In Animals, Bigger Brain Means More Self-Control

BERKELEY, Calif. (UPI) — If brain size dictates self-control, what does that say about America, the second most obese nation in the world? Unfortunately, scientists didn’t broach that topic. But they did undertake a series of experiments that suggests if squirrels had easy access to Big Macs and extra-large fries, they’d probably be even fatter than we are.

That’s because the smaller an animal’s brain is — in total volume, not volume relative to body size — the less self-restraint that animal possesses. A team of researchers from Duke University, UC Berkeley, Stanford and Yale were able prove this by putting a range of animals through a series of tests that measured intelligence and impulse-control.

First, animals were taught different tricks for earning a hidden food reward. Next, the test subject was presented with a farther away and potentially less accessible — but visible — food reward. Animals that went for the obvious — but not necessarily attainable — treat, instead of relying on their newly acquired intelligence, were deemed to have less self-control.

Each test, for each animal, was slightly different, but the basic idea (or question) was the same: does the animal have the necessary self-control to allow intelligence to trump impulse under changing circumstances? For fox squirrels trying to retrieve food from under a series of plastic cups, the answer was mostly “no.”

“About half of the squirrels and gerbils did well and inhibited the direct approach in more than seven out of 10 trials,” explained UC Berkeley doctoral student Mikel Delgado. “The rest didn’t do so well.”

Scientists tested a variety of species at their respective universities, including: bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, olive baboons, stump-tailed macaques, golden snub-nosed monkeys, brown, red-bellied and aye-aye lemurs, coyotes, dogs, gray wolves, Asian elephants, domestic pigeons, orange-winged amazons, Eurasian jays, western scrub jay, zebra finches and swamp sparrows.

The conclusion: animals with larger brains, like chimps, have much better self control than those with small noggins, like rodents.

“The study levels the playing field on the question of animal intelligence,” said UC Berkeley psychologist Lucia Jacobs, co-author of the self-control study, which was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study was organized and led by evolutionary anthropologists Evan MacLean, Brian Hare and Charles Nunn of Duke University.

Florida Elementary School Stops Serving Mountain Dew Before Standardized Tests

MELBOURNE, Fla. (UPI) — A Florida elementary school has decided to stop letting students “Do the Dew” prior to taking standardized tests.

Administrators at Creel Elementary have decided to cease their long-standing practice of serving Mountain Dew prior to administering the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

The school had been giving students about three tablespoons of soda before the FCAT.

Officials at Brevard Public schools halted the practice after receiving complaints from a grandmother who was shocked at what her granddaughter said about her assessment test.

“She said every morning, they had Mountain Dew,” Martha Thorp told News 13. “To me, it’s a poor precedent. We’re setting for young children that they should be hyped up before a test.”

Creel has been serving Mountain Dew for the past 10 years because Principal Kathryn Eward reportedly read about its positive health impacts in an education journal, Brevard Public Schools Spokeswoman Michelle Irwin told Florida Today.

“She felt that it was a professional practice and implemented it,” Irwin said. “Since then, there’s been new information (about what’s best for students). We’ve advised Creel Elementary to only provide water as a beverage.”

Vermont Library Locking Public Restrooms Because Needles Are Clogging The Drains

BURLINGTON, Vt. (UPI) — A Vermont library is locking the doors on its public restrooms — and it’s not because people are bringing in books to read on the toilet.

Burlington’s Fletcher Free Library is putting its restrooms on lockdown after having problems with hypodermic needles and other drug paraphernalia clogging the drains.

Once locksmiths complete the transition, patrons will have to trade their library card or ID for a bathroom key.

“We’re hoping to have this done by the end of the week, as soon as the locksmith can do the work,” head librarian Rubi Simon told the Burlington Free Press.

Despite the nature of the items that have been causing the clogging, Simon said there was no evidence that drugs were being used in the bathrooms or anywhere else in the library.

“Fortunately, we caught it early enough so there was no damage to the bathrooms,” Simon said.

Woman Accused Of Threatening Husband With Car After Argument About Her Driving Skills

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (UPI) — A Tennessee woman was arrested on Sunday after Easter services when she allegedly tried to hit her husband with a car following an argument they had about her driving skills.

Sarai Longhenry’s husband told Clarksville Police that she was “driving erratically with him and their daughter in the car” while they were on the way to the First Baptist Church of St. Bethlehem.

After Easter services, he refused to get in the car and Longhenry allegedly “turned the vehicle in his direction and accelerated toward him,” according to the Leaf-Chronicle.

The vehicle hit a curb and Longhenry’s husband jumped into some nearby trees to avoid being struck.

Longhenry, 36, was charged with aggravated assault and booked into the Montgomery County Jail on $1,000 bond.

80-Year-Old Woman Has Worked At The Same Michigan KFC For More Than 50 Years

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (UPI) — An 80-year-old Michigan woman has been working at the same KFC location for more than 50 years, long enough that she was once even able to meet “The Colonel,” Harland Sanders.

Marylou Ausborne describes Colonel Sanders as “a wonderful man” who was “just great.”

She’s been working at the fast food chain’s location in Southfield for 52 years and her daughter, Marian, has been there for 34 years.

“There’s no such thing as retirement,” Ausborne told WJBK. “What would I do at home? It’s great here. I went to school in Kentucky for Kentucky Fried Chicken. I like being here. I like the people. I like the customers and it’s a very good job.”

The franchise recognized Ausborne’s extended service with a plaque and dinner out at a local restaurant that doesn’t serve original or extra crispy recipe chicken.

“She’s a good employee and a nice person,” franchise manager Grant White told ABC News.

13-Year-Old Pulled Over For Serving As Designated Driver For Drunken Missouri Dad

FORISTELL, Mo. (UPI) — A Missouri dad is facing charges after police pulled over his 13-year-old son on Saturday night after they observed a pickup truck swerving on Interstate 70 eastbound.

David Mooneyham, who was in the passenger seat, had asked the boy to act as his designated driver because he was drunk. It was the teen’s first time driving.

“He thought he had a drunk driver,” Police Chief Douglas G. Johnson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “When the officer asked the driver for his license, he said, ‘I don’t have one.’ Instead the passenger handed over his license and registration.”

The 46-year-old drank too much at his son’s baseball game, so he asked him to drive.

Mooneyham refused to do field sobriety tests, but he did register a BAC of 0.139 percent during a breath sample, nearly double the legal limit. He was charged with misdemeanor child endangerment and permitting an underage person to drive.

“His closing comment was: ‘I guess this makes me a bad father,’” Johnson said.

SWAT Team Sent To Long Island Home By Man Who Lost At ‘Call Of Duty’

LONG BEACH , N.Y. (UPI) — Apparently sore losers don’t just sulk and complain anymore — they send SWAT teams.

A Long Island home was raided on Tuesday after a man called 911 and reported that he had shot several members of his family and was going to continue to kill.

It turns out that he was just upset because he had lost at the video game “Call of Duty” and was attempting to get back at the 17-year-old who had beaten him.

Losers pranking winners with SWAT teams is part of a new trend called “Swatting.”

“When they’re playing video games, if they lose during the game they try to get information on their opponents,” said Long Beach Police Chief Michael Tangney. “If they do get the information, they call the police and identify themselves as that person and say that they killed somebody so that the police get this response.”

The culprit has not been identified at this time.

“In this … bizarre world of Swatting, you get points for the helicopter, for the police cars, for the SWAT team, for the type of entry,” Tangney said. “It’s very sophisticated. Unfortunately, it’s very dangerous.”

Tea Party Candidate Wins Republican Congressional Primary In Florida

FORT MYERS, Fla. (UPI) — A businessman and self-proclaimed “outsider” backed by the Tea Party won the Republican primary for a special Congressional election in Florida.

Curt Clawson of Bonita Springs won 38 percent of the vote Tuesday in the district, which includes a strip of Florida’s southwest coast from Marco Island to Fort Myers. He spent more than $3 million of his own money.

“I got into this race because I felt like we needed more outsiders in Congress,” Clawson tweeted after the results were in. “The career politicians aren’t getting the job done.”

The district had been represented by freshman Trey Radel. He resigned in January after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor drug charge after buying cocaine from an undercover Washington police officer.

Clawson is believed to have a good chance of defeating the Democratic candidate, April Freeman, on June 24. The seat will also be up for grabs in November.

On Monday, the Tea Party Express called the primary “first tea party vs. establishment showdown” of the election year. The runners-up were State Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto and former State Representative Paige Kreegel.

Missouri House Committee To Hold Impeachment Hearings For Governor

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (UPI) — The Missouri House Judiciary Committee is holding hearings on whether to move forward with the impeachment of Democratic Governor Jay Nixon.

The hearings call into question an executive order signed last year regarding same-sex marriages, a delayed call for public elections, and the lack of punishment for officials at the State’s Department of Public Safety.

The executive order in question allowed the State to accept income tax returns from same-sex couples who were married in other States. According to Republicans, the order violates the State’s ban on same-sex unions.

Nixon is a Democrat, and the State House is mostly comprised of Republicans. The impeachment proceedings are not expected to get past the committee level to see a vote on the House floor. This effort is mostly seen as partisan posturing in order for the Republicans to gain the upper hand over the Democratic Governor.

Nixon’s office has dismissed the efforts as nothing more than a “publicity stunt.”

NRA Stops Public Opposition Of Domestic Violence Gun Law

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The National Rifle Association has decided to stop publicly opposing a law that would require those accused of domestic violence to surrender their guns.

The one stipulation to the NRA’s lack of public opposition is that it was able to convince lawmakers to make a few changes to the bill that would loosen its requirements. Instead of being required to hand over their guns to police or a licensed gun dealer, those accused of domestic violence can hand over their weapons to a friend or family member approved by a judge.

The NRA’s move comes after one of its prominent members in New York City and the surrounding suburbs was arrested on domestic violence charges in March 2013. He pleaded guilty to harassing his wife, and when police came to his home, they found 39 guns in the house.

Statistics show that the victims of domestic abuse are more likely to end up killed at the hand of their abuser if there are firearms in the house. Many domestic violence groups say the NRA’s change to the bill to let family or friends hold the weapons makes the bill less effective since there would be greater access.

New Lawsuit Says FBI Used No-Fly List To Get Muslims To Become Informants

NEW YORK (UPI) — A lawsuit filed Tuesday in New York accuses the FBI of using the no-fly list to coerce Muslim-Americans to become informants.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in New York on behalf of 4 Muslims who are American citizens or legal permanent U.S. residents. The lawsuit not only asks for the removal of the plaintiffs’ names from the no-fly list but also to change the procedures to get off the no-fly list.

One of the plaintiffs, Awais Sajjad, didn’t even know he was on the no-fly list until he was blocked from boarding a flight to Pakistan in September 2012.

The plaintiffs were put on the no-fly list and the FBI then attempted to coerce them into spying on Muslim-American communities in New York, New Jersey and Nebraska. One of the plaintiffs said he was put on the list as retribution for refusing to be an informant on the basis of religious reasons.

“This policy and set of practices by the FBI is part of a much broader set of policies that reflect over policing of Muslim-American communities,” said Diala Shamas, the attorney for the plaintiffs.

The New York Police Department announced this month the end of a controversial unit that would spy on Muslim-American communities in the city. It was one of the many controversial policies instated after 9/11 that many people considered discriminatory toward Muslims.

Justice Department Reveals Details Of Plan For Clemency For Some Drug Offenders

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Nonviolent offenders serving long drug sentences will be provided with lawyers to help them win clemency, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday.

At a news conference, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said those eligible for clemency will have to meet stringent requirements, including having served at least 10 years in prison. He said they must also have no records of violence before or after their convictions, must have no ties to organized crime, must not have long criminal records, must have good prison records and must be serving long prison terms that would likely be shorter under current guidelines.

In 2010, President Barack Obama signed legislation eliminating the significantly longer sentences given those convicted of crimes involving crack cocaine. Cole said the Clemency Initiative is not limited to inmates convicted of crack crimes, although one of its goals is to provide fair sentences to those sentenced under the old law.

“The fundamental American concept, equal justice under law, requires that our laws be enforced fairly — and not just going forward, but it is equally important that we extend this fairness to those who are already serving prison sentences for their crimes,” he said.

Cole said the Administration plans to devote “significant time and resources” to identifying inmates eligible for clemency and ensuring their speedy release. He said all Federal prison inmates will be notified for the program and those who apply and appear to meet the criteria will be given free legal counsel.

Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday that the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act was not enough: “There are still too many people in federal prison who were sentenced under the old regime — and who, as a result, will have to spend far more time in prison than they would if sentenced today for exactly the same crime.”

Texas Second-Grader Claims Teacher Confiscated Bible During Reading Time

CYPRESS, Texas (UPI) — A Texas teacher may be investigated after the Liberty Institute released a statement and sent a letter to Hamilton Elementary School about an alleged incident involving a second-grade student’s choice of reading material.

The student’s family claims the teacher confiscated a copy of the Bible their daughter was reading during a “read to myself” session. The teacher then informed the girl that the Bible is “inappropriate reading material” and that she should not bring it back to school again.

The anonymous family then contacted the Liberty Institute for help in the matter.

According to Michael Berry, senior counsel with the Liberty Institute, the library at Hamilton has copies of the Bible. “So if it’s appropriate for their own library, why on Earth would it not be appropriate for their own students,” Berry told KHOU.

The Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District released a statement about the incident:

“During a student’s independent reading time, students are required to read a book that is ‘Just Right.’ A ‘Just Right’ book is when the student can read most of the words, comprehend the text and that the book is appropriate for the type of text or genre that is being taught. As such religious material, including the Bible, that meets these guidelines would be permissible for a classroom assignment and/or independent reading.”

“They are letting them read The Hunger Games, that’s kids killing kids, why can’t she read the Bible?” said parent Jennifer Muse.

Florida Man Catches 805-pound Mako Shark

FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. (UPI) — A Florida fisherman caught an 805-pound mako shark, making it the largest mako shark catch in the world.

When Joey Polk, a lifetime fisherman, reeled in the 11-foot-long shark, he did not want anyone to see his catch. He put the shark in the bed of his truck and while he stopped to get gas, someone snapped a picture that quickly went viral on the Internet.

The catch is the largest mako shark catch on record, knocking Polk’s cousin, Earnest Polk, to the second spot. The Polks won’t reveal the spot where they catch sharks because they want to “save our sport.”

Polk did note that he and his family catch and release the sharks 95 percent of the time, but this record-setting mako became dinner for family and friends.
Aileen Graef

Candy That Doesn’t Suck: The Beer-Flavored Lollipop Is Here

AUSTIN, Texas (UPI) — Although flavors like breast milk, sriracha bacon and wasabi-ginger might not necessarily sound all that appetizing, candy company Lollyphile has three new flavored lollipops that could really hit the spot on a hot summer day — IPA, lager, and stout.

In addition to those sudsy suckers, the company also offers cocktail-flavored candy pops as well as cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and merlot-flavored lollies.

“We tried our best to stay true to each of these varieties, Stout being big & dark, IPA being hoppy as hell, and Lager based on our favorite Pilsner,” Lollyphile owner Jason Darling told Gizmodo. “It was, to say the least, a very fun flavor matching experience.”

It sounds like it.

“The King of Lollipops! A real banquet lollipop! An All-American slam-dunk barbecue apple pie badass lollipop,” reads the lager’s description. “Perfect for basically everything, our Lager lollipop is based on Pilsners of, let’s be honest, our collective youths.”

Lollyphile is a company with ties to San Francisco and Austin with a “sweet tooth and a short attention span.”

Florida Lawmaker Arrested On DUI Charge After Taco Bell Trip

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (UPI) — A Florida lawmaker was arrested after he stopped at a Taco Bell in Tallahassee early Monday morning – and it wasn’t because he was trying to get something off the chain’s new breakfast menu.

Republican Rep. Dane Eagle was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence after he allegedly ran a red light following a stop at Taco Bell. Before Eagle was pulled over, officers allegedly saw Eagle pull a U-turn and hit a curb.

Officers reported that Eagle smelled of alcohol and that his eyes were “bloodshot and watery.”

Eagle told officers he thought the light was yellow and that his car smelled of alcohol because he had been driving friends who had been at a bar. He told officers he was “good to get home” but was taken to the Leon County Jail instead.

The 29-year-old was elected to the Florida House in 2012. He issued a written statement about the situation through a legislative aide to the News-Press:

“I was arrested in Tallahassee and accused of driving under the influence of alcohol,” Eagle wrote. “While there are some decisions that I would have made differently, I do not believe there is a complete and accurate picture of the events. Under advice of my legal counsel, I cannot discuss all the details right now, but I look forward to publicly sharing the entire story at an appropriate time. Until then, I humbly ask for everyone’s patience. I know that I am accountable for my actions, and I look forward to communicating with my constituents in the near future on this matter.”

8-Year-Old Disabled Boy Charged With Two Felonies In Michigan

ALLEGAN , Mich. (UPI) — An 8-year-old Michigan boy with disabilities has been charged with two felonies following an incident where he allegedly assaulted an officer and damaged a police vehicle.

Police were called after Edward Hart ran away from the Hillside Learning and Behavior Center in Allegan and school officials were unable to bring him back.

“He’s ran away from the school before,” Hart’s stepfather, Robert Bluhm, told Fox 17. “And he’s made it to M-40 before. But he’s never made it as far as he did this time.”

When Hart was apprehended, he “cursed at and assaulted the officer” and then “broke the police camera in the back of the car.”

“I don’t even think he did anything wrong in this case,” Bluhm said. “He’s special need[s]. He has anger issues. They know this. And they’re going to throw him in the back of a cop car all by himself.”

Edward has been charged with malicious destruction of police property and resisting and obstructing.

“If they had him under control, why didn’t they ride with him in the back of this cop car so this incident would have never took place?” Bluhm said. “When I called the school to ask questions — why nobody rode with the minor child to the school instead of just throwing him in the back of a cop car — they had no answers for me. They couldn’t answer that question.”

The Allegan City police chief said the department wants $50 to fix the broken camera. After he undergoes counseling, the court will decide if the charges against Edward will proceed.

Teen Kicked In Head During Viral Train Conductor Video Could Earn Up To $250,000

REGINA, Saskatchewan (UPI) — The Canadian man who became a viral sensation after posting a video of himself getting kicked in the head by a train conductor while trying to take a selfie could be turning his pain into a payday.

Jared Frank was approached by a number of management agencies thanks to his nine-second “Kicked in the head by a train” YouTube video. The clip has already been viewed more than 25 million times.

“I got all these different offers … and they were all legit,” Frank told the CBC. The Regina man elected to sign on with a California-based representative called Jukin Media.

Depending on some variables, Frank’s video could earn him in the range of $2 to $16 per 1,000 views, good for about $30,000 to $250,000 in revenue.

“I’m a little worried, but I have a decent relationship with the licensing company, so I trust them,” Frank said. “I did a lot of research first.”

The 22-year-old plans to spend his earnings on film school.

Scientists Link Two Genes To Inflammatory Bowel Disease

CINCINNATI (UPI) — More than 1.4 million Americans suffer from the painful symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease, a group of disorders, like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, resulting from chronic inflammation of the intestines.

There is currently no cure for these conditions, but scientists hope a new discovery into the genetic origins of the disease can eventually help alleviate the pain of IBD sufferers.

Researchers at the Cincinnati Cancer Center and University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute have located two genes associated with IBD conditions, a receptor and a protein — specifically, the Ron receptor tyrosine kinase and its partner hepatocyte growth factor-like protein (HGFL).

“Genome-wide linkage studies have identified the Ron receptor tyrosine kinase and its hepatocyte growth factor-like protein (HGFL) as genes highly associated with IBD,” explained Susan Waltz, professor in the department of cancer biology at the University of Cincinnati.

To better understand what role Ron and HGFL played in enabling IBD, the Cincinnati researchers analyzed the intestines of animals with colitis — a welling of the large intestine and a potentially pre-cancerous condition. Half the test subjects had the Ron receptor removed from their genome.

“We found that genetic loss of Ron led to aggressive inflammation and damage to the colon of models with IBD,” said researcher Rishikesh Kulkarni, a postdoctoral fellow in UC’s department of cancer biology.

The findings suggest Ron and HGFL may play an important role in mitigating IBD, not enabling it. The Ron receptor’s primary function is promoting cell growth, so a healthy, high-functioning Ron pathway may enable troubled intestines to better repair damages.

“In addition, there are a number of small changes called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) in humans which map to both the Ron and HGFL gene and have been identified to strongly associate IBD disease in humans,” Waltz added. “Our studies suggest that these SNPs may reduce the function of Ron and HGFL leading to chronic intestinal inflammation and damage.”

Waltz and her colleagues say more research is necessary to figure out exactly how doctors might tap into the Ron signaling pathway to mitigate IBD conditions, but they are hopeful this latest discovery brings researchers a step closer to a cure.

The study was recently published online in the American Journal of Physiology-Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.

U.S. Existing Home Sales Fall, Hit 18-Month Low

WASHINGTON (UPI) — Existing home sales in the U.S. dipped slightly in March, falling for the third straight month and bringing their volumes to lowest levels since July 2012.

Sales of existing, pre-owned homes — which account for the bulk of the housing market — fell 0.2 percent in March, nearing its slowest pace in two years, according to the National Association of Realtors. Sales fell to 4.59 million in March, down from 4.6 million in February. Median home prices climbed, but not as fast as they had in recent months, up 7.9 percent to $198,500.

“There really should be stronger levels of home sales given our population growth,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, in a statement. “In contrast, price growth is rising faster than historical norms because of inventory shortages.”

Yun said that looking at the fundamentals of the market, this slowdown in sales would turn around soon.

“With ongoing job creation and some weather-delayed shopping activity, home sales should pick up, especially if inventory continues to improve and mortgage interest rates rise only modestly,” he said.

Inventory showed signs of improvement, with total inventory rising 4.7 percent at the end of March to 1.99 million existing homes available for sale. That’s about a 5.2-month supply at the current sales pace; a six-month supply is considered a healthy housing market.

Sales of condominiums, which are cheaper than single-family homes, fell sharply, suggesting challenges at the lower end of the market.

“We also have tight inventory in the lower price ranges where many starter homes are found, but rising new-home construction means some owners will be trading up and more existing homes will be added to the inventory. Hopefully, this will create more opportunities for first-time buyers,” said NAR President Steve Brown.

Sales fell most sharply in the West, where regions like Southern California have seen big drops in sales volume compared to last year.

Young Woman Who Allegedly Pointed Gun Shot And Killed By Albuquerque Police Officer

ALBUQUERQUE (UPI) — A retired judge’s daughter is the first person to be killed by Albuquerque police since a critical U.S. Justice Department report.

Police said that Mary Hawkes, 19, was shot Monday morning after she pointed a gun at a pursuing officer. She was described as a suspect in the theft of a truck.

Late Monday, Mario Romero, 26, was arrested after he allegedly displayed guns at a vigil for Hawkes and then pointed a gun at police. Romero, who told police he was engaged to Hawkes, allegedly said he was trying to commit suicide by cop.

Hawkes and her sister were adopted as young children by Danny Hawkes and his wife. Danny Hawkes recently retired as a magistrate judge in Valencia County, just south of Albuquerque.

The judge confirmed to the Albuquerque Journal that his daughter had been killed.

Hawkes had an adult record for drinking in public and shoplifting. She also had a juvenile record.

U.S. Investigators: Better Regulation Could Have Prevented Deadly Fertilizer Explosion

DALLAS (UPI) — The owners of a Texas fertilizer plant and regulators failed to take steps that would have prevented a deadly explosion, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said Tuesday.

The volunteer firefighters who responded to a fire at the West Fertilizer Co. did not understand what they were dealing with, officials said at a news conference in Dallas. Most of the 14 people killed in the explosion on April 18, 2013, were firefighters.

Between 40 and 60 tons of ammonium nitrate were stored in wooden buildings, the board said. Rafael Moure-Eraso, the chairman, said the explosion was caused by “the failure of a company to take the necessary steps to avert a preventable fire and explosion, and from the inability of federal, state and local regulatory agencies to identify a serious hazard and correct it.”

The explosion and fire caused severe damage to a middle school next to the plant in West, a city of fewer than 3,000 people 18 miles north of Waco. The blast also gutted a 50-unit apartment building and damaged a nursing home, forcing the evacuation of most of the residents.

An estimated 226 people were injured.

Moure-Eraso and Johnnie Banks, who headed the investigation, called for stronger regulation of ammonium nitrate by the Environmental Protection Admistration and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and stronger fire codes and training.

“All of these provisions should be reviewed and harmonized in light of the West disaster to ensure that firefighters are adequately protected,” Banks said.

Local officials apparently did not understand how dangerous the material stored at the plant could be, Banks said.

Supreme Court Upholds Michigan Affirmative Action Ban, Liberals Flip Out

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in favor of a voter-approved Michigan law banning affirmative action in college admissions, overturning a lower court decision that invalidated the ban.

Writing for the majority in the 6-2 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the court’s ruling was not a judgement on the Constitutionality of affirmative action, but instead determined that the lower court exceeded its authority in striking the ban.

“This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved,” Kennedy wrote in his opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. “It is about who may resolve it. There is no authority in the Constitution of the United States or in this court’s precedents for the judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters.”

In her dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote of the dangers of preventing Federal courts from serving as a means to check majorities from using the ballot to disadvantage minority groups.

“Without checks, democratically approved legislation can oppress minority groups,” she wrote in her dissent, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “For that reason, our Constitution places limits on what a majority of the people may do. This case implicates one such limit: the guarantee of equal protection of the laws.”

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas both agreed with the majority, but said they would have gone further to undo previous court decisions upholding cases dealing with affirmative action in education.

Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the decision, presumably because of dealings she may have had with the case while serving as solicitor general or as dean of Harvard Law School.

The case, Schuette v. BAMN focused on Proposal 2, a 2006 ballot initiative approved by 58 percent of Michigan voters to amend the state constitution to prohibit discrimination or preferential treatment in public education, government contracting and public employment. An 8-7 decision by the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2012 found the ban — specifically with regards to public education — was unConstitutional because it made it more difficult for minorities to advocate for change.

Update Via Personal Liberty Staff:

Following the SCOTUS ruling, American affirmative action supporters freaked out.

Prolific race baiter Al Sharpton released a statement through his National Action Network, calling the decision a “devastating blow to the civil rights community” and urging his base to “mobilize” immediately.

“The Supreme Court decision upholding the state of Michigan’s ban of using race as a factor in affirmative action is a devastating blow to the civil rights community. The ramifications of this will be far reaching and could tie us up in endless battles. We must mobilize immediately for state referendums to counter this decision to protect the ongoing battle to redress the historic needed repairs to racial discrimination,” Sharpton said.

Democratic Representative Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), also weighed in on Twitter:

pelositweet

She also said, “Our society, our economy, and our democracy depend on young people of all backgrounds, races and ethnicities having a fair shot at a strong education – the foundation of a better life for themselves and their families. These ladders of opportunity are essential to the vitality and strength of our nation, and the Supreme Court’s recent blindness to the real and enduring effects of discrimination diminishes all of us.”