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Showing posts from July 12, 2014

Soccer-Argentina beat Dutch in shootout to reach final

Argentina's Sergio Romero saved two penalties in a 4-2 shootout win over the Netherlands to seal their first World Cup final place in 24 years after the first ever goalless semi-final at the end of extra time on Wednesday. Romero plunged low to his left to save the first penalty kick from defender Ron Vlaar and then made a superb stop from Wesley Sneijder as Argentina's jubilant fans went wild at the Corinthians arena. The pressure of scoring the winning penalty kick fell to Argentina substitute Maxi Rodriguez who slotted high past Jasper Cillessen, with the Dutch keeper failing to emulate the heroics of backup Tim Krul in their quarter-final win over Costa Rica. Twice champions Argentina now travel to Rio de Janeiro for Sunday's final against old rivals Germany, who thrashed hosts Brazil 7-1 in the other semi-final in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday. It will be a repeat of the 1986 and 1990 finals and the first time the same two teams will have faced each other three times

Romero the hero as Argentina edge Dutch in shootout

Argentina's launched himself left and right to save two penalties in a 4-2 shootout win over the Netherlands on Wednesday that sealed the South Americans' first World Cup final appearance in 24 years. After the teams battled to a 0-0 draw in the first ever goalless semi-final, Romero plunged low to his left to save the first kick from Dutch defender Ron Vlaar, then flew high to his right to palm away Wesley Sneijder's effort. The pressure of scoring the winning penalty kick fell to Argentina substitute Maxi Rodriguez, who picked power over placement and, while Jasper Cillessen got a hand to the ball, it ricocheted up off the underside of the bar and into the net. Twice champions Argentina now travel to Rio de Janeiro for Sunday's final against old rivals Germany, who thrashed hosts Brazil 7-1 in the other semi-final in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday. It will be a repeat of the 1986 and 1990 finals and the first time the same two teams will have faced each other three t

Sterling lashes out at wife in trial over $2 bln Clippers sale

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling lashed out at his estranged wife following her court testimony on Wednesday in a trial over the $2 billion sale of the NBA team. Sterling, 80, who is fighting to scuttle the deal his wife Shelly Sterling negotiated with former Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, lashed out at his wife when she approached him after her testimony. "Get away from me, you pig!" Sterling growled, startling his wife who had said she moved to gain control of the family trust that owns the Clippers out of concern for his mental health. "Shelly, how could you lie?" the real estate billionaire added before apologizing to Judge Michael Levanas for disturbing court. Shelly Sterling, 79, last month asked Los Angeles Superior Court to confirm her as having sole authority to sell the professional basketball franchise after her husband vowed to block the NBA-record sale. Donald Sterling was banned for life by the NBA in April for p

Merck nausea drug works in children in late-stage trial

Merck & Co Inc said its drug for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, Emend, was shown to be more effective than a placebo in a late-stage trial in children. _0"> The company said it plans to file for marketing approval for Emend in the U.S. for the new pediatric formulation in the second half of 2014. Merck said 51 percent of patients getting Emend showed no vomiting, no retching and no use of rescue medication for nausea and vomiting 25 to 120 hours following the beginning of chemotherapy, compared to 26 percent of those on a placebo. More than 70 percent of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy suffer from nausea and vomiting that may result in a delay or discontinuation of treatment. Prolonged nausea and vomiting can also lead to weight loss, dehydration and malnutrition. Emend is already approved for treating chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in adults and had global sales of $507 million in 2013. Tesaro Inc's experimental drug Rolapi

Modi pitches India's frugal space prowess at rocket launch

Newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a pitch for India to be the world's low-cost space technology supplier after witnessing the launch of a rocket carrying five satellites from France, Singapore, Germany and Canada on Monday. The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle's mission bolstered India's goal of capturing a large slice of the global satellite launch industry, estimated to be worth around $55 billion over the next decade. Deviprasad Karnik, spokesman for the Indian Space Research Organization, said all five satellites had been placed in orbit. Modi said India's space program put it in an "elite global group of five-six countries today. This is one domain in which we are at the international cutting edge, a domain in which we have pushed beyond mediocrity to achieve excellence." So far, India has launched 40 satellites for 19 countries, many of them advanced nations. Although that is a source of pride for Modi, the nationalist leader underscore

Deep frozen testicle tissue used to produce babies in mice

Scientists have for the first time produced live offspring from testicle tissue that has been cryopreserved, or deep frozen, and say a similar technique might one day be used to preserve the fertility of boys facing cancer treatment. _0"> In a study published in the journal Nature Communications on Tuesday, Japanese researchers said their experiments using mice led to eight healthy offspring being born from sperm produced by previously frozen and thawed testicle tissue. "The cryopreservation of testicle tissue may be a realistic measure for preserving fertility," the team, led by Takehiko Ogawa of Japan's Yokohama City University Association of Medical Science, wrote in the study. Infertility is one of the adverse side effects of certain types of cancer treatment, and, as cure rates for childhood cancers are increasing, fertility has become an important concern for patients and their families. Freezing sperm itself to preserve it for future use is only possi

Nature journal retracts stem cell paper citing 'critical errors'

A stem cell paper published by a team of Japanese and American scientists in the influential journal Nature has been retracted due to "several critical errors", the journal said on Wednesday. The research, which when published in January was described as game-changing by many experts in the field, was subsequently investigated by Japan's RIKEN scientific institute, which "categorised some of the errors as misconduct", Nature said. The paper, led at RIKEN by Japanese researcher Haruko Obokata, detailed simple ways to reprogram mature animal cells back to an embryonic-like state, allowing them to generate many different types of cells. The results appeared to offer a promise that human cells might in future be simply and cheaply reprogrammed into embryonic-like cells - in this case cells dubbed Stimulus-Triggered Acquisition of Pluripotency, or STAP, cells - suggesting a simple way to replace damaged cells or grow new organs for sick and injured people. Obok

Stinging rebuke: 'bone-house wasp' builds nest with ant corpses

Here's some useful advice for the world's ants: Whatever you do, stay away from the "bone-house wasp." Scientists said on Wednesday they have identified a new species of spider wasp in southeastern China with grim conduct unlike any other creature. It crams the outermost chamber of the nests it builds for its offspring with piles of dead ants. The female wasps do not hunt the ants for food, instead using the carcasses apparently to frighten off nest invaders. "Most of the ant specimens belong to a big ant species with a powerful sting. So the female wasp has a certain risk of getting injured or killed," said Michael Staab, a biologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany, whose study was published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE. Centuries ago, the Aztecs and other Mesoamerican civilizations erected in their cities massive skull racks displaying stacks of the severed heads of sacrificial victims as well as sculpted skulls - monuments certain to

NASA carbon dioxide-hunting telescope reaches orbit

An unmanned Delta 2 rocket blasted off from California on Wednesday, carrying a NASA science satellite to survey where carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas tied to climate change, is moving into and out of Earth’s atmosphere, a NASA Television broadcast showed. The 127-foot-tall (39-meter) rocket lifted off at 2:56 a.m. PDT (5:56 a.m. EDT/0956 GMT) from Vandenberg Air Force Base, located about 150 miles (240 km) northwest of Los Angeles, and headed south over the Pacific Ocean. The launch was timed so that NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory, or OCO, would end up at the front of a train of polar-orbiting environmental satellites that cross Earth’s equator every afternoon. A launch attempt on Tuesday was called off because of a problem with the launch pad’s water system, which is needed to mitigate high temperatures and suppress acoustic vibrations of launch. Technicians replaced a failed valve, clearing rocket manufacturer United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Bo

Gene from extinct human species fortifies high-altitude Tibetans

How do Tibetans thrive in high-altitude, low-oxygen conditions that would make others wither? Well, they may have received some help from an unexpected source. Scientists said on Wednesday many Tibetans possess a rare variant of a gene involved in carrying oxygen in the blood that they likely inherited from an enigmatic group of extinct humans who interbred with our species tens of thousands of years ago. It enables Tibetans to function well in low oxygen levels at elevations upwards of 15,000 feet (4,500 meters) like the vast high plateau of southwestern China. People without this variant would be apt to develop thick blood, leading to high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, low-birth-weight babies and higher infant mortality. This version of the EPAS1 gene is nearly identical to one found in Denisovans, a lineage related to Neanderthals - but is very different from other people today. Denisovans are known from a single finger bone and two teeth found in a Siberian cave. DN

Launch pad glitch delays liftoff of NASA carbon-hunting satellite

The launch of an unmanned Delta 2 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California was called off less than a minute before liftoff on Tuesday when the pad’s water system failed, a live NASA Television broadcast showed. The rocket, built and flown by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, was due to lift off at 2:56 a.m. PDT (5:56 a.m. EDT, 0956 GMT) from a launch pad that had not been used in nearly three years. The pad’s water system is needed in case of a fire and to help suppress potentially damaging acoustic vibrations from launch. The rocket carries NASA’s $465 million Orbiting Carbon Observatory. Built by Orbital Sciences Corp, it is designed to measure where carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas tied to climate change, is moving into and out of the atmosphere. United Launch Alliance had just 30 seconds to get the rocket off the launch pad to properly position the OCO satellite at the front of a train of polar-orbiting spacecr

Scientists find how magic mushrooms alter the mind

Scientists studying the effects of the psychedelic chemical in magic mushrooms have found the human brain displays a similar pattern of activity during dreams as it does during a mind-expanding drug trip. _0"> Psychedelic drugs such as LSD and magic mushrooms can profoundly alter the way we experience the world, but little is known about what physically happens in the brain. In a study published in the journal Human Brain Mapping, researchers examined the brain effects of psilocybin, the psychedelic ingredient in magic mushrooms, using data from brain scans of volunteers who had been injected with the drug. "A good way to understand how the brain works is to perturb the system in a marked and novel way. Psychedelic drugs do precisely this and so are powerful tools for exploring what happens in the brain when consciousness is profoundly altered," said Dr Enzo Tagliazucchi, who led the study at Germany's Goethe University. Magic mushrooms grow naturally around

Would you rather sit and think or get shocked? You'd be surprised

So you say all you want to do is to take a few minutes to sit down and think without anyone or anything bugging you? Maybe that is true. But you might be in the minority. A U.S. study published on Thursday showed that most volunteers who were asked to spend no more than 15 minutes alone in a room doing nothing but sitting and thinking found the task onerous. In fact, some of the volunteers, men in particular, in one of the 11 experiments led by University of Virginia researchers preferred to administer mild electrical shocks to themselves rather than sit and do nothing. "Many people find it difficult to use their own minds to entertain themselves, at least when asked to do it on the spot," said University of Virginia psychology professor Timothy Wilson, who led the study appearing in the journal Science. "In this modern age, with all the gadgets we have, people seem to fill up every moment with some external activity." Nearly 800 people took part in the study.

Is volatile fuel used in racing cars a new power source for ships?

Methanol, a fuel used to power light aircraft and racing cars, is being tried out as alternative for ships, highlighting its potential in an industry under pressure to cut emissions. From next year, shipping firms will have to cut polluting sulphur emissions in vessels going to parts of Europe and North America, sparking a race for alternatives to standard diesel between fuel sources such as methanol and liquefied natural gas. As well as being considered a green fuel, methanol is potentially cheaper and more plentiful than diesel or LNG. But it is trickier to handle than some fuels, such as diesel, due to its lower flashpoint -- the temperature where it vaporizes and could ignite -- so needs care to prevent fires. "Compared with LNG as an alternative shipping fuel we see methanol in an early stage of development," said Thomas Wybierek, a shipping analyst at Norddeutsche Landesbank. Methanol is currently more costly than diesel and less efficient to burn, though prices

NASA to send 3D Google smartphones for robots to space station

Google smartphones with next-generation 3D sensing technology are about to blast into orbit, where they will become the brains and eyes of ball-shaped hovering robots on the International Space Station. NASA plans to use the handsets to beef up its Synchronized Position Hold, Engage, Reorient, Experimental Satellites, or SPHERES, which could eventually take over daily chores for astronauts or even handle risky duties outside of the vessel. The phones, part of Google's Project Tango augmented reality initiative, will be aboard a cargo spacecraft scheduled to launch on July 11. Inspired by a scene from the movie Star Wars where Luke Skywalker spars with a hovering globe, the soccer-ball sized robots can be guided around the space station's microgravity interior, propelled by tiny blasts of CO2 at about an inch per second. When NASA sent its SPHERES to the space station in 2006 they were capable of precise movement but little else. In 2010, engineers at NASA's Ames Resea

Study paves the way for a blood test to predict Alzheimer's

British scientists have identified a set of 10 proteins in the blood that can predict the onset of Alzheimer's and call this an important step towards developing a test for the incurable brain-wasting disease. Such a test could initially be used to select patients for clinical trials of experimental treatments being developed to try to halt progression of Alzheimer's, the researchers said, and may one day move into routine use in doctors' clinics. "Alzheimer's begins to affect the brain many years before patients are diagnosed (and) many of our drug trials fail because by the time patients are given the drugs the brain has already been too severely affected," said Simon Lovestone of Oxford University, who led this work from King's College London. "A simple blood test could help us identify patients at a much earlier stage to take part in new trials and hopefully develop treatments," he said. Alzheimer's is the most common form of dement

Russia test launches first new space rocket since Soviet era: Interfax

Russia test launched its first new design of space rocket since the Soviet era on Wednesday, Russian news agencies quoted a source at the country's northern Plesetsk cosmodrome as saying. _0"> "The launch has taken place," the source was cited by Interfax as saying of the new generation Angara rocket, a vital part of President Vladimir Putin's efforts to revive Russia's once-pioneering space industry. (Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

Celgene's spondylitis drug misses main goal in trial

Celgene Corp said a drug being tested to treat a type of arthritis that affects the spine failed to meet the main goal in a late-stage trial, sending the company's shares down 3 percent premarket. _0"> The drug, Otezla, failed to show improvement of at least 20 percent at week 16 when tested on patients with ankylosing spondylitis, or arthritis of the spine, compared to those on a placebo, the company said. [ID:nBw6S6bVra] The company said an analysis of the data showed "meaningful efficacy" in a large subset of patients with early-stage disease at week 24. Celgene said it would continue the study unchanged based on a recommendation by an independent data monitoring committee. The drugmaker also said it planned to start another late-stage trial for further data analysis. Otezla is already approved by U.S. health regulators for treatment of adults with active psoriatic arthritis and is being studied for use in psoriasis and other indications including Behcet

Obama says U.S. committed to cooperating with China

U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States is committed to building a "new model" of relations with China that is defined by cooperation and the constructive management of differences. _0"> "The United States welcomes the emergence of a stable, peaceful, and prosperous China," Obama said in a statement issued by the White House as officials from both countries began high-level annual talks in Beijing. "We are committed to the shared goal of developing over time a 'new model' of relations with China defined by increased practical cooperation and constructive management of differences," he said. "We remain determined to ensure that cooperation defines the overall relationship." (Reporting by Lesley Wroughton ; Writing by Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Dean Yates )

Obama shoots pool in night out on the town in Denver

A man shouted "get that man a beer" and sure enough, President Barack Obama soon had a cold pint in his hand and prepared to play billiards with Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. This Tuesday night out on the town in Denver, which included slices of pizza with a group of people who had written to him, was Obama's way of escaping the confines of Washington, where partisan gridlock reigns supreme. It was a case of "the bear is loose," the president's own description of the times when he is able to break free of the trappings of Washington and experience what everyday Americans see. Of course that's nearly impossible with the crowds that are attracted to his every move and his security detail. Shaking hands with dozens of bystanders along a Denver street, the "bear" came face-to-face with a person wearing a horse's head mask, in honor of the Denver Broncos NFL football team. Inside Wynkoop Brewing Company, a local brewery that prides

Disgraced former New Orleans Mayor Nagin due for sentencing

Disgraced former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was set to be sentenced by a federal judge on Wednesday on 20 corruption charges that could land him in prison for two decades. A jury in February found Nagin guilty of charges that include bribery, wire fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and tax evasion, all in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Nagin stirred national controversy with his erratic behavior after Katrina in 2005 breached floodwalls and inundated New Orleans, killing at least 1,500 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless. Prosecutors have asked for a stiff sentence of about 20 years, while Nagin's attorney, citing his lack of a criminal record, has urged leniency. Prosecutors said the combined value of the bribes, which included personal parties, private jet rides and first-class airfare for a family shopping trip to New York, totaled more than $500,000. During the 10-day trial, prosecutors portrayed Nagin as a mayor on the take, granting favors for bribes that i

U.S., China ink coal, clean energy deals but climate differences remain

The United States and China on Tuesday signed eight partnership pacts to cut greenhouse gases that will bring the world's two biggest carbon emitters closer together on climate policy, but fundamental differences between the two sides remain. Consensus between the United States and China will be a crucial part of any new global climate pact to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, but they have long struggled to come to an agreement on how the costs of cutting greenhouse gases should be distributed among rich and poor nations. Speaking in Beijing during the latest round of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday that the two sides remained committed to "close dialogue" on climate change negotiations. "The significance of these two nations coming together can't be understated.  We are working hard to find a solution together that can have an impact on the rest of the world." The deals, which involv

China, U.S. say committed to managing differences

China and the United States need to manage their differences, the leaders of both countries said on Wednesday at the start of annual talks expected to focus on cyber-security, maritime disputes, the Chinese currency and an investment treaty. The two-day talks in Beijing, called the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, will be an opportunity for the world's two biggest economies to dial down tensions after months of bickering over a host of issues, experts have said. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew chair the U.S. delegation, with Vice Premier Wang Yang and top diplomat Yang Jiechi leading the Chinese side. President Xi Jinping said Sino-U.S. cooperation was of vital importance to the global community. "China-U.S. confrontation, to the two countries and the world, would definitely be a disaster," he told the opening ceremony at a government guesthouse in the west of the city. "We should mutually respect and treat eac

Boehner calls U.S. Republican highway funding plan 'really solid'

U.S. Republican House Speaker John Boehner said on Wednesday he welcomes a plan to extend U.S. highway funding until May 31, 2015, from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp and hopes to see it pass the House of Representatives in the next two weeks. _0"> "I think Chairman Camp and the members of the Ways and Means Committee have a really solid bill to help pay for the shortfall, if you will, in the Highway Trust Fund for the next eight or nine months," Boehner told reporters. Camp's $10.9 billion plan would be paid for with some fund transfers and revenue-raising measures, including $6.5 billion in new revenue from "pension smoothing," an accounting move that allows companies to delay contributions to employee pension plans. This boosts short-term corporate profits, producing more tax revenue collected by the U.S. Treasury. (Reporting By David Lawder ; Editing by Bill Trott )

Boehner: Obama border funding plan needs study, wants enforcement

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner said on Wednesday that Republicans needed to study President Barack Obama's $3.7 billion emergency spending request for border security before passing judgment on it. _0"> Boehner told reporters he would wait for House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers and a House border security working group to make recommendations on the request but emphasized that he wanted strong steps taken to secure the border and enforce immigration laws. "If we don't secure the border, nothing's going to change," Boehner said. "And if you look at the president's request it's all more about continuing to deal with the problem. We've got to do something about sealing the border and ending this problem so that we can move on with the bigger questions in the immigration debate." (Reporting By David Lawder)

Bill allowing parole for young offenders advances in Massachusetts

Massachusetts legislators passed a bill that would grant people convicted of first-degree murder while under age 18 a chance at parole after serving at least 20 years of their sentence. The bill, which was approved late Tuesday, comes after rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and Massachusetts' highest court that found imposing life sentences without parole on juvenile offenders to be unconstitutional. The state’s court, saying that juveniles’ brains are fundamentally different from those of adults, ruled that youth convicted of first-degree murder should be sentenced as if convicted of second-degree murder - a life-term, with parole eligibility after 15 to 25 years. That sentencing method remains in effect until this bill or another addressing the issue becomes law. Senate approval of the bill by a vote of 37-2 follows House approval of a similar measure last month. Governor Deval Patrick, a Democrat, has not indicated if he will sign it. Supporters of the Senate bill noted it

Gun control group sues Kansas governor over gun rights law

A gun violence prevention group sued Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and the state's attorney general on Wednesday, challenging a one-year-old state law on the grounds that it violates the U.S. Constitution by nullifying federal laws aimed at reducing firearms violence. "Neither the Kansas legislature, nor any state legislature, is empowered to declare federal law 'invalid,' or to criminalize the enforcement of federal law," the lawsuit said. The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas, naming the governor and Attorney General Derek Schmidt as defendants. The group is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting enforcement of the Kansas law. Brownback, who signed the law in April 2013, vowed to defend the measure, called the "Second Amendment Protection Act." "The right to keep and bear arms is a right that Kansans hold dear," Brownback, a Republican, said in a statement. "I

Former New Orleans Mayor Nagin gets 10 years in corruption case

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was sentenced on Wednesday to 10 years in federal prison for corruption during the critical years of rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in 2005. A jury in February found Nagin, a Democrat, guilty on charges including bribery, wire fraud, conspiracy, money laundering and tax evasion. Nagin, 58, stirred national controversy with his erratic behavior after Katrina breached floodwalls and inundated New Orleans in 2005, killing at least 1,500 people and leaving tens of thousands homeless. Citing Nagin's devotion to family and commitment to helping New Orleans, U.S. District Judge Helen Ginger Berrigan said a shorter prison term than that recommended under federal sentencing guidelines was warranted. She ordered Nagin to turn himself in to begin serving his sentence by Sept. 8. With good behavior, and barring any appeals, Nagin could get out of prison after about 8-1/2 years. Berrigan also ordered Nagin, who prosecutors say ac

Obama raises money for Senate Democrat Udall - without Udall

What if President Barack Obama came to your fund-raising event and you did not attend? That's what happened on Wednesday in Denver when Obama raised money for Colorado Senator Mark Udall, a Democrat who is facing a stiff challenge to re-election in November. His non-attendance raised questions as to whether he did not want to appear personally with Obama as he tries to fight off a tough challenge from Republican U.S. Representative Cory Gardner. Udall's seat could be key in the Republican drive to capture control of the U.S. Senate. Udall's campaign said the senator was not able to be at the event because he needed to be in Washington to vote for the Senate confirmation of Julian Castro as housing secretary. Castro sailed through on a bipartisan 71-26 vote. "Due to last-minute votes and legislative activity, Mark will be unable to make the trip back to Colorado on Wednesday," Udall's campaign said. "Mark is grateful for the president’s support, an

Senate confirms Julian Castro as housing secretary

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed Julian Castro to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development, placing the San Antonio, Texas mayor at the top of the agency in charge of housing during a sluggish recovery in the sector. Castro, a Democrat who was nominated by President Barack Obama, was confirmed on a roll call vote of 71 to 26 in the Democratic-led Senate. The 26 senators opposed to his nomination were Republicans. "We will allow more responsible Americans to achieve the dream of home ownership," Castro told a news conference, thanking the Senate for its bipartisan support. He said he will resign his post as mayor of the seventh most populous U.S. city when a new mayor is selected by the city council, which should be in the next two weeks. Castro will replace Shaun Donovan, who has been tapped to lead the White House's Office of Management and Budget. Castro, who has the backing of industry groups such as the Mortgage Bankers Association and Nationa

Congress seen unlikely to block threatened New York transit strike

Congress will likely not intervene to prevent a threatened strike this month that would shut down the Long Island Rail Road, the country's largest commuter rail system, a U.S. representative from New York said on Wednesday. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and a coalition of eight unions representing LIRR workers have been negotiating for four years to try to reach a contract deal. The winding down of a cooling-off period in the talks allows the 5,400 unionized workers to walk off the job on July 20, which would leave some 300,000 daily commuters without train service. The MTA's chief executive, Thomas Prendergast, asked the region's lawmakers whether Congress would move to block a walkout. "We made it clear that this is up to the state to resolve," said Republican Representative Peter King, who represents a Long Island district served by the railroad. King added, however, that the local delegation would consider taking action if a strike occ

Obama request for border money gets wary reception

Congressional Republicans on Wednesday cast a skeptical eye on a White House request for $3.7 billion to address an influx of child migrants at the U.S. border while President Barack Obama met with top critic Texas Governor Rick Perry. Obama is battling political pressure from supporters and opponents alike to halt a growing humanitarian crisis along the Texas border with Mexico. His request for emergency funds on Tuesday was the most aggressive step yet by his administration to take care of the children who have come from Central America illegally while accelerating the process to have them deported. The money, however, must be approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate and Republican-led House of Representatives. Republicans, who have pressed the White House to do more to tackle the crisis, gave the proposal a wary reception. “The House is not going to just rubber-stamp what the administration wants to do," said Representative Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, who is a member

Utah to appeal gay marriage ruling to U.S. Supreme Court

Utah's attorney general will appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court over last month's ruling by a federal appeals court that backed gay marriage in the conservative, heavily Mormon state, his office said on Wednesday. An appeal by Utah was widely expected after the June 25 decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver that the state could not prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. That ruling was put on hold pending Utah's appeal. The office of Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said he would petition the Supreme Court in the coming week, and that the state's measure banning gay marriage was presumed to be constitutional "unless the highest courts deem otherwise." Utah had the option of asking the entire 10th Circuit appeals court to review the ruling or taking the case directly to the nation's top court. The June 25 decision was the first time a regional federal appeals court had made such a ruling in