Coral Reef Protein Fights HIV Infection

BETHESDA, Md., April 30 (UPI) — A new protein, extracted from coral collected from reefs off the north coast of Australia, shows the ability to block HIV from entering and destroying immune cells, or T cells.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute discovered that the proteins, called cnidarins, prove remarkably effective at quashing the transmission abilities of HIV. If the proteins stand up to further testing, they could be incorporated into sexual lubricants and gels as a new barrier against HIV infection.

Researcher Dr. Koreen Ramessar said the test results were “completely different from what we’ve seen with other proteins, so we think the cnidarin proteins have a unique mechanism of action.”

What’s more, the proteins proved capable HIV infection combatants without enabling the virus to become resistant to other HIV drugs.

Ramessar was joined by the study’s lead investigator, Dr. Barry O’Keefe, in San Diego this week to present their research findings at this year’s Experimental Biology 2014.

“It’s always thrilling when you find a brand-new protein that nobody else has ever seen before,” O’Keefe said. “And the fact that this protein appears to block HIV infection — and to do it in a completely new way — makes this truly exciting.”

The proteins tested in the groundbreaking research were sourced from the National Cancer Institute’s exhaustive repository of natural product extracts, featuring natural substances collected from all over the world.

O’Keefe called the repository a “national treasure,” where “you never know what you might find.”
Brooks Hays

Forget Milk, Drink Tart Cherry Juice For A Good Night’s Sleep

SAN DIEGO, April 30 (UPI) — Drinking Montmorency tart cherry juice twice a day for two weeks helped increase sleep time among older adults suffering with insomnia.

Study co-author Dr. Frank L. Greenway, director of the outpatient research clinic at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, said an estimated one-quarter to one-third of U.S. adults age 65 and older have insomnia — defined as trouble sleeping on average more than three nights per week.

Insomnia is linked to a higher prevalence of chronic pain, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and a decline of cognitive function, or dementia. Many turn to sleeping pills; but this can increase the risk of falls in in seniors.

“Sleeping pills may be an option for younger insomniacs, but for older people these medications quadruple the risk of falling, which can lead to broken hips and, often, earlier death,” Greenway said in a statement.

For the randomized crossover clinical trial, seven older adults with an average age 68 with insomnia drank 8 ounces of tart cherry juice twice daily for two weeks, followed by a two-week period during which they drank none of the juice. Afterward, the study subjects drank another beverage for a two-week period.

The researchers studied the sleep of the study subjects controlled setting, using overnight polysomnography — body functions monitored including brain, eye movements, skeletal muscle activation and heart rhythm — during sleep to evaluate sleep efficiency, such as how long it takes someone to sleep and sleep duration.

Greenway told the annual meeting of the American Society of Nutrition held in conjunction with the Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego that the study found those who drank the Montmorency tart cherry juice twice a day slept an average 84 minutes more compared to the placebo.

Montmorency tart cherries are a natural source of melatonin, a hormone. Tart cherry juice helped increase tryptophan, an essential amino acid and a precursor to serotonin that helps with sleep. Tryptophan degradation is a known predictor of insomnia and is also related to inflammation, Greenway added.

The findings were submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

The Cherry Marketing Institute provided funding for the research, but had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis or preparation of the abstract or presentation.
Alex Cukan

High Doses Of Antidepressants May Be Linked To Youth Self-Harm

BOSTON, April 30 (UPI) — High doses of antidepressants — selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Prozac or Zoloft — may be linked to increased risk of suicidal behavior in youth.

Dr. Matthew Miller of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and colleagues, analyzed data from 162,625 people ages 10 to 64 with depression who started antidepressant treatment with an SSRI at the most prescribed doses or at higher than average doses from 1998 to 2010.

The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, found the rate of suicidal behavior — or deliberate self-harm — among children and adults age 24 or younger, who began antidepressant therapy at high doses was about twice as high during the first 90 days of treatment compared to a control group of patients who received generally prescribed doses.

The authors suggest this increased risk corresponds to about one additional event of deliberate self-harm for every 150 patients treated with high-dose therapy. However, there was no difference in risk for suicidal behavior in adults ages 24 to 65.

“Considered in light of recent meta-analyses concluding that the efficacy of antidepressant therapy for youth seems to be modest, and separate evidence that dose is generally unrelated to the therapeutic efficacy of antidepressants, our findings offer clinicians an additional incentive to avoid initiating pharmacotherapy at high-therapeutic doses and to monitor all patients starting antidepressants, especially youth, for several months and regardless of history of deliberate self-harm.”
Alex Cukan

New York State Legistators Aim To Ban E-cigarettes

ALBANY, N.Y., April 29 (UPI) — A group of New York state lawmakers have crafted a bill that would ban electronic cigarettes in public spaces.

“We want the same restrictions for e-cigarettes as regular cigarettes,” said Sen. Kemp Hannon, R-Nassau County, the chairman of the Senate Health Committee.

E-cigarettes, also called personal vaporizers or PVs, allow users to inhale a smoke-like vapor by heating a liquid solution — usually a mixture of nicotine and flavorings.

Last week, the FDA announced plans to begin regulating e-cigarettes.

New York City is one of several major U.S. cities that has already banished e-cigarettes; its ban took effect this week. Gotham residents can no longer smoke e-cigs anywhere regular cigarettes are also prohibited, including public spaces like bars, restaurants, offices, parks and beaches.

Now, legislators in Albany want the rest of the state to follow suit. State reps are confident the measure will pass as part of the more comprehensive Indoor Clean Air Act bill.

“New York City did it,” Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, said. “The rest of New York state needs the same protection.”
Brooks Hays

Northrop Producing Counter-IED Jamming Backpack System

SAN DIEGO, April 30 (UPI) — Electronic jamming backpack systems to protect U.S. Marines from roadside improvised explosive devices are being produced by Northrop Grumman.

Five initial production systems have been ordered from the company for testing under the Counter Radio-controlled IED Electronic Warfare Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operation Capable, or CREW MEU, contract, which has a value of $4.1 million.

Additional units will be provided under a five-year multiple-award, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract if testing is successful, Northrop said.

The IDIQ contract would carry a maximum value totaling $90 million.

Northrop is offering its Freedom 240 dismounted system for the CREW MEU contract. It’s part of the Joint CREW Increment 1 Build 1 family of precision multi-functional electronic warfare systems for protection from IEDs, which is funded and managed by the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command.

“Our troops face the IED threat around the world, and these Marine Expeditionary Units are the ones that go to the most dangerous places at a moment’s notice,” said Mike Twyman, sector vice president and general manager, Defense Systems division, Northrop Grumman Information Systems. “Northrop Grumman’s Freedom 240 dismounted system is lightweight, powerful and designed to keep up with these hard-fighting Marines.

“The Freedom 240 is designed to defeat complex clusters of current, emerging and future IED threats. It’s also capable of worldwide deployment with only software changes.”

Added Jeannie Hilger, vice president, Network Communication Systems business, Northrop Grumman Information Systems: “Because the system features a fully open architecture common across all the JCREW I1B1 variants, the Marine Corps can take advantage of technologies developed by third parties and benefit from the system’s flexibility, extensibility, ease of upgrades and reduced lifecycle cost.”
Richard Tomkins

B&W Subsidiary To Manufacture Nuclear Power Systems For Navy

CHARLOTTE, N.C., April 30 (UPI) — A subsidiary of The Babcock & Wilcox Company is to manufacture nuclear components to support U.S. Defense programs, B&W reported on Wednesday.

Work by subsidiary B&W Nuclear Operations Group Inc., under a $23.7 million incremental order, includes the manufacture of U.S. Navy nuclear power systems for submarines and aircraft carriers, and is part of a previously announced $1.3 billion contract.

The order is also one of $195 million in orders and contracts B&W Nuclear Operations Group has recently received from the U.S. Naval Reactors Program.

Four new incrementally funded contracts totaling $76.8 million were awarded for engineering design, fabrication and further development work on the Ohio-class submarine replacement program; a contract — with a value of $18.8 million — was received for the disassembly and recovery of highly enriched uranium materials; and an order for $76 million was received for the procurement of material to be used in the assembly of nuclear propulsion components, part of a previously announced $366 million contract.

“B&W is pleased to receive these contracts supporting the U.S. defense programs, including the Ohio-class submarine replacement program and the overall mission of the U.S. Navy,” said Peyton S. Baker, president and chief operating officer of B&W’s government operations. “Smart execution in our shops is of paramount importance to the safe, reliable and cost-effective delivery of this hardware and design services to the U.S. government.”

Babcock & Wilcox said the work will be conducted at B&W NOG facilities in Virginia, Indiana and Ohio.
Richard Tomkins

U.S. Economy Grows At A Glacial 0.1 Percent

WASHINGTON, April 30 (UPI) — The U.S. economy seems to have felt the effects a harsh winter, weak exports and lower spending by businesses, which brought the economy to a near standstill.

The economy grew a meagre 0.1 percent in the first three months of the year — the slowest pace since 2012. Economists had expected a slowing down in growth after the robust growth seen in the second half of 2013 and the cold weather in January and February. But Wednesday’s numbers were drastically lower than the 1.2 percent growth Wall Street had been expecting.

But the underlying numbers suggest that there is still some strength in the economy. The Commerce Department said that economic activity already appeared to be bouncing back.

“This is certainly a mediocre report but not as terrible as the headline looks,” said Guy Berger, U.S. economist at RBS. “Final domestic demand is growing at the same pace as it did in the fourth quarter, and consumer spending was much better than we had thought.”

While consumer spending grew 3 percent, exports dropped 7.6 percent, coupled with a 5.5 percent reduction in spending on equipment by businesses. Residential construction was understandably affected by the cold weather but was also affected by higher housing prices, falling 5.7 percent.

Dropping exports widened the trade deficit to 0.8 percentage points in the first quarter. Cutbacks in state and federal spending offset a rebound seen after the 16-day federal government partial shutdown.

Consumer activity was spurred by higher spending on healthcare services and utilities. The higher utilities spending can be attributed to the cold weather, whereas the higher healthcare spending can be traced to the Affordable Care Act, according to Berger.

Analysts had predicted that 2014 will be the year of strong growth, and that this growth will increase hiring and lower still-high unemployment.
Ananth Baliga

Private Businesses Add 220,000 Jobs, Highest In Five Months

NEW YORK, April 30 (UPI) — U.S. employers upped their hiring in April, with private businesses adding 220,000 new jobs, as the economy seems to be brushing off the effects of a harsh winter.

The employment report complied by payroll processor Automatic Data Processing and forecasting firm Moody’s Analytics also revised March’s figures up from 191,000 to 209,000. April’s hiring was higher than the 210,000 estimated by economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal.

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, said that the trend suggests the labor market is strengthening.

“After a tough winter employers are expanding payrolls across nearly all industries and company sizes,” Zandi said. “The recent pickup in job growth at mid-sized companies may signal better business confidence.”

According to ADP, small businesses, those employing 1 to 49 workers, hired 82,000 workers this month. Medium-sized businesses with 50 to 499 workers added 81,000 employees, whereas large firms, who employ more than 500 people, hired 57,000 workers.

ADP’s numbers come two days before the government releases its employment report. Economists expect the Bureau of Labor Statistics to report that non farm payrolls increased 215,000 in April. The figure is higher than the 192,000 jobs added in March and the most encouraging estimate since mid-2010 when temporary U.S. Census hiring boosted job numbers.
Ananth Baliga

Apple Releases New Sub-$1,000 Macbook Air

CUPERTINO, Calif., April 29 (UPI) — Apple released Tuesday its updated versions of the Macbook Air line, making them faster and dropping $100 off the price of all four models.

The price drop puts the 11-inch Macbook Air at $899, making it the first time that Apple has sold a notebook to the public for less than $900. The price cuts in all four models represent a 7.7 percent to 10 percent discount depending on the model.

The refresh centers around Intel’s Haswell CPU, with the 11-inch base model MacBook Air getting a speed bump thanks to a 1.4GHz Core i5 processor. For an extra $ 150, buyers can opt for the 1.7GHz Core i7 processor.

The new processor, along with the power saving features of OS X 10.9 Mavericks, gives the Macbook Air all-day battery power with the 13-inch MacBook Air capable of lasting 12 hours.

Apple has upgraded the storage on the notebooks as well with the faster PCI-e storage replacing the mSATA-based SSD found in previous models.
Ananth Baliga

Crude Oil Train Derails In Lynchburg, Virginia, Causes Explosion

LYNCHBURG, Va., April 30 (UPI) — A train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in downtown Lynchburg Wednesday, causing a massive fire.

The CSX train crashed around 2 p.m. with 12 to 14 tanker cars, three or four of which were breached.

No injuries are reported at this time but residents are encouraged to stay away from the downtown area. Lynchburg police and emergency personnel are on the scene, and after assessing the situation, the fire department decided to let the fire burn out.

“The cause of the derailment has not been determined at this time,” the city said in a statement. “CSX officials are working to remove the portion of the train that is blocking workers from leaving Griffin Pipe Foundry located in the lower basin.”
Aileen Graef

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.”