Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Here's what happens when you add Morgan Freeman's narration for March of the Penguins to American Juggalo.
Average rents across the nation increased by 6.3 percent over the past year, and are currently peaking at £862 (US$1,464) per month, according to the HomeLet Rental Index. HomeLet, a specialist insurer and tenancy referencing firm, provides comprehensive and current data on new tenancies throughout the UK.
According to the company’s report, London-based tenants face rental prices of £1, 412 ($2,398) per month on average, in contrast to a much more affordable £694 ($1,178) outside the capital.
Londoners have seen rental prices soar in the past year by approximately 11.2 percent, the index reveals. This stark rise eclipses what is considered affordable by experts, compounding widespread fear of a London-centered cost of living crisis.
The UK’s North East and Scotland were the only UK regions to experience moderate decreases in rental prices – demonstrating yearly declines of 2.4 percent and 3.8 percent respectively.
Monthly rental prices in Scotland average at £578 ($981), while the North East's tenants pay approximately £507 per calender month ($861).
Martin Totty, the chief executive of HomeLet's parent company, emphasized that Britain’s private rental market continues to demonstrate “strong growth,” and is characterized by a state-wide trend of increased rental costs with very little exceptions.
But while average incomes in the UK are rising, affordability with respect to private renting is becoming a problem for some, he admits.
"As a rule of thumb, for a rental property to be affordable, a tenant's gross income must be at least two-and-a-half times his or her annual rent,” according to Totty. HomeLet’s “data shows that rents in London have pushed beyond that boundary, with the South East and South West of England close behind,” he cautioned.
But the minister of state for housing and planning, Brandon Lewis, dismissed HomeLet’s research, claiming the firm’s data is misleading.
"Contrary to this limited survey, figures from the Office for National Statistics clearly show private rents falling in real terms – while inflation currently stands at 1.9 per cent, nationally rents have risen by just 1 percent,” he argued.
On the subject of tackling an over-inflated rental market in the UK, Lewis suggested “building more rented housing.” He added that “excessive red tape” will only drive rental costs upwards while reducing choice for prospective tenants.
For this reason, the government is currently “investing £1 billion ($1.6 billion)” in a “Build to Rent fund, which is on track to have work started on 10,000 newly built homes specifically for private rent,” according to Lewis.
Lewis announced an array of other planned measures designed to address the over-heated rental market in Britain. Among the proposed policies is a newly published, government-backed 'How to Rent' guide, which breaks down the complex realm of tenancy rights for those who wish to rent privately in the UK.
— LondonLovesBusiness (@LondonLovesBiz) July 28, 2014
But whether such policy prescriptions can adequately address the starkly inflated rental prices in Britain’s capital remains to be seen.
Broadly accepted poverty indicators suggest that a household’s net income should be two-and-a-half times the figure allocated to housing costs. Yet according to HomeLet’s research, most tenants across Greater London channel over half their earnings into rent alone.
As violent confrontation in the Gaza Strip continues, with the Palestinian death toll already exceeding 1,000 and Israeli deaths being over 50, another battle has broken out on social networks.
Supporters and opponents of both sides have been flooding Facebook, Twitter and YouTube with emotional posts, photos and videos and have even launched a campaign urging an end to the war.
However, being too emotional in the expression of feelings online has cost several people their jobs and scholarship, according to Haaretz.com.
The Israeli newspaper writes that a growing number of pages on Facebook are reporting on users who share their happiness over the IDF casualties in the conflict, or harshly criticize operation Protective Edge and are demanding that these people should be fired. These online communities – including “Boycott Haters of Israel,” “Fifth Column in Israel” - appear to be extremely popular, having received up to “tens of thousands” of “Likes.”
As an example, the paper refers to a story of an Arab female student at Hadassah College in Jerusalem, who lost her scholarship following a post on Facebook.
“We read your post with shock and disgust,” College President Berthold Friedland wrote to her. “Until clarifications are completed and the police deal with it, the college management has decided to prohibit you from entering the campus for any reason, academic or other,” Friedland added, as cited by Haaretz.
Administrations at other educational establishments warned their students and staff against any “extremist and inappropriate statements” on social networks, threatening disciplinary punishment or even police action. The warning triggered a protest at Tel Aviv University, where 30 faculty members signed a letter against the move.
In a separate case, an Israeli supermarket chain, Tiv Ta’am, said it fired an employee for being joyful over the death of Israelis in the conflict. That followed a report on a Facebook page “Concentration of Destroyers of Israel,” according to Haaretz. Similar comments also resulted in dismissal for a psychological counsellor, Isra Gara of Jatt at the Lod municipality.
Employees of several other companies, including Israel's largest telecommunications company Cellcom, were summoned for clarifications after making unacceptable statements on social networks, the paper wrote.
Criminal Prosecution Rates For Corporate Environmental Crimes Near Zero. Grappling with a shrinking budget and limited manpower, the EPA pursues criminal charges in “fewer than one-half of one percent” of total legal violations. “More than 64,000 facilities are currently listed in agency databases as being in violation of federal environmental laws, but in most years, fewer than one-half of one percent of violations trigger criminal investigations,” according to a new investigation from the Crime Report, a publication of the Center on Media, Crime and Justice at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York...Topic(s):
On Sunday, the retired Texas lawmaker wrote on the website for the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity that “CIA covert actions across the globe have led to destruction of countries and societies and unprecedented resentment toward the United States.”
“For our own safety, end the CIA!” urged Paul, who served nearly three decades in Congress and thrice ran unsuccessfully for president before retiring early last year.
Even though the US government has largely curbed the CIA’s sordid use of torture tactics, Paul writes that a recent decision from across the pond should serve as a reminder that the agency should once and for all be laid to rest.
“Last week the European Court of Human Rights found that the US government transferred individuals to secret detention centers in Poland (and likely elsewhere) where they were tortured away from public scrutiny. The government of Poland was ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to two victims for doing nothing to stop their torture on Polish soil,” Paul wrote.
According to Paul, the court’s decision marks the first time ever that any European body like it has connected an EU nation to US torture practices. Regardless, he writes, the “Obama administration refuses to admit that such facilities existed and instead claims that any such ‘enhanced interrogation’ programs were shut down by 2009.”
“We can only hope this is true, but we should be wary of government promises. After all, they promised us all along that they were not using torture, and we might have never known had photographs and other information not been leaked to the press,” Paul added.
Transparency is again an issue, he adds, as Americans continue to wait for the eventual release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s torture program, the likes of which has been stalled for years and momentarily sparked a Department of Justice investigation into alleged wrongdoing on behalf of both the legislative and executive branches.
“Meanwhile, former CIA director George Tenet and other senior current and former CIA officials are said to be frantically attempting to prepare a response to a planned release of an unclassified version of a 6,500 page Senate Intelligence Committee study on the torture practices of that agency. The CIA was already caught tapping into the computers of Senate investigators last year, looking to see what information might be contained in the report. Those who have seen the report have commented that it details far more brutal CIA practices that have been revealed to this point,” insists Paul, giving him all the more reason to call for the abolishing of one of the American government’s most secret agencies.
Of course, the CIA isn’t the only US entity that has earned the ire of the former congressman. On top of years of campaigning to end the Federal Reserve, Paul has previously called for ending the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Transportation Security Administration.
Viewing the case, filed by shareholders of former Russian oil giant Yukos against the Russian government, was not in the jurisdiction of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in the Hague, as Russia has not ratified the Energy Charter Treaty, the ministry said on Monday.
The statement, following the court’s sensational Monday ruling that ordered Russia to pay $50 billion in damages, also provided a detailed list of issues, which, according to the ministry, make the decision “opportunistic” and “politically biased.”
First of all, The Hague court ignored the previous decisions of the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which in September 2011 ruled that the Russian authorities had carried out “legitimate” and not politically motivated actions against Yukos “to counter the company’s tax evasion,” the ministry noted. The ruling contradicted Yukos shareholders’ claims that the company’s assets were purposefully expropriated by Moscow.
The Russian Finance Ministry meanwhile blasted the arbitration ruling as based on “one-sided investigation with one-sided application of evidence.”
The Hague court in effect reviewed the decisions of Russian courts on Yukos “as if the arbitration court was an additional authority for appealing the court orders,” the ministry said. It has made “theoretical speculations not supported by evidence” over the motivation of the Russian authorities’ actions in the case of Yukos, it added.
The international body failed to note that the people who controlled Yukos, including the oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky released from jail in December, were apparently aware of financial machinations aimed at a mass-scale tax evasion in favor of the company, the ministry stressed. The tax evasion scheme, which involved the creation of numerous bogus companies, was not properly considered in the court.
The arbitration court went as far as to judge “what Russian tax legislation should be like” as opposed to what it required in reality, the ministry said. The court refused to pass several controversial issues on taxes for review by Russian, UK or Cyprus competent authorities despite relying on the Energy Charter Treaty that outlines a need for such reviews, it added.
While in effect saying The Hague court decision was not legally binging for Moscow, the ministry added that “the Russian Federation will challenge the arbitration court’s decisions in the courts of the Netherlands.”
According to the ministry, “the arbitration court failed to approach the adjudication with common sense, which is required from the judges in such situations,” which resulted in an unobjective and biased decision.
“Such an approach undermines the authority of the Arbitration court and the Energy Charter Treaty, which are being applied in increasingly politicized manner and, as in this case, have become the objects of abuse on behalf of domestic investors trying to evade taxes,” the ministry said.
ECHR is expected to announce a fresh decision on Yukos’ multi-billion dollar claim against Russia on Thursday, as the defunct company’s shareholders have filed a separate application with the Strasbourg court, Reuters reported.
I’m always amazed when one of my daughter’s friends comes to me and says she’s bored. As if I’m supposed to put on a pair of tap shoes and dance a jig for her. My daughter knows better than to say the B-word, but I can always tell when she’s at a loss for something to do by the way she lies limply across the arm of the couch, her head dangling towards the floor, her voice depleted of emotion. Next time this happens I will suggest Unbored (which, when she picked it up for the first time yesterday, didn’t put it down for almost an hour).
A collection of inspiring activities, projects, and articles on freeing up your creativity (by the authors as well as many other DIY experts, including an introduction by my husband Mark), Unbored offers a zillion ways to keep busy, stay engaged, and connect with the outside world. Start a band, make a zine, teach “your grown-ups” how to geocache, trick your friends into saving the planet, tell your politicians what you think, build a backyard fort, make a pet robot controller… The book is fun, instructional, edgy (create different colors of fire, take an adventurous gap year between high school and college, spray paint your bedroom walls, read banned books), and has insightful lessons on how to engage with life rather than allowing life to pass by like a boring television commercial. And as a parent, it’s nice to be reminded not to fall into the trap of smothering helicopter parenting, passive parenting (screens!), over-scheduled parenting, and all the other pitfalls of modern life that turn our kids into lethargic, helpless, unthinking slugs. Unbored belongs in every kid’s – and parent’s – library. Read the rest
The defense team says photographs of eight empty shell casings for an AK-47, used by both insurgents and Iraqi security forces, taken by a US Army captain were only supplied by federal prosecutors on Wednesday.
The evidence could turn out to be favorable for the defense, the attorneys said, as the security guards of the notorious security firm - now known as Academi - say they fired in the crowded square on Sept. 16, 2007 only after being fired upon by insurgents.
"The government has suppressed, for seven years, evidence in its possession that is plainly exculpatory on the central disputed issue" in the case, defense lawyers argued in a court filing, according to AP.
"Had they possessed these photos, defendants would have made them a central focus during opening statements as evidence of incoming fire. Defendants also would have used this evidence to cross-examine at least four witnesses who have already testified" and who are not liable for a recall to testify, as they have returned to Iraq.
The US is currently trying to prosecute four of the five guards involved in the incident after a first failed attempt to do so in 2009. The latest trial began over a month ago.
The defense now wants the ability to explain to jurors the context of the new evidence and why prosecutors did not offer it earlier. Lawyers for the guards say the shell casings contradict the prosecutors’ claim that no evidence of incoming fire was found at the scene.
The court filing says the crime scene photos were taken by Army Capt. Peter Decareau, one of the first Americans to visit Nisour Square after the shootings. which also injured 20. Decareau gave the FBI a CD of the photos on Oct. 12, 2007.
The defense attorneys claim prosecutors in 2008 and 2009 "withheld Decareau's photographs of the AK-47 shells." The government gave the defense over 3,700 photos of the Nisour Square crime scene on Feb. 13, 2009.
"Despite specifically identifying ... a series of 'U.S. Army photos of crime scene,' this production did not include Decareau's photographs of the AK-47 casings at the bus stop," the defense court filing says. "The original trial team produced additional photographs on July 27, 2009, but again did not produce the photos of the AK-47 casings."
The attorneys added that "it appears that the current trial team of prosecutors only recently learned of these photos, and that they turned them over promptly."
The eight AK-47 shells have disappeared, as neither the State Department nor the FBI recovered them.
"The physical evidence possessed by the FBI does not include the AK-47 shells photographed at the bus stop by Decareau," the court filing states. "Decareau's photographs are the only evidence of those AK-47 shells at the bus stop immediately after the incident."
The defense lawyers say it’s possible that Iraqi authorities confiscated the shell casings.
"Notably, photographs taken Sept. 16, 2007, show many Iraqi officials at the bus stop," the court filing suggests. "Decareau advised the FBI during his October 2007 interview that he observed" that Iraqi Army General Baja took several items from the scene."
The defense says the new evidence could have come to light earlier, including instances in 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, and earlier this year, but it did not.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.