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Tue, 27 Jun 2017
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Tory government says it's providing luxury Kensington flats for the survivors of the Grenfell Tower disaster. Really?

© Dominic Lipinski/Press Association
The flats in the Kensington Row development, in Kensington, west London, where some residents affected by the Grenfell Tower disaster are to be re-housed.
The Government announced yesterday that it will provide 68 permanent new homes to house those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire.

They will be part of the Kensington Row development - described as a "£2bn luxury complex in the heart of Kensington". The site is being developed by St Edward, a joint venture between the housebuilder Berkeley Group and the financial services firm Prudential.

The Communities department said the flats will be purchased and managed by the City of London Corporation - the ancient and wealthy municipal institution that runs the City of London.

A property source was quoted in the Evening Standard as describing the provision of the flats as a "huge gesture" by St Edward because the flats were being sold to the CLC "at cost", meaning the developer made no profit on them.

But is this deal everything that it is being presented as? Is it really as generous as it seems?

Bad Guys

Joulani's Tahrir al Sham not interested in any ceasefire talks, fears it might get raided by Erdogan's thugs

Leadership of the terrorist group Hay'at Tahrir Al Sham, led by the notorious terrorist Mohammad Al Joulani, who is also known as the leader of Al Nusra Front, has issued a statement, saying the group is not interested to participate in any round of Astana or Geneva talks on settlement of the Syrian crisis.

The statement comes as a partial response to the announcement, previously made by Ibrahim Kalin, Erdogan's assistant and press secretary, on the entry of the Russian and Turkish troops to the embattled Syrian province of Idleb.

Earlier, Kalin said Turkey and Russia will start to dispatch soldiers to the north-western Syrian province of Idleb, particularly to the areas, which are, according to the Russia-brokered memorandum labeled as safe zones, with Iran and Turkey acting as guarantor states of the memorandum and its execution.

This will also be the key matter of discussion at the forthcoming round of talks in Astana, scheduled to take place in early July.


Activists form 90km human chain to demand closure of aging Belgian nuclear reactors

© Eric Vidal / Reuters
Protesters calling for the closure of two Belgian nuclear plants take part in a 90-kilometre-long human chain in Tihange, Belgium June 25, 2017.
Thousands of protestors have formed a 90-kilometer human chain around the border triangle of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands to demand the closure of the two reactors at Belgium's Tihange and Doel nuclear power stations.

The organizers said that 50,000 people from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands joined the action Sunday.

The human chain originated from the Tihange plant, located in Huy municipality in the Wallon province of Liege in Belgium, going through Maastricht in the Netherlands to end in the German city of Aachen.

Birthday Cake

US Supreme Court to hear appeal of baker who refused to bake a cake for same-sex wedding

© Luis Acosta / AFP
After numerous rejections, the US Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of a Colorado "cake artist" who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding and argued that being forced to do so would violate his religious beliefs.

Jack Phillips and his Masterpiece Cakeshop ran afoul of Colorado's anti-discrimination laws in 2012, when he refused a wedding cake commission for two men on grounds of religious freedom. Charlie Craig and David Mullins sued for discrimination, and the courts agreed with them.

The Supreme Court has declined to hear Phillips' appeal for years. In the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, the justices said that same-sex marriage was a constitutionally guaranteed right in all states. On Monday, however, the court granted Phillips a hearing in its next term, beginning in October.

Eye 1

The TSA can now 'fan through' travelers books but promise not to pay attention to the content

The TSA began a new screening policy for paper products at airport checkpoints in Missouri last month, and now the agency's branch in Sacramento, California, is testing out more invasive searches for books and food items.

In the new system, passengers are required to take all reading material and food out of their carry-on luggage and place it in a separate bin. TSA screeners can "fan" through travelers' books to see if anything is hidden in the pages, but agency officials insist they will not pay attention to the content. Critics have long argued passengers selected for extra screening are not chosen as randomly as the TSA claims, and book content — particularly of a political or religious nature — could re-ignite that debate.

Comment: The ACLU, of course, is taking issue with this new policy:
The American Civil Liberties Organization (ACLU) raised concerns over the proposed book policy in a recent post on its website, given that TSA agents could page through books as part of the search.

"[B]ooks raise very special privacy issues," senior policy analyst Jay Stanley wrote. "There is a long history of special legal protection for the privacy of one's reading habits in the United States, not only through numerous Supreme Court and other court decisions, but also through state laws that criminalize the violation of public library reading privacy or require a warrant to obtain book sales, rental, or lending records."

The ACLU urged the TSA to train its agents in the privacy concerns surrounding examining passengers' books and papers and proposed the agents allow passengers to wrap their books and papers in another material, like a sleeve, to protect their contents.


Philippine army foiled militant plot to attack Cotabato City

© Jorge Silva / Reuters
The Philippine army has reportedly foiled a plot by militants to take advantage of the military focusing on its battle in Marawi to launch a similar siege on Cotabato City, the Manila Standard reports, citing an intelligence paper.

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) raided villages on the island of Mindanao, where fighting against Islamic State-aligned militants has entered its fifth week. However, the army prevented BIFF from attacking Cotabato City, which is home to around 300,000 people.

"The BIFF was able to mobilize maybe about 200 men plus, more than 100 men from different private and criminal armed groups, to launch a siege in Cotabato City. But they could not cross military lines so they just terrorized communities in Pigcawayan, North Cotabato," a military commander told the Manila Standard on condition of anonymity.

Snakes in Suits

Doomsday maps give clue as to why so many of the mega-rich are becoming preppers

Some of the top billionaires in the U.S. are preparing by buying massive amounts of self-sustainable farmland in states such as Texas, Wyoming, and Montana.
The theory that the super elite have turned into "Doomsday preppers" stockpiling supplies in preparation for the end of the world as we know it, is more than just a theory, and the latest properties purchased by the world's top billionaires give insight into how they plan to survive.

The cause of such an event is debatable—will an asteroid collide with Earth, or will nuclear warfare break out between two colliding super powers?

Forbes Contributor Jim Dobson noted that in addition to "preparing for future escape plans with 'vacation homes' in remote locations," and "private planes ready to depart at a moment's notice," some of the wealthiest individuals in the U.S. are buying large amounts of land that can be used for self-survival.

Tele-Communications CEO John Malone owns a total of 2.2 million acres, with massive amounts in Wyoming and Colorado. CNN founder Ted Turner owns 2 million acres that include land in Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico and North Dakota. AEG CEO Philip Anschutz owns 434,000 acres in Wyoming. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns 400,000 acres of land in Texas. And sports mogul Stan Kroenke owns 225,162 acres of land in Montana.

Comment: See also:


Police remove passenger from plane for attempting to open emergency door mid-flight

© Lucy Nicholson / Reuters
An off-duty police officer subdued a woman allegedly attempting to open an emergency exit on a Southwest airlines flight from Los Angeles to Houston Sunday.The woman had been acting unruly on the flight, according to eyewitnesses.

Returning from a holiday in California, Pamela Minchew from the Independent School District (ISD) police in Cleveland, saw the passenger attempting to open the door mid-flight, ISD police chief Rex Evans told the Houston Chronicle.

"Fearing for her safety and the safety of everyone on the plane, she took action and was able to restrain the passenger," he said.

The flight was forced to make an emergency landing in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Comment: See also: Airline rage: Complaints against airlines have soared by 70% since United's passenger dragging incident


Portuguese national airline chief may ask to ground all drones following near-miss incidents

© Gonzalo Fuentes / Reuters
The chief of Portugal's national airline says he is considering asking authorities to ground all drones in the country. It comes after one of the airline's planes nearly collided with a UAV, in the latest of a series of near-misses.

If drones "keep entering airspace, we're going to call for them to be grounded," TAP Airline President Fernando Pinto told Portuguese radio station TSF, as quoted by AP.

He went on to state that such a request could set off a worldwide movement against drones.

Pinto also spoke to public broadcaster RTP about the issue, saying that "due to the irresponsible behavior of some - and I'm speaking in a European and global context - [drones] are being used very badly, in a very dangerous way, and that worries us."

His comments come after a TAP plane carrying 74 passengers narrowly avoided colliding with a drone as it approached Lisbon Airport on Sunday evening, according to air traffic control company NAV.

Comment: See also:
  • Connecticut will be the first state to allow weaponized police drones
  • Coming soon to a city near you: Taser equipped drones


Prison rehabilitation 'made pedophiles & rapists more dangerous' to society - report

© Simon Belcher / Global Look Press
A prison treatment program designed to rehabilitate rapists and pedophiles has instead made offenders "more dangerous" and was axed, it has been revealed.

Prisoners who took the taxpayer-funded Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP) - a six-month psychological group therapy course - were at least 25 percent more likely to be convicted of further sex crimes than those who did not, according to an independent study seen by the Mail on Sunday.

The newspaper says those convicted of physically attacking children were especially likely to reoffend after taking the course, which has cost more than £100 million ($127 million) since it was set up in 1991.

Before the report was compiled, about 1,000 prisoners had taken the "core" program across eight jails, and the worst offenders did an extended course. The courses involved discussions to help sex offenders understand their crimes, increase awareness of victim harm, and to stop reoffending.

The core and extended programs have now been cut by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). The ministry was reportedly initially reluctant to accept the findings, but after they were independently endorsed, were forced to act.

Comment: See also:
  • BBC pedophile exposé ignores real victims, triggers social-media firestorm
  • Child rape culture: Independent inquiry sheds light on potentially thousands more pedophile cases in UK
  • Hollywood insider speaks out, claims a global pedophile ring controls Hollywood