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Food Inflation to Quicken as Nestle, McDonald's Lift Prices

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© Daniel Acker/Bloomberg
Whole Foods, the largest U.S. natural-goods grocer, said vendors have increased food prices this year.
U.S. food-price inflation may top the government's forecast as higher crop, meat, dairy and energy costs lead companies including Nestle SA, McDonald's Corp. (MCD) and Whole Foods Market Inc. (WFMI) to boost prices.

Retail-food prices will jump more than the U.S. Department of Agriculture's estimate of 3 percent to 4 percent this year, said Chad E. Hart, an economist at Iowa State University in Ames. Companies will pass along more of their higher costs through year-end, said Bill Lapp, a former ConAgra Foods Inc. chief economist.

Groceries and restaurant meals rose 2.4 percent in the four months through April, the most to start a year since 1990, government data show. During the period, rice, wheat and milk futures touched the highest levels since 2008, and retail beef reached a record. Yesterday, J.M. Smucker Co. announced an 11 percent price increase for Folgers coffee, the best-selling U.S. brand, after the cost of beans almost doubled in a year.

"It's going to be a tough year" for U.S. shoppers, said Lapp, who is president of Advanced Economic Solutions, an agriculture consultant in Omaha, Nebraska. "You're looking at an economy where a lot of consumers are under some serious pressure from food and fuel costs."

Even after a drop in commodities this month, seven of eight tracked by the Standard & Poor's GSCI Agriculture Index are higher than a year earlier as adverse weather damages crops, rising demand erodes inventories and a weak dollar boosts demand for U.S. exports. Corn futures are up 98 percent, wheat gained 67 percent, raw sugar advanced 44 percent, and rice jumped 25 percent.

Coffee

US: Starbucks Raising Packaged-Coffee Prices 17 Percent

Starbucks will raise the price of packaged coffee by 17 percent in its U.S. and Canadian stores on July 12.

It is responding to escalating coffee prices, which have almost doubled over the past year and are trading at 30-year highs. On Tuesday, J.M. Smucker Co. said it will raise the price of Folgers coffee by 11 percent - the latest of four price increases over the past year.

Although Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has said repeatedly that he believes speculators are driving the price of coffee and other commodities beyond what they are worth, the chain decided it could not wait any longer to pass the higher costs along to customers.

In March, it raised the price of packaged coffee sold in grocery stores by an average of 12 percent, and last fall it hiked prices on some drinks in some cafés. Prices on some drinks also fell.

"We held off as long as we could," Starbucks spokesman Alan Hilowitz said of the latest increase. "We want to provide value to our customers, so we only do it when we really have to to effectively run the business."

Family

Indiana, US: Woman "Killed Son in Botched Exorcism"

A mother faces up to 45 years in jail after being found guilty of killing her son in a botched exorcism.

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© The Telegraph, UK
Latisha Lawson choked her son Jeziah to death 'to exorcise the devil in him'
Latisha Lawson, 31, forced her two-year-old son Jezaih to drink a vile mixture of olive oil and vinegar as part of a ritual to drive the devil from his body.

As he choked on the liquid she held her hand over his mouth to stop him vomiting and crushed his neck.

Jurors heard Lawson had wanted to drive a demon named as "Marzon" from her son's body.

She had become convinced that her son was possessed and blamed herself because she did not profess her love for God while she was pregnant.

Lawson and another woman, who also believed her children were possessed, fed the mixture to four children at their home in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Stop

Florida, US: Animal carcasses found behind Tampa pizzeria still mystery

Veterinarians this week will examine 11 skinned animal carcasses found in a trash container Saturday to determine what kind of animals they are.

An employee found the carcasses that had been skinned, decapitated and had their feet cut off in a trash container behind a pizza restaurant on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard about 4:30 p.m.

The animals were taken to Hillsborough County Animal Services and stored in freezers, said spokeswoman Marti Ryan. Veterinarians will conduct their examination after the Memorial Day weekend, she said.

This isn't the first time animal carcasses have been found in the county, and they may be tied to religious ceremonies that involve animal sacrifice, she said.

Question

US: Mysterious Heiress Leaves Behind $100 Million Estate in Santa Barbara


The death of a mysterious and reclusive 104-year-old heiress has many wondering what's to become of her $100 million mansion in Santa Barbara.

Huguette Clark died Tuesday at a New York City hospital, where she had been for more than 20 years. She inherited her fortune as the daughter of a Montana copper tycoon. Her Santa Barbara Mansion sits on a bluff overlooking the ocean, but she hasn't been there in decades.

Her estate is called Bellosguardo--Italian for "beautiful view." It's located on a bluff between the Santa Barbara Zoo and the Santa Barbara Cemetery. . .23 acres valued at $100 million.

"It's probably the most beautiful estate here in Santa Barbara at least along the beach," said Chris, who lives in Santa Barbara. At one time, Clark lived in the 22,000 square foot mansion. Growing up, a private rail car would bring the family there each winter. You can still catch a glimpse through the trees.

"Occasionally, there's some people sitting over here by the house. I don't even know if they belong to the house, but they're sitting out there," Chris said.

This is as close as we could get to Clark's 23 acre property and she really didn't get much closer either. In fact recent reports indicate she hasn't set foot here in at least 50 years.

But to this day, it is still staffed and well-maintained. Dan has been the grounds keeper for the last three years. He wouldn't speak on camera but said hardly anybody visits the vacant property.

Light Saber

US: Wisconsin Judge Strikes Down Anti-Union Law

wisconsin protests
Since taking office on January 3, Republican Governor Scott Walker waged war on public workers and their unions, aiming to restrict collective bargaining rights to wage negotiations before ending them altogether.

He also demanded draconian health insurance and pension contribution increases, doubling them for state employees during hard times when they're already strapped to make ends meet. Doing so called for pay cuts ranging from 8 - 20% ahead of more planned reductions coming.

On March 9, a protracted Senate battle ended when hard-line Republicans violated Wisconsin's open meetings law, requiring 24 hours notice prior for special sessions unless giving it is impossible or impractical.

At issue was passing an old-fashioned union-busting law with no Democrats present, brazen politicians and corrupted union bosses selling out rank and file members for self-enrichement and privilege, complicit with corporate CEOs.

Heart - Black

Kate Middleton's Dress Came from a Romanian Sweatshop

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© unknown
Kate Middleton, or Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge as she is now known, speaks to Michelle Obama wearing a Reoss dress stitched by women earning a little over $1 an hour.

  • Outfit costs $270 but made for less than $23
  • Seamstresses earn just $1.54 per hour
  • Dress now advertised on eBay for $926
Costing £175 ($270) on the high street, it helped Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, outshine America's First Lady.

But the Reiss dress (left) that made such an impression when the pair met last week was produced by women paid only 99p an hour in a poor suburb of the Romanian capital, Bucharest.

The camel-coloured "Shola" design was made for less than $23 by seamstresses earning $1.54 an hour less than the average salary for textile workers in the eastern European nation.

British fashion chain Reiss is one of the Duchess's favourite brands. After she wore the dress to meet Barack and Michelle Obama, demand for it surged, causing the company's website to crash and the dress to sell out within 24 hours.

It has been advertised for $926 on eBay. Yesterday, Reiss said it would re-release the dress in five to six weeks.

Handcuffs

Thailand Arrests American for Alleged King Insult

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© Apichart Weerawong
In this Dec. 5, 2010 file photo, Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej is assisted while leaving Siriraj Hospital as he makes his way to the Grand Palace to attend a ceremony celebrating his 83rd birthday in Bangkok. Thai authorities said Friday, May 27, 2011, they arrested an American citizen on charges he insulted the country's monarchy by posting a link on his blog four years ago to a banned book about the Southeast Asian nation's ailing king.
Thai authorities said Friday they arrested an American citizen on charges he insulted the country's monarchy, in part by posting a link on his blog four years ago to a banned book about the Southeast Asian nation's ailing king.

The man is also suspected of translating, from English into Thai, portions of The King Never Smiles - an unauthorized biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej - and posting them online along with articles he wrote that allegedly defame the royal family, said Tharit Pengdith, who heads the Department of Special Investigation, Thailand's equivalent of the FBI.

The American has denied the charges, according to the Thai-language prachatai.com news website, which tracks cases of lese majeste, as the crime of insulting the monarchy is known.

The 54-year-old Thai-born man lived in the U.S. state of Colorado for around 30 years before returning recently to Thailand for treatment for high blood pressure and gout, the website said. If the allegations are true, the infractions would have been committed while he lived in America - where they are legal - raising concern about the reach of Thai law and how it is applied to Thai nationals and foreign visitors.

Tharit said the man's Thai name was Lerpong Wichaikhammat. Walter M. Braunohler, the U.S. Embassy spokesman in Bangkok, identified the American as Joe Gordon and said a consular officer visited him on Friday morning. He declined comment further, saying only that officials were following the case "very closely."

Toys

US: Grieving Mothers Adopt Life-like Dolls

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© Agence France-Presse
'Reborn babies', dolls which are made to look just like real babies, are displayed at the reborn babies fair in Brentwood, east of London, in February 2011. Weighing five kilos, with perfectly combed hair and her eyes closed in sleep, Abby looks like a baby girl. But she is a doll, adopted by a grieving mother to help come to terms with the loss of a child
Weighing five kilos (11 pounds), with perfectly combed hair and eyes closed in sleep, Abby looks like a baby girl. But she is a doll, adopted by a grieving mother to help come to terms with the loss of a child.

"She reminds me of my daughter as an infant," said Eve Hasty, a 57-year-old American who bought Abby from a British company for 300 dollars (210 euros).

The retired driver who lives in Oklahoma lost her daughter to leukaemia when she only seven.

She has a surviving son in his 30s who has provided her with an eight-year-old granddaughter, but she finds the doll -- which she acquired in 2009, three decades after losing her daughter -- comforting.

"I just get a type of serenity about me when I hold her, I change her clothes," she told AFP.

Hasty has bought Abby a wardrobe full of outfits, including a tiny pair of Nike trainers that she could never have afforded to give her children.

Pistol

Canada: 3 Men Shot in Kensington Market

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© Google Street View
Police set up a command post at this building on Augusta Avenue in Kensington Market after a shooting nearby early Sunday morning.
Three men were shot early Sunday morning outside an after-hours club in Toronto's Kensington Market, police said.

Emergency personnel were dispatched to an area on Augusta Avenue near Denison Square around 4:30 a.m.

Paramedics said they took one person to hospital with a minor gunshot wound, but police later said three people had been shot and injured, all minor.

Patrons at the club were held on a transit bus for questioning but were subsequently let go, according to reports.

Police have made no arrests so far.

Augusta Avenue was closed from College Street south to Dundas Street as officers investigated. It was scheduled to be closed anyway for all of Sunday afternoon for the monthly Pedestrian Sunday in Kensington event.