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Hobby Lobby Owners Under Investigation for Alleged Smuggling of Bible Artifacts From Iraq

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Hobby Lobby Owners Under Investigation for Alleged Smuggling of Bible Artifacts From Iraq

Federal authorities are investigating whether the owners of Hobby Lobby illegally imported stolen artifacts for their planned Museum of the Bible.

U.S. Customs agents seized up to 300 small clay tablets shipped from Israel in 2011 to the Christian business owners’ headquarters in Oklahoma City, reported The Daily Beast.

A senior law enforcement official confirmed to the website that the Green family, which owns the arts and crafts retailer, has been under investigation for the last four years for illegally importing cultural artifacts from Iraq.

The family, which won a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case on religious belief that allowed them to withhold contraception from their employee health benefits, owns about 40,000 biblical artifacts they plan to display when their religious-themed museum opens in 2017 in Washington, D.C.

“I think seeing the biblical foundations of our nation — for our legislators to see that, that a lot of that was biblically based, that we have religious freedoms today, which are a biblical concept, it can’t hurt being (two blocks from the National Mall),” Green said.

Cary Summers, the president of the Museum of the Bible, confirmed the seizure of the tablets, which are inscribed in the cuneiform script of Assyria and Babylonia, and the federal investigation that remains underway — but he described it as a mere paperwork error.

“There was a shipment and it had improper paperwork—incomplete paperwork that was attached to it,” Summers said, suggesting that the artifacts were simply held up in customs by foot-dragging bureaucrats.

But a source familiar with the Hobby Lobby investigation told The Daily Beast that the clay tablets were described on their FedEx shipping labels as “hand-crafted clay tiles” worth about $300 each — far less than their true worth — and does not indicate they are part of the cultural heritage of Iraq.

So, in other words, they lied.

Steve Green, the Hobby Lobby CEO, admitted that his family’s collection might contain some illegally acquired artifacts but denies that he had knowingly done anything wrong.

However, the Greens met privately in 2010 with Patty Gerstenblith, a DePaul University law professor who is an expert on cultural heritage, to explain legal complications in purchasing antiquities.

It’s not clear what would happen at the conclusion of the investigation.

At least 15,000 items were looted from the national museum in Baghdad after the U.S. invasion more than a decade ago, along with thousands of other artifacts from elsewhere in Iraq.

More than 1,000 stolen artifacts were returned to Iraq in 2008, after federal officials discovered them in the U.S., but experts say only one American has been prosecuted for smuggling looted items since the invasion.

Author Joseph Braude, a Middle East expert who had previously assisted the FBI and CIA, pleaded guilty to smuggling three ancient marble and alabaster seals from Iraq in 2004 and was sentenced to six months of house arrest.

Gerstenblith, the legal expert, said law enforcement and courts are generally unwilling to prosecute U.S. troops and defense contractors caught smuggling artifacts out of Iraq but instead are satisfied with making them turn over the illicit items.

She doesn’t think that’s enough.

“Just giving the object up is not a deterrent,” Gerstenblith said.

Watch Steve Green discuss his plans for the Museum of the Bible:

Entrepreneur, contributor, writer, and editor of Sostre News. With a powerful new bi-lingual speaking generation by his side, Sostre News is becoming the preferred site for the latest in Politics, Entertainment, Sports, Culture, Tech, Breaking and World News.

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Renters in Los Angeles and San Francisco are Paying $1200 a Month for a Bunk Bed in a Shared Space

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Renters in Los Angeles and San Francisco are Paying $1200 a Month for a Bunk Bed in a Shared Space

Would you pay $1200 a month for a bunk bed in a shared space? Renters in Los Angeles and San Francisco are opting for pods in communal home with a desk, locker and personal TV

With the cost of rent continuing to rise, some Americans are taking unusual measures to find a place to sleep.

In Los Angeles and San Francisco, where prices are particularly exorbitant, people have taken to renting bunk beds in communal homes.

PodShare, which provides 10 to 15 co-ed bunkbeds in six locations across California, is hoping to help solve the affordable housing crisis.

The beds can be rented from $35 to $50 a night, which amounts to between $1,050 and $1500 for one month.

Renters in Los Angeles and San Francisco are Paying $1200 a Month for a Bunk Bed in a Shared Space

The beds can be rented from $35 to $50 a night, which amounts to between $1,050 and $1500 for one month. Pictured: Bunkbeds at a PodShare location

 

Renters in Los Angeles and San Francisco are Paying $1200 a Month for a Bunk Bed in a Shared Space

Every ‘pod’ comes with a bed that turns into a desk, individual power outlets, a locker, a shelf and a personal TV. Pictured: A resident at one of the PodShare locations

It’s no secret that housing prices have rapidly spiked over the last decade and incomes have not kept up

One 2018 study published found that only about one-third of millennials currently own homes.

This is fewer than the number of Generation Xers and baby boomers who owned homes when they were the same age.

And a study conducted by Harvard University this year found that one-in-three Americans can’t afford to pay rent.

It’s unsurprising considering that, in cities such as San Francisco, the average rent for an apartment is about $3,900.

But for $1,200, if you rent with PodShare everyone gets a bed that turns into a desk, individual power outlets, a locker, a shelf and a personal TV.

Each location also provides a communal living room, food such as cereal, toiletries such as toilet paper, laundry machines and WiFi access, reported CNN.

Tenants are known as ‘pod-estrians’.

Renters in Los Angeles and San Francisco are Paying $1200 a Month for a Bunk Bed in a Shared Space

Additionally, each location has a communal living room, a kitchen (pictured), laundry machines and WiFi access. Pictured: One of the kitchens

 

Renters in Los Angeles and San Francisco are Paying $1200 a Month for a Bunk Bed in a Shared Space

The company was founded in 2012 by 34-year-old Elvina Beck. Pictured: One of the communal workspaces

Although the set-up may seem like an adult dormitory or a hostel, the company uses the term ‘co-living’.

‘PodShare makes life more affordable because there is no security deposit or cost of furnishings and we provide flexible living,’ co-founder Elvina Beck told Vice in 2016.

‘Pod life is the future for singles which are not looking to settle down, but focus on their startups and experience something new.’

There are no curtains to close off the beds, and the only doors are to the bathroom, reported Time Out Los Angeles.

Although there’s no privacy, pod-residents are willing to exchange that for affordability or a reduced travel time to work.

Beck, 34, told CNN that she founded the company in 2012 because she wanted to meet new people and provide housing security to others.

‘Maybe they don’t have two months’ rent to put down or they don’t have proof of income,’ she said.

‘Whether it’s from a divorce or their family kicked them out for being gay or because they’re in a different country or a different city.’

Renters in Los Angeles and San Francisco are Paying $1200 a Month for a Bunk Bed in a Shared Space

Beck says that most of the early residents were between ages 24 and 30, and that now they are in their late 20s or early 30s. Pictured: Lockers at one PodShare location

 

Renters in Los Angeles and San Francisco are Paying $1200 a Month for a Bunk Bed in a Shared Space

Hard rules that each tenant must follow include: lights have to be off by 10pm, no guests are allowed and tenants can’t have sex. Pictured: Bunkbeds at one PodShare location

She told CNN that, when she began PodShare, most residents were between ages 24 and 30. Today, however, most ‘tenants’ are in their late 20s or early 30s.

Additionally, many of the early residents were young adults who had just moved to a new city. But many new residents are older adults and even those traveling on business.

However, there some rules that people are required to follow. Lights have to be off by 10pm, no guests are allowed and tenants can’t have sex.

‘You can’t invite any friends over,’ Beck told CNN. ‘Sorry. Just make new ones here.’

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Caretaker Ties a Wheelchair-Bound Pensioner to a Tree by The Neck

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Caretaker Ties a Wheelchair-Bound Pensioner to a Tree by The Neck

Shocking footage of a wheelchair-bound pensioner being tied to a tree by the neck by a caretaker has sparked controversy in China.

The caretaker claimed to have no other way but to bind her frail client with a rope because she had to rush back home to deal with family emergency.

Furious onlookers demanded the caretaker free the pensioner immediately. The domestic worker defended her act by calling the incident ‘no big deal’.

The video was reportedly shot in Beijing recently, according to local news outlet Btime.com.

Related: Killer Snatched Girl, 11, Suffocated Her Then Dumped Corpse in Sewer

The pensioner appeared extremely distressed throughout the video and could not speak clearly.

One angry male passer-by accused the caretaker: ‘How would you feel if your daughter treated you like this?’

He criticised the caretaker and said she should bring the pensioner with her.

The caretaker replied: ‘[If I had] pushed her back, she would tell [on me].’

Another female bystander pointed out that the pensioner neck had turned red because of the rough treatment.

After being lambasted by eyewitnesses, the caretaker untied the pensioner and pushed her away.

Authority said the clip had been uploaded onto the social media by residents in a neighbourhood called Nanyuan on the outskirts of southern Beijing.

But they had not been able to identify the exact location of the incident or track down the individuals involved.

Police have been alerted of the video and launched an investigation, according to Beijing Evening News.

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Comforting Shelter Dogs During Fireworks Is The New Independence Day Tradition

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Comforting Shelter Dogs During Fireworks Is The New Independence Day Tradition

“Calming the Canines,” at Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC), is a new Independence Day tradition.

Comforting Shelter Dogs During Fireworks Is The New Independence Day Tradition

Last year, over 300 people from the community showed up at the shelter’s two locations around Phoenix, Arizona.

It was overwhelming to see how the community responded. It really helped spread our message that MCACC is here to help.

Comforting Shelter Dogs During Fireworks Is The New Independence Day Tradition

Amy Engel, who attended Calming the Canines last year said that she definitely plans on attending this year, too.

Engel wrote about her experience last year

Some people sang to them, some people read to them, some people just sat there and gave treats! It was so, so awesome because the dogs absolutely love the attention and were focused on the people and not the fireworks going on outside.

Comforting Shelter Dogs During Fireworks Is The New Independence Day Tradition

MCACC wrote:

Many participants developed lasting relationships with the shelter, returning to provide foster care, adopt a pet or volunteer.

The shelter suggests people to bring blankets to sit on, or folding chairs, and to let the dog or cat approach them to sit calmly and quietly.

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