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

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

Trio Of Oregon Women Arrested For Twerking Outside City Hall In Beaverton

BEAVERTON, Ore., April 29 (UPI) — Oregon police were called to the scene of an impromptu dance party on Monday afternoon that got a little too wild be going on in public.

According to police, Christie Valazquez Coura went to Beaverton City Hall to pay a fine with two friends, Brittany Medak and Leokham Yothsombath.

After Coura paid the fine, the three women went out to the parking lot and began twerking, the Oregonian reported.

During the dance party, Medak allegedly began urinating between cars in the parking lot while Yothsombath recorded the whole thing with her cellphone.

A court employee called the Beaverton police and the trio was arrested on multiple charges including disorderly conduct, cocaine and methamphetamine possession, and offensive littering.

Medak and Coura are 20, while Yothsombath is 22.
Evan Bleier

Study: Revenues Dip But Profits Up For Defense Industry

NEW YORK, April 29 (UPI) — Declines in revenues last year were recorded by 17 of the top 20 U.S. defense contractors but profitability increased, a new study shows.

Deloitte, the international consulting firm, said a revenue decline of 2.6 percent was mostly the result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which led to decreased spending by the Department of Defense and others, and the drawdown of U.S. forces in the Middle East.

“Of the top 20 U.S. defense contractors, 17 had decreases in revenues — an indication of how widespread the impact of budget reductions has been on the industry,” Deloitte said. “Companies producing ground equipment, including armored vehicles, and those that provided onsite services in conflict zones experienced the highest reductions in revenues due to the drawdown of troops. Generally, companies involved in military aircraft and naval ships experienced flat revenues.”

Despite a dip in revenues, profitability for U.S. defense contractors increased 17.9 percent, the study said. About half of the increase was due to the absence of large one-time charges but profitability also reflects actions taken by companies in anticipation of sequestration-related budget tightening.

Those actions included workforce reductions and plant closings.

“With U.S. defense budgets being cut, defense contractors are likely to experience continued revenue declines,” said Tom Captain, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and U.S. and Global Aerospace and Defense leader. “We anticipate that U.S. defense contractors will aggressively address this revenue shortfall with foreign military sales, acquisitions, new product introductions and growth in adjacent markets.”

For the study, Deloitte viewed the financial performance of 100 major global and U.S. aerospace and defense companies in 2013, analyzing sales revenue, operating earnings and operating margins.
Richard Tomkins

Mozilla Gives Firefox 29 A Major Makeover

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif., April 29 (UPI) — Mozilla released its most ambitious update to the Firefox browser, the first since 2011, with an emphasis on customisation and cross-device syncing.

The browser now features a modernized look, with rounded tabs, and the ability to access preferences from the browser quickly and to edit features and add-ons. It continues to feature the same three-bar menu on the right.

“The point of the redesign is to adapt the design to how modern users engage with the web,” Mozilla VP for Firefox Johnathan Nightingale told TechCrunch earlier this month.

The new menu located on the top right lets users access all major controls, features and add-ons in one simple interface. Users can bookmark and manage them in the same menu.

Users can pin tabs to highlight them and the new design makes it easier to see open pages while de-emphasizing other tabs in the background.

The redesign features Firefox Sync, which is powered by Firefox accounts, allowing users to keep the same browser setup and preferences across devices, including browser history, saved passwords, bookmarks and even open tabs.

Mozilla is still recovering from the PR backlash surrounding the appointment of co-founder Brendan Eich as CEO, after it became public that he had privately donated to support a ban on gay marriage in California.

Mozilla hopes this redesign and the launch of Firefox 29 will help it to not only compete with other browsers, but also move away from the controversy.
Ananth Baliga

Case-Shiller Index: U.S. Home Prices Flat In February

NEW YORK, April 29 (UPI) — Home prices in 20 cities across the U.S. continued to rise at a slower rate for the year ending February as the housing market shows signs of cooling.

The Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller index of property values increased 12.9 percent from February 2013, the smallest 12-month gain, after registering a 13.2 percent growth in January. The index found that only five cities had appreciating annual rates of price, where as 13 cities posted lower annual rates of growth.

“The days of very robust home-price gains are over,” said Thomas Costerg, a New York-based economist at Standard Chartered. “Elevated price gains are a headwind, especially for first-time buyers. Prices will slow going forward, and the housing market needs that to recalibrate supply and demand.”

Rising mortgage rates and severe winter weather have been affecting demand for the few months of the year. Analysts hope rising wages and increasing consumer demand will help home sales regain lost momentum.

The West continued to show strong price appreciation of any region. Denver and Houston were the only cities to have prices anywhere close post-crisis highs, while the Northeast continues to show some of the smallest year-over-year gains.

Case-Shiller is the latest indicator to show that the housing market has cooled down from the strong price rise it showed in late 2012 and 2013. Added to that higher mortgage rates and a still tight lending market has made it difficult for residential homebuyers.
Ananth Baliga

Lockheed Gets Production Order For Patriot Missile Modification

DALLAS, April 28 (UPI) — Lockheed Martin has received a first production order from the U.S. Army for the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement.

The PAC-3 MSE, an anti-missile missile, features a larger, more powerful dual-pulse motor for added thrust for range and altitude, along with larger fins and other structural modifications for enhanced agility.

The larger fins collapse to allow the missile to fit into the current PAC-3 launcher. They also give the hit-to-kill interceptor more maneuverability against faster ballistic and cruise missiles.

As part of the first production order from the U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, Lockheed will also produce launcher modification kits to allow PAC-3 launcher to control and launch the hit-to-kill PAC-3 Missiles, as well as heritage Patriot missiles.

“These enhancements are the natural, pre-planned evolution of a system that was first demonstrated 20 years ago,” said Scott Arnold, vice president of PAC-3 programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “Every current Patriot-using nation is a candidate to upgrade their PAC-3 systems to the PAC-3 MSE.”

The Patriot-3 has a range of about 12.4 miles. The Missile Segment Enhancement, for which Lockheed is the prime contractor, will increase its range to more than 18 miles.
Richard Tomkins

Government, Industry Experts To Discuss Biometrics

LOS ANGELES, April 28 (UPI) — Government and industry experts on analytics-based biometric systems and technologies will discuss in June the needs and challenges in the biometric arena.

Technology Training Corporation, a California-based company that organizes symposiums and training, said the discussions will be held in Arlington, Va., at the 3rd Symposium on Biometrics Systems and Technologies.

The experts, it said, will present a comprehensive picture of Department of Defense, Homeland Security, FBI and intelligence community biometric and biometric data analytics plans, needs, technical challenges, and emerging capabilities and opportunities. Among topics covered during the two-day event are: How to cope with and manage, the ever-increasing volume of biometric inputs; the latest advances in biometric data analytics for dealing with challenges in active identity authentication in mobile environments; prospects for on-demand identity intelligence; quick real-time DNA analysis.

Among those participating: Don Salo, director, Defense Forensics and Biometrics Agency; Dalton Jones, senior Biometrics, Forensics and Identity Intelligence Executive, Defense Intelligence Agency; Col. Sandy Vann-Olejasz, project manager, Defense Biometrics, and others.
Richard Tomkins

Britain Hosts Talks Over Looted Ukrainian Assets

LONDON, April 29 (UPI) — A two-day meeting has convened in London, aimed at recovering assets believed to have been looted during the regime of deposed president Viktor Yanukovych.

The meeting, organized by the Ukraine Forum on Asset Recovery (UFAR) and led by the United States and the United Kingdom, is designed to track down stolen assets and send “a strong message that there is no impunity to those who carry out such illegal actions,” a statement from the forum said.

British Interior minister Teresa May noted the meeting presented international support for Ukrainians and “a strong commitment to the people of Ukraine. It (the meeting) will also provide practical leadership and assistance to the Ukrainian government as they identify and recover assets looted under the Yanukovych regime.”

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said the United States was determined to “support Ukrainian leaders and citizens as they combat corruption.”

Yanukovych, elected president, was ousted in February and is believed to be living near Moscow.
Ed Adamczyk

Head Of Massachusetts Child Welfare Agency Resigns Amidst Questions About Three Deaths

BOSTON, April 29 (UPI) — Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said Tuesday he was reluctantly accepting the resignation of Children and Families Commissioner Olga Roche.

Roche has been under fire because of the deaths of three children under its supervision. Legislative leaders demanded her departure Monday.

Patrick said that changing commissioners while the agency is going through a difficult time is “a very very high-risk move,” and that he still believes personally that Roche is up to the job. But he said the criticism has cost her the public’s trust.

Roche had headed the Division of Children and Families for a year, first as acting commissioner and since October as the permanent one.

“I think it impossible for her to do the job that we’ve asked her to do in this environment,” Patrick said. “Whenever or whatever she does, still causes folks to call for her resignation.’’

In one high-profile case, Jeremiah Oliver, 5, of Fitchburg, was not reported missing for three months after he vanished in September, although a social worker was supposed to be tracking his family. The boy’s body was found this month, and his mother and her boyfriend have been charged.

A baby, Aliana Lavigne, died about a month after her birth. Patrick suggested that police in Grafton share responsibility in that case.

Another newborn, Bailey Irish, died Saturday when she was 16 days old. The Division of Children and Families told WCVB-TV that a home visit on Friday was canceled because no one was home when the social worker arrived, and was rescheduled for Monday.

Erin Deveney, a lawyer and former chief of staff at the Registry of Motor Vehicles, is to become acting DCF commissioner.
Frances Burns