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Bulgaria - the melting pot of poverty and corruption

IT is a scene of utter desperation, reminiscent of the poorest shanty towns in Brazil, South Africa and India.

What roads that exist are little more than dirt tracks strewn with rubbish and excrement. The slightest rainfall turns them to rivers of mud. Rats and disease are rife.

In one hastily-erected shack, a single room with ill-fitting windows and no heat, nine children lie on filthy mattresses, some no more than babies, their tears leaving tracks across their dirty faces as they cry for food and the warm embrace of parents who are not there.

'Romanians' has become a dirty word in Whitehall

The Home Office is privately examining the possible impact of restrictions being lifted on Romanians and Bulgarians who want to live and work in Britain.

The Government privately acknowledges that the issue is politically toxic for the Coalition, pointing to signs that the UK Independence Party is seeking to exploit the subject by linking immigration to the European Union. Only limited numbers of people from either country are likely to travel to Britain next year when restrictions on the freedom of movement of citizens of the two newest EU member states are scrapped, senior government sources believe.

But the subject is preoccupying Whitehall, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has commissioned private research on the likely demands on public services from newcomers.

My warning to Britain: Why the left-wing mayor of German town wants you to see what happened when Romanian migrants moved in

Softly-spoken pensioner Marlene Bothge seems an unlikely owner of a 200,000-volt stun gun, but after her neighbours stole the light bulbs from the corridor of the seven-storey tower block in which she used to live, she no longer felt safe without it.

I am sad it has come to this, she says. This is a weapon young people carry, not 65-year-old women. I should not feel threatened in my own home.

As we talk outside the crumbling tower block, now surrounded by rubbish, discarded furniture and human excrement, Mrs Bothge fidgets nervously with her long grey plait. This was her home for 18 years until she and her husband moved out of their fifth-floor flat in November when the filth, noise and crime became unbearable.

In the past 12 months, 400 Romanians and Bulgarians have moved into the block of 46 flats in Rheinhausen, a once-respectable suburb of the German city of Duisburg. Local officials claim they have migrated here en masse in anticipation of the social welfare they will be entitled to next year.

From January 2014, all 29?million citizens of Romania and Bulgaria will gain full rights to live, work and claim benefits here under EU freedom of movement rules.

UC Riverside To Study Afterlife With $5 Million Grant For 'The Immortality Project'

The University of California, Riverside (UCR) has received a $5 million grant to study the afterlife. The money will fund research into heaven, hell, purgatory, karma and other topics, according to the university's web site. The three-year grant has specifically gone to John Martin Fischer, distinguishedUCR professor of philosophy. Fischer will start The Immortality Project, which will organize two conferences and a website with resources and links to published research on issues of immortality.

We will be very careful in documenting near-death experiences and other phenomena, trying to figure out if these offer plausible glimpses of an afterlife or are biologically induced illusions, Fischer said in a statement. Our approach will be uncompromisingly scientifically rigorous. Were not going to spend money to study alien-abduction reports.

" Fischer also said there is a "deep human need to figure out what happens to us after death" and that there have been many reports of near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences and past lives. Much of the discussion has been in literature, especially in fantasy and science fiction, and in theology," he commented. "No one has taken a comprehensive and sustained look at immortality that brings together the science, theology and philosophy.