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Britney denied removal of her conservatorship

The hashtag #FreeBritney has been floating around the internet for quite some time. Since 2009 in fact when concerns around her conservatorship were first raised by a fan site of the same name and reported by Julia Jacobs reported for The New York Times. For nearly 13 years, Britney Spears has been under a conservatorship – otherwise known as a guardianship – by her family that has resulted in her being unable to make her own decisions in her life. Although seemingly first a genuine attempt to aid Britney during a period of mental stress in the late noughties, the conservatorship seems to have quickly grown into a way for those close to Britney to exploit and profit from her stardom. 

As the #FreeBritney movement has for a long time claimed Britney’s affairs have been under (too close-) control by her father Jamie Spears. Now in his late eighties, Spears’ father is currently suffering from his own health problems, suffering an episode at the end of last year that has in part prompted Britney to act in an attempt to free herself from his control. As it stands right now, Britney is unable to make many financial, legal, health and social life choices for herself. 

In the most recent court case, where Britney was able to speak publicly for the first time about her conservatorship, she described decades long emotional abuse and even of punishments from her management when she did not want to comply with their wishes. In one heart-wrenching instance she describes wanting another child but being unable to conceive as a result of the IUD contraceptive that she was not allowed to have removed under the conservatorship. 

Britney spoke freely for the first time ever about her conservatorship for over twenty minutes. Yet despite her passionate speech, the judge has denied her rights to have the conservatorship removed. It is not yet known whether Britney will appeal.

Blog Influencers Society

The Alt-lit scene is characterised by an interest in online publishing and publishing in all its forms though usually influenced in some way by internet culture. Alt-lit stands for Alternative Literature, a scene that emerged in New York, United States of America around 2014. Big names on the scene include people like Tao Lin, Sam Pink, Darcy Wilder and more recently self styled instafamous writers like Caroline Calloway. 

While New York might have at one point been the epicentre for the coronavirus pandemic takeover of the USA, it has in more recent months, enjoyed a relaxation and lifting of lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures. New York Time magazine even declared the return of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) on the front cover of its latest issue. 

For those of us unable to be seen dining out in Brooklyn or strolling in Central Park however, Instagram is – as usual – providing us virtual access to the lives of the cool and trendy. For those keen to keep their finger on the pulse when it comes to the re-emergence of the alt-lit scene in NYC, here are our choice of Instagram accounts to follow the revival of Alt-lit 2.0 on : 

  1. Taolincellectuals

Taolincellectuals in the fan account for original alt-lit author Tao Lin. Also noted for being the official Muumuu House marketing and communications account it’s a little hard to tell who is running the show, but plenty of memes come from the account to keep people interested. 

  1. writers_life_tips

Self acclaimed autistic genius and poet, writers life tips is a meme account with an iconic plain or stock photo background and simple text aesthetic. Half social commentary, half biography, the account pokes fun at the alt-lit movement as well as the author. 

  1. unbridled_id

    The account is run by Sierra Armor, who notes herself as being a cyberbully Superstar since 2001.
Blog Politics Society

Post-covid trends for the new normal

The thought of a ‘new normal’ is what has kept many of us going over this past year. With so many parts of life affected by the ongoing coronavirus COVID-19 global pandemic crisis, it is not yet fully clear what life will look like as we go back to ‘normal’. For many people, the pandemic meant working or learning from home, and much less travel as a result of lockdown restrictions. Social distancing measures have also changed how we socially interact with one another, with more people expressing hesitancy to touch and many choosing to touch elbows rather than shake hands as a greeting. 

So what will life look like in the post-covid new normal?

The work from home revolution 

Advancements in digital technology have made working from home easier than ever during this pandemic and less people than ever before are keen to get back to the office. While working from home has been shown to increase short term productivity, it is said to be detrimental to long term growth and developments in business. New co-working and scheduling software however has helped to reintroduce the social side of work and makes it easier than ever for employees to stay connected. 

Online learning

The education sector has faced many challenges this pandemic, with much disruption to students’ learning experience no matter what their age. Children have been unable to start school and many students have been unable to take their exams as normal. As a result, educational software and teaching methods have had to develop at a rapid pace. There has also been an increase in demand for online learning opportunities as a consequence of more people being at home and having more free time available. 

Paperless money

As touch became problematic our inclination towards a cashless payment system increased. Now more banks and service providers are offering digital banking and payment opportunities for customers who want to buy without the fear of infection.

Blog Politics Society

Germany to return looted Nigerian bronzes

The government of Nigeria has said it is pleased to be receiving a returned portion of the Benin Bronzes that were said to be looted all the way back in 1897. The ancient artifacts were supposedly taken by British soldiers initially in a raid before being acquired by museum collections across the United States of America and European cultural capitals. 

The artifacts consist mainly of plaques and sculptures numbering in their thousands. The items were plundered from the old Kingdom of Benin in what is now southern Nigeria. The bronzes are not associated with Benin, the modern nation. 

The repatriation of the artifacts has been the sole work of the Benin Dialogue Group for over the last decade. The group is based in Germany but comprises partnerships from multiple European nations. German officials have been working with the Nigerian government on return of the works so they can be permanently displayed in Benin City. The exhibition is hope to be realised within the year. 

In a joint release, Germany and Nigera made the statement: “The participants are in agreement that addressing Germany’s colonial past is an important issue for the whole of society and a core task for cultural policy.” They went on to “reaffirm their willingness in principle to make substantial returns” for the majority of the artifacts – a suggestion they may wish to keep several of the pieces. A more detailed time plan for the return of the artifacts will be released after the summer. 

Nigerian institutions currently only hold 9 of the Benin Bronze artifacts, whilst 38 institutions in the USA and 45 in the UK are recorded as having a piece of the historic collection. The art and cultural world has for a long time been calling for the return of previously looted artifacts as an action of decolonization. 

Blog Society

European Super League hits the ground before it can even get running

In a dramatic twist and turning of events this month, a comedy / drama / tragedy has been playing out across in European network of football clubs. Football fans in Europe and across the world have been looking on with shock, horror and awe as several of the top football clubs sought to come together to make an elite European Super League

The twelve top clubs reportedly spent three years constructing the plans for the league, only to be renamed the ‘Dirty Dozen’ as things went sour in public opinion after the league’s press release. 

In the Press Release on their website, the European Super League lists AC Milan, Arsenal FC, Atlético de Madrid, Chelsea FC, FC Barcelona, FC Internazionale Milano, Juventus FC, Liverpool FC, Manchester City, Manchester United, Real Madrid CF and Tottenham Hotspur as its founding members. 

The league proposed a closed competition of 20 clubs, with 15 founders and 5 annual qualifiers. It assured that through a knockout style tournament of home and away games that competition would remain rife and in keeping with the traditional league set up. 

So what went wrong?

It took only 48 hours or so for the European Super League to succumb to (un)popular opinion. Critics of the league voiced their opinion that the structure was unfair and went against the ethics of the game. The closed circuit league, they argued, wouldn’t allow for the possibility of promotion and relegation found in the current Premier and other leagues. 

Fans in the UK, the well known home of football as the chant goes, were outraged at the news and took to the streets to protest. Banners and chanting let organisers know how fans felt at what they called a ‘betrayal’ of football. Moral outrage overcame health and safety fears as protests took place during the COVID-19 ongoing coronavirus global pandemic crisis.

Blog Politics Society

Black Lives Matter protests sparked in Minneapolis over death of Daunte Wright

The Black Lives Matter movement continues in the United States of America this month as protestors clashed with police in Minneapolis another black man was fatally shot. The enraged and upset community took to the streets for multiple nights in a row this April as Daunte Wright, a 20 year old black man was shot at the Brooklyn Centre in the middle of the city. The fatal shooting took place only streets away from where police officer Derek Chauvin is standing trial for the death of George Floyd – a historic moment in early 2020 that is noted for sparking the #BlackLivesMatter protests that formed the Black Spring of last year. 

Police officer Kim Potter initially pulled Daunte Wright over for a traffic violation, though events later escalated as Officer Potter pulled her weapon. The scene was caught on bodycam and Officer Potter clearly exclaims that she shot Daunte Wright: “Holy shit, I just shot him.” Officer Potter allegedly claims she believed she was holding her taser, evidence supported in the video where someone is heard to be shouting “Taser! Taser! Taser!”

Critics have argued that traffic violations such as expired licenses, like the one Duaunte Wright was supposedly pulled over for, should not have been focused on by police at this time of increased tensions within the community. Being only streets away from the trial of George Floyd, those supportive of the Black Lives Matter movement have said demonstrates the intense pressure and scrutiny faced by the black community in Minneapolis. This is not a problem in Minneapolis alone however, and is indicative of the wider struggle with black communities and the police across the USA as racial minorities continue to face systematic oppression from the state. 

The community in Minneapolis was so enraged multiple nights of protest took place in the city, with crowds converging on the Brooklyn Centre. People gathered in defiance of the 7pm curfew imposed due to ongoing coronavirus social distancing restrictions.

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Gwyneth Paltrow criticised for Goop’s alternative COVID-19 remedies

Gwenyth Paltrow has come under fire recently for the alternative COVID-19 remedy treatments offered by her company Goop. Goop is the company Paltrow founded in 2008 that cites itself as a modern wellness and lifestyle brand. The company has caused controversy previously with wackier items such as its infamous vagina scented candle, and has most recently been the subject of criticism for its alternative covid treatments labelled as completely ineffective by experts. 

Paltrow counterclaims the effectiveness of the treatments, drawing from her own experience of having the virus very early on in the pandemic last year in Spring 2020. In a blog post on the Goop website, Paltrow explains: “A little background: I had COVID-19 early on, and it left me with some long-tail fatigue and brain fog.” She goes on to describe how she treated these symptoms of what has been termed ‘long-covid’ with fasting until 11am everyday combined with a plant based and keto diet. She also touts supplements available for purchase via the website for a “healthy microbiome” to keep the gut well. 

While Paltrow calls it a long term body detox, experts have called the method completely useless and unscientific in its approach to combating the long term symptoms of COVID-19. Dr. Michael Saag from the University of Alabama at Birmingham is an infectious disease expert. He told the online media platform Live Science: “I know of no scientific rationale for this approach and know of no data from clinical studies demonstrating the efficacy of these interventions”. 

The COVID-19 coronavirus global pandemic continues across the world with Europe fearing a dreaded and imminent third wave of the virus. Elsewhere, vaccination rollouts have been increased in Australia where concerns are that the virus will spread rapidly from Papua New Guinea where there has been a sharp increase in cases recently.

Blog Privacy Society

The birth of cryptocurrency Zcash

Cryptocurrencies have been the subject of great mystery since the first creation of the original digital currency Bitcoin back in 2009. As the legend of Bitcoin goes, the creator Satoshi Nakamoto has still yet to have their identity revealed. The mystery of Bitcoin however stops there, as the simplicity and public openness of its blockchain technology is actually one of the selling and security points in Bitcoin’s favour. 

There is a new cryptocurrency however even more steeped in mystery than its original. Zcash is not a new digital coin, but with renewed interest in online currencies after Bitcoing and fellow coin Ether reached all time highs this year, RadioLab podcast series revisited the birth of Zcash. 

Morgan Peck is the RadioLab journalist who was present at the birth of Zcash, there to witness the myriad and labyrinth-like set up the small team had created to produce the coin. Layers of security were created by the team which involved simple hacks, like moving computers away from the wall to avoid microphones hearing from the other room, to complicated chain series where multiple computers were involved in producing a key only to then be destroyed by their user after completion. 

The drama however occurred when the reporter’s phone began to produce a feedback loop roughly halfway through the ceremony that placed fears into the group they had been hacked. With the multiple security procedures in place however, they decided it was safe enough to continue the procedure and as a result the Zcash coin was born. 

The secret ceremony was constructed with multiple cameras recording the events, with then additional cameras filming the first cameras so as to ensure they had not been tampered with. The extreme measures were put in place to inspire trust in the birth of the currency which positions itself as the full private for users – the opposite to Bitcoin.The birth of cryptocurrency Zcash

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Europe to break up big tech if U.S. can’t

Following antitrust investigations from the U.S. Government into online giants Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple back in July 2020, the EU has now threatened to break up Silicon Valley’s big tech companies if the US can’t.

The argument revolves around monopoly and antitrust laws, put in place to stop companies from engaging in anti competitive behaviour. Whilst the U.S has been conducting investigations this December in an aim to break up Facebook and bringing seemingly incriminating emails sent from its founder to light, the EU has since released two major new drafts of regulations for tech companies. 

The two documents are the Digital Markets Act and a Digital Services Act which seek to hold companies accountable for both unfair competition and the regulation of illegal behaviour on their platforms. The documents come from the EU centre of Brussels and are the first significant revamp of policy from the EU in twenty years. Both proposals for the new acts will first need to be voted on by the Council of Ministers and European Parliament before being able to be made into law. There is, however, no timetable as of yet to when this might occur. 

The proposals include big fines for big tech companies seeking to eat up market competition. Companies will be liable for up to 10% of their worldwide revenue for acts of deliberate anti-competition, while fines for up to 6% of global revenue will be put in place for companies that fail to regulate their platforms for illegal behaviour. 

If the new laws were to come into place they would indicate one of the biggest and most significant shifts in worldwide policy making, as EU law would greatly impact US companies’ working practices. The EU laws are noted to be some of the most strict and stringent big tech companies would have to comply with.

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Breaking up big tech: continued scrutiny for Facebook

A world without Facebook – or any other of its online social media outlets such as Instagram and Whatsapp – seems almost unimaginable for some. In fact, an increasing number of the global population are born into a world they will never know without an ever growing digital realm. For those born between the mid- to late- 1990s until the early 2010s, this generation has even become known as Gen Z – or rather Generations Zoomers since the undeniable takeover of 2020 from the digital conference platform zoom in wake of the global coronavirus pandemic. 

Since its launch in 2004 Facebook has continually dominated our social sphere, affecting both our online and offline behaviours. It’s growing control as a media conglomerate has caused much controversy in more recent times this year, yet the social media giant is not accustomed to controversy and lawsuits. The infamous dispute between founder Mark Zuckerberg and some fellow Harvard law students was encapsulated in the 2010 film The Social Network, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield and even Justin Timberlake. 
With a history of breaking up large company monopolies such as logging companies in the 1840s, Standard Oil in the 1910s, and then AT&T in the 1980s, the U.S. Government has finally taken on big tech. Following investigative court proceedings with the four online giants Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google back in July 2020, the government has once again taken on Facebook for holding too much power in the social media sphere. The government has since filed an antitrust law against Facebook, directed at the company’s tactics of buying rival competition. Whilst policy makers have described the court proceedings as likely to be an uphill battle though are keen to break up the monopoly that arguably stifles rival competition and hinders creative diversity, others have criticised the government for attempting a break up that could cause unintended and unforeseeable consequences.