Downtown London residences are known to be staggeringly expensive, but media blogger Sam Cookney calculated in October just how much. Cookney said he can live in an upscale apartment in Barcelona, Spain, and commute almost every workday to London (700 miles away) for less money than a modest central London rental. (Sixteen commuter days over four weeks a month would run, in pound-dollar equivalents: $2,420 for a West Hampstead rental, $121 council tax, and $188 transit travel card, totaling $2,730. Barcelona, in euro-dollar equivalents: $938 for a three-bedroom flat with three balconies near transit, no tax, $47 daily round-trip on Ryanair, $32 a day in airport transportation, totaling $2,202 — a savings of $528 a month.) Plus, he said, sunny Barcelona is on the Mediterranean. (On the other hand, Cookney luckily can work on the plane, for each flight is two hours long.)
Can’t possibly be true
Lawyers for Radu Dogaru, who is on trial in Romania for stealing masterpieces last year from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam, Netherlands, said the heist was also the museum’s fault — for having such unimaginably lax security — and that if the museum did not admit that, Dogaru would sue. Museum officials said they had tracked some of the works to Dogaru’s mother, who is claiming ignorance, and the son’s lawyers hope to discount any insurance-company judgments against her by spreading the blame.
The online retailer Amazon.com maintains a side business of operating massive Internet-capacity “cloud” farms and contracts out space to some of the world’s largest entities, including U.S. government agencies. In a case brought to light in October by a U.S. Court of Claims ruling, Amazon had won its bid against IBM for a cloud contract with the CIA, but had gone a step further by actually improving the CIA’s system and implementing a better plan. In the bizarre world of government contracts, that created a “fairness” problem, as IBM argued that its rights were violated because the specified contract work was no longer exactly what was being done (i.e., the client’s work was being done better). IBM lodged a time-consuming protest, but later dropped the suit.
Unclear on the concept
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has been delaying a decision for months about whether to punish the Apache ASL Trails housing complex in Tempe, Ariz., for the sin of renting 85 percent of its units to the hearing-impaired — for whom the facility was actually designed (equipped with comfort and safety features to serve the deaf). However, HUD has threatened to withhold federal funding because Apache is suspected of illegally discriminating against the non-hearing-impaired (who under guidelines should, HUD believes, occupy three-fourths of Apache’s units). State officials and Arizona’s congressional delegation have voiced pride in Apache’s mission, but the HUD secretary’s indecisiveness has left Apache tenants in limbo, according to a September Arizona Republic report.
Strange old world
In July, several foreign news sites publicized the current Guinness Book record held by Jemal Tkeshelashvili of the Republic of Georgia, who blew up ordinary drugstore hot water bottles to the point where they would explode — using only air from his nose. His record was three within one minute, but perhaps equally impressive, he subsequently dazzled Discovery Channel viewers by reportedly partially nose-inflating a hot water bottle being held down by a small car.