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Immigration fears spark political firestorm in UK

UK's Immigration
© AP Photo/Alastair Grant
Recent editions of Britain's Daily Express and Daily Mail newspapers, featuring headlines about immigration, are photographed in London, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. For months, Britain's tabloids have repeatedly warned of the horrors they believe will ensue after Jan. 1, 2014 when work restrictions will be lifted across the European Union for migrants from Romania and Bulgaria — two of the trading bloc's newest members. Those changes, the papers claim, will unleash a mass exodus of the poor and unemployed from the two eastern European countries to Britain.
London -- They're portrayed as pickpockets who will steal British jobs. There are predictions they will beg, the unruly young ones will stir up riots, and some will even try to sell babies.

For months, Britain's tabloids have repeatedly warned of the horrors they believe will ensue after Jan. 1, when work restrictions will be lifted across the European Union for migrants from Romania and Bulgaria - two of the trading bloc's newest members. Those changes, the papers claim, will unleash a mass exodus of the poor and unemployed from the two eastern European countries to Britain.

"In January, the only thing left will be the goat," a Daily Mail headline proclaimed, referring to a remote Romanian village where, the paper claimed, everyone was preparing to move to Britain for the higher wages and generous welfare benefits.

"We're importing a crime wave from Romania and Bulgaria," another headline declared, quoting a Conservative lawmaker who told Parliament that most pickpockets on British streets hail from Romania.

Radar

A deeper look: Five myths about Russia

Russia
© Unknown
The past several weeks have been very busy, and I haven't had a chance to post quite as much as I'd like to. I thought I'd throw my hat back into the ring with a short post about where Russia is today. Part of what gets me so frustrated about most mainstream media coverage of Russia is that people tend to conflate the country's condition (e.g. people drink a lot, don't make much money, and are generally miserable) with its trajectory (e.g. people are drinking more, people are making less money, and people are getting more miserable). These are, obviously, two very different things, but they're often treated as if they're interchangeable.

Ice Cube

Chinese ship breaks through ice in Antarctic rescue mission

first sighting
© Laurence Topham for the Guardian
First sighting of Chinese icebreaker Xue Long from the top deck of the Akademik Shokalskiy, which is stuck in Antarctic ice.
Xue Long encounters thicker ice than expected as it makes slow progress to reach stranded crew of Akademik Shokalskiy

A Chinese icebreaker ship is making its way through dense pack-ice just off the coast of Cape de la Motte in Antarctica, where a ship of scientists and members of the public have been trapped since Christmas Day.

The vessel, the Xue Long, and a French icebreaker, the Astrolabe, reached the edge of the ice pack, around 13 nautical miles from the Russian-operated MV Akademik Shokalskiy, just before 7pm New Zealand time (6am GMT) on Friday.

The Xue Long started cutting through the ice soon after, and has made steady, but slow, progress since and is now within sight of the stricken vessel. The ice it has encountered at the edge has been much thicker than expected - 3-4 metres thick in some places. It is travelling at between 0.1 to 3 knots depending on the density of the ice and should reach the Shokalskiy some time in the next 12 hours. The Astrolabe has not yet entered the ice field.

"We know that the ice conditions around us are extremely difficult and that the ice is under a lot of pressure," said Greg Mortimer, co-leader of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE), aboard the Shokalskiy. "The ships that are coming to assist us will probably not have the ability to cut a path into us individually, so they have to work in tandem."


Magic Hat

Yasser Arafat died of natural causes say Russian experts report

Yasser Arafat
© Unknown
Yasser Arafat died in a Paris hospital on 8 November 2004, four weeks after falling ill
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died of natural causes, not radiation poisoning, Russian forensic scientists have said.

Their investigation was one of three carried out on his remains in 2012. Arafat died in Paris in 2004, aged 75.

Last month, Swiss scientists said they had detected high levels of radioactive polonium but could not say if it had caused his death.

A French inquiry is also said to have found he was not a victim of poisoning.


Comment: From this article, here were the:
Three parallel inquiries

Swiss report - 8 Nov 2013: High levels of polonium; moderate backing for poisoning theory
French report - 3 Dec 2013: Source says poisoning theory rejected in favour of death by natural causes
Russian report - 26 Dec 2013: Death by natural causes not from radiation exposure

People

Migrations: Census bureau expects Florida to surpass New York in population

The U.S. Census Bureau said Florida is likely to surpass New York in population in 2014, if it hasn't already.

Demographers expect Florida to replace New York as the third most populous state, separated by as little as a few thousand people.

The Census Bureau is expected to release its population estimates Monday, the New York Times reported Friday. California and Texas are expected to hold firm as the No. 1 and No. 2 most populous states, respectively.

The census figures indicate foreign-born migrants are moving to warm-weather states, like California, Texas and Florida, and New York is losing roughly 50,000 people each year to Florida, most of them retirees.

"It's going to happen," said Andrew A Beveridge, a professor of sociology at Queens College. "And if Florida accidentally grew faster and New York slowed down, it could have happened already."

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1.3 million losing unemployment benefits Saturday in the US

Unemployment Benefits
© AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File
This Aug. 14, 2013 file photo shows job seekers checking out companies at a job fair in Miami Lakes, Fla. More than 1 million Americans are bracing for a harrowing, post-Christmas jolt as federal unemployment benefits come to a sudden halt this weekend. The development entails potentially significant implications for the recovering U.S. economy and sets up a tense battle when Congress reconvenes in the new year.
For families dependent on cash assistance, the end of the federal government's "emergency unemployment compensation" will mean some difficult belt-tightening as enrollees lose their average monthly stipend of $1,166.

Jobless rates could drop, but analysts say the economy may suffer with less money for consumers to spend on everything from clothes to cars. Having let the "emergency" program expire as part of a budget deal, it's unclear if Congress has the appetite to start it anew.

An estimated 1.3 million people will be cut off when the federally funded unemployment payments end Saturday.

Some 214,000 Californians will lose their payments, a figure rising to more than a half-million by June, the Labor Department said. In the last 12 months Californians received $4.5 billion in federal jobless benefits, much put back into the local economy.

More than 127,000 New Yorkers also will be cut off this weekend. In New Jersey, 11th among states in population, 90,000 people will immediately lose out.

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Only NPR is left: Liberal Commercial Talk Radio Disappears in NY, LA, SF in 2014

ed schultz
© Unknown
2014 will mark the beginning of a massive change for liberal talk radio across the country. In New York, WWRL 1600 AM will flip to Spanish-language music and talk, throwing Ed Schultz, Thom Hartmann, Randi Rhodes, and Alan Colmes off the air. In Los Angeles, KTLK 1150 will be dumping Stephanie Miller, Rhodes, Bill Press and David Cruz off the air in favor of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. In San Francisco, KNEW 960 will leave Miller, Hartmann, and Mike Malloy without a radio home in the market.

Thanks to radio consolidation and the secondary status of leftist talk in major markets across the country, the final death knell for liberal talkers could be tolling. Leftist talkers simply don't have the same radio draw as conservatives; KTLK was ranked #41 in the market in November 2013, with WWRL registering almost no pulse at all. KNEW registered just an 0.4 in the San Francisco market in December 2013, placing it #31 in the market.

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As Chicago's cycling grows, so does bike tax temptation

Mike Salvatore
© AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
In this photo taken Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, in Chicago, Mike Salvatore, owner of Heritage Bicycles talks about the emerging increase in bike riders at his Lakeview neighborhood store. A recent debate on a proposed city bicycle tax has put the spotlight back on cycling. Salvatore believes that no one would have taken that proposal seriously 10 years ago. “Why would you tax bikers, who bikes?! Seriously, 10 years ago there was a handful of nutcases who biked around Chicago. No one would have taken it seriously.”
Early blasts of snow, ice and below-zero temperatures haven't stopped a surprising number of Chicago cyclists from spinning through the slush this winter, thanks in part to a city so serious about accommodating them that it deploys mini-snow plows to clear bike lanes.

The snow-clearing operation is just the latest attention city leaders have lavished on cycling, from a growing web of bike lanes to the nation's second largest shared network of grab-and-go bicycles stationed all over town. But it also spotlights questions that have been raised here, a city wrestling with deep financial problems, and across the country.

Who is paying for all this bicycle upkeep? And shouldn't bicyclists be kicking in themselves?

A city councilwoman's recent proposal to institute a $25 annual cycling tax set off a lively debate that eventually sputtered out after the city responded with a collective "Say what?" A number of gruff voices spoke in favor, feeding off motorists' antagonism toward what they deride as stop sign-running freeloaders. Bike-friendly bloggers retorted that maybe pedestrians ought to be charged a shoe tax to use the sidewalks.

Binoculars

Video surveillance of downtown Houston to expand

Downtown Houston
© KHOU.com

Police surveillance of downtown Houston will expand with the addition of 180 new cameras.

The installation of the cameras means police will have nearly 1,000 surveillance feeds available to them. The Houston Chronicle reports most cameras are pointed on public areas around downtown, stadiums and the theater district.

Police Chief Charles McClelland says Houston has more critical infrastructure than New York City and must rely on video to provide necessary police coverage.

The city has spent more than $18 million in federal money to build its camera system and has another $5 million in reserve.

Houston also has expanded its video network through private sharing agreements, such as by accessing networks along rail lines.

Officials say data is not kept to determine if the cameras are driving down crime.

Handcuffs

Feds charge white man with hate crime in first 'knockout' prosecution

Image
© KRIV-TV
Conrad Alvin Barrett
The Obama administration filed a federal hate-crimes charge Thursday against a man whom authorities accused of using the "knockout game" to target a black man, videotaping it, and then bragging about the assault to strangers.

The charge marks the first time the administration has taken action on a "knockout" case after the game became an Internet and media phenomenon. It chose a case in which the person accused is white, even though most other cases reported in the news have involved black assailants.

In this case, the man accused is 27-year-old Conrad Alvin Barrett, who the Justice Department says attacked a 79-year-old black man in Fulshear, Texas, just west of Houston. Justice Department officials said they brought the case to make a point about hate crimes.

"Suspected crimes of this nature will simply not be tolerated," said Kenneth Magidson, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Texas. "Evidence of hate crimes will be vigorously investigated and prosecuted with the assistance of all our partners to the fullest extent of the law."

Mr. Barrett's attorney, George Parnham, told CNN that his client is on medication to treat bipolar disorder. Mr. Parnham said Mr. Barrett "is very sorry" for the victim.