Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Arab league wants no-fly zone over Israel to protect Gaza, similar to the one in Libya -- this could get interesting

The “no-fly” zone in Libya set a precedent for possible action in Syria, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, but instead, the Arab League has targeted Israel.

The Arab group, which includes the Palestinian Authority as a full member, has called on the United Nations to send airplanes from foreign countries to keep Israel from retaliating for terrorist attacks from Gaza.

The League called Israel’s actions "brutal,” but the Israeli government told Reuters, "If the Arab League wants a no-fly zone in Gaza is it also talking about ground-to-ground missiles that are fired from Gaza on Israeli cities? About missiles fired at school buses? About mortar shells fired at farms?”

When the United Nations Security Council imposed the no-fly zone on Libya, at the behest of the United States, Britain and France, several bloggers immediately commented that the same policy could be demanded of Israel by the mostly pro-Arab Council. (read more)

China arrests dissident Zhu Yufu as crackdown continues against Jasmine revolutionaries

Zhu Yufu was detained on March 5 for writing a poem in support of the online calls for demonstrations that have been circulating in China in the wake of pro-democracy protests in the Middle East. His arrest follows the detention of the artist Ai Weiwei on April 3rd.

Mr Zhu's ex-wife Jiang Hangli said that police told her he has now been accused of 'inciting subversion of state power', a catch-all charge frequently used against anyone who challenges the ruling communist party.

His arrest follows that of three other dissidents on the same charge. It indicates how determined Beijing is to stamp out any expression of public discontent.

Mrs Jiang, though, denied that Mr Zhu had been involved in organising the calls for a 'Jasmine Revolution'.

"Before he was detained, he'd been followed everywhere he went, 24 hours a day, for 20 days by the security people, so he never had a chance to participate in any political activities," said Mrs Jiang. (read more)

Banks facing $3.6 trillion 'wall of maturing debt', IMF warns

Debt-laden banks are the biggest threat to global financial stability and they must refinance a $3.6 trillion "wall of maturing debt" which comes due in the next two years, the International Monetary Fund said in its Global Financial Stability Report.

Many European banks need bigger capital cushions to restore market confidence and help reduce the risk of another financial crisis, according to the IMF's report, published on Wednesday.

Banks around the world are facing a $3.6 trillion "wall of maturing debt" coming due in the next two years, and the rollover requirements are most acute for Irish and German banks, the report said.

"These bank funding needs coincide with higher sovereign refinancing requirements, heightening competition for scarce funding resources," the IMF said.

However the IMF said Spain's efforts to control its budget deficit have increased investor confidence and make it unlikely the country will follow Portugal in calling for a bail-out.

"The actions that have been taken in Spain recently have managed to decouple in the views of markets the fortunes of Spain relative to those of Portugal" and Ireland, said Jose Vinals, director of the IMF's monetary and capital markets department. (read more)

China inflation threat underestimated

China is poised to become an "exporter of inflation to the rest of world", according to Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), which warned that the threat from rising prices in the world's second-biggest economy is underestimated.

The era in which cheap Chinese exports helped to keep prices down is now behind us, according to the insurance giant's fund division.

Instead, "as inflation becomes more and more of a concern in advanced economies, China is going to be making things worse," said Brian Coulton, an emerging markets strategist at LGIM.

While many commentators suggest Chinese price rises are peaking, Mr Coulton believes that Beijing is not on top of inflation – expected to come in at 5.5pc for March – which threatens a more painful tightening process to rein in prices than many expect.

"This means rising risk to the country's macroeconomic stability and of growth falling from the current 10pc a year to 4pc or 5pc." Mr Coulton said.

If China's economic growth does halve as feared, it could have serious implications for the global recovery. LGIM's argument is that soaring food prices are not a temporary driver of inflation, but reflect underlying pressures from rising demand rather than one-off supply shocks. (read more)

Obama unveils $4 trillion plan to cut deficit and avoid "financial armageddon"

Barack Obama, the US president, has unveiled a $4 trillion deficit-reduction programme, and slammed Republican plans for sweeping spending cuts as an attempt to fracture America's social compact.

The US has a projected annual deficit of $1.6 trillion this year and a cumulative public debt of $14.27 trillion.

In a speech designed to address the issue ahead of his 2012 re-election battle, the president said he wanted to achieve the reduction over 12 years or less.

"The debate about budgets and deficits is about more than just numbers on a page, more than just cutting and spending," he said.

"It's about the kind of future we want, it's about the kind of country we believe in."

Speaking at George Washington University in Washington on Wednesday, he said he was borrowing recommendations from a bipartisan fiscal commission which reported last year.

Obama said he would seek to reduce the deficit by keeping domestic spending low, finding savings in the defence budget, reducing excess health care costs and reforming the tax system.

Despite calling on Democrats and Republicans to come together to secure a prosperous future for their country, he also savaged a rival budget and deficit reduction plan put forward by Republican congressman Paul Ryan which aimed to cut $4.4 trillion from the deficit over a decade. (read more)

Justin Bieber the jerk: Rejects Israeli children afflicted by rockets, claims Israeli holy sites for self -- and this is your children's role model?

Justin Bieber is not getting much spiritual peace on his eagerly anticipated visit to Israel.

The Canadian teen idol bitterly complained on Tuesday that paparazzi had ruined his visits to holy sites, saying on Twitter that he was "super frustrated" by the intrusions.

His mood was not helped by a newspaper report that a proposed meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu fell through after the singer allegedly refused to meet with invited children from a region affected by enemy rockets.

Bieber's camp denied that he had snubbed the youngsters or Netanyahu, saying that the meeting had never been finalized. At any rate, Bieber had already invited children from the region bordering Gaza to be special guests at his show in Tel Aviv on Thursday, a spokesman said.

Israeli newspaper Haaretz said Netanyahu canceled the meeting over Bieber's unwillingness to meet the children, but a government official was more circumspect.

"The prime minister was approached to meet with Justin Bieber. The prime minister was open to the idea and wanted to bring children from southern Israel in order for them to have an enjoyable experience. In the end, it was unfortunately not possible," the Israeli official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

For his part, Bieber said on Twitter, "I want to see this country and all the places I've dreamed of and whether its the paps or being pulled into politics it's been frustrating." (Reuters has fixed some of the grammar.) (read more)

Big banks are government-backed: Fed's Hoenig

Big banks like Bank of America Corp and Citigroup Inc should be reclassified as government-sponsored entities and have their activities restricted, a senior Fed official said on Tuesday.

The 2008 bank bailouts at the height of the financial crisis and other implicit guarantees effectively make the largest U.S. banks government-guaranteed enterprises, like mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, said Kansas City Fed President Thomas Hoenig.

"That's what they are," Hoenig said at the National Association of Attorneys General 2011 conference.

He said these lenders should be restricted to commercial banking activities, advocating a policy that existed for decades barring banks from engaging in investment banking activities.

"You're a public utility, for crying out loud," he said.

The Kansas City Fed president has been a vocal critic of rescuing the biggest banks rather than allowing them to fail. He has criticized the Fed's easy money policies in the wake of the crisis.

There are slim chances his proposal to classify banks as government-guaranteed enterprises would be adopted. Eighteen out of the 19 biggest U.S. banks have repaid 2008 bailout aid, removing most government investment over the last 18 months. (read more)

Buy Crude, Oil Could Hit $160: Bank of America

Following Goldman Sachs' negative call on crude prices which took the wind out of the commodities rally this week, Bank of America Merrill Lynch is predicting a 30 percent chance that Brent crude could hit 160 dollars a barrel in 2011.

“Commodity prices should move broadly higher in 2011 on robust economic growth in emerging markets, despite relatively weaker growth in developed markets,” said Sabine Schels, a commodity strategist at BoA Merrill Lynch in London in a research note.

“With oil demand expanding rapidly and Libya production down by at least 1 million barrels per day, we forecast (the) Brent crude oil price to average 122 dollars a barrel in the second quarter, and believe prices could briefly break through 140 dollars in the next 3 months,” she said.

Given the risks from the situation in the Middle-East and North Africa, Schels says there is a chance the price could go even higher over the next 2 months.

“Under our upside risk scenario, Brent prices could average this year between 125 dollars a barrel and 160 dollars a barrel,” Schels said. (read more)



US lacks credibility on debt, says IMF

The US lacks a “credible strategy” to stabilise its mounting public debt, posing a small but significant risk of a new global economic crisis, says the International Monetary Fund.

In an unusually stern rebuke to its largest shareholder, the IMF said the US was the only advanced economy to be increasing its underlying budget deficit in 2011, at a time when its economy was growing fast enough to reduce borrowing.

The latest warning on the deficit was delivered as Barack Obama, the US president, is becoming increasingly engaged in the debate over ways to curb America’s mounting debt.

To meet the 2010 pledge by the Group of 20 countries for all advanced economies – except Japan – to halve their deficits by 2013, the US would need to implement tougher austerity measures than in any two-year period since records began in 1960, the IMF said.

In its twice-yearly Fiscal Monitor, the IMF added that on its current plans the US would join Japan as the only country with rising public debt in 2016, creating a risk for the global economy. (read m0re)

Seattle school renames Easter eggs 'Spring Spheres'

A sophomore at a local private high school thinks an effort to make Easter politically correct is ridiculous.

Jessica, 16, told KIRO Radio's Dori Monson Show that a week before spring break, the students commit to a week-long community service project. She decided to volunteer in a third grade class at a public school, which she would like to remain nameless.

"At the end of the week I had an idea to fill little plastic eggs with treats and jelly beans and other candy, but I was kind of unsure how the teacher would feel about that," Jessica said.

She was concerned how the teacher might react to the eggs after of a meeting earlier in the week where she learned about "their abstract behavior rules."

"I went to the teacher to get her approval and she wanted to ask the administration to see if it was okay," Jessica explained. "She said that I could do it as long as I called this treat 'spring spheres.' I couldn't call them Easter eggs."

Rather than question the decision, Jessica opted to "roll with it." But the third graders had other ideas. (read more)

UN says 500,000 flee Libya fighting: Exodus continues

More than half a million people have fled Libya over the past two months, the UN refugee agency reported on Tuesday as it warned that the exodus had picked up pace in recent days.

Those leaving were mainly migrant workers but included more than 100,000 Libyans. They represent about eight per cent of the prewar population.

By April 10, the UN had kept track of more than 498,000 people leaving Libya by land since an uprising erupted in February, including more than 236,000 crossing to Tunisia, nearly 200,000 to Egypt, 36,500 to Niger and smaller numbers to Algeria, Chad and Sudan.

On Sunday 3,900 people crossed into Egypt, more than double the recent daily average, and nearly 3,000 entered Tunisia.

Aid agencies are concerned about growing numbers making their potentially treacherous exodus by sea, with refugees – mostly from sub-Sahara Africa – crammed on board unseaworthy fishing vessels. More than 200 are feared to have drowned last Wednesday when their boat sank in bad weather about 40 nautical miles south of the Italian island of Lampedusa. (read more)

In new protest, Syrian women block main highway

Thousands of Syrian women and children holding white flags and olive branches blocked a main coastal highway Wednesday, demanding authorities release people detained during a crackdown on opponents of the regime, witnesses said.

The crowd - unusual because it was dominated by women and young children - demanded release of hundreds of men who have been rounded up in the northeastern villages of Bayda and Beit Jnad and surrounding areas in recent days.

"We will not be humiliated!" the crowd shouted Wednesday, according to witnesses who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. They were gathering along the main road between the coastal cities of Tartous and Banias. (read more)

Syrian soldiers shot for refusing to fire on protesters

Syrian soldiers have been shot by security forces after refusing to fire on protesters, witnesses said, as a crackdown on anti-government demonstrations intensified.

Witnesses told al-Jazeera and the BBC that some soldiers had refused to shoot after the army moved into Banias in the wake of intense protests on Friday.

Human rights monitors named Mourad Hejjo, a conscript from Madaya village, as one of those shot by security snipers. "His family and town are saying he refused to shoot at his people," said Wassim Tarif, a local human rights monitor.

Footage on YouTube shows an injured soldier saying he was shot in the back by security forces, while another video shows the funeral of Muhammad Awad Qunbar, who sources said was killed for refusing to fire on protesters. Signs of defections will be worrying to Syria's regime. State media reported a different version of events, claiming nine soldiers had been killed in an ambush by an armed group in Banias. (read more)

Disaster batters Japan's economy: Country downgrades its own economic outlook

Japan has lowered its assessment of the country's economy for the first time in six months, as it begins to quantify the tremendous toll twin disasters have brought to the island nation.

Japan's cabinet office blamed last month's tsunami and earthquake for the downgrade, saying it has placed serious pressures on exports, production and consumption.

The government's assessment came out the same day that police announced a rise in the death toll.

The death toll rose to 13,333 and 15,150 were missing, Japan's National Police said Wednesday. (read more)


White House visitor logs mysteriously leave out thousands

A foot of snow couldn’t keep Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Jennifer Hudson and other celebrities away from a star-studded celebration of civil-rights-era music, hosted by President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at the White House in February 2010.

Dylan’s haunting rendition of “The Times They Are a-Changin’” was a highlight of the dazzling evening. The digitally friendly White House even posted the video of his performance on its website.

But you won’t find Dylan (or Robert Zimmerman, his birth name) listed in the White House visitor logs — the official record of who comes to call at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., which is maintained by the Secret Service.

Ditto Joan Baez.

Similarly, the logs are missing the names of thousands of other visitors to the White House, including lobbyists, government employees, campaign donors, policy experts and friends of the first family, according to an investigation by the Center for Public Integrity. (read more)


US Inflation Actually Near 10% Using Older Measure

After former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker was appointed in 1979, the consumer price index surged into the double digits, causing the now revered Fed Chief to double the benchmark interest rate in order to break the back of inflation. Using the methodology in place at that time puts the CPI back near those levels.

Inflation, using the reporting methodologies in place before 1980, hit an annual rate of 9.6 percent in February, according to the Shadow Government Statistics newsletter.

Since 1980, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has changed the way it calculates the CPI in order to account for the substitution of products, improvements in quality (i.e. iPad 2 costing the same as original iPad) and other things. Backing out more methods implemented in 1990 by the BLS still puts inflation at a 5.5 percent rate and getting worse, according to the calculations by the newsletter’s web site, Shadowstats.com.

“Near-term circumstances generally have continued to deteriorate,” said John Williams, creator of the site, in a new note out Tuesday. “Though not yet commonly recognized, there is both an intensifying double-dip recession and a rapidly escalating inflation problem. Until such time as financial-market expectations catch up with underlying reality, reporting generally will continue to show higher-than-expected inflation and weaker-than-expected economic results in the month and months ahead.” (read more)

US deficit up 15.7% in first half of fiscal 2011 -- Worse and worse it gets

The US budget deficit shot up 15.7 percent in the first six months of fiscal 2011, the Treasury Department said Wednesday as political knives were being sharpened for a new budget battle.

The Treasury reported a deficit of $829 billion for the October-March period, compared with $717 billion a year earlier, as revenue rose a sluggish 6.9 percent as the economic recovery slowly gained pace.

The Treasury argued that the pace of increase in the deficit was deceptive because of large one-off reductions in expenditures made during the first half of fiscal 2010, compared with previous and subsequent periods.

Those included a $115 billion reduction in funds spent on the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) -- the financial institution bailout program -- in March 2010.

But 2011 so far has also seen significant increases in spending on defense, Social Security, health and debt service, while receipts have not grown as fast.

"The jump in outlays mostly owed to a smaller estimated reduction in TARP outlays this year versus 2010," said Theresa Chen at Barclays Capital Research. (read more)

China blocks coastal waters, enlarges military, cyberattacks US on a daily basis

China’s “troubling” military buildup coincides with new efforts by Beijing to block the Navy from international waters near its coasts and field new missiles, submarines and cyberweapons, the commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific told Congress on Tuesday.

NavyAdm. Robert F. Willard said during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee that China’s intentions behind its decades-long buildup remain hidden and are undermining stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

The four-star admiral said the arms buildup is understandable because of China’s economic rise, but “the scope and pace of its modernization without clarity on China’s ultimate goals remains troubling.”

“For example, China continues to accelerate its offensive air and missile developments without corresponding public clarification about how these forces will be utilized,” he said.

Chinese officials, in meetings with their U.S. counterparts, have refused to explain the pace or goal of the arms buildup, defense officials have said.

Adm. Willard said Chinese weapons that pose concerns include a growing arsenal of ballistic and cruise missiles, including anti-ship missiles and advanced radar-evading stealth combat aircraft. (read more)

Personal Tech UN document would give 'Mother Earth' same rights as humans

Bolivia will this month table a draft United Nations treaty giving "Mother Earth" the same rights as humans — having just passed a domestic law that does the same for bugs, trees and all other natural things in the South American country.

The bid aims to have the UN recognize the Earth as a living entity that humans have sought to "dominate and exploit" — to the point that the "well-being and existence of many beings" is now threatened.

The wording may yet evolve, but the general structure is meant to mirror Bolivia's Law of the Rights of Mother Earth, which Bolivian President Evo Morales enacted in January.

That document speaks of the country's natural resources as "blessings," and grants the Earth a series of specific rights that include rights to life, water and clean air; the right to repair livelihoods affected by human activities; and the right to be free from pollution.

It also establishes a Ministry of Mother Earth, and provides the planet with an ombudsman whose job is to hear nature's complaints as voiced by activist and other groups, including the state. (read more)

Fatal Food: GMOs Linked to Organ Disruption in 19 Studies

A new paper shows that consuming genetically modified (GM) corn or soybeans leads to significant organ disruptions in rats and mice, particularly in livers and kidneys. By reviewing data from 19 animal studies, Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini and others reveal that 9% of the measured parameters, including blood and urine biochemistry, organ weights, and microscopic analyses (histopathology), were significantly disrupted in the GM-fed animals. The kidneys of males fared the worst, with 43.5% of all the changes. The liver of females followed, with 30.8%. The report, published in Environmental Sciences Europe on March 1, 2011, confirms that “several convergent data appear to indicate liver and kidney problems as end points of GMO diet effects.” The authors point out that livers and kidneys “are the major reactive organs” in cases of chronic food toxicity.

“Other organs may be affected too, such as the heart and spleen, or blood cells,” stated the paper. In fact some of the animals fed genetically modified organisms had altered body weights in at least one gender, which is “a very good predictor of side effects in various organs.”

The GM soybean and corn varieties used in the feeding trials “constitute 83% of the commercialized GMOs” that are currently consumed by billions of people. While the findings may have serious ramifications for the human population, the authors demonstrate how a multitude of GMO-related health problems could easily pass undetected through the superficial and largely incompetent safety assessments that are used around the world. (read more)


The Fed May Pull The Rug Out From The Market Sooner Than Anyone Realizes

There's no doubt that the fate of the market/economy upon the completion of QE2 is one of the hottest questions going around.

It's believed by many that the market will stumble once the program comes to an end -- assuming there's no QE3 -- but in the meantime, the punchbowl is still here, and thus it's time to keep partying (for now).

In his latest weekly note, John Hussman -- who it must be said, has been bearish throughout the rally -- thinks people may be overoptimistic in terms of how long they have left to party. (read more)

Federal Reserve forking over $220 million in bailout money to the wives of two Morgan Stanley bigwigs -- No, really!

America has two national budgets, one official, one unofficial. The official budget is public record and hotly debated: Money comes in as taxes and goes out as jet fighters, DEA agents, wheat subsidies and Medicare, plus pensions and bennies for that great untamed socialist menace called a unionized public-sector workforce that Republicans are always complaining about. According to popular legend, we're broke and in so much debt that 40 years from now our granddaughters will still be hooking on weekends to pay the medical bills of this year's retirees from the IRS, the SEC and the Department of Energy.

Most Americans know about that budget. What they don't know is that there is another budget of roughly equal heft, traditionally maintained in complete secrecy. After the financial crash of 2008, it grew to monstrous dimensions, as the government attempted to unfreeze the credit markets by handing out trillions to banks and hedge funds. And thanks to a whole galaxy of obscure, acronym-laden bailout programs, it eventually rivaled the "official" budget in size — a huge roaring river of cash flowing out of the Federal Reserve to destinations neither chosen by the president nor reviewed by Congress, but instead handed out by fiat by unelected Fed officials using a seemingly nonsensical and apparently unknowable methodology. (read more)

When Honest Americans are Cast as Criminals to Hide the Crimes of Politicans and Bankers

There was a time when having one’s name listed in the despised ranks of those villains that governments often categorize as “terrorists” involved quite a bit of leg work, as well as an ominous running resume of death, destruction, and general mean spiritedness. Of course, if one examines the history of every modern country which eventually disintegrated into despotism, the definition of who the “enemy” is tends to become rather broad rather quickly. That is to say, the more criminal the leadership of a country becomes, the easier it is for the average person to find himself labeled a criminal by that same leadership.

Today, one does not need to blow up buildings, take hostages in political motivation, send anthrax through the mail, or even wave a gun around in a public place to be considered a terrorist threat. In fact, a man could never leave his house and still find himself under suspicion as an enemy of the state. The Department of Homeland Security has released numerous standardized guidelines to law enforcement offices across the country which are meant to make it “easier” for police and others to identify a possible terrorist. If you were to take at face value such documents as the now famous MIAC Report, the Virginia Fusion Center Report, the DHS’ “see something, say something” campaign, the Enemy Belligerents Act, the post trial statements of the Department Of Justice in the Liberty Dollar case, or the wild spewing rhetoric of establishment mouthpiece organizations like the SPLC, then you would discover that a likely terrorist is:

Anyone who talks frequently about the Constitution, or ill of the government

Anyone who supports the idea of a Constitutional Militia

Anyone who fights against anti-gun legislation, or owns many guns (man do we LOVE guns)

Anyone who supports state sovereignty and 10th Amendment issues

Anyone who supports Ron Paul (the ultimate sin according to the SPLC)

Anyone who believes the private Federal Reserve is destroying our economy (read more)

5 Things That Will Happen To You When America Goes Bankrupt

"Madness is rare in individuals - but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule." -- Friedrich Nietzsche

Does it seem too strong to call the way America deals with its debt "madness?" If not madness, then what? Denial? An addiction? However you phrase it, we're a country that's in deep trouble, but so many of us seem unable to deal with it.

Liberals in this country, for the most part, will admit that we're running up "unsustainable" deficits. Yet, these same liberals adamantly oppose any and all serious efforts to do anything about it. Once you move out from liberals to the general public, once again you'll find plenty of people who admit that this nation has a huge problem. Yet, when you leave generalities, get down to specifics, and start looking for programs to cut, then suddenly everyone gets nervous and says, "never mind." It's like the old saying, "Everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die."

Sadly, this is a natural outgrowth of ladling out public funds to special interests. There is so much collective money that few people feel or appreciate it when even billions are saved. Yet, if we yank even a few million away from special interest groups like PBS, Planned Parenthood, or the unions, they squeal like pigs that are about to accidentally be put in the wolves’ pen at the zoo.

In the face of that, people have to realize that this country is on pace to go bankrupt -- and it could happen relatively soon if we don't start taking serious steps to control our spending. Mike Pence thinks we could just be ten to fifteen years away. Tom Coburn is less optimistic and thinks it could happen in as little as five years. If that happens, we're not a tiny country like Greece -- we're the biggest economy in the world. That means there's no cavalry coming to pay our bills for us because we ARE the cavalry. (read more)

Stress levels rise in rattled Japan: Psychological trauma a third disaster in waiting?

The words "Ganbaro Nippon" -- "Be strong, Japan" -- shine down on the nation's capital nightly from the soaring steel of the landmark Tokyo Tower.

But a society known worldwide for its culture of stoicism has been knocked a bit off balance by the one-two punch of a massive earthquake and a nuclear disaster, according to both ordinary residents and experts. Andrew Grimes, a clinical psychologist working in Japan, said the events and their literal and figurative aftershocks have had "a severe effect on people's sense of security."

"It's uncharted territory to some extent," Grimes said. "But I think the mental health aspect is already with us, and it's going to stay with us for a while."

And Junichi Onodera, the director of a badly damaged hospital in northern Japan, said the disaster's psychological scars will linger longer than the current crises. (read more)

Record-breaking April will be a warm month despite showers: UK

The warm spring has already broken temperature records and is set to be one of the warmest Aprils for 100 years, according to forecasters.

The Met Office said overnight temperatures earlier in the month broke records in Scotland, where the mercury did not fall below 13.7C (56.7F) for the first time since records began.

Across the country temperatures soared towards 21C (70F) over the weekend and the start of the week, well above the typical mean temperature for April, which is just 6.9C (44.4F).

April showers will mean that the climate cools over the next few days but forecasters predict that if it is warm again then the month could be hotter than the current record year of 2007, when the average temperature was 10.2C (50.4F).

Stewart Rampling, Long Range Forecast for Netweather, predicted a hot start to the summer.

"For April, we are currently on course to break the monthly temperature record set in 2007. Cooler more showery weather is anticipated this week but the indications are that high pressure will reassert for the last part of the month allowing temperatures to rise to between two and four degrees above where they should be. With the warmth of the first ten days, this should give us every chance of breaking the record.”

However Dave Britton at the Met Office said it was too early to say if the monthly record will be broken.

He predicted that as usual, April will be a changeable month with unsettled, cold weather in Scotland and Northern Ireland but milder weather down south. (read more)

THE SHOCKING TRUTH: Girl, 8, among tsunami victims denied help after fears they could spread radiation to other survivors - 13th Apr 2011

An eight-year-old girl is among scores of people refused medical help or shelter in Japan because of fears they could be contaminated by radiation and could pass it on to others.

People who have been made homeless as a result of the leakage of radiation at the Fukushima nuclear plant, 135 miles north of Tokyo, have to be screened and then given an 'all clear' certificate.

If they do not have a certificate, they are being told they cannot be allowed into evacuation centres amid fears that they might be a 'hibakusha' - a person contaminated by radiation.

The ban is a reminder of the discrimination suffered by irradiated survivors of the atomic bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Misguided rumours suggested they could make other people ill.

The father of an eight-year-old girl said she was refused treatment for a skin condition in a hospital in Fukushima city because she did not have a screening certificate.

Mr Takayuki Okamura told the Mainichi Daily newspaper: 'I am worried already with my life as an evacuee. It was a real shock to have (mydaughter's) appointment refused.' Read More

Korea Hydro Shuts Oldest Nuclear Power Reactor Due to Electrical Malfunction; No Radiation Leak Detected - 13th Apr 2011

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., which supplies 40 percent of the nation’s electricity, shut its oldest nuclear reactor to fix a technical problem.

The unit of Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEP) closed the 33-year- old Kori No. 1 reactor at 8:46 p.m. local time yesterday after the circuit breakers of an electrical system failed, Jang Mun Ki, head of safety at the plant, said by phone today. The electrical system isn’t vital to the reactor’s operation, and there’s no radiation leak, Jang said, confirming a report by Yonhap News.

The closure came after South Korea’s political opposition asked the government to decommission all of the country’s old reactors, including the 587-megawatt Kori No. 1. Lee Jung Hee, chairwoman of the Democratic Labor Party, said on April 11 the nation should review its policy to build more nuclear plants.

Kori No. 1 in Busan, 453 kilometers (282 miles) southeast of Seoul, began commercial operations in April 1978. The reactor may resume operation tomorrow, pending the government’s approval, Jang said. Read More

What You Don't Know: The Vicious Circle of Oil Price Induced Recessions

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich recently warned that the U.S. is likely headed back into recession:

The Economic Truth That Nobody Will Admit: We’re Heading Back Toward a Double-Dip

Why aren’t Americans being told the truth about the economy? We’re heading in the
direction of a double dip — but you’d never know it if you listened to the upbeat messages coming out of Wall Street and Washington.

Consumers are 70 percent of the American economy, and consumer confidence is plummeting. It’s weaker today on average than at the lowest point of the Great Recession.

The Reuters/University of Michigan survey shows a 10 point decline in March — the tenth largest drop on record. Part of that drop is attributable to rising fuel and food prices. A separate Conference Board’s index of consumer confidence, just released, shows consumer confidence at a five-month low — and a large part is due to expectations of fewer jobs and lower wages in the months ahead.

So is Reich correct? Are we headed back toward recession? We should be so lucky. (read more)

The Budget Deal May Collapse: US

The big news today is that the $38.5 billion in budget cuts announced with such fanfare on Friday night mostly aren’t real. A good deal of it involves money from previous years and previous budgets that hasn’t actually been spent. As the AP puts it, the budget deal is

financed with a lot of one-time savings and cuts that officially ‘score’ as savings to pay for spending elsewhere, but that often have little to no actual impact on the deficit…cuts to earmarks, unspent census money, leftover federal construction funding, and $2.5 billion from the most recent renewal of highway programs that can’t be spent because of restrictions set by other legislation. Another $3.5 billion comes from unused spending authority from a program providing health care to children of lower-income families.

The total amount actually cut appears to be $ somewhere between8 and $14.7 billion.

The politics here are very complicated now. On the one hand, polls suggest the public is overwhelmingly in favor of there having been a deal, around 60 percent or so. On the other, politically engaged people on both the Right and the Left are profoundly upset by what they take to be unprincipled caving on the part of the leaders of the two parties.

That profound concern is likely to spur a populist revolt this week, over the next 72 hours, before the vote is taken. Already there are indications that a great many House members are going to vote against the deal. What we don’t know, or can’t know, is whether grass-roots velocity has sped up to such a degree over the past several years that we could be looking at a major meltdown of support when the votes are cast, as Republican members honestly balk at the clear deceit of the negotiators in making non-existent cuts in federal spending—and as they fear the wrath of the voters (particularly tea partiers). Meanwhile, Leftist Democrats who feel betrayed by Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid might also decide to teach them a lesson by withholding support. (read more)

Fact or Fiction: Jesus crucifixion nails 'found'?



Two of the nails used to crucify Jesus have been discovered in a 2,000-year-old tomb, according to a new film.

The film, 'The Nails of the Cross' by Simcha Jacobovici, follows three years of research during which he presents his assertions - some based on empirical data, others requiring much imagination and a leap of faith.

He hails the find as historic, but most experts and scholars dismissed his case as far-fetched, some calling it a publicity stunt.

Many ancient relics, including other nails supposedly traced back to the crucifixion, have been presented over the centuries as having a connection to Jesus. Many were deemed phony, while others were embraced as holy.

Mr Jacobovici, who sparked debate with a previous film that claimed to reveal the lost tomb of Jesus, says this find differs from others because of its historical and archaeological context.

"What we are bringing to the world is the best archaeological argument ever made that two of the nails from the crucifixion of Jesus have been found," he said. (read more)

Luminous creatures: Glowing deep sea creatures photographed by Joshua Lambus -- Photo Gallery

This impressive collection of pictures taken by Joshua Lambus, in Hawaii reveals the colourful creatures that are just a few centimetres in size. They are found in water more than 7,000ft deep, off the coast of Kailua-Kona. Among the 'colour x-ray' style images are pictures of rare squids, jellyfish and shrimp. Joshua Lambus said: "The colours they produce are the naturally reflected colours of their pigmentation." Joshua became a minor celebrity after he photographed a tiny octopus, called a tremoctopus - only the second time the animal had been captured on camera. Joshua Lambus has now been on more than 400 'blackwater' dives. He adds that: "The lack of light and reference is the closest thing I could imagine to being in space." (View more)

Gold to break $2,000/oz barrier, $5,000/oz barrier within decade if not sooner

The price of gold will reach $2,100 an ounce within three years and could rise to almost $5,000 by the end of the decade, according to a new report.

Rising demand for gold in China and India will drive the precious metal's continued bull run, analysts at Standard Chartered, the Asia-focused bank, predicted. They said low interest rates in America and a time lag before mines started supplying more gold would see the rally extend to at least 2014.

"Our base-case forecast is that prices rally to peak at an average of $2,107/oz in 2014, although our modelling suggests a possible ‘super-bull’ scenario of gold prices rallying up to $4,869/oz by 2020, should current relationships between Asian demand and gold persist," the analysts wrote.

The bank said there was a "powerful relationship" between income per head in Asian emerging markets and the gold price.

The report added: "We expect some headwinds for gold to come from higher US [interest] rates, but we find that the impact of higher rates is rather muted and we do not expect this to derail gold’s rally for now," they added. "More important, we believe, will be the impact of higher mine production. We expect a steady acceleration in mine-supply growth in the years ahead, which should overwhelm demand growth beyond 2014. Nevertheless, we expect an extended period of high gold prices." (read more)

IMF warns US to make a 'down payment' on deficit

The US should make a 'down payment' this year on tackling its budget deficit, the International Monetary Fund has warned, as it emerged that the world's biggest bond investor is shorting the country's bonds.

America will rack up a budget deficit of 10.8pc of gross domestic product this year, the largest of any of the developed economies, the IMF said in its latest Fiscal Monitor report.

In sharp contrast to Britain and much of the rest of Europe, the US has so far delayed any move to cut its budget deficit. Instead, through a combination of extending tax cuts and a second, $600bn round of quantitative easing, Congress and The White House have focused efforts on trying to quicken a recovery that failed to take off last year.

Bill Gross, who manages the world's biggest bond fund at Pacific Investment Management Co (Pimco), said it was the failure of politicians in Washington DC to take the country's deficit - estimated to reach about $1.5 trillion next financial year - seriously that has prompted him to start positioning the $236bn Total Return Fund to benefit from a drop in US government bond. In February, the fund sold its US governments bonds, or Treasuries.

"Without attacking entitlements - Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security - we are smelling $1 trillion deficits as far the nose can sniff," Mr Gross said in the firm's monthly outlook.

President Barack Obama, who is facing increasingly loud calls from Republican opponents to reduce the deficit, is expected to lay out measures on Wednesday. (read more)

"Alien Airport" in Pennsylvania? -- Outrageous UFO sightings

Geithner warns U.S. to hit debt ceiling by May 16

The United States will hit the legal limit on its ability to borrow no later than May 16, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Monday, ramping up pressure on Congress to act to avoid a debt default.

"The longer Congress fails to act, the more we risk that investors here and around the world will lose confidence in our ability to meet our commitments and our obligations," Geithner said in a letter to congressional leaders.

"Default by the United States is unthinkable."

Previously, the Treasury had forecast that the $14.3 trillion statutory debt limit would be reached between April 15 and May 31. As of Friday, Treasury borrowing stood just $95 billion from the ceiling. (read more)

Rat-race repercussion: Working an 11-hour day can increase heart attack danger by 67 per cent

If you’re about to embark on your usual 12-hour day at the office, you might want to pause a while – a few hours, actually.

A study has found that those who spend more than 11 hours at work increase their chance of having a heart attack by two thirds.

Researchers say the risk is so great that GPs should ask patients what hours they work along with how much they drink or smoke.

The team from University College London looked at more than 7,000 civil servants working in Whitehall over a period of 11 years and established how many hours they worked on average a day.

They also collected information including the condition of their heart from medical records and health checks.

Over the period, a total of 192 had suffered a heart attack. But the study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, found that those who worked more than 11 hours a day were 67 per cent more likely to have one than those who had a ‘nine to five’ job. (read more)



Arctic ozone layer suffers record loss

The fragile ozone layer shielding our planet from ultraviolet rays has deteriorated to unprecedented lows over the Arctic, the UN weather agency said Tuesday.

The ozone in the Arctic has depleted by about 40 per cent from the winter's start through to late March -- exceeding the previous seasonal loss of about 30 per cent, the World Meteorological Organization said.

The group said it appears that two factors are at play: a very cold winter in the stratosphere over the region; and the continuing presence of ozone-destroying chemicals in the atmosphere, such as fire retardants and coolants.

Arctic ozone conditions can vary greatly from year to year. Depending on the weather and temperatures, some Arctic winters experience almost no ozone loss while others – like this one – see substantial depletion.

This year, the Arctic winter was warmer than average at ground level, but it was colder than normal in the stratosphere, which is the second major layer of the Earth's atmosphere and starts at about 10 km altitude, reaching up to an altitude of about 50 km.

Although the scope of the Arctic ozone destruction this year is unprecedented, it is not unexpected, WMO scientists said. (read more)

Earth Getting Mysteriously Windier

The world has gotten stormier over the past two decades—and the reason is a mystery, a new study says.

In the past 20 years, winds have picked up around 5 percent on average.

Extremely strong winds caused by storms have increased even faster, jumping 10 percent over 20 years, according to the new analysis of global satellite data.

The study, the first to look at wind speeds across such a large swath of the planet, bolsters some earlier findings, according to study leader Ian Young, of the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia.

"Some regional studies had found similar results, so we suspected there may be an increasing trend," Young said. (read more)

Thanks, capitalism: Human sleep pattern disrupted from our instinctual sleeping habits, causing chronic insomnia

BED is a medicine," instructs an Italian proverb. Increasingly, Americans are inverting that counsel by ingesting sleeping pills to speed their slumber.

With complaints of insomnia mounting, and marketing by drug companies becoming ever more ubiquitous, we are turning in increasing numbers to drugs like Ambien and Lunesta. According to a recent report from the research company IMS Health, pharmacists in the United States filled some 42 million prescriptions for sleeping pills last year, a rise of nearly 60 percent since 2000.

Are we running too quickly to the medicine cabinet? Or is insomnia genuinely reaching epidemic proportions, a consequence perhaps of the frenetic pace of modern life? (read more)

Failed by the system and Society: 25 abused children die under the noses of social workers - 13th Apr 2011

Twenty-five children have died and dozens more been seriously injured despite being known to social services, an Ofsted report reveals.

Vulnerable youngsters are let down in ‘too many’ cases by professionals who fail to listen to the concerns of grandparents, neighbours and even fathers, it says.

In four of the cases, grandparents reported concerns but this did not lead to effective action.

Local authorities and other agencies failed to learn lessons from the Baby P scandal, the report shows.

He was found dead, aged 17 months, in a blood-splattered cot having suffered a broken back and fractured ribs in August 2007.

Ofsted assessed 67 serious case reviews (SCRs) between April 1 and September 30 last year involving 93 children. Thirty-nine had died.

SCRs, carried out by safeguarding boards, are triggered after a death or serious injury, where abuse or neglect is suspected. They can come as much as two years after an incident.

Of the 93 children, 70 were known to social services. Twenty-five of these died, including four who were subject to active child protection plans.

Ofsted warned that too often the focus on the child was ‘lost’ as they were not seen by the professionals involved or not visited regularly enough.

In some cases, the child was seen but not questioned and there was often an ‘over reliance’ on what the parents claimed.

In a case involving a family of seven children, a grandmother had repeatedly contacted social carers alleging sexual and physical abuse of her grandchildren by their stepfather.

Ofsted said that this failed to trigger child protection procedures. It was not until more than a decade later that disclosures were made by the eldest children, revealing the abuse that had taken place.

A tendency by agencies to overlook the role of fathers, male partners and other men living within families was also a ‘common theme’, the report said. Read More

Rain, Floods and Crashes, Tasmania hit by the worst Rain in 50 years - 13th Apr 2011

DRENCHING rain has forced the relocation of patients at the Royal Hobart Hospital today. The rain is continuing to wreak havoc across the South and East of the state today, closing schools, flooding houses and keeping emergency services busy.

Hospital staff moved patients waiting in the emergency department to a drier part of the hospital, after water leaked in.

RHH spokeswoman Pene Snashall said that the move from the regular waiting area was only for the comfort of patients and only temporary.

"The leaks have caused a bit of wetness, but by no means has it flooded the area _ we've just moved the patients while the emergency waiting area dries and we are operating as business as usual,'' Ms Snashall said.

Police dragged three vehicles from floodwaters near Eastlands shopping centre last night as they dealt with 29 motor vehicle accidents in less than 24 hours including a fatal crash between a car and log truck on the Midland Hwy.

The Bureau of Meteorology said Hobart received more than 77mm of rain since 9am yesterday, its highest 24-hour rainfall since 1960. Source

Interview with severe weather specialist

3 year old Girl, 6 year old Girl and 23 year old Woman Stabbed - Arrest Made, Great Yarmouth - 13th Apr 2011

A Norwich neighbourhood has been rocked by a triple stabbing which saw a woman and two young girls taken to hospital.

Police later arrested a 28-year-old Norfolk man on South Beach Parade in Great Yarmouth and are now hunting for a knife in the seaside town that could prove crucial to the investigation.

Emergency services were called to a flat in Mill Close, Lakenham, at around 12.30pm yesterday and found the injured woman, named locally as Victoria Meek, and the two children, who are believed to be her daughters.

The three are thought to live in the upstairs flat of a semi-detached house which remained cordoned off late last night, although the original larger cordon that had prevented other residents from parking cars earlier in the day had been reduced to just blocking access to the property.

Police confirmed a 23-year-old woman and a three-year-old girl involved in the stabbings were in a critical but stable condition at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and a six-year-old girl was in a stable condition and has now been transferred to Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge.

Det Chief Insp Rickie Botwright, from Norfolk police’s vulnerable people unit, said: “This appears to be an isolated incident involving people known to one another. We are currently trying to establish the exact details surrounding this incident. At this time our investigations are ongoing.” Read More

Japan Air Lines (JAL) Flight 1628 - Most Famous Unexplained UFO Cases

Japan Air Lines flight 1628 was a UFO incident that occurred on November 17, 1986 involving a Japanese cargo jumbo freighter aircraft. The crew witnessed three unidentified objects while flying over Alaska.

On November 17, 1986, a Japanese crew of a JAL cargo jumbo freighter aircraft witnessed three unidentified objects while flying over Alaska, USA. The Boeing 747 cargo plane was on a routine flight from Paris to Tokyo cruising at 966 km/h (600MPH) at an altitude of 10 600 m (35,000 ft).

The plane was heading towards Anchorage, Alaska to re-fuel when at 17:11 Captain Kenji Terauchi reported seeing three large objects 610 m (2000 ft) below, describing the largest as resembling a shelled walnut. Captain Terauchi further described the largest craft as twice the size of an aircraft carrier, after several minutes observing the objects the crew noticed the objects matched the same speed as freighter aircraft.

The two smaller objects veered
305 m (1000 ft) in front of the craft so much so that the captain said he could feel the warmth of their glows. Military radar picked up the two objects trailing the JAL flight and the FAA requested military intervention.

The military did not take any action, however, and the objects stopped trailing JAL 1628, the airline arriving safely in Anchorage at 18:20. Read More


US calls for release of citizen 'held in North Korea' - 13th Apr 2011

The US state department says an American citizen is being held in North Korea, and is calling for the person's release on humanitarian grounds.

No details have been given about the American's identity or the circumstances of the arrest.

The news comes ahead of a scheduled visit to Seoul this weekend by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Efforts to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula are continuing, after two military attacks last year.

The state department is refusing to answer questions about the detained citizen - such as who are they? What were they doing in North Korea? When, where and why were they arrested? - because it says the individual has not signed a privacy waiver. Read More

16 dolphins washed ashore dead in Pondy, India - 13th Apr 2011

Sixteen long-nosed dolphins were washed ashore dead at three places along the Puducherry coast on Monday. It has raised concern among environmentalists as it is the 20th instance in 16 months of protected marine mammals being washed ashore dead or alive.

On an average, about 250 dolphins are washed shore dead or alive every year, said Dr R S Lal Mohan, retired principal scientist of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI).

A group of fishermen in Pudukuppam in the Union territory spotted five dead dolphins on the shore on Monday morning and alerted the forest and fisheries department officials. A few hours later, fishermen from neighbouring hamlets also informed them about 11 more dead dolphins found at two other places.

A team of officials led by deputy conservator of forests Dr A Anil Kumar visited the hamlets and inspected the dead mammals. Veterinary doctors conducted postmortem examinations and buried 15 dolphins. One carcass was sent to Rajiv Gandhi College of Veterinary Sciences here for detailed analysis.

The dolphins measured between two-and-a-half feet and five feet. Ten were females of which two were found to be pregnant. Read More

Thousands of Dead Fish in River Rouge, Michigan - 12th Apr 2011

It is a stinky and scaly situation in River Rouge as thousands of dead fish were discovered floating along the shoreline. The smell has been described as almost unbearable.

Viewers were so concerned they called FOX 2.

"I eat fish out of this river. I fish there. My nieces and nephews fish out of this river and ate out of this river," said Guy Cason. "I'm concerned. I'm concerned about their well-being."

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says this is a natural occurrence called a "fish die off".

The fish are called "gizzard shad". They are a weak species that easily dies off in cold weather.

It's likely they were dead under the ice for some time.

Here's the bad news. We're told it's up to the property owner to clean up the dead fish. Source

Thousands of Dead Fish in River Rouge: MyFoxDETROIT.com

NINE Lakes Reveal Hundreds of Dead Fish, Minneapolis - 12th Apr 2011

The long cold winter wasn't just tough on Minnesotans, it was tough on fish in area lakes.

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board officials say they're cleaning up fish at several lakes in the city, which died from a lack of oxygen.

Park officials say they're seeing dead fish at Diamond Lake, Grass Lake, Lake Harriet, Lake Hiawatha, Lake of the Isles, Loring Pond and Powderhorn Lake. Both Loring Pond and Powderhorn Lake are seeing more significant fish kills because they are smaller and more shallow.

Park officials found dead channel catfish, large goldfish and bullheads. But they say the fish loss will not be significant enough overall to affect summer fishing on Minneapolis lakes.

The fish kills occur when ice and snow prevent sunlight from reaching aquatic plants which produce the oxygen in a lake. The impact varies depending on the species of fish.

The MnDNR does stock many of the lakes--including Loring Pond, Webber Pond and Powderhorn Lake--as part of the agency's "Fishing in the Neighborhood" program. Park officials say they typically stock the larger lakes with walleye and/or muskie. Source

You can report fish kill sightings to Minneapolis Parks officials at (612) 230-6400.

Police officers videoed as they taser and beat Pittsburgh baseball fan in front of chanting drunk supporters - 13th Apr 2011

A rowdy baseball fan was videoed being shot with a Taser and beaten by police in front dozens of chanting drunken supporters.

There have been 300,000 views on Facebook of the bust-up between the officers and 41-year-old Scott Ashley at the game between Pittsburgh Pirates and Colorado Rockies.

The footage shows two officers tasering him to little effect and clubbing him at least six times in the neck, head, side and legs before he is eventually handcuffed.

Today an anonymous Pirates fan posted his $5,000 bond after Ashley, from Friendship, was charged with four misdemeanours, including public drunkenness and resisting arrest.

He had been asked to leave the stadium in the 6th innings because he was disrupting the Saturday game for other fans with foul language, said said Brian Warecki, Pirates' communications director.

Police said he refused to move and swore at stadium security staff for blocking his view.

One police officer can be heard telling him that he could leave the easy way or the hard way, and Ashley responded: 'The hard way, brother.'

The video shows him walking down the stairs as fans begin chanting, 'USA, USA' because of the red white and blue windbreaker he is wearing. Read More


Are there TWO Craigslist Rippers? New police fears as body count rises to as many as body count rises to as Many as TEN - 13th Apr 2011

Investigators hunting the 'Craigslist Ripper' are investigating the theory that there may be more than one killer.

Police have now found the remains of seven adults, one toddler and a bundle of bones which are thought to belong to two people - taking the body count to ten.

They believe differences in the way victims were killed, their bodies were disposed and DNA evidence could all suggest there was more than one murderer.

According to ABC News, although the first bodies found - those of prostitutes who advertised on Craigslist - were wrapped in cloth while the most recent set were not covered up.

The bones which are thought to belong to one or two people were among four sets of bodies found last week several miles away from where the remains of four prostitutes were discovered last December.

Nassau county executive Edward Mangano said that police are looking for 'the animal that has obviously taken the lives of a number of people'. Read More

Couple tried to 'sell' baby to convicted child molester for $300 and 'a place to stay' - 13th Apr 2011

Police have charged four people in a scheme to sell a baby girl to a convicted child molester and his sister.

Indianapolis Police say siblings Michael and Debbie Overby tried to buy the 10 day old daughter of Rose Faucett, 36, for $300 and a room to stay.

Michael Overby was also charged with falsely signing papers to say he was the child's father.

According to police, 57-year-old Michael Overby is a convicted child molester and 50-year-old Debbie Overby has been convicted of child neglect.

Police think 58-year-old Phillip Hester is the child's father and was also part of the plan.

Indianapolis police Sergent Linda Jackson said: 'Mrs. Overby is currently on probation for neglect of a dependent, and Mr. Overby is a convicted child molester.It's a charge from back in 1984.

'We don't know what the intentions were for trying to adopting this child. It may just be that they are both convicted felons, and they can't legally adopt a child.'

The plan unravelled when a relative of Overby's went to the authorities and the four were then arrested on Friday.

In a separate case, WishTV 8 reported that according to Police records two of the suspects may have been paying a man $100 to $200 per month to allow them to raise his child as their own.

Read More

'Four-year-old children' smoking on train: Video causes outrage in China - 13th Apr 2011

A video of two children smoking cigarettes on a train has sparked fresh debate about the scale of China's tobacco habit.

The short video shows two young boys - aged approximately three to four years old - laughing as they puff away, with one blowing smoke into the others face.

When one surprised passenger asks 'Does he know how to smoke?', another replies, 'Yes, you see he can inhale!'

The young pair are stood on the space between two connecting train carriages, which often serves as a smoking area on Chinese trains.

Smoking is a huge problem in China. The cost per year to the health service was more than 70billion yuan last year - approximately £6.5bn.

It has arguably the biggest smoking problem in the world, with at least one million deaths per year from smoking related illnesses.

As much as 30 per cent of China's population smokes - around 300 million people - compared to around 10 million adults in Britain. As many as 53 per cent of adult men smoke in China.

Smoking was banned in public places in Britain came into force on July 1, 2007, and smoking rates have been steadily dropping for decades.

China first mooted a ban as far back as 1995 and while any such plans have been fiercely opposed, restrictions are extended regularly.

The latest initiative, announced last month, will ban smoking starting May 1 in all indoor public areas. Source