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Wed, 08 Dec 2021
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Crowded Earth: Where is everyone going to live?

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60 million people every year are heading into the cities -- and the UN estimates the trend is going to continue until 85% of the whole population end up living in the cities. We explored some of the strange things happening on earth in our cities.

Footprints

Who are the Taliban?

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© Ghaith Abdul Ahad
The Taliban are one of the most reviled, controversial, and arguably misunderstood, political movements in history.

So we decided to take a look at exactly where the Taliban came from, how they got into power in Afghanistan -- and then got removed by the United States five years later -- and why they have proved themselves to be such a formidable fighting force.

And a huge headache for the US.

Dollars

Good news: You got probation, not jail. Bad news: You're going to jail anyway

private probation
© Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Private probation companies strap low-income offenders with endless penalties and fees.


Clifford Hayes was destitute. Then his nightmare began: dealing with offender-funded probation.

Like many convicts, Hayes is poor, and he was sentenced to probation overseen by private companies who charge their fees directly to offenders.

On paper, that might sound like a good way to allow states to reduce costs. But in reality, the policy has gotten in the way of many convicts' rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

Last year, Hayes sought clearance at a police station to enter a homeless shelter in Augusta, Ga. Instead, he was arrested on an outstanding warrant for failure to comply with the terms of his probation (for DUI and minor traffic violation convictions from several years earlier). That mainly included his failure to pay more than $2,000 in fines and probation fees that had accumulated over years - fees that the then-homeless man, now living on disability benefits, still cannot afford to pay. Eventually he ended up behind bars - precisely the punishment that probation is meant to avoid.

Newspaper

Woman beaten by sheriff in Alberta, Canada

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© Simona Tibu
The sheriff smashed Simona Tibu's head onto the pavement, soaking her in blood. Two weeks later, the sheriff filed charges against Tibu for assault and resisting arrest.
Simona Tibu was beaten within an inch of her life after a routine traffic stop. This Camrose dentist, says that the assault occurred after she was driving home from work, and was pulled over by an Alberta sheriff for speeding. She has now launched a formal plea to see charges filed against the officer.

Tibu represented herself in a Wetaskwin court hearing on January 30, presenting her case to a judge regarding the August 3 assault. What she revealed was disturbing.

She claims that the violence began before she had even exited the car. The officer violently hit the driver's side window of the vehicle. She said that if he continued to hit her window so violently, she would not roll it down, as she felt she was in danger.

The officer became unhinged by her demands. "He became violent," Tibu said.

She began recording the incident on her cell phone. That's when he ordered her out of the vehicle, and began punching her in the groin, breasts and backside.

Tibu screamed, hoping someone would help her, but that just made the officer "even more aggressive."

2 + 2 = 4

English education system among most class-ridden in developed world

Millions of adults in England held back by their parents' social class more than almost any other developed country, a major study shows

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© ALAMY
English education system among most class-ridden in developed world
Class has a bigger influence on how well educated people are in England than in almost any other developed country, a major study has concluded.

English adults whose parents went to university have dramatically higher levels of literacy and numeracy than those from less privileged backgrounds, it found.

It warns of an "exceptionally" large gap between those with the highest skill levels and those at the bottom, a gulf which is even more dramatic among young people.

The report, published by the Institute of Education, blames decades of inequality between the best schools and the worst.

It finds that the link between people's skills in adult life and their parents' background is "especially high" in England in comparison with 24 other countries or regions.

Attention

Store shelves stripped bare: Georgia ice storm could take out electric grid

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If you're an Atlantan making a last-minute grocery run, here's hoping you love corn and asparagus. Because that's all that left on most shelves as residents stocked up and hunkered down for what forecasters say will be a massive ice storm. Gone are the loaves of bread. The quintessential gallons of milk. The cans of beans and the beer. Just two weeks after a few inches of snow paralyzed Atlanta and embarrassed the state, both residents and government officials say they aren't taking any chances.

"I think we're certainly ahead of the game this time and that's important," Gov. Nathan Deal told reporters Monday. "We're trying to be ready and prepared and react as quickly as possible." Deal declared a weather-related state of emergency for 45 counties in the state, well before snow, sleet and rain were expected to hit. The Atlanta Public Schools and a host of other systems across north Georgia announced they would be closed Tuesday and Wednesday. Even before the first raindrops fell, Jagannathan Santhanam had decided to throw in the towel.

House

Oakland tells Google to get lost‏

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© Stephen Mclaren
Awaken cafe in Oakland, California.
If pushing your enemy into the sea signifies success, then Google's decision to start ferrying workers to its campus by boat suggests the revolt against big technology companies is going well. Standing on the docks of Oakland, on the east side of San Francisco Bay, last week, you could watch the Googlers board the ferry, one by one, and swoosh through the chill, grey waters of the bay towards the company's Mountain View headquarters, 30 or so miles to the south.

Not exactly Dunkirk, but from afar you might have detected a whiff of evacuation, if not retreat. The ferry from Oakland - a week-long pilot programme - joined a similar catamaran service for Google workers in San Francisco launched last month. The search engine giant is not doing it for the bracing sea air. It is a response to blockades and assaults against buses that shuttle employees to work.

Handcuffs

Lack of justice for victims of U.S. military sex-crimes


After a night of partying in Hiroshima City, the woman agreed to share a room at the Tokyo Inn Hotel with the U.S. Marine.

As soon as the door closed, the tryst turned violent, she told investigators. He tore her clothes off, forced her to perform oral sex on him and then raped her, she said.

The Marine claimed the sex was consensual. But he also acknowledged that she "might have perceived it as a rape," an October 2011 investigative report said.

There would be no prison sentence, though. At a summary court-martial, a forum for adjudicating minor offenses, he was found guilty of adultery and failure to obey an order. He was fined $978 and busted to E-1, the military's lowest rank.

People 2

Putin signs bill banning Americans from adopting Russian children


Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a controversial bill that forbids adoption of Russian foster children by American citizens. The law comes into force on January 1, 2013.

The legislation was earlier adopted by an overwhelming majority of lawmakers in the Russian parliament. Putin voiced his support for the ban while the bill was still being debated by the lawmakers.

The law, which is viewed by many as retaliation for a US law targeting alleged Russian violators of human rights, will lead to the revocation of a Russian-American agreement on the issues.

Sponsors of the law justify it with several cases of abuse of Russian children by their American adoptive parents. They complained that the punishment for the offences issued by the US justice system was disproportionately mild, while Russian diplomats were prevented from giving enough input in the prosecution of such cases.

Magnify

Homosexuality is illegal in 14 U.S. states - It's legal in Russia

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A surprising number of states still have anti-sodomy laws on the books, nearly a decade after the Supreme Court ruled such laws unconstitutional.

Up until March, Virginia was the 14th state to maintain the federally unconstitutional legislation. The state's "Crimes Against Nature" statute, which outlaws sodomy between consenting adults, was struck down last month after judges found it contradicted the 2003 Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence v. Texas.

Now the state of Virginia, led by Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli, has appealed to the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, asking the court to allow the statute to stand so he can prosecute a 47-year-old man who solicited a 17-year-old for oral sex.

Comment: Meanwhile, in Russia:
On May 27, 1993, homosexual acts between consenting males were decriminalized.
There you have it: legal in Russia, illegal in the USA.

Any questions?