Saturday, April 16, 2011

More than half of U.S. adults age 20 and older take vitamins or other dietary supplements, a new government study shows.

The percentage who took at least one dietary supplement increased to 53 percent in 2006, up from 42 percent in 1994.

Multivitamins/multiminerals are the most common: Almost 40 percent of people reported taking them in 2006.

“The majority of dietary supplement users report using them every day over the past 30 days,” said Jaime Gahche, nutritional researcher with the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gannett News Service

Lady GaGa has attributed her latest chart success to the late Alexander Mcqueen - the singer's convinced she's simply channelling the designer's feelings through song.

The Poker Face hitmaker developed a special bond with the Scottish fashion guru in the months leading up to his death and she believes McQueen's spirit guided her to write equality anthem Born This Way, which was released on 11 February - exactly one year after the tragic star's suicide.

She tells Harper's Bazaar magazine, "(McQueen) planned the whole thing. Right after he died, I wrote Born This Way. I think he's up in heaven with fashion strings in his hands, marionetting away, planning this whole thing."

Yes, you've seen Paris Hilton on "The Simple Life." You've watched her trying to choose "best friends" on other reality shows. And we've seen her in less-flattering situations -- being carted off to jail, lying about drug possession, making a spectacle of herself at parties. And then there are those news reports about her saying unflattering things about black men.

Paris would like you to wipe that from your mind. "The World According to Paris," the upcoming Oxygen series providing an all-access "voyueristic" look into the everyday life of the heiress, is "the real deal," according to Hilton.

"On 'The Simple Life," I played a character," Hilton said Friday during NBC/Universal's Summer Press Day. "This is not a competiton show. Now people will see my real world."

The series, which will premiere June 1, will feature Hilton as she moves through her professional and personal life. Her mother Kathy Hilton and her boyfriend Cy Waits figure prominently.

"This is the real Paris," said executive producer Arthur Smith. "People will be really, really surprised. Her fans will be blown away."

Judging from clips shown during the session, the show bears more than a little resemblance to "Keeping Up with The Kardashians" and other series featuring Kim Kardashian, who used to be a good friend of Hilton's.

Said Hilton, "This show is really personal," adding that there were some aspects she felt uncomfortable about showing but knew would make great television." She turns 30 on the show and shows different sides of herself. "I cook -- I'm a good cook."

Hilton was treated to overwhelmingly positive questions from reporters who praised her style and her personality.

Kathy Hilton said she also shows the impact she has on Paris' life.

"This was good therapy for me," she said with a smile.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The world's major nations have put together a new monitoring process that they hope will halt the types of destabilizing economic imbalances that contributed to the worst global downturn since World War II.

Finance officials in the United States and other members of the Group of 20 major economies said the new program will closely follow key measurements of economic health such as government budget and trade deficits, personal savings levels and investment flows between nations.

The hope is that the monitoring process will highlight problems before they become so big that they pose a threat to global growth. But the deal announced Friday by the G-20 left many questions unanswered about just how effective the new procedures will be.

Global financial reform will continue on Saturday to be the focus of meetings of the policy-setting committees of the 187-nation International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke were representing the United States at the talks.

Geithner also had a round of one-on-one meetings scheduled Saturday with finance officials from Portugal and Greece, two nations facing serious debt troubles, and officials from the European Union and Germany who have been involved in the efforts to deal with Europe's debt problems.

Geithner was also scheduled to meet with Egyptian Finance Minister Samir Radwan for talks likely to focus on the types of financial support that Egypt needs during its governmental transition.

After the day-long G-20 talks ended, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde told reporters Friday that the monitoring agreement was a significant achievement in efforts to restore confidence and prevent future financial crises.

"We have made huge progress in relation to the framework for growth," she said. "This is a major step in the right direction."

Lagarde said that all G-20 nations will take part in the monitoring process but in the beginning the focus would be on seven of the world's largest economies. She declined to name all of those countries but the group is expected to include the United States, China, Japan, Germany, France, Britain and India.

Much about the monitoring process, however, is still to be determined including whether countries found to have dangerous imbalances will be identified publicly. China in the past has blocked public release of criticism it has received from the International Monetary Fund.

The initial monitoring effort will be reviewed at an October meeting of the G-20 finance officials who will report on how the process is working to G-20 leaders who are scheduled to meet in Cannes, France, in November. Since there is no enforcement mechanism, it was unclear what pressure can be brought to bear on countries found with dangerous imbalances.

However, officials sought to portray the agreement as a major step forward in addressing the types of problems that were uncovered by the financial crisis that erupted in the United States in the fall of 2008 and contributed to pushing the global economy into the worst downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"The subprime crisis in the United States — that's exactly the kind of accident we want to avoid in the future," Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty told reporters.

British Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said he expected Britain would be cited in the first report next fall for its sizable government deficit. Others suggested that the United States would also be cited for its government deficit, which is projected to hit $1.5 trillion this year. China could be cited for its trade surplus.

G-20 leaders meeting in Pittsburgh in September 2009 agreed to a goal of rebalancing global growth. But China in particular has resisted the rebalancing program, seeing it as a backdoor to bring greater pressure on Beijing to allow its currency to rise in value against the dollar. Critics contend China is unfairly manipulating its currency for trade advantages.

Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin told reporters a key remaining question will be "whether we make the monitoring mandatory and have sanctions."

In addition to global imbalances, the finance discussions have focused on ways to help poor nations deal with soaring food and energy costs and the dangers of rising inflationary pressures in China and other emerging economies.

Air strikes follow two Grad launches, rockets explode in open areas near Ashdod; no injuries reported in rocket launches or IDF strikes; flare-up breaks informal ceasefire brokered after serious week of escalation.
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The IAF attacked two Hamas military bases near Gaza City overnight Friday following two Grad rockets fired towards Ashkelon. One of the Hamas bases hit in Gaza was north of Zeitun, and the other near the Shati refugee camp. No casualties were reported.

The IDF spokesperson said that the strikes were in response to the Grad rockets fired at Ashdod earlier Friday and said the army will "not accept rocket fire at southern communities and will operate against all acts of aggression against Israeli citizens."

Reality Check: Last thing we need is a 2nd round in Gaza
Video: Iron Dome intercepts Grad rocket fired from Gaza

Earlier Friday, following nearly a week of quiet for the residents of the South, sirens were heard in the Ashdod area, a warning issued after two Grad rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip.

The rockets exploded in open fields and no injuries or damage were reported.

The communities bordering the Gaza Strip had enjoyed a short period of relative quiet since last Sunday. A tense quiet settled over southern Israel this week after a shaky informal cease-fire went into effect, ending several days of attacks from Gaza and IDF counterattacks.

Defense officials said that the IDF would remain on high alert along the border.

Last Sunday, a Kassam rocket hit south of Ashkelon but on Monday the border was quiet, with the IDF, Hamas and Islamic Jihad abiding by a cease-fire reportedly brokered by United Nations representatives in Israel.

IDF sources said they predicted that while the cease-fire had gone into effect, it would likely be limited in time.

“We succeeded in postponing a large-scale conflict with Hamas but that conflict is likely inevitable,” one senior officer said on Monday.

NEW YORK - Bank of America Corp.'s first-quarter income fell 39 percent compared with a year earlier on higher costs related to its mortgage business and litigation. The bank also settled a claim over faulty mortgage investments and set aside less money to cover soured loans.

The Charlotte, N.C., bank on Friday said it earned $1.7 billion, or 17 cents per share, compared with $2.8 billion, or 28 cents a share in the first quarter of last year. The earnings fell short of the 28 cents a share estimated by analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Revenue fell to $26.9 billion from $32 billion in the same period last year.

"All the businesses have moved back to profitability except our mortgage business," chief executive officer Brian Moynihan said in a conference call with analysts.

Bank of America continued to be weighed down by losses, lawsuits, and higher costs related to its mortgage businesses. Its real estate services business reported a first-quarter loss of $2.4 billion compared with a loss of $2.1 billion for the same period in 2010.

The bank is fighting lawsuits from investors and insurers who say they were duped into buying mortgage loans that were based on fraudulent documents. Bank of America set aside a $1 billion in the first quarter to repurchase those mortgages. That's on top of $4.1 billion that the bank had already set aside in the fourth quarter of 2010 and $526 million in the first quarter of last year.

Litigation expenses, related mostly to mortgages, were up $352 million from the first quarter of 2010.

Bank of America was among 16 of the nation's largest mortgage lenders who were directed by the Federal Reserve and other federal banking regulators Wednesday to reimburse homeowners who were improperly foreclosed upon. Attorneys general of all 50 states are also investigating allegations of improper foreclosures, and the banks will likely pay fines once the probe is over.

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House Republicans approved a budget Friday that would fundamentally alter Medicare and Medicaid, lower taxes on individuals and corporations, and cut $4.4 trillion from the nation's deficit over the next decade.

With its passing, Republicans have officially put forth their vision for reducing the nation's debt and defining how the federal government fits into people's lives. It's a sharply different approach from the one outlined by President Obama on Wednesday, setting up months of clashes between the two parties over a number of critical fiscal issues.

House Republicans are betting that Americans are so concerned about the nation's mounting debt that they will respond to a bold plan to fix it, even if that prescription includes major changes to Medicare and other entitlements that most people support.

"This is our defining moment. We must choose this path to prosperity," said Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., chief architect of the plan.

Ryan's budget would spend about $40 trillion over the next decade - $6.2 trillion less than the budget Obama proposed in February. The bulk of the savings would come from health care programs, starting with a repeal of Obama's new initiative to expand coverage for the uninsured.

Starting in 2022, Ryan also would end Medicare as an open-ended entitlement for new retirees and begin slowly raising the age of eligibility from 65 to 67. Instead of getting government-paid benefits, retirees could choose a private policy on a newly established Medicare exchange.

Medicaid would come in for even sharper cuts, exceeding $700 billion over the next decade. The GOP plan would end the financing partnership between the federal government and the states, replacing it with block grants that give states less money.

Tax cuts for corporations and other tax reforms would reduce the overall savings of the plan to $4.4 trillion.

All but four Republicans voted for Ryan's 2012 budget blueprint, and every Democrat present voted against it, for a final tally of 235-193.

The Ryan budget has virtually no chance of being enacted into law, considering that Democrats still control the Senate and Obama opposes much of it.

In an interview with the Associated Press on Friday, Obama said the proposed changes to Medicare would create a "fundamentally different society than the one that we have now." Obama offered his own framework for an alternative this week that would decrease the deficit in part by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans and cutting military and domestic spending.

Democrats believe Republicans made a political mistake in embracing the Ryan budget.

"I want to say to my Republican colleagues: Do you realize that your leadership is asking you to cast a vote today to abolish Medicare as we know it?" said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

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Oklahoma tornadoes: A tornado left a wide swath of destruction Thursday night. Two people died and a public school was destroyed.

BY BRYAN DEAN and TRICIA PEMBERTON Oklahoman Comment on this article 0
Published: April 16, 2011

TUSHKA — Residents began cleaning up Friday after a Thursday night tornado left at least two dead and as many as 100 homes and businesses destroyed in and near Tushka.

Two women were killed in a mobile home west of the town of about 350 residents, said Gilbert Wilson, emergency management director and county commissioner for Atoka County. Dozens more in the town were injured.

Between 25 and 35 people were treated at the Atoka County Medical Center, but all have been released, hospital Chief Executive Officer Paul Reano said Friday.

“We treated everything from scratches and bruises to lacerations and serious wounds,” Reano said. “We are not treating anyone at this time.”

At least five tornadoes touched down in the state. No major injuries were reported outside of the Tushka area, although some damage was reported from several other tornadoes and storm winds in Marshall, Osage, Lincoln and Delaware counties.

Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday declared a state of emergency in 26 counties, which will make it easier for local authorities to take advantage of state resources during cleanup efforts.

Counties in the declaration are: Atoka, Carter, Coal, Creek, Custer, Delaware, Harper, Johnston, Latimer, Le Flore, Lincoln, Love, Marshall, Murray, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, Osage, Pittsburg, Pontotoc, Pushmataha, Rogers, Seminole, Tulsa, Wagoner, Washington and Woodward.

EF-3 rating estimated

According to the National Weather Service, the Tushka tornado was rated EF-3 on the enhanced Fujita scale, which estimates the wind speed of tornadoes based on damage. An EF-3 can contain wind gusts of up to 165 mph.

Wilson said the tornado started four or five miles west of Tushka and traveled east, destroying homes and the school in the town about 120 miles southeast of Oklahoma City.

As many as 100 homes and businesses, including the Tushka public school, were destroyed by the storm that hit about 7:30 p.m., Wilson said. Authorities still are trying to determine the extent of the damage.

Tractor-trailer rigs and tree limbs were scattered on the main highway into Tushka, U.S. 69, and authorities closed some roads because of downed power lines and trees. Wilson said U.S. 69 was open Friday.

The storm also tore up roofs and shattered windows.

“There’s going to be a lot of work,” Wilson said. “This could be several days unless we get some crews in here. The county has men, equipment and chain saws. We’re chopping, and we’re doing everything we can to get everybody through.”

‘Felt like a bomb’

Several eye witnesses said two tornadoes hit at the same time, Wilson said. From the damage he’s seen, that looks to be the case, he said.

An apparent tornado then traveled from Tushka northeast and came out about one mile east of Atoka, Wilson said. It missed Atoka, but hit again just northeast of that town, leaving damage for 12 to 15 miles.

“It left a path of destruction plumb across,” Wilson said.

Many in Tushka sought shelter.

“It felt like a bomb,” said Jennifer Buffington, who fled to a storm cellar with her husband, Tony Stiles, and their seven children when the tornado sirens sounded.

When the family emerged, they found the windows blown out of their house. The family sought shelter at First Baptist Church in nearby Atoka.

“Everything in my house looks like shambles,” said Jennifer Buffington, 36, whose children range in age from 1 to 20.

Easton Crow, a junior at the public school where students from kindergarten through 12th grade attend, said he was at a baseball game in nearby Hugo when the storm hit. He went by the school and saw the damage: The roof was gone, the top story of one of the school’s buildings was torn off and textbooks were scattered everywhere.

“I’m heartbroken. This is where most of us grew up,” said Crow, 17. “I’m just in awe that in a few seconds, memories that have been built were taken.”

Principal Matt Simpson said the school won’t be usable for the rest of the school year.

“I’ve been doing this for 10 years, but this is definitely new for me,” Simpson said.

“It means a lot of challenges I wasn’t expecting.”

Becky Anderson, Atoka County Emergency Management secretary, said the area “looks like a war zone.”

Barack Obama, insisting a politically divided government will not risk tanking the world economy, says Congress will once again raise the amount of debt the country can pile up to ensure it has money to pay its bills. For the first time, though, he signaled that he will have to go along with more spending cuts to ensure a deal with Republicans.

In an interview Friday with The Associated Press, the president also spoke in his most confident terms yet that voters will reward him with another four years in the White House for his work to turn around the economy. Speaking from his hometown and the site of his newly launched re-election bid, Obama said he thinks voters will determine he is the best prepared person "to finish the job."

On America's wars, he said that a significant number of troops would begin coming home from Afghanistan in July despite many expectations that the withdrawal would be modest. He said the U.S. would not expand its military role to end a bloody stalemate in Libya but insisted that Moammar Gadhafi would, in time, be forced from power.

Appearing rejuvenated from spending time and raising some political cash in his hometown, Obama was just a week removed from a marathon showdown with House Republicans that almost led to a government shutdown. He signed the budget bill to avoid the embarrassing stoppage of government services when he got back to the White House later on Friday.

As Washington's political leaders scramble to show leadership on the suddenly consuming debt debate, Obama made sure in the interview to promote his long-term plan to cut trillions of dollars as the fairer, more compassionate alternative to a Republican plan that surged to party-line passage Friday afternoon in the House. Yet it was his comments on the debt limit - an issue the White House has labored to keep separate from the broader discussion on how to rein in spending - that altered the course of the conversation.

The government is nearing its borrowing limit of $14.3 trillion and risks going into a crippling default.

Seizing on public frustration about spending, House Republicans say they won't lift the debt cap without more cuts.

Obama told the AP without doubt: "We will raise the debt limit. We always have. We will do it again."

He warned that anything less would undermine the solvency of the government, roil financial markets and potentially "plunge the world economy back into a recession." Yet when pressed on how the stalemate with House Speaker John Boehner would end, Obama said: "I think he's absolutely right that it's not going to happen without some spending cuts."

The president spoke in the context of his goal that Democratic and Republican lawmakers can agree on a framework for long-term deficit reduction within the next couple of months. That falls within about the same time frame that Congress will need to vote to lift the debt ceiling. The administration says the latest Congress could act on that is by early July.

Asked if he thought the perilous stakes alone would cause Republicans to give in, Obama said: "Well, no, I don't expect the Republicans to give in and I get 100 percent of my way, and I don't expect that we're going to give 100 percent of what the Republicans want. I think what we want to do is make sure that we have a smart compromise that is serious."

A Boehner spokesman, Brendan Buck, welcomed Obama's willingness to connect the debt limit to broader reductions in spending, saying that is what the American people want. "It's encouraging he may now be getting that message," Buck said.

Later, Obama spokesman Jay Carney sought to pull back a bit on the president's remarks. Carney said Obama was acknowledging that more deficit cuts are needed but insists the debt ceiling vote cannot be contingent on upcoming negotiations.

In the 25-minute interview, Obama underlined his vision and re-election campaign message about the country's path. He said he shares the Republicans' desire for fiscal restraint but stands alone in protecting the social compacts and priorities of a nation. Elaborating on his description of a Republican "pessimistic vision," he said: "It's one that says that America can no longer do some of the big things that made us great, that made us the envy of the world."

On Afghanistan, where the United States has 100,000 troops, Obama offered a somewhat aggressive assessment of the scope of the troop withdrawal that is to begin as he promised in July. The goal is to transfer responsibility to Afghan forces.

Without estimating a number of U.S. troops who will return, Obama said, "I'm confident that the withdrawal will be significant. People will say this is a real process of transition; this is not just a token gesture."

The president's stance on Libya comes as Gadhafi's troops have relentlessly attacked rebel positions as part of a deadlocked internal war sparked two months ago. The international community intervened with airstrikes a month ago, but the U.S. recently stepped back into a support role and questions abound about the mission's success.

"I'm actually very impressed with the performance of NATO so far," Obama said in rejecting any increased U.S. role.

The president himself described the conflict as a stalemate on the ground but said Gadhafi is being "squeezed."

"He's running out of money. He is running out of supplies," Obama said. "The noose is tightening, and he is becoming more and more isolated. And my expectation is, is that if we continue to apply that pressure and continue to protect civilians, which NATO is doing very capably, then I think over the long term, Gadhafi will go and we will be successful."

On terrorism, the president declined to guarantee that the Guantanamo Bay prison camp for terrorist suspects would close during his presidency. He had once promised to shut the Navy-run facility in Cuba within a year of taking over the job.

He conceded he does not have the support of Congress on that issue and has not been able to overcome fears of bringing some detainees into the United States for trial. "It's my job to give people some assurance that we can handle this effectively, and obviously I haven't been able to make the case right now," he said. "That doesn't mean I stop making the case."

To win a second term, Obama must convince a nation still saddled with high joblessness and a fragile economic recovery that he has overseen a period of progress - and that more is on the way. Obama said he's got a record he can sell: Wall Street regulation, a health care insurance overhaul and efforts to make college more affordable.

"I think I'm going to be able to make an effective case," he said. The president said that it has been under his watch that the country went from a staggering recession into steady progress and that "I have been able to yank this economy out of that hole and get it back on a track to growth."

The 2012 presidential race is the first in which the tea party coalition, which decries the growth of government and assails much of the Obama presidency, will play a major role. The president took an upbeat role of such a movement: "Anytime the American people are actively engaged in the political process, it's good."

One hundred and seventy metres of red, white and blue bunting. A stack of sponge cakes. Two hundred Union Jack paper plates. Forty flags, 22 good-natured cricket players, several men in morning suits and monocles, one bingo-caller and far too many plastic hats to count. Freddie Lancaster says there is no reason to quantify the value of the royal wedding to British society and its economy, but he knows he has to get the numbers right for his South London street party on April 29.

Lancaster, associate director of London group Tea House Theatre, is one of 4000 organisers of parties planned in Britain to celebrate the nuptials of Prince William to Kate Middleton (pictured right). On face value, 4000 might sound like a lot, but given Britain's population of 62 million and the tens of thousands of parties held for the marriage of Prince Charles to Diana Spencer in 1981, it was considered low enough for PM David Cameron to urge the nation to make merry: ''My message to everyone who wants to have a street party is: I'm having one and I want you to go ahead and have one too,'' he said this week.

Could it be that most Britons are not bothered about the marriage of the second in line to the throne, particularly at this time of economic insecurity?

Graham Smith, the campaign manager of Republic, the anti-monarchy organisation, says Britons are, very wisely, not getting behind the event because they know that the royal family is a political institution, with power exercised in the Queen's name ''by men in grey suits''.

''The scale of the wedding is a PR exercise to promote their institution. It's not a national celebration, it's a royal celebration, and it is going to cost the taxpayer many millions of pounds at a time when we're making teachers and nurses redundant. It will also cost the economy billions of pounds in terms of having the day off.''

Smith is no party pooper, though: Republic is holding its own anti-wedding party on April 29. But the group has had to battle Camden Council, which initially approved its permit application for the central London event, then revoked it after opposition from local businesses - some of whom are selling royal wedding merchandise, though probably not the Will and Kate sick-bags that are on the market.

Lancaster says of Smith: ''Gosh, he's a miserable man. That's a fascinatingly limited point of view … It's a bit disingenuous to say the royal wedding is a PR exercise on behalf of the royal family. It's about time William got married; it was going to happen at some point. Because more people care about the royal family than don't, people are going to celebrate.''

The William and Kate fever that is taking hold appears restricted to the southern parts of the country: more than 500 parties are planned for London, but Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle have only 28 planned between them. Glasgow's has been cancelled owing to lack of interest.

While the average Brit may be more concerned with the rising cost of living or job security, the media, bereft of major news since William and Kate's final pre-wedding appearance on Tuesday, have begun focusing on minutiae.

In case you missed it, Middleton has re-sized her engagement ring - the diamond and sapphire sparkler that previously sat on Princess Diana's finger. We know a little more of the invitees: among those who have made the cut are Middleton's notorious cocaine-loving uncle, Gary Goldsmith, as well as the North Korean ambassador and six of the couple's exes. The bride's mother lost 1.8 kilograms in four days on the Dukan diet.

The already lithe Kate has become noticeably thinner in recent weeks, with many commentators expressing concern. Given Diana's renowned eating issues, this promises to be an enduring focus.

While Brits have not yet made the wedding a national cause, their cousins across the pond appear to have embraced it. The Americans made William and Kate: The Movie (which was described by one critic as ''the naffest royal movie ever made'').

Vogue has shot three separate bridal covers in honour of the blushing bride. Middleton's sartorial style has attracted comparisons to Jackie Onassis and Michelle Obama, and of course, the wedding would not be the same without the presence of American TV royalty: Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer are both flying over to cover the event.

Public apathy isn't stopping those with a commercial interest from exploiting the festivities: fancy ''glamping'' on Clapham Common with hundreds of other revellers over the royal wedding weekend? Well you can, with prices for the deluxe tents starting at £3500 ($A5400).

The London Eye has launched a promotion giving a free ride and champagne for married couples called William and Kate. And in perhaps the biggest act of faith, the erstwhile king of British pop, George Michael, is probably hoping that a tribute song he is recording for the royal couple will kickstart a career hampered by incidents in toilets and bushes and a number of drug-fuelled car crashes.

When you look back on it now, Chris Bosh wonders what all the fuss was about.

His team, the Miami Heat – with a victory Wednesday night against the injury-ravaged Toronto Raptors – would finish the season with a record of 58-24.

No matter how you cut it, that qualifies as a pretty decent National Basketball Association season.

“I mean, every loss we had was magnified,” Bosh said from the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday. “We had tons of big games and we had a lot of teams that were really up and ready to play us. Sometimes we were ready for it, sometimes we weren’t.

“But it’s been a learning experience. I know a lot of people will try to downplay what we did. But at the end of the day in our first year together we got the No. 2 seed in the East and I think that’s what’s important.”

Bosh, of course, is referring to the off-season migration to Miami of himself and LeBron James to join forces with Dwyane Wade to form what many believe would be an unstoppable force.

It may yet turn out that way with the NBA playoffs scheduled to begin later this week where the Heat, led by their three amigos, will be among the favoured teams to chase down the title.

Miami will start against the Philadelphia 76ers in a best-of-seven opening-round matchup.

It took a while once the season started for the hyped Heat to get going.

The Heat lost their opening game of the season, 88-80, to the Boston Celtics to ensure that they wouldn’t go 82-0 on the year.

After 15 games, Miami’s record was only 8-7 and many were starting to suggest the juggernaut was not so powerful.

Going 49-17 over their next 66 games has kind of put a damper on that argument.

Bosh was only one of three Heat players – and the only regular – who attended an optional practice at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday.

He was asked if there was one moment when he realized how magnified everything was going to be for the Heat this season?

“Yeah, the first game,” the former Raptors said without hesitation. “Soon as we started. I mean it was our first game together and we’re in Boston on national TV. There’s no time to build, there’s no time to do anything. It’s just boom, right away.

“And we had all these expectations. And to be honest, I mean, just to be able to compete was good enough for us.”

Bosh said the Heat had to come together “under the microscope” and that experience should benefit the team heading into the pressure cooker that is the NBA playoffs.

The official Xinhua News Agency cited Zhou Xiaochuan as saying on Friday that the exchange rate of China’s yuan will be made "more flexible," but in a "step—by—step" way.

China’s central bank governor has renewed promises to ease controversial currency controls, but says change will be gradual.

The official Xinhua News Agency cited Zhou Xiaochuan as saying on Friday that the exchange rate of China’s yuan will be made “more flexible,” but in a “step—by—step” way.

Washington and other governments complain China keeps the yuan undervalued, giving its exporters an unfair price advantage and swelling its huge trade surplus.

Beijing made a similar pledge of more flexibility in June, but the U.S. government says the increase in the yuan’s value since then has been too slow.
China's runaway growth was even stronger than expected at the start of this year, official figures showed, stoking fears about overheating as inflation rocketed to a 32-month high.

Gross domestic product (GDP) grew 9.7pc year-on-year in the first three months of 2011, just off the 9.8pc seen the previous quarter and confounding forecasts of an easing to 9.4pc. Quarter-on-quarter, growth was 2.1pc.

The downside of the surging growth is prices are rising too fast. Despite efforts from Beijing to curb the country's credit boom - raising interest rates four times since October - inflation showed no signs of easing as it reached 5.4pc in March from February's 4.9pc.

Food prices were up 11.7pc on the previous year, which is making Beijing particularly worried about social unrest.

"The government cannot seem to slow the economy down," said Alistair Thornton, an economist at IHS Global Insight. India also reported a higher-than-expected inflation yesterday, at just under 9pc in the year to March.

The strong growth of China, India and other newer economic powers is driving the cost of oil, grain and other commodities upwards, translating into mounting price pressure in those economies and elsewhere in the world. The US inflation rate yesterday came in at its strongest in over a year, just off 2.7pc.

Mounting inflation pressures raise the prospect of steeper tightening measures from authorities to rein in prices, which would drag on growth around the world.

The Chinese figures also marked the fifth time in six months that the inflation number was widely reported ahead of its official released.

China's National Bureau of Statistics said it condemned "any leak", but data on prices keeps appearing early as it is highly prized by markets.

The UK's Office for National Statistics this week saw rumours surround its own March inflation figure, after talk among traders anticipated a shock fall to 4pc. A spokesman said there was "no evidence of a leak.
ANDREW LANSLEY, the UK Government’s Health Secretary’s future is not looking very healthy. He avoided the fate of Patricia Hewitt, one of his Labour predecessors, of being booed at the Royal College of Nursing’s Annual Conference. He wanted to avoid the disaster that befell Tony Blair at the WI Conference too! The problem is the NHS Reforms handing control of the bulk of the NHS budget in England to GP practice groups.

GPs are independent contractors paid by the NHS to do family doctoring. Paying them to buy hospital services is a big stretch. The problem lies with this wondrously vague term “commissioning”. What does it mean? Is it a form of competitive tendering for which hospital will do 500 cataract ops and 300 hip replacement ops cheaper than the next hospital, or does it mean planning the services for the improvement of the general health and well-being of the population living in the area?

We’ve been through all this in Wales with the Local Health Boards (LHBs). Some, like the Rhondda Cynon Taf LHB did a brilliant job, providing innovations in preventative healthcare.

Others like the Cardiff LHB got into awful difficulties with contracting competitively for out-of-hours care.

The English dilemma is whether to create hundreds of mini-quangos to plan healthcare or outsourcing everything to independent contractors with no responsibility to Parliament for the spending of vast sums of taxpayers’ money?

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Sebastian Vettel finished top of the timesheets for the third practice session in a row as the world champion continued to boss his rivals ahead of Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.

The German's best time of one minute 34.968 seconds maintained his perfect form in Shanghai after finishing top of both free practice sessions on Friday.

McLaren were again Vettel's nearest challengers, but try as they might Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton again found themselves unable to pull out those few tenths of a second that would usurp their rival.

Button got the better of Hamilton, who went off at turn one while pushing too hard towards the end of the session, to take second place, 0.208secs down on Vettel, while his team-mate took third, another two tenths back.

There was more woe for Vettel's team-mate, however, the hapless Mark Webber suffering a troubled session to finish down in 15th.

The Australian has failed to match the form which has brought Vettel two wins out of two this season, finishing fifth in Australia and fourth in Malaysia last weekend.

Webber had hoped for better this weekend, but an apparent issue with his car's KERS turbo-boost - the same problem which affected his race in Malaysia - limited him to just one flying lap. He walked disconsolately away from his car with four minutes of the session remaining, and his mechanics have a job on their hands to remedy the problem in time for qualifying later on Saturday.

The session was run in much cooler temperatures and without the smog which was so much a feature of Friday's action.