TIME United Kingdom

Julian Assange Says He Will Leave London’s Ecuadorian Embassy ‘Soon’

Assange has spent more than two years in Ecuadorian embassy in London

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In a news conference from the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Monday, WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange stated that he’s preparing to “leave soon,” after more than two years of sheltering inside.

The WikiLeaks founder, who is wanted for questioning over rape allegations in Sweden and faces extradition, didn’t elaborate as to when precisely he would be leaving the embassy where he has been seeking political asylum since June 2012. He did say that he wouldn’t be leaving for the reasons being reported in the British press, suggesting that recent reports about a heart condition are not accurate. Yet Assange did also mention in the conference that his health had suffered while living in the embassy.

The Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricarod Patin, who was also present at the conference, said, “The situation must come to an end. Two years is too long. It is time to free Assange. It is time for his human rights to be respected.” He also reiterated that Ecuador would, “continue to offer him our protection.”

In an interview with the Daily Mail published over the weekend, Assange said, “Maybe it’s time to think that WikiLeaks is not the main problem here for the West, maybe me and my publishing house are a lesser threat than say the Islamic State in Iraq or, closer to home, paedophiles in Westminster.”

[BBC]

TIME Opinion

Dear Johns: Actually, You Should Be Ashamed to Buy Sex

The Anti-Social Network Comedy Performances
Comedian Jim Norton performs during The Anti-Social Network comedy show at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas on July 3, 2011 Ethan Miller—Getty Images

Jim Norton isn't entitled to sex, but women are entitled to human dignity

After a nationwide crackdown on men who buy sex in the 8th National Day of Johns Arrests earlier this week, comedian Jim Norton wrote an essay asserting his right to pay prostitutes for sex, called “In Defense of Johns.”

Don’t get me wrong, Norton is a funny guy. And I’m all for comedians pushing our social limits in stand-up, because that’s what comedy is all about. But why can’t a famous comic like him find someone who wants to have sex with him for his good looks and sparkling personality?

Norton’s essay wasn’t a joke — it was an actual argument defending the right to pay for sex. “But really, perhaps the most shameful thing I can admit is this: I’m not really ashamed,” he wrote. “And neither should any of these other (unmarried) johns who have been arrested.”

Actually, Jim, you should be ashamed to pay for sex. And so should all the other men who purchase women and girls, many of whom have been trafficked, enslaved and repeatedly raped. No amount of rationalization can get around the basic principle of market economics: if people like you didn’t buy girls, they wouldn’t be sold, and if they couldn’t be sold, they wouldn’t be trafficked and abused.

(Of course, there are also women who buy sex, and plenty of men and boys who are trafficking victims, but let’s focus on the male-client/female-sex-worker argument that Norton is going with.)

There was one part of Norton’s essay that I did find funny. It was the part where he said all the girls he buys are oh-so lucky to be with him. “I suppose you could say I am the consummate john,” he wrote. “I’m loyal, I’m dedicated and I will always come back.” He’s different from all those other nasty, mean clients, because he’s a really nice guy! “I never pick them up to be abusive,” he said. “I always feel extraordinarily loving and close to them.” Hahahahahaha, Jim Norton. Good one!

Did you ever consider, Jim, whether these girls felt “extraordinarily loving and close” to you? I’m guessing their feelings were a bit more complicated. They might have slept with you only because they would get beaten if they didn’t make a certain amount of money that night. And if you thought they enjoyed it, they were probably faking, because that’s exactly what you pay them to do. Sure, some woman do choose this line of work, and sex-workers unions argue that prostitution can be a freely made choice, but that’s not the case for the vast majority: U.S. State Department estimates that 80% of the 600,000 to 800,000 people trafficked across international borders every year are trafficked for sex.

And while we don’t know what the prostitutes thought of Norton, we do know what some sex workers say about their clients. One former prostitute named Kira put it this way: “You guys think we really liked having sex with you, but we would lie to you just to get your money … I hated you when I was out there,” she told men who had been busted for buying sex, according to PBS.

Men like Norton think that their entitlement to sex trumps a woman’s entitlement to dignity and safety. Many of the women they buy are among the most vulnerable human beings on the planet, no matter how wide they smile when a john rolls down his window or plunks down his credit card. According to a report cited by the U.S. State Department, 89% of people who work in prostitution worldwide want to escape. At least 65% of people who work in prostitution were sexually abused as children, and over 60% are raped on the job, according to a 2004 study by Melissa Farley, an activist and psychologist who studies the effect of prostitution on women. And according to Polaris, a Washington, D.C.–based antitrafficking group, over 40% of people trafficked for sex are under 18. Norton says he’s spent the “equivalent of a Harvard Law School education” on sex, which is precisely what keeps trafficking victims in the sex trade.

Norton claims that legalizing prostitution would help solve these problems, but what he really means is that it would be easier for him to buy sex without his pesky conscience getting in the way of his peskier penis. Because even though there are valid arguments for the legalization of prostitution, I’m finding it hard to believe that Norton really has the best interests of sex workers in mind.

Because despite the theories, there’s very little evidence that legalizing prostitution makes life better for sex workers. Even though prostitution is legal in Nevada, over 80% of the sex workers Farley interviewed told her they wanted to escape sex work. And five years after prostitution was legalized in Germany 2002, the Family Ministry found “no solid proof to date” that the legalization had reduced crime and abuse, and had “not brought about any measurable actual improvement in the social coverage of prostitutes,” according to the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel. Proponents say that legal prostitution can be regulated to ensure the safety of the sex workers, but German snack bars have more regulations than brothels do.

The Netherlands has also been held up as an example of what happens when prostitution is legalized, but the results are mixed. The mayor of Amsterdam said in 2003 that legalizing prostitution had failed to keep sex workers safe, since “it appeared impossible to create a safe and controllable zone for women that was not open to abuse by organized crime.”

Most arguments for legalization presume that tons of women would choose sex work if it were safe and legal, but that’s convenient wishful thinking for johns who want to let themselves off the hook. “In the real world, Julia Roberts’ character from Pretty Woman does not exist,” said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who organizes the National Day of Johns Arrests and advocates for harsher punishment for sex buyers. “Every time a john purchases sex, he is catalyzing a violent and oppressive industry.”

“The autonomous prostitute we envisioned when the prostitution law was enacted in 2001, who negotiates on equal terms with her client and can support herself with her income, is the exception,” German politician Thekla Walker said at a political convention. Instead, the law allows sex workers “merely the freedom to allow themselves to be exploited,” according to Der Spiegel.

Some argue that making prostitution legal could make sex workers safer, because they could call the police if a client was getting violent. But criminalizing the johns would do the same thing: prostitutes would know they won’t face jail time for calling for help, and the violent jerk would be cuffed.

That’s why targeting the johns is the best way to keep vulnerable women safe. Since Sweden introduced a measure in 1999 to target clients instead of sex workers, the population of prostitutes has been reduced by two-thirds, from 2,500 in 1998 to just 1,000 in 2013. France recently did the same, imposing fines for men who pay for sex. And even New York City prosecutors are increasingly focused on targeting buyers and pimps instead of sex workers. Because women and children will be sold as long as there are men to buy them, and when the demand for paid sex outstrips the supply of willing prostitutes, traffickers are ready to step in.

Prostitutes have been shamed and marginalized for thousands of years, but men who buy sex are considered so normal that they’re given the most ordinary name of all: john, a name shared by no less than five U.S. Presidents. Imagine the name whore was as common as john, and you’ll see how ridiculous this is — think about “Whore Quincy Adams” as our sixth President. Let’s hope we see the day when the men who choose to buy sex are shamed as much as the women who are often forced sell it. They’re the ones that should be ashamed of themselves.

MONEY The Economy

Think the Fed Should Raise Rates Quickly? Ask Sweden How That Worked Out

Raising interest rates brought the Swedish economy toward deflation Ewa Ahlin—Corbis

Some investors are impatient for the Fed to raise interest rates. They may want to be a little more patient after hearing what happened to Sweden.

If you’re a saver, or if bonds make up a sizable portion of your portfolio, chances are you’re not the biggest fan of the Federal Reserve these days.

That’s because ever since the financial crisis, the nation’s central bank has kept short-term interest rates at practically zero, meaning your savings accounts and bonds are yielding next to nothing. The Fed has also added trillions of dollars to its balance sheet by buying up longer-term bonds and other assets in an effort to lower long-term interest rates.

Thanks to some positive economic news — like the recent jobs report — lots of people (investors, not workers) think the Fed has done enough to get the economy on its feet and worry inflation could spike if monetary policy stays “loose,” as Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher recently put it.

If you want to know why the argument Fisher and other inflation hawks are pushing hasn’t carried the day, you may want to look to Sweden.

Like most developed nations, Sweden fell into a recession in the global financial crisis. But unlike its counterparts, it rebounded rather quickly. Or at least, that’s how it looked.

As Neil Irwin wrote in the Washington Post back in 2011, “unlike other countries, (Sweden) is bouncing back. Its 5.5 percent growth rate last year trounces the 2.8 percent expansion in the United States and was stronger than any other developed nation in Europe.”

Even though the Swedish economy showed few signs of inflation and still suffered from relatively high unemployment, central bankers in Stockholm worried that low interest rates over time would lead to a real estate bubble. So board members of the Riksbank, Sweden’s central bank, decided to raise interest rates (from 0.25% to eventually 2%) believing that the threat posed by asset bubbles (housing) inflated by easy money outweighed the negative side effects caused by tightening the spigot in a depressed economy.

What happened? Well…

Per Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman in the New York Times:

“Swedish unemployment stopped falling soon after the rate hikes began. Deflation took a little longer, but it eventually arrived. The rock star of the recovery has turned itself into Japan.”

And deflation is a particularly nasty sort of business. When deflation hits, the real amount of money that you owe increases since the value of that debt is now larger than it was when you incurred it.

It also takes time to wring deflation out of the economy. Indeed, Swedish prices have floated around 0% for a while now, despite the Riksbank’s inflation goal of 2%. Plus, as former Riksbank board member Lars E. O. Svensson notes, “Lower inflation than anticipated in wage negotiations leads to higher real wages than anticipated. This in turns leads to many people without safe jobs losing their jobs and becoming unemployed.” Svensson, it should be noted, opposed the rate hike.

image (8)
Sweden

Moreover, economic growth has stagnated. After growing so strongly in 2010, Sweden’s gross domestic product began expanding more slowly in recent years and contracted in the first quarter of 2014 by 0.1% thanks in large part to falling exports.

As a result, Sweden reversed policy at the end of 2011 and started to pare its interest rate. The central bank recently cut the so-called “repo” rate by half a percentage point to 0.25%, more than analysts estimated. The hope is that out-and-out deflation will be avoided.

So the next time you’re inclined to ask the heavens why rates in America are still so low, remember Sweden and the scourge of deflation. Ask yourself if you want to take the risk that your debts (think mortgage) will become even more onerous.

TIME movies

Watch a 72-Minute Teaser for a Month-Long Movie, If You Dare

Ambiancé
A scene from Ambiancé Anders Weberg

But the movie's it's promoting is WAY longer

An hour and change is on the short side for a feature-length movie — but it’s unheard of for a teaser.

Until now.

Swedish artist Anders Weberg has recently unleashed upon the world a 72-minute teaser for his not-quite-upcoming film Ambiancé. The clip, if you can call it that, will be live on Vimeo until July 20. (It went up last week — hat-tip to the Guardian for catching it today.) The teaser, which is pretty much abstract or mysterious images set to modern music, “has the intent to convey the mood and tempo from the full piece,” Weberg writes on his website, the aptly named thelongestfilm.com.

The teaser isn’t actually that long, proportionately: it’s less that 1% of the length expected for the finished project, a 30-day-long film that will be completed at the end of the year 2020. (A similarly paced teaser for a two-hour movie would be just 12 seconds long.) The concept for Ambiancé is nothing if not ambitious: Weberg plans to show it once and then destroy it, which will be the end of his “relation with the moving image as a means of creative expression.”

Another, longer trailer is due in 2016.

TIME intelligence

WikiLeaks Teases ‘Very Important Secret Document’ Release

Julian Assange
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London on June 14, 2013. Anthony Devlin—AFP/Getty Images

While Julian Assange gives journalists some World Cup predictions

Two years after WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange walked into Ecuador’s embassy in the U.K. seeking asylum, his whistleblowing group says it is set to release new classified documents pertaining to “international negotiations.”

WikiLeaks offered little detail on its forthcoming release except to say it contains information pertaining to around 50 countries, including Canada.

In a conference call with journalists from the Ecuadorean embassy in London on Wednesday, Assange — who remains publisher of the secret-spilling group — offered no indication that he intends to travel to Sweden to submit himself for questioning by prosecutors over allegations of sexual misconduct made roughly four years ago.

Prosecutors have declined offers to meet with Assange at the Ecuadorean embassy in the U.K., his attorney said Wednesday. According to WikiLeaks, “new information” pertaining to the Swedish investigation will be revealed next Tuesday, though the group would not offer further details.

Assange has not been guaranteed safe passage to Ecuador, which has granted him asylum amid a presumed U.S. Department of Justice investigation into WikiLeaks, and has spent two years confined to Ecuador’s British embassy.

Assange’s supporters say the U.K. has spent about $10 million just on policing the embassy in order to apprehend Assange should he leave its confines. He admitted to journalists this week that he had managed to watch the World Cup from his embassy home.

“The reception in this building is quite difficult, but perhaps it makes it a bit harder for the bugs to transmit through the walls as well,” he said, apparently referring to surveillance devices. Assange said his sporting loyalties now lie with his hosts, unsurprisingly. “Of course, Ecuador undoubtedly deserves to win the World Cup and has a pretty decent team,” he said. “But I think there’s such prestige riding on the issue for Brazil that they are the most likely victors.”

In his comments Wednesday, Assange called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to drop any investigation into WikiLeaks or resign. He also said he believes Edward Snowden’s asylum in Russia will be renewed should the NSA leaker reapply.

MONEY First-Time Dad

What?! How Can Child Care Cost as Much as the Rent?

Or, why my family might move to Sweden. The first in a series of dispatches on being a new dad, a Millennial, and (pretty) broke.

I was born in 1986, my wife the year before. Our son was born this year. That means that we are Millennials, we entered the job market when the economy went to hell, and we will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars over the next two decades caring for our son.

Throw in a two-bedroom apartment in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn ($2,000 a month) and an Amazon Prime account, and it is expensive being us. That’s what this space will detail: the travails of being young, a family, and (relatively) poor, all at once.

The Talk

Child care is one of the first conversations a newly pregnant couple needs to have—for the obvious reason that paying someone (or, gasp!, a daycare center) to mind your child for a third of the day not only chips away at your perceived parental self-worth, but it is also insanely expensive. Like, really expensive. One daycare center near our house costs the same as our rent.

So, naturally, that was not our first conversation, not even close.

Baby Pie Chart
Note: Numbers vary by night

Despite the fact that I report on personal finance and knew better, we went months avoiding the discussion. It’s just not a fun conversation to endure, and perhaps I was hoping that the situation would be resolved deus-ex-machina style, maybe with a tidy inheritance from a flush octogenarian on my wife’s side of the family.

Whenever the topic did pop into my head, I would have two competing reactions: sheer panic and indignant rage. The panic stemmed from the expense of it all, while the indignant rage was born from the fact that we would have to bear that expense because we lived here, well, in America.

In Sweden right now there’s a couple (let’s call them William and Alice) that just had a baby. William and Alice’s Stockholm apartment looks similar to ours—we both have cribs from Ikea, except they can pronounce the name—and they are just as excited for their new family. (Maybe they too had an intimate, shotgun wedding.) But there is one aspect of William and Alice’s marriage that is wholly dissimilar to ours: They will not have a prenatal chat about child-care costs.

Average weekly child-care costs
Notes: Based on 2013 dollars; for families with working mothers. Sources: Pew Research Center and U.S. Census Bureau

That’s because William and Alice get a combined 480 days off from work (60 of those days are reserved for William), paid for by the good people of Sweden. After that, William and Alice’s little tyke will be scooped up by Sweden’s Educare–a kind of daycare and preschool wrapped up in one–for less than $200 a month.

My wife received about two months of paid time off. I got two weeks. Our respective companies—businesses that have nothing to do with child care—set policies and foot the bill. And we’re lucky. I cannot imagine having a child while working as waiter or a janitor or a medical assistant.

Eventually we did have the conversation–sort of. She would take an additional couple of months off, and we’d pay for it by using up pretty much all of our emergency savings. But come July she’s going back to work (Mrs. Tepper is a teacher at a charter school and makes much more than I do), and we’re going to have figure something out.

Maybe we’ll shell out the $2,000 a month for daycare. Or move to Sweden.

TIME sweden

Pirate Bay Co-Founder Arrested in Sweden

Peter Sunde, one of the co-founders of the file-sharing website The Pirate Bay, waits at the Swedish Appeal Court in Stockholm on Sept. 28, 2010.
Peter Sunde, one of the co-founders of the file-sharing website The Pirate Bay, waits at the Swedish Appeal Court in Stockholm on Sept. 28, 2010. Jonathan Nackstrand—AFP/Getty Images

One of the founders of the file-sharing website was arrested for evading an eight-month prison sentence for copyright breaches

After living on the run for almost two years, a co-founder of file-sharing website the Pirate Bay was arrested in Sweden to serve a sentence for violating copyright laws, Swedish police announced Saturday.

Peter Sunde was sentenced in Sweden in 2012 and has been wanted by Interpol ever since, Reuters reports.

“He was given eight months in jail so he has to serve his sentence,” said Carolina Ekeus, spokeswoman for the Swedish National Police Board. Ekeus said police arrested Sunde in the southern Swedish county Skane on Saturday. Swedish media reported that Sunde might have been living in and appealing from Germany prior to his arrest.

Sunde and three other people connected to the Pirate Bay were sentenced to a year in prison with a $4.8 million fine, though an appeals court later increased the fine to $6.9 million and cut down the prison sentences. The charges against the site were first filed by Swedish film and music companies.

Despite the legal troubles facing the Pirate Bay, the website is back up and running after a short period of going off-line. It claims it is under new ownership.

[Reuters]

TIME Appreciation

This Is the World’s Most Accurate Depiction of IKEA

And now we just want some meatballs

If you’ve ever set foot inside an IKEA, then you know that this is a spot-on representation of the store’s layout:

Blueprint of Ikea

 

TIME Food & Drink

IKEA Will Soon Serve Vegetarian Meatballs

NETHERLANDS-IKEA
Marcel Antonisse / AFP / Getty Images

IKEA is developing an eco-friendly "green" version of their patently delicious Swedish meatball dish, a highlight for many making a trip to the massive furniture store, that will be completely meat-free. They have not set a date for the unveiling yet

Everyone knows that the best part of a trip to IKEA is taking a break to eat those delicious signature meatballs. That experience has heretofore excluded vegetarians, but soon, the Swedish furniture chain will begin offering a meatless option.

IKEA is developing this eco-friendly “green” version of the Swedish dish to cut carbon emission and tackle climate change, the Guardian reports. Each year, IKEA sells an estimated 150 million meatballs, which are made from beef and pork. The concern is that the farming process leads to high carbon dioxide emissions — so creating ‘veg balls’ would reduce IKEA’s carbon footprint.

The company hasn’t announced an official date, but we should expect the veg balls — along with a new chicken version — next year. Don’t panic, though. The original meatballs aren’t going anywhere.

TIME Bizarre

Family Finds Terrifying 16-Inch ‘Ratzilla’ in Their Kitchen

WARNING: it's super gross

+ READ ARTICLE

A Swedish family had to call an exterminator after finding a massive 16-inch “Ratzilla” devouring food leftovers from the trash under the sink. To help, pest control had to bring a heavy duty trap since other traps weren’t big enough.

Even the family cat, Enok, had refused to enter the kitchen while the giant rat was in residence, Erik Korsas, the home owner, told BBC News. Since the incident, the kitchen has been repaired and the family’s cat has not been bothered by rats of any size, Korsas said.

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