xoNEWS: Squatter Problems, A Journalist Freed, And A New Tool In Fighting Sexual Assault

Some of the headlines you might have missed, neatly summarized.

Aug 27, 2014 at 12:30pm | Leave a comment

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Welcome to your mid-week dose of depressing information. Just kidding! The news has been so heavy for the past few weeks, it’s been hard to read and even harder to write about sometimes. So, this edition (and hopefully future editions) will cover some positive stories. But fear not Debbie Downers, there’s still enough important doom and gloom to cover.
 
One of the more positive bits of news covered this week is about an invention that is going to be potentially life changing for women. It’s such a brilliant idea that I can’t begin to accurately describe the impact it might have. Are you curious about what it is? I’ll give you a hint: it’s actually a beauty product!
 
As always, questions and complaints can be left in the comment section. Or just tweet me directly @AmandaLauren.
 
Last Night A Manicure Saved My Life
 
Four college students at North Carolina State University invented a nail polish that changes colors when exposed to date rape drugs including GHB, Xanex and Rohypnol. The brand is creatively called Undercover Colors. This product (which on the Facebook page appears to be a clear top coat) will allow women to discreetly test their drinks for these drugs by stirring it with their fingers.
 
So how did these men come up with such a brilliant idea? In an interview, Ankesh Madan, who was one of the inventors, stated that:
 
Undercover Colors started out as an idea born in my co-founders’ active imaginations. As we were thinking about big problems in our society, the topic of drug-facilitated sexual assault came up. All of us have been close to someone who has been through the terrible experience, and we began to focus on finding a way to help prevent the crime.
 
According to Madan, the company is very invested in women’s issues:
 
While date rape drugs are often used to facilitate sexual assault, very little science exists for their detection. Our goal is to invent technologies that empower women to protect themselves from this heinous and quietly pervasive crime.
 
The product is not on shelves yet and the company is seeking investors. They have already received $100,000 from the Lulu eGames Student Competition, which they won in August.
 
This Isn’t A Portlandia Sketch
 
Imagine closing on a house and then finding out you can’t move in, because squatters are occupying the premises. That’s exactly what happened to Rod Nylund of Portland, Oregon. Not only did he discover squatters had moved into his new house and changed the locks, they also started utility services in their name and paid the bill, 30 days before Nylund was set to move in. 
 
So, how is this even legal? A local news station spoke to the squatters who said she, her husband and young daughter had been homeless and claimed the property as “adverse possessors.” Adverse Possession allows squatters to legally claim ownership of an abandoned property by improving it and physically occupying it. The home was not abandoned and the previous owner doesn’t know how the trespassing took place. 
 
Nylund has kindly offered the family money to leave, but they refused, so he must hire an attorney and go to court.
 
This is one of three similar incidents that made headlines this summer. In Palm Springs, California, Maksym Pashanin, along with his brother, refused to leave a condo they rented through Airbnb for an initial 30-day period. The law says that after 30 days someone occupying a property is no longer considered a guest, but a renter. To legally evict renters, landlords must go to court. It was confirmed on August 25th that after legal and media pressure, the brothers finally relented. Airbnb paid most of the owner’s legal fees, but she isn’t sure if she is going to rent out her condo again in the near future. 
 
The other big squatting story of the summer involved a woman who was dubbed the “Nightmare Nanny” by the media. She refused to leave an Upland, California home after she was fired from her job. The family took the nanny to court to get her out, but the judge actually sided with her. Even after going to court, the nanny continued to stay in the family’s home, but she finally left in late June.
 
James Foley Update
 
Last week, I discussed the horrific death of James Foley, an American journalist who was held hostage and then beheaded by terrorist organization ISIS, who then released video of the horror as a message to Americans and Obama. 
 
US and British intelligence have a prime suspect in the beheading: 23 year-old British rapper turned terrorist, Abdel Majed Abdel Bary. Bary also goes by the stage names “Lyricist Jinn” and “L Jinny.” In 2013, Bary left his family's million-dollar home west of London to fight for radical Islam in Syria. Last August, Bary tweeted a picture of himself in Iraq holding a severed head. His Twitter account has since been suspended.
 
What causes an aspiring rapper to become a radical jihadist? Terrorism is apparently the family business. Bary’s father is Adel Abdel Bary, an associate of the late Osama bin Laden, and is believed to have been involved with the 1998 bombings of the US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. In 2012, he was extradited to the US and charged with conspiracy. 
 
There have also been reports that the younger Bary didn’t murder Foley or perhaps wasn’t the only person responsible for his death. Several experts who have analyzed the footage think the video of the murder may have been staged, and that it actually took place off camera. In the video, the masked man, who is believed to be Bary, moves a knife across Foley’s neck, but there’s no blood. After fading to black, the video then cuts to Foley’s severed head resting on his back. 
 
Theo Curtis Freed
 
There is some good news (if you can really call it that) coming out of the Middle East. Journalist Theo Curtis has been freed after being held hostage for 22 months by Jabhat Al-Nusra, a Syrian terrorist group. To clarify, this is not the same terrorist group responsible for James Foley’s execution, which is ISIS.
 
On Sunday, Curtis was handed over to UN peacekeepers in Al Radid Village, which is located between Israel and Syria. While Jabhat Al-Nusrah reportedly demanded a $25 million ransom, Curtis’ mother insists that no ransom was paid. Last month, a video was released of Curtis begging for his life while his hands were tied and a gun was pointed at his head. Unlike European governments, the United States’ policy is not to pay ransoms.
 
Headlines:
 
• This just in: A "Full Hous"e revival is currently in the works. Most of the cast, excluding Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen and Lori Loughlin, are on board as are series creator Jeff Franklin and producer Bob Boyett. 
 
• Miley Cyrus, who made news for twerking her way through last year’s VMAs, made the headlines this year for raising awareness about homeless youth. Cyrus sent a homeless teenager in her place to give a speech when she won the “Video of the Year” award for “Wrecking Ball.”
 
• Uber, Lyft and other ride sharing startups lobbied in California last week against a bill that would require drivers to have commercial insurance policies. These companies are also battling another bill in California, which would require deeper background checks for drivers.
 
• On Sunday, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake hit Napa County, California. The total damage calculated so far may be close to $1 billion. 70,000 people lost power, but it has since been restored. 208 people were sent to the hospital, but there were no deaths related to the quake. And not to worry, most vineyards in the region were not significantly impacted by the quake; so wine prices will probably not increase as a result of the disaster. 
 
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