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There are now over twice as many middle-aged people renting than in 2008.  Rising house prices in a stalling economy means that home ownership is becoming unrealistic for more and more people, with it being estimated that a third of millennials will rent for their whole lives.

As of yet the laws surrounding tenancies and tenants’ rights have not caught up with the increasing in renting within our society.  The two areas that are most lacking are evictions and landlord maintenance responsibilities.

Section 21 of the UK Housing Act 1988 states that tenants can be evicted without reason.  This is in fact a breach of international law and does not meet the standards set by other countries, such as Scotland and Germany.  In Scotland courts are able to distinguish between ‘mandatory’ and ‘discretionary’ grounds of eviction and in discretionary cases the landlord must justify their case for repossession to be mandated.

This problem feeds into the issue of homelessness caused by the ending of private sector tenancies.  It is the largest contributor to homelessness in England with 92% of London’s homeless population driven into it via this route.  No fault evictions must be addressed to help tackle this issue.

The other area of shortfall is in regards to maintenance as the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 states that landlords must deal with ‘disrepair’ but only for structural issues.  This means that other indicators of poor housing, such as damp, mould or asbestos, do not legally need to be dealt with by the landlord.  As a result of this, 27% of private sector rental properties fail the decent home standard due to at least one indicator of poor housing.

Applicants for Law can consider how they might interpret these laws when dealing with cases.  Land Economy students can study the rise in house prices and how it is greater than economic growth.        

Fan Bingbing was in 2015 described by Time magazine as China’s “most famous actress”.  Yet she has not been seen in public since June when her official social-media account, on a solely Chinese platform, posted a visit she made to a children’s hospital in Tibet.  No official source has given any suggestion in regards to her whereabouts but many are pointing towards suspected tax evasion and the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) crackdown on celebrity corruption.

The first piece of evidence to support this is the leaking of a film contract by a TV presenter Cui Yongyuan, a social media post that was soon deleted.  The state tabloid Global Times reported on it as being a dual-contract commonly referred to as a ‘yin-yang contract’.  This refers to the two contracts, one presented to the government that is therefore tax deductible and one personal contract that the government would have otherwise been unaware of.  Then in September the Beijing Normal University published a report on ‘social responsibility’ where prominent celebrities given a rating and Bingbing was ranked last at 0 out of 100. 

Ai Weiwei, China’s most famous artist, was detained for 3 months in 2011 by the government citing similar issues of tax evasion.  Upon release he had signed a confession related to tax evasion and his treatment has contributed to the suspicion surrounding Bingbing’s withdrawal. 

Many consider her disappearance and poor ‘social responsibility’ ranking to be the government making her an example of their crackdown on corruption in the Chinese film industry, in part as a result of the public nature of the contract leakage.  It is also likely that it is an attempt to divert attention from the rumoured exploitation within the government itself. 

Law, PPE and Politics students should consider the manner in which the CCP is using Bingbing’s treatment as a deterrent for others in China’s creative industries and how anachronistic their desire to promote the ‘Chinese dream’ is with the inevitable income divide that they wish to denounce.      

We’re all aware of the negative effects of human activity on the environment on Earth. But what about in space? Increasing and largely unregulated activity from various states and corporations is filling up the space around our planet with orbiting trash and threatening the future of space exploration.

The Outer Space Treaty, formulated in 1967, states among other things that bodies such as the moon and asteroids cannot be used for private development and that nations must monitor the space activity of private companies.However, the problems of this current era were not foreseen or covered by the treaty. There are now over 17,000 satellites orbiting Earth, and it is increasingly cheap and easy to get in on the game. As the space industry develops, there may well be other kinds of clutter jostling for space as well. Collisions between these objects could create a barrier of debris preventing further travel. There is as yet no way to deal with these issues, and no overarching authority to regulate activity.

However several space scientists, lawyers, and policy experts are collaborating on the first Institute for the Sustainable Development of Space. The Institute sees space as common property and therefore a common responsibility. They aim to implement long-term strategies and to find solutions to the growing problems so that people around the world can continue to explore space and to use it fruitfully but sustainably. A comparable example would be the oceans, where the cumulative actions of corporations and nations can have enormous implications for the environment and for humans around the globe.

Students interested in space travel and technology, law, international politics, or environmental issues may wish to think about what problems we may face in the future and how we can tackle them, with reference to analogous environmental or legal situations on Earth.

The recent case of Alfie Evans, a 23-month old who sadly passed away, has drawn huge attention in the media and has highlighted numerous ethical and legal issues at play within medical decisions.

Alife Evans was diagnosed with an unidentifiable degenerative neurological condition, and spent more than a year in a semi-vegetative state. His parents wanted Alfie to be flown to Italy to receive treatment in a hospital, however the hospital he was being treated at in the UK blocked this move, arguing it was not in his best interests. They argued due to the degradation of his brain tissue, further treatment would be “futile” and “unkind and inhumane”.

The key legal issue at play in the case was whether doctors have the ultimate right to decide whether withdrawing life-support treatment is in the best interests of a terminally ill child. However, the law in the UK does not offer a definitive answer to this question. The 1989 Children’s Act states that the state can intervene when a child is at risk of harm. This leads to a legal grey area, whereby the state can challenge the rights of the parents, where they believe they are not acting in the best interests of the child.

The case also highlights the complex interplay of the different medical ethical principles to be considered when deciding how best to treat a patient. The ethical principle of beneficence states that doctors should always act in the best interests of the patient and need to balance the benefits of treatment against the costs. However, patients also have autonomy and have the right to make decisions regarding their own treatment. In the case of a child, this decision falls to the parent, and this leads back to the crux of the case as to whether it is the doctors or parents who can decide this.

Law students could look at the complex legal issues involved in this case, and consider how these laws may differ between different countries. Both Philosophy and Medicine students should consider the ethical implications in the case and how these impact upon the decisions that were taken.

Marvel’s superhero sensation Black Panther has thus far grossed almost $1.2 billion worldwide, and is the first film since James Cameron’s Avatar (2009) to top the box office for 5 weeks straight. The film focuses on Wakanda, a fictional African state whose unique natural resources have allowed them to hide away from the outside world, avoiding the impact of colonialism and developing technology superior to that of any other nation. It has been widely praised for its diverse casting and its representation of black women in particular, in an industry dominated by white actors and white stories.

However, despite its commercial success, many have taken issue with the politics and message of the film, deeming it too conservative. The film’s main villain, Erik Killmonger, is a bloodthirsty but idealistic revolutionary who wants to lead Wakanda in a war against the West, using their technology to crush oppressive powers and help black people across the globe. He is eventually defeated by the Black Panther, who rejects Killmonger’s vision in favour of a less radical approach. Critics of the film have expressed disappointment at its lukewarm message which seems to vilify active resistance to oppression—a particularly relevant issue given the media focus on police brutality since the Ferguson protests in 2014. Others have argued that a Hollywood blockbuster cannot be expected to advocate radical politics, and that too much criticism of Black Panther may dissuade producers from making black-centred films in the future.

English Literature students or those interested in film may wish to consider the impact of fiction on political and social views, and whether writers have a moral responsibility towards their audience. Applicants for History should think about what Black Panther has to say about African history, colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade, revolution, and the history of race relations in the United States, with reference to the real-life Black Panther Party of the 60s and 70s.

In the past couple months, we have seen many events and exhibitions to mark 100 years since legislation was passed in the UK which allowed (some) women the democratic vote.

Despite this step, and many more since then, women are still paid less than men for doing the same job. Nowhere is this more apparent than in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) related careers.

The New Scientist has recently undertaken a large-scale survey of science and engineering salaries, showing women are paid an average of a fifth less than men in these fields (£33,000 compared with £41,200). The World Economic Forum has bleakly predicted that gender parity in pay will continue for another 217 years (Treanor, 2017).

Sociologists and Anthropologists have long analysed culture to investigate female subordination. One influential paper by Sherry Ortner (1974) argues that one of the reasons behind female’s universal subordination is that humans consider ‘culture’ as superior to ‘nature’ and, by aligning men with the former and women with the latter, consider women as inferior to men.

This ‘structuralist’ approach presupposes that universal patterns in cultural systems are derived from invariant structures of the human mind. There are problems with her argument, several of which she anticipated. Henrietta Moore has criticised her generalising approach, arguing that the way in which ‘nature’ and ‘culture’ are mapped on to gender relations varies widely between different contexts (Moore, 1994).

One of the more valuable insights in her paper, however, is that two approaches are necessary to address the issue; we need to not only change social institutions, but also challenge cultural assumptions.

‘STEMettes’ is a wonderful organisation that seeks to show ‘the next generation that girls do Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths too’. Girls and young women who are interested in Sciences, Maths, and tech-related subjects are encouraged to investigate some of the resources they offer. If you are within the STEM industry (any gender) and would like to volunteer or contribute, we also encourage you to get in touch.

Gender studies is a multi-disciplinary area which spans the Arts, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences. Oxbridge applicants who are interested in Philosophy, Law, History, Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, Politics, (Human) Biology, and Archaeology will find more subject-specific recommended reading in this reading list for Cambridge University’s MPhil. 

As a lover of second-hand clothes and flea markets, IKEA founder Ingvar Kamprad also happened to be the eighth richest person on Bloomberg Billionaires Index.  Hailed as one of the most influential business men and entrepreneurs of the twentieth century, Kamprad’s wealth was estimated at around $73.8 billion.  Sadly, the mogul passed away late last month aged 91, leaving behind his staggering fortune.  Regrettably for his families and heirs, they will inherit a mere fraction of Kamprad’s enormous wealth.

Starting at the age of five, Kamprad sold matches to his neighbours and gradually progressed to selling seeds, stockings and stationary from his bicycle as a teenager.  By the time he was 17 he had founded IKA; the first mail-order catalogue launched in 1951 and in 1955 the famous flat-pack furniture was launched.  By 1985 it had stores in Europe, Norway and the US, eventually establishing 412 stores across 49 countries.

Kamprad grew up on a farm in southern Sweden and attributed his financial outlook to the attitude of the agricultural region in which he grew up.  This functionality displayed in his business model permeated to the style of furniture he sold.  Rooted in his homeland, he even conducted meetings in the downstairs of the flat in which he was living and grew up.

Although renowned for his internationally successful flatpack empire, Kamprad was equally known to be frugal in his financial dealings and perspective throughout his life.  Bloomberg reported that his purpose is charity donations and ‘supporting [design] innovation’.  Most of Kamprad’s furniture stores are owned by the Stichting Ingka Foundation and controlled Liechtenstein-based Interogo Foundation.  The latter foundation is itself managed by Stiftungsrat Foundation Council, consisting of a Supervisory Council in which, as Bloomberg reports, the Kamprad family ‘ha[s] been and shall always be in minority’.  The Kamprad family has no control over ownership of the company’s shares, with Kamprad arranging all the logistics personally so that they have no control of the IKEA company and will therefore receive minimal sums.  They will receive a small amount from Ikano Group, owned by the family and who runs a number of businesses in a variety of industries.  IKEA Foundation’s Chief Executive, Per Heggenes, confirmed Kamprad’s philanthropic outlook, stating in 2012 that he was ‘not interested in money’.  The complex structure put in place by Kamprad not only means that profits can be reinvested into the company but also ensures IKEA’s longevity, as not even a direct heir can take control after his death.

Applicants for Economics, PPE or Land Economy might want to consider the complex nature of the internal structure Kamprad set up to protect his company’s reputation and longevity.  Although he himself had not been involving in running IKEA since the late 1980s, with his son taking his place on the board of Inter IKEA in 2013, Kamprad had set in place the foundations to remain in control of his company and maintain the ethical values he practiced throughout his life and were inspired by the place in which he group up.

‘What’s in a name?’ was a question posed by William Shakespeare in Act II Scene II of Romeo and Juliet. However, in the current buzz of awards season, Meryl Streep has decided to take action to protect herself from future commercial exploitation in a move that you might not expect; she has trademarked her own name.

This business-savvy, yet seemingly-ostentatious move might shock you at first, especially considering her actual birth name is ‘Mary Louise Streep’, however she is not the first celebrity, and will not be the last, to apply for exclusive rights to use their own names. Original Bond, Sean Connery, applied last year, all of the Beckham’s are trademarked, and Kylie (Jenner) and Kylie (Minogue), had a trademark stand-off early last year. Thankfully the Aussie popstar won. She should be so lucky…

Personal names aren’t the only things to be trademarked. Lots of weird and wonderful applications are submitted every year; Paris Hilton trademarked the phrase ‘that’s hot’, Walmart tried to trademark the yellow smiley face design, and Harley Davidson tried to trademark the sound of a revving engine, before other manufacturers complained that their engines sounded exactly the same. Even the current POTUS was denied an application to trademark his famous “you’re fired”. You can’t win them all, Donald. 

In order to trademark anything in America, you have to meet specific standards held by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The name needs to be significantly widely recognised in commerce. You also need to find a business use that your name will be accountable for, such as speaking engagements and live, televised, and movie appearances, under which Meryl Streep has applied for. However, as George Sevier wryly pointed out in a recent BBC article, ‘It seems unlikely that someone is going to offer after-dinner speaking in the name of Meryl Streep unless it is Meryl Streep’.

Anyone future Law students might want to think about what constitutes as intellectual property. Those hoping to study Linguistics or English may want to think about the power of a pronoun. Finally, any students also named Meryl Streep, might want to think about getting a nickname.

A New York exhibition featuring the artwork of Guantanamo prisoners has sparked calls by the US Department of Defence for a review in the policy which gives the Cuban jail a claim to the drawings, paintings and sculptures created in their art classes. The prison houses around 50 prisoners suspected or convicted of offenses relating to terrorism. If the policy is changed, the art created by the prisoners in the state sanctioned lessons (which we started by President Obama in 2008), will now be the property of the American government.

Whilst the policy is under consideration, no art pieces will be allowed to leave the island. The 36 artworks submitted to the exhibition, were mainly loaned by lawyers who received them as gifts or who have been entrusted with their safekeeping. Several of the exhibition pieces are now up for sale and it is this that has caused the Pentagon’s concern. The exhibition’s curators claim that the only pieces that are up for sale are works by former inmates that have be cleared of all charges. One former detainee artist who wrongly served a 15-year sentence in the jail is selling a piece as he needs the money to pay for family medical expenses.

The organisers of the exhibition have created a petition to challenge the policy review, however there are few legal provisions to protect the civil liberties of inmates.

Fine Art and Art History applicants should consider the impact and humanising quality of artworks created by prisoners and criminals. Future law students should consider the rights of those that are or have been incarcerated in this controversial prison.

A new social care initiative by the India government has set aside around $20bn (£15bn) for a new health drive. This is to build new public toilets. The BBC has called this ‘a toilet – building frenzy’ which is aimed at stopping people defecating in public.

Currently over half a billion people who live in rural India do not use toilets.

Students wanting to study sociology should think about the cultural implication of why this happens. And how difficult it will be to change social norms and cultural patterns of people to use these toilets even after they are built?

Students wanting to study Medicine or Biology should think about the heath complications that are associated with defecation in public. There are a variety of illnesses which are linked to this behaviour which might be avoided if it were tackled with this new toilet building scheme. Students should look into how these diseases can be carried and spread through this activity.

Furthermore, not only health problems are relevant but also as the BBC comments a variety of social problems ‘including children not going to school and women being assaulted or fearing assault when they go to secluded areas to relieve themselves.’ People living in rural India often have to walk very long distances to reach the right area to defecate which can be dangerous.

Looking into the future, once the initiative has been implemented students wanting to study Law or Politics should think about hypothetically how the use of these toilets could be entrenched into the law more formally through policy making.

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