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Bizarro Earth

Briton: This Isn't a Carnival, It's a Police State

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© PACarnival, 2008: sometimes you really need all those coppers
Next weekend, I shall be living in a police state. There will be policemen at either end of my little street, policemen on duty outside my local pub, policemen guarding the entrance to the supermarket. If I go to the shops and plan to return to my flat by anything other than the circuitous "official" route, I'll have to show my local residents' ID to one of the 5,000 police officers patrolling the neighbourhood.

You see, I live in Notting Hill and it's Carnival time again. And what a special Carnival it promises to be, coming less than a month after street gangs attacked shops and restaurants bang in the middle of the parade route. Members of those gangs will be back for "Europe's largest fun-filled event", as the BBC wants us to think of it. That's why this year the cost of policing it will approach £10 million for the first time.

I don't want to sound like a killjoy. There's plenty of fun to be had at the Carnival, as revellers glug their way through 25,000 bottles of rum to the accompaniment of dozens of screaming sound systems. But that fun comes at a price, believe me. You should read the surveyor's report on our house. I've just forked out 12 grand to fortify walls loosened by the pulsating throb of the Carnival. Or "Carnivaaal", as right-on folk pronounce it.

People

Malaysia's 'Silent' Awakening

In early July, while eyes were on the unrest in the Middle East, another democratic movement was gathering momentum in Southeast Asia. Borne out of growing discontent with the ruling government, the people of Malaysia were experiencing their own awakening. Their movement for electoral reform, known as "Bersih" (meaning "clean" in the Malay language), reached critical mass on July 9, when an estimated 47,000 people took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur, demanding action against voter fraud, press freedom and an end to "dirty politics" - slander and incessant claims and counterclaims of supposed sexual misconduct. The rally provoked an unprecedented government crackdown, widely condemned by international human rights agencies, leading to the arrests of more than 1,600 people. Police action has continued, with people frequently detained for as little as wearing a yellow T-shirt - a symbol of support for the outlawed Bersih movement.

The reform movement has been growing since 2005, when a group of politicians and non-governmental organizations, dismayed at the level of fraud and corruption in the Malaysian political system, came together to form the Joint Action Committee for Electoral Reform. When the movement was revived in 2010 as the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, or Bersih 2.0 - the now familiar moniker of the reform movement - the organizers made a strategic decision to exclude all political parties, including members of the opposition coalition, Pakatan Rakyat. Bersih 2.0 emerged as nonpartisan, civil society movement to monitor progress towards electoral reform.

Key

US: 'West Memphis Three' -- Convicted Of Killing Boy Scouts -- Free After Serving 17 Years In Prison

West Memphis Three
West Memphis Three Freed

After serving 17 years behind bars for the brutal murder of three children in eastern Arkansas, Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr. and Jason Baldwin -- dubbed the "West Memphis Three" -- have been released from prison.

"They will be free men ... on suspended sentence," prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington told reporters during a Friday press conference.

"Only time will tell as to whether this was the right decision."

All three men had been imprisoned since 1994, when they were convicted of killing three 8-year-old boys: Stevie Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers.

Prosecutors alleged the trio killed the children in Robin Hood Hills on the morning of May 6, 1993, as part of a satanic ritual. According to police, the boys' bodies were mutilated and left in a ditch. Each had been hogtied with his own shoelaces.

At the time of their arrests, Baldwin was 16. Misskelley was 17, and Echols was 18.

Key

US: 'West Memphis Three' finally freed after 18 years

 Damien Echols, left, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., center, and Jason Baldwin at a news conference in Jonesboro, Ark
© Unknown
Damien Echols, left, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., center, and Jason Baldwin at a news conference in Jonesboro, Ark

Three Arkansas men, who served 18 years in prison for the brutal murder of three boys, are going home.

"I'm just tired," Jesse Misskelley Jr. told reporters. "This has been going on for 18 years. It's been an absolute living hell."

The release of the "West Memphis Three" came after a complex and confusing plea deal, in which the men--Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Misskelley--pleaded guilty and were sentenced to the 18 years they've already served. They're allowed to maintain their innocence, while officially acknowledging that prosecutors have enough evidence to convict them.

The deal suggests prosecutors doubted their ability to win a retrial. "No jury would convict them at a new trial," one of the men's defense lawyers said.

Arrow Down

US: Percentage of Americans who are either working or looking for work is at the lowest level in more than a quarter century

Here's another sign of the difficult times we live in: The percentage of Americans who are either working or looking for work is at the lowest level in more than a quarter century.

The labor force participation rate for Americans 16 and over hit 63.9 percent in July, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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© US Bureau Of Labor Statistics
That's the lowest level since 1984, back when Ronald Reagan was president and the United States' economy was in strong shape following back-to-back recessions in 1980-1982.

Family

US: Texas' jobless rate highest in 24 years

unemployment

Texas' unemployment rate last month climbed to its highest level in nearly a quarter of a century.

Despite the state adding 29,300 jobs in July, the jobless rate rose to 8.4 percent from 8.2 percent in June, the Texas Workforce Commission reported today. The rate was 8.1 percent in July 2010.

The last time the rate was this high was in July 1987, 24 years ago.

"While nine of the 11 major industries registered unemployment gains over the month, Texas continues to feel the effects of a stagnant national economy," Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken said in a statement.

Bizarro Earth

UK: Suicide pact of cliff car plunge couple: Note found after double tragedy at beauty spot

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© JN Visuals'Volatile relationship': Paul Charles, a former policeman, died after driving over a cliff in an apparent suicide pact with his estranged wife.
A former policeman drove his car off a 350ft cliff at high speed in a suicide pact with his estranged wife, it emerged yesterday.

Father-of-four Paul Charles and wife Jacqueline were killed instantly when their car crashed through a barbed wire fence and plummeted on to jagged rocks at an Isle of Wight beauty spot.

He is understood to have become depressed after the breakdown of his five-year relationship and legal issues surrounding some of his children, aged 11 to 24, from one of his two previous marriages.

People

US: Thousands Camp Out for Job Fair as Jobless Rate Rises

Thousands of unemployed waited overnight, camping out in their business suits and office heels and braving the tormenting heat in Atlanta to stand in line for a job fair Thursday. Authorities treated 20 people for heat exhaustion as they struggled to keep the line moving and get people moved inside.


The incredible turnout at the job fair comes on the heels of the state labor commissioner's announcement that Georgia's jobless rate rose.

The state unemployment rate increased to 10.1 percent in July from the 9.9 percent in June. The unemployment rate for African-Americans stands at 15.9 percent, far above the national rate of 9.1 percent.

Nuke

Japan: Thyroid Radiation Exposure Found in Children Near Tepco Plant

Medical tests on children living in three towns near the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant found 45 percent of those surveyed suffered low-level thyroid radiation exposure, Japan's government said in a statement.

While the statement didn't comment on the source of the contamination, the announcement follows reports of radioactive material found in food after radiation leaks from the meltdown of three reactors at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant.

The tests covered 1,080 children aged up to 15 in three towns, Iwaki, Kawamata and Iitate, between 38 to 47 kilometers from the reactors. The tests between March 24 and 30 showed none of the children's thyroid glands exceeded the safety threshold of 0.2 microsievert per hour set by the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, according to the Aug. 17 statement.

People

German 'unfairly' sacked for marrying Chinese woman

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© BBC
An engineer in northern Germany who was sacked because he married a Chinese woman was unjustifiably dismissed, a court has ruled.

The man was declared a security risk by his employer after his marriage because of his new family ties.

The company acted as a supplier for the German armed forces and feared possible industrial espionage.

But the court said the engineer's employer had violated his right to marry whomever he chose.

The employment tribunal in Kiel in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein was told that the 47-year-old engineer had been employed at the firm on a temporary basis since May 2006.