London police finally admit they fed intel to UK construction cartel to build illegal blacklist of labour organisers

It's been six years since investigative journalists published their expose accusing London's Metropolitan Police of colluding with the UK's construction cartel to blacklist workers who complained about unsafe working conditions, abusive bosses and wage-theft, as well as union organisers and other "troublemakers" -- this week, the Met confirmed that its officers were an active part of the illegal blacklist. Read the rest

Russian nerve agent attack may leave Skripals with 'limited mental capacity'

The military-grade nerve toxin attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia may have left the victims with 'compromised mental capacity,' a British judge said on Thursday. It is unclear whether the former Russian double agent and his adult child will recover from being poisoned with what the UK says was a Russian chemical weapon known as 'Novichok.'

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Brexit is deflating the London housing bubble, with prices down 15% in some neighbourhoods

London's housing bubble has appeared unprickable, stabilised by influxes of offshore money from "investors" who saw property in the capital as a safe, easily liquidated bet even after the 2008 crisis when the rest of the UK saw housing prices tumble. Read the rest

Surge-taxing Uber as a way relieve urban congestion

Every city where Uber and Lyft have found a foothold has also faced impossible congestion in the city center; Felix Salmon says this is because drivers are incentivized to come to the city-center despite the traffic (because that's where the fares are) and riders are incentivized to skip public transit when there are a lot of cars around to hail with their apps. Read the rest

London demonstrates the stupid, janky future of Smart Cities

Bruce Sterling's scathing editorial in The Atlantic on the future of "Smart Cities" uses London's many smart city initiatives as a kind of measuring stick for the janky and dysfunctional future of civic automation: a city that throws great smart city conferences while its actual infrastructure is a mess of "empty skyscrapers, creepy CCTV videocams, and sewers plugged with animal fat" that require decades of planning an attention to cope with -- significantly beyond the attention spans of any of the tech giants vying to be the smart city providers of the future. Read the rest

Vinegar Valentines: Villainous Victorian woodcuts that lament the irritations of engaging tradesmen

Spitalfields Life highlights a selection of the "Villainous Valentines," Victorian-era prints that illustrate the irritations of hiring different kinds of tradesmen, accompanied by appropriate doggerel. It's like a bougie mirror-world version of London Labour and the London Poor, with illustrations by way of John Tenniel. Read the rest

Motherboard files legal complaint against London police to force it to explain why an officer bought creepy, potential illegal stalkerware

Flexispy is the creepy stalkerware advertised to abusive spouses and exes that Motherboard's Joseph Cox has been relentlessly tracking; when he acquired a leaked trove of the company's files, he started to mine it to see who was buying the potentially illegal app. Read the rest

Berlin regulates Airbnb and safely deflates its housing bubble while returning 8,000 rentals to the market

Berlin is one of many European cities that have faced new housing crises -- or worsening existing ones -- attributed to Airbnb, where homes were converted to unlicensed, super-profitable hotel rooms, driving up housing prices, shrinking rental inventory, and making the city unaffordable for the people who lived and worked there. Read the rest

Property developer caught using critic's photo in promotional materials, demands an end to criticism as a condition of paying for the use

"The Gentle Author" is the maintainer of Spitalfields Life, a blog that has featured a brilliant and moving series of essays about the history of East London; Author is also sharply critical of the plans by giant property developer Crest Nicholson to redevelop the site of a Victorian chest hospital and dig up an ancient tree called the Bethnal Green Mulberry. Read the rest

Man spontaneously combusts

London's Evening Standard reports that a man burst into flames in a Haringey street before horrified onlookers, and investigators can find no cause for the fire.

Passers-by saw John Nolan, 70, ablaze in a street in Haringey in the middle of the day and attempted to put out the flames before calling police and fire crews. The former construction worker, who was originally from County Mayo in Ireland, was taken to a specialist hospital but died later. Today detectives said his death was being treated as unexplained. There were no accelerants found on his body and specialist fire investigators could find no obvious reason for Mr Nolan to catch alight.

I was terrified of spontaneous human combustion as a kid. Not combusting myself, but of those creepy scenes from Time Life books about spontaneous human combustion, where there's just a burned-out chair and half an old lady's leg, with nothing else touched but by smoke and a yellow film of melted human fat. The wick effect is widely held to explain circumstances such as those, but it seems inadequate for examples such as Nolan. Arson or suicide seem equally unlikely: he was a well-liked, quiet Irishman close to home in a safe part of London. Read the rest

A guy tricked Tripadvisor into making his garden shed the top-rated restaurant in London

Oobah Butler once had a job writing fake Tripadvisor restaurant reviews for £10/each, paid by restauranteurs; having learned how powerful these reviews were, he decided to turn his south London shed into the best-regarded restaurant in all of London. Read the rest

Fatberg vanquished

After a nine-week battle (previously), London's sewer heroes have vanquished a 130-tonne (143 ton) fatberg lurking beneath the city. The congealed mass of fat, trash, wet wipes, diapers, condoms, excrement and death had formed a glistening wall of pale horror that presented "the most gut-wrenching work" waste manager Alex Stephens had ever seen. But the "beast is finally defeated".

Thames Water says fatbergs form when people put things they should not down sinks and toilets. The company spends about £1m every month clearing blockages from the capital's sewers.

The final section of the affected tunnels, reports the BBC, had to be cleared by hand, with shovels. Read the rest

London taxi crash: Black car 'injures several people' in Covent Garden after mounting pavement. Not terrorism.

CNN and various UK media are reporting that a black taxi cab mounted the pavement in London, injuring multiple people. Police are on site, and roads are blocked to traffic and pedestrians.

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Today's art thieves rob via email

London galleries -- and some US dealers -- have been hit by a rash of electronic thefts by crooks who take over the gallery's email accounts and interrupt the transmission of invoices at the close of high-ticket sales, substituting fake invoices with throwaway bank accounts that close up and disappear after the money lands -- then the crooks stay in the email, interrupting "where's my money" emails and sending back fake replies assuring the galleries that the "buyer" is doing all they can to locate the rogue payment. Read the rest

Anatomy of the human head in the style of a London tube-map

Jonathan Simmonds, an MD in Boston, MA, created these Map Anatomy illustrations that represent a detailed, functional diagram of the human head's anatomy in the style of a London tubemap; you can buy downloads and posters from his Etsy store, but act quickly, because Transport for London are notorious, humourless assholes about this kind of thing! (via Reddit) Read the rest

Someone dropped a USB stick containing a bunch of sensitive security data about Heathrow

A London man found a USB stick on a pavement in west London and (unwisely) plugged it into a computer, only to discover that it contained 76 folders with at least 174 documents full of sensitive information on the security arrangements at Heathrow airport, including "the types of ID needed to access restricted areas, a timetable of security patrols and maps pinpointing CCTV cameras" as well as the measures used to protect the Queen when she flies through LHR. Read the rest

Londoners! I'll be speaking at Waterstones Gower Street with Ada Palmer on Nov 8

By a very happy coincidence, Ada Palmer and I are both passing through London on November 8 and we're doing a joint event at the Waterstones in Gower Street, starting at 6:30! The tickets (which include wine) are £6/£4 for students; you can book them here. Read the rest

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