Arkansas: The Worst Place to Rent in America

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Arkansas is one of the worst places to be a renter in America. It is the only state in the US where tenants are treated as criminals for paying rent late and landlords are not required by law to maintain their properties.

Its failure-to-vacate law lets landlords give tenants a 10-day eviction notice if they are even one day overdue. Tenants who can’t or won’t leave within that span face fines for every day they remain on the property and up to 90 days in jail.

This makes things difficult for the third of Arkansas’s residents who are renters and have legitimate concerns about the properties they are occupying. The combination of failure-to-vacate and the lack of warranty of habitability make it almost impossible for tenants to challenge their landlords for legitimate reasons. It’s estimated that criminal evictions occur everyday in Arkansas, resulting in over 2000 failure-to-vacate cases being filed each year.

VICE News visited Arkansas to learn more about its draconian eviction laws. From the courthouses to the porches of some of the state’s poorest residents, we documented first-hand accounts from one of the country’s most underreported stories.

Debtors Prisons Are Taking the US Back to the 19th Century: http://bit.ly/1lnn3AT

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Kurds Fight for Control of Kirkuk: The Battle for Iraq (Dispatch 3)

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Up until a week ago, the city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq was one of the most hotly contested areas in the country, with a mishmash of Kurds, Arabs, and Turkomans, who all had strong claims to the land. Now that the Iraqi army has fled and ISIS has been repelled, the Kurds are fully in control, and hope to integrate the city into the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).

Despite a large Kurdish presence in Kirkuk, this still might not be so easy. The Arab and Turkoman populations have long resisted Kurdish rule, and the large amount of oil nearby — which all of these groups want a fair share of — will only complicate matters further.

The Kurds, however, insist that control over the city is more a matter of dignity. Beginning in the 1960s and continuing throughout Saddam Hussein’s rule, many Kurds in the area were forced off the land during an Arabization process, which sought to change the demographics of the city. Poor Arabs were offered land, houses, and money to move to the city and take over formerly Kurdish lands.

During the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Kurdish forces and American soldiers took the city from the Baathist party. But the Kurdish forces mostly withdrew, and the city was not annexed to the KRG.

Since then Kirkuk has been under a sort of coalition rule, though it is still considered a disputed territory. Kurds have sought to implement Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, which would allow the people of Kirkuk to vote on whether or not the city should join the KRG or remain part of Iraq. But this vote has been delayed numerous times.

As recently as 2012, the Iraqi army and the Kurdish fighters, know as Peshmerga, engaged in a standoff that at times seemed like it could break out into conflict. For now though, the Kurds are firmly in control — though south of the city, sporadic attacks continue.

VICE News spoke with Falah Mustafa Bakir, the head of foreign relations for the KRG, who said that the Kurds have no intention of giving up their control of Kirkuk.

Here’s Who Is Fighting in Iraq and Why: http://bit.ly/1yFN1ET

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Bullets, Not Ballots in Donetsk: Russian Roulette (Dispatch 42)

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Almost 6 months after the Euromaidan revolution that toppled former president Viktor Yanukovych, Ukrainians went to the polls to elect a new president in the midst of an anti-terror operation to wrestle Donetsk and Lugansk oblasts back under Kiev’s control.

The separatists of the Donetsk People’s Republic openly threatened the election in the region and had stormed a number of electoral commissions and intimidated electoral workers. In response the Ukrainian military alongside its paramilitary proxies have been working to secure towns across Donetsk to ensure a safe election took place.

On Sunday morning as voting started across the country, Donetsk itself saw no voting take place so VICE News headed out to Krasnoarmiisk where voting was able to take place, under the watchful eye of local loyal-to-Kiev police and another paramilitary force, the Dinipro Battalion.

Back in Donetsk, supporters of the DPR held a rally in the square, denouncing the election and the other DPR bugbears, NATO, the Kiev ‘junta’ and the US. Despite the threats, the election did take place in a few towns across the region and the fact that it took place at all seemingly threatens the advertised control of the region by the DPR.

Watch all of VICE News’ coverage of the conflict in Ukraine here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLw613M86o5o7DfgzuUCd_PVwbOCDO472B

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Heroin Production Hits Record Levels in Afghanistan – Study

America’s war on drugs is working very well in Afghanistan, with opium production at record levels, with the US spending $7.5 billion to cause the problem. Over 200 thousand hectares is used to grow opium, an increase of 36 percent, according to a US report.

Source: http://rt.com/news/156128-afghanistan-drugs-usa-heroin/

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Derailed Oil Tanker Cars Catch Fire in Virginia: This Just In

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15 tanker cars of a CSX Corporation train derailed Wednesday afternoon in downtown Lynchburg, Virginia while carrying crude oil, according to a statement by the company. No casualties have been reported yet, but the accident sent flames and billowing black smoke into the air, and oil is leaking into the nearby James River, officials said. Emergency crews have evacuated seven buildings and 300 people in the surrounding area. It is unclear what exactly caused the train to derail.

This is the latest in a series of freight train accidents that have led to spilled crude oil in the past year, including major derailments in Alabama and North Dakota. According to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, more than 1.15 million gallons of crude oil was spilled in the US in 2013 alone — which is more than twice the amount that was spilled in the previous four decades.

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Syria’s Unending Rebel Conflict: Wolves of the Valley

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2013 was a bad year for the Syrian rebels. While the mainstream rebels struggled to defend their frontlines from the resurgent Assad regime, a renegade al Qaeda offshoot, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), launched a series of assaults on the formerly-dominant FSA brigades from behind, capturing their strongholds in rebel-held northern Syria and executing their commanders. Now the rebels are fighting back.

A coalition of former FSA brigades, funded by Saudi Arabia and rebranded as the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (or SRF), launched a surprise offensive against ISIS in the spring of 2014, in a campaign supported by both the Saudi and US governments. VICE News was the first western TV crew into Northern Syria for 6 months, embedding with the SRF as they reimposed their rule over the country’s northwestern Idlib province. What we witnessed was a brief window into a complex and morally ambiguous conflict with no end in sight.

Read Aris Roussinos’ article “Running With the Wolves of Syria” on vicenews.com
https://news.vice.com/articles/in-photos-running-with-wolves-of-the-syria

Check out the first dispatch from “Syria: The Long War”

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Unverified & Exposed: NYT-State Dept ‘Russians in Ukraine’ Image Proof Collapses

Pictures presented by Washington and Kiev as evidence of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine, and published on Monday by the New York Times, were unverified and in fact contradicted the claims they were to support.

The US State department acknowledged the error and the New York Times back-tracked on its Monday story, which claimed “photographs and descriptions from eastern Ukraine endorsed by the Obama administration … suggest that many of the green men are indeed Russian military and intelligence forces”.

The proof was this particular picture with an inscription “Group photograph taken in Russia”.

Freelance photographer Maxim Dondyuk took the photo.

“It was taken in Slavyansk [Ukraine],” he told NYT over the phone. “Nobody asked my permission to use it.”

The picture was amongst others Kiev gave the OSCE mission to Ukraine to ‘prove’ Russian involvement in the massive unrest gripping the Donetsk region.

The State Department repeated the claims, citing ‘confirmation’ of Moscow involvement.

“We see in the photos that have been again in international media, on Twitter, publicly available is that there are individuals who visibly appear to be tied to Russia. We’ve said that publicly a countless number of times,” Jen Psaki, State Dept spokeswoman said.

The New York Times eventually published a climbdown Wednesday – ‘Scrutiny Over Photos Said to Tie Russia Units to Ukraine’, where it admitted failing to properly verify the Kiev photo dossier.

Source: http://rt.com/news/154548-pictures-russian-troops-false/

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VICE News Daily: Beyond The Headlines – April 17, 2014.

The VICE News Capsule is a daily roundup that looks beyond the headlines. Today: an Al Qaeda leader threatens the US in a new video, doctors in Syria are battling a flesh-eating disease, diplomats descend on Geneva for Ukraine talks, and protests over coastal developments in Dakar.

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Al Qaeda Leader Threatens the US in New Video
The leader of Al Qaeda’s Yemen branch has threatened to attack the United States in a new video showing what could be the group’s largest gathering ever.

Doctors Battling Flesh Eating Disease
As if they didn’t already have enough to deal with, doctors in Syria are now battling a flesh-eating disease that has infected over 300 people in a single province.

Diplomats Descend on Geneva for Ukraine Talks
High-level diplomats from Russia, the US and Europe have arrived in Geneva for talks aimed at solving the Ukraine’s political crisis.

Protests Over Coastal Developments in Dakar
A protest against a new beachfront development turned violent in Senegal’s capital Dakar, after police fired tear gas to control crowds and arrested 24 people.

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VICE News Daily: Beyond The Headlines – April 9, 2014.

The VICE News Capsule is a daily roundup that looks beyond the headlines. Today: separatists in Pakistan bomb a train station killing 14 people, US officials accuse Russia of fueling unrest in eastern Ukraine, deadly clashes in a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon and Edward Snowden testifies before the Council of Europe via webcam.

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Baluch Separatists Bomb Train Station Killing 14
An explosion has ripped through a passenger train in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, killing 14.

US Accuses Russia of Fueling Unrest in Eastern Ukraine
US Secretary of State John Kerry has accused Russia of orchestrating the recent unrest in Eastern Ukraine.

Deadly Clashes in Palestinian Refugee Camp
Eight people were killed in violent clashes between rival Palestinian factions at a refugee camp in the south of Lebanon.

Snowden Testifies at Council of Europe via Webcam
Whistleblower Edward Snowden told Europe’s top human rights body that America’s surveillance program has been illegally spying on NGOs like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

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VICE News Daily: Beyond The Headlines – March 25, 2014.

The VICE News Capsule is a daily roundup that looks beyond the headlines. Today: protestors clash with police in Taiwan, Egypt’s largest death sentence, deaths of migrant workers in Qatar and the US joins the hunt for Joseph Kony.

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Police Square off with Student Protesters in Taiwan
On Monday, riot police in Taiwan used force to disperse hundreds of student protesters occupying a government building.

Hundreds Sentenced to Death in Egypt
Egypt just handed out its largest death sentence in modern history.

Migrant Workers Deaths in Lead-up to 2022 World Cup
1,200 migrant workers have died during preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

US Joins the Hunt for Ugandan Warlord Joseph Kony
The US government has deployed 150 Special Operations Forces and the Osprey aircraft to Uganda to assist in the hunt for Joseph Kony.

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