Your West Valley News: Local news from Phoenix's West Valley communities - Sun City West, Sun City Grand, Surprise, Glendale, Peoria, El Mirage, Youngtown

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  • Sun Health Research experts tackle dementia, delirium

    Join staff from the Banner Sun Health Research Institute from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Friday for a free event discussing the difference between dementia and reversible pseudo-dementias.Banner Sun Health Research Institute is located at 10515 W. Santa Fe Drive, Sun City.Delirium is a medical condition that results in confusion and other disruptions in memory, thinking and behavior, including changes in perception, attention, mood and activity level.Drug interactions and delirium are often confused with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.  To register, call 623-832-3248.Since 1986, Banner Sun Health Research Institute, part of nonprofit Banner Health, has been a leader in the effort to find answers to disorders of aging, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

  • AARP launches effort to foil tax ID thieves

    To coincide with Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, the AARP Fraud Watch Network is launching an education effort to help people protect themselves from tax scams, releasing a new video, a tip sheet and encouraging people to take advantage of AARP’s free tax preparation services.Many taxpayers are putting themselves at greater risk of tax identity theft according to a recent national study released by the AARP Fraud Watch Network in conjunction with the education campaign to help prevent scammers from stealing Arizonans hard-earned money.“We encourage people to go to the AARP Fraud Watch Network website where they will find a tip sheet and video on how to better protect themselves from falling victim to ID theft scams around tax-filing time,” said Dana Kennedy, AARP Arizona state director. “The AARP Fraud Watch Network is urging Arizonans to file early so that they can beat con artists to the punch.”  According to the Federal Trade Commission, Arizona ranks seventh in the nation in the number of ID theft complaints reported.  Scammers can electronically file a tax return under someone else’s name to collect their tax refund by using their birth date and Social Security number. Many taxpayers make their personal information easy pickings by:• Failing to lock their mailbox: Fifty-nine percent of Americans do not regularly lock their mailbox, which leaves them open to a criminal stealing bills, tax forms and other documents that contain personal information.• Leaving valuables exposed: Fifty-four percent of Americans 18-49 have left at least one valuable personal item in their car in the last week (e.g., a purse/wallet, paystub, laptop) that could be used to steal their identity.

  • Heart seminar promotes exercise

    Sun Health will host a free exercise seminar for heart patients from 9 to 10 a.m. Feb. 9 in the Juniper Room at Banner Boswell Medical Center Support Services, 13180 N. 103rd Drive, Sun City.Rhonda Zonoozi, exercise physiologist and health coach, will lead the session.Registration is required. Walk-ins cannot be accommodated.Call 623-455-5633 to make a reservation.The Sun Health Community Education Series presents ongoing health and wellness programs on a variety of health care, healthy living and personal safety topics focused on seniors.Events occur several times each month at locations across the Northwest Valley and are presented as a community service.

  • Busy week, weekend on West Valley roads

    Whether you’re heading to the big game or just about town this week and especially this weekend, there are a few watchwords to remember, according to Valley public safety and transportation officials: Plan ahead and leave early.That includes trips that will not just take drivers near University of Phoenix Stadium, as traffic is expected to affect other areas of the West Valley.Most of the delays, closures and restrictions on the roads will be on local streets in Glendale near the stadium and Westgate Sports and Entertainment District and the major highways in the vicinity.“Drivers have become familiar with the areas that become most congested before Arizona Cardinals games, and those same roads are the most likely to experience delays before the Super Bowl. Drivers might expect more congestion than on a typical football Sunday, but the same areas are likely to be busy,” stated Arizona Department of Transportation spokesman Tom Herrmann in an email.In addition to Loop 101 throughout the West Valley, especially near the stadium, Interstate 10 leading to Loop 101 and surface streets near the stadium are likely to see some type of additional volume.“If you are not headed to the stadium for a Super Bowl-related event, I would stay clear of the 101 along with Glendale and Northern avenues.

  • Local author shares political book

    “How Freedom Works” by Surprise author Terry Hjelkrem provides a simple cookbook approach for one to taste the immediate effects of topical and social proposals of the times.This book can help readers capture the essence of current issues without emotion, bias and political and religious buzzwords. It can also help equip students and children with immediate understanding and analyses of civil discourse topics. This book can help readers in their goals of self-improvements and social and political consciousness.Published by Tate Publishing and Enterprises, the book is available through bookstores nationwide, from the publisher at www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore, or by visiting barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.Hjelkrem is a war veteran, a retired certified public accountant, a real estate broker, a business owner and an insurance agent.

  • Grand Dance Club plans upcoming events

    The Sun City Grand Dance Club announced the following events:• Western Bred, featuring J. David Sloan, will be the featured entertainers at the Feb. 6 Country Western Dance. A local country music icon and owner of the legendary Mr. Lucky’s, J. David Sloan and Western Bred hit the Arizona music scene in the 1980s. Together they have played shows with Kenny Chesney, Mark Chestnut, Dixie Chicks, Keith Urban, Waylon Jennings and many more.The doors open at 5:30 p.m., and there will be a free Arizona 2-step lesson from 6 to 7 p.m. Dancing will be from 7 to 10 p.m. The dance is open to the public and there will be a cash bar.The Country Western Dance will be at the Cimarron Center, 17100 W. Clearview Blvd., Surprise located in Sun City Grand. Tickets are $10 and are on sale at www.grandinfo.com or through the Sun City Grand Activities Desk by calling 623-546-7449. For information, call Earlene at 623-544-3602.• The Monthly Line Dance Social at Sun City Grand is from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Feb. 12 in the Gila Room at the Cimarron Center, 17100 W. Clearview Blvd., Surprise, in Sun City Grand.Brenda Thomason leads dancers in a lively evening of line dancing for beginners through intermediate.

  • Anigwe named to McDonald's All-American team

    Desert Vista senior Kristine Anigwe keeps getting more and more noticed.Whether it was getting recruited by Cal, playing for Team USA or the most recent honor - being selected for the McDonald's All-American Game, Anigwe is considered on the nation's top players.Here is the roster breakdown for the game, which will be played on April 1 at the United Center in Chicago. The final team will be announced on ESPNU on Jan. 28 at 3 p.m. (MT).EAST TEAMDe’Janae Boykin, F, Charles H. Flowers (Springdale, Md.) – ConnecticutTaja Cole, PG, Lloyd C. Bird (Chesterfield, Va.) – Louisville

  • Attorney General nominee defends Obama immigration changes

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Confronting skeptical Republicans, attorney general nominee Loretta Lynch pledged a new start with Congress and independence from President Barack Obama Wednesday, even as she defended the president's unilateral protections for millions of immigrants in the country illegally. "If confirmed as attorney general, I would be myself. I would be Loretta Lynch," the nominee told her Senate confirmation hearing as Republicans showered criticism on the current occupant of the job, Eric Holder. They said Holder was contemptuous of Congress and too politically close to Obama, and repeatedly demanded assurances that Lynch would do things differently. "You're not Eric Holder, are you?" Texas Republican John Cornyn, one of the current attorney general's most persistent critics, asked at one point. "No, I'm not, Sir," Lynch responded with a smile. It was a moment that summed up a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that was often more about Obama and Holder than about Lynch, who is now the top federal prosecutor for parts of New York City and Long Island. If confirmed, she would become the nation's first black female attorney general. Holder, Cornyn contended, "operated as a politician using the awesome power conferred by our laws on the attorney general." Lynch asked the senator to take note of "the independence that I've always brought to every particular matter," and she said that when merited she would say no to Obama. On immigration, Lynch faced numerous questions from Republicans critical of the administration's new policy granting work permits and temporary deportation relief to some 4 million people who are in the country illegally. The committee chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, called the effort "a dangerous abuse of executive authority." Lynch said she had no involvement in drafting the measures but called them "a reasonable way to marshal limited resources to deal with the problem" of illegal immigration. She said the Homeland Security Department was focusing on removals of "the most dangerous of the undocumented immigrants among us." Pressed by Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, a leading immigration hard-liner, she said that citizenship was not a right for people in the country illegally but rather a privilege that must be earned. At the same time, when Sessions asked whether individuals in the country legally or those who are here unlawfully have more of a right to a job, Lynch replied, "The right and the obligation to work is one that's shared by everyone in this country regardless of how they came here." The hearing was the first such proceeding since Republicans retook control of the Senate in January. Lynch is expected to win confirmation without difficulty in the end, in part because Republicans are so eager to be rid of Holder. He has been a lightning rod for conservatives over the past six years, clashing continually with lawmakers and becoming the first sitting attorney general to be held in contempt of Congress. Lynch found occasions to differentiate herself from Holder but without contradicting him, as she answered senators' largely cordial questions. In one example, she stated without hesitation under questioning from Sen. Lindsey Graham that she considers the death penalty an effective punishment and has sometimes sought it in her district. That was a rhetorical shift from Holder, who has expressed personal reservations about the punishment, particularly in light of recent botched executions, but who has also sought it in past cases. On another controversial topic, Lynch said that current National Security Agency intelligence-gathering programs are "constitutional and effective." She said she hopes Congress will renew three expiring provisions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows the FBI to obtain search warrants and communications intercepts in intelligence cases. Lynch, a daughter of the segregated South, was accompanied at the hearing by about 30 family members and friends. Her mother, a retired English teacher and librarian, was unable to make the trip, but her father, who is a retired minister, sat behind her throughout the hearing along with her husband and several members of her college sorority, Delta Sigma Theta, wearing their trademark bright red. Beyond his clashes with Congress, Holder has faced accusations from critics that he has aligned himself more with protesters alleging police violence than with members of law enforcement, a contention he and the Justice Department have strongly denied — but one that resonated in the aftermath of recent high-profile deaths of black men at the hands of white officers. It's an area Lynch is familiar with. She helped prosecute the New York City police officers who beat and sexually assaulted Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in 1997, and her office in New York is currently leading a civil rights investigation into the police chokehold death of Eric Garner in Staten Island last summer. Lynch has been U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New since 2010, a role she also held from 1999 to 2001. Lynch told senators that one of the most important issues facing the country is "the need to resolve the tensions that appear to be discussed and appear to be rising between law enforcement and the communities that we serve." She said that the best way to deal with the problem is to get all parties to meet and talk, "helping them see that, in fact, we are all in this together."

  • Fugitive treasure hunter nabbed in Florida after 2-year hunt

    A treasure hunter locked in a legal battle over one of the greatest undersea hauls in American history was arrested in Florida after more than two years on the lam, authorities said Wednesday. The U.S. Marshals Service tracked Tommy Thompson to a Hilton hotel in West Boca Raton and arrested him Tuesday, said Brian Babtist, a senior inspector in the agency's office in Columbus, Ohio, where a federal civil arrest warrant was issued for him in 2012 for failing to show up to a key court hearing. Authorities didn't immediately explain how they were finally able to track down Thompson, whom they called "one of the most intelligent fugitives ever sought by the U.S. Marshals." Thompson made history in 1988 when he found the sunken S.S. Central America, also known as the Ship of Gold. In what was a technological feat at the time, Thompson and his crew brought up thousands of gold bars and coins from the shipwreck. Much of that was later sold to a gold marketing group in 2000 for about $50 million. The 161 investors who paid Thompson $12.7 million to find the ship never saw returns from the sale. Two of them sued — a now-deceased investment firm president and the Dispatch Printing Company, which publishes The Columbus Dispatch newspaper and had invested about $1 million. That legal battle is ongoing, and those close to Thompson say it was his undoing. Gil Kirk, who heads a Columbus real estate firm and is a former director of one of Thompson's companies, told The Associated Press last year that Thompson never cheated anyone. Kirk said proceeds from the 2000 sale of the gold all went to legal fees and bank loans. "He was a genius, and they've stolen his life," Kirk said of those who sued. Thompson went into seclusion in 2006, moving into a mansion called Gracewood in Vero Beach, Florida. Six years later, after the arrest warrant was issued, Thompson vanished. When the property's caretakers searched the mansion, they found prepaid disposable cellphones and bank wraps for $10,000 scattered about, along with a bank statement in the name of Harvey Thompson showing a $1 million balance, court records said. Harvey, according to friends, was Thompson's nickname in college. Also found was a book called "How to Live Your Life Invisible." One marked page was titled: "Live your life on a cash-only basis." Columbus attorney Rick Robol, who at one time defended Thompson's company, has said there's no proof Thompson stole anything. He said he's been concerned about Thompson's health, which is why he called the arrest "the best thing that can happen for everybody." Babtist said Thompson was arrested along with his longtime companion, Alison Antekeier, and the couple had been staying in a two-person suite at the Hilton for two years. The hotel is in an upscale suburban area surrounded by golf courses, country clubs and gated communities. It's less than 10 miles from the beach, and it has a pool and a running track. The Marshals Service said Thompson Antekeier had no vehicles registered in their names and that Antekeier used public buses and taxis to move around Palm Beach County. "The couple offered no resistance at the time of the arrest and readily admitted to being the targets of the extensive investigation," the Marshals Service said in a news release. Thompson was set for an initial appearance in federal court Thursday in West Palm Beach, while Antekeier was scheduled for an extradition hearing Feb. 4. It's unclear whether she was ordered to remain in custody until the hearing. No criminal charges have been filed against Thompson, but Babtist said the treasure hunter will likely be ordered held in custody until he appears before an Ohio judge to give an accounting for the gold's sale and his actions. "I don't imagine he's going to get any bond because he's already been a fugitive and knowingly evaded law enforcement," Babtist said. "I don't know what kind of means he has as far as money goes, but I'm sure they don't want to take any chances with him leaving the country or absconding again." In one of the worst shipping disasters in American history, the S.S. Central America sank in a monster hurricane about 200 miles off the South Carolina coast in September 1857; 425 people drowned and thousands of pounds of California gold were lost, contributing to an economic panic.

  • California declares electronic cigarettes a health threat

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California health officials Wednesday declared electronic cigarettes a health threat that should be strictly regulated like tobacco products, joining other states and health advocates across the U.S. in seeking tighter controls as "vaping" grows in popularity. The California Department of Public Health report says e-cigarettes emit cancer-causing chemicals and get users hooked on nicotine but acknowledges that more research needs to be done to determine the immediate and long-term health effects. New generations of young people will become nicotine addicts if the products remain largely unregulated, California Health Officer Ron Chapman said. "Without action, it is likely that California's more than two decades of progress to prevent and reduce traditional tobacco use will erode as e-cigarettes re-normalize smoking behavior," the report says. E-cigarettes heat liquid nicotine from cartridges into inhalable vapor without the tar and other chemicals found in traditional cigarettes. E-cigarette makers say using their products, known as "vaping," is far safer than tobacco. "Despite the health officer's false claims, there is ample evidence that vaping helps smokers quit and is far less hazardous than smoking," Gregory Conley, president of the e-cigarette advocacy group American Vaping Association, said in an email. "Smokers deserve truthful and accurate information about the relative risks of different nicotine products, not hype and conjecture based on cherry-picked reports." The California report called for restrictions on the marketing and sale of e-cigarettes, protections against accidental ingestion of liquid nicotine and an education campaign on the dangers of using e-cigarettes. California banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors in 2010. A state senator introduced legislation this week that would regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products and ban their use in public places such as hospitals, bars and schools. A similar bill was defeated last year over opposition from tobacco companies. Other states, including Oklahoma, Tennessee and Arkansas, already have issued advisories cautioning the use of e-cigarettes.

  • Panel unanimously OKs bill easing employee health care count

    WASHINGTON (AP) — In a rare show of bipartisanship over President Barack Obama's health care law, a Senate committee voted unanimously Wednesday to exclude veterans from the 50-worker threshold that triggers required coverage for employees under that statute. The Senate Finance Committee vote was 26-0, a departure from the usual party-line fights over Obama's showcase 2010 law. Yet senators' comments suggested that party-line battling over many aspects of the statute — and other laws — could erupt when the measure reaches the full Senate. Lawmakers described potential amendments ranging from restoring expired tax credits to paying veterans a $10.10 hourly minimum wage to exempting additional workers from the 50-employee threshold. "We should consider other categories of Americans who also should be relieved of this job-killing provision," said Sen. Patrick Toomey, R-Pa. Despite repeated pledges by Republicans now running Congress to repeal and replace the health care law, Democrats said the committee's actions Wednesday were an acknowledgment that such efforts were going nowhere. Obama has promised to veto any congressional effort to dismantle the law. "Senators do not make changes to laws that are going away," said Sen. Ron Wyden, R-Ore. Obama's law is gradually phasing in a requirement that companies with at least 50 workers offer health coverage to their employees. The Senate bill would let employers exclude from that count veterans who receive health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs or the military. Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said the bill "will help our nation's veterans find needed jobs" and encourage small businesses to hire them. Democrats said they shared that goal but doubted it would have much effect. "It really won't have much impact either way, other than somebody's talking point," Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said afterward. There are relatively few firms on the cusp of having 50 workers who could avoid providing health care to their entire work force by hiring qualified veterans. Using Census Bureau figures, the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation says that 28,000 of the nation's 5.7 million employers have from 44 to 49 workers. Kaiser data shows that 83 percent of companies with 25 to 49 workers already offer health benefits to their employees. The House approved the legislation earlier this month 412-0 with White House support.

  • Monitor to probe shootings into moving cars by Denver police

    DENVER (AP) — An independent city official who monitors the Denver Police Department said he will investigate its policies and practices related to shooting at moving vehicles after a 17-year-old girl was shot and killed. Nicholas Mitchell said Tuesday that such shootings pose unique safety risks to officers and the community. The shooting of Jessica Hernandez Monday was the fourth time in seven months that a Denver officer fired at a vehicle after perceiving it as a threat. Police have said two officers fired after Hernandez drove a stolen car into one of them. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that officers may not use deadly force to stop a fleeing suspect unless the person is believed to pose significant physical harm. Still, policies vary among agencies, and some departments have banned or discouraged the practice. Mitchell's analysis will look at how national standards on firing at fleeing vehicles compare to Denver's policy, which prohibits officers from shooting at moving cars unless they have no other reasonable way to prevent death or serious injury. He also will review other cases in which Denver officers fired at fleeing vehicles, including the fatal shooting of Ryan Ronquillo, 21, who officers said tried to hit them with his car outside a funeral home in July. Prosecutors have declined to file charges in that case. Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson said the department welcomes the inquiry. However, he declined to comment on the shooting of Hernandez. "The facts of the case will bear themselves out," Jackson said. A passenger in the car has disputed the official account, saying police opened fire before the vehicle struck the officer. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of safety concerns. The passenger said Hernandez, her friend, lost control of the vehicle because she was unconscious after being shot. Prosecutors promised a thorough probe of the shooting as a small group of angry protesters demanded swift answers and called for a special prosecutor to investigate the death. The shooting occurred amid a national debate about police use of force fueled by racially charged episodes in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City. The shooting happened after an officer was called to check on a suspicious vehicle, Chief Robert White has said. A colleague arrived after the officer determined the car had been reported stolen. Police have said the two officers approached the car on foot when Hernandez drove into one of them, and they both opened fire. The passenger said officers came up to the car from behind and fired four times into the driver's side window as they stood on the side of the car, narrowly missing others inside. Police said the officer suffered a leg injury for which he was treated at a hospital and released. Officers with their guns drawn then pulled people out of the car, including Hernandez, who they handcuffed and searched. Both officers involved in the shooting have been placed on routine administrative leave pending the investigation.

  • Music legends come alive at Theater Works

    Theater Works at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts presents The Legends Music Series, a new collaboration with TAD Management.Country music, classic rock, R& B and more, this series features it all.“It just seems like the right fit,” says Dan Schay, Theater Works executive director. “We continue to add variety to create a true performing arts center for the community. Among our concerts we have a classical series, flamenco concerts, a great jazz lineup and much more. This new dimension highlights all the wonderful music that a lot of us grew up to.”Nashville Gold will kick things off Thursday featuring nationally touring vocalists. This Nashville roadshow will bring back great memories, whether you’re a fan of “The Man in Black” or want to hear about the guy with “Friends in Low Places.” Stomp your boots and sing along to the music of the greatest country artists of all time.On Feb. 26, join One Of These Nights — The Eagles Tribute, showcasing the music of one of the most successful rock acts of all time. Hits like “Hotel California,” “Desperado,” “Lyin’ Eyes,” “Life in the Fast Lane” and others earned this band seven No. 1 singles, six Grammys, five American Music Awards and six No. 1 albums. John Waxman and JD Madrid have teamed up with fellow musicians to create a pure and simple tribute to the Eagles.The Magic Of Motown premieres on March 26. Recreate the “sunshine of your life” with a show that will have you dancing in your seats. Hear timeless hits from The Temptations, Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Smokey Robinson and more.

  • WHAM schedules 1st artwalk of 2015

    WHAM will have its January Artwalk from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.Celebrated 2015 with the first artwalk of the year. Find one-of-a-kind artworks in glass, clay, acrylics, oils, wood, beads, fabric and more. Snacks and beverages will be available. Be sure to visit the current display in the WHAM West Gallery that opened in December. Admission is free.Artists interested in reserving space to show their work should contact Gaylia Young WHAM is at 16560 N. Dysart Road, one block south of Bell Road in Surprise. WHAM is a non-profit art association offering paid classes for adults and children, as well as free classes to veterans and the developmentally challenged. For information, call 623-584-8311 or visit www.Wham-Art.org.

  • Arizona Winds presents “Movie Magic”

    If you are a movie aficionado and love to listen to the musical scores from 60 years of America’s greatest motion pictures, then you won’t want to miss the Arizona Winds’ “Movie Magic” concert on Feb. 8.  The concert will begin at 3 p.m. in the Mountain Ridge High School Auditorium, 22800 N. 67th Ave., Glendale. Admission is free.“Some of the music world’s most compelling and exciting music of the past six decades has come from the creative minds of the likes of John Williams, Michael Kamen, Elmer Bernstein and even Paul McCartney, just to name a few,” said the band’s conductor and musical director, Lt. Col. Rich Shelton.“While the band has presented movie-themed concerts in the past, I don’t believe any can compare to the depth and variety this program offers. One of the band’s own, Kerry Williams, has stepped up in a big way to contribute to this concert with three monumental arrangements, including a suite from the 1991 motion picture blockbuster ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves’ starring Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman, a medley of songs from four of the biggest ‘James Bond 007’ thrillers, and a suite from Cecil B. DeMille’s epic Academy Award-winning ‘The Ten Commandments’ starring Charlton Heston, Yul Brenner and Edward G. Robinson,” Shelton said.Two of the band’s most experienced and talented musicians will be featured as soloists on the program.  Oboist Ted Plambeck performs the hauntingly beautiful “Gabriel’s Oboe” from the motion picture “The Mission” starring Robert De Niro and Liam Neeson; and alto saxophonist David Windish performs John Williams’ “Catch Me If You Can” from the DreamWorks film by the same name starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.Other notable works on the program include “The Ludlows” from TriStar Picture’s “Legends of the Fall” by composer James Horner; excerpts from “Far and Away” and the main title to “Lincoln,” both by John Williams; a medley of tunes entitled “John Williams Swings”; a symphonic suite from the motion picture “Star Trek,” and an arrangement of “When You Wish Upon A Star” from Walt Disney’s 1940 adaptation of “Pinocchio.”

  • Consumer group spills beans about coffee

    The headlines about coffee’s impact on your health seem to change as quickly as the time it takes to drink a cup, says Consumer Reports. Should you savor every drop or try to cut down? Here’s what we know right now:• It may lengthen your life. True, coffee drinkers are more likely than nondrinkers to smoke, eat red meat, skimp on exercise and have other life-shortening habits, according to a 2012 study in the New England Journal of Medicine. But when researchers took those factors into account, they found that people ages 50 to 71 who drank at least one cup of coffee per day lowered their risk of dying from diabetes, heart disease or other health problems when followed for more than a decade. That may be due to beneficial compounds such as antioxidants — which might ward off disease — and not caffeine. Decaf drinkers had the same results.• It may make you happier. Coffee is not just a pick-me-up; it also has been linked to a lower risk of depression. In a study led by the Harvard School of Public Health that tracked 50,000 women for 10 years, those who drank four or more cups of caffeinated coffee per day were 20 percent less likely to develop depression than nondrinkers. Another study found that adults who drank two to four cups of caffeinated coffee were about half as likely to attempt suicide as decaf drinkers or abstainers. The researchers speculated that long-term coffee drinking may boost the production of “feel-good” hormones such as dopamine.• It contains many good-for-you chemicals. For most Americans who drink coffee, it provides more antioxidants than any other food, according to Dr. Joe Vinson, a chemistry professor at the University of Scranton. But Consumer Reports notes that it’s also a top source of acrylamide, a chemical whose link to cancer is being investigated.• It may cut your risk for Type 2 diabetes. A recent Harvard-led study of more than 120,000 men and women found that those who increased the amount of caffeinated coffee they drank per day by more than one 8-ounce cup, on average, were 11 percent less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those whose coffee habits stayed the same. And those who decreased their daily intake by at least a cup per day, on average, were 17 percent more likely to develop the disease. But nix the doughnut with your morning cup; excess sugar might cancel out any benefit you might get from a balanced blood sugar level.• The method matters. Cafestol, a compound in coffee grounds, has been found to increase levels of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. Brewing with a paper filter helps remove the substance. Coffee made other ways, including French press and espresso, has higher levels of cafestol.

  • U.S. consumer confidence jumps to 7 ½-year high in January

    WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers welcomed the new year with a surge in confidence. The Conference Board reported Tuesday that its consumer confidence index climbed this month to 102.9, highest level since August 2007 — four months before the start of the Great Recession. January's figure was up from a revised 93.1 in December. "Consumers started the year in a buoyant mood," Andrew Hunter, an analyst at Capital Economics, wrote in a research note. Americans haven't felt this good about current economic conditions since January 2008. And they are the most optimistic they've been since February 2011 about business conditions over the next six months. The Conference Board also found that 20.5 percent of consumers surveyed described jobs as "plentiful" — the biggest share in nearly seven years. The figure had dropped as low as 3.1 percent in November and December 2009. Consumer confidence has been rising as the economy improves. Employers added nearly 3 million jobs last year, most since 1999. The unemployment rate last month tumbled to a 6-year low of 5.6 percent. The economy grew from July through September at a 5 percent annual rate, fastest in 11 years. Adding to improving spirits: Gas prices have plunged to $2.04 a gallon Tuesday from $2.32 a gallon a month ago, according to AAA. Lower gasoline prices leave more money in consumers' wallets to spend on other things. Bricklin Dwyer, an economist at BNP Paribas, wrote in a research note that the stronger consumer confidence numbers "support our forecast for continued strength in consumer spending." Absent from the economic success story so far are significant wage gains: Adjusted for inflation, hourly earnings for private-sector employees were the same last month as they'd been in December 2008.

  • S&P downgrades Russia credit rating to junk

    LONDON (AP) — Standard & Poor's rating agency on Monday downgraded Russia's credit grade by one notch to junk status, citing a weakened economic outlook. The agency dropped the rating to BB+ from BBB- as it sees the country's financial buffers at risk amid a slide in the country's currency and weakening revenue from oil exports. "In our view, the Russian Federation's monetary policy flexibility has weakened, as have its economic-growth prospects," it said. Russia's economy has been hit hard by the double impact of weaker prices for its energy exports as well as Western sanctions. The Russian currency tumbled on the downgrade, dropping nearly 7 percent to 68.5 rubles to the dollar. Standard & Poor's said that Russia's financial system is weakening, limiting room for maneuver for Russia's Central Bank. It said the bank "faces increasingly difficult monetary policy decisions," while also trying to preserve incentives for growth. The Russian economy is expected to contract by 4 to 5 percent this year for the first time since President Vladimir Putin took the helm in 2000. Capital outflows, which averaged $57 billion annually during 2009 to 2013, soared to $152 billion last year. "Stresses could mount for Russian corporations and banks that have foreign currency debt service requirements without a concomitant foreign currency revenue stream," the rating agency said. There was no immediate comment to the downgrade by the Russian government, which have sought to play down the anticipated move. Prior to the announcement, Putin had a meeting with Cabinet members on anti-crisis measures. He said the government should focus on cutting spending, keeping inflation under control and making sure that the country doesn't waste its hard currency reserves.

Featured columns

  • OPINION: The right to be ordinary

    Steve received an email the other day from a colleague announcing the birth of her son Brinton. She attached a photo of a red-faced tyke in a striped stocking cap, and co-workers responded with a cascade of “wows” and “bravos.”Ordinary family. Obvious fanfare. Except for one thing: Brinton has two moms — Nikki and Shelly Layser.The baby was born 10 days before the Supreme Court decided to rule on the issue of gay marriage. He won’t know it for a while, but Brinton and countless other children with same-sex parents are spurring a civil rights revolution.These parents are our friends and relatives. They sit at the next desk, live on the next street. And their devotion to each other and to their children is unmistakable and undeniable.Opponents of same-sex marriage have it exactly wrong. These families are not undermining marriage; they are endorsing it. They don’t reject “traditional values;” they embrace them.“I don’t think any factor has been more important in influencing public opinion — and, I dare say, the opinions of the Supreme Court — than Joe and Jane American who happen to be gay and live down the street and are living their lives openly and honestly with their friends, neighbors and family members,” said Gregory Angelo of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay-rights organization, to Politico. “It’s trickled up more than it’s trickled down.”

  • A C.L.U.E. about insurance rates

    The mystery of how insurance companies come up with their rates for consumers is simple: They get a C.L.U.E.The aptly named report, which stands for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, allows insurance companies to access up to seven years of your personal-auto and personal-property claims history when they are underwriting or rating a policy.Compiled by LexisNexis, C.L.U.E. reports are used almost exclusively to underwrite and rate new policies. Most insurers renewing existing policies do not access these reports, mainly because they already have that information.“A company uses your claims history or the history of claims at a specific property to decide if it’ll offer you coverage and how much you’ll pay,” said Brad Oltmans, vice president of insurance for AAA Arizona. “The reason is simple: Insurance company studies show a relationship between past claims and claims you report in the future.”A C.L.U.E. report includes information such as your name; date of birth; policy number; claim information such as date of loss, type of loss and amounts paid; and a description of the property covered. For homeowner’s coverage, the report includes the property address, and for auto coverage, it includes specific vehicle information.“When talking to your insurance agent, be specific as to whether you are filing a claim or only making an inquiry, because C.L.U.E. reports indicate losses by type,” Oltmans said. “Consumers who contact their agent to discuss an actual loss might be considered reporting a claim, even if the company does not end up making a payment.”

  • OPINION: Obama’s rush to empty Guantanamo alarms lawmakers

    It took a while for Republicans to catch on to what President Obama is doing with the U.S. terrorist prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But now that it’s clear Obama is rushing to empty the place, Republicans are stepping up efforts to stop him. Whether they succeed could have a serious impact on national security, as well as on more general GOP efforts to rein in runaway executive power in the White House.Obama has accelerated Guantanamo releases and transfers since last November’s midterm elections. Other than the five senior Taliban leaders released in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl last May — a deal Obama made in secret, ignoring the law that required him to notify Congress — the president released just one other Guantanamo inmate in 2014 before the elections.Since the elections, the doors have opened. Obama released seven prisoners in November, 15 in December, and five more this month. “Since I only got two years in office left, I’m kind of in a rush,” Obama said in a speech in Iowa recently. He was talking about his economic plans, but there’s no doubt the sentiment applies to Guantanamo as well.The hurry has alarmed a number of lawmakers, even those who share Obama’s desire to close the prison. Now, several Republican senators — Kelly Ayotte, N.H.; John McCain, Ariz.; Lindsey Graham, S.C.; and Richard Burr, N.C. — have introduced a bill to slow the president down. The legislation would do five things:• Impose a two-year suspension on transferring high- and medium-risk detainees from Guantanamo to foreign countries.• Create a two-year ban on releases to Yemen, a country Ayotte calls the “Wild, Wild West for terrorists.”

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