Society's Child


A smoking ban in all related companies rentals

In a move that may enrage those who enjoy a cigarette on their couch after work, but delight air-freshener-wielding neighbors, a major landlord has banned smoking in all of its apartments across the country.

As of this month, the Related Companies has decided that tenants can no longer light up in the 40,000 rental units it owns or manages. The edict, which builds on an effort that began for Related with a handful of its New York buildings in 2009, is meant to create healthier living conditions, company officials said.

© Tony Cenicola/The New York Times
Those already renting from Related can light up until their leases expire, but new tenants must sign a contract promising not to smoke, even inside their own units.
It also seems likely to create controversy. Where past efforts against smoking have focused on public gathering places - like bars, stadiums and courthouses - Related is now trying to prohibit legal private behavior.

Not that smokers will get kicked to the curb right away. New tenants must sign a contract promising not to smoke anywhere in the building, including their private terraces or balconies. If they break the rules, they can be evicted. But those already renting will not face the same fate until after they renew their leases and sign the no-smoking contract. With a turnover rate of 10,000 a year, Related's apartments could conceivably be smoke-free in a few years' time.

Critics point out that tenants could always lie about their habit, and hide it successfully. Also, it can be very difficult to evict tenants - especially those whose rents are regulated, as they have strong protections and guaranteed lease renewals.

Central Texas dog shot by police officer after warrant mix-up

Liberty Hill -- Vinny is German Shepherd with a bullet wound on the back of his neck. On Monday, a Leander police officer shot Vinny when he says the dog and another German Sheppard came running at him while trying to serve a warrant.

"He said they were growling, and closing distance very quickly," said Lt. Derral Partin, a spokesperson for Leander Police.

However, Vinny's owners Renata and Chris Simmons, say Vinny has never acted aggressively.

"This dog wasn't after him. This dog was just running up going 'hey what are you doing?' and they have a right to do that. This is my yard; this man should not have even been there. He could have killed my husband's best friend," said Renata Simmons.

Dotcom 'in tears' after Megaupload files deleted

kim dotcom, megaupload, mega
© Associated Press/New Zealand Herald/Richard Robinson
In this Jan. 20, 2013 file photo, Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom practices a speech before the launch of a new file-sharing website called "Mega" at his Coatesville mansion in Auckland, New Zealand.
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom said Thursday he was "in tears" after a European company deleted all the data it was hosting from his shuttered file-sharing site.

Netherlands-based LeaseWeb announced it had deleted all Megaupload files from 630 servers.

LeaseWeb said in a statement it hosted the data for over a year at its own expense without receiving any requests to access it or retain it before deciding the time had come to use the servers for other purposes.

But Dotcom said in a series of Twitter posts that his lawyers repeatedly asked LeaseWeb to keep the data pending U.S. court proceedings.

Dotcom said that millions of users' personal files had been lost in the "largest data massacre in the history of the Internet."
Che Guevara

Turkish 'standing' man inspires hundreds with silent vigil in Taksim Square

standing man
© Vassil Donev/EPA
Erdem Gunduz stands in Taksim Square during a 'duranadam', or standing man protest, in Istanbul.
Erdem Gunduz - dubbed 'standing man' - stages eight-hour vigil and is joined by 300 people during silent protest

A Turkish man has staged an eight-hour silent vigil in Istanbul's Taksim Square, the scene of violent clashes between police and anti-government protesters in recent weeks, inspiring hundreds of others to follow his lead.

Erdem Gunduz said he wanted to take a stand against police stopping demonstrations near the square, the Dogan news agency reported.

He stood silently, facing the Ataturk Cultural Centre which was draped in Turkish flags and a portrait of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, from 6pm on Monday.

Update: Thousands evacuated after explosions at Russian munitions depot storing 13 million shells, with 1,500 firefighters sent to tackle the blaze

More than 6,000 people were evacuated after explosions rocked a Russian munitions depot last night where up to 13million shells are stored. At least 30 people were injured when the shells exploded, causing huge blasts at the Chapaevsk military depot in the Samara region.

Reports from Russia said about 1,500 firefighters were sent to tackle the blaze and residents were evacuated from the nearby village of Nagorny, about 15km from the city of Chapaevsk.

More than 6,000 people had to be evacuated after the huge blasts at Chapaevsk military depot

Comment: Flashback: 4,000 tons of shells explode in Central Russia, leave mushroom cloud-like plume of smoke, evacuations - controversy surrounding the explosions


41 wounded, 7 dead in Chicago weekend shootings

In one of the most violent weekends Chicago has seen since the temperature has risen, seven people were shot dead and at at over 40 were wounded in incidents, police said.

Overnight from Saturday into Father's Day, six were killed and 13 other shootings happened across the city.

The bleak news comes after Chicago experienced a 34 percent drop in murders compared with last year this period, a rate the city hadn't seen since the 1960s.

A series of deadly shootings

On Friday, the weekend's first fatality happened at 11:34 p.m. on the West Side of Chicago. Police said two men were shot during a "dispute," according to NBC Chicago. A 24-year-old man was taken to Loyola University Medical Center and later pronounced dead, police said. According to reports, the other man, a 23-year-old, suffered a gunshot wound to the stomach and was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital.

On Saturday, 21-year-old Ricardo Herrera was shot and killed at about 10:50 p.m. when two others were wounded in the Little Village neighborhood on the Southwest Side of Chicago, police said.

Later that night at 11:45 p.m., police said a 16-year-old boy was shot by a gunman who rode on a bicycle on the West Side of the city. According to reports, he tried to escape, but collapsed steps away from where he was shot. The boy sustained gunshot wounds to the back and arm, police said. He was pronounced dead at 1:37 a.m. at Illinois Masonic Medical Center. Police said Sunday the teen had gang affiliations, according to NBC Chicago, and although his death was ruled a homicide, police said no one was in custody as of Sunday morning.

Four hospitalized amid explosions at military range in Samara region

Five artillery projectiles exploded at a range near Chapayevsk, the Samara region, at about 7:30 p.m. Moscow time.

Two fire trains were sent to the scene, and Defense Ministry and Emergency Situations Ministry special hardware has also been engaged in dealing with the emergency situation.

Samara regional police spokesman Sergei Goldstein said there were about 13 million rounds of ammunition at the range depot. The range had been cordoned off, and roads leading to it blocked, he said.

Four people have been injured in explosions of projectiles at a range in Chapayevsk, the Samara region, a Samara medical source told Interfax.
Chart Pie

Debt-burdened poor students subsidize multibillion-dollar college sports

Student loans have eclipsed credit cards as the number one cause of debt, but it might come as a surprise to struggling students that part of their college tuition is subsidizing the multibillion-dollar world of college sports.

According to research by Jeff Smith at the University of South Carolina Upstate, 227 public colleges at the NCAA Division 1 level made more than $2 billion in athletic fees from students during the 2010-2011 school year.

Ironically, the colleges and universities with the higher percentages of poorer students (with large debt) are the institutions charging the highest "student fees" for sports.

All students have to bear the burden of college athletic programs, but few actually benefit. Critics say this creates a "regressive tax" on low income students.

Not Brave: Melissa Etheridge calls Angelina Jolie's double mastectomy 'most fearful' choice

Melissa Etheridge
© Christopher Polk/Getty Images
Melissa Etheridge performs on stage at Deer Valley Celebrity Skifest at the Montage Deer Valley on December 8, 2012 in Park City, Utah.
In case you've been completely unplugged and are just tuning in now, Angelina Jolie revealed last month that she had a preventative double mastectomy. The controversial procedure nearly broke the Internet, with supporters applauding her bravery and others scorning American healthcare. Her husband Brad Pitt called her choice "absolutely heroic," but not everyone in Hollywood is as in awe of the actress - notably breast cancer survivor Melissa Etheridge.

During a recent interview with the Washington Blade, the 52-year-old rocker was asked her opinion on Jolie's double mastectomy, and her sentiments did not echo those of other celebrities who lauded the 38-year-old mother of six. Etheridge said, "I wouldn't call it the brave choice." She added, "I actually think it's the most fearful choice you can make when confronting anything with cancer."

Bank of America employee bonus for illegal foreclosure: checks, lies and bankster red tape

bank of america
© Pranav Bhatt
Surprise, surprise.

Just when we thought the big banks couldn't hit a new low, they do.

Six former employees of Bank of America have come forward, alleging that the big bank intentionally denied eligible homeowners mortgage loan modifications, and lied to those homeowners about the status of their mortgage payments and documents.

Bank of America allegedly used these dirty tactics to lead homeowners into foreclosures and in-house loan modifications, both of which helped reap massive profits for BOA's bottom-line.

The employees who have come forward have also said that the big bank rewarded customer service representatives with hefty cash bonuses and gift cards to popular stores when they foreclosed on homes.

According to a lawsuit filed in federal court, a Bank of America employee who placed ten or more mortgage accounts into foreclosure a month could get up to a $500 bonus.