Why Your Fancy Banking App Isn’t Helping You Budget Better

One of the promises of online banking is that you can get an app to do your budgeting for you. It’s something that feels necessary in a post-Great Recession world: Real household incomes have been falling over the last decade and a half, and people have to keep track of their money because they have less to spend than they once did.

The idea is that by tracking your spending, you can avoid the kind of profligacy that leads to budget downfall. Unfortunately for most Americans, budgeting isn’t really the problem.

Keeping track of every happy hour drink may help on the margins, but for most people, financial problems are caused by things like losing a job or getting sick. The real problem is not that you aren’t budgeting — it’s that the costs of housing, college and health care have skyrocketed in the last 50 years. No app can keep you from overspending on rent, needing to pay back student loans or medical debt, or suffering through bouts of unemployment.

That hasn’t stopped banks from trying.

Ally Bank’s new app, Splurge Alert, is sort of like a reverse-Yelp. It uses geolocation to alert people when they’re approaching stores and restaurants where they tend to spend money unnecessarily. Warning! You’re entering a high-spending zone! In the promotional video, Drew Scott, the co-star of popular HGTV show “Property Brothers,” admits to a bad habit of buying antique swords. (“I’m not a violent person,” he says. “I just like deadly medieval weapons.”)

It’s an interesting take on budgeting gamification. But who, exactly, is this helping?

“I can imagine a very limited set of situations where this kind of thing might be helpful,” said Abigail Sussman, a marketing professor at the University of Chicago who studies how people make purchasing decisions. She said this approach might be useful if a person already knows they have a problem with a particular type of spending, and they’re making a conscious effort to steer clear of it. But when it comes to specific harmful spending habits, this kind of self-awareness is actually pretty rare.

There are more broadly helpful versions of mobile banking. Citi, for example, lets its customers see basic details about how much money is in their checking account on the app homepage, without signing in. Simple, an online bank that prides itself on customer service, has a proprietary tool called “safe-to-spend,” which shows you how much discretionary cash there is in your account, automatically subtracting the money you spend regularly on things like rent and utilities.

But again, that kind of thing only helps with a small percentage of irregular purchases. There’s a story in The Atlantic this month about a man — a film critic — who barely has two pennies to rub together, despite all the outward signals of being well off. He owns a house, has published many books and is well-known as a writer. He has a child who went to Harvard Medical School. But, he explains, he and his wife have no retirement funds and no savings as a result of a little bit of bad luck, and some very poor choices on his part.

Would any of these apps help this man? Probably not. His problem is his lifestyle, not his day-to-day spending. He was paying two mortgages for several years because he and his family moved during a market downturn — in Brooklyn and East Hampton, no less, two of the most expensive housing markets in the country. His wife quit her job when their children were young, then had trouble finding her way back into the workforce. They sent their children to private school. Almost no amount of restaurant-splurging stacks up against years of five-figure private school tuition.

As part of the app’s launch, Ally commissioned a third-party online survey by Harris Poll on people’s splurging habits. While 85 percent of people said that they occasionally splurge on things, only 7 percent said they do it once a month or more. The most common splurges by far fell into the “food and drink” or “clothes and shoes” categories, both of which usually end up being relatively small amounts of money compared to, say, rent.

Meanwhile, a recent report by the Federal Reserve showed that 47 percent of Americans say they don’t have $400 to spare in an emergency, suggesting that splurging isn’t the big problem for most people’s budgets.

In a 2012 paper on what motivates consumer spending, sociologist Jeff Lundy found that splurging on things like clothes and restaurants is usually a sign that a person is accumulating wealth, rather than the opposite. “The best predictors of both wealth losses and reduced wealth accumulation were adverse circumstances which tend to overwhelm a household’s budget,” the paper says.

And no app can bring back the erosion of Americans’ incomes since 1999. But that app certainly would be cool.

Would you like to improve your relationship with money? Sign up to join our 30-Day, More Money, Less Stress Challenge to demystify one of the most important and empowering areas of your life. We’ll deliver tips, challenges and advice to your inbox every day during April. Sign up here

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2016/04/29/banking-app-budget_n_9811118.html

Watch What Happened When 4 People Tried On Gender-Neutral Clothing

Gender-neutral clothing certainly isn’t new, but it’s definitely having a moment in the fashion world.

From steetwear to high fashion, brands from all over are blurring gender lines. Earlier this year, Jaden Smith made headlines when he posed in a skirt for Louis Vuitton’s new line, Zara introduced its “Ungendered” clothing line (to mixed reviews), and last year U.K. department store Selfridges began a “genderless shopping experience” that featured a shopping space without gendered marketing, called “Agender.” 

Following the strides toward gender inclusivity in fashion, four people decided to eschew gender norms, embrace the fluidity of individual identities and try gender-neutral clothing on for size. 

Check it all out in the HuffPost Originals video above. 

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2016/04/27/gender-neutral-clothing_n_9797516.html

Amazon must pay consumers for in-app purchases made by children, judge rules

Federal Trade Commission had reached settlement agreement with Apple and Google in 2014 on issue of parental consent and passwords for in-app purchases

A federal judge has ruled that Amazon is liable for in-app purchases made by children, the latest development in a suit filed by the Federal Trade Commission in 2014.

The FTC reached a settlement agreement with Apple and Google in 2014 about in-app purchases made by children without parental consent but sued Amazon when the Seattle company did not agree to settle. All three companies now require a password for in-app purchases or an opt-in to enable purchases without a password.

The millions of dollars billed to Amazon customers without a mechanism for consent, the thousands of customers complaining about unauthorized charges, and the time spent seeking refunds for those charges, all demonstrate substantial injury, wrote US district judge John Coughenour in Washington state on Tuesday.

It is Amazons stated policy that in-app purchases are final and nonrefundable, likely discouraging much of its customer base from attempting to seek refunds.

The judge also noted that 1,573 customers who sought refunds did not receive them.

The judge asked for information from the FTC and Amazon about how much money Amazon owes consumers related to the in-app purchases, and did not immediately decide on a remedy. The FTC said it would press for full refunds for affected Amazon customers.

The agency has accused the online retailer of failing to make proper disclosures to parents regarding purchases made by their children while using apps such as Pet Shop Story.

The judge cited in his ruling what he said was a confidential document about Amazons marketing plan, in which it acknowledged that IAP isnt a concept widely known by customers.

Coughenour also quoted Aaron Rubenson, who says on his LinkedIn account that he is head of the Amazon app store, that customer complaints about the purchases were near house on fire. The judge also quoted Rubenson saying, Were clearly causing problems for a large percentage of our customers.

FTC data analyst Julie Miller estimated that Amazon had made $86m from the in-app purchases and refunded $10m. She estimated that fully 42% of the total purchases were unauthorized, the judge said. The judge said he believed that number could be inflated and asked for a further briefing.

Amazon called Millers estimate fundamentally flawed, the judge said. Amazon did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

The FTC settled similar cases with Apple and Google in 2014. Apple agreed to refund customers at least $32.5m in unauthorized charges, while Google agreed to pay at least $19m.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/27/amazon-pay-consumers-in-app-purchases-children

More polluting vehicle charge zones needed, say MPs – BBC News

Image copyright Getty Images

“Clean air zones” targeting drivers of high-polluting vehicles should be extended to more cities in England, the Commons environment committee has said.

MPs said more cities should get the enhanced powers being granted to London, Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton.

The powers allow cities to charge high-polluting vehicles to discourage them from entering the city centre.

The committee said tackling air quality was a priority.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last year outlined the plans to introduce five clean air zones by 2020, after a Supreme Court ruling ordered it to comply with European Union law limits on nitrogen dioxide in the air. These five are in addition to the existing one in the capital.

The proposed clean air zones will only affect older – mainly diesel – buses, lorries, coaches and taxis, but will not apply to private cars.

Separately, London’s mayor has announced that a “ultra low emission zone” being introduced in the centre of the capital from 2020 will apply to all vehicles, including private cars.

All six cities currently granted the enhanced powers were found to have the highest levels of nitrogen dioxide.

The government said the zones would both reduce pollution in city centres and encourage the replacement of older vehicles with higher emissions.

‘Greater flexibility’

The report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said emissions had been declining significantly but there were 40-50,000 early deaths each year in the UK because of cardiac, respiratory and other diseases linked to air pollution.

Committee chairman Neil Parish, the Conservative MP for Tiverton and Honiton, said: “Only five cities… will have new powers to charge polluting vehicles to enter new clean air zones.

“Councils in the dozens of other English cities currently exceeding EU pollution limits must also be given the option of using such powers if their communities support action.”

The current plans for the zones, added the report, imposed a “one size fits all” model.

It said local authorities must be given “greater flexibility in order that they can tailor measures to best meet their local circumstances.

“For example, cities may find it more effective to limit vehicle access at certain times of day or to target specific bus routes rather than adopt blanket access proposals.”


Analysis

Image copyright PA

By Roger Harrabin, BBC environment analyst

This report joins a growing body of challenge to government air pollution policy.

People are outraged by car firms cheating emissions tests. Parents are fed up of hearing their children are breathing harmful air. Campaigners are angry that ministers have tried to water down laws designed to protect public health.

And diesel drivers are annoyed at being blamed for running cars that government encouraged them to buy in the first place.

It took 400 years to clean up the capital’s air from coal smoke, according to a new book – London Fog – by Christine Corton.

The government is being pressed to act faster to solve nitrogen pollution in all the UK’s cities.

Follow Roger on Twitter


The committee also suggested:

  • The government ensure marketing claims made by vehicle manufacturers were “fully accurate”, following the scandal surrounding the falsifying of emissions by Volkswagen
  • A scrappage scheme to provide owners of diesel cars that are more than 10 years old with discounts on ultra-low emission vehicles
  • Defra investigate if it could provide incentives to the agricultural sector to reduce its contribution to air pollution

Air pollution has caught public attention by the scandal of car makers cheating emissions tests – and by successful court cases brought against the government under European law by the group ClientEarth.

Its spokesman Alan Andrews said a decision was due in weeks on further legal action on the adequacy of the government’s plan to solve the problem.

He welcomed the MPs’ report but told BBC News there was a further problem: “I can’t understand why the MPs are willing to get even tougher on drivers whilst merely advising farmers how to reduce the ammonia coming off their manure heaps.

“The pollution from farms drifts across cities and harms people’s health – there’s been barely any reduction in it for a decade, so it’s incredible that the farm lobby has managed to wriggle out of legislation.”

‘Secretive’ group

The MPs’ report says a cross-government approach is needed and calls for more action from the inter-departmental ministerial Clean Growth Group chaired by Oliver Letwin. The MPs say this group has no timetable, no minutes and needs to be less secretive.

A Defra spokesman said: “Tackling air quality is a priority for this government and our plans set out how we will achieve this through continued investment in clean technologies and by encouraging the uptake of low emission vehicles.

“Cities already have powers to introduce Clean Air Zones, and other air quality schemes, and our plans will require five cities to implement these zones…

“Later this year we will also consult on a clean air zone framework that will give local authorities the flexibility to make decisions about their own areas while ensuring a co-ordinated approach across the UK.”

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36139049

Baltimore’s low-income voters on who they’re supporting for president

Maryland is one of five states with primary elections Tuesday. In Baltimore, there is an added sense of importance as the candidates court votes

After a morning rally in Baltimore on Saturday, Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders blamed his primary losses to rival Hillary Clinton in states with high income inequality on the fact that poor people dont vote.

I think we have done had some success with lower income people, Sanders told NBCs Meet the Press. But in America today the last election in 2014, 80% of poor people did not vote.

Maryland is one of five states with primary elections Tuesday. In Baltimore, the states largest city, there is an added sense of importance since the election falls on the eve of the first anniversary of the protests that followed the funeral of Freddie Gray on 27 April, who died of several spinal injuries he sustained during an arrest. When 25-year-old Gray died, his life, plagued by poverty and lead poisoning, became a symbol for what was wrong with this city.

In December 2015 when Sanders toured Sandtown, the neighborhood where Gray was arrested, he compared it to a third-world country.

In his Saturday speech at Royal Farms Arena, he called poverty a death sentence.

I am here today in Baltimore, Maryland, in the richest country in the history of the world, one out of every four people lives in poverty, Sanders said. If you are born in Baltimores poorest neighborhood, your life expectancy is almost 20 years shorter than if you were born in its wealthiest neighborhood. Fifteen neighborhoods in Baltimore have lower life expectancy [than] North Korea. … Baltimore teenagers between 15 and 19 face poorer health conditions and a worse economic outlook than those in distressed cities in Nigeria, India, China and South Africa.

At Penn North, the busy intersection at the heart of the Sandtown-Winchester area where a CVS pharmacy was burned down during protests last year, people were lined up on Monday to get free food loaves of white bread at one table and vegetarian food provided by the activist group Food Not Bombs at another.

That aint true, said Lisa Taylor, sitting in the bus shelter with a plate of food, of Sanders claim that poor people dont vote. Because Im poor and Im going to vote.

Taylor said she supports Clinton. I think shes going to be real about us getting a fair share of money I hope shes real, she said.

But she also said she admired Sanders. Hes got a lot of guts coming here in the middle of the hood, she said. Hes got some heart. He dont mind being in the hood.

Emmanuel Bryan Stevens III, who also sat with a plate in the bus shelter, said of Sanders claim that poor people dont vote: thats racist.

Emmanuel
Emmanuel Bryan Stevens III. Photograph: Baynard Woods for the Guardian

Its bullshit, his friend Ronald Hope added.

Both Stevens and Hope, who grew up together in the old Murphy Homes public housing projects, plan to vote and they are passionate about it. Stevens said it is the first time he will be able to vote in years thanks to a new law that allows felons to vote in Maryland, even while they are still under some form of court supervision. The law could add as many as 20,000 newly enfranchised voters in the city. New early voting laws that allow for same-day registration have already increased early voting more than seven times since the last election, with a record 30,000 people voting before election day.

Stevens will be volunteering at the polls on Tuesday and Hope will be campaigning for state senator Catherine Pugh, the frontrunner in the citys crowded mayoral race.

Both feel that economic opportunity is the main issue.

These streets aint shit, Hope said. Aint even like it used to be. Cant even make no money.

Whoever gets in there needs to create some jobs, Stevens, who said he volunteers a lot but is currently unemployed, said of the prospective winner of the election.

He acknowledges that there are numerous reasons that poor people, and especially ex-offenders, would not vote. We need to do better, he said. Theres a lot of reasons. Some dont vote because there is no one they believe in.

But nearly everyone had someone to vote against this election.

I really dont want Donald Trump in there, Hope said, echoing a sentiment expressed by many at the food lines.

Hes racist for real, Stevens said.

Gerald Bush compares both Trump and Cruz to the Klu Klux Klan, saying they want to go backwards on any progress the country has made towards racial justice.

A few miles away, a homeless couple was sitting in the doorway of an abandoned building beside a liquor store on a dilapidated block of Park Avenue near the citys Lexington Market transportation hub, the day before the primary. They said they are able to use advocacy group, Health Care for the Homeless, as a home address and are registered but said it is still difficult to vote, and especially to stay informed.

I cant really watch TV, Sean Pierre said.

Sean
Sean Pierre and Earley Thomas. Photograph: Baynard Woods for the Guardian

We vote, but we dont know who to vote for, his partner Earley Thomas said. I dont know these people. They dont do nothing for Baltimore. They dont come through here and say look I can put you in a situation and make them better. I dont know em. How am I supposed to vote for them? They want to go to Africa and Jamaica but dont none of them come out here in the hood and say lets do something different.

If they do make it to the polls, both said they would vote for Clinton. I think a woman should be president, Pierre said. We had a black man for president

Thank God, Thomas interjected.

Give a woman a chance, Pierre added.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/apr/26/baltimore-freddie-gray-killing-trump-sanders-clinton-primary

The Vehicle Of The Future Isn’t An Electric Car

We all want to imagine that the vehicle of the future is a solar-powered flying car or — why not? — a teleportation pad that beams us up to the mothership. But there’s a more pragmatic alternative already on the market today that clues us into what’s coming next for transportation.

It’s not quite a bike and definitely not a moped. It’s called the URB-E, and its website calls it a “folding electric scooter,” which also doesn’t totally fit. 

“We’re a new idea,” Evan Saunders, URB-E’s head of marketing, explained to The Huffington Post.

Some guys brought in recyclable electric folding bikes, so we rode them.

A video posted by Alexander C. Kaufman (@alexanderckaufman) on

Saunders was doing his job well, speaking in detail about why the zippy not-a-bike has such an appeal. URB-E is electric and charges in normal wall outlets. It folds up and weighs 35 pounds, so you can carry it into your home when not in use. While it starts at a hefty $1,499.99, financing plans make it feasible for normal people to get one. The seat is pretty easy to balance on and ride, even for first-timers. (I wobbled a bit, as you can see above.) And it deliberately tops out at 15 miles an hour, so you don’t need a license to ride it, per federal law. Double-check your state laws, though, as there are varying regulations for vehicles like this.

The Verge, writing about URB-E last December, called it “the ultimate hipster dad chariot,” which might be true but misses the bigger point. The vehicle won a “silver” Edison Award Thursday for innovation in the urban mobility category, and its potential is considerably larger than serving well-off parents in cities like New York and Portland. The URB-E, or something like it, could be a neat solution to emerging global transportation problems.

Those problems hinge on a simple fact: The world’s population is becoming more concentrated in cities. As former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pointed out in a conference last week, we’re approaching a time when 70 percent of all people live in urban areas. Meanwhile, more people are expected to enter the global middle class in the next couple of decades, and those people — analysts say — will want to purchase cars. That’s a problem for a few reasons: Cars take up a lot of space, they’re bad for the environment and they’re inefficient, burning through energy while sitting in traffic just to move one person from point A to B.

Cities, with their networks of roads and high-rise buildings, aren’t easy to change, so transportation might have to. A report published late last year by the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment suggests a couple of core solutions: Ride-sharing services like UberPool and more efficient public transit.

McKinsey
A table from McKinsey’s report illustrates some of the ways traditional models could be upended by new technology.

A vehicle like the URB-E is relevant because it could make those solutions even more efficient. 

“It was created to solve pain points in urban environments,” Saunders told HuffPost. “[It’s] the last-mile solution.”

You can easily put the URB-E in the trunk of a car or carry it with you on public transit — which isn’t always the case with normal bicycles. If you live in or near an urban area and can travel to the city center on public transportation, then the URB-E will allow you to drive the rest of the way to your office without physical exertion and without filling a gas tank. When you get to work, you can plug the vehicle into a normal outlet, and it’ll have a full charge before lunchtime.

And the URB-E is a relatively guilt-free purchase. They’re built in California and deliberately manufactured to be fully recyclable.

“We need this material,” Saunders told HuffPost. “All of this we can reuse.” In other words, URB-Es can be broken down to build other URB-Es.

You can learn more about the vehicle and — if you’re ready to take the $1,500 plunge — order one at urb-e.com.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2016/04/20/urb-e-electric-scooter_n_9773170.html

World heading for catastrophe over natural disasters, risk expert warns

With cascading crises where one event triggers another set to rise, international disaster risk reduction efforts are woefully underfunded

The worlds failure to prepare for natural disasters will have inconceivably bad consequences as climate change fuels a huge increase in catastrophic droughts and floods and the humanitarian crises that follow, the UNs head of disaster planning has warned.

Last year, earthquakes, floods, heatwaves and landslides left 22,773 people dead, affected 98.6 million others and caused $66.5bn (47bn) of economic damage (pdf). Yet the international community spends less than half of one per cent of the global aid budget on mitigating the risks posed by such hazards.

Robert Glasser, the special representative of the secretary general for disaster risk reduction, said that with the world already falling short in its response to humanitarian emergencies, things would only get worse as climate change adds to the pressure.

He said: If you see that were already spending huge amounts of money and are unable to meet the humanitarian need and then you overlay that with not just population growth [but] you put climate change on top of that, where were seeing an increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters, and the knock-on effects with respect to food security and conflict and new viruses like the Zika virus or whatever you realise that the only way were going to be able to deal with these trends is by getting out ahead of them and focusing on reducing disaster risk.

Failure to plan properly by factoring in the effects of climate change, he added, would result in a steep rise in the vulnerability of those people already most exposed to natural hazards. He also predicted a rise in the number of simultaneous disasters.

As the odds of any one event go up, the odds of two happening at the same time are more likely. Well see many more examples of cascading crises, where one event triggers another event, which triggers another event.

Glasser pointed to Syria, where years of protracted drought led to a massive migration of people from rural areas to cities in the run-up to the countrys civil war. While he stressed that the drought was by no means the only driver of the conflict, he said droughts around the world could have similarly destabilising effects especially when it came to conflicts in Africa.

Its inconceivably bad, actually, if we dont get a handle on it, and theres a huge sense of urgency to get this right, he said. I think country leaders will become more receptive to this agenda simply because the disasters are going to make that obvious. The real question in my mind is: can we act before thats obvious and before the costs have gone up so tremendously? And thats the challenge.

A
Sheep cross parched land in Raqqa province, eastern Syria, where lack of rain and mismanagement of land and water resources have displaced thousands of people. Photograph: Khaled al-Hariri/Reuters

But Glasser, speaking ahead of next months inaugural world humanitarian summit in Istanbul, said international disaster risk reduction (DRR) efforts remain woefully underfunded.

According to UN figures, in 2014 just 0.4% of the global aid budget of $135.2bn roughly $540m was spent on DRR. Glasser said the UN wanted that proportion to rise to at least 1% and would push for an increase at the Istanbul meeting.

Breakdown of international aid between 1991 and 2010

That would still be a very small amount of money to meet the problem and that is a big challenge, he said.

I used to work for a company that used to say, Once we get a little more money in, well start spending more of it on training our staff. But its too tight this year; maybe next year. This is one of those things like capacity-building with people: you have to start doing it. You cant wait. You just have to make choices.

He said that the internationally agreed Sendai framework for disaster risk reduction, which was adopted last year, offered the best way to reduce the human and financial cost of disasters.

Its basically about beginning to think of disaster risk as a core planning activity so that when countries invest in infrastructure theyre not building a hospital in a flood zone or establishing communities in areas vulnerable to storm surges and are not creating risk but identifying ways of reducing it, he said.

Thats the only way that I can imagine were going to be able to cope at all and even then, its a huge challenge to do that.

The special representative said that DRR simply could not be seen as an adjunct of development or humanitarian relief: they were all part of the same structure. He said that in countries such as Bangladesh, which regularly experiences devastating floods, thousands of lives had been saved over recent decades because DRR had been factored into core economic planning and money invested in infrastructure, storm shelters and early warning systems.

Last years earthquake in Nepal was another case in point and an example of the need for a more holistic approach to development and DRR.

2015 disaster related deaths

If you take Nepal, there was a school safety programme that retro-fitted something like 350 to 400 schools to be prepared for earthquakes. As I understand it, not one of those schools collapsed or was damaged significantly during the earthquake, said Glasser.

So this is a great example of the links between sustainable development and risk reduction. Theres something like 35,000 public and private schools in that country. If you build them and theyre not earthquake-resilient, and tens of thousands of them are destroyed, it just highlights that you need to get it right the first time if youre going to achieve a development outcome like improving literacy or the education of girls.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/apr/24/world-heading-for-catastrophe-over-natural-disasters-risk-expert-warns

Breivik reminds us human rights never stand alone | Nick Cohen

Many have found a Norwegian courts ruling that mass murderer Anders Breivik was being tortured in jail hard to swallow

I wouldnt have been shocked if a spectator in the public gallery had produced a gun and shot him. If Id had a gun, and thought I could have got away with it, I might have done it myself and claimed justifiable homicide. The Norwegian justice system can seem like a model of universal human rights in action, until you sit in an Oslo courtroom and watch how it deals with Anders Breivik.

We say we believe in human rights. But say it too easily and you can duck the question: what do you mean by a human right? Specifically in the case of Breivik, what precisely do we mean by the human right not to be tortured?

When I was in Oslo in 2012, I was astonished by the deference with which the court treated the puffy-faced fascist. The accused will always be given the opportunity to comment upon what the witnesses have said, Norways court rules read. The witness Breivik could barrack that day was Tonje Brenna, an organiser of the Norwegian Labour partys youth league. She described how she hid and tried to save a wounded girl, while the bodies of her slain friends fell around her.

The geography of the island of Utya, where the activists were having their summer camp, limited her movement as much as her determination to help her injured comrade. Its a flat piece of land of little more than 25 acres in Lake Tyrifjorden, west of Oslo. She had no hills to run to, no caves to hide in. Brenna could only cower on the cliff side of a low escarpment, hoping that Breivik would not notice her and her bleeding friend, while suppressing the urge to scream as bodies toppled over the cliff edge above them.

She gave her evidence with remarkable dignity. And at the end of it, the lead judge turned to Breivik and invited him to say anything he wanted. He was free to jeer at her, humiliate her, gloat over the deaths of her comrades.

When I told Norwegians the British would not tolerate anything beyond the defendant questioning evidence, they were rather stern with me. This is our system. Terrorists had the same rights as everyone else. We cannot sink to their level. Which is what everyone is meant to believe. Which is what many right-thinking people said last week when judge Helen Andens Sekulic and her colleagues decided that the Norwegian state was torturing Breivik, by holding him in solitary confinement. Their defence of basic principles played to our myth of Scandinavia as a land filled with rational liberals, better than and purer than the rest of fallen humanity.

If the stereotype were ever true, it is not true now. Before he shot 69 young social democrats and murdered another eight Norwegians with a car bomb, Breivik left a vast and vastly incomprehensible manifesto. Much of it reads like a Telegraph commentator suffering from delirium tremens. Breivik gibbers about cultural Marxism, the Frankfurt School and, of course, the EUSSR. But in his description of how he wanted men like him to kill, Breivik was lucid.

He may not have known it, but he believed in the 19th-century anarchist philosophy of propaganda of the deed. The act of terror would spread his ideas and inspire converts to become Justiciar Knights just like him. The greatest believers in propaganda of the deed today are radical Islamists. And in common with more people on the far right than you would imagine, Breivik admired them. Jihadis, he said, have honoured and commemorated their martyrs and we must do the same.

If he was captured, the European resistance fighter must use the courtroom as a stage to help generate a maximum amount of sympathisers. If he was imprisoned, Breivik promised that he would try to convert inmates or hold them and his guards hostage.

In these circumstances, Norwegians wondered what human rights the court was defending when it ruled that Breiviks solitary confinement was inhuman and degrading. They were not making mobbish demands for vengeance, but worrying about heady judicial rhetoric taking judges far from the reality-based community.

They did not even mock the court for saying that Breivik had suffered psychological damage in jail, even though less genteel writers, such as your correspondent, would have pointed out that a man who slaughtered innocents in cold blood appeared damaged enough already.

Rather, they upheld the rule of law but looked askance at the judges who enforced it. Norway is not Syria. Skien prison on the Baltic coast is not Guantnamo Bay. Breivik has three cells at his disposal: a bedroom, study and gym. He can talk to officers, priests, health workers and lawyers. But he cant meet the prisoners he had promised to either convert or take hostage and he cant issue proclamations. To call that torture, as Oslos sober VG newspaper said, trivialises real suffering and lets real torturers off the hook . True solitary confinement, where the prisoner never sees another face or hears another voice is naked cruelty. Breivik is not enduring it or anything like it.

There are still many Norwegians, including survivors of the attack, who are like the Norwegians who lectured me in 2012 for criticising court procedures. But Hanne Skartveit of VG tells me that she is now seeing widespread disquiet at the behaviour of the judiciary.

People talk of human rights as if they were always present. But they were an invention of the Enlightenment and must coexist with that second great system the Enlightenment invented, or I suppose I should say revived, democracy. Human rights can be hard for societies to live with. We treat men, even men as brutal as Anders Breivik, with respect, when all our human instincts fly against it. And that is as it should be. But, and this is not said often enough, they are also hard for their supporters. They must be able to justify themselves. They must resist the urge to engage in judicial and rhetorical overreach. They must remember that, however they are dressed up, laws stand on public consent and the public always needs to be persuaded.

With the refugee crisis and the rise of the populist right threatening European liberalism, this is not just a lesson giddy Norwegian judges need to learn afresh.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/24/anders-breivik-reminds-us-human-rights-never-stand-alone

Cracker Jack Replaces Prizes With Codes For Mobile Games

Cracker Jack — aka America’s original junk food — announced Thursday that the iconic mystery prize found inside each package would be replaced with stickers bearing digital codes for mobile games.

The company, owned by the Frito-Lay division of PepsiCo, said they were taking a new approach to their prizes with “baseball-inspired mobile digital experiences directly from the sticker inside.” Say what?

Cracker Jack, the molasses-flavored caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts mix, has been around since 1896, says Chowhound. And while the brand has had a long-standing association with baseball, (remember the line sung at every game’s seventh-inning stretch from Take Me Out To The Ballgame? — “buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack ….”) there is a whole other side to what’s inside that box. Those little toys have become collectibles!

While efforts to reach a representative of the Cracker Jack Collectors Association were unsuccessful, we share their belief as stated on their website: “What could possibly be more fun than finding the surprise inside Cracker Jack??” Nothing, that’s what. We are sure that the not-so-mysterious-of-a-prize-anymore will be a hot topic at the upcoming CJCA convention in Memphis.

Crack Jack prize-collecting is real. There are multiple books published about setting value (prices) on Cracker Jack toys and the little trinkets themselves are for sale or trade all over eBay. Currently, there’s a buy-it-now price of $129 for 27 tiny Cracker Jack plastic airplanes on a piece of black twine. That’s string, for the uninitiated.

What will the discontinuance of the little toys mean to collectors? Given the law of supply and demand, it could make them very happy. Fans of nostalgia, however, might feel differently.

But whatever the case, Frito-Lay management appears hellbent on bringing the Cracker Jack Prize Inside into the 21st Century. (Perhaps they have forgotten the pushback they received when they changed the box a few years ago?)

“The Cracker Jack Prize Inside has been as much a part of the nostalgia and love for the brand as the unforgettable combination of caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts,” said Haston Lewis, senior director of marketing, Frito-Lay, in a press release. “The new Prize Inside allows families to enjoy their favorite baseball moments through a new one-of-a-kind mobile experience, leveraging digital technology to bring the iconic Prize Inside to life.”

The new prizes will require the Blippar app, available for iOS and Android, and will come in four themes: Dot Dash, Dance Cam, Get Carded and Baseball Star. Cracker Jack will also debut restyled logo and packaging. 

While Frito-Lay would not comment to Huff/Post on the sales of Cracker Jack lately, spokeswoman Joan Cetera said the “evolved prize design is part of a broader marketing effort to remain relevant within a consumer landscape that is changing at an accelerated pace.”

 
 

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2016/04/22/cracker-jack-replaces-prizes-with-codes-for-mobile-games_n_9759372.html

Ashley Madison plaintiffs can’t sue anonymously over hack, judge says

Plaintiffs suing site for failing to adequately secure data, marketing full delete removal service that didnt work, and using fake accounts to lure customers

Plaintiffs leading a lawsuit against online dating website Ashley Madison over a security breach that exposed the personal data of customers must publicly identify themselves to proceed with the case, a US judge has ruled.

Forty-two plaintiffs, seeking to represent users of the website who had their information compromised, had proceeded anonymously against Ashley Madisons Toronto-based parent company Avid Life Media, the ruling released on 6 April showed.

The plaintiffs are suing Ashley Madison, a website that facilitates extramarital affairs, for failing to adequately secure their information, marketing a full delete removal service that did not work, and using fake female accounts to lure male customers, according to the ruling.

Their action comes after hackers who claimed to be unhappy with Avid Lifes business practices publicly released Ashley Madison customer data last August.

Reuters has not independently verified the authenticity of the data, emails or documents.

Judge John A Ross, of a district court in Missouri, wrote in his ruling that being publicly named as an Ashley Madison user amounts to more than common embarrassment but noted the 42 plaintiffs have special roles in the case that require identification.

The plaintiffs are class representatives and may need to testify or offer evidence, unlike class members, those in the lawsuit who do not need to participate as actively, Ross wrote.

He ruled that the plaintiffs must either identify themselves or proceed as class members, who can remain anonymous.

The class for the collective lawsuit has not yet been certified, the ruling noted. There are at least 10 plaintiffs who are publicly named.

Avid Media did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/21/ashley-madison-hack-plaintiffs-cant-sue-anonymously