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Seeking a slice of Downton: London's wealthy goes on country property buying spree as prices rise

english country house
© Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
A 'For Sale' sign is seen outside a country house in Tideswell in the Peak District of Derbyshire, U.K.
It took more than a year for Mark Hudson to find his six-bedroom home in the English countryside. Within weeks of moving in, he got a bid that topped the 1.75 million pounds ($2.8 million) the property cost.

"Somebody called offering a significantly higher sum," said Hudson, a 55-year-old manager at a publishing company, who in August swapped his home in Clapham, a London district favored by young bankers and lawyers, for Dorset, the farm-dotted county 125 miles (202 kilometers) southwest of London that was the setting for Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles. "It looks like we caught it just at the right time," he said.

Country homes are coming back into fashion, after lagging behind urban locations such as London's West End since the 2007 financial crisis when banks cut off mortgages. Prices for manor houses, farmhouses and cottages valued at more than 750,000 pounds climbed at the fastest rate in more than three years in the third quarter, Knight Frank LLP said in a report today, as Prime Minister David Cameron makes reviving the housing market central to his efforts to pull the economy out of recession.

"It's U.K. economic growth and broader housing-market confidence," said Liam Bailey, global head of residential research at the London-based property broker.

The government last week introduced the second phase of its Help to Buy program, which offers mortgage guarantees that allow purchases with down payments as low as 5 percent. The first phase, which began in April, provided interest-free loans for buyers of newly built homes.

Card - MC

Keeping the party going: U.S. private debt soars

credit cards
© Adam Gault / OJO Images / Getty Images
As Washington is struggling with debt and all its political ramifications, American companies and consumers are embracing it, running up record amounts in 2013.

Whether it's corporate loans, all quality levels of bonds or simple consumer credit, the debt party is back on in the U.S., whether it's in the boardroom or the living room.

Amid the financial crisis of 2008, the U.S. went into what economists call a "debt deleveraging cycle" - akin to a credit hangover, where the party has ended and everyone there decides to quit drinking cold turkey.

Somebody has clearly turned the lights back on, though, and corporate and individual buying is soaring.

Consumer credit, for instance, surged past the $3 trillion mark in the second quarter of 2013 and continues on an upward trajectory, according to the most recent numbers from the Federal Reserve.

At $3.04 trillion, the total is up 22 percent over the past three years. Student loans are up a whopping 61 percent.

Total household debt, according to the Fed's flow of funds report, is at $13 trillion, nearly back to its pre-crisis level in 2007 and a shade below government debt of $15 trillion.

"We have not solved (anything) when it comes to the deleveraging myth," said Michael Pento, president of Pento Portfolio Strategies. "We have learned nothing."

Dollars

Sir Richard Branson denies that he 'left Britain for tax reasons'

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Sir Richard Branson says most of his time is spent on not-for-profit ventures
Sir Richard Branson has had to defend his tax arrangements after a spotlight was cast on the billionaire's decision to move to his luxury island in the Caribbean.

The entrepreneur, one of the most public advocates for British industry across the world, has not paid taxes on non-UK personal income since moving to Necker Island in 2007.

The founder of the Virgin empire has sold or transferred property he owned in the UK to his grown-up children, Sam and Holly.

A report in The Sunday Times highlighted the lack of British tax being paid by Sir Richard, who is frequently pictured with Union Jacks and has been reported to talk disparagingly of tax exiles.

Wine n Glass

The folly of empire

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© Mr. Fish
U.S. to "save the day"
The final days of empire give ample employment and power to the feckless, the insane and the idiotic. These politicians and court propagandists, hired to be the public faces on the sinking ship, mask the real work of the crew, which is systematically robbing the passengers as the vessel goes down. The mandarins of power stand in the wheelhouse barking ridiculous orders and seeing how fast they can gun the engines. They fight like children over the ship's wheel as the vessel heads full speed into a giant ice field. They wander the decks giving pompous speeches. They shout that the SS America is the greatest ship ever built. They insist that it has the most advanced technology and embodies the highest virtues. And then, with abrupt and unexpected fury, down we will go into the frigid waters.

The last days of empire are carnivals of folly. We are in the midst of our own, plunging forward as our leaders court willful economic and environmental self-destruction. Sumer and Rome went down like this. So did the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires. Men and women of stunning mediocrity and depravity led the monarchies of Europe and Russia on the eve of World War I. And America has, in its own decline, offered up its share of weaklings, dolts and morons to steer it to destruction. A nation that was still rooted in reality would never glorify charlatans such as Sen. Ted Cruz, House Speaker John Boehner and former Speaker Newt Gingrich as they pollute the airwaves. If we had any idea what was really happening to us we would have turned in fury against Barack Obama, whose signature legacy will be utter capitulation to the demands of Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry, the military-industrial complex and the security and surveillance state. We would have rallied behind those few, such as Ralph Nader, who denounced a monetary system based on gambling and the endless printing of money and condemned the willful wrecking of the ecosystem. We would have mutinied. We would have turned the ship back.

Heart - Black

Nightmare in Maryville, Missouri: Teens' sexual encounter ignites a firestorm against family

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© David Eulitt/Kansas City Star
Melinda Coleman and her children had already moved away from Maryville when their home burned. When the outrage became too much, they left, retreating east to Albany.
There wasn't much left by the time she arrived, just a burnt-out structure and the haze of smoke that lingered around it.

The siding and gutters had melted. The roof was gone. Inside, piles of ash filled the rooms that had once bustled with the pleasant sounds of a family.

That morning last April when Melinda Coleman received word that emergency vehicles were gathering around her Maryville house, she had hoped for the best.

But if the events of the past year and a half had taught her anything, it was that when the town of Maryville was involved, that seemed unlikely.

Since the morning her daughter had been left nearly unconscious in the frost of the home's front lawn, this northwest Missouri community had come to mean little besides heartache.

Few dispute the basic facts of what happened in the early morning hours of Jan. 8, 2012: A high school senior had sex with Coleman's 14-year-old daughter, another boy did the same with her daughter's 13-year-old friend, and a third student video-recorded one of the bedding scenes. Interviews and evidence initially supported the felony and misdemeanor charges that followed.

Cult

HIV-positive priest arrested for soliciting sex and masturbating

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© Plain Dealer File Photo
Father James McGonegal of St. Ignatius of Antioch Church on Lorain Avenue, who is suspected of soliciting sex from an off-duty park ranger at Edgewater Park on Friday night, has not given a sermon since being arrested and charged with public indecency
The Rev. James McGonegal, pastor of a West Side Cleveland Catholic church, was charged today with soliciting sex while being HIV-positive. He had been arrested Friday in Edgewater Park.

In the incident report released today, an off-duty Cleveland Metroparks ranger said McGonegal offered the ranger $50 to help him "get off," then exposed himself and masturbated, all while sitting inside his late-model Jeep SUV.

The report said McGonegal had three sex devices in his Jeep when he was arrested around 12:45 p.m.

The priest, 68, was released on personal bond from Cleveland City Jail this morning other media reports said. He has not been arraigned as the charges were not filed until around noon.

Stormtrooper

Video captures cop's excessive force against Chicago woman

woman injuries
Woman suffers broken bones in face after DUI arrest

A Chicago woman has filed a lawsuit against the Skokie Police Department claiming an officer used excessive force after she was arrested for DUI.

Cassandra Feuerstein, 47, was arrested for DUI after officers found her pulled over at the side of the road and asleep behind the wheel.

But Feuerstein claims her civil rights were violated after she was taken to the police station.

Surveillance video portrays a calm scene as Feuerstein interacts with an officer until she says she asked to call her husband and kids.

X

Stampede near Indian temple kills 89 people

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© REUTERS/ Stringer
People walk past bodies of victims killed in a stampede on a bridge
Hindu festival-goers crossing a bridge in central India panicked at rumors the bridge would collapse, and the resulting crush killed at least 89 people, police said.

Hours after Sunday's collapse, relatives were searching for loved ones among the bodies grouped on the concrete, two-lane bridge over the Sindh River in the Chambal region of Madhya Pradesh state.

More than 100 people were being treated in a hospital for injuries including broken bones.

Police wielding sticks had charged the crowd to contain the rush and people retaliated by throwing stones at the officers, D.K. Arya, deputy inspector general of police, told the Press Trust of India. One officer was badly injured.

Stop

Dozens dead in new Mediterranean migrant tragedy

About 200 shocked survivors were plucked from the sea on Saturday after their overloaded boat sank, claiming more than 30 lives in the latest deadly migrant tragedy to hit the Mediterranean.

Their boat went down off Malta on Friday near the Italian island of Lampedusa, packed with 230 to 250 men, women and children, the Maltese navy said.

As the toll rose in the latest refugee disaster, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat warned that the Mediterranean was in danger of becoming a "cemetery" for migrants desperate to reach European shores.

"The latest figure we have is 31" dead, a Maltese government spokesman told AFP on Saturday. The Italian navy earlier gave the figure of 34 dead.

Exhausted after a 10-hour journey from the wreck site, about 143 survivors arrived in Valetta on Saturday morning aboard a Maltese naval vessel. They were helped onto buses to be driven to shelters.

Music

'Your Place'

A now for a musical interlude: This is 'Your Place' by Relic...