Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Pakistani television is broadcasting a talk-show host who gives away Babies live on the air -

Pakistani television is broadcasting a talk-show host who gives away Babies live on the air - 

Pakistani television is screening what many call its most controversial content yet in a ruthless quest for ratings: a talk-show host who gives away babies live on air.
Aamir Liaquat Hussain, a bespectacled 41-year-old with a neatly trimmed beard, gave away two abandoned infant girls to childless families last month and plans to give away a baby boy this week.
“If we didn’t find this baby, a cat or a dog would have eaten it,” Hussain proclaimed during one broadcast, before presenting a tiny girl wrapped in pink and red to her new parents. The audience erupted with applause.
Hussain is one of Pakistan’s most popular talk-show hosts. During his marathon broadcasts he cooks, interviews clerics and celebrities, entertains children and hosts game shows.
He usually gives prizes like motorbikes, mobile phones and land deeds to audience members who answer questions about Islam.
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Pakistani television talk show host Aamir Liaquat Hussain gave this baby, Fatima, to a childless couple on his controversial TV talk show.zoom
Aamir Liaquat Hussain, host of the Amaan Ramazan TV talk show, during a live show in Karachi last week. Hussain gave away two abandoned infant girls to childless families last month and plans to give away a baby boy this week.zoom
But at the beginning of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, when television stations battle fiercely for ratings, Hussain astonished Pakistan when he presented two families with babies.
“We were told that we had passed all the interviews and had been selected to adopt a baby,” said Riaz Uddin, 40, an engineer. “We got our baby on live TV.”
The abandoned babies were rescued by the Chhipa Welfare Association, a Pakistani aid organization.
“In a day or two, the next baby will be given away, God willing,” its head, Ramzan Chhipa, told Reuters on Thursday.
While the Chhipa teams scour the garbage dumps and other sites for discarded newborns, Hussain is also appealing for babies directly.
“If any family cannot afford to bring up their newborn baby due to poverty or illness, then instead of killing them, they should hand over the baby to Dr. Aamir,” a notice on his website reads. The children would be given to deserving couples on air, the notice said.
The show’s producers did not return Reuters’ calls seeking comment. It was not clear if poor families wishing to keep their children would also be helped.
Many Pakistanis expressed disgust that abandoned babies were being given away in what they see as an attempt to boost ratings. Chhipa insisted thousands of people wanted a baby and all potential parents were properly vetted.

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US Postal Service eyes alcohol deliveries to raise revenue -

US Postal Service eyes alcohol deliveries to raise revenue - 

Allowing the Postal Service to deliver beer, wine and spirits is high on his wish list for raising cash for his financially ailing agency, Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe said Thursday.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Donahoe also endorsed ending most door-to-door and Saturday mail deliveries as cost-saving measures for his agency, which lost $16 billion last year.
Donahoe said delivering alcohol has the potential to raise as much as $50 million a year. He mentioned how customers might want to, for example, mail bottles of wine home when they tour vineyards. Donahoe said his agency has looked at the possibility of using special boxes that would hold two, four or six bottles and ship for a flat-rate to anywhere in the country.
"There's a lot of money to be made in beer, wine and spirits," Donahoe said. "We'd like to be in that business."
The Postal Service says mailing alcoholic beverages is currently restricted by law. Customers are even told to cover any logos or labels if they use alcoholic beverage boxes for shipments.
The agency is also urging changes in how it delivers the mail. A House committee has passed legislation to stabilize the Postal Service's ailing finances that would cut letter deliveries to five days and phase out door-to-door deliveries over 10 years. The bill does not include a provision to allow the agency to deliver alcohol.
The Senate passed a postal reform bill last year that included a provision allowing the agency to deliver alcohol. The bill required that such shipments would have to comply with any state laws from where the shipment was originated and delivered. The measure also said the recipient had to be at least 21 years old and would need to provide a valid government-issued photo identification upon delivery.


BBC apologizes for accidentally showing image of Prince William with penis drawn on head... -

BBC apologizes for accidentally showing image of Prince William with penis drawn on head... - 

The BBC apologised on Thursday for accidentally showing an image of Britain's Prince William with a penis drawn on his head.
The blunder happened when the broadcaster's breakfast TV show aired a clip of a promo video for a comedy group who were appearing later on the programme.
The image of the second-in-line to the British throne, with a beard and moustache scrawled in black pen onto a picture of the prince in a newspaper flashed up on the screen for a couple of seconds.
He had also acquired glasses, missing teeth and a penis on his head.
It had apparently been missed by BBC editors, but was spotted by several viewers.
"Yup, that's a penis on Prince William's head," one viewer tweeted. "Outrageous."
The BBC apologised for the gaffe, stressing that the "offending material" was not produced by the broadcaster.
"This image was shown fleetingly within a comedy promotional video for Barbershopera, a humorous barbershop group, who were appearing later on in the programme," a BBC spokeswoman said.
"The material was provided by Barbershopera but we failed to spot the offending material within it. We apologise for this."
Prince William, 31, is currently on paternity leave from his job as a search-and-rescue helicopter pilot with the Royal Air Force after his wife Kate gave birth to their son on July 22.
Prince George, the couple's first child, is third in line to the throne.


Queen's secret nuclear war speech revealed... -

Queen's secret nuclear war speech revealed... - 

If a nuclear war had broken out in 1983, Queen Elizabeth II would have known just what to say.

Documents released Thursday by Britain's National Archives show that in 1983, as part of an extensive war game, British officials drafted a speech to be read by the queen in the event of nuclear conflict.

The speech contrasts the fellowship inspired by the Christmas holiday a few months earlier with the war that would have been taking place.

"Now this madness of war is once more spreading through the world and our brave country must again prepare itself to survive against great odds," the speech says.

The queen never gave the speech and likely never saw it, royal experts said.

According to the document, the entire speech likely would have sounded like this:

"When I spoke to you less than three months ago we were all enjoying the warmth and fellowship of a family Christmas. Our thoughts were concentrated on the strong links that bind each generation to the ones that came before and those that will follow. The horrors of war could not have seemed more remote as my family and I shared our Christmas joy with the growing family of the Commonwealth.

Now this madness of war is once more spreading through the world and our brave country must again prepare itself to survive against great odds.

I have never forgotten the sorrow and the pride I felt as my sister and I huddled around the nursery wireless set listening to my father's inspiring words on that fateful day in 1939. Not for a single moment did I imagine that this solemn and awful duty would one day fall to me.

We all know that the dangers facing us today are greater by far than at any time in our long history. The enemy is not the soldier with his rifle nor even the airman prowling the skies above our cities and towns but the deadly power of abused technology.

But whatever terrors lie in wait for us all the qualities that have helped to keep our freedom intact twice already during this sad century will once more be our strength.

My husband and I share with families up and down the land the fear we feel for sons and daughters, husbands and brothers who have left our side to serve their country. My beloved son Andrew is at this moment in action with his unit and we pray continually for his safety and for the safety of all servicemen and women at home and overseas.

It is this close bond of family life that must be our greatest defence against the unknown. If families remain united and resolute, giving shelter to those living alone and unprotected, our country's will to survive cannot be broken.

My message to you therefore is simple. Help those who cannot help themselves, give comfort to the lonely and the homeless and let your family become the focus of hope and life to those who need it.

As we strive together to fight off the new evil let us pray for our country and men of goodwill wherever they may be.

God bless you all.

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Google 'Pressure Cookers' and 'Backpacks,' Get a Visit from the Cops -

Google 'Pressure Cookers' and 'Backpacks,' Get a Visit from the Cops - 

Michele Catalano was looking for information online about pressure cookers. Her husband, in the same time frame, was Googling backpacks. Wednesday morning, six men from a joint terrorism task force showed up at their house to see if they were terrorists. Which prompts the question: How'd the government know what they were Googling?

Catalano (who is a professional writer) describes the tension of that visit.

[T]hey were peppering my husband with questions. Where is he from? Where are his parents from? They asked about me, where was I, where do I work, where do my parents live. Do you have any bombs, they asked. Do you own a pressure cooker? My husband said no, but we have a rice cooker. Can you make a bomb with that? My husband said no, my wife uses it to make quinoa. What the hell is quinoa, they asked. ...

Have you ever looked up how to make a pressure cooker bomb? My husband, ever the oppositional kind, asked them if they themselves weren’t curious as to how a pressure cooker bomb works, if they ever looked it up. Two of them admitted they did.
The men identified themselves as members of the "joint terrorism task force." The composition of such task forces depend on the region of the country, but, as we outlined after the Boston bombings, include a variety of federal agencies. Among them: the FBI and Homeland Security.

Update 1:45 p.m.: In a conversation with The Atlantic Wire, FBI spokesperson Peter Donald confirmed The Guardian's report that the FBI was not involved in the visit itself. Asked if the FBI was involved in providing information that led to the visit, Donald replied that he could not answer the question at this point, as he didn't know.

We asked if the Suffolk and Nassau police, which The Guardian reported were the authorities that effected the raid, are part of the government's regional Joint Terrorism Task Force. They are, he replied, representing two of the 52 agencies that participate. He said that local police are often deputized federal marshals for that purpose — but that the JTTF "did not visit the residence." He later clarified: "Any officers, agents, or other representatives of the JTTF did not visit that location."

We are awaiting a response from Suffolk County police and the Department of Homeland Security which operates an investigatory fusion center in the region.

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13 Armed agents raid animal shelter for baby deer named Giggles - then they executed it -

13 Armed agents raid animal shelter for baby deer named Giggles - then they executed it - 

WISN 12 News investigates an operation raising questions about the use of government resources and the state policy that meant a death sentence for a fawn.

"It was like a SWAT team," shelter employee Ray Schulze said.

Two weeks ago, Schulze was working in the barn at the Society of St. Francis on the Kenosha-Illinois border when a swarm of squad cars arrived and officers unloaded with a search warrant.

"(There were) nine DNR agents and four deputy sheriffs, and they were all armed to the teeth," Schulze said.

The focus of their search was a baby fawn brought there by an Illinois family worried she had been abandoned by her mother.

"When it made a little noise, it sounded like it was laughing," Schulze said.

Schulze videotaped the fawn they named Giggles during the two weeks she was there. The Department of Natural Resources began investigating after two anonymous calls reporting a baby deer at the no-kill shelter.

The warden drafted an affidavit for the search warrant, complete with aerial photos in which he described getting himself into a position where he was able to see the fawn going in and out of the barn.

Agents told staff they came to seize the deer because Wisconsin law forbids the possession of wildlife.

"I said the deer is scheduled to go to the wildlife reserve the next day," Schulze said.

It was to go to a wildlife reserve in Illinois that allows the rehabilitation of deer. Schulze said agents corralled workers near the picnic area and then set out in search of the fawn.

"I was thinking in my mind they were going to take the deer and take it to a wildlife shelter, and here they come carrying the baby deer over their shoulder. She was in a body bag," Schulze said. "I said, 'Why did you do that?' He said, 'That's our policy,' and I said, 'That's one hell of a policy.'"

The Department of Natural Resources spoke to WISN 12 News about the fawn.

Supervisor Jennifer Niemeyer said the law requires the DNR agents to euthanize animals like Giggles because of the potential for disease and danger to humans.

"These are always very difficult situations for both parties involved, and we are empathetic to the fact of what happened because we know in our heart of hearts they tried to do the right thing," Niemeyer said.

"Could you have made a phone call before showing up, I mean, that's a lot of resources," WISN 12 News investigative reporter Colleen Henry asked.

"If a sheriff's department is going in to do a search warrant on a drug bust, they don't call them and ask them to voluntarily surrender their marijuana or whatever drug that they have before they show up," Niemeyer said,

Niemeyer denied agents killed Giggles at the shelter. She said they tranquilized her and then euthanized her off-site.

"I don't care where they would have killed her, it would have been wrong," shelter president Cindy Schultz said.

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The Most Important Number In The Entire U.S. Economy -

The Most Important Number In The Entire U.S. Economy - 

There is one vitally important number that everyone needs to be watching right now, and it doesn’t have anything to do with unemployment, inflation or housing.  If this number gets too high, it will collapse the entire U.S. financial system.  The number that I am talking about is the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries.  When that number goes up, long-term interest rates all across the financial system start increasing.  When long-term interest rates rise, it becomes more expensive for the federal government to borrow money, it becomes more expensive for state and local governments to borrow money, existing bonds lose value and bond investors lose a lot of money, mortgage rates go up and monthly payments on new mortgages rise, and interest rates throughout the entire economy go up and this causes economic activity to slow down.  On top of everything else, there are more than 440 trillion dollars worth of interest rate derivatives sitting out there, and rapidly rising interest rates could cause that gigantic time bomb to go off and implode our entire financial system.  We are living in the midst of the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world, and the only way that the game can continue is for interest rates to stay super low.  Unfortunately, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has started to rise, and many experts are projecting that it is going to continue to rise.
On August 2nd of last year, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries was just 1.48%, and our entire debt-based economy was basking in the glow of ultra-low interest rates.  But now things are rapidly changing.  On Wednesday, the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries hit 2.70% before falling back to 2.58% on “good news” from the Federal Reserve.
Historically speaking, rates are still super low, but what is alarming is that it looks like we hit a “bottom” last year and that interest rates are only going to go up from here.  In fact, according to CNBC many experts believe that we will soon be pushing up toward the 3 percent mark…
Round numbers like 1,700 on the S&P 500 are well and good, but savvy traders have their minds on another integer: 2.75 percent
That was the high for the 10-year yield this year, and traders say yields are bound to go back to that level. The one overhanging question is how stocks will react when they see that number.
“If we start to push up to new highs on the 10-year yield so that’s the 2.75 level—I think you’d probably see a bit of anxiety creep back into the marketplace,” Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s head of global technical strategy, MacNeil Curry, told “Futures Now” on Tuesday.
And Curry sees yields getting back to that level in the short term, and then some. “In the next couple of weeks to two months or so I think we’ve got a push coming up to the 2.85, 2.95 zone,” he said.
This rise in interest rates has been expected for a very long time – it is just that nobody knew exactly when it would happen.  Now that it has begun, nobody is quite sure how high interest rates will eventually go.  

When interest rates go down, that spurs economic activity, and that is good for stock prices.
So when interest rates start going up rapidly, that is not a good thing for the stock market at all.
The Federal Reserve has tried to keep long-term interest rates down by wildly printing money and buying bonds, and even the suggestion that the Fed may eventually “taper” quantitative easing caused the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries to absolutely soar a few weeks ago.
So the Fed has backed off on the “taper” talk for now, but what happens if the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries continues to rise even with the wild money printing that the Fed has been doing?
At that point, the Fed would begin to totally lose control over the situation.  And if that happens, Bill Fleckenstein told King World Newsthe other day that he believes that we could see the stock market suddenly plunge by 25 percent…
Let’s say Ben (Bernanke) comes out tomorrow and says, ‘We are not going to taper.’ But let’s just say the bond market trades down anyway, and the next thing you know we go through the recent highs and a month from now the 10-Year is at 3%. And people start to realize they are not even tapering and the bond market is backed up….
They will say, ‘Why is this happening?’ Then they may realize the bond market is discounting the inflation we already have.
At some point the bond markets are going to say, ‘We are not comfortable with these policies.’ Obviously you can’t print money forever or no emerging country would ever have gone broke. So the bond market starts to back up and the economy gets worse than it is now because rates are rising. So the Fed says, ‘We can’t have this,’ and they decide to print more (money) and the bond market backs up (even more).
All of the sudden it becomes clear that money printing not only isn’t the solution, but it’s the problem. Well, with rates going from where they are to 3%+ on the 10-Year, one of these days the S&P futures are going to get destroyed. And if the computers ever get loose on the downside the market could break 25% in three days.
And as I have written about previously, we have seen a huge spike in margin debt in recent months, and this could make it even easier for a stock market collapse to happen.  A recent note from Deutsche Bank explained precisely why margin debt is so dangerous…
Margin debt can be described as a tool used by stock speculators to borrow money from brokerages to buy more stock than they could otherwise afford on their own. These loans are collateralized by stock holdings, so when the market goes south, investors are either required to inject more cash/assets or become forced to sell immediately to pay off their loans – sometimes leading to mass pullouts or crashes.
But of much greater concern than a stock market crash is the 441 trillion dollar interest rate derivatives bubble that could implode if interest rates continue to rise rapidly.
Deutsche Bank is the largest bank in Europe, and at this point they have55.6 trillion euros of total exposure to derivatives.
But the GDP of the entire nation of Germany is only about 2.7 trillion euros for a whole year.
We are facing a similar situation in the United States.  Our GDP for 2013 will be somewhere between 15 and 16 trillion dollars, but many of our big banks have exposure to derivatives that absolutely dwarfs our GDP.  The following numbers come from one of my previous articles entitled “The Coming Derivatives Panic That Will Destroy Global Financial Markets“…
JPMorgan Chase
Total Assets: $1,812,837,000,000 (just over 1.8 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $69,238,349,000,000 (more than 69 trillion dollars)
Total Assets: $1,347,841,000,000 (a bit more than 1.3 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $52,150,970,000,000 (more than 52 trillion dollars)
Bank Of America
Total Assets: $1,445,093,000,000 (a bit more than 1.4 trillion dollars)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $44,405,372,000,000 (more than 44 trillion dollars)
Goldman Sachs
Total Assets: $114,693,000,000 (a bit more than 114 billion dollars – yes, you read that correctly)
Total Exposure To Derivatives: $41,580,395,000,000 (more than 41 trillion dollars)
That means that the total exposure that Goldman Sachs has to derivatives contracts is more than 362 times greater than their total assets.
And remember, the biggest chunk of those derivatives contracts is made up of interest rate derivatives.
Just imagine what would happen if a life insurance company wrote millions upon millions of life insurance contracts and then everyone suddenly died.

What would happen to that life insurance company?
It would go completely broke of course.
Well, that is what our major banks are facing today.
They have written trillions upon trillions of dollars worth of interest rate derivatives contracts, and they are betting that interest rates will not go up rapidly.
But what if they do?
And the truth is that interest rates have a whole lot of room to go up.  The chart below shows how the yield on 10 year U.S. Treasuries has moved over the past couple of decades…

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