Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Japan's economy falters further and enters recession as the other shoe begins to drop



Japan's economy, sputtering since the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, has fallen into recession, according to government figures released Thursday.

The country's gross domestic product fell by an annualized rate of 3.7% in the first quarter of the calendar year, according to the government, a much steeper fall than Japanese economists had predicted.

Comparing the first quarter to the previous year, according to Japan's cabinet office, the GDP fell 0.9%. In the fourth quarter of 2010, the GDP fell 0.8% as compared to the same quarter of the previous year. Thursday's GDP figures show a second consecutive quarterly drop, which fits the economic definition of a recession.

Industrial output in March was down 15.3%, the worst monthly drop in the country's history.

Businesses in the region affected by the tsunami were hit hard, with 10,000 of 24,000 businesses affected and 600 expected to close.

The figures, which did not include data from tourism or trade, underscore the fact that the natural disaster of March has become an economic disaster. (read more)

How do you eat safely in China? -- "Rotate your poisons"



I was out shopping for groceries the other day with a friend of mine who has been living in Beijing for over a decade. We stopped by the fruit section, and I automatically gravitated to the bright red apples that looked delicious sitting on the store shelf.

She immediately stepped in. "I choose the apples that are pock-marked and are slightly bitten up by bugs," she told me while replacing the apples in my basket. "I figure if the fruit is good enough for the insect, it's good enough for me."

In China, she told me, the most perfectly formed, most appetizing piece of fruit is the scariest of them all.

With so many food safety scandals in China, everyone seems to have a philosophy on how best to eat. Avoid seafood. Never eat meat from the local market. Don't eat Chinese branded dairy products including cakes.

Probably the best and most consistent piece of advice I have gotten is to diversify your diet. "Rotate your poisons," a food safety expert advised me. It's enough to make you paranoid about eating anything at all. (read more)

Edward Smith admits having sex with 1,000 cars, lives with his current "girlfriend" –- a white Volkswagen Beetle named Vanilla

A man who claims to have had sex with 1,000 cars has defended his "romantic" feelings towards vehicles.

Edward Smith, who lives with his current "girlfriend" – a white Volkswagen Beetle named Vanilla, insisted that he was not "sick" and had no desire to change his ways.

"I appreciate beauty and I go a little bit beyond appreciating the beauty of a car only to the point of what I feel is an expression of love," he said.

"Maybe I'm a little bit off the wall but when I see movies like Herbie and Knight Rider, where cars become loveable, huggable characters it's just wonderful.

"I'm a romantic. I write poetry about cars, I sing to them and talk to them just like a girlfriend. I know what's in my heart and I have no desire to change."

He added: "I'm not sick and I don't want to hurt anyone, cars are just my preference."

Mr Smith, 57, first had sex with a car at the age of 15, and claims he has never been attracted to women or men.

But his wandering eye has spread beyond cars to other vehicles. He says that his most intense sexual experience was "making love" to the helicopter from 1980s TV hit Airwolf.

As well as Vanilla, he regularly spends time with his other vehicles – a 1973 Opal GT, named Cinnamon, and 1993 Ford Ranger Splash, named Ginger.

Before Vanilla, he had a five-year relationship with Victoria, a 1969 VW Beetle he bought from a family of Jehovah's Witnesses.

But he confesses that many of the cars he has had sex with have belonged to strangers or car showrooms. (read more)

White Teachers Sue Philadelphia School, Charge Race Bias agaisnt Charles Ray III, Black Principal

Four white Philadelphia teachers filed federal race-bias lawsuits that accuse a black principal of creating a hostile work environment and suggesting they were unfit to teach black children.

The teachers work at a predominantly black elementary school that has a recent history of racial tension. Their lawsuits say that a former principal had them read an article that said “white teachers do not have the ability to teach African-American students.”

The teachers also allege that the principal, Charles Ray III, and others undermined their work by reprimanding them, randomly changing their room assignments and letting black teachers ignore rules that their white counterparts had to follow. Ray also retaliated when they filed union grievances, they said.

“Charles Ray III consistently stated that he had a relationship with top school officials indicating that his conduct was part of an approved policy or was part of a pattern of practices sanctioned and supported by ‘higher authority,”’ the suits allege.

The teachers—Nicole Boyd, Debra McKibben Marenbach, Colleen Yarnell and Marta Ciccimaro—filed the lawsuits last week, demanding more than $150,000 each. Courthouse News Service first reported on the complaints Tuesday.

The school district had no immediate comment, spokeswoman Shana Kemp told The Associated Press.

Kemp said she was not immediately authorized to say if Ray still works for the district. A message left at a possible home number for him was not immediately returned.

Racial tensions among staff at Thomas Mifflin Elementary School have simmered before.

A white principal left about four years ago amid a chorus of complaints from black parents. One mother testified at a City Council meeting in December 2007 that she had heard the administrator say Muslim students looked like “flying nuns,” according to news reports. (read more)

US Secretary Timothy Geithner: not only is American financial system not too large to go bust—but it's headed for another crisis

At a New York screening of the new HBO adaptation of Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Too Big to Fail, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said that not only is our financial system not too large to go bust—but we’re headed for another crisis.

The Wall Street meltdown of late 2008 was, in real life, a harrowing event, triggering a terrible recession from which we’re still recovering. In the HBO movie Too Big to Fail, it’s also a surprisingly gripping melodrama—a clash of greedheads and egomaniacs desperate to escape the consequences of their own bad behavior.

At various moments of high tension, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson (played by a bedraggled, unshaven William Hurt) flees an important meeting to stress-vomit in his private bathroom, and New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner (a perfectly turned-out Billy Crudup) continually curses into his cell phone.

It’s an alarming entertainment (premiering May 23 at 9 p.m.), and an even more disturbing memory. So having the real Geithner predict the coming of another big crisis was the last thing the well-heeled screening crowd at the Time Warner Center wanted to hear Tuesday night.

“It will come again. There will be another storm,” warned Geithner, who in early 2009 succeeded Paulson as treasury secretary. “But it’s not going to come for a while.” (read more)

Fact or Fiction: Mysterious Hole In Basking Ridge Yard Puzzles Officials, Experts -- Meteor? Frozen airplane pee? Dog searching for bone? Weigh in!

A Basking Ridge homeowner would really like to know why there’s a crater in her front yard.

“To me it looked like something blew out of the ground because the grass was folded back, the rocks and dirt were all spewn out into the cul-de-sac and across the driveway,” Sue, who asked not to be identified out of concern that the hole may draw unwanted onlookers and crowds, said.

Her son, Jeff, believes something fell from the heavens.

“Something clearly came out of the sky and just hit it from an angle and then it all shot up the other way,” he said.

Officials and experts are also scratching their heads. For now, it appears the small crater that splayed debris across a 100-foot area wasn’t caused by a meteorite. Beyond that, it’s a mystery.

“It’s just really, really weird,” said Jerry Vinski, director of nearby Raritan Valley Community College’s planetarium, who conducted tests on the site. “We dug around and couldn’t find anything. We used metal detectors because all meteors have metal in them, and we couldn’t find anything, large or small.”

Bernards Township Police Capt. Edward Byrnes said whatever hit the front yard left a crater about 18 inches deep and roughly the size of a coffee table.

A State Police bomb squad ruled out explosives, Byrnes said.

According to Byrnes, no one in the neighborhood heard or saw anything at the time of the May 6 incident. The homeowner called police upon arriving home.

“The weather was clear, there were no reports of lightning strikes; nobody reported seeing anything,” Byrnes said. “I’ve never seen anything like this in 23 years.” (read more)

1. Yes, this was posted to point out that things like this actually take up space on today's news pages. The real crisis of this story is how people prioritize. 2. It's also kind of weird, and we'd like readers to give us more insight as to what this could be. We're insatiably curious!

US Postal Service four months away from default

The U.S. Postal Service will begin to default on its financial obligations just over four months from now unless Congress takes action to relieve it of its obligation to pre-fund retiree health care accounts, its leader told lawmakers Tuesday.

USPS expects to post a net loss of $8.3 billion for this fiscal year, nearly as much as it lost last year. And with its $15 billion debt limit due to be reached this year, more borrowing is not an option, Postmaster General Pat Donahoe said in testimony before a subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee.

"Despite our aggressive cost cutting and revenue generating efforts, we are in serious financial predicaments today," he said. "As things stand, we do not have the cash to make the $5.5 billion prepayment for future retiree health benefits due on September 30. And we may be forced to default on other payments. This could extend to operational expenses."

USPS contends the prepayment for future retirees is a financial obligation that none of its competitors, nor any government agency, has to live with. The requirement came along with a 2006 postal reform bill that was passed when mail volume was at its peak.

Officials say the payments were also based on what was then a much larger employee base. USPS has cut its workforce by 113,000 since then. Donahoe said in written testimony to the subcommittee on federal financial management that not only can USPS not afford the future retiree health bill this year, but that without Congressional action, it's inevitable that the organization will eventually default on payments to employees and suppliers as well. (read more)

Canadians secretly added to U.S. security list: WikiLeaks -- CSIS continues to pass along names in secret to the U.S.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Canada's principal intelligence agency, routinely transmits to U.S. authorities the names and personal details of Canadian citizens who are suspected of, but not charged with, what the agency refers to as "terrorist-related activity."

The criteria used to turn over the names are secret, as is the process itself.

But a new cache of WikiLeaks documents pertaining to Canada lays bare the practice. It contains not only frank assessments by U.S. officials of Canadian co-operation, but the names of 27 Canadian citizens turned over by their own government as possible threats, along with 14 other names of foreign nationals living in Canada.

In at least some cases, the people in the cables appear to have been named as potential terrorists solely based on their associations with other suspects, rather than any actions or hard evidence.

Of the 41 people named, 21 do not appear to have ever been charged, and some had never come to the attention of the Americans before being named by their own government. Most of the remaining 20 names comprise the group known as the Toronto 18. Some of that group were charged and convicted; others had charges against them stayed.

The cables are a snapshot of periods in 2009 and 2010. Over the years, the number of names handed over is certainly much higher.

The first stop for these names is usually the so-called Visa Viper list maintained by the U.S. government. Anyone who makes that list is unlikely to be admitted to the States. (read more)

China blocks release of UN report on North Korea-Iran: Likely because it's the middle man?

China has blocked the release of a UN report accusing North Korea of sharing ballistic missile technology with Iran in violation of sanctions.

China's UN ambassador said that Beijing was "still studying that report".

The report, which was leaked at the weekend, said the material passed through a third country, which was later identified by diplomats as China.

China has dismissed suggestions it was a transit point for the illegal shipments.

"I completely deny such reports," Assistant Foreign Minister Hu Zhengyue told a news conference on Wednesday.

His comment echoed the sentiment expressed by the foreign ministry a day earlier that Beijing was "earnest and responsible in implementing Security Council resolutions".

The UN report, obtained by Reuters at the weekend, was written by a panel of seven experts appointed by the UN secretary general to monitor Pyongyang's compliance with sanctions.

It was sent to the 15 Security Council members for their approval. Diplomats said China was the only country to object to its release. (read more)

Very interesting: The report warns of a potential "environmental disaster" at Yongbyon, according to the BBC -- Fukushima the sequel?

MATT TAIBBI: Goldman Sachs Executives Lied To Their Customers And Congress


Matt Taibbi, the Rolling Stone writer who labeled Goldman Sachs a "vampire squid" in one of the defining stories of the financial collapse, has written another article on the Wall Street firm.

This one is potentially more devastating.

Taibbi argues that Goldman Sachs executives lied when they testified in front of Congress in the aftermath of the crisis. Unlike other commentators who grouse about how Wall Street execs should be tossed in jail, Taibbi actually provides specifics. He takes quotes from some of the Goldman execs who testified, including CEO Lloyd Blankfein and CFO David Viniar, and then juxtaposes them with what he believes to be the truth at the time.

And at least as Taibbi tells it, the statements do appear to be misleading, if not outright false.

One of the biggest frustrations most people have about the financial crisis is that no one has yet been held accountable for it. In prior crashes--the S&L collapse, the 1987 crash, the dotcom bubble--prosecutors had a field day parading villains in front of TV cameras. And yet, this time, despite the financial crisis ushering in the worst recession since the Great Depression, no big shots have gone to jail. (read more)

US government seizes pension fund, invades Pakistan -- all in a week's work

There are certain times in life when a man is faced with overwhelming adversity… times when he has no reason to adhere to society’s norms anymore. It is in these instances that the true quality of his character comes shining through.

One of these situations is when he’s broke. Dead, flat broke. Some people, even when staring deep into their own financial abyss, still hold to their moral principles, honor their obligations, and keep their word.

For others, the boundaries of morality are quickly blurred into shades of gray, and things like fraud, thievery, and deception become perfectly legitimate tactics in their minds.

Speaking of broke, faced with what is tantamount to the official insolvency of the United States of America, policymakers have opted to seize funds from the retirement accounts of public sector workers in order to keep the government running.

Wow. America’s leaders are willing to engage in cannibalistic thievery in order to continue funding government operations. I wonder what sorts of operations are so important that they are willing to steal from their own people in order to finance? Any ideas?

Apparently, starting a shooting war in Pakistan was at the top of their list.

In the most insulting, disingenuous display of insensitivity and lack of regard following such a momentous financial decision, the US Defense Department decided to send helicopters into western Pakistan in a search for more ghosts. Pakistani military fired on the choppers, and the choppers fired back.

Seems like a good use of confiscated funds, no? (read more)

Stanley Thornton Jr, "adult baby" has his benefits questioned by US senator -- says he'll kill himself if benefits are cut off (Note: it's his hobby)

A key senator has asked the Social Security Administration to investigate how people who live their lives role-playing as “adult babies” are able to get taxpayer-funded disability payments - after one of them was featured on a recent reality TV episode wearing diapers, feeding from a bottle and using an adult-sized crib he built.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican and the Senate’s top waste-watcher, asked the agency’s inspector general to look into 30-year-old Stanley Thornton Jr. and his roommate, Sandra Dias, who acts as his “mother,” saying it’s not clear why they are collecting Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits instead of working.

“Given that Mr. Thornton is able to determine what is appropriate attire and actions in public, drive himself to complete errands, design and custom-make baby furniture to support a 350-pound adult and run an Internet support group, it is possible that he has been improperly collecting disability benefits for a period of time,” Mr. Coburn wrote in a letter Monday to Inspector General Patrick P. O'Carroll Jr.

The request comes at a time when members of Congress are struggling to cut budgets and weed out waste to try to bring down the staggering deficit, and comes just days after Social Security’s trustees released a grim assessment of the program’s long-term financial health. (read more)

Simon Hallam Second Victim to be Claimed by Internet Craze PLANKING - 18th May 2011

Just days after a young man died in Australia during a 'planking' prank, a second man is fighting for his life after seriously injuring himself during the internet craze.

Simon Hallam, a plasterer from the northern New South Wales town of Inverell, fell while 'planking' on the boot of a fast-moving car and is now in an induced coma in an intensive care unit.

Doctors at the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, 100 miles north of Sydney, have told the young man's family that they cannot guarantee he will ever recover from the accident.

Police said witnesses had told them that Mr Hallam was attempting to 'plank' - lie prone, face down - on the boot of a sedan car moments before he fell heavily, striking his head.

'We have spoken today with witnesses who have reported the young man was in fact "planking", or similar to it,' said a police spokesman.

Mr Hallam's distraught father told Melbourne's Sun-Herald newspaper that doctors had told the family that 'it's just day-by-day - that's all we know'.

Earlier this week 20-year-old Acton Beale plunged to his death while attempting to 'plank' on a balcony railing. Read More

One million amateur stargazers to help scientists try and spot advanced alien life on another planet - 18th May 2011

Stargazers around the world are helping scientists to try and detect signals from an advanced civilisation on another planet.

In February, Nasa announced that its Kepler space telescope had identified 1,235 possible planets, some of them 'habitable zones', during its first four months in orbit.

Now astronomers at the University of California, Berkeley, are aiming a radio telescope at the most Earth-like of these worlds to see if the can spot any signs of life.

They began their search earlier this month, when the Robert C Byrd Green Bank Telescope – the largest steerable radio telescope in the world – dedicated an hour to eight stars with possible planets.

But that is only the beginning.Link

Once the scientists acquire 24 hours of data on a total of 86 Earth-like planets, they will initiate a preliminary analysis and then ask an estimated one million SETI@home users to conduct a more detailed analysis on their home computers. Read More

The moment thirty riot police tackled machete-wielding man with a wheelie bin - 18th May 2011

This is the moment a man lunges at police with a two-foot machete - as more than 30 officers try and detain him.

The images shows a pot-bellied man in a distinctive floral shirt viciously swinging the huge blade wildly in the air in Brockley, south London.

As he lurches forward, officers resort to fighting him off with a wheelie bin in an attempt to subdue him.

Homeowners called police after the balding man was spotted standing in the middle of a roundabout holding the lethal weapon.

When officers rushed to the scene, witnessed said the man reappeared 'out of nowhere', waving the blade in the air. Read More


Deyan Valentinov Deyanov - 'He tried to kill me too': Tenerife killer smashed a rock into the face of Security Guard FOUR MONTHS AGO - 18th May 2011

A man has claimed that the Predator obsessed killer who beheaded a grandmother in Tenerife tried to kill him as well.

Bulgarian Deyan Deyanov is said to have hit security guard Fermin Suarez Perez, 45, over the head with a rock, knocking out some of his teeth.

Police said Deyanov was still on bail following his arrest over the attack on January 4 and had actually been arrested three times since then.

'I've no doubt he meant to kill me,' Mr Perez told the Daily Mirror. 'I said, "What are you doing you madman". He then crouched own on all fours like an animal and ran off.'

Deyanov, 28, is in custody following the beheading of British grandmother Jennifer Mills-Westley, 60, who he followed before stabbing her 14 times and decapitating her in a Chinese supermarket on Friday.

'He smoked a lot of cannabis, heroin and crack cocaine,' Mr Perez continued. 'He was a time bomb waiting to go off.

'He used to follow women, trying to pick them up. Jennifer used to stroll along the promenade and I'm sure he would have seen her.'

Two weeks after the attack on Mr Perez, Deyanov was arrested for punching a dog walker and then two months later he smashed a window. He was due in court but failed to turn up and an arrest warrant was issued three days before he went on to kill Mrs Mills-Westley.

Yesterday it was revealed that he was obsessed with the film Predator and had alien symbols from the movie tattooed on his forearLinkm.

He would rave about the movie in which aliens stalk their victims for sport, telling friends that he enjoyed the way the aliens tracked down their prey and removed their heads.

The details of his obsession come after it emerged that Deyanov, the son of a millionaire, turned to drugs and drifted across Europe. Read More

Jilted bride attempts to leap from building in wedding dress... but is saved with seconds to spare - 18th May 2011

LinkHanging precariously outside a seventh-storey window, this is the dramatic moment a bride-to-be was saved from falling to the ground below.

The desperate woman had clambered out on to the window ledge of a residential building in Changchun, Jilin province in China, dressed in a flowing ivory wedding gown.

As horrified onlookers tried to talk her away from danger, the bride-to-be was about fall when she was saved by a local community officer.

Residents leaning from surrounding windows were seen staring in disbelief as the unidentified 22-year-old climbed through a narrow window.

It is thought she had climbed out of the apartment window after her boyfriend of four years broke up with her. They are believed to have been planning to marry. Read More


Christopher Hughes, 17, illed in balcony plunge ‘was trying to recreate acrobatic stunt from Britain’s Got Talent’ - 18th May 2011

A teenager who plunged 30ft to his death from a balcony may have been trying to recreate an acrobatic stunt from Britain's Got Talent.

Christopher Hughes, 17, tried to perform a handstand on the railing of a third-floor flat after a party.

He had texted his sister asking the result of the ITV show - won by acrobatic dance group Spelbound.

An inquest into Christopher's death heard the railing was wet and he fell as horrified partygoers looked on. He died from multiple injuries.

Det Chief Inspector Peter Jackson told the Stockport inquest that Christopher was a fan of Britain's Got Talent and died on the night of the final.

He said: 'Christopher had been interested in Britain's Got Talent. It was won by a group called Spelbound who performed acrobatics.

'This may well have been what was in his mind at the time when he grabbed hold of the balcony. He was probably attempting a handstand.'

The inquest heard that Christopher, 17, from Heaton Chapel in Stockport, had been drinking and had been sick.

During the evening, he had sent a text to his sister Cat Hughes, 16, to see who had won the show.

Speaking after the inquest, she said: 'He would have been embarrassed and might have done something to detract from what was going on.

'He was very fit and athletic, an incredible person with many achievements and an amazing brother. No one ever thought anything bad of him.' Read More

Desperate, Americans buy kidneys from impoverished Peru - 18th May 2011

(Image) Ms Elisabeth Tercero visiting the grave of her son, Mr Luis Picado, who died after a kidney operation.

Mr Luis Picado's mother remembers the day her son thought he had won the lottery. He came home to their tin-roofed cinder-block house in a slum in Managua, Nicaragua, and said he had found a way to escape poverty and start a new life in the United States.

An American man had promised to give Mr Picado, a 23-year-old high school dropout who worked as a construction labourer, a job and an apartment in New York if he would donate one of his kidneys. He jumped at the deal, his mother said.

Three weeks later, in May 2009, Mr Picado came out of surgery at Managua's Military Hospital, bleeding internally from the artery doctors had severed to remove his kidney, according to medical records.

"I told my boy not to worry, that I would take care of him," Ms Elizabeth Tercero, 49, said. "But it was too late."

Mr Picado bled to death as doctors tried to save him, according to a coroner's report. "He was always chasing the American dream, and finally, it cost him his life," she said.

Mr Matthew Ryan, the American man, suffered a similar fate. The 68-year-old retired bus company supervisor in New York died two months after receiving Mr Picado's kidney in the same hospital.

Nicaraguan post-mortem reports cited the transplant as a cause of death for both men. Prosecutors in Managua are now investigating whether anyone broke a Nicaraguan law that prohibits paying a donor for an organ.

The case has prompted the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health to start writing tougher rules on transplants, and Congress will decide whether to approve them.

It is illegal in Nicaragua to sell an organ but the law is vague and bans transplants only if there is no proof of the donor's consent, said Mr Norwin Solano, a human rights lawyer in Managua.

Every year, about 5,000 gravely ill people from countries including the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia pay others to donate an organ, said Dr Francis Delmonico, a Harvard Medical School professor and surgeon.

Affluent, often desperately ill patients travel to countries such as Egypt, Peru and the Philippines, where poor people sell them their organs.

But the global demand far exceeds the available supply. In the US, 110,693 people are on waiting lists for organs and fewer than 15,000 donors are found annually. Source

Larry DeWayne Hall, a Convicted Child Kidnappe has confessed to Kidnap and Murder dating back to 1992, where did he bury Laurie Depies? -18th May 2011

A convicted child kidnapper has admitted he was responsible for the disappearance of a 20-year-old woman in 1992, police revealed today.

Larry DeWayne Hall has confessed he snatched Laurie Depies from the street in the town of Menasha, Wisconsin, murdered her and then hid her body.

The 48-year-old, already serving a life sentence kidnapping a 15-year-old girl in 1993, was interviewed in prison late last year.

Detectives are now searching for Miss Depies's body.

Police Chief Rod McCants said: 'There is no arrest, but we will continue as of today, following up on information he provided us to hopefully corroborate what he's telling us.

'Some of the details that Mr Hall was able to provide, I personally feel this is probably, hopefully putting us in the right direction now; a major break in the case.'

He refused to confirm the locations of the search but said that there were no physical evidence linking Hall to Miss Depies

'I hate to put time limits on investigations, but I'd like to think within three or six months we'll have additional information either corroborating his statement or eliminating him as a person of interest,' he added.

Police Lt. Mike Krueger said. 'I think from what Larry told us, out of all the other people we've interviewed over the years in this investigation, Larry seemed most credible with the information that he provided.'

'We can solve it with the crime lab, if we do ever come up with an exact location,' he said.

'(Lab investigators) felt pretty confident we would find some remains, whether it be bone fragments or something else.' Read More

Daniel Lee Bedford: 'I love you!': Last words he said to his daughter as he is executed for double murder he doesn't remember - 17th May 2011

A double murderer shouted out 'I love you' to his daughter seconds before he was executed for a crime he says he can't remember committing.

Ohio man Daniel Lee Bedford, 63, confessed to shooting ex-girlfriend Gwen Toepfert, then 25, and John Smith, then 27, in 1984, but in later years claimed he couldn't recall the incident.

Bedford, wearing glasses and a short grey beard, declined to give a formal final statement but yelled 'I love you' to his adult daughter, Michelle Connor, who was in the witness room.

She shouted back, 'I love you, Daddy' after he had climbed onto a gurney.

He also called out to witness Kristi Schulenberg, a friend and pen pal he had kept in touch with since the mid-1990s.

She said she loved him, too.

'God bless you,' he said as the injection began. His mouth moved slightly and his chest appeared to rise and fall several times before he became still.

Bedford's attorneys had tried to block the lethal injection at the last minute arguing that the inmate had dementia and a mild mental disability.

They also said he was denied legal proceedings to which he was entitled.

But the U.S. Supreme Court refused the defence's request to block the execution early this morning.

Prison staff had appeared to have some difficulty inserting the IVs into one of Bedford's arm, prompting an attorney witnessing the execution to call a colleague with concerns about how many times Bedford's arm had been poked.

She also shouted to Bedford through the glass viewing window and asked if there were problems.

He replied that he'd been poked several times.

Bedford is the fourth Ohio inmate put to death this year. Read More

20 Signs That A Horrific Global Food Crisis Is Coming

In case you haven't noticed, the world is on the verge of a horrific global food crisis. At some point, this crisis will affect you and your family. It may not be today, and it may not be tomorrow, but it is going to happen. Crazy weather and horrifying natural disasters have played havoc with agricultural production in many areas of the globe over the past couple of years. Meanwhile, the price of oil has begun to skyrocket. The entire global economy is predicated on the ability to use massive amounts of inexpensive oil to cheaply produce food and other goods and transport them over vast distances. Without cheap oil the whole game changes. Topsoil is being depleted at a staggering rate and key aquifers all over the world are being drained at an alarming pace. Global food prices are already at an all-time high and they continue to move up aggressively. So what is going to happen to our world when hundreds of millions more people cannot afford to feed themselves?

Most Americans are so accustomed to supermarkets that are absolutely packed to the gills with massive amounts of really inexpensive food that they cannot even imagine that life could be any other way. Unfortunately, that era is ending.

There are all kinds of indications that we are now entering a time when there will not be nearly enough food for everyone in the world. As competition for food supplies increases, food prices are going to go up. In fact, at some point they are going to go way up.

Let's look at some of the key reasons why an increasing number of people believe that a massive food crisis is on the horizon.

The following are 20 signs that a horrific global food crisis is coming. (read more)

Alberta wildfires rage as extra help arrives: Canada

Hundreds of firefighters continued to battle dozens of wildfires across Alberta on Wednesday, as evacuees from Slave Lake waited to find out whether their homes survived the fire that destroyed much of the town.

About 100 fires were raging across the province as of the last update from the Alberta government on 10 a.m. Tuesday. Twenty-three were considered out of control.

With about 100,000 hectares scorched already, help is arriving from outside the province, including 85 firefighters from Ontario who landed at Edmonton's airport Tuesday, including Jason Ingleton.

"I'm just looking forward to going wherever they can send me," he said. "Wherever I can be the most help is where I'd like to go."

Two-hundred more firefighters are expected to arrive later Wednesday from British Columbia. In all, about 400 firefighters from British Columbia and Ontario are joining more than 1,000 Alberta firefighters already on the ground. (read more)

Is it safe to eat salmon from the US West Coast? -- Japan's nuclear backlash continues across the world

I've been asked whether it is safe to eat salmon from Alaska and other West Coast locals.

I'm copying below my article on this issue from last month. As journalist Harvey Wasserman noted on a radio program today, it is "criminal" that the government is not testing fish. The bottom line - as nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen notes - is that we must demand that our elected representatives require testing.


The FDA says it won't monitor radiation in fish on the West Coast of the U.S. As the Anchorage Daily News notes:

North Pacific fish are so unlikely to be contaminated by radioactive material from the crippled nuclear plant in Japan that there's no reason to test them, state and federal officials said this week.

***

DeLancey, the FDA spokeswoman, said "We have not been doing any testing. We've been working with NOAA to keep an eye on U.S. waters, to see if there is any cause for alarm, and we do have the capability to begin testing if that does occur."

Asked to explain what kind of monitoring was taking place in the ocean, DeLancey said, "You would have to talk directly to NOAA ... I don't really want to speak for another agency."

But NOAA fisheries spokeswoman Kate Naughton declined to answer questions and referred a reporter back to DeLancey and the EPA.

DeLancey said that so far, there's no reason for concern about Fukushima. The radioactive materials in the water near Fukushima quickly become diluted in the massive volume of the Pacific, she said. Additionally, radioactive fallout that lands on the surface tends to stay there, giving the most unstable ones isotopes like iodine time to decay before reaching fish, she said.

Of course, radioactive isotopes like cesium 137 are very long-lived, and so won't necessarily decay before they reach fish.

And - in typical Orwellian agency-speak - the FDA is trying to reassure people that eating contaminated fish poses no health risk. As the Wall Street Journal notes:

U.S. public-health officials sought Tuesday to reassure consumers about the safety of food in the U.S., including seafood, amid news that fish contaminated with unusually high levels of radioactive materials had been caught in waters 50 miles from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. (read more)

Richard Koo Explains Why An Unwind Of QE2, With Nothing To Replace It, Could Lead To The Biggest Depression Yet

Over the past several days, quite a few readers have been asking us why we are so confident that QE3 (in some format: it does not and likely will not be in the form of the Large Scale Asset Purchases that defined QE1 and 2 - the Fed could easily disclose that it will henceforth sell Treasury puts, a topic discussed previously, or engage any of the other proposals from Vince Reinhart disclosed in June of 2003, or worse yet, do what the BOJ does and buy ETFs, REITs and other outright equities) will eventually be implemented by the Fed. Luckily, instead of engaging in a lengthy explanation of the logical, Nomura's Richard Koo comes to our rescue with his latest research piece.

While we disagree with Koo on various interpretations of his about monetary theory (namely that the Fed is not in effect "printing" money and thus creating inflation - this is semantics and leads to a paradoxical binary outcome, whereby if there Fed was successful in boosting the economy, the economy would indeed be flooded with the nearly $2 trillion in excess reserves held with reserve banks. And good luck trying to contain this surge by changing the IOER - if the Fed indeed pushed the IOER to the required 5%+ level it would immediately destroy money markets, leading to the same liquidity freeze that marked the post-Lehman days, confirming the "Catch 22" nature of Quantitative Easing that we have observed since its beginning) we do agree with his analysis of what would happen to the economy if either stocks or commodities are in a bubble (and judging by the violent opinions out there, most investors believe that either one or the other has indeed reached bubble territory), should QE2 end cold turkey: "Viewed objectively, the central banks are trying to push up asset prices using quantitative easing and the portfolio rebalancing effect.

The resultant rise in asset prices based on this effect represented a potential bubble—or at least a liquidity-driven event—from the start. The question is whether the real economy can keep pace with asset prices formed in those liquidity-driven markets. If it cannot, higher asset prices will be considered a bubble and will collapse at some point. The resulting situation could be much more severe than if quantitative easing had never been implemented to begin with." Bingo. (read more)

Gold Aimed at $6,500/oz, Silver at $600/oz?

Get ready. We are now entering the final stages in the collapse of the U.S. dollar, and it's not going to be pretty.

The massive increases in money supplies will tank the value of the dollar and erode the very fabric of America's economic security.

As a result, gold and silver prices are will no doubt skyrocket, despite the short-term major volatility we've recently seen.

Many investors have been rushing to me asking if it's too late to buy precious metals with gold in the $1,500/oz range and recently spiking to nearly $50/oz. I keep telling them the same thing...

Despite whatever the price of gold or silver is today, both metals will be worth more than twice as much within 12 months.

That means $3,000 gold this time next year! After that, I think gold could break $6,500 an ounce.

And as you know, silver's gains will be much greater. When the bull market is all said and done, there's no doubt we could be looking at silver prices exceeding $600 an ounce.

And we can all thank the crooks in D.C. for it...

In his first ever press conference after a policy meeting two weeks ago, Bernanke told us all the ways he has saved our economy.

What a crock!

The Federal Reserve can't prevent the coming financial meltdown.

So far this year, the U.S. Treasury has raised $293 billion in net cash by selling debt securities. And so far this year, the Federal Reserve has purchased a net $330 billion of Treasury notes and bonds.

This translates to the Fed providing 100% of the net new cash the Treasury has raised this year — plus another $37 billion needed to mop up even more mess!

But who will buy Treasuries when the Fed doesn’t? China? Germany? Japan? You? Me? (read more

Thousands protest economic crisis, high unemployment in Spain -- coming to a city near you?

Protests against Spain's economic crisis took a new turn Wednesday as social media networks fueled calls for demonstrators to take to the streets before local elections a few days away.

Thousands returned late Tuesday to Madrid's central Puerta del Sol plaza -- where the main protests began Sunday.

A few hundred demonstrators camped out there overnight, while similar but smaller protests were held in Barcelona and other Spanish cities, a protest organizer said.

"The economy and unemployment are key to the protest because that binds all of us together," said Jon Aguirre Such, a spokesman for the Real Democracy Now, one of many groups convening the demonstrations.

"In this crisis, while some have gotten rich, most people have less income," Aguirre said.

Demostrators are protesting Spain's 21 % unemployment rate and a record 4.9 million jobless.

Protesters say a plethora of temporary labor contracts offer few or no job benefits. In addition, some are protesting against the political and financial establishment that they say is to blame. (read more)

World wastes 30% of all food



An average 30-year old who’s eaten three meals a day since birth has consumed more than 30,000 meals to date. Even if you’ve only eaten half that much you have to admit this: you’ve let some of that breakfast, lunch or dinner go to waste.

And it turns out we’re all to blame for this gut-wrenching fact: 30% of all food produced in the world each year is wasted or lost. That’s about 1.3 billion tons, according to a new report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

That’s the weight of more than 8.6 million full-grown blue whales, the largest creatures on earth. That’s the weight of more than 2.3 million Airbus A380s, the largest commercial planes in existence. That’s as if each person in China, the world’s most populous country with more than 1.3 billion people, had a one ton mass of food they could just throw into the trashcan.

It’s almost unfathomable isn’t it?

Breaking apart that big number, we find the people with the most money are the ones who waste the most.

Per capita, Europeans and North Americans waste between 95 and 115 kilograms of food. Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia waste much, much less – between 6 and 11 kilograms per person. The takeaway? The developed world wastes 10 times more food than the developing one.

Here’s another statistic: all the food that the world’s richest countries waste is about equal to all the food that sub-Saharan Africa produces. The numbers: 222 million tons and 230 million tons, respectively. Basically, the waste of the rich could feed much of the African continent.

And these numbers come as we’ve just been reporting about soaring food prices around the world in the past week. (read more)

Is East Africa ready for its own 'Euro?'

Just as the eurozone is being threatened by faltering economies, East Africa is moving closer to its own monetary union. But some are asking if it's ready for a common currency, and in light of Europe's troubles, if it should even have one.

Under an ambitious plan, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi are targeting 2012 for adopting a common currency.

Having already established a customs union in 2005 and a common market in 2010, the five member-states of the East African Community (EAC) hope that the economic integration will boost regional trade, decrease exchange-rate volatility, and attract foreign investors.

Dr Richard Sezibera, the recently-appointed Secretary General of the EAC, says: "The financial, fiscal and monetary integration is good for our region.

"It will help our region improve its competitiveness, deal with volatility that has been a problem in our region, lead to an easing of business -- including easier capital flows from within the region -- and make the financial integration much easier.

"This is beneficial both to business but also to the average East African."

The promise of a better financial outlook in an integrated market of more than 130 million people has not gone unnoticed by the world's strongest economies.

Earlier this week, China became the latest state to appoint a representative to the EAC secretariat, following the example of countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom and France. (read more)

The housing crash will be short-lived for America's politicians

President Bill Clinton once described homes as something Americans "will always know that their country wanted them to have because they were entitled to it as part of the American dream".

t's how the 42nd president ended an address in The White House extolling the virtues of homeownership. He gave the speech in 1995, a year like most before it and several since, when US politicians were more than happy to talk about the housing market.

Fast forward 16 years and the relative silence is striking. More than three years since the collapse of Bear Stearns – a bank that choked on mortgage debt – the only financial debate in the capital is how to cut the country's $14 trillion (8.6 trillion) debt.

Meanwhile on Wall Street, the housing market has become the D-list celebrity of financial markets. It has to do something really shocking to get attention. The steepest quarterly drop in house prices since the three shuddering months after Lehman Brothers' demise certainly isn't enough. US stock markets didn't blink at Monday's news that average prices fell 3pc in the first three months of this year. Nor that only three of the 132 metropolitan areas escaped the declines, according to Zillow, a major property listings website. (read more)

Royal wedding Cinderella weirdness: did Will and Kate plan it like this?

Is the next housing shock just around the corner?

Andrew Graham, 40, faces year in Dubai jail after calling prophet Muhammad a 'terrorist' in row with shopkeeper - 18th May 2011

A British tourist called the Islamic prophet Muhammad a terrorist in a heated row with an electronics salesman in a Dubai shopping mall, a court heard yesterday.

Andrew Graham, 40, faces spending a year in a Dubai jail if he is convicted of insulting Islam.

The holidaymaker was wandering through the Mall of the Emirates when he got into an argument with Hassan Habeeb, a 21-year-old salesman from Pakistan.

During the row, Graham allegedly said that ‘Muslims in Pakistan are not normal because they kill each other and kill people outside Pakistan’.

Mr Habeeb tried to tell the Briton that Muslims are ‘peaceful people and are all brothers who help each other’.

In a written statement produced before the Dubai Court of Misdemeanours yesterday, the Pakistani salesman said: ‘He laughed and said that I’m crazy and that prophet Muhammad was not a peaceful man but he is a terrorist.’

Mr Habeeb then became angry and tried to punch Graham, only for a customer to intervene, it was said.

The tourist was then taken to a police station and charged with swearing in public and insulting Islam.

Yesterday Graham appeared in court wearing shorts and was ordered to change into trousers by the judge on the grounds of decency.

Once in the appropriate attire, he pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The court heard how the argument began after Graham had walked into E-Max electronic shop and struck up a conversation with Mr Habeeb about the Taliban on March 3.

The salesman claims the conversation became aggressive after Graham discovered he was from Pakistan.

‘I wanted to end the discussion and asked him if he need anything in the shop but he added that Pakistan would soon come to bad end,’ Mr Habeeb said.

An Egyptian customer who calmed down the salesman and a Sri Lankan colleague also gave statements supporting the claims.

In a police statement, Graham said: ‘I spoke with him about the problems between the Pakistani government and Taliban and I understood that the Pakistani is a supporter of the Taliban.

‘I told him he was crazy because they were terrorists and they kill people and bomb each other. I didn’t say anything bad about Muslims and the prophet.’

The judge released Graham on bail and will deliver his verdict on June 9. Read More

Pakistan Rushes to Finish Construction of Fourth Nuclear Reactor - 17th May 2011

Recent satellite images obtained by Fox News from the aerial imagery company GEOEYE show an expanding nuclear facility at the Khushab facility about 100 miles south of Pakistan's capital city of Islamabad. The pictures were taken on April 20 and indicate Pakistan is building a fourth nuclear reactor to produce plutonium.

Paul Brannon, a nuclear analyst with the Institute for Science and International Security, explains how U.S. officials and other nuclear experts have been able to document the alarming expansion of Pakistan’s nuclear program in the past two years.

“They have a telltale sign,” Brannon said, looking at the images. “I mean you can see the square of the reactor building, you can see the inner square of the reactor hall where the actual reactor goes, and if you measure the dimensions of the building it matches up exactly to the second and the third reactors.”

In 2009 it was a barren site.

Pakistan first revealed the Khushab site and its plutonium production facility in 1998 after the country’s first nuclear test. That is when Pakistan’s official nuclear program turned from the highly enriched uranium model established by the father of that program, A.Q. Khan, to plutonium production. Plutonium weapons are lighter, more mobile and easier to deliver than those based on highly enriched uranium.

Pakistan already has 100 nuclear weapons. Experts, such as Brannon, say that the new reactors could give Pakistan enough fissile material to build somewhere between eight and 20 more nuclear weapons per year. Read More

David Norris and Gary Dobson will Face Trial over the Murder of Stephen Lawrence 18 Years ago - 18th May 2011

(Image) David Norris (L) and Gary Dobson (R)

Two men are to face trial for the murder of London teenager Stephen Lawrence 18 years ago.

Gary Dobson and David Norris have been charged with killing the 18-year-old at a bus stop in Eltham in 1993.

Dobson, 35, and 34-year-old Norris were arrested last September but the development could not be reported until today for legal reasons.

In 1996 Dobson, Luke Knight and Neil Acourt were tried for murder in a private prosecution brought by Mr Lawrence's parents at the Old Bailey.

But the trial judge ruled that purported identification evidence was not admissible and the case collapsed.

The jury was directed to acquit the defendants and not guilty verdicts were entered.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge, sitting at the Court of Appeal in London with Mrs Justice Rafferty and Mr Justice Holroyde, said new scientific evidence has come to light that justifies the quashing of Dobson's original acquittal.

The retrial of Dobson is possible because the rules on double jeopardy have changed - they previously stated a person could not be tried for the same offence twice.

Lord Judge said no application to quash the acquittals of Neil Acourt and Luke Knight was before the court "but another suspect, who was not a defendant at the earlier trial, David Norris, was arrested in September 2010 and charged with murder". Read More

Erica Mendoza and Ivan Mendoza accused of almost beating son to death claim injuries were caused by a 'ghost' in their home - 18th May 2011

A couple accused of almost beating their son to death claimed his catalogue of injuries were caused by a 'ghost' in their home.

The pair insisted an evil spirit was responsible for the multiple bruises on the boy's body that left him clinging to life and needing an emergency blood transfusion.

Doctors were able to save the two-year-old boy after he was rushed to a hospital emergency room covered in bruises and suffering from internal injuries, including a non-functioning kidney.

But when police interviewed the boy's mother, Erica Mendoza, and her boyfriend, Ivan Martinez, they claimed 'spirits' in their Houston home were to blame for the injuries.

An arrest report revealed that Mendoza, 21, said their apartment in Houston, Texas, was haunted and that the injuries suffered by the boy were caused by the ghost tossing him around.

Martinez, 21, also insisted an evil spirit inhabiting their home was to blame for the boy's near-death condition.

Mendoza also tried to claim her other child, aged four, was responsible for the multiple bruises on her son's body from 'rough play'.

But after failing a lie detector polygraph test, Martinez admitted to repeatedly punching the toddler after the child had thrown his breakfast on the floor.

Mendoza also admitted to noticing several bruises on the child’s body, but failing to seek medical care for him.

Doctors who examined the boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, found his body covered in bruises from head to toe. Read More

Craigslist Ripper - Police investigate two more murders that could be linked to Long Island killings - 18th May 2011

Up to 13 prostitutes have been murdered in Long Island and Atlantic City – now police believe two more murders may be connected to the killings, including a mother of three whose dissected body was found in a suitcase.

The dismembered body of 39-year-old Tanya Rush, a prostitute from East New York, was found in Bellmore in June 2008. This case, along with another that the police are refusing to identify, is being reviewed, according to the New York Post.

If they are connected, it would bring the total number of killings in the so-called 'Craigslist Ripper' case to 15.

News that the investigation is being widened further follows the revelation by the paper that two NYPD police officers are under suspicion in connection with the case.

Parts of the victims’ bodies have been found along a secluded section of Long Island beach over the past several months.

Criminologists had said it was possible the killer or killers worked in law enforcement, or at least was familiar with police procedures. Recent estimates have put the number of alleged killers at two to four.

The New York Post reports that one of the officers being looked at by Suffolk County detectives had been forced out of his NYPD job in the 1990s 'when his supervisors learned he spent time pursuing hookers and paying street walkers and down-and-out women for sex while he was supposed to be on patrol'. Read More

Philip Chlanda, 29,: 'I love you': On-duty NYPD Cop's last words before shooting himself dead in front of girlfriend - 18th May 2011

A uniformed cop shot himself in the head after arguing with his girlfriend who he thought was about to leave him.

Officer Philip Chlanda, 29, left his Tribeca station house at 3 am this morning and drove in a squad car to his parent's East 37th Street and Lexington Avenue apartment, which he shared with the girlfriend.

The pair rowed inside the house before moving outside, where Mr Chlanda told his girlfriend 'I love you' before turning the Glock 9 mm on himself. He later died in Bellevue hospital.

Speaking to the New York Daily News, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said Mr Chlanda checked his girlfriend's Facebook page to see if she was seeing anyone else.

He said: 'He was left with the impression that she might leave him.

'Nobody saw this coming.'

He added the death was, 'a sad, tragic incident,' and that previously Chlanda had an 'unblemished' four year record with the NYPD.

According to friends the couple planned to get their own apartment soon and move out of the place they shared with his parents. Read More

Spectacular image of the Northern Lights that captures two auroral rings and their reflections in a lake - 17th May 2011

If this stunning image of the Northern Lights looks too good to be true, then that might be because it is... almost.

Photographer Stephane Vetter combined six exposures to capture not only two green auroral rings, but also their reflections off Iceland's largest glacial lake.

He took his photographs during a visit to the lake, Jökulsárlón, two months ago.

In the distant background, the band of our Milky Way galaxy, the Pleiades open clusters of stars and the Andromeda galaxy are all visible.

The result, which Mr Vetter named A Starry Night Of Iceland, won a prize for landscape astro-photography at the recent 2011 Earth and Sky Photo Contest.

The Northern Lights are formed when particles thrown out of the sun into deep space meet with Earth's magnetic shield and create a circle around the magnetic North Pole when they interact with the upper layers of the atmosphere. Read More

Tunisia Threatens Libya Over Rocket Attacks - 18th May 2011

Tunisia has threatened to report Libya to the UN Security Council if it fires on border areas again amid claims rockets were fired by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

Pressure has been piling on the Libyan leader after an apparent defection by his oil minister and further Nato air strikes on Tripoli.

Now, a Tunisian foreign ministry source has warned the government would take diplomatic action over "continuing firing of rockets" towards Tunisian territory.

Earlier on Tuesday at least four Russian-made Grad rockets fired from Libya landed inside Tunisia, according to reports.

The attacks forced Libyan rebels to pull back briefly from the Dehiba-Wazin border crossing, but they kept control despite several rebel deaths and injuries.

A Tunisian government official has said oil minister Shukri Ghanem, a veteran of Col Gaddafi's regime, had left Libya at the weekend and was in neighbouring Tunisia.

Ghanem, also chairman of Libya's national oil company, reportedly crossed the border by car on Saturday and checked into a hotel on the southern tourist island of Djerba.

A Libyan government spokesman denied the defection, but if confirmed Ghanem would be among the most senior officials to abandon the regime since the anti-government uprising began in February. Read More

Large Hadron Collider (LHC) - The 'God particle' mystery likely to be solved 'by the end of next year', claim scientists - 18th May 2011

One of the biggest questions in science - does 'the God particle' exist? - is likely to be answered by the end of next year, it was claimed yesterday.

The Higgs boson, nicknamed the God particle, is theoretically responsible for mass, without which there would be no gravity and no universe.

Until now the enormous energies needed to winkle out the Higgs from the building blocks of matter have not been available.

Scientists at the world's most powerful particle accelerator have today predicted that within two years they will either find the Higgs boson or show conclusively that it does not exist.

Even the discovery that nature does not contain a Higgs particle will be a momentous event in physics. If this was shown to be true, scientists might have to abandon the 'Standard Model', the best theory so far for explaining the fundamental mechanics of the universe.

The search for the Higgs boson is taking place at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which fills a 27-kilometre circular tunnel 100 metres below the French-Swiss border near Geneva.

Dubbed the 'Big Bang machine', the LHC was built at a cost of around £2.6billion to recreate conditions a fraction of a second after the birth of the universe.

The machine, weighing more than 38,000 tonnes, accelerates streams of protons - the 'hearts' of atoms - close to the speed of light and smashes them into each other at unprecedented energies.

Huge detectors at four points in the tunnel use the collisions to probe deeper into the nature of reality than anyone has gone before. Read More

Alan John Miller, 47, and Mary Suzanne Luck, 32, Cult leader claims to be Christ... and his female says she's Mary Magdalene - 18th May 2011

He is the charismatic preacher who claims to be Jesus Christ returned to Earth.

She, meanwhile, tells followers she is the repentant prostitute Mary Magdalene, the woman who first saw the risen Messiah standing by the empty tomb.

But it is perhaps no surprise that the Australian authorities remain unconvinced by this somewhat far-fetched declaration of the second coming.

They have warned people to be wary of Alan John Miller, 47, and Mary Suzanne Luck, 32, who have attracted a number of followers to their church in rural Wilkesdale, near Kingaroy, Queensland.

Miller, who has tailored his appearance to match conventional depictions of Christ, claims he now has 30 to 40 people living on site who have flocked to his cult of 'Divine Truth'.

Bizarrely, the presence of Miller and Luck has sparked a property boom in the area - appropriately dubbed Queensland's Bible Belt.

Some 30 followers have aggressively bought much of the land surrounding Miller's compound, where he has been living since 2007, leaving very little available to locals.

His disciples also joined forces in 2009 to buy a $400,000 property where they hold weekly meetings and plan to build a centre for international visitors.

In an apparent coincidence, land clearing has created a giant cross on neighbouring properties. Locals insisted it was not carved deliberately.

'My name is Jesus and I'm serious,' Miller says. 'Just a little over 2000 years ago, we arrived on the Earth for the first time.'

'Because of my personal desire and passion for God, as I grew, I recognised not only that I was the Messiah that was foretold by ancient prophets, but also that I was in a process designed by God that all humans could follow, if they so desired. Read More

Miller, who was born in Loxton, South Australia, and Luck do not have conventional employment and their lifestyles appear to be funded by supporter donations.

Denmark plans to lay claim to North Pole as melting ice opens up oil opportunities - 18th May 2011

Leaked government papers in Copenhagen show officials want to own areas where melting ice is uncovering new shipping routes, fishing grounds and drilling opportunities for oil and gas.

The document said Denmark’s Science Ministry has started collecting data to formally submit a claim for those areas to the U.N. no later than 2014.

Russia, Norway and the U.S. have their own claims - sometimes competing - in a region believed to hold as much as 25 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas.

The Danish government confirmed the authenticity of the called 'Strategy for the Arctic' document, which was first uncovered by Danish Radio and published online by newspaper Information.

Denmark has for years explored potential claims to areas off Greenland, a semiautonomous territory, but this is the first time the government explicitly states it will make a claim for the North Pole, said Martin Breum, a Danish journalist who has written a book about Denmark’s interests in the Arctic.

Foreign Minister Lene Espersen said the strategy is still being reviewed and a final version is expected in June. However, she affirmed in a statement that Denmark expects to 'be able to lay claim on an area which includes the seabed of the North Pole.'

The race to secure subsurface rights to the Arctic seabed heated up in 2007 when Russia sent two small submarines to plant a tiny national flag under the North Pole. Read More

Amanda Knox back in the Box accused of Slander, in fresh trial over claims police beat her to make her confess - 18th May 2011

Jailed Amanda Knox appeared in court today to face charges of slandering murder squad detectives who led the investigation into the Meredith Kercher killing.

Knox, 23, is accused of slandering seven police officers after she told her original trial that she had been 'cuffed twice' around the back of the head during questioning.

Dressed in a white shirt and black trousers the American student spoke to confirm that she understood Italian by trial judge Daniele Cenci for the brief hearing.

Knox was jailed for 26 years in December 2009 for the brutal sex killing of student Meredith Kercher, 21, who was found semi naked and with her throat cut.

During the trial she claimed that she had been ''hit on the head' by police during questioning about tragic Meredith's murder and prosecutors immediately launched a case against her.

At an earlier hearing in Perugia where she is serving her sentence, she had insisted that she was defending herself and attempts to have the case thrown out by her legal team were overturned.

Knox made the allegations in June 2009 during her trial and they had earlier been repeated by her parents Curt Knox and Edda Mellas who are also facing a similar charge after giving a newspaper interview.

The slander charge came about as in the murder trial Knox recalled her police questioning and said: 'One shouted, "You don't remember?" then a policewoman behind me hit me across the back of the head. I turned towards her and she did it again.

'They were only decent with me when I made my statement. They wanted a name, but I couldn't give them one.'

Under Italian law slander is punishable with a fine and or a prison sentence of between two and six years. Judge Cenci adjourned the trial until November 15.

Besides the police officers she is also said to have slandered an interpreter by telling the court she had suggested to Knox to say that perhaps someone else was involved in the murder.

Mr Knox was in court for the hearing and it was the first time he had seen his daughter in more than a year, as he has found a new job and been unable to get time off work.

Knox and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 26, who was convicted with her for the murder are currently appealing the sentence and the next hearing will take place on Saturday. Read More

Fleas test postive for plague in Doney Park area - 18th May 2011

County health officials have confirmed that fleas collected from a remote area of Doney Park have tested positive for plague.

According to information from the county Health Services District, the area is northeast of Flagstaff near Townsend-Winona Road and Interstate 40. Fleas were being collected from prairie dog burrows that were being monitored due to a die off.

Area residents have been notified, and the burrows have been treated. The area will be closely monitored to determine if more action is required, according to the county. The tests were conducted by Northern Arizona University researchers.

The health district is urging residents to take precautions to reduce risk of exposure to the disease, including:

-- Do not handle sick or dead animals;

-- Prevent pets from roaming loose;

-- De-flea pets routinely;

-- Avoid exposure to rodent burrows and fleas;

-- Use insect repellents;

-- Wear rubber gloves;

-- Do not camp next to rodent burrows and avoid sleeping directly on the ground.

A reduction in rodent activity could indicate plague is present. To report sudden reductions in rodent activity in your area, call (928) 679-8750. Source