TIME Money

Amazon Pricing Glitch Loses U.K. Businesses Thousands

Some items were sold for as little as a penny

There’s more to being a successful retailer than keeping your buyers happy.

U.K. businesses that sell via Amazon.com’s local site are up in arms over a software glitch late Friday that led to their items being sold for as little as a penny. Some ended up out of pocket to the tune of up to $30,000.

The incident was down to a problem with a software tool developed by Derry-based RepricerExpress, which allows businesses to offer their goods on Amazon.co.uk.

The software automatically changes prices for the items on sale to guarantee that they stay competitive, but in this instance, it generated a self-reinforcing loop in which goods were automatically re-priced down to a penny.

One user complained on an Amazon bulletin board that stock worth $15,000 had been sold in this fashion within 40 minutes.

“Being they are not based in the US (sic) It takes away lots of options for us to recoup our loses,” the user wrote. “Last night I had to explain to my wife and 3, 4 and 5 year old that we could not take our trip to Disney in February.”

City AM cited one fancy dress company owner as saying her company had lost over $30,000 overnight.

Amazon said it was unable to cancel orders that had been dispatched and charged to customers, but another user on the bulletin board noted that it had been able to cancel those that weren’t slated for urgent shipping.

RepricerExpress chief executive Brendan Doherty said on the company’s website he was “truly sorry for the distress this has caused our customers,” and said Amazon had reassured him that sellers’ accounts wouldn’t be penalized as a result.

It wasn’t clear what degree of compensation would be available to the businesses that had suffered. RepricerExpress didn’t respond immediately to a request for comment from Fortune.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com

TIME Music

Watch Pharrell Williams Win Big at the Inaugural BBC Music Awards

Sorry, Taylor!

The first ever BBC Music Awards took place in London on Thursday night and Pharrell Williams cleaned up.

The awards show handed out a mere four prizes but the singer-producer won both Best International Artist and Song of the Year for his hit single “Happy.” Accepting the award for Song of the Year from Los Angeles, Williams said, “I just thank you guys for supporting me and giving me the room to be creative. Seriously, God bless the U.K.”

The evening’s other awards went to Ed Sheeran, who snagged British Act of the Year, and Welsh rock band Catfish and the Bottlemen, who won the Introducing Award for best new act. All of the awards were chosen by a BBC selected panel of music insiders, except for Song of the Year, which was chosen by public vote.

Apart from the awards, the slickly-polished show included performances by Sheeran, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Coldplay, One Direction, Ellie Goudling and Tom Jones.

[BBC]

TIME portfolio

Face to Face with Europe’s Military Cadets

Paolo Verzone's newest book saw him travel to 20 military academies from Portugal to Spain over five years to photograph cadets.

One of the most striking things, Paolo Verzone says, about photographing military cadets is that they really know how to pose. In fact, they are so good at it that sometimes, when he was taking their pictures, he wondered if they would ever stop.

“They are able to stay still for four seconds without moving,” Verzone adds. “That’s a long time, and it was pretty amazing. I actually had to light them less, it was my secret photographic weapon.”

It’s understandable, he continues, because from very early on in their careers many are trained to remain still during drills. Military personnel make even more capable subjects than models, apparently. Who knew?

This discovery came as Verzone was working on his newest book Cadets. The project stemmed from a short assignment for an Italian magazine in 2009 (for which he was sent to photograph French military personnel), and saw him travel to 20 military academies from Portugal to Spain over five years. The aim? To understand the military “soul” of European countries.

“I wanted to see these places, the [military bases] in these countries, many of which were once fighting against each other,” Verzone says.

It wasn’t always easy: Not every military academy replied to his requests. And even when they did, it took a long time for him, as a civilian, to get permission to go inside. And even then he was rarely left alone. But it was something he wouldn’t give up on.

“I wanted to see who these young people are. To go beyond the idea of the one who gets in the army and stays there for life,” he says. “Now, military academies are very different places; you can get a complete degree, and then, for many, you can get out. Times are changing.”

Paolo Verzone is a Paris-based photographer who has been published in TIME, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Independent, and The Guardian among others. Cadets is available now.

Richard Conway is reporter/producer for TIME LightBox.

Paul Moakley, who edited this photo essay, is TIME’s Deputy Director of Photography and Visual Enterprise.

TIME

U.K. to Levy ‘Google Tax’ in Move to Squeeze Tech Giants

U.K. Chancellor Of The Exchequer George Osborne Delivers Autumn Budget Statement
George Osborne U.K. chancellor of the exchequer leaves the HM Treasury building before heading to the Houses of Parliament to deliver his Autumn statement in London on Dec. 3, 2014. Simon Dawson—Bloomberg/Getty Images

British move is largely symbolic, but is typical of the growing pressure on U.S. tech giants in Europe

In the time-honored tradition of governments facing elections, the U.K.’s ruling coalition Wednesday raised taxes on two roundly-hated categories of evil-doers to finance some eye-catching give-aways to prospective voters and distract from its failure to cut the budget deficit as much as it had promised.

In his ‘Autumn Statement’ to parliament on taxation, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced the introduction of what’s commonly known as a “Google Tax” to force multinationals into paying more taxes locally on the profits they earn.

The 25% tax is aimed squarely at tech companies such as Google Inc. and Apple Inc. that have mastered the art of shifting their profits away from the higher-tax markets where they are actually made (such as Britain or Germany) to lower-tax jurisdictions in the E.U. or Caribbean. Such maneuvers generally exploit loopholes in international tax treaties to stay within the letter of the law.

Google notoriously generated more than $18 billion in revenue from the U.K. between 2006-2011, but paid only $16 million in profit taxes, according to Reuters’ analysis of its statutory filings. France’s tax authorities, meanwhile, are currently trying to squeeze up €1 billion ($1.24 billion) in back taxes out of the Mountain View, Ca.-based giant.

Cracking down on tax evasion has become an obsession with European governments since the recession that followed the financial crisis, with treasuries desperate to plug holes in their budgets by any means possible.

They’ve had some success with individuals using tax havens such as Switzerland, but efforts to squeeze more out of companies have been frustrated by the vast scope of the sweetheart deals given by countries such as Luxembourg and Ireland.

Osborne gave no details as to how companies’ liability for the tax would be measured, but said the tax should raise 300 million pounds ($475 million) a year.

That’s still peanuts relative to the scale of the targeted companies’ operations, and it will barely make a dent in the U.K.’s budget deficit which, at 91.6 billion pounds and 5.2% of gross domestic product, is badly overshooting, despite the U.K. having the strongest growth of all the world’s major advanced economies, including the U.S.. The main reason for that, analysts say, is that low productivity and wage growth has damped income tax receipts.

Against that background, Osborne had little room for tax giveaways, and raided that other national bogyeman, the banking sector, to pay for such handouts as were going. Osborne halved the amount of tax relief that banks will be able to claim against their future profits in respect of losses made during the financial crisis, a move that will raise some 4 billion pounds over the next five years.

This article originally appeared on FORTUNE.com

TIME Crime

The Problem With Prosecuting Women for False Rape Allegations

The UK is aggressively prosecuting women who make false rape allegations, but victim advocates argue it's unjust

Between headlines about the UVA frats, the Canadian broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby, it seems like sexual assault allegations dominate the news. But in Britain there has been a recent spate of headline-grabbing cases where the people ultimately charged aren’t the alleged rapists, but the women who filed the claims in the first place.

Take the case of Eleanor de Freitas, a 23-year-old Londoner with bipolar disorder. De Freitas reported an alleged assault to the police, who were unable to build a sufficient case against her alleged rapist. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) then pursued de Freitas for perverting the course of justice — a crime which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Shortly before her trial was to begin in April, de Freitas killed herself. The UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions is currently investigating the case.

But de Freitas is not alone. Over the past five years, the CPS has prosecuted 109 women for making false rape allegations to authorities, according to the group Women Against Rape (WAR). The majority of those who were prosecuted — a full 98 — were charged with perverting the course of justice like de Freitas. But WAR, a London non-profit, held a public meeting at the House of Commons on Tuesday night, protesting what they believe is the unfair and aggressive prosecution of women.

For their part, the CPS noted in an email to TIME that such prosecutions are “serious but rare” and are “any decision to charge is extremely carefully considered and not taken lightly.”

Yet WAR disagrees. “I have not found any country that aggressively pursues women for falsely reporting a rape the way the UK does,” Lisa Avalos, an assistant professor of law at the University of Arkansas who has been working with WAR, tells TIME. Meanwhile, Lisa Longstaff, a spokeswoman for WAR, says, police are not putting in the necessary work into catching and convicting rapists. “They’re not dealing with rapists properly.”

Avalos agrees: “We do a bad job prosecuting rape across the Western world. A big part of what fuels that bad job is that police do not believe victims. Time after time after time we have victims saying they went to the police and the police didn’t believe them.”

A lot of what WAR says resonates with the statistics. Earlier this month an official inquiry into police practices in England and Wales found that police had failed to record more than 25 percent of the rapes and sexual offenses reported to them by the public as actual crimes. In some regions the figures were even worse, with police not recording one out of every three reports of rape or sexual assault.

Similarly, an explosive report released earlier this year found that police in Rotherham, England, disregarded numerous reports, over a course of years, of rape, sexual assault and forced prostitution made by young girls who were being abused by a group of men. Longstaff also points out that many of the girls in the Rotherham case who came forward to the police wound up being charged with offenses such as underage drinking, while their rapists went free.

According to a report published by the Home Office in January, looking at a three-year average, as many as 517,000 sexual assaults take place in the UK per year and 95,000 rapes are committed. Yet there are only 5,620 sexual assault convictions a year and only 1,070 rape convictions. And while it’s long been a problem that the vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported to the police — which does factor in to the dismal percentage of convictions — Avalos says that “those [false claim] prosecutions have a chilling effect on other women coming forward.”

No one is arguing that women who make malicious false allegations of rape should be free from consequences. But Avalos says these instances should be looked at on a “case-by-case” basis and that pursuing harsh criminal cases isn’t the answer. (She notes that anyone who finds themselves falsely charged with rape can always pursue civil action against their accusers.) Part of the larger problem with prosecuting women for making false allegations is, according to Longstaff, that past examples prove “we can’t trust the authorities to make a rational decision about which is a false and which is not a false allegation. We’ve gone down the road so many times of seeing women who report rape or domestic violence or even child abuse and then [unjustly] end up on the wrong end of the prosecution.”

She points to the stateside case of Sara Reedy, who received a $1.5 million settlement from a Pennsylvania police department after she was raped at gunpoint at the age of 19 and then charged with inventing the story. Authorities were so convinced she was lying, she was even briefly jailed. It wasn’t until her attacker was arrested for another assault and then confessed to raping Reedy, that charges were fully dropped.

When asked about their decision to prosecute women over suspected false rape allegations, the CPS’s statement also noted that:

Such cases can only be brought where the prosecution can prove that the original rape allegation was false – if there is any question as to whether the original allegation might in fact have been true then a case of perverting the course of justice should not be brought. The relatively few cases that are brought are based on strong evidence and should not dissuade any potential victim from coming forward to report an assault.

But according to Longstaff, that’s exactly what the prosecutions — which might be rare, but can be highly publicized — do. She says many of the women WAR works with feel that “once you report, the police can easily turn on you and pin some other, often minor, crime on you [rather] than deal with the serious rape that you’ve reported.”

Correction: The original version of the story incorrectly described the response to de Freitas’s allegations. The Crown Prosecution Service began a case against de Freitas for perverting the course of justice prior to her death in April.

TIME Bizarre

Monty Python Song is the Brits’ Funeral Favorite

Baby Boomers in the UK play “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” more than any other track

Correction appended Nov. 22.

Who gets the last laugh? The British, it seems, after a study out Friday revealed that Monty Python’s “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” is the most-played song at funerals in the United Kingdom.

The relentlessly optimistic song was written by Eric Idle and first appeared in Monty Python’s biblical satire Life of Brian in 1979. The song tickled the funny bone of a generation with the juxtaposition of its lyrics—“If life seems jolly rotten, there’s something you’ve forgotten, and that’s to laugh and smile and dance and sing”—and the characters singing it in the comedy classic, a chorus of people being crucified on a hillside.

The findings come from a survey of more than 30,000 funerals in the UK by The Co-operative Funeralcare.

The irreverent track pushed out more traditional songs for the No. 1 spot, including “The Lord is My Shepherd” and “Abide with Me.”

The song lyrics do strike a particularly comforting note for a funeral.

For life is quite absurd
And death’s the final word
You must always face the curtain
with a bow
Forget about your sin – give the
audience a grin
Enjoy it – it’s your last chance
anyhow.

So always look on the bright side… of death.

Other hit classics to make the Top 10 Most-Played list in the humor category include “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen, “Ring of Fire,” by Johnny Cash, “Bat Out of Hell,” by Meat Loaf, and The Trammps’ “Disco Inferno”—“Buuuurn baby burn!”

Well played, Britain. Well played.

Here’s a video of the folks from Monty Python singing this very song for one of their own.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the movie in which the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life” first appeared and the year it was released. It was Life of Brian in 1979.
TIME uk

U.K. Independence Party Wins Second Parliamentary Seat in By-Election

Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP, shakes hands with Mark Reckless in Gillingham
Nigel Farage, left, leader of the U.K. Independence Party, shakes hands with Mark Reckless, the former Conservative Party MP for Rochester and Strood, during the by-election ballot count at Medway Park in Gillingham, England, on Nov. 21, 2014 Suzanne Plunkett—Reuters

The key win, six months before the general elections, puts pressure on David Cameron

The U.K. Independence Party (UKIP) struck another significant blow to British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday, winning its second parliamentary seat in two months from a constituency that Cameron had vowed to win at any cost.

Mark Reckless, who joined UKIP from Cameron’s Conservative Party, won the Rochester and Strood by-election that was triggered by his defection by 2,920 votes, the Guardian reported.

UKIP continues to extend its influence over the voters six months before the British general elections, in what many say is a worrying sign for Cameron’s leadership. Cameron’s humiliation is compounded by the fact that he went all-out to secure a victory, demanding three visits to Rochester from his MPs and going there five times himself.

“Whichever constituency, whatever your former party allegiance, think of what it would mean to have a bloc of UKIP MPs at Westminster large enough to hold the balance of power,” Reckless said in his victory speech. “If you believe in an independent Britain, then come with us and we will give you back your country.”

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said Friday’s “massive” victory makes next year’s elections anybody’s game. “All bets are off, the whole thing’s up in the air,” he said.

TIME feminism

Watch Notorious Pick-Up Artist Julien Blanc Say Sorry

The disgraced PUA told CNN: "I feel horrible"

After widespread backlash from around the world, notorious pick-up artist (PUA) Julien Blanc has attempted to apologize for causing offence.

The self-described “leader in dating advice,” Blanc works for LA-based company Real Social Dynamics and travels the world teaching seminars and “bootcamps” to men on how to meet and seduce women. Though he’s certainly not the first PUA to cause controversy, many felt that Blanc crossed the line from sexist and offensive to violent and dangerous when videos and photos surfaced of him describing and demonstrating grabbing women and forcing their heads into his crotch.

In one video, he can be heard telling a group of men, “In Tokyo, if you’re a white male,” Blanc says in one video to a room full of rapt men, “you can do what you want. I’m just romping through the streets, just grabbing girls’ heads, just like, head, pfft on the d–k. Head, on the d–k, yelling, ‘Pikachu.’”

MORE: Julien Blanc: Is he the most hated man in the world?

But after the backlash prompted the Australian government to revoke his visa and other countries around the world to consider similiar measures, Blanc said. “I 100 percent take responsibility,” Blanc told CNN. “I apologise 100 percent for it. I’m extremely sorry. I feel horrible, I’m not going to be happy if I feel like I’m the most hated man in the world. I’m overwhelmed by the way people are responding.”

Blanc also maintained that he did not teach his customers to choke or abuse women and passed off a picture of him with his hand around a woman’s neck as a “horrible, horrible attempt at humour.” He added that much of the controversy was over comments and actions that had been “taken out of context in a way.”

Yet he did assure Cuomo that he would be “re-evaluating” everything he had put out online and everything he would be putting out in the future.

[CNN]

TIME Britain

Watch as the Man Who Wants to Be Britain’s Next Prime Minister is Taken Down by a Former Pop Singer

Myleene Klass attacked Ed Milliband over policy for a new tax on properties worth more than $3 million

Ed Miliband, the beleaguered leader of Britain’s opposition party Labour, was taken down on Monday night by a surprising foe: former UK pop star and television presenter Myleene Klass.

The clash took place on the UK panel show The Agenda, where both Miliband, who hopes to be voted in as Britain’s next prime minister in next year’s election, and Klass appeared as guests. Klass wasted no time in taking Miliband to task for his party’s proposed tax on homes worth £2 million ($3.1 million) or more — widely known as the “mansion tax” — in order to put more funds into the country’s National Health Service (NHS).

“For me, it’s so disturbing – the name in its own right: ‘mansion tax’” said Klass, who rose to fame in the early aughts, when she took part in Simon Cowell’s reality TV show Popstars. “When you do look at the people who will be suffering this tax, it’s true a lot of them are grannies who have had these houses in their families for a long, long time. The people who are the super, super rich buying their houses for £140 million, this is not necessarily going to affect them because they’ve got their tax rebates and amazing accountants. It’s going to be the little grannies who have lived in those houses for years and years.”

For his part, Miliband seemed unprepared for the attack, in spite of recent criticism in the UK press and rumors of backlash from within his own party. He responded to the criticism by noting, “I totally understand that people don’t like paying more in tax. The values of my government are going to be different to the values of this [current Conservative] government.”

Yet Klass continued to grill the politician on precise figures, while questioning whether the tax would actually help improve national health care.

“You may as well just tax me on this glass of water. You can’t just point at things and tax them,” she said.

Many people watching the interview took to social media to comment on Miliband’s weak defense:

 

 

 

 

Of course, there were also viewers who were turned off by Klass — who has an estimated net worth of £11 million ($17.2 million) — arguing that a tax on millionaires would cause suffering:

 

 

 

TIME Crime

Revenge Porn: Man Jailed In Britain As US Lawmakers Prepare New Legislation

15 states have outlawed revenge porn but it is legal in most of the US

As modern technology has allowed for the rise of selfies and sexting, it has also allowed for a new form of betrayal: revenge porn. The act of posting or sharing explicit images or videos of a person without his or her consent can wreak havoc on a person’s personal and professional life.

In the UK last week, campaigners scored a win as Luke King, a 21-year-old man from Nottingham, England, became the first man in Britain to be jailed for posting revenge porn.

A 12-week sentence was handed down on Nov. 14, after King pleaded guilty to harassment, after posting a naked image of his ex-girlfriend to the mobile messaging service WhatsApp. The woman, who hasn’t been named, had sent King the photo while they were still together. After the break-up, King threatened to upload the photo, which is when his ex first reported him to police. Although he was warned by police that posting the image online would be a crime, King followed through with his threat in August.

King’s case is the first in Britain since it was announced in October that a new legal amendment will deal with revenge porn directly. King was prosecuted under an existing law, the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, but those found guilty under the new amendment — which is currently going through Parliament — could face up to two years in prison.

The District Crown Prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service East Midlands, Peter Shergill, said at sentencing, “Prosecutors are now following guidance issued in October that clarifies how we can use existing legislation to prosecute perpetrators of these intrusive offences.”

But the direct attack on revenge porn that the UK has taken raises the question of whether the US will follow suit.

There is no current US federal law against revenge porn, because, as University of Pennsylvania law professor Paul H. Robinson notes, “under the US Constitution it is the states that have the police power and it’s not within the power of the federal government to create criminal law offenses unless there is some special federal interest.”

And, in fact, many states have been making moves to criminalize revenge porn. According to the End Revenge Porn campagin, 15 US states already have passed laws against revenge porn and those laws actually have been used to prosecute men who’ve posted naked photos of their former partners. Another seven states have also introduced legislature against revenge porn. The problem, however, lies in the many remaining states where revenge porn is legal.

Though some believe that existing laws against harassment or copyright infringement could be used to tackle the problem, many individual cases have proven that revenge porn often slips through the cracks. As Danielle Citron, a law professor at the University of Maryland and the author of Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, noted in Slate last year, “Harassment laws only apply if the defendant is persistent in his or her cruelty.” Posting a single explicit image to a highly-trafficked site could have disastrous consequences for the person pictured, but it wouldn’t count as “persistent.” What’s more, copyright only applies if the image was a selfie as the photographer (or videographer) owns the rights to the image.

So what will it take to ensure that revenge porn is illegal across all of the US?

According to Mary Anne Franks, a University of Miami law professor who is working with Californian Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier to draft a federal bill that would criminalize revenge porn if passed, pushing a nationwide ban has been difficult because “there’s a general prioritization of the First Amendment in the US” and “we [have been] slow to come to the realization that this isn’t an infringement of free speech.”

To pass US-wide laws, it’s essential, according to Franks, to reframe revenge porn from a free speech issue into a privacy issue. “We don’t view an image of someone’s naked body as [deserving of] the same privacy as someone’s medical records,” she says, but suggests views are shifting.

Franks notes that campaigns such as End Revenge Porn, which is part of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, and Women Against Revenge Porn have done much to spread awareness about the issue — 12 of the 15 states with laws against revenge porn passed them within the past two years. That awareness, along with the widely publicized hacking of celebrity nude photos, has done much to shift people’s perceptions about the harm that posting a nude image without someone’s consent can cause.

Unfortunately, until all of the US is covered by anti-revenge porn laws, there are millions of people for whom a total loss of privacy is only a vengeful upload away.

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