Featured Posts

Chase Bank Limits Cash Withdrawals, Bans International... Before you read this report, remember to sign up to for 100% free stock alerts Chase Bank has moved to limit cash withdrawals while banning business customers from sending...

Read more

Richemont chairman Johann Rupert to take 'grey gap... Billionaire 62-year-old to take 12 months off from Cartier and Montblanc luxury goods groupRichemont's chairman and founder Johann Rupert is to take a year off from September, leaving management of the...

Read more

Cambodia: aftermath of fatal shoe factory collapse... Workers clear rubble following the collapse of a shoe factory in Kampong Speu, Cambodia, on Thursday

Read more

Spate of recent shock departures by 50-something CEOs While the rising financial rewards of running a modern multinational have been well publicised, executive recruiters say the pressures of the job have also been ratcheted upOn approaching his 60th birthday...

Read more

UK Uncut loses legal challenge over Goldman Sachs tax... While judge agreed the deal was 'not a glorious episode in the history of the Revenue', he ruled it was not unlawfulCampaign group UK Uncut Legal Action has lost its high court challenge over the legality...

Read more

The Rio favela transformed into prime real estate

Category : Business

Wealthy buyers are snapping up plots of land in Vidigal after authorities pushed out drug gangs

Until recently, the most high-profile conflict in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas has been between rival gangs fighting turf wars: now it is European investors tussling over a piece of prime real estate.

High on the steep slopes of Vidigal, the panorama across Atlantic beaches and distant islands is among the most spectacular in Rio, but tourists are unlikely to find it listed in most guidebooks.

The hillside shanty town was dominated by drug traffickers and widely considered off-limits among middle-class people.

But the favela is undergoing a transformation as the police have taken control of the streets and investors have pushed up the price of the land.

With gangs no longer deciding who enters their territory, rental prices have surged more than threefold in three years. Wealthy buyers are snapping up the prime plots, real estate companies are opening offices and more outsiders are moving in.

Andreas Wielend, an Austrian engineer, bought a dilapidated home in 2009 and turned it into a hostel and nightclub. It is now famed for breathtaking views and holding dub and electronic music nights that attract several hundred customers to party until dawn. The change is dramatic, but not entirely for the better.

“When we first came here, there were 15 guys with heavy machine guns next door. It was like a war zone. There was no water or electricity,” he recalls. “Then the police came in and the house prices went up … It was more relaxed before because you didn’t constantly have real estate speculators approaching you all the time.”

His neighbourhood has suddenly become one of the most fashionable in Rio. Less than 100 metres away, a hotel is under construction, reportedly financed by two of the city’s wealthiest denizens.

A lawyer from São Paulo has snapped up three houses next door. Local gossip is thick with rumours that Hollywood stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Joli have brought land nearby.

Wielend’s property cost him 34,000 reals (about £10,000). Now he says he is getting offers of a million reals to sell. The dramatic inflation of values has prompted a ownership battle between him and the German banker who sold him the land.

Last year, Wielend returned from an overseas trip to find the former owner had seized the house, changed the locks and denied that a sale had been made. Wieland has since persuaded the police that he is the rightful owner and taken legal action.

The strains are not unique to this one plot in Vidigal, he says. “Now there are many houses here where people are fighting for ownership, even among families.”

Take away the paramilitary campaign against the traffickers and what is happening is similar to the gentrification seen in cities such as New York, London, Berlin and Beijing.

Nicola Tadini, a researcher who is studying the process, said it was a mixed blessing for the community in Videgal, many of whom – as with most of Rio’s favelas – are from poor families that migrated from north-east Brazil.

“This is a long-term change. The World Cup and Olympics are pushing the process. People are investing. Locals can rent their rooms out for more than three times as much as they could three years ago. The little shops on the street are doing more business with tourist customers. Some people are selling their homes here and buying big properties back in the north-east,” said Tadini.

“For now, people are happy with the way things are going because they are making more money. But the gentrification will change this community. Instead of neighbour and neighbour, you are starting to see employer and employee.”

Among Rio’s thousand or so favelas, Vidigal was always somewhat special thanks to its spectacular views, long history and attraction for artists. But it is seen as an indicator of what could happen to the other 39 slums that have been “pacified”, or will be by 2014.

The average house price in Rio has increased by 165% over the past three years, according to the UN. Values have risen faster in favelas where the drug traffickers have been pushed out of sight. According to SecoviRio, an association of local real estate agents, property prices rose 50% in the first week after the initial three favelas were taken by police.

Changes are still at a very early stage and are different from favela to favela, as are the responses of locals to the armed police who patrol the roads and narrow alleys between their homes. While the majority of inhabitants that the Guardian spoke to were pleased about improved security and social services, several also expressed unease that they may be forcibly relocated or priced out of their homes.

Rocinha – Brazil’s biggest slum with at least 70,000 inhabitants – is still far from being gentrified. But a real estate agent, who declined to give his name, said the rental price for a two bedroom home had doubled in the past year to 900 reals a month because more outsiders were moving in.

The authorities have ambitious plans to improve life in the favela, but their priorities have been questioned.

Rocinha now has a new library, where residents can borrow books or watch DVDs on plasma screens, a half-completed eco-park, a tennis court that opened last year and a concrete bridge to the community’s sports centre that was designed by the country’s most famous architect, Oscar Niemeyer.

But nothing has been done about the stinking open sewers that run through the densely packed community and overflow whenever there is heavy rain. Education and public health provision are also at dire levels. Tuberculosis and dengue fever are rampant. Many people still live in rudimentary shacks with irregular or no water supplies.

“The library and bridge are all very well, but you have to ask if this is the best use of social resources when there are still kids playing in shit and piss,” said Lea Rekou, an co-ordinator of the Green My Favela NGO, which works with the local community to replace rubbish tips with vegetable gardens.

Instead of improving the environment for the sake of gentrification or beautification before the World Cup and Olympics, she says the most needed transformation is in attitudes.

“Pacification has opened up a space. You don’t need to be so wary. It’s easier to relax,” she said. “But my main interest is in changing the way the middle class see the favelas – that they need to be controlled and heavily policed.”

Additional research by Marcela Bial

4 Southern California men held in plot to join Al Qaeda, Taliban – Los Angeles Times

Category : Stocks
4 Southern California men held in plot to join Al Qaeda, Taliban
Los Angeles Times
Four men with ties to Southern California have been charged with plotting to join Al Qaeda and the Taliban to commit “violent jihad” and target Americans, the FBI said Monday night. One of the men, Sohiel Omar Kabir, 34, allegedly traveled in July to
4 men in Southern California charged with attempting to support terrorismFox News
FBI: Four Local Men Arrested in Terrorist Plot to Kill AmericansKTLA
FBI: 4 Calif. men charged in alleged terror

Post to Twitter

Disney adds ‘Star Wars’ to its galaxy – Los Angeles Times

Category : Stocks

Los Angeles Times
Disney adds 'Star Wars' to its galaxy
Los Angeles Times
Disney adds 'Star Wars' to its galaxy. Disney's big-bucks purchase of Lucasfilm gives it control of the blockbuster film franchise created by George Lucas. The media giant plans to exploit it through sequels, TV and theme parks. print. Comments. 3
Disney deal: Lucas turns to the Dark Side?CNN International (blog)
George Lucas' Marin land in questionSan Francisco Chronicle
Star Wars 7 Plot Will Be “an Original Story,” Says Lucasfilm SourceE! Online

Post to Twitter

FBI Arrests Second Suspect in Bomb Plot Against Bank – New York Times

Category : Stocks

FBI Arrests Second Suspect in Bomb Plot Against Bank
New York Times
The Bangladeshi man who was arrested Wednesday on charges that he plotted to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank of New York had an accomplice in San Diego, who was arrested later on unrelated child-pornography charges, a law enforcement official
San Diego Man Arrested for Porn Is Linked to Bomb PlotBloomberg
Bomb plot family rejects
FBI Helped Orchestrate Bomb Plot, Then Foiled ItNBC New York
Christian Science Monitor

Post to Twitter

Moroccan pleads guilty to US Capitol bomb attempt – Reuters

Category : Stocks

ABC News
Moroccan pleads guilty to US Capitol bomb attempt
By Lily Kuo | ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (Reuters) – A Moroccan man pleaded guilty on Friday to attempting to bomb the US Capitol building in Washington in February, 2012, and could face up to 30 years in prison. Amine El Khalifi, 29, an illegal immigrant
Man pleads guilty of trying to blow up US CapitolCNN
Moroccan Enters Guilty Plea in Capitol Bomb PlotABC News
Alexandria man admits plot to bomb the CapitolWashington Post
all 390 news articles

Tax avoidance, and the secret of bad British film | Marina Hyde

Category : Business

The abysmal Britflick was one of the mysteries of the modern age. But the whole business may have been a clever wheeze

Is there a more perfect vignette in the recent career of our rapidly oxidising prime minister than his standing next to Aung San Suu Kyi but being quizzed about Gary Barlow? Over the years, many of us will have beheld certain politicians and wondered: “Do they have any idea what plonkers they are?” One hopes the knowledge eats at them in the silent watches of the night, but the suspicion is that everything from ministerial cars to American bilaterals fools them, and they never really put themselves into perspective.

Occasionally, though, the gods of staging chuck us a bone. And the experience of standing beside the Burmese pro-democracy paragon while reporters asked about his mate from Take That must have brought home to David Cameron his essential smallness. It was a moment made for the commentary of Spinal Tap’s David St Hubbins. “That,” he once remarked, “is too much fucking perspective.”

Much has been said on Jimmy Carr’s “terrible error of judgment”, and we shall come later to the “terribly funny error of judgment” that saw Cameron pronounce on it. For now, thanks to the excellent Times investigation into tax avoidance, we can be grateful for two things. Gary Barlow only had a couple of days to enjoy his OBE before people were claiming he was a chiseller. And perhaps we finally have an explanation for the awfulness of British films.

Obviously, there are exceptions. But for every rare Britflick success, there must be 20 sensationally appalling duds. In a country so strong in all the other arts, it was one of the great mysteries of the modern cultural era. So what a lightbulb moment to read that, according to the Times, £150,000 invested in a film could generate £1m of tax relief – even if it flopped. The product is in effect irrelevant. Those British films that take three figures at the box office should clearly be trailed with the tagline: “From the accountants who brought you Love, Honour and the Rancid Potato Men”.

Forgive the detour into esoterica, but have you seen Mad Cows? For some years now, my friend Matthew and I have nurtured a demented fixation with this 1999 British classic, watching it countless times, typically in drink, whilst howling: “HOW? How in the name of sanity did this get made?” I now wonder if it could be that the ever-perplexing sequence in which Rustie Lee is effectively interned in HMP Scrubsway, for merely being in a shop at the same time Anna Friel shoves some frozen peas down her bra to ease her nursing discomfort, is not an inexcusable plot hole after all, but an extraordinary act of cinematic accountancy that, every time it is watched, triggers an automatic payment of a hundred grand into some investor’s bank account.

This, presumably, is how they create wealth in Bizarro World. Indeed, there is an even closer fictional precedent: The Producers, where two shysters hatch a plot to get rich by overselling shares in a Broadway flop. Jimmy Carr, and all the sadly unnamed non-celebs who decline the civic duty of paying proper tax in favour of avoiding it via film investment schemes and the like – they are the Bialystock to the accountants’ Bloom.

But where The Producers’ Bialystock and Bloom unintentionally produce a camp hit, this is not the fate of the Britflicks. Perhaps the genius of the parasite tax avoiders that use British film as a host organism is that even talent cannot derail the movies’ journey toward turkeyville. Many of these films harness the immense gifts of some of our finest British actors – but they could have starred Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep and the outcome would have been the same. Retina-scarring for you and me, and paydirt for some footballers.

I do not pretend to understand the formula by which this alchemy takes place. It is as opaque as the plot of Mad Cows itself. But could it be harnessed to help the British economy, instead of shaft it? Could it be repurposed in a manner that could enrich the many and not the few? The answer, of course, is no. We need only look at the social and political breakdown that followed the collapse of the pyramid schemes once hailed as the saviour of Albania’s economy to be reminded that such schemes are the grimmest of zero-sum games.

Yet, with the exception of financial services, there is no sector so routinely frotted by governments as the film industry. Politicians remain pathetically impressed by “movie people”, as though we were talking about the golden age of MGM and not some amoral number-crunchers from Jersey. Since 1997, governments have fallen over themselves to give the industry tax breaks – the very ones being exploited by the avoiders – like nerds sucking up to the cool kids.

In fact, it is precisely this Blairite celebrity obsession that made David Cameron unable to resist giving his views on the personal tax arrangements of a comedian. One imagines that, by now, with questions rolling in on his own family fortune and every tax avoider he has ever befriended or made a government adviser, he is beginning to grasp what an imbecilic act of self-sabotage that was. Its fallout, however, might be something many of us can enjoy with a bucket of popcorn.

• Comments on this article will be opened on Saturday morning

Saudi agent in bomb plot held UK passport, source says – CNN International

Category : Stocks
Saudi agent in bomb plot held UK passport, source says
CNN International
By Nic Robertson, Paul Cruickshank and Brian Todd, CNN A source briefed by Saudi counterterrorism officials told CNN that the agent is of Saudi origin, but holds a British passport. (CNN) — New details are emerging about the man sent by Saudi
British played central role in foiled bomb operation: sourcesReuters
Undercover agent in al-Qaeda bomb plot 'was British'BBC News
Mole who helped CIA foil al-Qa'ida underwear bomb 'was British national'The Independent
Voice of America

Post to Twitter

NEW: No danger to air travel by bomb plot, homeland security secretary says – CNN

Category : Stocks

Globe and Mail
NEW: No danger to air travel by bomb plot, homeland security secretary says
Device was meant to be put on a US-bound airline, US Rep. Peter King says Washington (CNN) — Investigators were studying an explosive device Tuesday that they say terrorists in Yemen crafted to slip past airport metal detectors and onto an airplane
US airport security could detect Qaeda device: officialsReuters
Recommended: Insider thwarted underwear bomb plot, triggered drone strike, US
International sting operation brought down underwear bomb plotLos Angeles Times
Christian Science Monitor

Post to Twitter

CIA thwarts new underwear bomb plot against jet – Los Angeles Times

Category : Stocks

Toronto Star
CIA thwarts new underwear bomb plot against jet
Los Angeles Times
US officials say the Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen had a new design for the device. From the Associated Press WASHINGTON — The CIA thwarted an ambitious plot by Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen to destroy a US-bound airliner using a bomb with a
CIA thwarts new al Qaeda underwear bomb plotCBS News
Report: CIA foiled al-Qaida plot to destroy US-bound
CIA thwarts new al-Qaida underwear bomb plotFox News
Washington Post

Post to Twitter

NYC Man Guilty in Subway Terror Attempt – TIME

Category : Stocks

Sydney Morning Herald
NYC Man Guilty in Subway Terror Attempt
By AP / TOM HAYS Tuesday, May 01, 2012 (NEW YORK) — A New York man was convicted Tuesday of plotting an aborted suicide mission against New York City subways in 2009 — a case that featured the first-time testimony from admitted homegrown terrorists
New York man convicted in subway suicide bomb plotChicago Tribune
New York Man Convicted of Plotting to Blow Up City SubwaysSan Francisco Chronicle
New York man found guilty in suicide subway bomb plotChristian Science Monitor

Post to Twitter