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Monday, September 1, 2014

A Leafy Office is a Happier Office, Study Finds

A Leafy Office is a Happier Office, Study Finds


A Leafy Office is a Happier Office, Study Finds

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 10:11 AM PDT

The world’s first study of the “long-term impacts of plants in an office environment” suggests that a simple arrangement of a few plants around the office can pay huge dividends.

Researchers measured a 15% increase in productivity after “lean offices”—or workplaces with a desert-like aesthetic—were spruced up with leafy, green plant life. Over the course of several weeks, workers in three commercial spaces in the U.K. and the Netherlands reported higher levels of air quality, improved powers of concentration and a general increase in workplace satisfaction.

"It appears that in part this is because a green office communicates to employees that their employer cares about them and their welfare,” said study author Alex Haslam, a psychology professor at the University of Queensland. "The findings suggest that investing in landscaping an office will pay off through an increase in office workers' quality of life and productivity."

Researchers also noted the findings contradicted a movement among interior designers towards severely stripped down and unadorned workspaces. “Sometimes less is just less,” Haslam concluded.

 

Britain Gives Police Powers to Seize Passports of Suspected Jihadists

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 10:00 AM PDT

British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a range of new anti-terror measures Monday to tackle the threat of “homegrown” jihadists in the United Kingdom, just days after the country raised its terror threat level from “substantial” to “severe.”

The U.K. police are to be granted sweeping new powers to seize the passports of suspected jihadists planning on traveling to Iraq or Syria to fight alongside militant groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), or returning to the country afterwards.

Cameron will also permit law enforcement authorities to issue temporary travel bans on citizens whose names are “flagged” by intelligence, in the hopes of tackling the flow of British-born extremists traveling to and from the U.K. Airlines will be required to hand over information about passengers traveling to and from conflict zones.

“We need stronger powers to manage the risk posed by suspected extremists already here in the United Kingdom,” he said.

 

The British government has acknowledged that there is no intelligence to suggest an imminent threat, but the ongoing conflict in northern Iraq and Syria has prompted concerns about the involvement of British nationals, who reportedly number over 500 of those fighting on behalf of ISIS. The American journalist James Foley was killed on camera by an ISIS fighter who appeared to have an British accent.

In a statement in the House of Commons, Cameron announced that the new discretionary powers given to the police would not only help to stem the influx of extremists back into the U.K, but also strengthen their capacity to monitor suspects in the U.K. “Dealing with this terrorist threat is not just about new powers, it is about how we combat extremism in all its forms,” he said.

Cameron’s assessment of the problem as “a greater threat to our security than we have seen before” has placed renewed pressure on President Obama to provide a more coherent U.S. response to the growing crisis in the Middle East. However, U.S. officials said Friday that there was no specific threat against the United States and there were no plans to raise the terror threat level, underlining recent efforts designed to improve U.S. national security.

Aid Flows Into Iraq Shiite Town After Siege Broken

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 09:22 AM PDT

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s outgoing prime minister travelled to a small northern Shiite town Monday, praising its residents for fending off attacks by Sunni militants who had besieged them for more than two months until security forces backed by Iran-allied Shiite militias and U.S. airstrikes broke the siege a day earlier.

Jubilant security forces, Shiite fighters and residents of Amirli greeted Nouri al-Maliki with hugs and Shiite slogans when he arrived in the town, where some 15,000 Shiite Turkmens had been stranded.

In footage aired on state TV, al-Maliki was shown sitting at a wooden desk in front of a large poster of Shiite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistsani, ordering promotions and awards for forces who took part in ending the siege.

“I salute you for your steadfastness and patience against those beasts and killers,” he told a gathering of fighters in the large hall, as they chanted Shiite religious slogans.

Hours before the visit, aid began to flow to the town.

Ali al-Bayati, who heads local NGO the Turkmen Saving Foundation, said that four trucks loaded with foodstuffs, medicine and fruit had entered the town. The aid was sent by the Iraqi government and the Iraqi Red Crescent, he said, adding that soldiers had begun bringing food to families in their houses Sunday night.

“The situation is getting back to normal, but gradually,” al-Bayati told The Associated Press. “Some people have come out from their houses and walk in the street. Shops are still closed, but people are happy to see their city secured by Iraqi security forces,” he added.

Since early this year, Iraq has faced a growing Sunni insurgency led by an al-Qaida-breakaway group, the Islamic State, and allied militants have taken over territory in the country’s north and west. The crisis is Iraq’s worst since the 2011 withdrawal of U.S. troops.

A summer offensive stunned Iraqi security forces and the military, which melted away and withdrew as the Islamic State in June overran the northern cities of Mosul and Tikrit, as well as small towns and villages on their path.

Since then, Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias have been fighting the militants without achieving significant progress on the ground.

Thousands of fighters from Iranian-backed Shiite militias have answered a call by al-Sistani to join government forces in the fight against the Sunni insurgents.

The U.S. airstrikes that helped liberate Amirli were the first to hit areas where the Iranian-backed militias fought Sunni militants, possibly outlining an unlikely alliance between the U.S. and Shiite militiamen who once fought American soldiers in Iraq.

The strikes supported forces backed by Iran, whose Revolutionary Guard military advisers have been guiding Shiite militiamen in artillery attacks on Sunni positions.

Shiite Turkmen lawmaker Fawzi Akram al-Tarzi told the AP that the U.S. airstrikes and Iranian support to Iraqi forces “have played a positive role in defeating the terrorists,” although he said the U.S. strikes “came late” in the battle.

Since Aug. 8, the U.S. has carried out at least 120 airstrikes with aircraft and unmanned drones. It has focused on areas bordering the self-ruled northern Kurdish region where Kurdish forces have been fighting the militants.

Also Monday, the United Nations said that at least 1,420 Iraqis were reported killed in violence in August, down from the previous month.

The U.N. mission to Iraq, known as UNAMI, said in its monthly statement that the death toll includes 1,265 civilians and 155 members of Iraq’s security forces. It added that 1,370 were wounded, including 1,198 civilians.

July’s death toll stood at 1,737 people. In June, 2,400 were killed as Sunni militants swept across the country, the highest figure since at least April 2005.

The statement said the figures are the “absolute minimum” number of casualties and they do not include deaths in the western Anbar province or other parts of northern Iraq that have been held by militants for months. It added: “The actual figures could be significantly higher.”

 

Ferguson Cops Start Using Body Cameras in Wake of Unrest

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 08:46 AM PDT

Law enforcement officers in Ferguson, Mo. attached body cameras to their uniforms while policing a peaceful demonstration on Saturday, three weeks after the fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager by a police officer triggered violent clashes between police and protestors in the St. Louis suburb.

Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson told the St. Louis Post—Dispatch that his department received a donation of 50 wearable cameras from two surveillance companies last week. The company representatives led the department in a training session on Saturday. "They are really enjoying them," Jackson said of the body cameras, which captured video and audio recordings at a protest march on Saturday.

Advocates of a “Mike Brown Law,” named after the teenager who was shot by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson, have petitioned for a law that would require police to wear body cameras at all times during their patrols to increase transparency.

Concerns about cost and a dearth of research into their effectiveness have hampered widespread adoption of the surveillance technique.

[St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

Hackers Leak Explicit Photos of More Than 100 Celebrities

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 07:42 AM PDT

Jennifer Lawrence, Selena Gomez and Kirsten Dunst were among an estimated 100 celebrities alleged to have private and explicit photos leaked online Sunday, after hackers apparently accessed their cellphones through a cloud-based storage network.

The photographs originally turned up on the website 4chan, where hackers claimed to have infiltrated the phones of more than 100 celebrities and promised to leak more images in the future.

The pictures were reportedly stolen from a cloud-based data storage network. Some posters claimed it was Apple’s iCloud system that was hacked, Mashable reports, though the company has not confirmed those rumors.

A spokesperson for Lawrence acknowledged the authenticity of the images, calling it a “flagrant violation of privacy” and vowing to prosecute anyone who shared the images online. “The authorities have been contacted and will prosecute anyone who posts the stolen photos of Jennifer Lawrence,” the spokesperson said in a statement, People Magazine reports.

Actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead lambasted both the people who posted and viewed the images, which she said were taken in the privacy of her home with her husband.

Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice denied the authenticity of the images, accusing hackers of doctoring images.

McKayla Maroney, the teenage gymnast who won Olympic gold medals in the team and vault competitions in 2012, also tweeted that images of her were faked. Like Winstead, she had a message for the hackers:

Rick Perry Disavows Tweet Calling Democratic D.A. a Drunk

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 06:37 AM PDT

Texas Governor Rick Perry deleted an “unauthorized” tweet sent out from his official account on Sunday evening, that included a mocking image of a district attorney who is involved in a criminal indictment against the governor.

“I do not condone the tweet and I have taken it down,” Perry tweeted from his official account. The removed tweet included an image of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg surrounded by beer bottles with a derisive comment about her drunk driving conviction in 2013.

Lehmberg refused to resign after the conviction, prompting Perry to withhold funding from her office until she stepped down. An indictment last month held that Perry’s maneuver might constitute a possible “abuse of power,” a charge the governor contests is based on a vague and outdated law.

Watch Steve Carell in the Creepy New Foxcatcher Trailer

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 06:19 AM PDT

There’s been a lot of buzz about Channing Tatum’s turn as the Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz in the upcoming Bennett Miller movie Foxcatcher. But the latest trailer teases a down-right chilling performance from Steve Carell.

The film is based on the true story of how millionaire philanthropist John du Pont mentored amateur wrestlers including Schultz, who eventually was driven to murder his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo). The latest trailer for the movie, which has already garnered Oscar buzz after it was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in May, focuses on Carell’s du Pont, as he ruminates over the athletes he’s trying to shape — and perhaps manipulate.

“There are some psychological issues that we need to take care of,” says Carell’s character says, in one particularly ominous moment. It’s a role unlike any other that The Office star has taken on before, but if the trailer is any indication, he has the sinister, deranged du Pont nailed.

The film hits theaters on Nov. 14.

Guardians of the Galaxy Is 2014’s Biggest Movie So Far

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 06:11 AM PDT

All hail, Guardians of the Galaxy! The sci-fi blockbuster was already the hit of the summer and Vulture reports it’s also now the highest-grossing film of 2014 in the U.S.

The film, which opened across the U.S. on Aug. 1 and took in $94,320,883 in its opening weekend, has now raked in around $274,610,000 at the domestic box office alone as of this Labor Day weekend. That leap puts the film ahead of Captain America: The Winter Soldier – which has brought in $259 million at the U.S. box office — to become the highest-grossing movie of the year in the U.S.

The film has also been a hit internationally, taking in more than $273 million. Guardians is also expected to be the first film of 2014 to cross the $300 million mark at the domestic box office.

But 2014 has not been a blockbuster year at the box office. Despite Guardians‘ seemingly successful run, the film is still among the lowest-grossing number one summer films in the U.S. over the past decade, according to Box Office Mojo’s figures. And movie ticket sales are down across the board.

[Vulture]

See Photos of the Cast of Saved by the Bell: Then and Now

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 06:00 AM PDT

The Best Movies For Getting Over Your Ex

Posted: 01 Sep 2014 06:00 AM PDT

This post originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

Our goal here is simple: to help you curate the perfect Rolodex of movies that will help you deal if or when things with your loved one fall apart. And, to help us in our quest for catharsis, we've consulted the very academic Kübler-Ross model of handling grief, which divides the process into five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance (because, above all else, we here at Refinery29 are nothing if not academics, of course).

There are many different types of breakup movies: the ones that are actually about breakups in the literal sense and the ones that deal with the different stages of breakups metaphorically. For instance: (500) Days of Summer. That's about breakups. The Hours, on the other hand, is about handling grief, an emotion that occurs after any loss — especially the loss of a relationship. Because a list of breakup movies exists around every corner of the Internet, we're digging deeper into the films that will help you cope with those separations in a far less overt but no less helpful way.

Movies, above all else, are therapeutic. The best ones allow us to relieve, relive, or re-evaluate our most tender experiences in a way that no other art form can. Click through to see our picks for the films that will aid you in getting through every one of those five stages — and straight on to renewal.

DENIAL: Silver Linings Playbook

There's nothing sadder than watching someone refuse to accept the end of a relationship, but that's what makes the burgeoning romance between Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence's manic lovebirds so darn powerful. It’s only once Cooper's character learns to let go of the woman who abandoned him that he can see the woman who's standing right in front of him.

DENIAL: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Have you ever wished you'd never met the person who broke your heart? In Charlie Kaufman's oddball romance, Joel Barrish (Jim Carrey) has that wish granted via a mysterious procedure in which the memories of his ex-girlfriend (Kate Winslet) are erased. It's only then that he realizes the love they shared was worth the loss, but simultaneously, we are destined to repeat our same mistakes — no matter how good our intentions may be. Sometimes, love is just not enough.

DENIAL: (500) Days of Summer

Who else but Zooey Deschanel’s crush-worthy manic pixie dream girl could take a man's heart and totally pulverize it? In Marc Webb's refreshing take on the rom-com, that man is Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a hopeless romantic who must suffer the pains of a disintegrating relationship, before he emerges clear-eyed on the other side.

(MORE: 5 Strange But Effective Ways To Breeze Through Your Breakup)

ANGER: She-Devil

Imagine the premise of The Other Woman, except, instead of the pretty and palatable Cameron/Leslie/Kate trio, you have a maniacal Roseanne Barr with an angry mole. After being treated horribly by her husband, Barr’s Ruth goes after her husband’s four assets — home, family, job, and freedom — taking down the campy, WASP-y Meryl Streep (who is in true comedic form), who stole her husband. Brutal, evil, and demonstrative that hell hath no fury.

ANGER: Desperate Living

Within the first half-hour of this grating, disgusting, absolutely filthy John Waters film, Mink Stole curses out children, kills her husband, and goes on the lam with her lesbian lover. This pic teems with an urgent sense of discomfort and proves that bad guys get what’s coming to them, often up their own butts. Literally.

ANGER: Heathers

“I just killed my best friend.”
“And, worst enemy…”
“Same difference.”

Of course, we aren’t advocating any sort of accidental-murder crime spree here, butHeathers is the perfect reminder that sometimes the people stuck in your life are the ones who are the most poisonous. And, nothing feels better than Winona Ryder telling the psychopathic Christian Slater that all she wants is “Cool dudes like you out of my life.”

ANGER: Legally Blonde

There is one major takeaway from Legally Blonde: The best revenge is busting your ass to challenge yourself, meeting your goals, exploring new ventures, and not changing who you are in the process. So, you know, do that.

ANGER: War of the Roses

No, this isn’t about pre-Tudor England, but about a couple with a seemingly perfect marriage that begins to fall apart. Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner bitterly turn on one another and harness their possessions, pets, and, um, chandeliers to destroy the other. Spoiler alert: It works, and it is darkly, morbidly hilarious.

(MORE: What I Learned When My Boyfriend Cheated On Me)

BARGAINING: My Best Friend’s Wedding

Watching Julia Roberts play a woman who wants what she can't have is like watching a cow go swimming. It's not supposed to happen. But, as a lifelong careerist pining for her best friend as he plans his, duh, wedding, Roberts convinces us that falling in love with the wrong person is just as hard as it sounds.

BARGAINING: Chasing Amy

Ben Affleck’s Holden ends the movie by actually bargaining with his best friend and his girlfriend, offering a pretty stupid solution for all of the tension between them. And, the thing is, you can’t persuade anyone — especially yourself — to accept the one you love.

BARGAINING: Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Yes, this is the one where Jason Segel gets naked. But, he bares a lot more than his private parts as a lovelorn sound mixer forced to get over his famous girlfriend (Kristen Bell). He kicks and screams and begs and pleads for her back, before finally realizing they were never meant to be. How does he get there? Two words: Mila Kunis.

(MORE: The Ultimate Post-Breakup Hotness Manual)

DEPRESSION: Blue Valentine

Derek Cianfrance’s autopsy of a relationship-gone-bad is a staunch reminder that all things fall apart. Please forgive us for our doom-and-gloom perspective, but after watching Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams trade gut-punch after gut-punch as a couple caught in a downward spiral, we’re sure you’ll agree. Relationships. Are. Hard.

DEPRESSION: Chinatown

Watching Jack Nicholson's bandaged gumshoe roam through Roman Polanski's bleak depiction of postwar Los Angeles is just as depressing as it sounds. This classic neo-noir — in which the rich get richer, the disenfranchised drown, and corruption is rampant — is a staunch reminder that the world we live in is a scary, scary place.

DEPRESSION: The Hours

One of the things this Oscar-nominated film does so well is depict the complex, isolating nature of depression. And, not just depression, but, particularly, feminine depression. Three different women, three different time periods, and one emotion connecting them all. The film is a deft reminder that, despite any perceived evidence to the contrary, no one is really alone.

ACCEPTANCE: The First Wives Club

Yes, this movie does work on the premise that, after a certain age, your husband will probably leave you for a younger woman, which kind of sucks. But, it also affirms the power of a womanly bond and what happens when determined, strong women focus on something other than men.

ACCEPTANCE: An Unmarried Woman

Another man-leaving-for-a-younger-woman tale, this snapshot of New York in the ’70s doesn’t just address the end of a relationship but the sexual liberation of women as well. Jill Clayburgh, who was nominated for an Academy Award for this role, goes through the same five stages of Kübler-Ross outlined here, but she emerges from the other side empowered — and sexually fulfilled.

ACCEPTANCE: Postcards from the Edge

Adapted from Carrie Fisher’s true life story about getting clean and heading back to acting, Suzanne (Meryl Streep) has to sober up in order to continue with her film career, which means confronting sleazy producers, coming to terms with her overbearing mother, and dealing with addiction. Messy Meryl is both earnest and darkly dry. The film has a wise assumption: Many of us have dysfunctional relationships with our mothers, and the sooner we realize it, the sooner we can start laughing.

ACCEPTANCE: How Stella Got Her Groove Back

Terry McMillan’s life-affirming tale of a middle-aged divorcée (Angela Bassett) who (what else?) gets her groove back is the kind of movie that will convince you that sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side. Especially when the other side is made up of a wise-cracking Whoopi Goldberg, the sun-drenched island of Jamaica, and Taye Diggs with his shirt off.

ACCEPTANCE: To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar

While this movie has no real romance (Chi-Chi’s fling hardly counts), the lesson is powerful: You are who you are, and grace, class, and a sense of goodness are the best ways to be fabulous. That, and a “Say Anything Hat Day.”

RENEWAL: Breaking the Waves

We don’t normally turn to chronic pessimist Lars von Trier for tales of redemption, but in this mesmerizing tearjerker, he puts Emily Watson’s fragile, young Bess through an emotional firestorm before bringing her back via a spiritual epiphany that will stay with you for days, months, and years.

RENEWAL: Up

The opening montage of Pixar’s modern classic is admittedly one of the most devastating sequences ever put on film. But, after our curmudgeonly widower develops an unlikely friendship with a pudgy Boy Scout, our faith in humanity is restored.

RENEWAL: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Thematically, this is a story about beginnings. Just think about what a magical journey Harry (and film fans) have ahead of them. Let’s all take the opportunity to start again.

RENEWAL: Waitress

This poignant tale of redemption features Keri Russell as a stuck-in-neutral baker who finds new life in the form of a handsome doctor (Nathan Fillion) and a bun in the oven. No, not the kind that’s cream-filled, but the kind that takes nine months to be done.

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