysis technique called “high-dispersion spectroscopy” sourced with readings from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope.

“We have measured the wavelengths of radiation emitted by the planet to a precision of one part in a hundred thousand, which makes the measurements sensitive to the Doppler effects that can reveal the velocity of emitting objects,” explained lead author Ignas Snellen. “Using this technique we find that different parts of the planet’s surface are moving towards or away from us at different speeds, which can only mean that the planet is rotating around its axis.”
Brooks Hays

Trace Amounts Of Fukushima Radiation Found In Tuna Off Oregon Coast

CORVALLIS, Ore., April 30 (UPI) — The authors of the Oregon State University study say a sample of albacore tuna caught off the coasts of Oregon and Washington state have increased, but still small, levels of radioactivity — a result of Japan’s 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The researchers tested different parts of 26 Pacific albacore tuna. About half of the test subjects were caught between 2008 and the March 2011 nuclear meltdown, while the others were caught and tested between the accident’s aftermath and 2012. Certain radioactive isotopes tripled in that tuna specimens’ loins, carcasses and guts in the wake of the disaster.

Even at triple their normal levels, the scientists point out that the isotopes are barely detectable — trace amounts that remain well below the safety standards set by the EPA.

“You can’t say there is absolutely zero risk because any radiation is assumed to carry at least some small risk,” Delvan Neville, an Oregon State graduate research assistant and lead author of the study, said in a news release. “But these trace levels are too small to be a realistic concern.”

“A year of eating albacore with these cesium traces is about the same dose of radiation as you get from spending 23 seconds in a stuffy basement from radon gas, or sleeping next to your spouse for 40 nights from the natural potassium-40 in their body,” Neville added. “It’s just not much at all.”

Levels of radioactive cesium isotopes in West Coast waters are expected to slowly increase over the summer, as ocean currents continue to carry the polluted water across the Pacific. But researchers don’t expect radiation amounts to come close to broaching safe drinking levels.
Brooks Hays

California Offers Tax Breaks To Private Space Companies

SACRAMENTO, April 30 (UPI) — California may boast some of the highest taxes in the Union, but if you’re in the movie industry or the private space business, there are few better places to conduct your affairs.

As it has done for many years with the film industry, California is offering tax incentives to private space companies — having recently passed legislation liberating companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX from property tax duties for ten years.

Governor Jerry Brown signed the new bill into law Tuesday.

“I introduced AB 777 to support and grow one of the most exciting new industries in California, commercial space flight,” Assembly member Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, said. Muratsuchi serves as Chairman of the Assembly Select Committee on Aerospace.

“Private companies like Space X are building rocket ships and creating thousands of good paying manufacturing jobs right here in Southern California,” Muratsuchi added. “This new law will allow commercial spaceflight companies to continue to invest and grow in our state.”

The bill could make the budget balancing responsibilities of Brown and Muratsuchi just a wee bit harder, as the legislation is expected to deplete local property tax revenues by roughly $1 million annually.

California’s Chamber of Commerce has been supportive of the bill from the beginning, calling it a “job creator” law.
Brooks Hays

U.S. Concerned By Iranian, Russian Energy Deal

WASHINGTON, April 30 (UPI) — If reports about an energy deal between Iran and Russia are true, it would be a concern to the U.S. government, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

Iranian Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian met Sunday in Tehran with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak to discuss upgrading Iran’s power plants and electrical transmission lines. Both sides already work together in the nuclear sector, with Russia supplying fuel for Iran’s Bushehr nuclear facility.

Russia is under pressure from a U.S. government frustrated with the Kremlin’s reaction to Ukraine’s move toward the European Union, while Iran is facing its own pressure from sanctions imposed for its controversial nuclear program.

Psaki told reporters during her regular press conference Tuesday she had no confirmation the bilateral energy deal was in place.

“If it were true, it would be of concern,” she said.

Novak said earlier this week the electricity deal could extend to Azerbaijan, Iran’s neighbor to its north.

Psaki’s comments followed a decision from the U.S. Treasury Department to sanction Emirati and Pakistani nationals for evading sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector.
Daniel J. Graeber

The Cost Of The Great Recession On The Body May Surpass Damage To Bank Accounts

BOSTON, April 30 (UPI) — The stress of the Great Recession due to unemployment, home foreclosures, stock market downturns — or the fear of losing a job, home or retirement funds — have a massive impact on health that has yet to be calculated.

Kasisomayajula “Vish” Viswanath, professor of health communication at Harvard School of Public Health, said the economic costs of the downturn get the lion’s share of attention, but the damage to “our bodies could end up far surpassing the damage to our bank accounts.”

“We talk about poverty and inequality resulting from the recession, but we do not take the next step,” Viswanath told Harvard Public Health. “We do not extend that logic to the effects on health.”

Michelle Williams of the Harvard School of Public Health said among the known biological effects of chronic stress includes:

— Higher risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.

— Sleep deprivation alters the immune and hormonal systems.

— Depressed mood or anxiety.

— Increased frequency and severity of upper respiratory infections.

— Decreased response to vaccines.

— Shortened teleomeres, the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes, which are linked to accelerated aging and early death.

“The impact of stress, lack of treatment, lack of capacity to manage one’s life, increased smoking or drinking, eating unhealthy foods, family breakups: those consequences are long-lasting,” Viswanath said.

Unemployment has long been associated with physical health and mental health harm. For example, a study published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics in 2009 found men who lost their jobs in mass layoffs during the 1980s oil crisis and subsequent recession in Pennsylvania had double the risk of dying than those employed. The death risk decreased, but the men who had been laid off were still at significantly higher risk of dying 20 years later.

A 2011 meta-analysis published in Social Science & Medicine, found those who experienced unemployment had a 63 percent higher death risk during the study periods than those who did no experience unemployment.

A study published in Demography found losing a job when a business closes increased the odds of fair or poor health by 54 percent among workers with no pre-existing health conditions, and increased by 83 percent the odds of new health conditions — stress-related conditions such as stroke, hypertension, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and emotional and psychiatric problems.

David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu wrote in their book “The Body Economic,” all who lived through the recent recession are part of a massive experiment that is still under way.

“Thank you for participating in this clinical trial. You might not recall signing up for it, but you were enrolled in December 2007, at the start of the Great Recession,” the book said. “This experiment was not governed by the rules of informed consent or medical safety. Your treatment was not administered by doctors or nurses. It was directed by politicians, economists and ministers of finance.”
Alex Cukan