WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Authorities in North Carolina say a store owner and a patron thwarted a teen accused of trying to carry out a robbery by concealing a banana beneath his shirt to resemble a gun.
Winston-Salem authorities say 17-year-old John Szwalla entered the Internet cafe Thursday and demanded money, saying he had a gun.
The owner, Bobby Ray Mabe, said he and a customer jumped Szwalla, holding him until deputies arrived. While they waited, Mabe says the teen ate the banana.
Mabe says deputies took pictures of the peel. Forsyth County Sheriff’s office spokesman Maj. Brad Stanley says deputies joked about charging Szwalla with destroying evidence.
Szwalla faces a charge of attempted armed robbery. Jail officials say he doesn’t have an attorney.
Information from: Winston-Salem Journal, http://www.journalnow.com
Archive for May 16th, 2009
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Authorities in North Carolina say a store owner and a patron thwarted a teen accused of trying to carry out a robbery by concealing a banana beneath his shirt to resemble a gun.
BERLIN (Reuters) –
Iran should engage with the United States and negotiate over its nuclear programme, Mohamed ElBaradei, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said in a magazine interview released on Saturday.
U.S. President Barack Obama is actively seeking to engage Iran on a series of issues, from its nuclear programme to Afghanistan.
“I advise my Iranian negotiating partners: grasp the hand that Obama is extending to you,” ElBaradei told Germany's Der Spiegel magazine.
Asked what he meant exactly, the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog added: “I think Freeze for Freeze is the next realistic step. The Iranians would install no more centrifuges, the West would forego further sanction measures. During this time, there would be intensive negotiations.”
He was referring to the thousands of centrifuges Iran has installed, and is adding to, in order to enrich uranium.
Enriched uranium can be used in nuclear reactors or, if purified to a much higher degree, in an atomic bomb, although Iran denies it has any such intention.
The United Nations Security Council has imposed three rounds of sanctions on Iran for refusing to halt enrichment. Obama's administration has made clear that any overtures to Iran will be accompanied by ramped up sanctions if there is no cooperation.
It would be crazy for Israel to bomb Iran, ElBaradei added.
Israeli President Shimon Peres said earlier this month other options remained open if U.S. diplomatic engagement with Iran failed to halt its nuclear programme. Peres did not say what the other options might be but they are generally understood to include military action.
“It would be completely insane to attack Iran,” ElBaradei said. “That would turn the region into one big fireball, and the Iranians would immediately start building the bomb — and they could count on the support of the entire Islamic world.”
Separately, Deputy Israeli Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said in a speech that Israel would not, in his opinion, take action against Iran without coordinating with the United States.
“But we expect coordination on the part of the Americans with us,” Ayalon added. “Iran, which has yet to cross the point of no return, can be stopped through diplomatic effort.”
“Iran is a very weak country,” he said. “They would not withstand real sanctions. Their banks and shipping companies are vulnerable. If the world would just handle them in a tough manner, imposing sanctions, then maybe we would not need military action.”
(Writing by Paul Carrel, editing by Matthew Jones)
ACCRA (Reuters) –
Barack Obama will visit Africa for the first time since being sworn in as the first black U.S. president when he travels to Ghana in July, a trip many Africans hope will herald powerful help for their poor continent.
Ghanaians celebrated Washington's decision to choose their country for Obama's presidential debut in Africa, where he is a hugely popular figure.
They said the visit represents a chance for Ghana, which expects to start producing oil in 2011, to press its claims for greater engagement with the West.
Obama will visit the former British colony on July 10 and 11, Ghana's foreign ministry said in a statement.
“It is my hope that Ghana will take advantage of this visit … we need help to boost trade for growth,” said former diplomat Kwaku Bapru Asante.
“We should try to push ideas to get the international institutions to modify their conditions and processes in our favor so that we can trade, rather than always asking for aid.”
Ghana, a gold and cocoa exporting country whose economy is struggling with inflation of more than 20 percent and a high budget deficit, is in talks with the International Monetary Fund to secure $1 billion to boost its foreign exchange reserves.
“During his visit, President Obama will hold bilateral talks with his Ghanaian counterpart, President John Evans Atta Mills, aimed at strengthening the fraternal relations existing between the two countries,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Accra residents were thrilled at the prospect of hosting Obama and his wife Michelle.
“I will not work that weekend and I'll do all that it takes to be among the crowd to wave at his motorcade — for me, that alone is fulfilling,” said car mechanic Henry Boahene, shouting the president's name.
Obama, whose late father was Kenyan, sparked a wave of high expectation throughout Africa when he resoundingly won elections in November, though the world's poorest continent has barely featured on his agenda since taking power in January.
Many Africans had hoped Obama's inauguration would mark the start of a new U.S. push to alleviate the poverty, hunger, conflict and corruption that blight much of the continent, but the president's first four months in power have been dominated by the financial crisis at home.
Obama will also visit Cape Coast, a former slave trading hub in Ghana.
(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Daniel Magnowski and Richard Balmforth)
ARLINGTON, Texas – Angels starter John Lackey was ejected after throwing only two pitches in his season debut Saturday.
The first pitch thrown by Lackey, activated from the disabled list to start the game, went behind the head of Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler, who homered twice Friday night. The next pitch hit Kinsler in the side of his upper body. Home plate umpire Bob Davidson immediately ejected Lackey.
Manager Mike Scioscia argued at length with Davidson and crew chief Tim Tschida to no avail. Lackey, who had been sidelined because of a forearm strain, raised his arms on the mound with a look of disbelief on his face.
Lackey is the first starter in the majors to throw only two pitches in a game since Colorado’s Zach Day on Sept. 16, 2005. Day was knocked out of that game at Arizona when a line drive broke his right thumb.
Shane Loux replaced Lackey on the mound. Loux also pitched Friday night, when he gave up a 460-foot two-run homer to Josh Hamilton in the eighth inning. That was the third-longest homer ever hit at Rangers Ballpark and proved to be the difference in the Rangers’ 10-8 victory.
MOSCOW – A boyish, fiddle-wielding Norwegian singer won the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow on Saturday night, his bouncy ditty the highlight of the musical bonanza studded with pyrotechnic artistry and stunning electronic visuals on an epic scale.
Twenty-five performers from across Europe competed in Moscow in a musical bonanza that is one of the most watched annual television events in the world, despite being written off by some as European kitsch.
“Fairytale,” penned and performed by 23-year-old fiddler Alexander Rybak, blew away competition from Iceland’s Yohanna, who finished second, and Azerbaijan’s AySel & Arash, who was third, with a folksy melody to the accompaniment of an acrobatic dance routine and two blonde female support singers.
The elfin-faced Rybak, the winning graduate of a Norwegian television talent show in 2006, accrued the most points in Eurovision’s 53-year history, outstripping Finland’s Lordi in 2006.
“Thank you so much, Russia. You are just great, thank you,” an emotional Rybak, said, speaking in Russian from the stage after the result was announced. “You are the greatest public in the world,” he proclaimed, before launching into a repeat performance of the winning entry.
Russia was trying to capitalize on the prestigious event to showcase the nation’s hospitality and growing role in modern society, but those efforts were undermined several hours earlier when riot police attacked gay pride rallies in the capital.
Gay rights activists sought to use the international competition to draw attention to what they call widespread discrimination against homosexuals in Russia. No injuries were reported.
Police hauled away around 40 demonstrators, including British-based activist Peter Tatchell and American activist Andy Thayer of Chicago, co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network.
“Today’s arrests go against the principles of Eurovision, which are about peace, harmony, cooperation and unity between all the peoples in Europe,” Tatchell told The Associated Press after being released by police.
Rybak criticized the protesters for choosing the same day as the contest — which has a large following in European gay communities — to vent their frustrations.
“I think it is a little bit sad that they chose to have (the protests) today. … They were spending all their energy on that parade, while the biggest gay parade in the world was tonight” at Eurovision, Rybak said
Minsk-born Rybak, who left Belarus when he was four years old with his musician parents, earned the maximum number of points from several of the participating former Soviet satellite countries.
His performance was greeted by rapturous applause from the spectators thronging the Olimpiisky Sports Complex in central Moscow. The crowd heard a wide array of songs, ranging from traditional cheesy pop to tear-jerking ballads and ear-piercing operatic melodies.
Norway last won the competition in 1995 and as winner will host the show next year.
Russia was pinning its hopes on “Mamo,” an overwrought ballad composed by a Georgian songwriter and partially performed in Ukrainian by a Ukrainian-born artist Anastasia Prikhodko, but she could only muster 11th place.
U.S. burlesque artiste Dita Von Teese, ex-wife of rocker Marilyn Manson, spiced up Germany’s act by straddling a shiny lip-shaped black plastic sofa. In an apparent concession to the organizers’ sensibilities, Von Teese toned down her initially planned performance, which involved her stripping off her top down to just sparkly nipple warmers.
The winner of the competition was picked by a combination of telephone voting and official juries from national broadcasters in the 42 nations that originally took part.
Britain had been billed as a favorite for the contest, but its entry, singer Jade, could only manage fifth place, despite composer Andrew Lloyd Webber writing her song.
Bookmakers had also favored Greece, which was pinning its hopes on an elaborately choreographed stage performance involving a giant flashing treadmill.
Israel made an appeal for peace and harmony with “There Must Be Another Way,” sung in Arabic, Hebrew and English by Arab-Jewish duo Noa and Mira.
In a Eurovision first, crew members of the International Space Station gave the command to start telephone voting in a video message from the orbiting science laboratory.
Moscow authorities splashed out 24 million euros (32.5 million) on the show and a weeklong series of decadent parties.
Associated Press writer David Nowak contributed to this report.
Elderly need more ‘sun vitamin’
Spending more time in the sun could help older people cut their risk of heart disease and diabetes say experts.Sun exposure helps the skin make vitamin D – a vitamin older people are generally deficient in due to their lifestyles and natural aging processes. A team at Warwick University has shown a deficiency increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, which is linked to diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Their study of more than 3,000 people is published in Diabetes Care. The researchers say older people would benefit from more sunshine, although it is still important to be sensible in the sun as UV damage is linked with skin cancer. Among the 50 to 70-year-olds living in China that the scientists studied, 94% had a vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) deficiency or insufficiency and 42% also had metabolic syndrome.
Lead researcher Dr Oscar Franco says the same can be seen in British and American populations too. “Vitamin D deficiency is becoming a condition that is causing a large burden of disease across the globe with particular deleterious impact among the elderly. “We found that low vitamin D levels were associated with an increased risk of having metabolic syndrome, and was also significantly associated with increased insulin resistance.” Metabolic syndrome’s cluster of obesity, high blood sugar, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can lead to heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Sunshine vitaminVitamin D is mainly obtained from exposure to the sun, as well as from certain foods such as oily fish and eggs. There are concerns that many people, including the elderly, pregnant women and those who wear all-concealing clothing do not get enough of the vitamin. Dr Franco said there were many factors which could explain why older people had less vitamin D in their blood, including changes in lifestyle factors such as clothing and outdoor activity. “As we get older our skin is less efficient at forming vitamin D and our diet may also become less varied, with a lower natural vitamin D content. “When we are older we may need to spend more time outdoors to stimulate the same levels of vitamin D we had when we were younger.” Lorna Layward from Age Concern and Help The Aged said: “We have always advocated that older people get out into the sunshine for a bit each day if they can. A bit of sun is good for you. “We hear a lot about sun exposure and the risk of cancer, but older people tend to be at the other end of the spectrum. They do not get enough sun and tend to cover up and wear more clothing.” Ed Yong of Cancer Research UK said: “The amount of sunlight it takes to make enough vitamin D is always less than the amounts that cause reddening or burning, so it should be possible to get the benefits of this vitamin without increasing the risk of skin cancer. “Elderly people can also boost their vitamin D levels by eating foods like oily fish, or by using vitamin D supplements on the advice of their GP.”
Singapore firms turn to bartering
By Mariko Oi
Asia Business Report, BBC World, Singapore
In northern Singapore, among many residential flats, there stands a huge six-storey building called Northlink. It houses more than 500 small to medium sized businesses, or SMEs. They are the backbone of Singapore’s economy, and yet they are the hardest hit by the current recession. Since the global credit crunch spread to the city state, banks became nervous to lend – especially to SMEs. Alarmed by the situation, the government has announced that it will spend almost 4bn (2.6bn) to stimulate bank lending in the budget. But Singapore is experiencing its worst downturn in its history, with the economy forecast to shrink by much as 10% this year. And the freeze in credit markets is not yet thawing. So businesses are turning to alternative methods to pay their bills, a tactic once considered a last resort, namely the age old practice of barter trade. Last resortOn the top floor of Northlink building, manager Malvin Khoo is busy finalising deals with his clients. He owns a Singapore based printing and packaging firm that employs 15 people.
“The greatest thing about bartering is I could be ordering a jumbo jet, or a yacht tomorrow,” he quips. Obviously, that is “quite unlikely”, he laughs, though he has managed to use a property in Malaysia to barter with. “It is the cheapest way to expand my business.” Mr Khoo joined Barterxchange, a network of 600 businesses in Malaysia and Singapore, 18 months ago. Instead of simplistic one-to-one direct exchange of goods and services, members go online. Forget cash. They have their own universal currency. Companies earn credits by offering their services and skills. They can then use them to get what they need from other members. “I had some customers that I did packaging for, who had surplus plates,” explains Mr Khoo. “So I structured to trade 20,000 worth of plates to restaurants. Some of them were just opening up so they needed new plates.” In return, Mr Khoo scored free meals at various restaurants. One of them is Megumi Japanese restaurant, which has sold dining vouchers worth more than 10,000. “Not only did we get free webpage design and printing services by bartering, we also got some tremendous exposure to the business community,” says managing director Hazel Hok. “We used to be a local neighbourhood restaurant, but we have seen a significant increase in corporate functions.” New membersAnd there is no geographical boundary. Asia’s biggest barter trade site is connected to more than a dozen global websites, where half a million companies participate. “We have even sent electronic goods to Nigeria,” says Lee Oi Kum, executive chairman of Barterxchange. The industry is now worth over 8bn annually, according to the International Reciprocal Trade Association. And its popularity is rising. Barterxchange has seen a 30% jump in its membership since 2007. Companies cannot operate solely by bartering. But it definitely offers alternative methods to make things a little easier.
Stage set for Obama at Notre Dame
By Jon Donnison
BBC News, Washington
The “fighting Irish” is the nickname for sporting teams at Notre Dame, America’s largest Catholic university.
When President Obama gives a speech there on Sunday, the man who was elected promising to bring an end to the so called “culture wars” will be hoping his views on abortion do not re-ignite hostilities. The president is due to give what is known in America as a “commencement speech”, but in terms of his popularity he will want it to be a question of more of the same rather than any kind of new beginning. The president will address thousands of Notre Dame students at their graduation ceremony. Such speeches are usually not controversial. Indeed, Mr Obama has already given several at other universities around the country this week, sticking to the safer ground of joking about the relevant college sports teams and trying to inspire America’s brightest and best as they step out into the jobs market during one of the bleakest economic periods in US history. But on Sunday, he might have to touch on more sensitive issues. Sinister toneNot all Notre Dame students are Catholic by any means, but a good proportion of them are. And the president’s views in support of abortion rights have upset some of them. When he steps up to give his address, at the university’s Indiana campus, he will be greeted by the pomp and ceremony of Hail to the Chief, the traditional song that is usually played whenever the president arrives at an event. But in the run-up to this speech, the mood music has had a more sinister tone. Anti-abortion campaigners have been running TV and online adverts backed by dramatic music and Hollywood thriller-style scripting, urging people around the country to protest at Mr Obama’s speech.
“It’s clear that Notre Dame didn’t understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation” the online advert says. In the town of Notre Dame, where the University is based, demonstrators carrying placards have been protesting all week. One placard read: “Would you invite Pilate after he condemned Christ?” Catholic bishops across the country have strongly criticised the university’s President – Reverend John Jenkins – for inviting Mr Obama. Some have called for him to be sacked. And conservative Republicans are trying to use the Notre Dame event to get the right to rally around a cause. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is one of them. Mr Gingrich, who recently converted to Catholicism (despite being thrice married and twice divorced), has called for people to organise “Nationwide Prayer Meetings to Protect the Unborn” at the exact time the president is giving his speech. But such opinions are by no means uniform, among Catholics at Notre Dame or nationally. Divisive issueThere are over 60 million Catholics in the US, but polling from the Pew Research Forum suggests 49% of them think abortion should be legal in most or all cases, compared to 42% who think it should be illegal in most or all cases. The figures for the population as a whole are almost identical. Other Christian denominations are far more opposed to abortion; 70% of white evangelical Protestants, for example, think abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. Half of Catholics nationally think it was right to invite Mr Obama to give the Notre Dame speech, while only 28% think it was wrong. And the make-up of the Catholic Church is changing. About a third of all Catholics in America are now Hispanic, an ethnic group that voted overwhelmingly in favour of Mr Obama in the 2008 presidential elections. Sixty-six per cent of Hispanics voted for Mr Obama compared to only 32% for John McCain. Abortion is still a divisive issue in America, but not to the same extent that it was when George W Bush was elected in 2000. Figures from the Pew Forum indicate that abortion was not even in the top 10 most important issues for voters in 2008. It fell way behind the economy, jobs, healthcare, energy and war in Iraq. President Obama will not want Sunday’s speech at Notre Dame to change that. America’s only ever Catholic President, John F Kennedy, gave a famous speech while running for election in 1960 urging people not to vote for or against him because of his faith. He argued that there were more pressing issues than religion for the country to deal with. Almost half a century on, President Obama, his Christian faith notwithstanding, may well feel the same. Some observers here feel if he is able to give a calm and conciliatory speech, the anti-abortion protesters could make him look like the voice of moderation, while they are left rallying on the fringes.
BALTIMORE – Rachel Alexandra not only ran with the boys, she beat every one of them.
Rachel Alexandra became the first filly to win the Preakness Stakes since 1924, holding off a late charge by Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird to capture the middle jewel of the Triple Crown on Saturday by a length.
Calvin Borel, who rode Mine That Bird in the Derby, switched to Rachel Alexandra and guided her to a sixth straight victory.
The only filly in the 13-horse race, Rachel Alexandra went off as the 9-5 favorite and became the first horse to win from the No. 13 post at Pimlico. She moved to the front and took a big lead before Mine That Bird tested her in the stretch.
Musket Man finished third, as he did in the Derby, followed by Flying Private and Big Drama.
Rachel Alexandra covered the 1 3-16th miles in 1:55.08.
She paid 5.60, 4.60 and 3.60. Mine That Bird paid 6.60 and 4.80, and Musket Man returned 5 on a show bet.
The last filly to win a Preakness was Nellie Morse.
TEHRAN, Iran – A reformist challenger to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad criticized the hard-liner’s denial of the Holocaust, saying it has served Israel’s interests and pushed the country deeper into international isolation, a newspaper reported Saturday.
Moderate cleric Mahdi Karroubi is one of two reformist candidates hoping to unseat Ahmadinejad in the June 12 presidential election. The former parliament speaker has said he would pursue a foreign policy of detente with the West and wouldn’t mind meeting President Barack Obama if it would help Iran’s national interests.
“Ahmadinejad offered the greatest service to Israel by raising the Holocaust issue because the whole world stood to support Israel,” Karroubi was quoted as saying by Etemad-e-Melli newspaper, which he controls.
The Iranian president has repeatedly claimed the Holocaust is a myth and even sponsored an international conference in 2006 to debate whether the World War II genocide of Jews took place.
Ahmadinejad has also called for Israel’s elimination, although his exact remarks have been disputed. Some translators say he has called for Israel to be “wiped off the map.” Others say a better translation would be “vanish from the pages of time” — implying Israel would disappear on its own rather than be destroyed.
The leading reformist candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has similarly slammed Ahmadinejad for waging a fierce rhetorical battle with the international community, leaving Iran with few friends to help protect its interests.
“Today, excluding a few friends we’ve had for a long time, we have no appropriate interaction with the international community and are subject to threats,” Mousavi was quoted as saying by Aftab-e-Yazd newspaper.
Apart from Israel, Ahmadinejad’s most intense fight with the international community has been over Iran’s nuclear program. Iran says its nuclear efforts are peaceful and focused on producing electricity, but the U.S., Israel and many of their allies suspect the Iranians are determined to develop the capability to build atomic weapons.
Ahmadinejad’s hard-line stance has prompted the U.N. Security Council to impose three rounds of economic sanctions for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment, a technology that can be used to produce nuclear fuel or an atomic bomb.
Many reformists and conservatives have criticized the president for spending too much time slamming the U.S. and Israel and not enough trying to fix the economy, which suffers from high inflation and unemployment despite huge oil revenues.
Mousavi said Ahmadinejad ignored economists who warned that the president’s plan to make direct cash contributions to the masses would worsen inflation and burn through oil revenues that the government relies on for 70 percent of its budget.
“When economic experts warned that liquidity resulting from oil revenues would cause problems, nobody heeded the warnings,” Mousavi was quoted by the paper as saying.
Ahmadinejad was elected in 2005 on a populist agenda promising to bring oil revenues to every family, eradicate poverty and tackle unemployment. The president has defended his cash distributions, saying they would create jobs. But Iran’s unofficial unemployment rate tops 30 percent.
HOUSTON (Reuters) –
Two spacewalking astronauts on Saturday tackled one of their toughest repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope — a meticulous fix of a broken camera — and installed a new spectrograph that can divine the properties of distant galaxies.
Astronauts John Grunsfeld and Andrew Feustel spent 6-1/2 hours outside the shuttle Atlantis for the third of five back-to-back spacewalks to upgrade the famous space observatory for another five to 10 years of work.
NASA officials had billed Saturday's spacewalk as the “hold your breath” day for Atlantis' ongoing 11-day mission, the fifth and final servicing call to Hubble before the shuttle fleet is retired next year.
But Grunsfeld and Feustel's tasks came off without a hitch, after two earlier spacewalks were beset with balky equipment that required astronauts to improvise.
Thursday's installation of a new wide-field camera was almost derailed by a frozen bolt.
Saturday's work required Grunsfeld to clamber into Hubble's body, dig into its electronic guts and replace sharp-edged computer circuit boards that were never meant to be repaired in space.
32 TINY FASTENERS
Working mostly by feel, Grunsfeld cut off a mesh grid, unscrewed a protective plate and used a specially designed pair of tongs to pluck out four circuit boards.
It was the first time that NASA had tried to fix an instrument on Hubble rather than replacing it.
“This activity is dedicated to studying the behavior of tiny screws in space,” Grunsfeld joked after removing 32 fasteners securing the faulty circuit boards in Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, which shut down in 2007 after a power failure.
Hubble's observations have reshaped scientists' understanding of how galaxies form and change over time, of planet origins and of the mysterious “dark energy” force that is inflating the universe at a faster and faster rate.
To keep Hubble on the cutting edge of scientific discovery, it is being outfitted with two new instruments. One is a panchromatic wide-field camera, installed on Thursday, which can see closer to the origins of the universe.
The other is the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph, installed on Saturday, which replaces a package of mirrors that was installed in the telescope in 1993 to correct for blurry vision caused by flaws to the original telescope.
The spectrograph — the most sensitive such instrument to ever fly in space — delivers precise astrophysical data on the temperature, density and speed of distant cosmic bodies.
“It wants to go as deep out in space, as far back in time, as fast as it can,” said senior Hubble project scientist David Leckrone.
The Cosmic Origins Spectrograph and Advanced Camera for Surveys passed initial tests. But NASA engineers were not immediately able to confirm that the instruments were functioning fully.
On Friday astronauts replaced gyroscopes that will allow Hubble to steady its gaze on distant galaxies.
Replacing Hubble's six gyroscopes was the top priority for the mission. NASA hopes the improvements will keep Hubble operational until at least 2014 so it can work in tandem with its replacement, the James Webb Space Telescope.
(Additional reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Xavier Briand)
Legal drugs that are designed to treat the mentally ill are now being used widely by people seeking a “brain boost” to enhance their work or studies.
In many cases, the pills for this Brave New World are being sold over the Internet.
Forget for a second that these neuro-enhancing drugs can be highly addictive or that experts say they may have long-term, adverse side effects. Or that the nonprescribed use of such medicine is illegal and the Food and Drug Administration isn't doing enough to stop it.
The bigger danger in this new “mind hacking” is that it furthers the idea that people are material machines that can be altered like robots to perform ever-greater mental feats. The notion of life being more than molecules fades like a beautiful sunset behind a storm cloud.
And then there is the unfairness of a student or worker who is “high” on psychostimulants being able to perform better on a test or task than someone who chooses to compete without chemical augmentation.
A society that still runs on merit and the integrity and uniqueness of each individual must not be forced to screen people before every exam, job interview, or work presentation to see if they have used memory-boosters, productivity-enhancers, or other such “cosmetic neurology.”
Just look at how Major League Baseball and many other sports must now screen for steroids as body enhancers. These sports are no longer seen as level playing fields for athletes whose records are often suspect.
Or consider the possibility of employers someday demanding that workers enhance their capabilities with mind-altering drugs.
The “new normal” of relying on brain boosters is eroding many of the qualities that define human beings.
At some point this drug taking may no longer be a matter of free will.
Who's in charge then?
Americans grow happier as they age, surveys find. And a new Pew
Research Center survey shows the tendency is holding up as the economy
Happiness is a complex thing. Past studies have found that happiness is partly inherited, that Republicans are happier than Democrats, and that old men tend to be happier than old women.
And even before the economy got nasty, seniors were found to be generally happier than Baby Boomers.
Some of that owes to the American Dream being lived by past
generations, while Boomers work two jobs and watch the dream whither.
In times like this, it's clear how age can have its advantages.
While not all seniors are weathering the recession well, for many the
impact is much less severe than it is for younger people.
Why? Many people 65 and older retired and downsized their lifestyles
before the economy imploded, according to Pew analysts. Most
aren't raising kids and many are not so worried about being laid off. Loss of income can be, of course, a source of stress and displeasure. (While money doesn't buy happiness, a study in February showed cash can help, especially when people use it to do stuff instead of buy things.)
If you're thinking that Republicans are happy just because they perhaps make more money, that does not seem to be the case. The study that found Republicans to be happier than Democrats also showed that it held true even after adjusting for income.
It's those age 50-64 who've “seen their nest eggs shrink the most
and their anxieties about retirement swell the most,” the Pew survey
found. It also finds that younger adults (ages 18-49) “have taken the
worst lumps in the job market but remain relatively upbeat about their
Not everyone in any category is blissful, of course. Other research
has shown that happiness in old age depends largely on attitude factors
such as optimism and coping strategies. Add financial planning to the
In the new Pew telephone survey, taken in March and April of 2,969
adults, here's how many respondents in each age group said they had cut
back on spending in the past year:
18-49: 68 percent
50-64: 59 percent
65+: 36 percent.
And is the recession causing stress in your family?
18-49: 52 percent
50-64: 58 percent
65+: 38 percent.
Now for the good news: A study in January found that key groups of
people in the United States have grown happier over the past few
decades, while other have become less so. The result: Happiness
inequality has decreased since the 1970s. Americans are becoming more
similar to each other on the happiness scale.
5 Keys to Happiness
Key to Happiness: Location, Location, Location
More Happy News
Robert Roy Britt is the Editorial Director of Imaginova. In this column, The Water Cooler, he looks at what people are talking about in the world of science and beyond.
Original Story: Happiness Is … Being Old, Male and Republican
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Barca claim Spanish league title
Barcelona claimed their 19th Spanish league title without kicking a ball after title-rivals Real Madrid lost 3-2 at Villarreal on Saturday.It left Pep Guardiola’s side with an unassailable lead ahead of their match at Mallorca on Sunday. On Wednesday Barcelona won the Copa del Rey when beating Athletic Bilbao 4-1. Barca could become the first Spanish side in history to win the treble if they beat Manchester United in the Champions League final on 27 May. The Catalan club’s title triumph was their first in three years and is their first domestic double for 11 seasons.
Their Copa del Rey victory was the first time they had won the cup since 1998 and was their first piece of silverware in two seasons. Barcelona currently have 86 points and a goal difference of plus 72 with three games left, while Madrid have 78 points with two to play. Their triumph came on the same day that their Champions League rivals United claimed their third successive English Premier League title with a 0-0 draw against Arsenal. The pair meet in Rome with United looking to defend their European title. Barcelona’s success this year has vindicated their decision to part company with long-standing coach Frank Rijkaard at the end of last season and appoint former player Guardiola as manager. For 38-year-old Guardiola, a Catalonian by birth, this week’s triumphs are his first as manager of the club he spent 11 years playing for.
SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Graduation festivities got under way at the University of Notre Dame on Saturday — as well as another day of demonstrations over President Barack Obama’s appearance Sunday.
University spokesman Dennis Brown said there were no reports of protests on campus at any of the ceremonies held by various schools, centers and institutes. For the most part, the only difference on campus was the heightened security for Obama’s visit, he said.
Students with their gowns on walked along happily Saturday afternoon with their parents apparently oblivious to the protest just a few hundred feet away.
But at the school’s front gate at intersection of Angela and Notre Dame Avenue, more than 100 people gathered to protest the decision to invite Obama to speak at commencement and receive an honorary degree. They said he shouldn’t be allowed to speak at the Roman Catholic university because of his support of abortion rights and embryonic stem-cell research.
Shortly after noon, 23 protesters marched on to campus. Nineteen were arrested on trespassing charges and four also faced a charge of resisting law enforcement, said Sgt. Bill Redman, St. Joseph County Police Department spokesman. They were being held on 250 bond.
Among those arrested was the Rev. Norman Weslin, a Catholic priest and founder of the Lambs of Christ abortion protest group. He also was among 21 people arrested during a similar protest Friday.
None of those arrested Saturday were students, Brown said.
Former Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes and five others were arrested Friday and held overnight with no bond — a change in procedure for their second arrests. They had their bonds set Saturday at 1,000 by St. Joseph Superior Judge Jerome Frese.
Also protesting Saturday was Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff identified as “Roe” in the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. She now opposes abortion.
She said she had planned to be arrested on Saturday, but changed her mind when a security officer ushered her to the side and gave her a chance to walk away.
“I didn’t know why he just kind of gently moved me away. So I’m like, maybe this isn’t the right time,” McCorvey said.
Some driving past the protesters on Saturday waved in support. Others yelled at them. One man honked his horn in protest and held up a handful of hangers, a symbol of the gruesome procedures some pregnant women resorted to before Roe v. Wade.
Later, about 10 pro-Obama demonstrators assembled across the street holding up placards with slogans such as “Honk if you support Obama” and “Pro-Jenkins/Notre Dame.” The Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, has been criticized by many, including dozens of bishops, for the school’s decision to invite Obama.
On campus, though, there were no signs of protest. Students generally favored Obama giving the graduation speech. The graduating class voted to name Jenkins their Senior Class Fellow.
A full page advertisement in the South Bend Tribune on Saturday had the headline: “Catholic Leaders and Theologians Welcome President Obama to Notre Dame.” The ad, signed by university professors around the country, many of them at Catholic schools, said that as Catholics committed to civil dialogue, they were proud Obama was giving the commencement address.
There were some students, though, who opposed Obama giving the speech. ND Response, a coalition of university groups, has received permission from Notre Dame to hold a protest on the west end of the South Quad on Sunday. Spokesman John Daly said he expected 20 to 30 graduating seniors to skip commencement and attend the prayer vigil.
Some students who planned to attend the commencement said they would show their displeasure at the Obama invitation by putting a yellow cross with yellow baby’s feet atop their mortarboards.
On the Net:
ND Response: http://www.ndresponse.com
Catholic Theological Society: http://www.ctsa-online.org
Obama to visit Russia and Ghana
US President Barack Obama is to make a week-long foreign tour in July that will include Russia, Italy and Ghana, the White House says.Mr Obama will be in Moscow on 6-8 July for talks that are expected to cover efforts to reduce nuclear stockpiles and non-proliferation. From Russia he will head to the Group of Eight summit in Italy. He will then travel to the Ghanaian capital, Accra, on his first trip as president to sub-Saharan Africa. There had been speculation that Mr Obama’s first presidential trip to the continent might be to Kenya, home to the president’s late father. The White House said the visit to Russia would provide the chance to deepen engagement on issues including missile defence and security challenges. ‘Promoting development’Mr Obama and his Russian counterpart Dimitry Medvedev had a good first meeting in Europe last month, agreeing to work together to reduce their country’s nuclear arsenal, the BBC’s Kim Ghattas reports from Washington. But a recent thaw has been complicated by a spy scandal at the Nato headquarters and Nato military exercises in Georgia, she adds. The G8 summit for the world’s leading industrialised nations will take place in the central Italian town of L’Aquila, which was struck by a major earthquake in April. Mr Obama is due to chair a meeting on energy and climate change at the summit, which runs from 10-12 July. In Ghana, the White House said Mr Obama and his wife looked forward “to strengthening the US relationship with one of our most trusted partners in sub-Saharan Africa”. During the visit Mr Obama hopes to highlight the “critical role that sound governance and civil society play in promoting lasting development”, the White House said. Correspondents say that Mr Obama, preoccupied with foreign policy challenges elsewhere in the world, has not yet articulated a detailed policy for Africa.
ZACATECAS, Mexico (Reuters) –
Suspected members of a Mexican drug cartel disguised as federal police entered a state prison in the northern state of Zacatecas on Saturday and freed 59 inmates, police and army officials said.
Most of the prisoners who escaped are believed to be members of the armed wing of Mexico's Gulf Cartel, one of the country's most powerful criminal organizations.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon has staked his presidency on crushing the drug gangs that killed 6,300 people last year across Mexico. The United States is increasingly alarmed by the violence and concerned the fighting could spill across the border.
Zacatecas has so far seen little of the drug-related violence that has rocked other northern states.
The early morning jailbreak was carried out by heavily armed men dressed in the uniform of an elite federal police force.
The men, who arrived in 15 vehicles and a helicopter, gained entry into the prison after claiming they had been ordered to transfer a prisoner to another location, state police officials said.
LOS ANGELES – Officials in Mexico have found a child they believe is a 3-year-old boy abducted from his California home but that country’s identification process is slowing the family’s ability to confirm the child’s identity, authorities said Saturday.
Detectives in San Bernardino County and FBI agents received a call from Mexican officials in the border town of Mexicali on Friday saying that they had found a boy that could be Briant Rodriguez, sheriff’s spokeswoman Cindy Beavers said.
She said investigators and the boy’s mother, Maria Rosalina Millan, flew to the neighboring city of Calexico to see the child and confirm his identity. Mexican officials were seeking the boy’s birth certificate and other paperwork as part of that country’s identification process before Millan can see the child.
Sheriff’s Lt. Rick Ells said the process could also require a physical and mental exam by child protective social workers, which may not happen until Monday. The birth certificate also must be authenticated.
“While we’re frustrated about the wait, we’re hopeful that it is him and that he’s OK,” Ells said.
Authorities said Briant was abducted May 3 by two armed men who burst into his home, tied up Millan and other family members and stole money and property. The kidnappers have not demanded a ransom and no motive had been established.
San Bernardino is about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
Space station module handed over
By Jonathan Amos
Science reporter, BBC News, Turin
Europe has rolled out its last major module for the space station.The cylindrical Node 3 – to be known as “Tranquility” – was constructed by Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy. Once attached to the station, it will house life support gear as well as being home to the Cupola, a giant “bay” window that was also built in Europe. Node 3 will be shipped shortly to the Kennedy Space Center in the US, from where it will catch a ride to the station in the back of a shuttle. The Endeavour orbiter flight, which will take up the Cupola as a co-passenger, is currently scheduled to lift-off in February 2010.
The installation of the two European components will all but complete the construction phase of the International Space Station. “We still have growth opportunities,” said Nasa space station manager Mike Suffredini, who had travelled to Turin to accept the Node on behalf of the US space agency. “If someone wanted to bring another module to orbit, they could – and our Russian friends do have another couple of modules they are proposing. But the key for us all in the partnership is to concentrate now on utilisation,” he told BBC News. Life hubThe delivery of Node 3 concludes a barter arrangement made between Europe and the US, in which Europe agreed to supply two connecting nodes, 2 and 3, in return for a free trip into space for its Columbus science laboratory.
The US has already met its side of the bargain, flying Columbus to the station last year. Some 7m in length and about 4.5m in width, Node 3 is built around the same design principals as Europe’s other space station contributions. Columbus, Node 2, the ATV space freighter, and the Multi-Purpose Logistics Modules (which serve as the packing boxes for major re-supply missions carried out by the US shuttle) all have a similar cylindrical look about them. Node 3 has several racks inside its multi-layer, meteoroid impact-hardened shell. These bays will quickly become filled in orbit by equipment already on the station. Chief among these will be the Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS). Their jobs involve scrubbing the air of carbon dioxide to maintain its oxygen concentration; and recycling waste water, including urine, so it can be drunk again and again. Node 3 will also store a treadmill the crew will need to use regularly to exercise their bodies and maintain bone density. One of the risks of living in microgravity conditions is that bones tend to lose strength over time. Station extensionThe cupola, which is already at Kennedy, will be attached to one end of the Node for the flight into orbit; but once in space, it will be moved to a position that better allows the astronauts to use its windows to see across the full breadth of the platform.
Although Node 3 is the last major fixed item Europe will send up to the platform, it will continue to build space freighters. These Automated Transfer Vehicles are part of the European Space Agency’s (Esa) ongoing “fees” for being part of the space station “club”. By sending several tonnes of food, water, air, fuel and other equipment to the platform every 18 months so, Esa earns places on the ISS for its astronauts. The latest ATV, known as Johannes Kepler after the great 17th Century German scientist, has been in preparation here in the same clean-room facility as Node 3. It is conceivable that the space station partners will order more – or even replacement – fixed modules in the future, but this will depend very much on how long they choose to operate the platform.
Johannes Kepler will also fly in 2010
At the moment, they have no agreement in place to keep flying the station beyond 2015; but Simonetta Di Pippo, Esa’s director of human spaceflight, says discussions are likely to resolve this issue soon. “We are working on the possibility, or at least we are verifying the possibility, of keeping our hardware certified up to 2025,” she told BBC News. “For sure, the first step will be to work on an extension up to 2020.” Node 3 is due to leave Thales Alenia Space on Sunday, to be transported by an Airbus Beluga heavy-lift aircraft to Kennedy. Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET
Mourinho wins Serie A with Inter
Jose Mourinho celebrated winning the league title in a third country as Inter Milan retained their Serie A crown with three games still to play.The Nerazzurri lifted the title after city rivals AC Milan put in a weak performance to lose 2-1 at Udinese. Inter’s triumph, in Mourinho’s first season, is their fourth straight scudetto and their 17th overall. The champions, who host Siena on Sunday, hold a seven-point lead with Milan only having two games left. Milan captain Paolo Maldini, retiring at the end of the season, had a night to forget on his 900th appearance for the Rossoneri. The 40-year-old pulled down Antonio Floro Flores on 31 minutes to allow Gaetano D’Agostino to fire home a penalty and then failed to clear a corner before Cristian Zapata slammed the ball in at the far post early in the second half. Massimo Ambrosini headed in for Milan in stoppage time. The first title in Inter’s run of four came after Juventus were stripped of the 2006 title in Italy’s match-fixing scandal. Inter’s second scudetto was a stroll given Juve were in Serie B and Milan had points deducted from the affair while last season Claudio Ranieri’s side were rebuilding in their first season back in the top flight. But coach Roberto Mancini was sacked at the end of the campaign after falling out with Moratti but Mourinho, who won two Premier League titles with Chelsea, has ensured the Nerazzurri’s continued dominance.
Israel PM ‘may back two states’
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may be prepared to endorse a peace process leading to an independent Palestinian state, his defence minister has said.Ehud Barak, a long-time rival now part of Israel’s governing coalition, spoke ahead of Mr Netanyahu’s first meeting with US President Obama in Washington. He told Israeli TV a regional deal could be struck within three years. Mr Netanyahu has so far been unwilling to discuss a two-state solution, saying only he wants a “fresh approach”. He recently made his first visits out of Israel since taking office, travelling to Egypt and Jordan during the past week. A two-state solution based on independent
is a goal strongly backed by the US and by Jordan and Egypt, Israel’s only allies among Arab states. ‘Fresh approach’President Obama is expected to push
on the issue when they meet for talks at the White House on Monday. Mr Barak, the Labour leader, says his long-time rival is ready to take a pragmatic approach to peace negotiations.
“Netanyahu will tell Obama: We’re willing to engage in a process whose end is a regional peace accord,” he told Channel 2 TV. He stopped short of saying that Mr Netanyahu would back a two-state solution while in Washington in the coming week, but suggested an independent Palestinian state could emerge from a revived peace process. “The Arabs say ‘two states,’ [and] I don’t see a reason why Netanyahu would not say that at the end of an accord… there will be two peoples living side by side in peace and mutual respect,” he said. Mr Barak said he thought such an agreement could be reached between Israel and its neighbours within three years, and take another five years to implement. However, some members of Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party cast doubt on Mr Barak’s views. Transport Minister Yisrael Katz said the prime minister would “oppose any creation of an armed Palestinian state on Israel’s borders, which would endanger Israel’s security,” the AFP news agency reported. ‘Triple track’Mr Netanyahu is scheduled to arrive in Washington on Sunday, with talks at the White House planned for the following day. Although Israel’s long-standing relationship with the US remains strong, analysts say Mr Netanyahu is likely to find himself under pressure from the US president. During his victorious election campaign earlier this year he remained opposed to Palestinian statehood, and spoke out vociferously against the Hamas administration which runs the Gaza Strip. But in an address to US supporters of Israel at the start of May Mr Netanyahu said he favoured a “triple track” approach. Political progress must be combined with a strengthening of the Palestinian security apparatus and moved to stimulate the Palestinian economy, he said. Israeli newspaper Haaretz quoted a White House official as saying Mr Obama would not present a specific plan for the Middle East at his meeting with Mr Netanyahu on Monday. “This is [the president's] first opportunity to take the next step to deepen and expand [US-Israeli co-operation. And I’m quite sure it will be the first of many such conversations,” Haaretz quoted the official as saying.
ZURICH (Reuters) –
Switzerland's largest bank, UBS (UBS.N)(UBSN.VX), is losing key staff in important areas to competitors, chairman Kaspar Villiger was reported as saying on Saturday.
“This has reached such an extent in the United States that it's making us think. We're also losing people to the competition in Switzerland but not to such a dramatic extent,” the chairman of the world's largest wealth management in terms of assets said in an interview with Switzerland's Berner Zeitung.
“We have to react,” Villiger, a former Swiss finance minister, said.
UBS is struggling to rebuild its once powerful brand after massive writedowns on investments into risky U.S. assets forced it to accept government backing.
Current Finance Minister Hans-Rudolf Merz said on Thursday that the Swiss government wants to exit its investment in UBS rapidly but will only do so when the bank is stable and market conditions are favorable.
Villiger, who was appointed UBS chairman in March as part of a management clearout, said he accepted the need for stricter supervision but warned against too much government interference.
“Overregulation that would endanger international competitiveness would be wrong,” Villiger said.
“Noticeable tendencies to introduce state wage guidelines would be the most foolish thing for a country like Switzerland,” said Villiger, adding that large companies outside the banking sector like Nestle (NESN.VX) would also be hit by less favorable conditions for business.
Facing public anger over what many regarded as excessive bonuses, UBS undertook a radical overhaul of its executive pay system last year after its bet on risky U.S. assets backfired.
(Reporting by Jason Rhodes; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)
WASHINGTON – A historic downtown Washington church that more closely resembles a concrete bunker than a house of worship can be demolished because the structure’s upkeep is so expensive it would eventually bankrupt the congregation, a city official has ruled.
Members of the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, located just a few blocks from the White House, have spent months in federal court fighting for a permit to raze the boxy modernist church they say is unwelcoming and impractical because of its huge concrete faces, sharp angles and few windows. But preservationists say the church, which forsakes a traditional steeple and nave, embodies the 1950s and ’60s architectural style and should remain intact.
In a decision filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, D.C. planning director Harriet Tregoning said despite the building’s designation as a historic landmark, church leaders should be allowed to replace it. Church members have welcomed the ruling.
The decision has “basically freed us from the bunker,” said Eric Rassbach, an attorney for the church.
The church was built in 1971 and is based on the design of architect Araldo Cossutta, who worked with the firm of the famed architect I.M. Pei. Pei’s Washington buildings include the widely admired East Wing of the National Gallery. But the church’s design was mostly the work of Cossutta, who also designed the Christian Science Mother Church building in Boston.
Tregoning, acting on behalf of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, cited several problems with the church’s construction, including the use of uninsulated concrete and defective workmanship. The congregation would need to pay for ongoing repairs to keep it functional, she said.
The situation could drain the church’s funds and lead to its demise within eight years, Tregoning wrote. The complicated design also makes it difficult to convert the church to be used for something like a museum.
There’s one caveat to the city’s ruling: The church must first obtain a building permit for its new structure at the same site before it receives the demolition permit. Darrow Kirkpatrick, chairman of the church’s redevelopment committee, said church officials will now work with architects to develop construction plans.
The congregation has sued to fight the historic landmark status, saying the designation limits members’ ability to freely practice religion.
Rebecca Miller, executive director of the D.C. Preservation League, said there are unexplored alternatives that would maintain the historic building. The group will likely appeal the decision, she said.
ALIABAD, Afghanistan – The bearded Afghan army officer dropped off bundles of pens and notebooks at the school and asked one boy which he preferred: The Americans or the Taliban?
“I don’t know,” the boy replied. But after a short silence other children in the classroom answered for him: “The Taliban.”
Within minutes the discussion was punctuated by an insurgent ambush and the joint U.S.-Afghan patrol became pinned down in this area with forested mountains, caves and ravines that American soldiers call “the Valley of Death.”
Heavy machine gun fire blanketed the patrol as troops used smoke grenades and cover fire to escape the ambush. No one in the patrol was killed in the firefight Saturday.
The Korengal Valley in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province has a reputation as one of most dangerous areas in the country, where its rugged mountainous terrain makes it a perfect insurgent playground.
The region’s infamy for U.S. and Afghan troops dates back to June 2005, when a four-man team of Navy SEALs was caught in a militant ambush. Three were killed and the fourth was rescued days later by a farmer.
A helicopter carrying American special forces sent to rescue the SEALs was shot down with a rocket-propelled grenade, killing 16 American troops in one of the deadliest single attacks on the U.S. military since the war began here in 2001.
Since then, the insurgents have used the cover of caves and trees to attack small American units patrolling the valley. Despite years of clashes and airstrikes, U.S. and Afghan forces have failed to subdue the Korengal Valley — one of the most staunchly anti-American regions in Afghanistan.
The tribes here speak a distinct language — Korengali — and adhere to the austere Wahabi brand of Islam most prevalent in Saudi Arabia, and practiced by Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.
The Saturday gunbattle erupted following a humanitarian mission to deliver 60 bags of school supplies to the students, aged 5 to 12-years old.
An Associated Press news team embedded with the U.S. troops dashed back to the American military base nearby on dirt trails. It was unclear what happened to the students after the joint patrol retreated.
“Unfortunately the people, the Taliban, they don’t like us and the coalition forces to have a good friendship with the local people,” Afghan army Capt. Mubarak Shah said. “That’s why they started shooting, to make a distance between the Afghan army and the people.”
Faced with the growing insurgency, President Barack Obama has ordered another 21,000 troops to join the fight in the hope of reversing the militants’ gains over the past few years.
One of the first units to deploy to southern Afghanistan assumed control Saturday of aviation operations at Kandahar Airfield, a statement from the NATO-led force said.
The 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division was the first to arrive as part of the surge of troops ordered to Afghanistan by Obama earlier this year.
The new troops will bolster the record 38,000 American forces already in the country.
Associated Press writer Fisnik Abrashi contributed to this report from Kabul.