Bachmann Lobbies Against National Women’s History Museum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ohio ruling has been stayed pending appeal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

German Spying Investigators To Call On Snowden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oklahoma Agrees To Delay Next Execution For Six Months

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Federal Government Threatens To Cut Funds Of First State To Drop Common Core Standards

INDIANAPOLIS (UPI) — Indiana became the first State to drop the Common Core standards last month when the State Board of Education voted 10-1 to replace the standards with new math and English benchmarks.

Current K-12 Common Core standards are controversial and many opponents criticize them as not adequately preparing students for college.

The U.S. Department of Education was quick to respond, sending a letter to Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz warning the State must prove its new standards are just as challenging or risk losing its No Child Left Behind waiver and, ultimately, its Federal funding.

“Because the [Indiana Department of Education] will no longer implement those standards, IDOE must amend its [Elementary and Secondary Education Act] flexibility request and provide evidence that its new standards are certified by a state network of [Institutions of Higher Education] that students who meet the standards will not need remedial coursework at the postsecondary level,” the letter reads.

“To address the issue of college and career-ready assessments, the department has undertaken the most extensive review and overhaul of academic standards in Indiana’s history,” Ritz said in a statement responding to the letter. “Moving forward, we will respond to USED within the next two months with amendments that capture steps we have taken to ensure full compliance with our flexibility waiver.”

The Mink 3D Printer Will Let Users Print Custom Makeup From Home

NEW YORK (UPI) — A Harvard Business School alum has come up with an invention that will let makeup wearers print their favorite blush, eye shadow or lip gloss from home.

Grace Choi debuted her Mink 3D printer at Tech Crunch Disrupt in New York earlier this week.

The Mink lets users select the colors they want for their makeup from the Internet and then print them out using already-existing software.

Most makeup comes from the same basic ingredients and the printer will now give creative consumers the chance to create colors that aren’t available at their local drug store.

The company is “targeting the 13-21 demographic who are less ingrained in their habits with certain brands and retailers,” according to Tech Crunch.

The Mink will sell for under $200 and it will launch later in the year.

“What we’re doing is taking out the [expletive],” Choi said. “Big makeup companies take the pigment and the substrates and mix them together and then jack the price. We do the same thing and let you get the makeup right in your own house.”

Rob Ford’s Rehab Is ‘Amazing’ And Reminds Him Of ‘Washington Redskins Football Camp’

TORONTO (UPI) — During an interview with the Toronto Sun, Mayor Rob Ford said that his time in rehab has been “amazing” and assured his supporters that he’ll be back in time for the mayoral election in October.

“Of course, I am coming back and I am going to kick butt,” Ford told the paper. “I will be on the ballot for mayor in October, guaranteed, and I will do well. On Oct. 28, there will be no need to change the locks. There will be no need to clean out my office because I am coming back.”

There has been some confusion about whether the mayor actually entered rehab or not and his current whereabouts are unknown.

His brother Doug, who has also been mentioned as a potential mayoral candidate, would only say that Ford is “doing well” in rehab. “He’s in rehab and that is all everyone cares about. ‎No one in Toronto cares about where he is. They are concerned about him getting rehab,” he told the Globe and Mail.

Ford left for rehab April 29 after a new tape of him acting intoxicated at a Toronto bar — as opposed to the old crack-smoking video — surfaced.

“I feel great,” he said. “Rehab is amazing. It reminds me of football camp. Kind of like the Washington Redskins camp I went to as a kid. I am working out every day and I am learning about myself, my past and things like that.”

The mayor is being treated for “addictions to alcohol and other things.”

The ‘Naked Cowboy’ Is Helping Fruit Of The Loom Launch Its New Boxer Briefs

NEW YORK (UPI) — Times Square’s Naked Cowboy is trading in his tighty-whities for boxer briefs as part of a new Fruit of the Loom marketing campaign.

The New York City icon is known for wearing only underwear, cowboy boots and a cowboy hat while playing his guitar for tourists.

As part of the campaign, Robert Burck will be featured on a billboard on the Nasdaq Tower in Times Square reading, “Even the Naked Cowboy has changed his underwear.”

The new boxer briefs feature a “no-ride-up leg,” making Burck a natural fit for the marketing campaign.

“At Fruit of the Loom, we pride ourselves on creating products that solve consumer needs. Men expressed their need for a boxer brief with legs that didn’t ride up, so we made it our mission to create a product that solved for that need,” said Fruit of the Loom senior vice president Scott Greene.

The briefs will be sold at Walmart, Kmart and Target stores for $13.99 for a five-pack.

FDA Against Using Daily Aspirin To Prevent A First Heart Attack

WASHINGTON (UPI) — After a review of scientific data, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said only those who had suffered a heart attack or stroke benefited from a low-dose daily aspirin.

The FDA consumer update said there was little evidence a daily low-dose aspirin helped prevent a heart attack or stroke for those who never had a cardiovascular event. The review said serious risks associated with the use of daily low-dose aspirin included increased risk of bleeding in the stomach and brain.

However, for patients who have had a cardiovascular event — heart attack or stroke — the known benefits of aspirin outweighed the risk of bleeding.

The FDA said people should only take a daily low-dose — 80 milligrams — aspirin after talking to a physician who can assess both the benefits and risks for the patient.

“We encourage patients to talk to their healthcare provider about the best treatment for their individual situation,” the FDA said.

“The kinds of evidence FDA uses to make regulatory decisions, which have broad public health implications, may be different from those used by a physician treating a specific patient.”

The federal agency said it issued the statement following its rejection of Bayer Healthcare’s decade-old petition requesting approval of a primary prevention indication — or the reduction of risk of having a first heart attack or stroke. Bayer had asked for an amendment to a rule allowing it to market an aspirin — 75 mg to 325 mg — to prevent a first heart attack for those with chronic heart disease or those with a positive assessment from a healthcare provider.

Sports, Energy Drinks Linked To Smoking, Lots Of Screen Media Use

MINNEAPOLIS (UPI) — U.S. teens who drank sports drinks and energy drinks weekly drank more sugary beverages, were more likely to smoke and more likely to spend a lot of time in front of computer, phone and TV screens.

Lead author Nicole Larson of the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota and colleagues at Duke University said sports and energy drink consumption tripled among U.S. adolescents in recent years, reported.

The study, published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, found 38 percent of the teens in said they drank sports drinks and 15 percent said they drank energy drinks at least once a week.

The researchers used data gathered from 20 public middle schools and high schools in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area involving 2,793 adolescents with a mean age of 14.4 years during the 2009/2010 school year. Eighty-one percent said they were other than non-Hispanic white.

Teens who drank sports drinks at least once a week tended to be more physically active and more likely to participate in organized sports than their peers who did not drink sports drinks, but the sports drinks are high in sugar and other calories linked to weight gain and tooth decay.

“Among boys, weekly sports drink consumption was significantly associated with higher TV viewing; boys who regularly consumed sports drinks spent about 1 additional hour per week watching TV compared with boys who consumed sports drinks less than once per week,” Larson said in a statement.

“Boys who consumed energy drinks at least weekly spent approximately 4 additional hours per week playing video games compared to those who consumed energy drinks less than once per week.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends teens drink sports only after vigorous, prolonged activity, and energy drinks should not be consumed because they offer no benefit and increase risk for overstimulation of the nervous system.

Space Group Suggests Firing Missiles At Mars To Find Alien Life

BEVERLY, Mass. (UPI) — Scientists have long hypothesized that evidence of life could be hiding deep below Mars’ subsurface ice. But digging for such evidence is not currently in the cards for NASA and its Mars rover, as Curiosity’s drill only extends an inch or so.

That’s why Massachusetts-based nonprofit group Explore Mars is urging a more aggressive strategy: Launch missiles at the Martian planet to break up the upper crust and bore deep into the subsurface.

NASA and the European Space Agency both have planned missions aimed at digging a bit deeper than Curiosity: NASA’s 2016 InSight lander mission will dig as deep as 16 feet and ESA’s 2018 ExoMars rover will drill more than 6 feet below the surface. But NASA’s mission won’t be looking for life and the ExoMars mission will be limited to a small region of Mars.

Explore Mars wants astronauts to probe deeper and broaden the scope of the search for Martian life.

Last week, Explore Mars began raising money for a project called Exolance, a plan to scatter small, lightweight projectiles all across the surface of the Red Planet. Instead of warheads, the missiles would carry probes outfitted with scientific instruments and communication capabilities.

The group has already assembled a team of scientists to design such probes, but Explore Mars — which will need to convince NASA or a private space company like SpaceX to give its probes a ride to Mars — must prove its technology is robust enough survive such a jarring impact.

In 1999, NASA tried to slam two penetrating probes into Martian rock, but radio contact was lost upon impact.

“Penetrators result in huge shocks,” ExoMars project scientist Jorge Vago told New Scientist. “Not many instruments can take this.”

Is Too Much Science Bad?

WASHINGTON, May 7 (UPI) — Does the phrase “too much of a good thing” apply to science? There’s no obvious answer, but when it comes to scientific output — research, papers, studies, surveys, etc. — some scientists have suggested the answer is “yes.”

So much output at such a high pace, some have argued, means there’s a growing emphasis (to the detriment of science) on quantity over quality. But supporting such an argument with quantitative evidence has proven difficult.

But now, new data analysis by Lutz Bornmann, researcher at the Max Planck Society in Munich, Germany, and Ruediger Mutz, from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, offers a more accurate picture of exactly how much “science” is being produced.

The results: global scientific output is doubling every nine years.

Bornmann and Mutz arrived at the figure by analyzing more than 755 million references in some 38 million publications, including papers, books, datasets and websites, from 1980 to 2012. In this sense, anything worth citing is deemed “output,” and measured accordingly.

But the question remains: Is all this output a fair representation of the growth of scientific knowledge? Or do scientists just like seeing their names in print?

In 1965, Derek de Solla Price, the so-called father of bibliometrics, said: “I am tempted to conclude that a very large fraction of the alleged 35,000 journals now current must be reckoned as merely a distant background noise, and as very far from central or strategic in any of the knitted strips from which the cloth of science is woven.”

Anthony van Raan, another bibliometrics researcher, told Nature that the pressures of career advancement encourage scientists to publish as much as possible, sometimes splitting their papers up into smaller, separate pieces of research in order to maximize output — “salami slicing.”

“The behavior of scientists to publish more, to split up papers, to publish first a short paper followed by a more detailed one, and so on,” said van Raan, “would imply an ‘extra’ growth which is not necessarily ‘real’ growth of science.”

Although van Raan wishes it were otherwise, he acknowledges that for now, there’s no systematic way to separate the scientific fat from the meat.

The analysis Bornmann and Mutz will be published later this year in the Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology.

New Dino Species ‘Pinocchio Rex’ Discovered By Scientists

EDINBURGH, Scotland (UPI) — Paleontologists have confirmed the discovery of a new species: a Tyrannosaur with a long, pointy snout. Naturally, scientists dubbed the new dino “Pinocchio rex.”

Officially named Qianzhousaurus sinensis, the newfound predator was — like his cousin T. rex — a ferocious carnivore. Pinocchio rex and T. rex lived side by side for roughly 66 million years, stalking and scavenging during the late Cretaceous period.

But while a full-grown Tyrannosaurus rex would have stretched some 42 feet in length, the spryer Pinocchio rex was 29 feet long and weighed roughly 1,800 pounds. Whereas the snout of T. rex was broad and bone-crunching, Pinocchio’s was long, slender and adorned with small horns.

The newly unearthed Pinocchio skeleton was found at a Chinese construction site, and later identified by paleontologists at Edinburgh University in Scotland.

Scientists have previously dug up — then-unnamed — Qianzhousaurus sinensis specimens in China and Mongolia, but the two dinos were adolescents and the fossil evidence wasn’t conclusive enough to designate a new species. This new skeleton, however, was perfectly preserved in ancient dirt and was an adult with a full-formed nose — confirming the new dinosaur as a species all its own, and not simply an adolescent T. rex.

“This is a different breed of tyrannosaur,” said Steve Brusatte, a scientist from Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences. “It has the familiar toothy grin of Tyrannosaurus rex, but its snout was much longer and 
it had a row of horns on its nose. It might have looked a little comical, but it would have been as deadly as any other tyrannosaur, and maybe even a little faster and stealthier.”

The discovery of Brusatte and his dino-hunting colleagues is detailed in the latest issue of the journal Nature Communications.

Report: States Should Switch To One-Drug Execution Protocols

WASHINGTON (UPI) — A group of former Governors, judges and other experts recommended Wednesday that the United States should switch to a one-drug protocol for executions.

The report, “Irreversible Error,” by the Constitution Project, found problems with the way the penalty is carried out in the U.S. and by the legal procedures that precede executions. Prepared by people on both sides of the issue, the report took no position on the use of the death penalty.

Last week, Clayton Lockett, a convicted killer in Oklahoma, died of a heart attack 10 minutes after prison officials decided to halt his execution. Another man who was scheduled to be put to death immediately after Lockett was granted a two-week stay.

The report found that much in the justice system from arrest through appeals increases the possibility that innocent people will be charged with capital crimes, convicted and even executed. A majority of police departments do not routinely videotape interrogations, increasing the chance of false confessions; public defenders are often underpaid and overworked; and prosecutors sometimes conceal evidence favorable to the defense with little penalty.

The panel said the system is also biased against racial minorities, and States have too much leeway in deciding which convicts are too mentally ill or disabled to be executed.

The report found that three-drug protocols like the one used in Lockett’s execution are often faulty. In some cases, the panel said, prisoners are not given enough anaesthetic as the first drug.

The experts said a large dose of anesthetic — the method used in most cases to put down animals in the U.S. — would be surer. But companies supplying anesthetics might not be willing to do so for executions.

President Barack Obama said after Lockett’s execution that he had asked Attorney General Eric Holder to review the use of the death penalty.

Boko Haram Attacks Again, Killing About 300

ABUJA, Nigeria (UPI) — Boko Haram, a radical Islamist militant group, launched a 12-hour attack on the Nigerian village of Gamboru Ngala Monday afternoon, killing about 300 people.

The militants fired rocket-propelled grenades and improvised bombs into a crowded outdoor marketplace while shouting “God is great” from their armored vehicles.

Sources told CNN that the fighters set fire to the buildings where people had fled to escape the attack. According to the regional leader of the village, anyone who tried to run out of the burning buildings was shot.

The militants were met with resistance while attacking the local police station until they used explosives to blow off the roof of the building. Fourteen police officers were found dead inside.

“While calling on the general public to be part of the solution to the present security challenge, the Police High Command also reassures all citizens that any information given would be treated anonymously and with utmost confidentiality,” said the Nigerian police in a statement.

The details of the attack emerged one day after the U.S. announced that they will be sending assistance to help authorities search for the 276 girls abducted by the group last month. The police have offered a $310,000 reward for information leading to the missing girls, as frustration continues to grow internationally at the lack of progress in the search.

Vietnamese, Chinese Ships Collide In South China Sea

HANOI , Vietnam (UPI) — Vietnamese Navy and Chinese vessels collided in the South China Sea as Vietnam attempted to prevent the Chinese from installing an oil rig in contested waters.

Vietnamese officials claim the Chinese ships intentionally tried to ram their vessels. The incident is the most serious between the two countries at sea, and dozens of boats are presently in the area.

It is the third time in the past several days Chinese ships have collided with Vietnamese ships, maritime police official Ngo Ngoc Thu said in Hanoi Wednesday. Chinese officials said Wednesday the oil rig was within Chinese territorial waters.

“The disruptive activities by the Vietnamese side are in violation of China’s sovereign rights,” Hua Chunying said.

Several Vietnamese sailors were injured in the collision, an official said, and although no shots were fired, water cannons were used by the Vietnamese Navy.

China has claimed ownership of significant parts of the South China Sea. Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan have competing claims.

Ukrainian Intel Agency Claims Russia Meddling In Southeastern Ukraine Referendum

KIEV, Ukraine (UPI) — The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) — Ukraine’s intelligence agency — reported Wednesday that it has evidence of Russian interference in a controversial referendum planned for May 11 to determine whether Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region remains a part of Ukraine or establishes itself as the “Donetsk People’s Republic.”

The SBU released an audio recording on Wednesday of a taped conversation between Russian Unity movement leader Alexander Barkashov in Moscow and Dmytro Boitsov, the “unregistered” Orthodox Donbass organizaton leader in Donetsk. Boitsov is heard requesting Russian military support for the referendum and, in response, Barkashov suggests falsifying the referendum’s results.

Amid the allegations of Russian interference, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Wednesday, “We are asking representatives of the southeastern regions of Ukraine and federalization supporters to reschedule the referendum scheduled for May 11.”

Putin claimed that by postponing, southeastern Ukraine’s regional representatives can “create necessary conditions for dialogue” with the central government in Kiev.

U.S. High School Seniors Make Disappointing Showing In ‘Nation’s Report Card’

WASHINGTON (UPI) — U.S. 12th-grade scores on the National Association of Educational Progress, released Wednesday, show a continuing gap between white and minority students.

Average scores for high school seniors have also remained flat since the last time the test, known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” was administered in 2009. The test, taken every four years by a sample of high school seniors and every two years by students in the fourth and eighth grades, aims to provide a snapshot of U.S. achievement.

The test was taken between January and March in 2013 by 92,000 high school seniors. Elementary and middle-school scores, released in November, showed some gains.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan reported recently that the average graduation rate for U.S. high schools had hit 80 percent, an all-time high. He said he was troubled by the flat high school scores on the NAEP and by the failure to close the gap between white and minority students.

Black students have fallen even further behind in the 15 years the test has been administered, while the gap between whites and Hispanics has not closed.

“We project that our nation’s public schools will become majority-minority this fall — making it even more urgent to put renewed attention into the academic rigor and equity of course offerings and into efforts to redesign high schools,” Duncan said. “We must reject educational stagnation in our high schools, and as a nation, we must do better for all students, especially for African-American and Latino students.”

Frederick Hess, an education analyst with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, suggested high school seniors may not be motivated to do well in a test that will not affect their futures. Hess told The Washington Post that U.S. officials tend to be “manic depressive” about test scores, hailing educational progress when they inch up and then throwing up their hands when they do the reverse.

“We all remember exactly how engaged your 17-year-old high school senior is,” Hess said.

Female Senators Call For Stronger Nigeria Response

WASHINGTON (UPI) — The women of the Senate banded together Tuesday to call on President Barack Obama to take a stronger stance against the abduction of more than 200 Nigerian girls last month.

Obama said Tuesday he had ordered a team of military, law enforcement and hostage negotiators to Nigeria to assist in the rescue effort of the girls who were kidnapped on April 14 by members of the Islamist group Boko Haram to be sold into sexual slavery.

The President called the kidnapping “heartbreaking” and “outrageous,” but the 20 female Senators said the U.S. needed to go further to condemn the terrorist group, whose name is usually translated as “Western education is forbidden” and whose attacks on schools and military installations in north-east Nigeria have left as many as 1,500 people dead this year alone, according to Amnesty International.

“We are outraged and horrified that these young women have been kidnapped, sold into slavery, had their education curtailed, and may even have been forced into marriages,” said Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), who circulated a letter among their female colleagues.

“Education is a basic right for boys and girls who deserve an equal opportunity to pursue their education without fear of violence or retribution-no matter where they live,” the letter said. “The Senate women stand united in condemning this reprehensible crime and are firm in our resolve that it will not be tolerated. We will not stand by and allow the Nigerian people to continue to be terrorized by Boko Haram and will continue to lead the effort to impose tough economic sanctions against this group.”

The letter called on Obama to press for increased international sanctions against Boko Haram. And while the U.S. already classifies the group as a terrorist organization, the letter asked Obama to get it added to the United Nations Security Council Al-Qaida Sanctions List for groups linked to al-Qaida.

Amendments Threaten To Scuttle Senate Keystone Deal

WASHINGTON, May 6 (UPI) — A standoff between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, over amendments to an energy efficiency bill, may sink a deal for a vote to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Reid said he would hold the line on refusing to allow five GOP-sponsored amendments to an energy bill, sponsored by Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), on which Republicans joined with Democrats, 79-20, to begin debate Tuesday.

But it was not clear if those Republicans would agree to vote to end debate on the bill and allow a vote for final passage without the amendments. And without an up-or-down vote on Shaheen-Portman, Reid won’t bring a vote on the Keystone bill to the floor.

“If they want to vote on Keystone, they can have a vote on Keystone, but enough is enough,” Reid said. If the Shaheen-Portman measure is passed, Reid said, he would allow a vote on Keystone “a day or two” later.

At a press conference on Tuesday, McConnell reiterated his complaint that Reid has only allowed votes on a few GOP amendments since July. He said he wants to attach amendments to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency clean air regulations and approval of liquified natural gas exports to World Trade Organization Member countries, including Ukraine.
Gabrielle Levy