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Kayleigh McEnany says she didn"t lie in the White House briefing room because she went to Oxford, Harvard, and Georgetown and is a Christian

McEnany repeatedly lied about COVID-19, the 2020 election, and Trump's public support, despite pledging never to deceive the public. Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany holds up a copy of the New York Post in the briefing room.Alex Wong/Getty Images Former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany claims she didn't lie in the White House briefing room. She writes in her upcoming book that she never lied because she went to Harvard, Oxford, and Georgetown. She also writes that she was not deceptive because she's a Christian and a mother. Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany writes in her new memoir that she didn't lie to reporters and the public while serving in the Trump administration because she was trained at elite universities and is a Christian.McEnany recalls being asked by the White House press corps during her first briefing as Donald Trump's fourth press secretary in May 2020 to pledge to never lie from the podium. She promised she would not and writes in, "For Such a Time As This," that she's a truthful person by nature and training. "Of course, I would never lie," she writes. "How do you get through Oxford, Harvard, and Georgetown without sourcing? Without truthful, well-sourced, well-researched information? More importantly, as a woman of faith, a Christian, and a new mother, telling the truth was in my nature and central to my family life and faith walk." Throughout her book, McEnany is highly critical of the press, aside from conservative outlets, and repeatedly accuses outlets of having a liberal bias and reporting unfairly about the administration. She writes that her assurance that she wouldn't lie "did not stop some in the press from spinning things wildly out of context, twisting my words, assuming the worst, and engaging in ad hominem attacks—like falsely calling me a 'liar.'" During her time as press secretary, McEnany falsely claimed, among other things:Trump never downplayed the risk of the novel coronavirus.He admitted to the veteran reporter Bob Woodward on tape that he lied about the severity of the virus so the public wouldn't panic. Multiple reports have since corroborated that.Trump won the 2020 presidential election.He lost to Joe Biden by more than 7 million votes and lost the Electoral College by a margin of 232 to Biden's 306.The Mueller report concluded with "the complete and total exoneration of President Trump."The special counsel's team declined to make a judgment on whether to charge Trump with a crime because of decades-old Justice Department legal guidance. But they specified, "If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment."One million people attended the "Million MAGA March" after the November 2020 election in support of Trump.As Insider previously reported, multiple news outlets estimated that attendance was more somewhere in the thousands, and Politifact added: "It's mathematically impossible for more than 135,000 people to fit in the location that McEnany tweeted a photo of."Democrats facilitated widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.McEnany's claims were so outlandish that Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto cut away as she was speaking in the briefing room on November 9, days after news outlets called the election for Biden. "Whoa, whoa, whoa," he said. "I just think we have to be very clear: she's charging the other side as welcoming fraud and illegal voting, unless she has more details to back that up, I can't in good countenance continue to show you this."Biden "[admitted] to voter fraud."In October 2020, McEnany sent out a tweet saying, "Biden admits to voter fraud," accompanied by an edited and out-of-context video of the then-incoming president doing an interview on Pod Save America. In the full interview, Biden was answering a question about what he would say to those who had not voted in the 2020 election and didn't plan to. He said: "The Republicans are doing everything they can to make it harder for people to vote. We have put together, I think, the most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organization in the history of American politics."Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytDec 2nd, 2021

A DC police officer gives a full account of battling insurrectionists on January 6: "It was like guerrilla warfare"

"We were surrounded," the Metropolitan Police Department officer told Insider exclusively about the January 6 Capitol attack. "There was going to be no way to retreat from this." Violent Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.Photo by /John Minchillo/ AP A Metropolitan Police Department officer found himself battling an angry pro-Trump mob on January 6. As police tried to fend off the attackers, officers were hit with batons, clubs, and bear spray. "We were surrounded," the officer told Insider. "There was going to be no way to retreat from this." A well-timed jet of bear spray knocked out an officer in the Metropolitan Police Department on January 6 as a violent mob of Trump supporters breached the Capitol and overpowered security.The police officer spoke out in an exclusive interview with Insider in October on the mentally, physically, and emotionally-draining ordeal. Insider granted them anonymity to speak candidly on the details of the insurrection, while MPD has barred its officers from talking publicly about the attack, as part of an oral history of the January 6 attack. This interview has been condensed for brevity and clarity. Insider: What's the first thing you remember about that morning? Metropolitan Police officer: Throwing all of our gear into the vans. There was just a standard briefing. "This is what we got coming. This is what we expect." Most of the day was just people walking by saying, "Hello we support you." And "We're not like Antifa." And I'm like, yeah, yeah. If you really supported us, you'd just go home.When Trump's speech ended people just started marching towards the Capitol. We thought nothing of it. We didn't have the big picture. We start hearing things come over the radio. People yelling about how there was an angry crowd starting to form at the Capitol. So we got ordered to collect ourselves in a nearby location, pick up our gear and get over there.Insider: Does that mean armor, batons, big guns, and all that?Metropolitan Police officer: No. We just put on, essentially, football helmets and gear. Like extra padding. And we started making our way to the Capitol.We started to notice dense crowds in front of the place. And people started yelling at us. "Cowards! Traitors!" And people were saying "We're here for you. We're here to support you. But you're not supporting us!" Then somebody got a little aggressive and the shoving started. Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they storm the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 6, 2021.Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty'I felt the line start to collapse'People are yelling and screaming. Trying to grab those bicycle rack-looking things that had been used as barriers. People were starting to get pepper-sprayed. And it was starting to slowly ratchet up towards real-life violence. We try to reason with one or two of them. But at this point it just kind of goes out the window. There's no real talking to these people. They were there on a mission to make themselves known. And it was mostly white men. Probably 28 to 50 was the average age. During that time, I had to come off the line like four or five times. Probably because I got misted with pepper spray. There was a bunch of Capitol Police officers who weren't in riot gear, and they were running back and forth from inside the building carrying bottles of water. And we were just dousing our eyes. So it was just like you'd fall out, you'd go back, you'd fall out, and you'd go back. Just trying to keep everything going. Finally, on like the last time that I pulled back, I realized, you know, I got this gas mask on my side here. I should just put this on. That would be a great idea. That's what happens when you get a second to think. As I start to put it on, I see smoke. A second later, it comes flying by me. You get that sweet metallic taste of tear gas in your throat and you know, it's done.  At that point, I felt the line start to collapse. It really looked like you were looking at an old-fashioned battlefield. We're right in front of that little tunnel where the president walks out to give the inauguration speech. And I'm looking out at this crowd and I'm just like, "Oh, shit. That's a lot of pissed off people." And it didn't register directly, but you could just feel it. We were surrounded. There was going to be no way to retreat from this. It was then the order was given for us to pull back inside the building. And I was one of maybe the last 10 to go back inside. And for a moment there, we got to take a breath. Next thing you know, we start hearing pounding. And I'm like, "No, this is the Capitol building. They've got, like, bulletproof glass or shatterproof glass or something like that." Then I start hearing cracking sounds. And then one of the lieutenants was yelling, trying to give us a pep talk. "We're not going to lose the US Capitol today." But no one can hear them above the craziness. And I heard someone yell, "I need a riot shield at the front."So I grabbed one of the heavy-duty, thick, plastic, Capitol Police riot shields lined up along the edge of the wall inside the hallway that you know, people must have just put down or abandoned. So we went forward.A window at the US Capitol building broken during the 6 January 2021 siege by supporters of US President Donald Trump.Photo by Dmitry KirsanovbackslashTASS via Getty ImagesShattered glassI hear the glass shatter and I see somebody step in. And then more people start coming in. And we're sitting there with our shields, next to each other. Four guys on the front line with our shields, trying to hold these people back. And I yell something like, "Get the fuck out of here!" And they're smacking the officers. I got pushed in between the door frame, the wall, and the metal detector. Then guys wearing tactical gear start mixing in or standing on top of one another, smacking people with their batons and stuff like that. You had people wearing body armor and balaclavas over their faces. You had people wearing t-shirts. People wearing just normal everyday clothes. —Scott MacFarlane (@MacFarlaneNews) October 26, 2021 So you had people mixed in the crowd who were trying to be decent. They were out there to yell and get their point across. But they weren't trying to hurt anybody. At the same time, they were there on federal property. It just makes them less guilty than the ones that were being violent.There were all sorts of makeshift weapons. A lot of it was PVC pipe. Some flagpoles. There was homemade bear spray. There was regular bear spray. Some of the stuff had been taken from us. They were ripping our shields away from us. It was like guerilla warfare. One of our leaders yelled to stop using pepper spray because all it was going to do was get the rest of us messed up. During that time we had people asking us if we needed to take a break. Everybody was like, 'We're not taking a break. We're not quitting." Insider: Were you just running on adrenaline at this point? Metropolitan Police officer: Oh, yeah. I was gassed out within 10 minutes. Literally just standing there being pushed from behind, and pushing the people in front of you, and pushing the crowd. Ten minutes of that and you're pretty much done. It just doesn't register anymore. You're tired. But everybody else is tired, too. I took a break for like 3 minutes. And then a lieutenant came by and said, "Hey, I know you guys are tired but we need you back on the line. It's getting rough again." Police use tear gas around Capitol building where pro-Trump supporters riot and breached security on January 6, 2021.Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images'You couldn't breathe' They had plenty of fresh bodies. We didn't. So we would tucker them out. Or spray them. And they would pull off. Next thing you know, we had more protesters, rioters, insurrectionists in front of us. At one point, I'm next to my squad sergeant and I can see his face. It was beet red. I told one of the officers that he needed to get off the line because I could see that he was almost looking like he was drowsy. You know, he was just getting burned out.I know we had an officer who was struggling in a lot of pain. We kind of made a V so that the people in the center could trade out, and people could move forward and take his spot. At that point, someone threw a smoke grenade. I was looking for it on the ground, trying to put it out. By the time I had moved all the trash and debris around, the smoke grenade just burned away. It was so densely packed you couldn't move your arms around. You couldn't breathe. —Scott MacFarlane (@MacFarlaneNews) October 26, 2021 I heard some of the protesters yelling, "Hey, I can't breathe." And all I'm thinking is, "Then why the fuck are you here?" I know a lot of people said in the news that, you know, we could have been more forceful, more violent. I went the entire summer of the George Floyd riots, the Black Lives Matter protests without hitting a single person. I used more force that day than I'd used in the previous year. If we had gone lethal, that crowd would have gone from just hostile to murderous. There were a couple thousand people in the crowd. We were just an obstacle in their path. Near the end of my time in that tunnel, I was yelling, "Where the hell's the National Guard?" All I know is we're all tired as hell, but we're still holding. I don't know if you know how gas masks work, but ours have just one air filter on the left side. Somebody pushed up against me. And that mask filter got pushed up against the inside of my chin. It's like putting your head in a sealed container and trying to breathe. There's no air in there. It's a panic moment. I managed to get my right hand out from between me and another person, and I ripped my mask off. No sooner do I do that — like literally, 3 seconds later — I see this stream of white liquid, almost like a Super Soaker, come out of the dark and hit me right in the face. I knew I was done at that point. Because it was just pain. It was bear spray.  I had to close my eyes and I yelled to the guys around me, "I can't see, I can't see." I was out of commission. This was burning hellfire. It's like having a first-degree burn on your face and then sticking your head in an oven. I couldn't see a damn thing. Capitol Police officers receive medical attention after clashes with the pro-Trump mob that breached security and attacked them on, January 6, 2021.Photo By Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty ImagesBattered police officers just staring off into spaceSomeone escorted me up to the Crypt. And we were all just sitting there. Like after a football game. Where all the players are just sitting in the locker room, just staring off into space. I remember walking around. I went up to the Senate and was taking pictures. I took some pictures of the offices and I could see all the damage on the inside of the building. I had to keep moving, because every time I stopped, I would start sweating. Every time you start sweating, it reactivates the OC spray, so I've got to keep the air flowing over my face. Otherwise, it just keeps burning. I heard that they had cleared out the west side. So I went out to go see. I could see Virginia state police, Maryland police, a couple of other law enforcement agencies, you know, moving through the Capitol in SWAT formation. I was like, "Thank you, guys. Thank you for coming. Thanks for backing us up." I started to see the National Guard. Then I went out and I saw the aftermath. There's debris everywhere. There was lighter fluid on the ground. I spotted someone's pants. And on the belt loop was a large Buck knife. There's just trash everywhere. And intermixed between it was baseball bats. Billy clubs. Backpacks full of first aid kits. Just a bunch of Amazon tactical gear. These guys had gotten all their gear off of Amazon. Back inside, I saw some janitors walking around, already cleaning up. I saw some Capitol Hill maintenance workers already doing measurements for the broken doors and the glass. Like they were kicked into overdrive. The grounds had literally just been cleared. Then we all formed up in a line and just started talking to our supervisors. They had us answering if we were injured. If we had used force. And I'm like, "Yeah, I might have whacked a couple of people with my baton." Some guy said, "I punched somebody in the face." We had to report all of that so that it could be investigated later on. Police officers look at the mess left after the January 6 attack on the Capitol.Photo acquired by Insider.Continued health effects from January chemicalsInsider: Did you get punched? Metropolitan Police officer: No, I didn't. But I saw plenty of guys get hit with things. Essentially, even if we weren't injured, we were walking wounded. I call it the OC hangover. Literally, your whole body is drained and aches after being exposed to OC and CS gas. You see, CS gas isn't really a gas. It's more like a powder that becomes aerosolized. And that's all over everything that we own — to this day.  Whenever I have to put on our riot gear, I still get reactivation from the OC or the CS gas. You'll hear guys, to this day, sneezing in the locker room because they were putting on their gear and there was still residual CS powder on it. I remember, as we were leaving the Capitol, anybody who was like, injured-injured got into another van and went straight to the hospital. I know my sergeant had a concussion. Another officer fucked up his knee and didn't come back until like a month or two ago. Another sergeant literally, like the fingernail on his finger got ripped off, or something like that. And they put duct tape on it and he had to go to the hospital. After that, we drove our vans to the DC Convention Center. We parked underneath the overpass where the two parts of the convention center are linked. The fire department came by and just hosed down all of our gear. To this day, I'm still getting burned from stuff on it.We didn't get out until really late. They still had us on standby because they don't know if they still need you. So, I think we were on for like 18 hours at that point.Insider: Did you ever get a chance to call your family?Metropolitan Police officer: When I stepped away I sent my mom a text message saying, "Bad. But safe." And she was like "WTF?"I only had enough time to call one person. So I called my wife. I told her that, you know, "It's rough out here. They're trying to overrun the Capitol. But I'm okay. Can you call my mom and let her know I'm okay?"It was the craziest situation I've ever been in. This story was first published on October 27, 2021, as part of Insider's oral history on the January 6 Capitol attack with accounts from 34 people. Read other related stories here.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 4th, 2022

Finding Strength Along A Post-COVID Fury Road

Finding Strength Along A Post-COVID Fury Road Authored by Tom Luongo via Gold, Goats, 'n Guns blog, The COVID-9/11 pandemic is over. With the failure of Omicron to capture the imaginations of only the most unimaginative midwits, the question now is how do we move forward from here. While we can rejoice that the threat to life and limb from COVID-9/11 may be effectively over, there is still the threat in its name to our liberty and sanity from those who profit most from the fear of the virus. The aftershocks from COVID-9/11 will be with us for the foreseeable future. An entire generation has been scarred by this manufactured apocalypse and there will be no going back to the way things were. We’d been warned by so many for so long. From investigative journalists, to the rare honest politician to the film-makers and artists who crafted stories for us to contemplate the lurking dangers in our deteriorating society. Conditions were ripe for those in power to take maximal advantage of the fear from COVID-9/11. And they did so, enthusiastically. The warnings were clear. There are toxic people out there who would rather destroy the world to hold onto their power rather than admit defeat. Looking at where we are now reminds me, funnily enough, of 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road. A brilliant fever dream of a movie that portrayed a world in a post-rational, post-civilizational state. At it’s core Fury Road’s conflict is asking the question, “Who broke the world?” History had been erased to the point where the people living in this hell couldn’t even form the question into an indictment beyond the most base and reductionist caricature of gender roles. Those who think this is the movie’s perspective have read it all wrong, unfortunately. It’s easy to do given the elevation of Furiosa to near leading lady status. Many have remarked that Mad Max is a bystander in his own movie. They, again, are wrong. Max, in all of the sequels to the original, has been this mythic figure who wanders into a deeply disturbed existential crisis for some outpost in the Wasteland. That’s the setup for these films. And in this one he is brought into the most out-of-balance one yet, where every destructive tendency of men and masculinity runs rampant and has strangled the people and the last outpost of life nearly to death. Bear with me, this stuff is really important. Man? Woman? I’m the Guy With the Microphone Back to the ‘real world.’ Thankfully in our post-COVID world we still have some sense of our history, though those in charge have decided to only allow a version of it that is even more cartoonish than the world of Fury Road in an attempt to erase it. Every instance where someone tries to frame a counter-argument to this cartoon is met with ever more strident claims of gender oppression and white supremacy. We’ve reached a point where those with any dissenting point of view are systematically shut down, censored, silenced or worse. Words are violence in the new Woke West, dontcha’ know? But by taking the position that the ‘other side’ isn’t allowed to speak, they speak volumes about the fragility of their grasp on power. Ideas that cannot be challenged, that cannot bear even the slightest scrutiny, are ideas that can’t evolve. It doesn’t matter whether they are right or wrong. They are static, mechanical and ultimately devoid of life itself. This is our world today in the hands of the Woke Left, a world where the destructive and vindictive feminine has been elevated to the point of unimpeachable rightness. But this isn’t any kind of healthy feminine. It’s a Furiosa-like feminine, devoid of nurturing, all implied violence, all sexuality suppressed to the point of masculinity. Look at Furiosa and tell me it isn’t asking another vital question, “In a dying world, is there any room for fertility while clinging like moss for survival?” In our world feminism has robbed women of their greatest attribute, the ability to gestate and nurture life itself. Hollywood has spent two generations giving us female action heroes who are ultimately nothing more than Doods with Boobs. It’s the ultimate power fantasy of Third Wave feminism. It’s not as destructive an archetype as the sluts on Sex in the City, mind you, because at least it can be tied in some ways back to motherhood, i.e. Ripley in James Cameron’s Aliens, but it’s still damaging to the cause of the healthy feminine nonetheless. Furiosa is what happens when gender roles are maximally out of balance. This claiming of the microphone, this flooding the airwaves with anti-white/anti-male propaganda is itself a very dangerous strategy. First, because it’s disgusting and hateful but second, because it will spark a pendulum swing that will shock everyone. By not allowing people to speak and work through what is bad AND good about the state of the world, it robs people of more than their voice. It robs them, ultimately, of their identity. Which brings me back to Fury Road. The Man With No Name Max never refers to himself as Max in Fury Road until the very end. Even in the unfortunate Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome he’s some other persona — “Raggedy Man,” “The Man With No Name,” or the reincarnation of “Captain Walker.” He’s lost everything, including his sense of self. He’s purely a survivor now. There is no Max anymore. The Wasteland has stripped him of this. Multiple times in Fury Road he’s asked his name. Every time he doesn’t answer. This is the key to reading Fury Road as a Mad Max movie, not a Furiosa movie, as the woke propagandists who masquerade as film critics and commentators would have you believe. Furiosa knows what she is, she’s looking for redemption for her sins, which are she abandoned her fertility to serve a literal blood god who farms women for their breast milk and given his Warboys purpose only through their sacrifice to him if only to be ‘witnessed’ doing so. There is no life for the Warboys in this world, since they can’t reproduce, so their initiation into manhood is becoming ‘shiny and chrome,’ worshipping their cars — the only recognizable technology left from the old world, except for guns. They worship the mechanical, the cold, the lifeless. Cars don’t bring life. But all that repressed energy gets turned into the grotesque creations they drive (insanely) across the Wasteland. They are the ultimate symbol of the static masculine. The only things this economy produces is food, guns, and gas. Since Immortan Joe hordes everything, especially the water and the food, he can maintain the stranglehold on life itself, the only women capable of giving birth. Into this nightmare a healthy Max is a resource, a literal blood bank, who gets caught up in Furiosa’s plans to escape with the only symbols of fertility left in this world, the concubines. From here Fury Road is that redemption plot we all know so well. But they don’t find redemption in the Wasteland, only the seeds to rebuilding the world. It is Max who realizes the only life left is back where they came from. And it quite literally says, there is no ‘better world’ out there than the one we live in. To begin unbreaking the world you have to go back to the one you have and fix it. You can’t run away. Clean your room, if I can invoke Dr. Peterson here. It is on this leg of the Fury Road that Max and Furiosa fully work together to bring down the charnal house that Joe built. It’s only then when he freely gives up some of himself, his blood, to save Furiosa at the end that he offers her his name, regaining his identity for the first time since the Toecutter’s gang ran down his wife and daughter when the world was only damaged, not broken. And it is with that simple act of kindness, that Fury Road asserts itself as Max’s movie. But Max still sins that he can’t wash away. He will forever be the gargoyle that guards the gates of the cathedral. It’s not because men aren’t welcome there. Furiosa knows now what good men look like. The balance between men and women can begin again but not with Max. He knows what he is and knows salvation isn’t for men like him. This is why he can’t ascend to the Promised Land at the end of the film, just like each previous film in the series. It has zero to do with the film being woke or dismissive of men in any symbolic sense. Healing the Gender Divide Unfortunately, our divided world has destroyed our ability to recognize any balance in this conversation. As I’ve previously argued about the Disney Star Wars films, the deep divisions between men and women, the inversion of gender roles in our society, clouds our judgment of them because so many are afraid of the answers they offer. YouTube has empowered an entire sub-culture of MGTOW’s, itself the ultimate expression of male weakness in the face of toxic femininity, to obsess about these things and drive ad revenue to them. Their hate has made them powerful. They hold sway over a whole rotten sub-culture wallowing in their hate. We have a toxic femininity problem. Retreating into masculine safe spaces looks attractive, a kind of ‘Going Galt’ until women get less crazy. But it’s the wrong response. Because those same women who say the most hateful things about men, are really pleading for us to step up and be protectors, like Max becomes to Furiosa and the other women. Saying any of that doesn’t mean we didn’t or don’t have a toxic masculinity problem. But the way to female strength is not denying men or white people or binaries or whatever the fuck they’re labeling us with today access to the microphone. That way madness lies. That way leads to Immortan Joe and a broken world where the reality of male physical superiority is left unchecked by the tempering presence of the divine feminine and their ability to bring life into the world. Unfortunately, we live in a world ruled by Communists who spend every waking hour undermining these basic truths about humanity in their Quixotic quest for power and control. The chaos of COVID-9/11 while we’re all anxious about our failing economic system, a creation of rent-seeking oligarchs, erecting this Citadel of Exclusion is now condoned by previously normal people gripped by a madness that is far deeper than we want to admit to ourselves. Friends and family, storeowners and co-workers have been transformed into self-hating monstrosities willing to reduce everything that represents a challenge to their worldview into a symbol of oppression that further proves their loyalty to the nascent medical-industrial complex. COVID-9/11 drove far too many to this state. They reject the basics of virology, immunology and common sense to support their need for order. As the world broke they sunk further into madness, unable to cope anymore with the basic risks of living in the real world. I’d go off on a rant about how destroying risk assessment in capital markets and the creation of new money through debt and financialization feeding the solipsism that we’d conquered the scarcity problem in modern society, but why bring up facts in an era where people have become allergic to them? Getting off the Shining Path This fear of living is what drives people to become cheerleaders for tyranny. To love their muzzles, proudly display their vax cards and fetishize their subservience to an authority just two years ago most would have distrusted to their core. The same people who marched on D.C. in support of ‘gender equality’ in the name of a women’s right to choose to murder their unborn children now want to deny the unvaxxed a seat at the civilizational table. Got news for you, folks, there’s a barbarian in this room, and it ain’t the unvaxxed. Now a false sense of shared purpose to fight the illusion of a pandemic energizes their fear, amplifies it into anger for those that disbelieve this illusion and turns it into self-righteous resentment for lengthening their agony. Just get the clot shot, they argue and come on board for the big win over COVID, they screech from behind their shiny grills. If it wasn’t so despicable and naïve, it would almost be tragic. Because we, like the people of the world of Fury Road, are all in agony, even those that support what little societal order there is left. This is the post-COVID world Davos has planned for us, worshipping the images of ourselves on our screens. Shaking our asses nihilistically on Tik-Tok or OnlyFans, if only to be ‘witnessed’ in our debasement for a few minutes. Trading our dignity for a dopamine hit and our principles for a paycheck. The push now is to take from the heretics to the COVID-9/11 Death Cult all that is left of the old world. The Immortan Joes of Davos will hoard their part of the shrinking pile of assets and send out their diseased and maniacal Warboys (and girls) to enforce this new Utopia. Arguing with conviction the unvaxxed should be left in the cold, unable to leave their homes, take a walk in the sun, share a meal with their loved ones or have access to medical care. Unlike Fury Road we know who broke the world. They did. But they blame those still willing to face the risk of living in the real world from partaking in it, lest we make a mockery of their selfishness and unquenchable envy. That’s what scares them the most. And that’s where we find the strength to stare them down and build our own ways forward. Because if we don’t start doing that now, if we don’t stop pining for the world that was and accept the world that is, there is no hope of fixing anything. *  *  * Join My Patreon if you like fixing things BTC: 3GSkAe8PhENyMWQb7orjtnJK9VX8mMf7Zf BCH: qq9pvwq26d8fjfk0f6k5mmnn09vzkmeh3sffxd6ryt DCR: DsV2x4kJ4gWCPSpHmS4czbLz2fJNqms78oE LTC: MWWdCHbMmn1yuyMSZX55ENJnQo8DXCFg5k DASH: XjWQKXJuxYzaNV6WMC4zhuQ43uBw8mN4Va WAVES: 3PF58yzAghxPJad5rM44ZpH5fUZJug4kBSa ETH: 0x1dd2e6cddb02e3839700b33e9dd45859344c9edc DGB: SXygreEdaAWESbgW6mG15dgfH6qVUE5FSE Tyler Durden Sun, 12/19/2021 - 07:00.....»»

Category: blogSource: zerohedgeDec 19th, 2021

Former ACLU lawyer running for Texas Attorney General on a pro-choice platform says her pregnancy inspired her campaign

Rochelle Garza tells Insider that her pregnancy helped inspire her bid for Texas attorney general, an office Republicans have held for 30 years. Former ACLU lawyer Rochelle Garza is running to be the first Latina attorney general in Texas.Verónica G. Cárdenas for Insider Rochelle Garza tells Insider that her pregnancy helped inspire her bid for Texas attorney general.  If she wins, the former ACLU lawyer could become the first Latina elected to statewide office in Texas.  Republicans have held the office for 30 years.  In early November, former civil liberties attorney Rochelle Garza went from vying for an open congressional seat in a safe Democratic district along the U.S.-Mexico border in South Texas to entering the race for Texas Attorney General,  an office that Republicans have held for 30 years. A political novice, Garza is best known as the former American Civil Liberties Union attorney who successfully sued the Trump administration on behalf of a detained teenager who was seeking an abortion, and for testifying against Justice Brett Kavanagh, who had ruled against her in that case, at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing.Weeks earlier, in October, Republican lawmakers in Texas had seemingly upended Garza's political prospects when they unveiled new redistricting maps that diluted the power of communities of color, which accounted for 95% of the state's population growth, and increased the number of majority-white Republican districts. The newly drawn maps made the neighboring seat more competitive, leading the Democrat who represented that district, Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, to run in Garza's home turf. (In early December, the U.S. Department of Justice sued Texas over the maps, calling them discriminatory.)In response, Garza decided to aim for an even bigger job. Garza reached the decision, she told Insider, after discovering she was pregnant. "It's so much more personal. I think a lot about what the future holds and what's at stake for democracy, civil rights, the Constitution," said Garza. News of the pregnancy, which she and her husband welcomed as a "blessing," only strengthened Garza's conviction that abortion is a healthcare issue between a person and their doctor. "I don't think anyone understands pregnancy unless they have gone through it. That is a lesson learned from all the things that are happening to my body," said Garza.Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (right) at his 2015 swearing-in, alongside outgoing Attorney General Greg Abbott (seated) who is now the Texas governor.Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty ImagesShe describes choice as an issue of respecting a pregnant person's humanity, adding, "I can't imagine what some of my clients were going through."  For decades, the Texas attorney general has been at the forefront of conservative and right-wing policy priorities nationally. Attorney General Ken Paxton, who's in his second term, has waged legal battles against vaccine and mask mandates; challenged the 2020 presidential election results, with tactics that included suing other states; and defended Texas' the states' recent abortion law, the nation's most restrictive, which bans abortion after six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant, and allows private citizens to sue anyone who "aids and abets" someone getting the procedure. Paxton took office in 2015 after Greg Abbott, who became Texas governor. Paxton has faced felony fraud charges for thr past six years, but has not yet faced trial. Jane Doe and the 'Garza Notice'In 2017, Garza represented a 17-year-old immigrant teenager, later known as Jane Doe, who was seeking a legal abortion while in government detention. After officials with U.S. Health and Human Services, which oversees the shelter system, refused to release her to undergo the procedure, Garza sued on the teen's behalf. A federal judge ruled in favor of Jane, but the Trump administration appealed. A panel of judges at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the government, but when the case was heard by the full appeals court, Garza's side prevailed.  Paxton, the Texas attorney general, would later argue to the U.S. Supreme Court that the appeals court had been wrong and that immigrants have no constitutional right to abortion. One of the judges who had ruled against Garza was Brett Kavanaugh, who argued that at issue was allowing access to "a new right" for unlawful immigrant minors. The following year, Trump nominated Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.Garza's client underwent the procedure. The case also led to the establishment of what is now known the "Garza notice," a government policy for informing pregnant teens in shelters and detention centers of their rights to abortion services and regulations for abiding by the court ruling in the context of Texas' restrictive abortion ban. Rochelle Garza testifying at Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee about how she helped an undocumented teenage girl fight for an abortion.J. Scott Applewhite/AP PhotoTo Garza, a clear line connects her work with teenage immigrants and the abortion cases the Supreme Court has considered this session."The erosion of rights begins with the most marginalized. With the Jane case, she was someone who, clearly, the Trump administration, Ken Paxton, and Brett Kavanaugh, did not think she mattered, and that her rights didn't matter, but they did," Garza told Insider. "And that's what we have to focus on, because if we don't protect someone like her who is the most vulnerable, what chance is there for the rest of us?"On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that abortion providers could challenge the Texas law, which is considered the most restrictive in the nation, but left it in effect. A 'women's full pursuit'A recent Politico article drawn from interviews with dozens of Democratic strategists suggested that abortion rights are unlikely to galvanize the party's base "unless — and perhaps not even then — Roe is completely overturned."Until then, voters are more motivated on issues of employment and healthcare, and wealthy people in states that have blocked abortion access will be able to travel out of state for services. A recent Texas Tribune poll found that 46% of Texas voters disapproved of how "state leaders have handled abortion policy, while 39% approved. Garza disclosed her pregnancy on the day the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a challenge to Mississippi's abortion law, which bans abortion services after 15 weeks. Unlike the Texas law, which was written to evade federal review by placing the onus on private citizens, advocates believe the Mississippi case could lead to the court overturning Roe v. Wade. In a court briefing, Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch wrote that the precedent protecting abortion "out-of-date.""Innumerable women and mothers have reached the highest echelons of economic and social life independent of the right endorsed in those cases," Fitch continued. "Sweeping policy advances now promote women's full pursuit of both career and family."Protesters march down Congress Ave outside the Texas state capitol on May 29, 2021, after the governor signed a bill banning most abortions.Sergio Flores/Getty ImagesGarza seemingly embodies Mississippi's argument. With a supportive husband, she has leveraged her legal practice into a political career. All while pregnant.But in Garza's view, individual success does not erase the constitutional right to reproductive care or persistent systemic inequities. For Garza, abortion rights go hand in hand with expanding access to healthcare, child care,  and family leave. Texas has one of the highest rates of uninsured and one of the highest rates of children living in poverty. The maternal mortality rate is above the national average. After a state committee recommended the state expand Medicaid coverage to pregnant people from 60 days to one year, the state legislature extended coverage to six months.  At Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, Garza invoked her client, Jane Doe: "She was alone and completely under the physical control of the federal government and at the mercy of decision-makers that knew nothing of what it was like to be her." 'They have the confidence'Garza hails from one of the poorest counties in Texas, the daughter of two teachers. Her father, the son of farmers, later became a state district judge. Her great-grandmother was a mid-wife and country doctor, informally trained to attend to people living on nearby farms. At Garza's ancestral house where red chili plants bloom in the front yard and pomegranates ripen from the vine, Garza's uncle Jesus Reyes Garza, a Vietnam Veteran, searches for a thread about the women in his family, and says matter-of-factly, "legends."Garza's campaign is built around taking on what she views as the entrenched structural inequities that transfer power into the hands of the few. Jesus Reyes Garza, the candidate's uncle.Verónica G. Cárdenas for InsiderJust one Latina, Lena Guerrero Aguirre, has ever held statewide office in Texas, according to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials – and she was appointed. Most of the state's top officials are white, even though white and Latino Texans account for about the same percent of the population.There are structural impediments to any Latina who seeks office in Texas, and researchers have found that women of color "fare worse" in statewide contests. In addition to the redistricting maps that come from the Republican-controlled state legislature, politics experts say that Latina Democrats who run for office must also overcome a host of impediments, including from their own party. "Democratic party leaders may not coalesce around a candidate of color out of fear of alienating white voters,." she writes, Kira Sanbonmatsu, a senior scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics in "Why Not a Woman of Color?: The Candidacies of US Women of Color for Statewide Executive Office." Texas Democratic consultant, James Aldrete, places Garza among the small but growing ranks of Latina maverick candidates that also includes Harris County judge Lina Hidalgo, who unseated a veteran incumbent to become the administrator of a county that includes Houston. "No one encouraged Lina, no one recruited her. She won and she is amazingly talented," said Aldrete. "If we are going to change things in Texas, it's going to take courage." There are also generational differences at play that can impede Latina voters from coalescing being a Latina candidate.Sharon A. Navarro, a professor of political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio, says some of this harkens back to the civil rights era, before Roe vs. Wade, when Latinas were expected to volunteer with grassroots causes while the men ran for political office. "When they meet older generation Latinas they often get asked the question, 'who is taking care of your children?'" she said. "The younger Latinas are ready. They have that confidence, they have law degrees. They are just the missing support and that structure."Rochelle Garza (second from right) talks to voters in Brownsville, Texas during her congressional campaign on Sept. 24, 2021.Eric Gay/AP PhotoGarza is the only woman and only Latina in a crowded March 1 Democratic primary. She is expected to face off against Galveston mayor, Joe Jaworski, who launched his campaign a year ago, and civil rights attorney Lee Merritt who represented the family of Ahmaud Arbery, a Black man who was murdered by white vigilantes while he was jogging in Georgia. While right-to-life groups that have sounded the alarm about Garza's candidacy, Garza is likely the least well-known. This week, Emily's List, which supports candidates who back abortion rights, endorsed Garza.  Former state supreme court justice Eva Guzman, also a Latina, is running on the Republican ticket. Guzman has billed herself as a tough law enforcement officer whose life history is rooted in an aspirational immigrant story. She is challenging Paxton, alongside candidates that includes George P. Bush, the Latino son of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and the nephew of George W. Bush, the former president and Texas governor. University of Houston researcher Brandon Rottinghaus, author of the report "Six Myths of Texas Latinx Republicans," says the party has expanded its Latino constituency, in part, by side-stepping issues of inequity, to appeal to aspirational and pro-business sentiment. "Republicans never talked about racial impact of policy or how structural racism exists in many policies that exist," he said. Garza says that her pregnancy has made the disparities more evident. She noticed the pregnant women working at the grocery store, the ice cream shop, the fast-food drive thru. In them she thought about issues of access to health care, family leave, and child care that cut across class and race. "We expect women to bear children, rear children and maintain jobs," said Garza. "But we don't expect that job to be Attorney General of Texas and that's obviously wrong and that's why we get laws that are harmful to women and that's what I'm trying to change." Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderDec 12th, 2021

NFT Art Collectors Are Playing a Risky Game—And Winning

In Miami, the next generation of art collection showed its colors Behind the high white walls of a nondescript single-story building in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, past the velvet ropes and ticket-checkers, and through a hallway filled with disorienting billows of white smoke lies Aku World, the alternate universe of Aku, a young Black astronaut. The blank walls of one room were covered with moving projections of this cartoon extraterrestrial universe. At the center, a giant space helmet you could walk inside to view videos. In other rooms: traditional art from the likes of Jean-Michel Basquiat and young artists Jade Yasmeen and Floyd Strickland; a “merch” room with virtual 3D displays of branded backpacks and hoodies; and a futuristic sanctum with a massive, ovoid version of a TSA body scanner, used for 4D body-mapping. Visitors could develop and “mint” their own personalized avatars for the Aku World metaverse. A line of patrons snaked out the hallway. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] One of those people on this balmy Thursday evening of Art Basel Miami was Cooper Turley. Wearing designer sneakers, a black turtleneck and a diamond chain, Turley towered over his fellow Aku fans in line, a collection of diverse young people who had managed to snag one of the exclusive tickets to the pop-up. “I’ve been following the story for six months at this point,” Turley says proudly. But Turley, 26, was more than just another Aku fan. An investor in the project, Turley is also an NFT collector and a Twitter personality known for sharing upbeat takes on the future of the emerging world of web3. Originally an avid Pokemon collector—the type of teen who spent hours searching out rare cards on eBay—Turley turned a college music business degree into a career as an angel investor and general crypto expert after becoming intrigued by the concept of so-called “smart” contracts for music, which could more effectively apportion out revenue to the many stakeholders involved in a track. These days, he holds somewhere around 400 to 500 unique NFTs, ranging from an original Crypto Kitty (his first-ever NFT purchase) to a one-of-one from Fvckrender that he bought for a hefty 10ETH (currently about $44,000). “If I were trying to get [my collection] appraised today? It would be, like, a couple million dollars,” he says, doing some quick mental math. How NFT art collecting works Just like there are famous physical world art collectors—Peggy Guggenheim, J. Paul Getty, the Broads—Turley has joined the ranks of high-end NFT art collectors, as non-fungible tokens became the talk of the crypto and art worlds this year. (NFT auction platform OpenSea has tracked over $10 billion worth of sales since it launched in 2017. The buzz peaked last spring with the much-ballyhooed $69 million auction price for a one-of-one Beeple art work.) While an NFT can be anything, the first and most visible use-case so far has been for digital art. Sometimes that means a moving image. Or an audio-visual clip. Or a “profile picture project” (PFP) like CryptoPunks or Bored Ape Yacht Club, drawings that are variations on a theme within a particular universe. (Aku World started out as a collection of Aku NFTs.) Or a physical sculpture with an NFT certificate of ownership. More and more, it also can mean tokens that provide access to exclusive events or content—also a perk, in this instance, of Aku NFT ownership. Read More: Teen Artists Are Making Millions on NFTs. How Are They Doing It? For Turley, being a collector (and investor and advisor) in this space is both a career and, it seems, a calling. His social and professional lives are deeply intertwined. In Miami, his days were a mix of attending events like Aku World and carrying on into near-dawn club adventures with fellow collectors and artists he’s befriended. “There’s one part of my collecting that’s all about patronage,” he says. “It’s my friends getting involved in the space, so I am buying their work to simply say thank you for believing in this, thank you for taking a chance and putting your art into this ecosystem.” The other part is speculation. “There’s a science to knowing which entities are going to go up and being able to flip those,” he says. After all, he’s been able to build a multimillion dollar collection off his early crypto investments and willingness to play that game. The value of community Turley’s approach—recognizing both the power of patronage and the potential of speculation—is one echoed by most collectors in these early, volatile days of the NFT market. Jake Rogers, 38, also found his professional sweet spot as a collector and speculator. Crypto—and NFT art collecting—changed his life; after going through a divorce and diving into crypto self-education via the audio hangout app Clubhouse during the pandemic, Rogers left his role as the program director of a homeless shelter in Atlanta. He’s now a full-time NFT investor based in Miami. (He’s also building out a local cafe for “cannabis, coffee, crypto and tacos,” he says happily.) But you wouldn’t know any of this from his unassuming appearance; he shows up at a low-key pool party on a residential street in downtown Miami in a faded tank top, shorts, and a Patagonia baseball cap covering his grey hair, swigging from a bottle of electric yellow Gatorade. Rogers is here to say hello to the Queens-based music artist and general hype man Artz (real name: Raymond Allende), founder of the artist collective Reject Dreams. Rogers invested in some of Artz’s audio-visual works (and NFTs), and they’re friends via Clubhouse. With boyish energy, he settles onto a couch by a dusty pool table to explain his philosophy of NFT investing. Rogers has 487 works when we talk, and wants to hit 500 by the end of the weekend, with a budget to burn of roughly $200,000. He had been dabbling in crypto since 2017, but made his first NFT purchase in spring 2020, with a reasonably-priced piece from “some brothers in Russia,” he remembers, who he discovered on Clubhouse. “I got in for the community. And then—” he pauses. After he had collected about 100 works he loved, including four Bored Apes, three of which he sold for a healthy profit, “then I got in for the money.” Read More: NFTs Are Shaking Up the Art World—But They Could Change So Much More Now he’s using what he calls “house money,” re-investing his wins. “The reality is, it’s insider trading,” he says wryly. But with a cause: he likes to support early-stage artists who need the money to live. That positive feedback loop, and the sense that he’s making a difference in someone’s life, “is like a drug.” “I came from the world of understanding my privilege and helping people that have nothing,” he says. He has a system now for deciding what’s a worthy project, based on the rarity of the pieces, his trust in the people behind the project, and whether it’s a safe bet or a risky one. Rogers knows it might look like he’s having a midlife crisis right now. But he says he’s never felt a stronger sense of purpose: to invest in the future, and be a part of supporting the paths of artists he believes in—like Artz—who wouldn’t otherwise get a chance. We say goodbye, and he jumps up, snaps a quick selfie with Artz, and heads out to the next art exhibition. “I didn’t even know what the guy looked like until a few weeks ago,” Artz says after Rogers leaves. But his early support has been meaningful in helping Artz raise his profile. Later in the weekend, Artz would perform with rapper Busta Rhymes. Is NFT art “real art”? To outsiders, the NFT art world can look like a joke, or a bunch of high rollers playing a computer game. For those inside it, it is a game—but one with real stakes. Nowhere was that more clear than at the NFTNow x Christie’s party in downtown Miami, hosted in a corporate venue transformed into an NFT art gallery and party spot. On the blacked-out walls, digital works by top-selling artists like Fvckrender, Chad Knight and Dave Krugman popped out of the darkness. The open bar seemed of less interest to most than the works themselves. Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty ImagesGuests view an NFT art piece by German artist Mario Klingemann at Art Basel Miami 2021. Turley circulated with other bigwigs in the scene: collectors like Kamiar Maleki, director of Volta Art Fairs and Colborn Bell, the tall, bearded head of the Museum of Crypto Art; artists and celebrities like Beeple, Fewocious, Jared Leto and Timbaland. The Christie’s co-sign gave this new generation an air of officiality. But at the main Art Basel fair in a cavernous event space on Miami Beach, Turley felt out of place; he admits he’s not a traditional art connoisseur. Most of the booths were hosted by galleries—and NFT artists tend to bypass gallery representation. (One booth by blockchain company Tezos was a hit, however, and 5,000 NFTs were minted there over the course of the week.) “I felt a little bit of a disconnect,” Turley says. “All the art on display was physically appealing, and it looked fantastic,” but he didn’t feel the sense of connection that he could find with NFTs. “One of the things that I like the most about NFTs is that you are not bidding on the art itself, you’re bidding on a relationship with the creator. We are in an early enough stage where that could happen. The reason that a lot of people are spending so much money on NFTs is because they really want to get connected to that artist on a personal level,” he says. Turley himself has advised artists and creators on their NFT entrances. Crypto winter is coming Of course, in an emerging, unregulated market, not all plays are wins. Collectors spoke blithely about getting “rugged” on certain NFT investments, about how easy it is for hackers to entice potential investors into fake projects, into scams that result in an empty crypto wallet before they can back out of the exchange. But more often than not, a loss just sparks the desire to try again; risk is the accepted name of the game. Back at Aku World, Turley was joined by artist Isabella Addison and fellow young collector Brett Shear. (Shear focuses on music NFT collecting.) After Turley minted his new Aku avatar, the trio—already tired after a few days of the Miami party circuit—grabbed dinner at a low-key gyro restaurant a few blocks away, then headed to an event hosted by digital music collective Poolsuite. For artists like Addison, the support of these collectors has helped buoy her to stardom. On Saturday night, she was out and about with a collector who goes by the name Seedphrase, who recently estimated his NFT collection’s value at around $12 million. At a party co-hosted by Playboy and Proof of Party, a web3-focused event series, the walls flashed with moving projections of models. Pop star Charli XCX was in the deejay booth. A few hours later, Addison would wake up to hand-paint a Bentley for an auction. She was moving into a new apartment in L.A. soon. The collectors all warned of an upcoming “crypto winter” of increased volatility, for which they’re preparing by diversifying their investments into things like metaverse properties and crypto-focused DAOs (decentralized autonomous organizations that invest as a collective). But for artists like Addison who are already reaping the rewards of their patronage, the season ahead looks bright......»»

Category: topSource: timeDec 9th, 2021

Buying a House Feels Impossible These Days. Here Are 6 Innovative Paths to Homeownership

A dozen Grade-A eggs will run you about $0.40 more than they did a year ago, and you’ll have to fork over $0.66 more for a pound of ground beef. At the gas pump, a gallon of unleaded is now $1.23 higher than it was in 2020. But few year-over-year price increases compare to what’s… A dozen Grade-A eggs will run you about $0.40 more than they did a year ago, and you’ll have to fork over $0.66 more for a pound of ground beef. At the gas pump, a gallon of unleaded is now $1.23 higher than it was in 2020. But few year-over-year price increases compare to what’s happened to the American housing market. The sale price of a median home in the U.S. has ballooned by more than $67,000 in the past year, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis — surging from just under $338,000 to nearly $405,000. There’s lots of reasons for this. In the past year, a combination of low interest rates and COVID-19, which forced tens of millions of people to work from home, fueled demand for houses. Longtime renters began looking to buy a place with more space, while those who were already homeowners began looking for secondary vacation residences. (Mortgage applications for second homes spiked 84% between January of 2020 and 2021.) [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] That jump in demand was compounded by a nationwide slump in housing supply—the result of both nationwide labor shortages and disruptions in the supply chain of crucial building materials, like copper and lumber. These recent issues have been exacerbated by lags in new housing construction over the past twenty years, according to a June report from the National Association of Realtors. The end result is that millions of American families across the income spectrum are now effectively locked out of homeownership. The problem is particularly acute for young people and people of color. The homeownership rate among millennials, ages 25-34, is 8 percentage points lower than it was for both baby boomers and Gen Xers in the same age cohort. Black homeownership, meanwhile, remains at just 45%—30% lower than that of white families and nearly unchanged since 1968, when overt housing discrimination was outlawed. It’s more than just a housing dilemma. Since home ownership remains the best way for an average family to accrue wealth over a lifetime, it’s a prosperity issue, too. Homeowners in the U.S. have, on average, forty times more wealth than renters, according to a September 2020 report from the Federal Reserve. In light of this crisis in home ownership, here are six ways that communities and companies around the country are legislating and innovating to help Americans buy a house. 1. A narrow case study in reparations for Black families Like most cities in the U.S., Evanston, Illinois has a long history of racist housing laws. For decades, Black residents were segregated into poor neighborhoods where occupancy rates were estimated to be 150% and some units lacked crucial amenities, like heating. While hundreds of vacant homes were available in more desirable parts of town, landlords and real estate agents explicitly barred Black families from renting them, and banks blocked Black families from financing. “Owners and agents of vacant property plan to prevent the negroes from spreading from their own quarters,” a 1918 Evanston News-Index article read. Housing segregation fueled wealth inequality: Black families in Evanston earn $46,000 less than their white counterparts on average. Former Evanston Alderman Robin Rue Simmons sought to address that sordid history. While in office in 2019, she created the first-ever taxpayer-backed reparations fund in a U.S. city. It sets aside $10 million in revenue, raised by the city’s tax on recreational marijuana, over a 10-year period. The first $400,000 out of that reserve will go to victims of racial housing discrimination and their descendants, divided up into $25,000 grants which can be used this year for down-payments on new homes, mortgage payments or renovations on existing homes. That initial $400,000 will hardly solve the problem. There are more than 12,000 Black residents in Evanston and the initial outlay will provide just 16 households with funding. But, Simmons argues, “it’s better than zero”—and the program also sets a key precedent. In the years since Evanston stood up its reparations fund, several other locales, including Detroit, Michigan and Amherst, Massachusetts, have voted to explore or start similar programs. “If you think of any significant, transformative national or federal legislation, it started with localities and grassroots efforts organizing and pushing their local leaders,” Simmons says. “This is no exception.” 2. Community Land Trusts: Buying the home but not the land The most unique part of the two-story home in Winooski, Vermont that Sarah and husband Colin Robinson bought for $172,000 in 2008 wasn’t its quaint terrace garden or the funky bunk-room upstairs. It was the fact that the Robinsons didn’t own the land that it was built on. That’s because the house is part of what’s known as a community land trust (CLT)—a non-profit, community-controlled collection of properties. The first CLT in the U.S. was created in Albany Georgia in 1969. Now there are more than 220 nationwide, offering more than 12,000 homes total. While the particular rules of each CLT are a little different, the idea is the same: aspiring homeowners share the cost of purchasing a house with the CLT, which owns the land the home is built on. When the homeowner sells, he or she returns a share of the appreciation with the CLT. Champlain Housing Trust—the CLT that helped the Robinsons become homeowners—is the largest in the country, with 636 properties in the Burlington area. Under its rules, the purchase price of an average home is offset by about 30%, and upon selling, the homeowner keeps a quarter of the home’s appreciation price, plus the cost of any major renovations invested into the property. The average Champlain Housing Trust member keeps their home for 7.5 years and walks away $25,000 richer—money that they can then put toward purchasing more expensive homes on the regular market. A 2010 Urban Institute analysis of Champlain Housing Trust, founded in 1984, found that 68% of those who left CLT went on to purchase market-rate homes. The Robinsons are a model of how it’s supposed to work. When they sold their first, CLT home in 2014, they walked away with $40,000 in equity, which they rolled into the purchase of their second home on the regular market. “We were able to bring that money with us, and that was really what made it possible,” says Sarah. “It really changed the trajectory of our lives.” 3. Zoning overhaul: Ending de-facto redlining Nowhere in the country is the racial housing gap wider than in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where more than 70% of white families own, compared to just 20% of Black families, according to a 2021 Urban Institute report. One big reason for this disparity is an insufficient supply of affordable homes: the state is 40,000 housing units short of demand, according to a Minnesota Housing Finance Agency estimate. Restrictive zoning rules built on decades of discriminatory policies worsen this shortage. After the federal government outlawed explicit racial housing discrimination in the 1960s, local lawmakers scrambled to bolster different regulations—namely single-family zoning ordinances that would maintain the homogeneousness of their neighborhoods. Under those rules, construction companies were banned from building anything other than standalone homes—including more affordable row homes, condominiums, duplexes, triplexes—in most upscale neighborhoods, which had the effect of pricing Black and brown families out of the market. Lisa Bender, president of Minneapolis’ City Council, argues that changing those rules is “the very bare minimum first thing” that policymakers can do “to fix centuries of racial exclusion.” In 2018, she spearheaded a City Council effort to rescind regulations reserving 70% of the city’s residential land for single-family zoning—a move that could effectively triple the housing supply in some Minneapolis neighborhoods by prompting construction of new, more cost-efficient multi-family units. The rule change went into effect in 2020. Portland, Oregon and the entire state of California have since enacted policies that effectively end single-family zoning too. Most Popular from TIME 4. 3D printing: Construction meets environmentalism and efficiency Jason Ballard, who grew up in an oil-soaked East Texas town, was always interested in environmental sustainability. But it wasn’t until college that he realized the best way he could explore environmentalism was not by becoming a biologist, but by becoming a builder. “Buildings are the number one user of energy. Construction is the number one producer of waste,” he says, adding that construction is also one of the top users of water behind agriculture. In 2017, he cofounded ICON, a construction technologies company that builds affordable, structurally sound, environmentally resilient single-family homes using a 3D printing method that creates far less waste than traditional building processes. While the startup is just getting off the ground—its first four homes sold this year—its cost of construction appears to be 10-30% less than traditional builders, thanks largely to reductions in labor and supply needs. In October, ICON announced a project to use its technology to break ground on 100 homes in the Austin area in 2022, creating the largest community of 3D-printed homes to date. Ballard predicts costs will continue to decrease as ICON automates more components of the construction process. The method also has the potential to be unbelievably speedy. While constructing an average American home the normal way takes 7.7 months, according to a 2018 U.S. Census Bureau survey, a Boston-based 3D printing construction company, Apis Cor, says it can make a move-in ready three-bedroom, two-bath in less than a month. Illustration by Wenjia Tang for TIME 5. Modular housing: building houses like Henry Ford built cars There’s no way that Sara and Jon Comiskey, both in their mid-20s, would have been able to afford a house in the Buena Vista area of Colorado, where median home prices hover around $515,000, if it wasn’t for a start-up called Fading West. In 2016, Fading West began building homes that were constructed off-site, in a factory, streamlining the production in the same way that manufacturers build cars. Workers complete most components of a house—house siding, flooring, and walls—at scale, then attach them to a foundation on site. Final features, like garages and porches, are added once the home is at its final resting place, says Fading West founder Charlie Chupp. “You wouldn’t build a Camry in someone’s driveway,” he says. Why do it for a house? Chupp says his company’s lean production model reduces waste by eliminating weather-related damage to materials like is typical during outdoor construction, requires fewer skilled laborers, and significantly reduces the time required to make a home. “With 100 people on a traditional system, you might be able to build between 100 and 150 homes a year,” he says. “We think we can do between 600 and 700 homes a year.” There are downsides. The need to transport the house components from factory to foundation curtails how large the end-product can be, and the standardization of the process means homeowners must accept limited design options. Customers get two cabinet choices, three tile options, three window sizes, and one color carpet. “We offer a standard quartz countertop in any color you want,” Chupp jokes, “as long as it’s white.” But Chupp also offers something that many other real estate developers don’t: affordability. He estimates his off-site produced houses are at least 25% cheaper than comparable models in the area. In April 2021, the Comiskeys bought a 900-square-foot Fading West townhouse in Buena Vista for $240,000. 6. Divvy: A fresh take on rent-to-own Adena Hefets grew up listening to her parents’ stories of how difficult it was for them to purchase a home in the early 1980s. As an immigrant from Israel, her dad didn’t have an established credit score and so couldn’t get a mortgage. Eventually, her family was able to buy a seller-financed home—a rare home-buying mechanism where a seller allows a buyer to pay for a home in increments, rather than making mortgage payments to a bank. In 2017, Hefets started Divvy, a tech company, that offers prospective homebuyers a very similar model. Divvy purchases homes on the open-market and covers closing costs, taxes, insurance and repairs in exchange for the client paying monthly rent that is approximately 10-25% more than what they would pay for comparable rentals in the area. The differential goes toward equity in the home. The client can then buy back the home with the equity they accrued through paying the rent, or cash out the equity at the end of their lease. It’s not a universal solution. Divvy requires that buyers have moderate credit scores and clients must be able to pay above market-rate rents. But in the last five years, the company has entered partnerships with thousands of families, roughly 47% of whom end up purchasing their home back from Divvy. LaCresa Hooks, who works as an accountant, couldn’t find a traditional mortgage because she was working as a short-term contractor. In October 2020, she signed a lease with Divvy and less than a year later, she’d bought back her 3-bedroom, 2-bath Georgia home with bank financing thanks to the equity she accrued. Now, she looks forward to something most people loathe: Paying her mortgage. “I’m building something now,” she says. “With rent, you aren’t building anything. You’re just paying your landlord and that’s it for the next 30 days.”.....»»

Category: topSource: timeNov 22nd, 2021

Babies are increasingly dying of syphilis in the US - but it"s 100% preventable

Babies with syphilis may have deformed bones, damaged brains, and struggle to hear, see, or breathe. A newborn baby rests at the Ana Betancourt de Mora Hospital in Camaguey, Cuba, on June 19, 2015. Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters The number of US babies born with syphilis quadrupled from 2015 to 2019. Babies with syphilis may have deformed bones, damaged brains, and struggle to hear, see, or breathe. Routine testing and penicillin shots for pregnant women could prevent these cases. This story was originally published by ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom, in collaboration with NPR News. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.When Mai Yang is looking for a patient, she travels light. She dresses deliberately - not too formal, so she won't be mistaken for a police officer; not too casual, so people will look past her tiny 4-foot-10 stature and youthful face and trust her with sensitive health information. Always, she wears closed-toed shoes, "just in case I need to run."Yang carries a stack of cards issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that show what happens when the Treponema pallidum bacteria invades a patient's body. There's a photo of an angry red sore on a penis. There's one of a tongue, marred by mucus-lined lesions. And there's one of a newborn baby, its belly, torso and thighs dotted in a rash, its mouth open, as if caught midcry.It was because of the prospect of one such baby that Yang found herself walking through a homeless encampment on a blazing July day in Huron, California, an hour's drive southwest of her office at the Fresno County Department of Public Health. She was looking for a pregnant woman named Angelica, whose visit to a community clinic had triggered a report to the health department's sexually transmitted disease program. Angelica had tested positive for syphilis. If she was not treated, her baby could end up like the one in the picture or worse - there was a 40% chance the baby would die.Yang knew, though, that if she helped Angelica get treated with three weekly shots of penicillin at least 30 days before she gave birth, it was likely that the infection would be wiped out and her baby would be born without any symptoms at all. Every case of congenital syphilis, when a baby is born with the disease, is avoidable. Each is considered a "sentinel event," a warning that the public health system is failing.The alarms are now clamoring. In the United States, more than 129,800 syphilis cases were recorded in 2019, double the case count of five years prior. In the same time period, cases of congenital syphilis quadrupled: 1,870 babies were born with the disease; 128 died. Case counts from 2020 are still being finalized, but the CDC has said that reported cases of congenital syphilis have already exceeded the prior year. Black, Hispanic, and Native American babies are disproportionately at risk.There was a time, not too long ago, when CDC officials thought they could eliminate the centuries-old scourge from the United States, for adults and babies. But the effort lost steam and cases soon crept up again. Syphilis is not an outlier. The United States goes through what former CDC director Tom Frieden calls "a deadly cycle of panic and neglect" in which emergencies propel officials to scramble and throw money at a problem - whether that's Ebola, Zika, or COVID-19. Then, as fear ebbs, so does the attention and motivation to finish the task.The last fraction of cases can be the hardest to solve, whether that's eradicating a bug or getting vaccines into arms, yet too often, that's exactly when political attention gets diverted to the next alarm. The result: The hardest to reach and most vulnerable populations are the ones left suffering, after everyone else looks away.Yang first received Angelica's lab report on June 17. The address listed was a P.O. box, and the phone number belonged to her sister, who said Angelica was living in Huron. That was a piece of luck: Huron is tiny; the city spans just 1.6 square miles. On her first visit, a worker at the Alamo Motel said she knew Angelica and directed Yang to a nearby homeless encampment. Angelica wasn't there, so Yang returned a second time, bringing one of the health department nurses who could serve as an interpreter.They made their way to the barren patch of land behind Huron Valley Foods, the local grocery store, where people took shelter in makeshift lean-tos composed of cardboard boxes, scrap wood, and scavenged furniture, draped with sheets that served as ceilings and curtains. Yang stopped outside one of the structures, calling a greeting."Hi, I'm from the health department, I'm looking for Angelica."The nurse echoed her in Spanish.Angelica emerged, squinting in the sunlight. Yang couldn't tell if she was visibly pregnant yet, as her body was obscured by an oversized shirt. The two women were about the same age: Yang 26 and Angelica 27. Yang led her away from the tent, so they could speak privately. Angelica seemed reticent, surprised by the sudden appearance of the two health officers. "You're not in trouble," Yang said, before revealing the results of her blood test.Angelica had never heard of syphilis."Have you been to prenatal care?"Angelica shook her head. The local clinic had referred her to an obstetrician in Hanford, a 30-minute drive away. She had no car. She also mentioned that she didn't intend to raise her baby; her two oldest children lived with her mother, and this one likely would, too.Yang pulled out the CDC cards, showing them to Angelica and asking if she had experienced any of the symptoms illustrated. No, Angelica said, her lips pursed with disgust."Right now you still feel healthy, but this bacteria is still in your body," Yang pressed. "You need to get the infection treated to prevent further health complications to yourself and your baby."The community clinic was just across the street. "Can we walk you over to the clinic and make sure you get seen so we can get this taken care of?"Angelica demurred. She said she hadn't showered for a week and wanted to wash up first. She said she'd go later.Yang tried once more to extract a promise: "What time do you think you'll go?""Today, for sure."The CDC tried and failed to eradicate syphilis - twiceSyphilis is called The Great Imitator: It can look like any number of diseases. In its first stage, the only evidence of infection is a painless sore at the bacteria's point of entry. Weeks later, as the bacteria multiplies, skin rashes bloom on the palms of the hands and bottoms of the feet. Other traits of this stage include fever, headaches, muscle aches, sore throat, and fatigue. These symptoms eventually disappear and the patient progresses into the latent phase, which betrays no external signs. But if left untreated, after a decade or more, syphilis will reemerge in up to 30% of patients, capable of wreaking horror on a wide range of organ systems. Marion Sims, president of the American Medical Association in 1876, called it a "terrible scourge, which begins with lamb-like mildness and ends with lion-like rage that ruthlessly destroys everything in its way."The corkscrew-shaped bacteria can infiltrate the nervous system at any stage of the infection. Yang is haunted by her memory of interviewing a young man whose dementia was so severe that he didn't know why he was in the hospital or how old he was. And regardless of symptoms or stage, the bacteria can penetrate the placenta to infect a fetus. Even in these cases the infection is unpredictable: Many babies are born with normal physical features, but others can have deformed bones or damaged brains, and they can struggle to hear, see, or breathe.From its earliest days, syphilis has been shrouded in stigma. The first recorded outbreak was in the late 15th century, when Charles VIII led the French army to invade Naples. Italian physicians described French soldiers covered with pustules, dying from a sexually transmitted disease. As the affliction spread, Italians called it the French Disease. The French blamed the Neopolitans. It was also called the German, Polish, or Spanish disease, depending on which neighbor one wanted to blame. Even its name bears the taint of divine judgement: It comes from a 16th-century poem that tells of a shepherd, Syphilus, who offended the god Apollo and was punished with a hideous disease.By 1937 in America, when former Surgeon General Thomas Parran wrote the book "Shadow on the Land," he estimated some 680,000 people were under treatment for syphilis; about 60,000 babies were being born annually with congenital syphilis. There was no cure, and the stigma was so strong that public-health officials feared even properly documenting cases.Thanks to Parran's ardent advocacy, Congress in 1938 passed the National Venereal Disease Control Act, which created grants for states to set up clinics and support testing and treatment. Other than a short-lived funding effort during World War I, this was the first coordinated federal push to respond to the disease.Around the same time, the Public Health Service launched an effort to record the natural history of syphilis. Situated in Tuskegee, Alabama, the infamous study recruited 600 black men. By the early 1940s, penicillin became widely available and was found to be a reliable cure, but the treatment was withheld from the study participants. Outrage over the ethical violations would cast a stain across syphilis research for decades to come and fuel generations of mistrust in the medical system among Black Americans that continues to this day. People attend a ceremony near Tuskegee, Alabama, on April 3, 2017, to commemorate the roughly 600 men who were subjects in the Tuskegee syphilis study. Jay Reeves/AP Photo With the introduction of penicillin, cases began to plummet. Twice, the CDC has announced efforts to wipe out the disease - once in the 1960s and again in 1999.In the latest effort, the CDC announced that the United States had "a unique opportunity to eliminate syphilis within its borders," thanks to historically low rates, with 80% of counties reporting zero cases. The concentration of cases in the South "identifies communities in which there is a fundamental failure of public health capacity," the agency noted, adding that elimination - which it defined as fewer than 1,000 cases a year - would "decrease one of our most glaring racial disparities in health."Two years after the campaign began, cases started climbing, first among gay men and, later, heterosexuals. Cases in women started accelerating in 2013, followed shortly by increasing numbers of babies born with syphilis. The reasons for failure are complex: People relaxed safer sex practices after the advent of potent HIV combination therapies, increased methamphetamine use drove riskier behavior, and an explosion of online dating made it hard to track and test sexual partners, according to Ina Park, medical director of the California Prevention Training Center at the University of California San Francisco.But federal and state public-health efforts were hamstrung from the get-go. In 1999, the CDC said it would need about $35 million to $39 million in new federal funds annually for at least five years to eliminate syphilis. The agency got less than half of what it asked for, according to Jo Valentine, former program coordinator of the CDC's Syphilis Elimination Effort. As cases rose, the CDC modified its goals in 2006 from 0.4 primary and secondary syphilis cases per 100,000 in population to 2.2 cases per 100,000. By 2013, as elimination seemed less and less viable, the CDC changed its focus to ending congenital syphilis only.Since then, funding has remained anemic. From 2015 to 2020, the CDC's budget for preventing sexually transmitted infections grew by 2.2%. Taking inflation into account, that's a 7.4% reduction in purchasing power. In the same period, cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia - the three STDs that have federally funded control programs - increased by nearly 30%."We have a long history of nearly eradicating something, then changing our attention, and seeing a resurgence in numbers," David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, said. "We have more congenital syphilis cases today in America than we ever had pediatric AIDS at the height of the AIDS epidemic. It's heartbreaking."Adriane Casalotti, chief of government and public affairs at the National Association of County and City Health Officials, warns that the US should not be surprised to see case counts continue to climb."The bugs don't go away," she said. "They're just waiting for the next opportunity, when you're not paying attention."Syphilis has fewer poster children than HIV or cancerYang waited until the end of the day, then called the clinic to see if Angelica had gone for her shot. She had not. Yang would have to block off another half day to visit Huron again, but she had three dozen other cases to deal with.States in the South and West have seen the highest syphilis rates in recent years. In 2017, 64 babies in Fresno County were born with syphilis at a rate of 440 babies per 100,000 live births - about 19 times the national rate. While the county had managed to lower case counts in the two years that followed, the pandemic threatened to unravel that progress, forcing STD staffers to do COVID-19 contact tracing, pausing field visits to find infected people, and scaring patients from seeking care. Yang's colleague handled three cases of stillbirth in 2020; in each, the woman was never diagnosed with syphilis because she feared catching the coronavirus and skipped prenatal care.Yang, whose caseload peaked at 70 during a COVID-19 surge, knew she would not be able handle them all as thoroughly as she'd like to."When I was being mentored by another investigator, he said: 'You're not a superhero. You can't save everybody,'" she said.She prioritizes men who have sex with men, because there's a higher prevalence of syphilis in that population, and pregnant people, because of the horrific consequences for babies.The job of a disease intervention specialist isn't for everyone: It means meeting patients whenever and wherever they are available - in the mop closet of a bus station, in a quiet parking lot - to inform them about the disease, to extract names of sex partners, and to encourage treatment. Patients are often reluctant to talk. They can get belligerent, upset that "the government" has their personal information, or shattered at the thought that a partner is likely cheating on them. Salaries typically start in the low $40,000s.Jena Adams, Yang's supervisor, has eight investigators working on HIV and syphilis. In the middle of 2020, she lost two and replaced them only recently."It's been exhausting," Adams said.She has only one specialist who is trained to take blood samples in the field, crucial for guaranteeing that the partners of those who test positive for syphilis also get tested. Adams wants to get phlebotomy training for the rest of her staff, but it's $2,000 per person. The department also doesn't have anyone who can administer penicillin injections in the field; that would have been key when Yang met Angelica. For a while, a nurse who worked in the tuberculosis program would ride along to give penicillin shots on a volunteer basis. Then he, too, left the health department.Much of the resources in public health trickle down from the CDC, which distributes money to states, which then parcel it out to counties. The CDC gets its budget from Congress, which tells the agency, by line item, exactly how much money it can spend to fight a disease or virus, in an uncommonly specific manner not seen in many other agencies. The decisions are often politically driven and can be detached from actual health needs.When the House and Senate appropriations committees meet to decide how much the CDC will get for each line item, they are barraged by lobbyists for individual disease interests. Stephanie Arnold Pang, senior director of policy and government relations at the National Coalition of STD Directors, can pick out the groups by sight: breast cancer wears pink, Alzheimer's goes in purple, multiple sclerosis comes in orange, HIV in red. STD prevention advocates, like herself, don a green ribbon, but they're far outnumbered.And unlike diseases that might already be familiar to lawmakers, or have patient and family spokespeople who can tell their own powerful stories, syphilis doesn't have many willing poster children. Breast Cancer survivors hold up a check for the amount raised at The Congressional Womens Softball Game at Watkins Recreation Center in Capitol Hill on June 20, 2018. Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call "Congressmen don't wake up one day and say, 'Oh hey, there's congenital syphilis in my jurisdiction.' You have to raise awareness," Arnold Pang said. It can be hard jockeying for a meeting. "Some offices might say, 'I don't have time for you because we've just seen HIV.' ... Sometimes, it feels like you're talking into a void."The consequences of the political nature of public-health funding have become more obvious during the coronavirus pandemic. The 2014 Ebola epidemic was seen as a "global wakeup call" that the world wasn't prepared for a major pandemic, yet in 2018, the CDC scaled back its epidemic prevention work as money ran out."If you've got to choose between Alzheimer's research and stopping an outbreak that may not happen? Stopping an outbreak that might not happen doesn't do well," Frieden, the former CDC director, said. "The CDC needs to have more money and more flexible money. Otherwise, we're going to be in this situation long term."In May 2021, President Joe Biden's administration announced it would set aside $7.4 billion over the next five years to hire and train public health workers, including $1.1 billion for more disease intervention specialists like Yang. Public health officials are thrilled to have the chance to expand their workforce, but some worry the time horizon may be too short."We've seen this movie before, right?" Frieden said. "Everyone gets concerned when there's an outbreak, and when that outbreak stops, the headlines stop, and an economic downturn happens, the budget gets cut."Fresno's STD clinic was shuttered in 2010 amid the Great Recession. Many others have vanished since the passage of the Affordable Care Act.Health leaders thought "by magically beefing up the primary care system, that we would do a better job of catching STIs and treating them," Harvey, the executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, said.That hasn't worked out; people want access to anonymous services, and primary care doctors often don't have STDs top of mind. The coalition is lobbying Congress for funding to support STD clinical services, proposing a three-year demonstration project funded at $600 million.It's one of Adams' dreams to see Fresno's STD clinic restored as it was."You could come in for an HIV test and get other STDs checked," she said. "And if a patient is positive, you can give a first injection on the spot."'I've seen people's families ripped apart and I've seen beautiful babies die'On August 12, Yang set out for Huron again, speeding past groves of almond trees and fields of grapes in the department's white Chevy Cruze. She brought along a colleague, Jorge Sevilla, who had recently transferred to the STD program from COVID-19 contact tracing. Yang was anxious to find Angelica again."She's probably in her second trimester now," she said.They found her outside of a pale yellow house a few blocks from the homeless encampment; the owner was letting her stay in a shed tucked in the corner of the dirt yard. This time, it was evident that she was pregnant. Yang noted that Angelica was wearing a wig; hair loss is a symptom of syphilis."Do you remember me?" Yang asked.Angelica nodded. She didn't seem surprised to see Yang again. (I came along, and Sevilla explained who I was and that I was writing about syphilis and the people affected by it. Angelica signed a release for me to report about her case, and she said she had no problem with me writing about her or even using her full name. ProPublica chose to only print her first name.)"How are you doing? How's the baby?""Bien.""So the last time we talked, we were going to have you go to United Healthcare Center to get treatment. Have you gone since?"Angelica shook her head."We brought some gift cards..." Sevilla started in Spanish. The department uses them as incentives for completing injections. But Angelica was already shaking her head. The nearest Walmart was the next town over.Yang turned to her partner. "Tell her: So the reason why we're coming out here again is because we really need her to go in for treatment. [...] We really are concerned for the baby's health especially since she's had the infection for quite a while."Angelica listened while Sevilla interpreted, her eyes on the ground. Then she looked up. "Orita?" she asked. Right now?"I'll walk with you," Yang offered. Angelica shook her head."She said she wants to shower first before she goes over there," Sevilla said.Yang made a face. "She said that to me last time." Yang offered to wait, but Angelica didn't want the health officers to linger by the house. She said she would meet them by the clinic in 15 minutes.Yang was reluctant to let her go but again had no other option. She and Sevilla drove to the clinic, then stood on the corner of the parking lot, staring down the road.Talk to the pediatricians, obstetricians, and families on the front lines of the congenital syphilis surge and it becomes clear why Yang and others are trying so desperately to prevent cases. J.B. Cantey, associate professor in pediatrics at UT Health San Antonio, remembers a baby girl born at 25 weeks gestation who weighed a pound and a half. Syphilis had spread through her bones and lungs. She spent five months in the neonatal intensive care unit, breathing through a ventilator, and was still eating through a tube when she was discharged.Then, there are the miscarriages, the stillbirths, and the inconsolable parents. Irene Stafford, an associate professor and maternal-fetal medicine specialist at UT Health in Houston, cannot forget a patient who came in at 36 weeks for a routine checkup, pregnant with her first child. Stafford realized that there was no heartbeat."She could see on my face that something was really wrong," Stafford recalled. She had to let the patient know that syphilis had killed her baby."She was hysterical, just bawling," Stafford said. "I've seen people's families ripped apart and I've seen beautiful babies die." Fewer than 10% of patients who experience a stillbirth are tested for syphilis, suggesting that cases are underdiagnosed.A Texas grandmother named Solidad Odunuga offers a glimpse into what the future could hold for Angelica's mother, who may wind up raising her baby.In February of last year, Odunuga got a call from the Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital in Houston. A nurse told her that her daughter was about to give birth and that child protective services had been called. Odunuga had lost contact with her daughter, who struggled with homelessness and substance abuse. She arrived in time to see her grandson delivered, premature at 30 weeks old, weighing 2.7 pounds. He tested positive for syphilis.When a child protective worker asked Odunuga to take custody of the infant, she felt a wave of dread."I was in denial," she recalled. "I did not plan to be a mom again." The baby's medical problems were daunting: "Global developmental delays [...] concerns for visual impairments [...] high risk of cerebral palsy," read a note from the doctor at the time.Still, Odunuga visited her grandson every day for three months, driving to the NICU from her job at the University of Houston. "I'd put him in my shirt to keep him warm and hold him there." She fell in love. She named him Emmanuel.Once Emmanuel was discharged, Odunuga realized she had no choice but to quit her job. While Medicaid covered the costs of Emmanuel's treatment, it was on her to care for him. From infancy, Emmanuel's life has been a whirlwind of constant therapy. Today, at 20 months old, Odunuga brings him to physical, occupational, speech, and developmental therapy, each a different appointment on a different day of the week.Emmanuel has thrived beyond what his doctors predicted, toddling so fast that Odunuga can't look away for a minute and beaming as he waves his favorite toy phone. Yet he still suffers from gagging issues, which means Odunuga can't feed him any solid foods. Liquid gets into his lungs when he aspirates; it has led to pneumonia three times. Emmanuel has a special stroller that helps keep his head in a position that won't aggravate his persistent reflux, but Odunuga said she still has to pull over on the side of the road sometimes when she hears him projectile vomiting from the backseat.The days are endless. Once she puts Emmanuel to bed, Odunuga starts planning the next day's appointments."I've had to cry alone, scream out alone," she said. "Sometimes I wake up and think, 'Is this real?' And then I hear him in the next room."There's no vaccine for syphilis A health worker tests a migrant from Haiti for HIV and syphilis to in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, on September 25, 2021. Daniel Becerril/Reuters Putting aside the challenge of eliminating syphilis entirely, everyone agrees it's both doable and necessary to prevent newborn cases."There was a crisis in perinatal HIV almost 30 years ago and people stood up and said this is not OK - it's not acceptable for babies to be born in that condition. [...We] brought it down from 1,700 babies born each year with perinatal HIV to less than 40 per year today," Virginia Bowen, an epidemiologist at the CDC, said. "Now here we are with a slightly different condition. We can also stand up and say, 'This is not acceptable.'" Belarus, Bermuda, Cuba, Malaysia, Thailand, and Sri Lanka are among countries recognized by the World Health Organization for eliminating congenital syphilis.Success starts with filling gaps across the health care system.For almost a century, public health experts have advocated for testing pregnant patients more than once for syphilis in order to catch the infection. But policies nationwide still don't reflect this best practice. Six states have no prenatal screening requirement at all. Even in states that require three tests, public-health officials say that many physicians aren't aware of the requirements. Stafford, the maternal-fetal medicine specialist in Houston, says she's tired of hearing her own peers in medicine tell her, "Oh, syphilis is a problem?"It costs public health departments less than 25 cents a dose to buy penicillin, but for a private practice, it's more than $1,000, according to Park of the University of California San Francisco."There's no incentive for a private physician to stock a dose that could expire before it's used, so they often don't have it," she said. "So a woman comes in, they say, 'We'll send you to the emergency department or health department to get it,' then [the patients] don't show up."A vaccine would be invaluable for preventing spread among people at high risk for reinfection. But there is none. Scientists only recently figured out how to grow the bacteria in the lab, prompting grants from the National Institutes of Health to fund research into a vaccine. Justin Radolf, a researcher at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, said he hopes his team will have a vaccine candidate by the end of its five-year grant. But it'll likely take years more to find a manufacturer and run human trials.Public-health agencies also need to recognize that many of the hurdles to getting pregnant people treated involve access to care, economic stability, safe housing, and transportation. In Fresno, Adams has been working on ways her department can collaborate with mental health services. Recently, one of her disease intervention specialists managed to get a pregnant woman treated with penicillin shots and, at the patient's request, connected her with an addiction treatment center.Gaining a patient's cooperation means seeing them as complex humans instead of just a case to solve."There may be past traumas with the healthcare system," Cynthia Deverson, project manager of the Houston Fetal Infant Morbidity Review, said. "There's the fear of being discovered if she's doing something illegal to survive. [...] She may need to be in a certain place at a certain time so she can get something to eat, or maybe it's the only time of the day that's safe for her to sleep. They're not going to tell you that. Yes, they understand there's a problem, but it's not an immediate threat, maybe they don't feel bad yet, so obviously this is not urgent.""What helps to gain trust is consistency," she added. "Literally, it's seeing that [disease specialist] constantly, daily. [...] The woman can see that you're not going to harm her, you're saying, 'I'm here at this time if you need me.'"Yang stood outside the clinic, waiting for Angelica to show up, baking in the 90-degree heat. Her feelings ranged from irritation - Why didn't she just go? I'd have more energy for other cases - to an appreciation for the parts of Angelica's story that she didn't know - She's in survival mode. I need to be more patient.Fifteen minutes ticked by, then 20."OK," Yang announced. "We're going back."She asked Sevilla if he would be OK if they drove Angelica to the clinic; they technically weren't supposed to because of coronavirus precautions, but Yang wasn't sure she could convince Angelica to walk. Sevilla gave her the thumbs up.When they pulled up, they saw Angelica sitting in the backyard, chatting with a friend. She now wore a fresh T-shirt and had shoes on her feet. Angelica sat silently in the back seat as Yang drove to the clinic. A few minutes later, they pulled up to the parking lot.Finally, Yang thought. We got her here.The clinic was packed with people waiting for COVID-19 tests and vaccinations. A worker there had previously told Yang that a walk-in would be fine, but a receptionist now said they were too busy to treat Angelica. She would have to return.Yang felt a surge of frustration, sensing that her hard-fought opportunity was slipping away. She tried to talk to the nurse supervisor, but he wasn't available. She tried to leave the gift cards at the office to reward Angelica if she came, but the receptionist said she couldn't hold them. While Yang negotiated, Sevilla sat with Angelica in the car, waiting.Finally, Yang accepted this was yet another thing she couldn't control.She drove Angelica back to the yellow house. As they arrived, she tried once more to impress on her just how important it was to get treated, asking Sevilla to interpret. "We don't want it to get any more serious, because she can go blind, she could go deaf, she could lose her baby."Angelica already had the door halfway open."So on a scale from one to 10, how important is this to get treated?" Yang asked."Ten," Angelica said. Yang reminded her of the appointment that afternoon. Then Angelica stepped out and returned to the dusty yard.Yang lingered for a moment, watching Angelica go. Then she turned the car back onto the highway and set off toward Fresno, knowing, already, that she'd be back.Postscript: A reporter visited Huron twice more in the months that followed, including once independently to try to interview Angelica, but she wasn't in town. Yang has visited Huron twice more as well - six times in total thus far. In October, a couple of men at the yellow house said Angelica was still in town, still pregnant. Yang and Sevilla spent an hour driving around, talking to residents, hoping to catch Angelica. But she was nowhere to be found.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytNov 2nd, 2021

The 17 best places to buy Christmas decorations, from tree toppers to lights and novelty items

From tree toppers to lawn ornaments, these stores have all the Christmas decorations you could wish for. Shop at Wayfair, Etsy, and more. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images We've rounded up the best places to find Christmas decorations in a range of styles and prices. You can add festive flair to every room in your home, from flannel sheets to merry table cloths. Target, Etsy, Pottery Barn, and others have Christmas decorations in practically every category. Table of Contents: Masthead StickyThe holiday season has officially begun, and people have already brought their wreaths and lights out of storage. But if you haven't joined in on the reindeer games or your decorations could use a bit of updating, don't fret: The following retailers have all the decor you could want. Whether you like your Christmas cheer to be traditional, modern, eclectic, or rustic, you can deck your halls, walls, and everything else in knickknacks, candles, garlands, and so much more. There are plenty of options for the lawn and roof, as well. From those who just want an elegant wreath to those looking to go full Clark Griswold, you should be able to get most everything on your list. We've rounded up a variety of retailers selling holiday goodies at various price points. Keep in mind that supply-chain issues could affect holiday decor stock, so it's a good idea to start shopping early this year.Here are the best places to buy Christmas decorations Hammacher Schlemmer Hammacher Schlemmer It's been in business for over 170 years, but Hammacher Schlemmer offers Christmas decor beyond the traditional. Started as a hardware store in 1848, Hammacher Schlemmer has been selling unique items via catalog since 1881. It's known for product testing much of what it sells, including its Christmas trees — some of which cost over $1,000, if you opt for one taller than 8 feet.While the store offers the usual Christmas fare, from wreaths to angel tree toppers, its holiday entertaining choices are a bit more offbeat: an animated, singing Mickey Mouse; a tabletop fireplace; and a popcorn maker. And if you want to make a big splash outdoors, there's a 15-foot inflatable Rudolph with a blinking nose. Apologies in advance to your neighbors.Good for: outdoor decorations, Christmas trees, offbeat entertaining optionsChoreographed Illuminated Galloping Reindeer (small)7.5-Foot Northern Lights Christmas Tree (small)Cordless Twinkling Table Runner (small) Grandin Road Grandin Road Grandin Road has a curated selection of holiday decor, including some truly unique offerings.If you're already counting the days until Christmas, Grandin Road has the clock for you. The store's options aren't exhaustive, but it does encompass a lot of tastes. There's greenery in all sorts of styles, and the pillow section is especially adorable. Perhaps Grandin Road's most attention-grabbing decorations are the startlingly realistic sheep, which look like they might stroll over and munch your sofa at any moment. (There are similarly detailed llamas as well.) If you prefer your wildlife to appear a little more fanciful, a purple velvet reindeer might do the trick.Good for: collectibles, wreaths and garlands, outdoor decorationsMercury Glass LED Trees (small)Snow Boots (small)Winter Wonderland Pillows (small) Anthropologie Anthropologie For the holidays, Anthropologie brings its usual boho, arty feel to greenery, ornaments, and more.Similar to CB2, Anthropologie keeps its holiday selection limited, but there's still plenty of options in its signature style. Cozy faux-fur blankets come in purple, pink, green, or blue, in addition to the usual white and gray. If you want a stocking that stands out from the crowd, the brand's bright and tasseled ones might appeal to you. The candle collection is both beautiful and festively fragrant: There are wooden trees that smell like balsam and cedarwood, a candy cane scent, and plaid candles in various aromas. Good for: candles, ornaments, unusual stockingsFrosted Bottle Brush Tree Candle (small)Light-Up Holiday Village (small)Vegetable Garden Glass Ornaments (set of 12) (small) The Vermont Country Store The Vermont Country Store Like something out of a Hallmark Christmas movie, the Vermont Country Store has loads of quaint holiday decor. If your idea of Christmas is New England-inspired, you're probably already a fan of The Vermont Country Store. It's been in business since 1946 and has practically everything you need for an old-fashioned Christmas, from its selection of Christmas trees to holiday candles and candle holders.Flannel-bedding fans will find a good selection, including a few sheet sets decorated with Snoopy and the gang. If you've always dreamed of pulling apart your own holiday cracker, as they do in Britain, you can purchase them, as well. The store also sells holiday snacks, including tins of caramel corn and candy you may have eaten at Grandma's. Good for: sheets, holiday treats, knickknacksLeather Sleigh Bell Strap with 4 Brass Bells (small)Mosser Glass Christmas Tree (small)European Cookie Assortment (small) Bronner's Bronner's Bronner's is a year-round Christmas store located in Frankenmuth, Michigan, but it also has a robust online presence. Bronner's has essentially every category of Christmas decoration, from lights to outdoor accessories and wreaths. You'll even find Santa suits if you want to be part of the decor. The store sells cowboy-boot stockings, as well as more traditional kinds.Bronner's ornament selection is impressive, as well. Perhaps a lasagna would make the perfect addition to your Garfield-themed tree. (If you want an all-food tree, Bronner's more than has you covered. There's even a DQ Blizzard.) It sells all matter of dinosaur and Disney ornaments, And, of course, Bob Ross will make yours a happy little tree. Good for: Ornaments, wreaths, lights, collectibles Worth a look:Silhouette Camel Lighted LED Wire-Frame Shape (small, Preferred: Bronner's)Scrooge and Marley Counting House (small, Preferred: Bronner's)Transparent Red With Swirls Glass Ornament (small) Balsam Hill Balsam Hill Balsam Hill makes artificial Christmas trees, but there's much more to stock up on, as well. Balsam Hill has one of the more useful ways to hunt down a wreath or garland, letting you narrow down the choices by size and other descriptors, like realistic, undecorated, or safe for the outdoors. Styles like farmhouse are congregated on a single page, so you can easily find coordinating foliage. There are also some more unique items on offer, like the life-sized Santa or extremely convincing North Pole mailbox. Balsam Hill also has a partnership with the Biltmore Estate and sells ornaments and other items inspired by the holiday decorations at the historic, Gilded Age mansion that the Vanderbilt family built.  Good for: Artificial Christmas trees, high-end ornaments, wreaths and garlandsWorth a look:Christmas Village Wood Tree Collar (small, Preferred: Balsam Hill)Legacy Ornament Set (small, Preferred: Balsam Hill)Father Christmas Tree Topper (small) Wayfair Wayfair In addition to its usual furniture and decor, Wayfair has a whole holiday section full of everything from wreaths to bedding. You know a place is serious about its holiday decorations when its number of wreaths is in the thousands. Wayfair's outdoor ornaments come in all sorts of styles, too, from a penguin family to an inflatable station wagon with a tree, à la "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation." Or turn your garage into Santa's workshop with an oversized banner. For indoors, there's everything you'd expect: trees, lights, and ornaments, with hundreds of choices in each category. Holiday bedding and sheets, towels, and shower curtains are also available. Again, there is an almost overwhelming amount of each, so the filter options at the top of the site are good places to start. Good for: Trees, lights, ornaments, outdoor decorWorth a look:Bethlehem Star Tree Topper (small)Genia Single Floral Shower Curtain Set + Hooks (small)3-Piece LED-Lighted Table Christmas Balls Set (small) Pottery Barn Pottery Barn From reindeer serving trays to nostalgic dinnerware, Pottery Barn excels at helping you set your holiday table. Are you still expanding your holiday gnome collection? Pottery Barn has a whole gnome section. If you're not on that particular kick, the retailer also has a nice assortment of stockings and tree skirts that don't feature bearded men. Not every fireplace is ready-made for the occasion, so some attractive stocking holders will do the trick. For some, Christmas Eve is made extra special when they get to snuggle up in some holiday sheets. You'll find Christmas cats, snowy gnomes, merry bears, and more. Though not as vast as the Christmas section, check out the Diwali and Hanukkah shops for more holiday items.  Good for: Stockings and tree skirts, holiday sheets, table settingsWorth a look:Tahoe Fair Isle Stoneware Rectangular Serving Platter (small, Preferred: Pottery Barn)Red Santa Toile Organic Cotton Sheet Set, Queen (small)Red Ribbon Handmade Recycled Drinkware Collection (small) Target Target Target wants to make it easier for you to pull together a look this Christmas.Not everyone has an eye for what coordinates and what clashes, which is why many retailers create pages with different items that create a cohesive ambiance. That's the idea behind Target's shoppable rooms tool. You can click each piece of decor in the modern farmhouse living room and add it to your shopping cart. If you'd prefer the fun of styling (or you like the look and feel of eclecticism), Target also has a giant, browsable Christmas section, with lights, trees, wreaths, stockings, advent calendars, and on, and on, and on. Basically everything you need, in other words. Good for: Lights, trees, wreaths, stockings, ornamentsWorth a look:Small Metal Truck Decorative Figurine (small)Dew Drop Wrapped Star Decorative Figurine in Champagne (small)3.5-Foot Pre-Lit White Alberta Spruce Artificial Tree (small) Michaels Michaels Michaels was made for people who look at a premade wreath and think, "I could do that."Many people are looking for indoor activities this year, and making holiday decorations will both save you some money and keep you busy. Ribbons and decoratable ornaments are available at Michaels, as is everything you need to create your own holiday cards.In addition, Michaels also has DIY-less decor, from LED candles to tree skirts to Lemax Christmas villages. Even your mailbox doesn't have to feel left out. If yours is a Hanukkah household, this cookie-house decorating kit comes with a sugar mezuzah. Good for: Homemade ornaments, tree skirts, stockings, bowsWorth a look:Plaid Joy Christmas Stocking Holders Set (small, Preferred: Michaels)9ft. Pre-Lit Pine Artificial Christmas Tree, Warm White LED Lights (small, Preferred: Michaels)Haute Decor Lighted Merry Christmas Wood Blocks (small) L.L.Bean L.L.Bean L.L.Bean's Christmas selection is limited, but you still may find exactly what you're looking for, especially if you want a traditional vibe. While L.L.Bean doesn't have the breadth of holiday goods of some of the other retailers on the list, it does offer a number of items that fit in with a rustic vibe. Birchbark centerpieces, plaid tree skirts, and flannel sheets are unfussy yet still festive. (They're also our favorites in our guide to the best flannel sheets.)The store also has quite a few choices when it comes to needlepoint stockings to hang from the fireplace. These can be personalized, too, so no one has to know you didn't break out the needle and thread yourself.  Good for: Flannel sheets, stockingsWorth a look:Birch Box Centerpiece (small, Preferred: L.L.Bean)Christmas Needlepoint Stocking (small, Preferred: L.L.Bean)Woodland Advent Calendar (small, Preferred: L.L.Bean) Paper Source Paper Source Stationery store Paper Source has some spectacular holiday wrapping paper, quirky ornaments, and fun decor. It can be fun to match tree decor with the presents that go under them. Paper Source has an impressive selection of wrapping paper, ranging from ice skating animals to some sassy Santas. There are also elegant and artistic options. Finish them up with ribbons and gift tags. You can also find some cute ornaments, like this homage to Ranch dressing. Adorable advent calendars, pompom tree skirts, and squishy reindeer plush toys are also on offer. Paper Source also has some holiday craft kits, including an ambitious-looking snowflake garland. Good for: Wrapping paper, holiday cards Worth a look:Tinsel Bow Bag (small, Preferred: Paper Source)Glass Bulb Tree String Lights (small)Felt Penguin Ornament (small) Amazon Amazon For holiday decor, Amazon covers all the bases, no matter what you're looking for. Amazon is a one-stop shop for many, and Christmas decorations are no exception. Sometimes you don't want to spend hours decorating but still want your home to feel cheery. Pillows are an easy way to instantly make a couch or bedroom holiday-ready. Window decals are equally quick to put up and take down. Or add some brightness to your porch with a light-up gift display, which is easier than stringing up a ton of bulbs. If you do want to go that route, the retailer has lots of lighting choices, including strands of snowflakes and star-topped strings and stars all on their own. Since it's Amazon, you also pick up your tree and probably everything you want to go on it (and under it), too. Good for: Christmas lights, outdoor decorations, artificial treesWorth a look:Scandinavian Christmas Gnome Lights (small, Preferred: Amazon)Lighted Christmas Snow Globe Lantern (small)Flannel Collection Premium Cotton Bedding Sheet Set (small, Preferred: Amazon) CB2 CB2 If you like the modern aesthetic, CB2's holiday decorations match its furniture in both quality and vibe. Not everyone will find something in CB2's holiday section. The collection veers toward a particular style: modern and simple, with fairly muted colors. Metallics, black, and white all show up frequently. Many of the items are elegant and unique. The feathery wreaths are unusual and eye-catching. Acrylic nutcrackers, marble trees, and glass snowmen are modern twists on traditional favorites. CB2 also bundles some of its decorations, so you can save a bit of money if you find several items you love.Also, if you're in the market for unique menorahs, CB2 has a couple.Good for: Knickknacks, ornamentsWorth a look:Paz Steel and Frosted Glass Trees (set of 4) (small)36-Inch Faux Ivory Pampas Grass Wreath (small)Silver and Black Ball Garland (small) The Home Depot Home Depot The Home Depot has an impressive selection of outdoor holiday decorations, but they don't neglect the indoors, either. The Home Depot has everything you'd expect from a hardware store at Christmas, including artificial trees, outdoor inflatables, and yard ornaments. But it also has much more. You can buy outdoor trees, many of which are pre-lit — very nice if you're in a cold climate. There are also pages and pages of Christmas lights on Home Depot's website. Helpfully, you can narrow the choices in all sorts of ways, from color to power source to bulb shape to length. There are also tons of light projectors if you want to illuminate the outside of your home with very little effort. Good for: Christmas lights, outdoor decor, artificial trees, light projectorsWorth a look:6.5-Foot LED the Child and Mandalorian Christmas Inflatable (small)180-Light LED Carriage with 43 in LED Horse (small, Preferred: Home Depot)7.5 ft. Swiss Mountain Black Spruce Twinkly Rainbow Christmas Tree with 600 RGB LED Technology Lights (small, Preferred: Home Depot) Etsy Ren Fuller/Etsy Etsy's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and it's the best place to find handmade, vintage, or unique decorations.Etsy has plentiful options when it comes to finding fun and festive holiday decorations. Search by type of decor (wreath) or by style (rustic or glam). There are candles that smell like a freshly cut tree or Grinch repellant. (You can actually choose your scent for that one.)For the table, you can find tree-adorned napkins, lighted centerpieces, and reindeer mugs. Etsy is also a great place to find ornaments of your favorite animal: otters, hippos, narwhals, octopuses, and other water-loving creatures. It's important to pay attention to sellers' locations and shipping options to make sure you get your goods before the holidays are over. Good for: Wreaths, personalized ornaments, wrapping paper, pillowsWorth a look:Personalized T Rex Christmas Sack (small, Preferred: Etsy)Santa Wreath (small, Preferred: Etsy)Personalized Reindeer Mugs (small, Preferred: Etsy) Society6 Society6 If you love to decorate every room of your house — including the bathroom — you'll want to take a look at Society6. Society6's marketplace lets you purchase designs — many created by independent artists — in just about any form, from clocks to comforters to mugs. That means you can get a matching bath mat and shower curtain with T-Rexes in Santa hats. Decorative hand towels are also an option. Add some pillows and throws to cozy up the couch, and your home will instantly look festive. If you care as much about what's under the tree as what's on it, then just any wrapping paper won't do. Cover your gifts in an ugly sweater pattern (which is actually kind of cute) or gingerbread villages. For those who don't have a ton of holiday cards to send, the stationery sets are cute (but pricey), especially this cat tangled up in Christmas lights. Good for: Wrapping paper, pillows, blanketsWorth a look:Merry Christmas, Ya Filthy Animal – Red Throw Pillow (small, Preferred: Society6)Retro Ski Illustration Throw Blanket (small, Preferred: Society6)Slothy Holidays Shower Curtain (small, Preferred: Society6) Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderNov 1st, 2021

Weiss: We Got Here Because Of Cowardice, We Get Out With Courage

Weiss: We Got Here Because Of Cowardice, We Get Out With Courage Authored by Bari Weiss via Commentary.org, A lot of people want to convince you that you need a Ph.D. or a law degree or dozens of hours of free time to read dense texts about critical theory to understand the woke movement and its worldview. You do not. You simply need to believe your own eyes and ears.  Let me offer the briefest overview of the core beliefs of the Woke Revolution, which are abundantly clear to anyone willing to look past the hashtags and the jargon. It begins by stipulating that the forces of justice and progress are in a war against backwardness and tyranny. And in a war, the normal rules of the game must be suspended. Indeed, this ideology would argue that those rules are not just obstacles to justice, but tools of oppression. They are the master’s tools.  And the master’s tools cannot dismantle the master’s house. So the tools themselves are not just replaced but repudiated. And in so doing, persuasion—the purpose of argument—is replaced with public shaming. Moral complexity is replaced with moral certainty. Facts are replaced with feelings. Ideas are replaced with identity. Forgiveness is replaced with punishment. Debate is replaced with de-platforming. Diversity is replaced with homogeneity of thought. Inclusion, with exclusion. In this ideology, speech is violence. But violence, when carried out by the right people in pursuit of a just cause, is not violence at all. In this ideology, bullying is wrong, unless you are bullying the right people, in which case it’s very, very good. In this ideology, education is not about teaching people how to think, it’s about reeducating them in what to think. In this ideology, the need to feel safe trumps the need to speak truthfully.  In this ideology, if you do not tweet the right tweet or share the right slogan, your whole life can be ruined. Just ask Tiffany Riley, a Vermont school principal who was fired—fired—because she said she supports black lives but not the organization Black Lives Matter. In this ideology, the past cannot be understood on its own terms, but must be judged through the morals and mores of the present. It is why statues of Grant and Washington are being torn down. And it is why William Peris, a UCLA lecturer and an Air Force veteran, was investigated for reading Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” out loud in class. In this ideology, intentions don’t matter. That is why Emmanuel Cafferty, a Hispanic utility worker at San Diego Gas and Electric, was fired for making what someone said he thought was a white-supremacist hand gesture—when in fact he was cracking his knuckles out of his car window. In this ideology, the equality of opportunity is replaced with equality of outcome as a measure of fairness. If everyone doesn’t finish the race at the same time, the course must have been defective. Thus, the argument to get rid of the SAT. Or the admissions tests for public schools like Stuyvesant in New York or Lowell in San Francisco.  In this ideology, you are guilty for the sins of your fathers. In other words: You are not you. You are only a mere avatar of your race or your religion or your class. That is why third-graders in Cupertino, California, were asked to rate themselves in terms of their power and privilege. In third grade.  In this system, we are all placed neatly on a spectrum of “privileged” to “oppressed.” We are ranked somewhere on this spectrum in different categories: race, gender, sexual orientation, and class. Then we are given an overall score, based on the sum of these rankings. Having privilege means that your character and your ideas are tainted. This is why, one high-schooler in New York tells me, students in his school are told, “If you are white and male, you are second in line to speak.” This is considered a normal and necessary redistribution of power. Racism has been redefined. It is no longer about discrimination based on the color of someone’s skin. Racism is any system that allows for disparate outcomes between racial groups. If disparity is present, as the high priest of this ideology, Ibram X. Kendi, has explained, racism is present. According to this totalizing new view, we are all either racist or anti-racist. To be a Good Person and not a Bad Person, you must be an “anti-racist.” There is no neutrality. There is no such thing as “not racist.”  Most important: In this revolution, skeptics of any part of this radical ideology are recast as heretics. Those who do not abide by every single aspect of its creed are tarnished as bigots, subjected to boycotts and their work to political litmus tests. The Enlightenment, as the critic Edward Rothstein has put it, has been replaced by the exorcism.  What we call “cancel culture” is really the justice system of this revolution. And the goal of the cancellations is not merely to punish the person being cancelled. The goal is to send a message to everyone else: Step out of line and you are next.  It has worked. A recent CATO study found that 62 percent of Americans are afraid to voice their true views. Nearly a quarter of American academics endorse ousting a colleague for having a wrong opinion about hot-button issues such as immigration or gender differences. And nearly 70 percent of students favor reporting professors if the professor says something that students find offensive, according to a Challey Institute for Global Innovation survey. Why are so many, especially so many young people, drawn to this ideology? It’s not because they are dumb. Or because they are snowflakes, or whatever Fox talking points would have you believe. All of this has taken place against the backdrop of major changes in American life—the tearing apart of our social fabric; the loss of religion and the decline of civic organizations; the opioid crisis; the collapse of American industries; the rise of big tech; successive financial crises; a toxic public discourse; crushing student debt. An epidemic of loneliness. A crisis of meaning. A pandemic of distrust. It has taken place against the backdrop of the American dream’s decline into what feels like a punchline, the inequalities of our supposedly fair, liberal meritocracy clearly rigged in favor of some people and against others. And so on. “I became converted because I was ripe for it and lived in a disintegrating society thrusting for faith.” That was Arthur Koestler writing in 1949 about his love affair with Communism. The same might be said of this new revolutionary faith. And like other religions at their inception, this one has lit on fire the souls of true believers, eager to burn down anything or anyone that stands in its way.  If you have ever tried to build something, even something small, you know how hard it is. It takes time. It takes tremendous effort. But tearing things down? That’s quick work.  The Woke Revolution has been exceptionally effective. It has successfully captured the most important sense-making institutions of American life: our newspapers. Our magazines. Our Hollywood studios. Our publishing houses. Many of our tech companies. And, increasingly, corporate America.  Just as in China under Chairman Mao, the seeds of our own cultural revolution can be traced to the academy, the first of our institutions to be overtaken by it. And our schools—public, private, parochial—are increasingly the recruiting grounds for this ideological army.  A few stories are worth recounting: David Peterson is an art professor at Skidmore College in upstate New York. He stood accused in the fevered summer of 2020 of “engaging in hateful conduct that threatens Black Skidmore students.” What was that hateful conduct? David and his wife, Andrea, went to watch a rally for police officers. “Given the painful events that continue to unfold across this nation, I guess we just felt compelled to see first-hand how all of this was playing out in our own community,” he told the Skidmore student newspaper. David and his wife stayed for 20 minutes on the edge of the event. They held no signs, participated in no chants. They just watched. Then they left for dinner. For the crime of listening, David Peterson’s class was boycotted. A sign appeared on his classroom door: “STOP. By entering this class you are crossing a campus-wide picket line and breaking the boycott against Professor David Peterson. This is not a safe environment for marginalized students.” Then the university opened an investigation into accusations of bias in the classroom. Across the country from Skidmore, at the University of Southern California, a man named Greg Patton is a professor of business communication. In 2020, Patton was teaching a class on “filler words”—such as “um” and “like” and so forth for his master’s-level course on communication for management. It turns out that the Chinese word for “like” sounds like the n-word. Students wrote the school’s staff and administration accusing their professor of “negligence and disregard.” They added: “We are burdened to fight with our existence in society, in the workplace, and in America. We should not be made to fight for our sense of peace and mental well-being” at school. In a normal, reality-based world, there is only one response to such a claim: You misheard. But that was not the response. This was: “It is simply unacceptable for faculty to use words in class that can marginalize, hurt and harm the psychological safety of our students,” the dean, Geoffrey Garrett wrote. “Understandably, this caused great pain and upset among students, and for that I am deeply sorry.”  This rot hasn’t been contained to higher education. At a mandatory training earlier this year in the San Diego Unified School District, Bettina Love, an education professor who believes that children learn better from teachers of the same race, accused white teachers of “spirit murdering black and brown children” and urged them to undergo “antiracist therapy for White educators.”  San Francisco’s public schools didn’t manage to open their schools during the pandemic, but the board decided to rename 44 schools—including those named for George Washington and John Muir—before suspending the plan. Meantime, one of the board members declared merit “racist” and “Trumpian.”  A recent educational program for sixth to eighth grade teachers called “a pathway to equitable math instruction”—funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation—was recently sent to Oregon teachers by the state’s Department of Education. The program’s literature informs teachers that white supremacy shows up in math instruction when “rigor is expressed only in difficulty,” and “contrived word problems are valued over the math in students’ lived experiences.”  Serious education is the antidote to such ignorance. Frederick Douglass said, “Education means emancipation. It means light and liberty. It means the uplifting of the soul of man into the glorious light of truth, the light only by which men can be free.” Soaring words that feel as if they are a report from a distant galaxy. Education is increasingly where debate, dissent, and discovery go to die. It’s also very bad for kids.  For those deemed “privileged,” it creates a hostile environment where kids are too intimidated to participate. For those deemed “oppressed,” it inculcates an extraordinarily pessimistic view of the world, where students are trained to perceive malice and bigotry in everything they see. They are denied the dignity of equal standards and expectations. They are denied the belief in their own agency and ability to succeed. As Zaid Jilani had put it: “You cannot have power without responsibility. Denying minorities responsibility for their own actions, both good and bad, will only deny us the power we rightly deserve.” How did we get here? There are a lot of factors that are relevant to the answer: institutional decay; the tech revolution and the monopolies it created; the arrogance of our elites; poverty; the death of trust. And all of these must be examined, because without them we would have neither the far right nor the cultural revolutionaries now clamoring at America’s gates.  But there is one word we should linger on, because every moment of radical victory turned on it. The word is cowardice. The revolution has been met with almost no resistance by those who have the title CEO or leader or president or principal in front of their names. The refusal of the adults in the room to speak the truth, their refusal to say no to efforts to undermine the mission of their institutions, their fear of being called a bad name and that fear trumping their responsibility—that is how we got here. Allan Bloom had the radicals of the 1960s in mind when he wrote that “a few students discovered that pompous teachers who catechized them about academic freedom could, with a little shove, be made into dancing bears.” Now, a half-century later, those dancing bears hold named chairs at every important elite, sense-making institution in the country.  As Douglas Murray has put it: “The problem is not that the sacrificial victim is selected. The problem is that the people who destroy his reputation are permitted to do so by the complicity, silence and slinking away of everybody else.” Each surely thought: These protestors have some merit! This institution, this university, this school, hasn’t lived up to all of its principles at all times! We have been racist! We have been sexist! We haven’t always been enlightened! I’ll give a bit and we’ll find a way to compromise. This turned out to be as naive as Robespierre thinking that he could avoid the guillotine.  Think about each of the anecdotes I’ve shared here and all the rest you already know. All that had to change for the entire story to turn out differently was for the person in charge, the person tasked with being a steward for the newspaper or the magazine or the college or the school district or the private high school or the kindergarten, to say: No. If cowardice is the thing that has allowed for all of this, the force that stops this cultural revolution can also be summed up by one word: courage. And courage often comes from people you would not expect. Consider Maud Maron. Maron is a lifelong liberal who has always walked the walk. She was an escort for Planned Parenthood; a law-school research assistant to Kathleen Cleaver, the former Black Panther; and a poll watcher for John Kerry in Pennsylvania during the 2004 presidential election. In 2016, she was a regular contributor to Bernie Sanders’s campaign. Maron dedicated her career to Legal Aid: “For me, being a public defender is more than a job,” she told me. “It’s who I am.” But things took a turn when, this past year, Maron spoke out passionately and publicly about the illiberalism that has gripped the New York City public schools attended by her four children.  “I am very open about what I stand for,” she told me. “I am pro-integration. I am pro-diversity. And also I reject the narrative that white parents are to blame for the failures of our school system. I object to the mayor’s proposal to get rid of specialized admissions tests to schools like Stuyvesant. And I believe that racial essentialism is racist and should not be taught in school.” What followed this apparent thought crime was a 21st-century witch hunt. Maron was smeared publicly by her colleagues. They called her “racist, and openly so.” They said, “We’re ashamed that she works for the Legal Aid Society.”  Most people would have walked away and quietly found a new job. Not Maud Maron. This summer, she filed suit against the organization, claiming that she was forced out of Legal Aid because of her political views and her race, a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  “The reason they went after me is that I have a different point of view,” she said. “These ideologues have tried to ruin my name and my career, and they are going after other good people. Not enough people stand up and say: It is totally wrong to do this to a person. And this is not going to stop unless people stand up to it.” That’s courage. Courage also looks like Paul Rossi, the math teacher at Grace Church High School in New York who raised questions about this ideology at a mandatory, whites-only student and faculty Zoom meeting. A few days later, all the school’s advisers were required to read a public reprimand of his conduct out loud to every student in the school. Unwilling to disavow his beliefs, Rossi blew the whistle: “I know that by attaching my name to this I’m risking not only my current job but my career as an educator, since most schools, both public and private, are now captive to this backward ideology. But witnessing the harmful impact it has on children, I can’t stay silent.” That’s courage.  Courage is Xi Van Fleet, a Virginia mom who endured Mao’s Cultural Revolution as a child and spoke up to the Loudoun County School Board at a public meeting in June. “You are training our children to loathe our country and our history,” she said in front of the school board. “Growing up in Mao’s China, all of this feels very familiar…. The only difference is that they used class instead of race.” Gordon Klein, a professor at UCLA, recently filed suit against his own university. Why? A student asked him to grade black students with “greater leniency.” He refused, given that such a racial preference would violate UCLA’s anti-discrimination policies (and maybe even the law). But the people in charge of UCLA’s Anderson School launched a racial-discrimination complaint into him. They denounced him, banned him from campus, appointed a monitor to look at his emails, and suspended him. He eventually was reinstated—because he had done absolutely nothing wrong—but not before his reputation and career were severely damaged. “I don’t want to see anyone else’s life destroyed as they attempted to do to me,” Klein told me. “Few have the intestinal fortitude to fight cancel culture. I do. This is about sending a message to every petty tyrant out there.” Courage is Peter Boghossian. He recently resigned his post at Portland State University, writing in a letter to his provost: “The university transformed a bastion of free inquiry into a social justice factory whose only inputs were race, gender and victimhood and whose only output was grievance and division…. I feel morally obligated to make this choice. For ten years, I have taught my students the importance of living by your principles. One of mine is to defend our system of liberal education from those who seek to destroy it. Who would I be if I didn’t?” Who would I be if I didn’t? George Orwell said that “the further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” In an age of lies, telling the truth is high risk. It comes with a cost. But it is our moral obligation. It is our duty to resist the crowd in this age of mob thinking. It is our duty to think freely in an age of conformity. It is our duty to speak truth in an age of lies.  This bravery isn’t the last or only step in opposing this revolution—it’s just the first. After that must come honest assessments of why America was vulnerable to start with, and an aggressive commitment to rebuilding the economy and society in ways that once again offer life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to the greatest number of Americans. But let’s start with a little courage. Courage means, first off, the unqualified rejection of lies. Do not speak untruths, either about yourself or anyone else, no matter the comfort offered by the mob. And do not genially accept the lies told to you. If possible, be vocal in rejecting claims you know to be false. Courage can be contagious, and your example may serve as a means of transmission. When you’re told that traits such as industriousness and punctuality are the legacy of white supremacy, don’t hesitate to reject it. When you’re told that statues of figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass are offensive, explain that they are national heroes. When you’re told that “nothing has changed” in this country for minorities, don’t dishonor the memory of civil-rights pioneers by agreeing. And when you’re told that America was founded in order to perpetuate slavery, don’t take part in rewriting the country’s history. America is imperfect. I always knew it, as we all do—and the past few years have rocked my faith like no others in my lifetime. But America and we Americans are far from irredeemable.  The motto of Frederick Douglass’s anti-slavery paper, the North Star—“The Right is of no Sex—Truth is of no Color—God is the Father of us all, and all we are brethren”—must remain all of ours. We can still feel the pull of that electric cord Lincoln talked about 163 years ago—the one “in that Declaration that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together, that will link those patriotic hearts as long as the love of freedom exists in the minds of men throughout the world.” Every day I hear from people who are living in fear in the freest society humankind has ever known. Dissidents in a democracy, practicing doublespeak. That is what is happening right now. What happens five, 10, 20 years from now if we don’t speak up and defend the ideas that have made all of our lives possible? Liberty. Equality. Freedom. Dignity. These are ideas worth fighting for. Tyler Durden Sun, 10/17/2021 - 23:05.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytOct 18th, 2021

Inside the World of Black Bitcoin, Where Crypto Is About Making More Than Just Money

“We can operate on an even playing field in the digital world” At the Black Blockchain Summit, there is almost no conversation about making money that does not carry with it the possibility of liberation. This is not simply a gathering for those who would like to ride whatever bumps and shocks, gains and losses come with cryptocurrency. It is a space for discussing the relationship between money and man, the powers that be and what they have done with power. Online and in person, on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., an estimated 1,500 mostly Black people have gathered to talk about crypto—decentralized digital money backed not by governments but by blockchain technology, a secure means of recording transactions—as a way to make money while disrupting centuries-long patterns of oppression. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] “What we really need to be doing is to now utilize the technology behind blockchain to enhance the quality of life for our people,” says Christopher Mapondera, a Zimbabwean American and the first official speaker. As a white-haired engineer with the air of a lecturing statesman, Mapondera’s conviction feels very on-brand at a conference themed “Reparations and Revolutions.” Along with summit organizer Sinclair Skinner, Mapondera co-founded BillMari, a service that aims to make it easier to transmit cryptocurrency to wherever the sons and daughters of Africa have been scattered. So, not exactly your stereotypical “Bitcoin bro.” Contrary to the image associated with cryptocurrency since it entered mainstream awareness, almost no one at the summit is a fleece-vest-wearing finance guy or an Elon Musk type with a grudge against regulators. What they are is a cross section of the world of Black crypto traders, educators, marketers and market makers—a world that seemingly mushroomed during the pandemic, rallying around the idea that this is the boon that Black America needs. In fact, surveys indicate that people of color are investing in cryptocurrency in ways that outpace or equal other groups—something that can’t be said about most financial products. About 44% of those who own crypto are people of color, according to a June survey by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center. In April, a Harris Poll reported that while just 16% of U.S. adults overall own cryptocurrency, 18% of Black Americans have gotten in on it. (For Latino Americans, the figure is 20%.) The actor Hill Harper of The Good Doctor, a Harvard Law School friend of former President Barack Obama, is a pitchman for Black Wall Street, a digital wallet and crypto trading service developed with Najah Roberts, a Black crypto expert. And this summer, when the popular money-transfer service Cash App added the option to purchase Bitcoin, its choice to explain the move was the MC Megan Thee Stallion. “With my knowledge and your hustle, you’ll have your own empire in no time,” she says in an ad titled “Bitcoin for Hotties.” Read more: Americans Have Learned to Talk About Racial Inequality. But They’ve Done Little to Solve It But, as even Megan Thee Stallion acknowledges in that ad, pinning one’s economic hopes on crypto is inherently risky. Many economic experts have described crypto as little better than a bubble, mere fool’s gold. The rapid pace of innovation—it’s been little more than a decade since Bitcoin was created by the enigmatic, pseudonymous Satoshi Nakamoto—has left consumers with few protections. Whether the potential is worth those risks is the stuff of constant, and some would say, infernal debate. Jared Soares for TIMECleve Mesidor, who founded the National Policy Network of Women of Color in Blockchain What looms in the backdrop is clear. In the U.S., the median white family’s wealth—reflecting not just assets minus debt, but also the ability to weather a financial setback—sat around $188,200, per the Federal Reserve’s most recent measure in 2019. That’s about eight times the median wealth of Black families. (For Latino families, it’s five times greater; the wealth of Asian, Pacific Island and other families sits between that of white and Latino families, according to the report.) Other estimates paint an even grimmer picture. If trends continue, the median Black household will have zero wealth by 2053. The summit attendees seem certain that crypto represents keys to a car bound for somewhere better. “Our digital selves are more important in some ways than our real-world selves,” Tony Perkins, a Black MIT-trained computer scientist, says during a summit session on “Enabling Black Land and Asset Ownership Using Blockchain.” The possibilities he rattles off—including fractional ownership of space stations—will, to many, sound fantastical. To others, they sound like hope. “We can operate on an even playing field in the digital world,” he says. The next night, when in-person attendees gather at Barcode, a Black-owned downtown D.C. establishment, for drinks and conversation, there’s a small rush on black T-shirts with white lettering: SATOSHI, they proclaim, IS BLACK. That’s an intriguing idea when your ancestors’ bodies form much of the foundation of U.S. prosperity. At the nation’s beginnings, land theft from Native Americans seeded the agricultural operations where enslaved Africans would labor and die, making others rich. By 1860, the cotton-friendly ground of Mississippi was so productive that it was home to more millionaires than anywhere else in the country. Government-supported pathways to wealth, from homesteading to homeownership, have been reliably accessible to white Americans only. So Black Bitcoiners’ embrace of decentralized currencies—and a degree of doubt about government regulators, as well as those who have done well in the traditional system—makes sense. Skinner, the conference organizer, believes there’s racial subtext in the caution from the financial mainstream regarding Bitcoin—a pervasive idea that Black people just don’t understand finance. “I’m skeptical of all of those [warnings], based on the history,” Skinner, who is Black American, says. Even a drop in the value of Bitcoin this year, which later went back up, has not made him reticent. “They have petrol shortages in England right now. They’ll blame the weather or Brexit, but they’ll never have to say they’re dumb. Something don’t work in Detroit or some city with a Black mayor, we get a collective shame on us.” Read more: America’s Interstate Slave Trade Once Trafficked Nearly 30,000 People a Year—And Reshaped the Country’s Economy The first time I speak to Skinner, the summit is still two weeks away. I’d asked him to talk through some of the logistics, but our conversation ranges from what gives money value to the impact of ride-share services on cabbies refusing Black passengers. Tech often promises to solve social problems, he says. The Internet was supposed to democratize all sorts of things. In many cases, it defaulted to old patterns. (As Black crypto policy expert Cleve Mesidor put it to me, “The Internet was supposed to be decentralized, and today it’s owned by four white men.”) But with the right people involved from the start of the next wave of change—crypto—the possibilities are endless, Skinner says. Skinner, a Howard grad and engineer by training, first turned to crypto when he and Mapondera were trying to find ways to do ethanol business in Zimbabwe. Traditional international transactions were slow or came with exorbitant fees. In Africa, consumers pay some of the world’s highest remittance, cell phone and Internet data fees in the world, a damaging continuation of centuries-long wealth transfers off the continent to others, Skinner says. Hearing about cryptocurrency, he was intrigued—particularly having seen, during the recession, the same banking industry that had profited from slavery getting bailed out as hundreds of thousands of people of color lost their homes. So in 2013, he invested “probably less than $3,000,” mostly in Bitcoin. Encouraged by his friend Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, one of the largest platforms for trading crypto, he grew his stake. In 2014, when Skinner went to a crypto conference in Amsterdam, only about eight Black people were there, five of them caterers, but he felt he had come home ideologically. He saw he didn’t need a Rockefeller inheritance to change the world. “I don’t have to build a bank where they literally used my ancestors to build the capital,” says Skinner, who today runs a site called I Love Black People, which operates like a global anti-racist Yelp. “I can unseat that thing by not trying to be like them.” Eventually, he and Mapondera founded BillMari and became the first crypto company to partner with the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to lower fees on remittances, the flow of money from immigrants overseas back home to less-developed nations—an economy valued by the World Bank and its offshoot KNOMAD at $702 billion in 2020. (Some of the duo’s business plans later evaporated, after Zimbabwe’s central bank revoked approval for some cryptocurrency activities.) Skinner’s feelings about the economic overlords make it a bit surprising that he can attract people like Charlene Fadirepo, a banker by trade and former government regulator, to speak at the summit. On the first day, she offers attendees a report on why 2021 was a “breakout year for Bitcoin,” pointing out that major banks have begun helping high-net-worth clients invest in it, and that some corporations have bought crypto with their cash on hand, holding it as an asset. Fadirepo, who worked in the Fed’s inspector general’s office monitoring Federal Reserve banks and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is not a person who hates central banks or regulation. A Black American, she believes strongly in both, and in their importance for protecting investors and improving the economic position of Black people. Today she operates Guidefi, a financial education and advising company geared toward helping Black women connect with traditional financial advisers. It just launched, for a fee, direct education in cryptocurrency. Crypto is a relatively new part of Fadirepo’s life. She and her Nigerian-American doctor husband earn good salaries and follow all the responsible middle-class financial advice. But the pandemic showed her they still didn’t have what some of his white colleagues did: the freedom to walk away from high-risk work. As the stock market shuddered and storefronts shuttered, she decided a sea change was coming. A family member had mentioned Bitcoin at a funeral in 2017, but it sounded risky. Now, her research kept bringing her back to it. Last year, she and her husband bought $6,000 worth. No investment has ever generated the kinds of returns for them that Bitcoin has. “It has transformed people’s relationship with money,” she says. “Folks are just more intentional … and honestly feeling like they had access to a world that was previously walled off.” Read more: El Salvador Is Betting on Bitcoin to Rebrand the Country — and Strengthen the President’s Grip She knows frauds exists. In May, a federal watchdog revealed that since October 2020, nearly 7,000 people have reported losses of more than $80 million on crypto scams—12 times more scam reports than the same period the previous year. The median individual loss: $1,900. For Fadirepo, it’s worrying. That’s part of why she helps moderate recurring free learning and discussion options like the Black Bitcoin Billionaires chat room on Clubhouse, which has grown from about 2,000 to 130,000 club members this year. Jared Soares for TIMECharlene Fadirepo, a banker and former government regulator, near the National Museum of African American History and Culture There’s a reason Black investors might prefer their own spaces for that kind of education. Fadirepo says it’s not unheard-of in general crypto spaces—theoretically open to all, but not so much in practice—to hear that relying on the U.S. dollar is slavery. “To me, a descendant of enslaved people in America, that was painful,” she says. “There’s a lot of talk about sovereignty, freedom from the U.S. dollar, freedom from inflation, inflation is slavery, blah blah blah. The historical context has been sucked out of these conversations about traditional financial systems. I don’t know how I can talk about banking without also talking about history.” Back in January, I found myself in a convenience store in a low-income and predominantly Black neighborhood in Dallas, an area still living the impact of segregation decades after its official end. I was there to report on efforts to register Black residents for COVID-19 shots after an Internet-only sign-up system—and wealthier people gaming the system—created an early racial disparity in vaccinations. I stepped away to buy a bottle of water. Inside the store, a Black man wondered aloud where the lottery machine had gone. He’d come to spend his usual $2 on tickets and had found a Bitcoin machine sitting in its place. A second Black man standing nearby, surveying chip options, explained that Bitcoin was a form of money, an investment right there for the same $2. After just a few questions, the first man put his money in the machine and walked away with a receipt describing the fraction of one bitcoin he now owned. Read more: When a Texas County Tried to Ensure Racial Equity in COVID-19 Vaccinations, It Didn’t Go as Planned I was both worried and intrigued. What kind of arrangement had prompted the store’s owner to replace the lottery machine? That month, a single bitcoin reached the $40,000 mark. “That’s very revealing, if someone chooses to put a cryptocurrency machine in the same place where a lottery [machine] was,” says Jeffrey Frankel, a Harvard economist, when I tell him that story. Frankel has described cryptocurrencies as similar to gambling, more often than not attracting those who can least afford to lose, whether they are in El Salvador or Texas. Frankel ranks among the economists who have been critical of El Salvador’s decision to begin recognizing Bitcoin last month as an official currency, in part because of the reality that few in the county have access to the internet, as well as the cryptocurrency’s price instability and its lack of backing by hard assets, he says. At the same time that critics have pointed to the shambolic Bitcoin rollout in El Salvador, Bitcoin has become a major economic force in Nigeria, one of the world’s larger players in cryptocurrency trading. In fact, some have argued that it has helped people in that country weather food inflation. But, to Frankel, crypto does not contain promise for lasting economic transformation. To him, disdain for experts drives interest in cryptocurrency in much the same way it can fuel vaccine hesitancy. Frankel can see the potential to reduce remittance costs, and he does not doubt that some people have made money. Still, he’s concerned that the low cost and click-here ease of buying crypto may draw people to far riskier crypto assets, he says. Then he tells me he’d put the word assets here in a hard set of air quotes. And Frankel, who is white, is not alone. Darrick Hamilton, an economist at the New School who is Black, says Bitcoin should be seen in the same framework as other low-cost, high-risk, big-payoff options. “In the end, it’s a casino,” he says. To people with less wealth, it can feel like one of the few moneymaking methods open to them, but it’s not a source of group uplift. “Like any speculation, those that can arbitrage the market will be fine,” he says. “There’s a whole lot of people that benefited right before the Great Recession, but if they didn’t get out soon enough, they lost their shirts too.” To buyers like Jiri Sampson, a Black cryptocurrency investor who works in real estate and lives outside Washington, D.C., that perspective doesn’t register as quite right. The U.S.-born son of Guyanese immigrants wasn’t thinking about exploitation when he invested his first $20 in cryptocurrency in 2017. But the groundwork was there. Sampson homeschools his kids, due in part to his lack of faith that public schools equip Black children with the skills to determine their own fates. He is drawn to the capacity of this technology to create greater agency for Black people worldwide. The blockchain, for example, could be a way to establish ownership for people who don’t hold standard documents—an important issue in Guyana and many other parts of the world, where individuals who have lived on the land for generations are vulnerable to having their property co-opted if they lack formal deeds. Sampson even pitched a project using the blockchain and GPS technology to establish digital ownership records to the Guyanese government, which did not bite. “I don’t want to downplay the volatility of Bitcoin,” Sampson says. But that’s only a significant concern, he believes, if one intends to sell quickly. To him, Bitcoin represents a “harder” asset than the dollar, which he compares to a ship with a hole in it. Bitcoin has a limited supply, while the Fed can decide to print more dollars anytime. That, to Sampson, makes some cryptocurrencies, namely Bitcoin, good to buy and hold, to pass along wealth from one generation to another. Economists and crypto buyers aren’t the only ones paying attention. Congress, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Federal Reserve have indicated that they will move toward official assessments or regulation soon. At least 10 federal agencies are interested in or already regulating crypto in some way, and there’s now a Congressional Blockchain Caucus. Representatives from the Federal Reserve and the SEC declined to comment, but SEC Chairman Gary Gensler assured a Senate subcommittee in September that his agency is working to develop regulation that will apply to cryptocurrency markets and trading activity. Enter Cleve Mesidor, of the quip about the Internet being owned by four white men. When we meet during the summit, she introduces herself: “Cleve Mesidor, I’m in crypto.” She’s the first person I’ve ever heard describe herself that way, but not that long ago, “influencer” wasn’t a career either. A former Obama appointee who worked inside the Commerce Department on issues related to entrepreneurship and economic development, Mesidor learned about cryptocurrency during that time. But she didn’t get involved in it personally until 2013, when she purchased $200 in Bitcoin. After leaving government, she founded the National Policy Network of Women of Color in Blockchain, and is now the public policy adviser for the industry group the Blockchain Association. There are more men than women in Black crypto spaces, she tells me, but the gender imbalance tends to be less pronounced than in white-dominated crypto communities. Mesidor, who immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti and uses her crypto investments to fund her professional “wanderlust,” has also lived crypto’s downsides. She’s been hacked and the victim of an attempted ransomware attack. But she still believes cryptocurrency and related technology can solve real-world problems, and she’s trying, she says, to make sure that necessary consumer protections are not structured in a way that chokes the life out of small businesses or investors. “D.C. is like Vegas; the house always wins,” says Mesidor, whose independently published book is called The Clevolution: My Quest for Justice in Politics & Crypto. “The crypto community doesn’t get that.” Passion, she says, is not enough. The community needs to be involved in the regulatory discussions that first intensified after the price of a bitcoin went to $20,000 in 2017. A few days after the summit, when Mesidor and I spoke by phone, Bitcoin had climbed to nearly $60,000. At Barcode, the Washington lounge, Isaiah Jackson is holding court. A man with a toothpaste-commercial smile, he’s the author of the independently published Bitcoin & Black America, has appeared on CNBC and is half of the streaming show The Gentleman of Crypto, which bills itself as the one of the longest-running cryptocurrency shows on the Internet. When he was building websites as a sideline, he convinced a large black church in Charlotte, N.C., to, for a time, accept Bitcoin donations. He helped establish Black Bitcoin Billionaires on Clubhouse and, like Fadirepo, helps moderate some of its rooms and events. He’s also a former teacher, descended from a line of teachers, and is using those skills to develop (for a fee) online education for those who want to become crypto investors. Now, there’s a small group standing near him, talking, but mostly listening. Jackson was living in North Carolina when one of his roommates, a white man who worked for a money-management firm, told him he had just heard a presentation about crypto and thought he might want to suggest it to his wealthy parents. The concept blew Jackson’s mind. He soon started his own research. “Being in the Black community and seeing the actions of banks, with redlining and other things, it just appealed to me,” Jackson tells me. “You free the money, you free everything else.” Read more: Beyond Tulsa: The Historic Legacies and Overlooked Stories of America’s ‘Black Wall Streets’ He took his $400 savings and bought two bitcoins in October 2013. That December, the price of a single bitcoin topped $1,100. He started thinking about what kind of new car he’d buy. And he stuck with it, even seeing prices fluctuate and scams proliferate. When the Gentlemen of Bitcoin started putting together seminars, one of the early venues was at a college fair connected to an annual HBCU basketball tournament attended by thousands of mostly Black people. Bitcoin eventually became more than an investment. He believed there was great value in spreading the word. But that was then. “I’m done convincing people. There’s no point battling going back and forth,” he says. “Even if they don’t realize it, what [investors] are doing if they are keeping their bitcoin long term, they are moving money out of the current system into another one. And that is basically the best form of peaceful protest.”   —With reporting by Leslie Dickstein and Simmone Shah.....»»

Category: topSource: timeOct 15th, 2021

As the NFT Market Explodes Again, Artists Fend Off Old Art-World Power Structures

NFT sales exploded in August, hitting twice the levels of the first wave back in the spring On Sept. 13, Monica Rizzolli sat in her room in São Paulo and watched her net worth grow by $5.4 million in 48 minutes. Rizzolli is not a day trader or a gambler. She’s an artist whose work consists of sun-kissed petals and wind-whipped blizzards, all created digitally. That day, she was selling a 1,024-piece collection in an auction on the NFT art platform Art Blocks. And despite her relative lack of renown outside of Brazil, the response was emphatic, with collectors shelling out thousands while feverishly discussing color and pattern on the social-messaging app Discord. “Haven’t seen any where the colors don’t blend perfectly,” wrote one. [time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”] Rizzolli’s success in that September auction is just one of many examples that disprove the epitaphs written for the NFT market after it receded from its dizzying peak this spring. In March, the artist Beeple sold an NFT collection for $69 million at an auction at Christie’s, provoking astonishment from the outside world. Many were quick to write it off as a blip when the market shrank in May, dropping 90% from its peak. “Who could have seen this coming other than basically anyone?” the website Gizmodo taunted. But the death of NFTs was greatly exaggerated. After lying dormant for a couple of months, NFT sales exploded in August, hitting twice the levels of the first NFT mania back in the spring. Legacy institutions like Visa, Marvel and Major League Baseball jumped into the game, bestowing legitimacy; celebrities like Tom Brady and Doja Cat hypercharged excitement with their own ventures. None of this came as a surprise to those who have been involved in the cryptocurrency space for years. The market, like many others, is inherently choppy, with vicious boom-and-bust cycles that have investors hanging on for dear life, even in boom times. As the NFT art world grows in fits and starts, entrepreneurs, technologists and artists like Rizzolli are taking on the messy work of building a different kind of space: one that prioritizes artists, technological and aesthetic breakthroughs, more resilient systems and community building. NFTs have already spurred the popularity and growth of a fascinating digital art form—generative art—and shifted the discussion around artists’ rights and royalties. This time around, we have an opportunity to flip things around and bring more balance into the systemRead More: Digital NFT Art Is Booming—But at What Cost? But while there has been astonishing innovation, other entrenched frameworks have proved harder to disrupt, with wealth still pooling in the hands of a few, and women and artists of color struggling to find their footing. “White men have the advantage from the very start in crypto; it’s obvious that they’re the first to build up the space,” the Panamanian artist Itzel Yard says. “This time around, we have an opportunity to flip things around and bring more balance into the system.” This fight for balance—between those focused on wealth and those focused on radical change—will continue as the technology hurtles toward mainstream adoption. Courtesy Liam VriesVintage Mozart’s The Children With No Name: Eden sold for about $900 in July At its base level, an NFT, or nonfungible token, is simply a file type. But unlike a traditional PDF or JPEG, NFTs are “minted” on the blockchain—a tamper-resistant, decentralized digital public ledger that also supports cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Dogecoin. And each NFT is unique, with a bit of code that proves its authenticity, making it easier than ever to put a value on digital goods. Over the past year, NFTs have been made out of basketball trading cards (NBA Top Shot has raked in $720 million), music (Kings of Leon made $2 million from NFT sales on an album) and a tweet (Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s first, for $2.9 million). TIME also recently launched an NFT initiative, selling works by selected artists. This spring, art lay at the center of the NFT boom. But much of that art was, frankly, bad: shrines to cryptocurrency champion Elon Musk, 3-D emojis, mimicry of brand signifiers like Gucci or Marvel, conceptual gimmicks like a $1.3 million single pixel. “There are a lot of people for whom the only context they have for NFTs are vulgar displays of wealth,” the technologist Mat Dryhurst said in March. There are still plenty of crude art projects and buyers in it purely for the money. Dozens of cartoonish collectible series, for instance, have been created with the hopes of replicating the fervor surrounding -CryptoPunks, an immensely popular set of pixelated collectible characters. But many others are flocking toward a more ambitious medium: generative art, created by artists who tweak complex bits of code to create dozens or hundreds of works that riff on a theme. Artists use code to create psychedelic patterns, spastic glitchy videos, industrial landscapes and projection mapping. Hundreds of those artists have found a home on Art Blocks. When Erick Calderon launched the platform late last year, he hoped to make crypto-art more financially accessible, showcase artists whose work would match the complexity of anything in the physical modern art world and cater to the cryptocommunity’s desire for scarcity and unpredictability. “I thought people would like the idea of performing part of the art process—and being presented with a tiny piece of the artist’s brain,” he says. There’s a lot of collectors that think about this as a business—and they see white men as the more secure investmentRead More: Teen Artists Are Making Millions on NFTs. How Are They Doing It? Art Blocks has thrived: the platform raked in $243 million in sales in September, making it the most popular NFT art platform and the second most popular NFT platform overall during that time span, according to Crypto-Slam. Ironically, Art Blocks’ runaway success has made its curated auctions way too expensive for most aspiring collectors. But the community has still filled up with rabid devotees who aren’t buying up the art to simply flip it later. One of them, Meredith Schipper, is an interior designer based in Houston with a lively side hustle as an NFT collector and trader with at least 90 artworks to her name. Schipper minted one of Rizzolli’s works for 3.5 ethereum—or roughly $11,900 at the time of auction and far above the auction’s price floor—because she says she loved the artwork and was sick of missing out in the past. “In previous auctions, entire collections have been minted in under two minutes,” she says. Of her experience in the NFT space, Schipper says, “It’s probably the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me. Everyone’s so positive; it makes me feel special and awesome.” Nearly 5,000 miles away in her São Paulo home studio, Rizzolli didn’t even realize she was about to make a fortune. “I’m laughing to myself,” she said a couple hours later. “I hope I will be able to dedicate myself much more: to have good equipment and tranquility. I also want to develop something in the educational field here in Brazil—to return some of this to the community.” With increasingly impressive artwork emerging from the NFT space, gallerists and curators have scrambled to create new spaces to display them. Some of them are in the physical world: an early NFT gallery popped up in downtown Manhattan in April, and Art Blocks just staged its first physical open house in Marfa, Texas. Courtesy Meredith SchipperA screenshot of the collector Meredith Schipper’s virtual gallery Others are attempting to coax curious outsiders into their virtual spaces. Schipper recently set up a virtual gallery, and has delighted in meeting other gallery owners on her pixelated block. Another hub for artists, NFT Oasis, can be accessed for free via an app or through a VR headset, and includes art walks through serene pixelated galleries and concerts from artists like Imogen Heap. Across the board, NFT practitioners say that community is an essential draw of the technology: “It’s like a huge neighborhood where we all kind of know each other,” says Yard, who just a couple of years ago was walking dogs to make ends meet; she has since made $216,000 in sales on the platform Foundation. NFT artists like Yard connect on Discord and Clubhouse, and they have flocked to create decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs), a relatively new type of organizational structure that many believe will be the Internet age’s answer to the LLC or the corporation. But while some NFT enthusiasts see a vast, unlimited future, others—women and people of color in particular—have already hit familiar walls. Yard’s rise is a rare success story in an upper echelon dominated overwhelmingly by white men. “There’s a lot of collectors that think about this as a business—and they see white men as the more secure investment,” she says. There isn’t ample data documenting race in the NFT art world, but one study indicates the space has failed to live up to the egalitarian economic promise inherent in crypto’s decentralized nature. For the past couple of years, the artist Sparrow Read and the data scientist Massimo Franceschet have been collecting data from the popular NFT platform SuperRare, and found that revenue generated on the platform has flowed toward a very small group of wealthy artists and collectors. As of June 15, 80% of the platform’s sale volume was dominated by 15% of the richest sellers. “Everyone believes that everyone’s intentions were to create more equality, more opportunity for artists,” Read says. “It feels like nobody wants to say that we are not achieving that.” Read More: NFTs Are Shaking Up the Art World—But They Could Change So Much More While the larger NFT world skews very white and male, women and artists of color are forming their own communities to fight bias and create more opportunities. One of Yard’s friends and protégés, 17-year-old Diana Sinclair, co-founded the herstoryDAO in April for Black female crypto artists. For Juneteenth, they partnered with the NFT platform Foundation to put on an exhibit called “Digital Diaspora,” featuring artwork from prominent artists like Yard and Blacksneakers, with a portion of the proceeds going to charity. But the auction failed to garner even half of what herstoryDAO had projected based on the previous value of the artists’ works. “It was really shocking: there was so much support on social media, but collectors weren’t keen to support us financially,” Sinclair says. When the “Digital Diaspora” auction took place, the NFT market was close to its nadir: NFT art sales for that week were under $4 million, according to Nonfungible. Since then, however, that figure has increased steadily, hitting $84 million the week of Oct. 5. Virtually every other metric tracked by Nonfungible has also increased, including the number of unique buyers active at one time and the number of primary and secondary sales. A second-quarter study from DappRadar in September showed that mass adoption of NFTs is under way, lessening the reliance on deep-pocketed whales; gaming NFTs and collections like the Bored Ape Yacht Club have particularly thrived. Sinclair believes that while the space has agonizing flaws, its communal nature and collaborative spirit could allow for positive change that might have been impossible in the traditional art and finance worlds. Concerns about the immense amount of energy it requires to mint an NFT, for example, have led to the creation of more energy-efficient platforms like Tezos and Palm, which are gaining in popularity. (Ethereum, too, has made its long-awaited conversion to a more energy-efficient system.) Groups that have formed in the past year—like the Mint Fund, Friends With Benefits and the African NFT Community—are using their collective power to create tools and grant funds for underresourced artists. Sinclair is in the NFT world for the long haul, and hopes to learn more about investing so she can have more power in a world that up to now looks a lot like the old one. “The space is too new for anything to be solidified,” she says. “We have more ideas, more plans and a lot more work to do.” —With reporting by Julia Zorthian.....»»

Category: topSource: timeOct 15th, 2021

See inside the many homes of Walt Disney, from his parents" $800 cottage to his lavish "Technicolor Dream House"

The late Disney creator was born in Chicago and lived in multiple properties in California throughout his life. Outside Disney's Los Feliz home. Patricia Ruben Walt Disney was born on December 5, 1901, in Chicago and died in 1966 in Burbank, California. Throughout his life, he lived in multiple properties, mainly in California. He called his vacation home in Palm Springs, California, his "Technicolor Dream House." Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Walt Disney lived from 1901 to 1966. He was born in Chicago, but he spent most of his life in California. Walt Disney. Hulton Archive / Stringer / Getty Images Disney was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1966 and died just months later. Following his death, his brother Roy finished his plan to open Walt Disney World in 1971. Walt Disney was born in Chicago, Illinois, on the second floor of a 18-foot-by-28-foot wooden cottage designed by his parents. It cost them $800 to build. Walt Disney's childhood home. The Walt Disney Birthplace His father, Elias, obtained a permit to build the home in 1892 — before Disney was born — and his mother, Flora, drew up plans for the home. The following year, they moved in.It cost them $800 to build. This was not an insignificant sum at the time — according to Flora Disney, her husband was making a dollar a day."A dollar a day. Seven dollars a week. That's all he made for the year, averaged for the year was $7 a week," Flora Disney said at the couple's 50th wedding anniversary, according to the Walt Disney Archives. "And there wasn't any such thing known as relief then. Living wasn't as high … He borrowed the money to build it."Disney lived in the house with his parents and brothers, Roy, Herbert, and Raymond, and sister Ruth, until he was 4 years old. The home has since been renovated and turned into a heritage site called The Walt Disney Birthplace. Outside Walt Disney's first home. The Walt Disney Birthplace The Walt Disney Birthplace website says, "We have already lost too many buildings that were an incredibly important part of Walt Disney's history. And that is why we have purchased this house and will restore it to its original state, honoring and preserving the home for generations to come."It took five years for the home to be renovated to appear as it did in 1893, ABC7 reported in 2018. The renovation reportedly cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars. The parlor in Disney's former home. The Walt Disney Birthplace The bay window looks out over the front porch. Disney and his brother Roy shared a bedroom as children. Walt and Roy's former bedroom. The Walt Disney Birthplace The brothers shared a lifelong bond, started in the bedroom pictured above. Walt Disney moved to Los Angeles in 1923. Four years later, he built this home on Lyric Avenue. Walt Disney's Lyric Avenue home in Los Angeles, California. Krista Ames-Cook According to Los Angeles Magazine, his brother Roy built an identical home next door.  In 1932, Disney and his wife, Lillian, built a family home in Los Feliz, California. Outside Disney's Los Feliz home. Patricia Ruben According to Disney Examiner, Disney worked with architect Frank Crowhurst to design the Tudor- and French-style home. The 6,388-square-foot house has four bedrooms and five bathrooms, according to a Sotheby's listing. Outside Disney's Los Feliz home. Patricia Ruben According to the listing, the home has a "Mediterranean entry, circular rotunda, painted ceilings, vaulted beamed ceilings, original stained leaded glass, and a Juliet balcony."  It was last listed in 2014 for $3.65 million. The living room in Disney's former home. Patricia Ruben According to Collider, the home cost $50,000 to construct and was built mainly by unemployed Depression-era workers.  The Disneys lived at the home from 1932 to 1950. Inside the home. Patricia Ruben Special touches, like the painted ceiling and wrought iron railing, give the home a storybook feel. A spacious dining area shows off the Tudor-style architecture. The dining area in Disney's former home. Patricia Ruben Disney lived at the home with his wife and two daughters, Diane and Sharon. The billiard room, one of 12 rooms in the house, was no doubt a good place for Disney to unwind. The billiard room in Disney's former home. Patricia Ruben There are five Disney resort hotels that have complimentary pool tables. A spacious master bedroom features French-door windows. The master bedroom at Disney's former home. Patricia Ruben There are four bedrooms in the home. The private screening room, pictured below, was where Disney watched many of his films, according to the home's most recent listing. The sitting area in Disney's home. Patricia Ruben The Disney family would come together to watch movies and screenings from the studio. Some of Disney's most famous films were released while he lived in his Los Feliz home. The screening room. Patricia Ruben "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was released in 1937, "Pinocchio" was released in 1940, "Fantasia" was released in 1940, "Dumbo" was released in 1941, "Bambi" was released in 1942, and "Cinderella" was released in 1950. Details like this storybook ceiling make the home look like something out of a Disney movie. A sitting area. Patricia Ruben The room looks like it could be right out of "Sleeping Beauty," which, according to Collider, was imagined while Disney lived in the home. The home featured a playhouse for Disney's daughters, Diane and Sharon. The pool and playhouse outside Disney's home. Patricia Ruben According to Glamour, the pool pictured above is not the home's original pool and was constructed in 1963, after the Disneys lived there. Disney's original pool was on a lower tier of the property that was sold, and it still remains on that piece of land. Disney built his vacation home in Palm Springs in 1962 as a retreat for him and his wife, Lillian. Outside Disney's Palm Springs vacation home. Ruben Vargas Jr./Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate/Leaskou Partners He lived in the home with Lillian until his death in 1966. He called it his "Technicolor Dream House." It sold last year for $1.1 million. The living room in Disney's Palm Springs home. Ruben Vargas Jr./Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate/Leaskou It sold in May 2020. The interior features bright red accents. Inside Disney's Palm Springs home. Ruben Vargas Jr./Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate/Leaskou He didn't call it his "Technicolor Dream House" for nothing. The home's many windows allow for light to flow throughout. The dining area in Disney's Palm Springs home. Ruben Vargas Jr./Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate/Leaskou The dining area opens right up to the backyard. The one-story home has four bedrooms. A guest bedroom at Disney's Palm Springs home. Ruben Vargas Jr./Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate/Leaskou Partners Bright accent walls keep with the technicolor theme.  The master bedroom features shiny gold furniture and a blue accent wall. The master bedroom at Disney's Palm Springs home. Ruben Vargas Jr./Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate/Leaskou Partners It also has a sliding door to the backyard. The large open floor plan has lots of space for entertaining. The living room in Disney's Palm Springs home. Ruben Vargas Jr./Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate/Leaskou Partners The living room has its own bar area as well. A spacious kitchen has a nice view of the pool. The kitchen in Disney's Palm Springs home. Ruben Vargas Jr./Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate/Leaskou Partners The black and white kitchen is perhaps the most muted room in the home. Walt Disney's final home was his Carolwood Estate, where he lived until his death in 1966. The home has since been torn down. Disney driving a train behind his Carolwood home. Gene Lester/Archive Photos/Getty Images Above he can be seen riding a train outside his Carolwood home. He built the one-eighth scale train and named it the Carolwood Pacific Railroad.Just over a year after Lillian's death in 1997, businessman Gabriel Brener bought the property for $8.45 million and knocked down the home. In its place, he built a 35,000-square-foot mansion in 2001. The eight-bedroom mansion, which sits on 3.6 acres of land, sold in 2014 for $74 million, according to the Los Angeles Times. The barn from Disney's Carolwood Estate, pictured below, is now on loan to the city of Los Angles and is located in Griffith Park. The barn from Disney's Carolwood Estate and his grandson, Walter Disney Miller (right). Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images Though Disney's Carolwood home was demolished, the barn was saved and is normally available to visit on the third Sunday of every month.  Disney's barn was also his workshop, where he planned many projects. Inside Disney's barn. Photo by Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images According to the Carolwood Foundation, Disney spent many hours building trains in his barn and called it his "happy place." Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: smallbizSource: nytOct 2nd, 2021

Visiting the gulag where my grandfather was tortured, but didn"t officially exist

My grandfather was held at Bulgaria's most notorious gulag. This summer, I saw it for the first time. A Belene survivor crosses the bridge across the Danube that connects the town of Belene and Persin island in 2015. Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images) This summer, Tana Ganeva traveled to Belene, Bulgaria's most notorious prison camp, where her grandfather was held in the 1950s. Bulgaria has effectively buried the history of its Communist-era gulags, where thousands were starved, tortured, and killed. Ganeva's grandfather attempted to escape Bulgaria four times, before making it to California. See more stories on Insider's business page. The island of Persin is a bird-watcher's paradise. Set on the Danube River, which divides Bulgaria and Romania, it's a nature park covered in wetlands and home to hundreds of rare bird species: the spoonbill, the pygmy cormorant, the corncrake, as well as herons, eagles, storks, and pelicans. Amid the natural beauty, it's jarring to consider that this was the location of a concentration camp where thousands of Bulgarian political prisoners were brutalized and killed from 1949 to 1953 - and in some cases for years after that. Though it's officially known as Belene after the quiet Bulgarian village that sits 750 feet away on the mainland, old-timers here call it by another name: the Island of Death.My stepgrandfather, Georgi Tutunjiev, was sent here at age 24 and spent four years and three months interred at Belene after someone (he suspected his ex-wife) told the authorities of his plan to escape the country. In his notebooks - he had planned to write a memoir about Belene but never did before he died in 2011 at 87 - he remembered the place as "brutal facilities for re-education," where he'd endured "indescribable physical and psychological abuse." He finally managed to escape Bulgaria in 1966 and settle with my grandma in California. In 1989, my parents and I left Bulgaria and joined my grandparents in California, thanks to the family-reunification policy. While many survivors of trauma shut down, my grandfather never stopped talking about the gulag. He seemed to have an unending loop of stories about Belene. For my immediate family, it could be exhausting, and we were alarmed to discover his extensive gun collection, which my grandmother gamely dismissed as a coping mechanism. But guests who came to the house were often riveted by his dark tales, which he mixed with his sense of humor. "Jeko! The Communistie shot you!" he'd shout at his terrier mix, and the dog would sprawl on his back, playing dead. An aerial view of Persin island. The gulag was known as Belene, after the nearby town. Tsvetomir Nikolaev I've come to the town of Belene on a brutally hot day in August for a tour of the Island of Death. I meet Nedyalka Toncheva, who works for the Belene Island Foundation, a nonprofit that organizes tours of the island, close to the bank of the Danube.We cross a rickety water bridge on foot and then jump aboard a Jeep driven by a 24-year-old Belene native named Peter. Toncheva, who is 35, is passionate and knowledgeable about the island's flora and fauna. Every few minutes, she tells Peter to stop the car to point out a roosting stork or a water eagle. She talks about her plans to make Persin a tourist destination comparable to Borovets, a ski resort with luxury hotels in the Rila mountains; or Koprivchitsa, a living museum honoring the Bulgarian rebels who mounted an uprising in 1876 against the Ottoman Empire.In the three decades since the fall of communism, Bulgaria has effectively buried the history of its many gulags, which operated mostly in the 1950s during the early, and most violent, days of Communist rule in the country. In Belene itself, many lower-level guards came from the village and a former mayor was also the gulag's first superintendent. It's not surprising that the village doesn't advertise its history.After 1989, survivors who had been forced to sign documents promising to never talk about the camps started speaking out. For a brief time, they became the subjects of documentaries and newspaper profiles. But soon, the consensus was that it was better to move on. An interior minister tasked with investigating the camps instead secretly ordered a purge of thousands of pages of documents - 40% of the government record. While Bulgaria's defeat of the Ottomans is central to the national identity, and much is made of the fact that Bulgaria saved its Jews during the Holocaust, the memory of the Communist era is more fraught. Georgi Tutunjiev, the author's grandfather, in around 1977. Tana Ganeva Peculiar for a tour, most of our stops lead us to what's not left of the camp. The shacks where prisoners slept have been razed - there's no trace of them.At the entrance, in what is now an open field, an inscription says, "To be human is to have dignity." From inside the camp - what would have been visible to the internees - the engraving says, "If the enemy doesn't surrender, he is destroyed." But no one I've talked to knows whether it's the original or has been recreated. There are a few abandoned, falling-apart buildings, but those were built in 1959, six years after the camp's official (but not real) closing, when it was converted into a prison, in part to kill rumors that it had operated as a secret gulag. Todor Zhivkov, the Communist premier who took power in 1954 and stayed on until 1989, reopened it in the 1980s to detain Muslims who refused to take on Slavic names in place of their own - a disastrous bid to assimilate them. I ask Toncheva whether there's a list of everyone who was held in the camp. I'm thinking of my grandfather and wondering whether there's any documentation. She tells me everyone who comes here for the camp asks the same question."There's no way to know, no list," Toncheva says, apologetic. "There's almost no proof the camp even existed."'Perfectly calculated by Satan himself'The first contingent of 300 men arrived at the Belene camp in the summer of 1949, five years after the 1944 Communist coup. My grandfather, then 24, arrived that first winter. A camp for women was founded on an adjacent island soon after.It was modeled after Josef Stalin's gulags in Siberia. Most of the prisoners had been dragged from their homes by the military police and sent here without trial. (Estimates vary, but 20,000 to 40,000 people were thought to be murdered by the Bulgarian Communist Party.) Even Stalin eventually warned them to scale down the killing of prominent oppositional figures or risk creating martyrs.The first wave of prisoners had to hack through the unpopulated island and build small shacks that were so crowded the prisoners didn't have room to lie down. In his history of the camp, Borislav Skotchev wrote that the island was dotted with towers manned by guards with machine guns. A survivor of Belene during a commemoration ceremony in 2015. Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images) The men held here included the former leader of the Social Democrats, Orthodox priests (many in their 70s), and the mayor of Bulgaria's capital, Sofia. Tsveti Ivanov, the editor of the newspaper Svoboden Narod, or Free People, was sent to Belene after serving 10 months in prison. He was beaten so brutally that he got tetanus from his wounds and died in the compound. Much of what we know about the place comes from survivors' memoirs. They were fed a thin soup, sometimes with a handful of beans thrown in. Their bread ration - moldy or stale when it made its way to them - was small, and could be withheld by the guards as punishment. Sometimes they got tea. My grandfather told me that, in the winter, both the soup and the tea were given to them already frozen.When Toncheva takes us on a brief walk to go look at storks, the ground gives off wet heat, and brambles and thorns claw at us, as if the island is alive and doesn't want us there. I think of the people who had to work days and nights, in sweltering summers, devoured by mosquitoes. It's unbelievable that anyone survived.An internal CIA document described the grim situation of starving prisoners. "A frequent sight is that of a prisoner eating raw green leaves and roots," it said. "To be caught doing this, however, would result in 10 days in detention in a dungeon for such an offense." The lucky ones got packages from family, though those were often taken by guards. Many had little choice but to choke down the rotting carcasses of wild cats, killed and skinned for their fur by the villagers, or pick through horse dung for undigested barley. According to a CIA information report from March 13, 1952, during one brutal winter 30 prisoners died of cold or starvation."It was an Inferno circle, perfectly calculated by Satan himself," Liliana Pirinchiva, one of the female survivors of Belene, wrote in her memoir. "We were reduced to skeletons." A group of Bulgarian anarchists. Tsvetana Dzhermanova Then there were the guards, who brought an especially sadistic approach to their work. Some would chase packs of prisoners on horseback, letting their rifles off "as if we were a flock of sheep," wrote Stefan Botchev, a survivor. When he got a severe case of scabies, the mites burrowing into his skin, he was locked up in a shed alone because the guards didn't want him to infect the cows. He recalled seeing a beating so severe that a prisoner's spine was broken, turning him into a "reptile crawling on the ground."Kouni Genchev Kounev, the chairman of the Bulgarian Youth Agrarian Union who also survived Belene, recalled one especially brutal punishment, in which the guards would pull back a prisoner's head and strike him in the trachea. They called it the "sword stroke."Years later, Krum Horozov, a survivor, would draw water colors of the camp from memory - it's virtually the only visual documentation that exists. In 2011, six years before his death, Horozov wrote: "And when we die, which will be soon, who will remember what happened on that island in the 1950s, and will they know that people were sent there without a trial and sentence?"Lilia Topouzova, a historian in Toronto who writes about the history and the memory of the camps, recalls meeting Horozov at an academic conference; he was trying to give away copies of his drawings of Belene to university students, but they avoided him as if he were a pesky street vendor.The CricketAt 93, Tsvetana Dzhermanova is the last known survivor of the women's camp, which was known as Shturets, or Cricket. We're sitting outside her home in the mountain village of Leskovets, and she's talking so fast I wonder how she manages to breathe.She smiles and laughs a lot, and she reminds me of my grandfather, who also spoke with the speed of a motorboat, frantic to tell his story."I promised to outlive the Communistie, and here I am!" she boasts. (My grandfather also took an understandable delight at outliving the Communistie. "I survived the Communistie, but I won't survive old age," he once told me, when I was 25 and had no idea about either.) Tsvetana Dzhermanova. Tsvetana Dzhermanova Dzhermanova was an anarchist in the 1950s, and still is today. "That's my personal ideology," she says. "I'm not sure humans are evolved enough to make either anarchism or socialism work the way they should, but for me, anarchism is it. Because I value freedom, family, friendship, and love."When she first heard about anarchism as a teenager, she asked her mother what it meant. "Anarchists are the people all regimes persecute," her mother had replied. That sold her. Dzhermanova joined a village group. She had no designs on power (detesting it) and mostly spent her time reading anarchist literature and working on a community vegetable garden. She estimates that 800 anarchists from the town were swept up in a night and sent to the gulags."We sang songs while we worked," Dzhermanova tells me. "That helped." Last spring the sprightly nonagenarian made the three-hour trip to Belene to speak with a group of students about the camps. "They had no idea about this. They were really surprised," she says. "No one had ever talked to them about it, and they don't learn about it in school."'Out of Fashion'Toncheva and our driver, Peter, walk through a falling-down building that was constructed in 1959, in part to hide evidence of the camp. It's covered in bird shit. Plant life is taking over its rotted remnants, and old decayed furniture has been abandoned here and there. We talk about how nobody talks about the camp.Peter tells us that despite having spent almost his entire life roughly 750 feet from Persin, in Belene village, he learned about the camp only two weeks earlier, when Toncheva hired him as a driver for her tours."To think they only gave them bread and water, and made them work so hard," he says, shaking his head in disbelief. A crumbling building built on the site of Belene. Stoyan Nenov/Reuters As far as Toncheva knows, no one from her family was held here, but she remembers asking her grandmother about the island when she was a teenager and again after reading the memoirs of survivors. "Shhh. Don't talk so much about this," her grandmother would say. "You don't want to bring trouble."There are rumors of a mass grave near Persin. Mikhail Mikailev, the head of the Belene Island Foundation, wants to find it. But money for the equipment required to find and dig up the remains eludes this two-person staff.Unlike Peter and Toncheva, my parents, who were born in the mid-1950s and grew up in Bulgaria, tell me that in the 1970s and 1980s, all their friends in Sofia knew about Belene. "We all heard the stories," my mother says.But for the authorities, maintaining official denial was worth murder.In 1969, the celebrated Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov defected to the West, where he wrote about the regime's abuses. In one essay, Markov described traveling on a boat down the Danube and approaching Belene. "I remembered how, feet dangling over the edge of the boat, a youth with a guitar once sang a strange song: Danube, white river, how quiet you flow / Danube, black river, what anguish you know." A view of Persin island. Tsvetomir Nikolaev On a rainy afternoon in London, a man jabbed the tip of his umbrella into Markov's leg. Later, Markov noticed what looked like a small bug bite but didn't think much of it. A few days later he was dead, most likely poisoned by the Bulgarian secret service.Before my visit to Belene, I met Topouzova, the historian, over Zoom to talk about the erasure of the camps in Bulgaria's consciousness. While former generals wrote best-sellers, the owner of a prominent bookstore dismissed any interest in survivors' memoirs - they were "out of fashion," he had told her.It was gaslighting in its purest form. And it showed how we're all so prone to the "just world" fallacy, a phenomenon where if something is too horribly unjust, the human brain just kind of moves on. It's not all that hard to bury inconvenient truths."It turned out that aging men and women with fragmented memories of bygone violence did not make for the faces of change," Topouzova wrote in a recent paper titled "On Silence and History" for the American Historical Association. "The interned were rendered nonexistent - their experiences and memories fated to vanish along with the files." A pile of stonesNations define themselves by their monuments. The memorial in downtown Manhattan demands that we never forget the victims of 9/11. In the past few years, American activists have torn Confederate statues from their perches, signaling a break with the passive acceptance of the history of slavery. Yet grappling with unpleasant history isn't easy. It was only in 2018 when a museum honoring the Black victims of lynching opened in Alabama. The 1619 Project, which posits that the history of the United States is rooted in slavery, has spurred a massive backlash. School districts have banned children's books about Rosa Parks. Vaunted democracies are as likely to try to bury inconvenient truths as former communist states. At an exhibition in Sofia in 2009, Belene survivors look at images of the gulag's victims. Stoyan Nenov/Reuters In Bulgaria, there are monuments everywhere. From the smallest village to Sofia, the heroes of Bulgaria's uprising against the Ottoman Empire are eternalized in stone. In Plovdiv, a giant sculpture overlooks Bulgaria's second-largest city that honors "Alyosha," an everyman Soviet soldier who helped "liberate" Bulgaria in the 1940s - even though many Bulgarians see that period as Soviet imperialism, much like the Ottoman Empire's 500 years of occupation.The victims of Belene and the other camps have no such honor. The Belene foundation does the best it can. They helped organize an art exhibit, where Korozov's pencil drawings were tacked onto the walls of the decaying structures that had been erected to mask evidence of the gulag. A man places photos of famous victims of Soviet policy in front of the Monument to the Soviet Army in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2014. Hristo Vladev/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images There is one modest monument on the island. It's an abstract stone structure, and you'd have no idea what it was if you didn't already know the history. The original idea was to build a monument that listed the names of all the known internees, something like the Vietnam wall on the Mall in Washington. But the survivors and their families who pooled their resources to build it ran out of money, and no one, including the Bulgarian government, stepped in to help. (The survivors also hoped to open a museum and to recreate the shacks where they were held, but that hasn't happened either.)My grandfather's escape Dzhermanova, the 93-year-old anarchist - and eternal optimist, apparently - has hope that younger people will dig up the buried history.As for my grandfather, his ex-wife (or whoever it was who betrayed him to the authorities) was right that he wanted to escape Bulgaria.After his release from Belene in 1953, that resolve was so much stronger. "After 4 years and three months in the Island of Death, I became determined to go to my real home: America," he explained in his notebooks. The author with her grandfather and grandmother, Tsvetana Tutunjieva. Tana Ganeva As he detailed it, it would take four harrowing attempts. Soon after his release from Belene, he managed to make it into Yugoslavia during a "sabor" - a temporary loosening of borders so family and friends in the two countries could see each other. But he got caught and was thrown into a Yugoslavian jail.From there, he organized an inmate breakout after bribing the guard dog, Jeko, with his dinner. But he and the other prisoners were caught in the woods, and the Yugoslavian authorities gave them up to the Bulgarian authorities in exchange for 10 cows. "They weren't even very good cows - scrawny," he wrote.Several years later, he tried to cross Bulgaria's mountainous border into Greece, but he was caught once again.Finally, he made it into Austria and then Germany by clinging to the underside of a freight train. And then on to California, where he gave his new dog a familiar name: Jeko.Tana Ganeva writes about policing, prisons and criminal justice. She's currently working on a book about escapees from the Soviet bloc. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 27th, 2021

The Island of Death: Visiting the gulag where my grandfather was tortured, but didn"t officially exist

My grandfather was held at Bulgaria's most notorious gulag. This summer, I saw it for the first time. A Belene survivor crosses the bridge across the Danube that connects the town of Belene and Persin island in 2015. Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images) This summer, Tana Ganeva traveled to Belene, Bulgaria's most notorious prison camp, where her grandfather was held in the 1950s. Bulgaria has effectively buried the history of its Communist-era gulags, where thousands were starved, tortured, and killed. Ganeva's grandfather attempted to escape Bulgaria four times, before making it to California. See more stories on Insider's business page. The island of Persin is a bird-watcher's paradise. Set on the Danube River, which divides Bulgaria and Romania, it's a nature park covered in wetlands and home to hundreds of rare bird species: the spoonbill, the pygmy cormorant, the corncrake, as well as herons, eagles, storks, and pelicans. Amid the natural beauty, it's jarring to consider that this was the location of a concentration camp where thousands of Bulgarian political prisoners were brutalized and killed from 1949 to 1953 - and in some cases for years after that. Though it's officially known as Belene after the quiet Bulgarian village that sits 750 feet away on the mainland, old-timers here call it by another name: the Island of Death.My stepgrandfather, Georgi Tutunjiev, was sent here at age 24 and spent four years and three months interred at Belene after someone (he suspected his ex-wife) told the authorities of his plan to escape the country. In his notebooks - he had planned to write a memoir about Belene but never did before he died in 2011 at 87 - he remembered the place as "brutal facilities for re-education," where he'd endured "indescribable physical and psychological abuse." He finally managed to escape Bulgaria in 1966 and settle with my grandma in California. In 1989, my parents and I left Bulgaria and joined my grandparents in California, thanks to the family-reunification policy. While many survivors of trauma shut down, my grandfather never stopped talking about the gulag. He seemed to have an unending loop of stories about Belene. For my immediate family, it could be exhausting, and we were alarmed to discover his extensive gun collection, which my grandmother gamely dismissed as a coping mechanism. But guests who came to the house were often riveted by his dark tales, which he mixed with his sense of humor. "Jeko! The Communistie shot you!" he'd shout at his terrier mix, and the dog would sprawl on his back, playing dead. An aerial view of Persin island. The gulag was known as Belene, after the nearby town. Tsvetomir Nikolaev I've come to the town of Belene on a brutally hot day in August for a tour of the Island of Death. I meet Nedyalka Toncheva, who works for the Belene Island Foundation, a nonprofit that organizes tours of the island, close to the bank of the Danube.We cross a rickety water bridge on foot and then jump aboard a Jeep driven by a 24-year-old Belene native named Peter. Toncheva, who is 35, is passionate and knowledgeable about the island's flora and fauna. Every few minutes, she tells Peter to stop the car to point out a roosting stork or a water eagle. She talks about her plans to make Persin a tourist destination comparable to Borovets, a ski resort with luxury hotels in the Rila mountains; or Koprivchitsa, a living museum honoring the Bulgarian rebels who mounted an uprising in 1876 against the Ottoman Empire.In the three decades since the fall of communism, Bulgaria has effectively buried the history of its many gulags, which operated mostly in the 1950s during the early, and most violent, days of Communist rule in the country. In Belene itself, many lower-level guards came from the village and a former mayor was also the gulag's first superintendent. It's not surprising that the village doesn't advertise its history.After 1989, survivors who had been forced to sign documents promising to never talk about the camps started speaking out. For a brief time, they became the subjects of documentaries and newspaper profiles. But soon, the consensus was that it was better to move on. An interior minister tasked with investigating the camps instead secretly ordered a purge of thousands of pages of documents - 40% of the government record. While Bulgaria's defeat of the Ottomans is central to the national identity, and much is made of the fact that Bulgaria saved its Jews during the Holocaust, the memory of the Communist era is more fraught. Georgi Tutunjiev, the author's grandfather, in around 1977. Tana Ganeva Peculiar for a tour, most of our stops lead us to what's not left of the camp. The shacks where prisoners slept have been razed - there's no trace of them.At the entrance, in what is now an open field, an inscription says, "To be human is to have dignity." From inside the camp - what would have been visible to the internees - the engraving says, "If the enemy doesn't surrender, he is destroyed." But no one I've talked to knows whether it's the original or has been recreated. There are a few abandoned, falling-apart buildings, but those were built in 1959, six years after the camp's official (but not real) closing, when it was converted into a prison, in part to kill rumors that it had operated as a secret gulag. Todor Zhivkov, the Communist premier who took power in 1954 and stayed on until 1989, reopened it in the 1980s to detain Muslims who refused to take on Slavic names in place of their own - a disastrous bid to assimilate them. I ask Toncheva whether there's a list of everyone who was held in the camp. I'm thinking of my grandfather and wondering whether there's any documentation. She tells me everyone who comes here for the camp asks the same question."There's no way to know, no list," Toncheva says, apologetic. "There's almost no proof the camp even existed."'Perfectly calculated by Satan himself'The first contingent of 300 men arrived at the Belene camp in the summer of 1949, five years after the 1944 Communist coup. My grandfather, then 24, arrived that first winter. A camp for women was founded on an adjacent island soon after.It was modeled after Josef Stalin's gulags in Siberia. Most of the prisoners had been dragged from their homes by the military police and sent here without trial. (Estimates vary, but 20,000 to 40,000 people were thought to be murdered by the Bulgarian Communist Party.) Even Stalin eventually warned them to scale down the killing of prominent oppositional figures or risk creating martyrs.The first wave of prisoners had to hack through the unpopulated island and build small shacks that were so crowded the prisoners didn't have room to lie down. In his history of the camp, Borislav Skotchev wrote that the island was dotted with towers manned by guards with machine guns. A survivor of Belene during a commemoration ceremony in 2015. Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images) The men held here included the former leader of the Social Democrats, Orthodox priests (many in their 70s), and the mayor of Bulgaria's capital, Sofia. Tsveti Ivanov, the editor of the newspaper Svoboden Narod, or Free People, was sent to Belene after serving 10 months in prison. He was beaten so brutally that he got tetanus from his wounds and died in the compound. Much of what we know about the place comes from survivors' memoirs. They were fed a thin soup, sometimes with a handful of beans thrown in. Their bread ration - moldy or stale when it made its way to them - was small, and could be withheld by the guards as punishment. Sometimes they got tea. My grandfather told me that, in the winter, both the soup and the tea were given to them already frozen.When Toncheva takes us on a brief walk to go look at storks, the ground gives off wet heat, and brambles and thorns claw at us, as if the island is alive and doesn't want us there. I think of the people who had to work days and nights, in sweltering summers, devoured by mosquitoes. It's unbelievable that anyone survived.An internal CIA document described the grim situation of starving prisoners. "A frequent sight is that of a prisoner eating raw green leaves and roots," it said. "To be caught doing this, however, would result in 10 days in detention in a dungeon for such an offense." The lucky ones got packages from family, though those were often taken by guards. Many had little choice but to choke down the rotting carcasses of wild cats, killed and skinned for their fur by the villagers, or pick through horse dung for undigested barley. According to a CIA information report from March 13, 1952, during one brutal winter 30 prisoners died of cold or starvation."It was an Inferno circle, perfectly calculated by Satan himself," Liliana Pirinchiva, one of the female survivors of Belene, wrote in her memoir. "We were reduced to skeletons." A group of Bulgarian anarchists. Tsvetana Dzhermanova Then there were the guards, who brought an especially sadistic approach to their work. Some would chase packs of prisoners on horseback, letting their rifles off "as if we were a flock of sheep," wrote Stefan Botchev, a survivor. When he got a severe case of scabies, the mites burrowing into his skin, he was locked up in a shed alone because the guards didn't want him to infect the cows. He recalled seeing a beating so severe that a prisoner's spine was broken, turning him into a "reptile crawling on the ground."Kouni Genchev Kounev, the chairman of the Bulgarian Youth Agrarian Union who also survived Belene, recalled one especially brutal punishment, in which the guards would pull back a prisoner's head and strike him in the trachea. They called it the "sword stroke."Years later, Krum Horozov, a survivor, would draw water colors of the camp from memory - it's virtually the only visual documentation that exists. In 2011, six years before his death, Horozov wrote: "And when we die, which will be soon, who will remember what happened on that island in the 1950s, and will they know that people were sent there without a trial and sentence?"Lilia Topouzova, a historian in Toronto who writes about the history and the memory of the camps, recalls meeting Horozov at an academic conference; he was trying to give away copies of his drawings of Belene to university students, but they avoided him as if he were a pesky street vendor.The CricketAt 93, Tsvetana Dzhermanova is the last known survivor of the women's camp, which was known as Shturets, or Cricket. We're sitting outside her home in the mountain village of Leskovets, and she's talking so fast I wonder how she manages to breathe.She smiles and laughs a lot, and she reminds me of my grandfather, who also spoke with the speed of a motorboat, frantic to tell his story."I promised to outlive the Communistie, and here I am!" she boasts. (My grandfather also took an understandable delight at outliving the Communistie. "I survived the Communistie, but I won't survive old age," he once told me, when I was 25 and had no idea about either.) Tsvetana Dzhermanova. Tsvetana Dzhermanova Dzhermanova was an anarchist in the 1950s, and still is today. "That's my personal ideology," she says. "I'm not sure humans are evolved enough to make either anarchism or socialism work the way they should, but for me, anarchism is it. Because I value freedom, family, friendship, and love."When she first heard about anarchism as a teenager, she asked her mother what it meant. "Anarchists are the people all regimes persecute," her mother had replied. That sold her. Dzhermanova joined a village group. She had no designs on power (detesting it) and mostly spent her time reading anarchist literature and working on a community vegetable garden. She estimates that 800 anarchists from the town were swept up in a night and sent to the gulags."We sang songs while we worked," Dzhermanova tells me. "That helped." Last spring the sprightly nonagenarian made the three-hour trip to Belene to speak with a group of students about the camps. "They had no idea about this. They were really surprised," she says. "No one had ever talked to them about it, and they don't learn about it in school."'Out of Fashion'Toncheva and our driver, Peter, walk through a falling-down building that was constructed in 1959, in part to hide evidence of the camp. It's covered in bird shit. Plant life is taking over its rotted remnants, and old decayed furniture has been abandoned here and there. We talk about how nobody talks about the camp.Peter tells us that despite having spent almost his entire life roughly 750 feet from Persin, in Belene village, he learned about the camp only two weeks earlier, when Toncheva hired him as a driver for her tours."To think they only gave them bread and water, and made them work so hard," he says, shaking his head in disbelief. A crumbling building built on the site of Belene. Stoyan Nenov/Reuters As far as Toncheva knows, no one from her family was held here, but she remembers asking her grandmother about the island when she was a teenager and again after reading the memoirs of survivors. "Shhh. Don't talk so much about this," her grandmother would say. "You don't want to bring trouble."There are rumors of a mass grave near Persin. Mikhail Mikailev, the head of the Belene Island Foundation, wants to find it. But money for the equipment required to find and dig up the remains eludes this two-person staff.Unlike Peter and Toncheva, my parents, who were born in the mid-1950s and grew up in Bulgaria, tell me that in the 1970s and 1980s, all their friends in Sofia knew about Belene. "We all heard the stories," my mother says.But for the authorities, maintaining official denial was worth murder.In 1969, the celebrated Bulgarian writer Georgi Markov defected to the West, where he wrote about the regime's abuses. In one essay, Markov described traveling on a boat down the Danube and approaching Belene. "I remembered how, feet dangling over the edge of the boat, a youth with a guitar once sang a strange song: Danube, white river, how quiet you flow / Danube, black river, what anguish you know." A view of Persin island. Tsvetomir Nikolaev On a rainy afternoon in London, a man jabbed the tip of his umbrella into Markov's leg. Later, Markov noticed what looked like a small bug bite but didn't think much of it. A few days later he was dead, most likely poisoned by the Bulgarian secret service.Before my visit to Belene, I met Topouzova, the historian, over Zoom to talk about the erasure of the camps in Bulgaria's consciousness. While former generals wrote best-sellers, the owner of a prominent bookstore dismissed any interest in survivors' memoirs - they were "out of fashion," he had told her.It was gaslighting in its purest form. And it showed how we're all so prone to the "just world" fallacy, a phenomenon where if something is too horribly unjust, the human brain just kind of moves on. It's not all that hard to bury inconvenient truths."It turned out that aging men and women with fragmented memories of bygone violence did not make for the faces of change," Topouzova wrote in a recent paper titled "On Silence and History" for the American Historical Association. "The interned were rendered nonexistent - their experiences and memories fated to vanish along with the files." A pile of stonesNations define themselves by their monuments. The memorial in downtown Manhattan demands that we never forget the victims of 9/11. In the past few years, American activists have torn Confederate statues from their perches, signaling a break with the passive acceptance of the history of slavery. Yet grappling with unpleasant history isn't easy. It was only in 2018 when a museum honoring the Black victims of lynching opened in Alabama. The 1619 Project, which posits that the history of the United States is rooted in slavery, has spurred a massive backlash. School districts have banned children's books about Rosa Parks. Vaunted democracies are as likely to try to bury inconvenient truths as former communist states. At an exhibition in Sofia in 2009, Belene survivors look at images of the gulag's victims. Stoyan Nenov/Reuters In Bulgaria, there are monuments everywhere. From the smallest village to Sofia, the heroes of Bulgaria's uprising against the Ottoman Empire are eternalized in stone. In Plovdiv, a giant sculpture overlooks Bulgaria's second-largest city that honors "Alyosha," an everyman Soviet soldier who helped "liberate" Bulgaria in the 1940s - even though many Bulgarians see that period as Soviet imperialism, much like the Ottoman Empire's 500 years of occupation.The victims of Belene and the other camps have no such honor. The Belene foundation does the best it can. They helped organize an art exhibit, where Korozov's pencil drawings were tacked onto the walls of the decaying structures that had been erected to mask evidence of the gulag. A man places photos of famous victims of Soviet policy in front of the Monument to the Soviet Army in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2014. Hristo Vladev/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images There is one modest monument on the island. It's an abstract stone structure, and you'd have no idea what it was if you didn't already know the history. The original idea was to build a monument that listed the names of all the known internees, something like the Vietnam wall on the Mall in Washington. But the survivors and their families who pooled their resources to build it ran out of money, and no one, including the Bulgarian government, stepped in to help. (The survivors also hoped to open a museum and to recreate the shacks where they were held, but that hasn't happened either.)My grandfather's escape Dzhermanova, the 93-year-old anarchist - and eternal optimist, apparently - has hope that younger people will dig up the buried history.As for my grandfather, his ex-wife (or whoever it was who betrayed him to the authorities) was right that he wanted to escape Bulgaria.After his release from Belene in 1953, that resolve was so much stronger. "After 4 years and three months in the Island of Death, I became determined to go to my real home: America," he explained in his notebooks. The author with her grandfather and grandmother, Tsvetana Tutunjieva. Tana Ganeva As he detailed it, it would take four harrowing attempts. Soon after his release from Belene, he managed to make it into Yugoslavia during a "sabor" - a temporary loosening of borders so family and friends in the two countries could see each other. But he got caught and was thrown into a Yugoslavian jail.From there, he organized an inmate breakout after bribing the guard dog, Jeko, with his dinner. But he and the other prisoners were caught in the woods, and the Yugoslavian authorities gave them up to the Bulgarian authorities in exchange for 10 cows. "They weren't even very good cows - scrawny," he wrote.Several years later, he tried to cross Bulgaria's mountainous border into Greece, but he was caught once again.Finally, he made it into Austria and then Germany by clinging to the underside of a freight train. And then on to California, where he gave his new dog a familiar name: Jeko.Tana Ganeva writes about policing, prisons and criminal justice. She's currently working on a book about escapees from the Soviet bloc. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 25th, 2021

Blow up your Instagram with these 10 over-the-top hotels in the US

Here are 10 cool, photogenic US hotels to post about on Instagram, with over-the-top decor, dramatic architecture, and eccentric rooms. When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more. The Saguaro When choosing a hotel, social media-minded travelers place a high value on a visual appeal. Many hotels design with Instagram in mind, with decor ranging from highly curated to eccentric. We found the most photogenic hotels across the US with options for all budgets and travelers. Table of Contents: Masthead StickyThe saying goes, "pics or it didn't happen," and when it comes to travel, that is especially true. After all, vacation visuals that get posted to social media serve as photogenic proof that you had an incredible time away, inspiring others' travel decisions, and perhaps even a bit of travel envy.Whether or not you're an influencer commanding a major social media presence, it's nice to visit somewhere that is visually appealing, both on and off the 'Gram. That's why we rounded up some of the most Instagram-worthy hotels across the United States, each catering to a variety of aesthetics.You can be sure that each and every hotel on this list has gorgeous decor that'll photograph perfectly, even if you're relatively inexperienced behind the camera.Browse all the most Instagrammable hotels in the US below, or jump directly to a specific area here.The most Instagrammable hotels in the USFAQ: Instagrammable hotelsHow we selected the most Instagrammable hotelsMore photogenic accommodationsThese are the most Instagrammable hotels in the US, sorted by price from low to high. The Roxbury This suite is inspired by the tale of "Cinderella" with a bathroom entrance fashioned out of her pumpkin carriage. Roxbury Hotel Book The RoxburyCategory: Budget Location: Roxbury, NYTypical starting/peak prices: $95/$138Best for: Couples, families, friendsOn-site amenities: Pool, spa, hiking trails (to a waterfall!)Pros: Between the property's two hotels, there are about two dozen room themes, meaning there's something to tickle everyone's fancy.Cons: There's no on-site restaurant, but daily breakfast is included. Guests are charged to use the pool (a one-time, not daily fee), which eliminates the need for a resort fee.When it comes to themed hotel rooms, no one does them quite like The Roxbury in New York's Catskills region.Made up of two hotels, the Roxbury Motel and the Roxbury at Stratton Falls, there are 28 whimsical rooms and suites. Entry-level rooms are fairly traditional, though still bold in colors, but it's the suites and cottages that really dazzle.Themes range from Maryann's Coconut Cream Pie, where the ceiling looks as if it's coated in undulating meringue; and The Wizard's Emeralds, a riff on "The Wizard of Oz" complete with a yellow brick (or, in this case, yellow tile) road and a glittering green bedspread worthy of the Emerald City. Additionally, the Tower Cottages are standalone duplex suites with themes like the Faerie Forest, where interiors resemble whimsical woods plucked out of a fairy tale, with flowers, ferns, mushrooms, and gnarled tree branches adorning every inch.The Roxbury also has a pool with a spa that appears warped to create the illusion that it's defying gravity, alongside a hot tub, dry sauna, and treatment rooms. There are also hiking trails, one of which leads to a 50-foot waterfall.COVID-19 procedures are available here. The Saguaro Palm Springs The colorful Saguaro is one of Palm Springs' most recognizable hotels. Tripadvisor Book The Saguaro Palm SpringsCategory: BudgetLocation: Palm Springs, CATypical starting/peak prices: $129/$350Best for: Couples, friends, solo travelersOn-site amenities: Pool, restaurants, bars, gym, spaPros: The pool is the place to see and be seen — and to take your Instagrams. Pool parties are particularly boisterous, and the rainbow backdrop of the hotel brightens up any photographs.Cons: There's a mandatory $38 (plus tax) resort fee, which makes seemingly affordable room rates less appealing.Palm Springs is a desert oasis primarily known for two things: amazing midcentury architecture and a raucous party scene, particularly at its hotels. The Saguaro Palm Springs is no exception to either.The hotel was built in 1971 but underwent a major renovation in 2012 by the same group behind the ultra-hip Ace Hotels. That refurbishment brought about the brightly painted exterior with a gradient rainbow effect for which the hotel is best known. These vibrant, cheerful colors carry throughout the entire property, most notably in the courtyard pool area. Paired with swaying palm trees, bright yellow umbrellas, and the cool blue of the pool, and it's positively photogenic.  That pool area, by the way, is one of the hotel's biggest draws. Lively parties are thrown regularly and often spill over into the Saguaro's restaurants and bars. Be sure to reserve a cabana in advance for the best spot for photos.Inside, guest rooms are similarly colorful with lemon yellow walls, royal purple carpets, and furniture done up in lime green, hot pink, or electric orange alongside technicolor striped bedspreads.COVID-19 procedures are available here. TWA Hotel Built into an old airline terminal, the TWA hotel offers a retro feel infused with heavy doses of '60s glam and nostalgia. TWA Hotel/David Mitchell Book TWA HotelCategory: BoutiqueLocation: New York, NYTypical starting/peak prices: $200/$280Best for: Couples, families, friends, solo travelers, aviation and design enthusiastsOn-site amenities: Restaurants, bars, gym, rooftop pool, event space, museums displays, ice/roller rinkPros: The main building is legendary among aviation geeks and architecture lovers, but anyone who appreciates funky design will enjoy the hotel. Don't miss the cocktail bar inside an old airplane. And, of course, if you're flying out of JFK, it doesn't get more convenient than staying here.Cons: The rooms are pretty small, even the suites. Mixed reviews cite cleanliness issues, too. You're far better off hanging out in the public spaces, which are more visually interesting anyway.As the only hotel within John F. Kennedy International Airport, the TWA Hotel is, of course, a place for those who need a place to rest pre- or post-flight. But it's also so much more, as a design-forward gem that feels like a slice of preserved history with front-row views of airplanes taking off and landing.Designed by midcentury architecture icon Eero Saarinen in 1962 (originally as a flight center for Trans World Airlines), the TWA hotel has jaw-dropping interiors. The main building, which houses the front desk, restaurants, and bars, features soaring, curved white ceilings that are not unlike a Jetsons-style spaceship with bright red carpets, classic midcentury furniture, and an old-school departures/arrivals board. Throughout the hotel and in some guest rooms, enjoy iconic views of the runway as planes land and depart, a boon for aviation enthusiasts. Rooms are small, but feel like you've stumbled onto the set of "Mad Men" with bright red Saarinen-designed Womb chairs, retro TWA travel posters, dark wood paneling, and brass accents on furniture, including a martini bar.Visiting this hotel is a lot like, walking into a time capsule, especially when you enter the hotel's cocktail bar housed within an actual 1958 Constellation airplane.COVID-19 procedures are available here. Madonna Inn The Floral Fantasy is one of 110 over-the-top themed rooms. Tripadvisor Book Madonna InnCategory: BoutiqueLocation: San Luis Obispo, CATypical starting/peak prices: $220/$580Best for: Families, friends, couplesOn-site amenities: Restaurants, bars, bakery, pool, spa, gym, dance floor, boutique, tennis, basketballPros: Every room is unique, meaning you can stay 110 times and have an entirely different experience for each visit. Cons: The decor is undoubtedly kitschy and even borderline gauche, which may not appeal to some guests. For others, it's the entire reason they're here.When it opened in 1958, the Madonna Inn in the midst of San Luis Obispo's wine country, had just 12 rooms. Today, it has 110, from economy kings to three-bedroom suites, and each one has its own absolutely one-of-a-kind, at times tacky, but highly memorable decor.In the Fabulous 50s room, teal walls are framed by pink trim, while gilded mirrors form a focal point in the bathroom. In the Victorian Gardens room, a four-post bed is matched with floral wallpaper, pink walls, and pink-velvet chairs and sofas. And in the Caveman room, the ceiling, walls, and floors are all made with rough-hewn rock, while furnishings are upholstered with animal print to complete the prehistoric theme.The rooms are spread across a 1,000-acre resort, which includes basketball and tennis courts, a pool, a retro gas station (a nod to the hotel's roots as a classic road trip stop, though today you'll find Tesla Superchargers there), a spa, a bakery, and several restaurants and bars.The eclectic decor doesn't stop in the rooms, either. Alex Madonna's Gold Rush Steak House is decked out in topsy-turvy pink and gold colors that recall either the Mad Hatter's tea party or the "Be Our Guest" scene in Beauty and the Beast." Hot pink circular banquettes are trimmed with gold, while a pink floral carpet provides punchy patterns. An organic, tree-like candelabra rises in the center of the room, its golden tendrils supporting dozens of electric candles. COVID-19 procedures are available by phone at 805-543-3000. The Greenbrier Bright colors mix heavily with punchy prints. The Greenbrier Book The GreenbrierCategory: ResortLocation: White Sulphur Springs, WVTypical starting/peak prices: $240/$425Best for: Families, couples, friends, solo travelersOn-site amenities: Restaurants, bars, casino, shopping, pool, tennis, golf, spa, ropes course, bowling, art studio, Cold War bunkerPros: Everything you could possibly want to do at a mountain resort, you can do here, whether falconry or jewelry making. It's almost shocking how many activities are offered.Cons: Some might find the decor a bit too traditional — there are lots of florals — but there's no denying it makes for a great Instagram post.Opened in 1778, the Greenbrier is an iconic American resort in West Virginia, having hosted 27 presidents throughout its history. Naturally, there have been many changes to the property over the centuries, but perhaps the most dramatic was a 1946 redecoration by lauded interior designer Dorothy Draper, who introduced lurid colors and punchy patterns into the historic buildings.Take the Greenbriar Avenue lobby, where black-and-white houndstooth club chairs sit atop bright red carpet, surrounded by teal-and-white striped columns, tropical-print wallpaper, and black-and-white checkered floors. Then in the Victorian Writing Room, rainbow-colored floral armchairs and drapes contrast with forest green walls and a bright red carpet.The guest rooms feature similar idiosyncratic decor, though perhaps not as in-your-face. Entry-level rooms all feature floral wallpaper with floral drapes to match, while higher room tiers have slightly more vibrant approaches to interior design. In the Windsor Club Rooms, you'll likely find brighter pink wallpaper, whole beds are covered by canopies, and furniture and carpets feature gingham or plaid patterns. The Greenbrier is also known for its many on-site activities, ranging from sports facilities, studios, and workshops for creative types to a casino, more than a dozen dining options, and plenty of shopping on the 11,000-acre grounds. But its most unusual amenity is a formerly secret Cold War-era bunker designed to house Congress. It's now declassified and open for tours.COVID-19 procedures are available here. Urban Cowboy Catskills Room designs are a feast for the eyes. Urban Cowboy Catskills Book Urban Cowboy CatskillsCategory: BoutiqueLocation: Big Indian, NYTypical starting/peak prices: $250/$500Best for: Couples, friends, solo travelersOn-site amenities: Restaurant, bar, games room, libraryPros: Despite being a wilderness lodge, there's very strong Wi-Fi for the WFH (or can't-be-disconnected) crowd.Cons: There are often minimum stay requirements, usually two to three nights on weekends.In New York's Catskills region, a popular weekend trip for city dwellers, the Urban Cowboy sits on 68 forested acres with plenty of outdoor recreation, but we wouldn't blame you if you wanted to spend your entire stay indoors.That's because the hotel's 28 accommodations feature super cool decor that focuses on quintessential rustic elements like deer antlers, live-wood furniture, rough-hewn wood beams, and outdoorsy accent pieces like snowshoes or oars. Colorful Native American pattern work covers the ceilings, beds, chairs, and rugs, creating a visual cacophony that feels high-design. And then there's the matter of the absolutely gorgeous copper soaking tubs set in front of big picture windows.This rugged-chic mountain style continues in public spaces, especially in the bar with a massive stone fireplace and columns that look like trees. The vibrant patterns make an appearance, too, from the walls to the sofas to the rugs.COVID-19 procedures are available here. Faena Hotel Miami Beach An attractive pool scene sets a sleek tone. Booking.com Book Faena Hotel Miami BeachCategory: LuxuryLocation: Miami Beach, FLTypical starting/peak prices: $445/$1,350Best for: Couples, friends, familiesOn-site amenities: Restaurants, bars, gym, spa, beach club, kids' clubPros: Despite its opulent, perhaps frenzied look, this is actually a surprisingly family-friendly hotel. Cons: It's 10 blocks north of South Beach, so you're not right in the heart of the action. However, there's plenty to do on-site.If it feels like Faena Hotel Miami Beach is some sort of phantasmagoric movie set, that's because it basically is. Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and production and costume designer Catherine Martin, a husband-wife team, spearheaded the design of this Mid-Beach property, and they went all out.Public spaces are filled with sumptuous colors, dazzling metallics, and all manners of prints and patterns, from leopard spots to Art Deco geometry. Even the spa, a typically soothing space, is filled with bright colors, a neon-colored pom-pom chandelier, and bird-filled, floral landscape wallpaper.In fact, public areas are absolutely buzzing with visual elements, with a gold-covered woolly mammoth skeleton by the pool (a Damien Hirst artwork) that takes center stage.Guest rooms, however, are a bit more subdued, with white walls and wood floors to keep things grounded, accented by red and turquoise furnishings. Bits of animal print are thrown in for good measure and as subtle reminders of your larger surroundings. COVID-19 procedures are available here. The Inn of the Five Graces Guest rooms, spaces, and even bathrooms are bursts of colors, prints, and international influences. Tripadvisor Book The Inn of the Five GracesCategory: BoutiqueLocation: Santa Fe, NMTypical starting/peak prices: $715/$1,175Best for: Couples, friendsOn-site amenities: Bar, spa, gymPros: A made-to-order breakfast is included, as is a wine and cheese reception on Fridays. The spa's Tibetan-style treatment room is beautiful.Cons: There's no true on-site restaurant, but in-room dining is available via the restaurant next door.From the outside, the Inn of the Five Graces is just another (450-year-old) adobe dwelling in Santa Fe. But inside, it's a global journey along the Silk Road.Public spaces and all 24 rooms burst with colors and patterns, whether from mosaic tiles, Central Asian textiles, or South Asian works of art. The look is definitely maximalist, but the blend of international styles is somehow never overwhelming thanks to the smooth and soothing adobe walls that serve as a calming backdrop. Natural elements like wood-beamed ceilings and stone hearths also provide simple contrast.The boutique property is limited on amenities, though it has an exceptional spa treatment room inspired by Tibetan tradition (both in decor and in therapies), a gym, and in-room dining provided by a neighboring restaurant.The Inn of the Five Graces is a five-minute walk from downtown Santa Fe, but thanks to its global influences, it seems to transport you to the other side of the world.COVID-19 procedures are available here. The Villa Casa Casuarina Gianni Versace's former mansion is now a luxury hotel showcasing his ostentatious style. TripAdvisor Book The Villa Casa CasuarinaCategory: LuxuryLocation: Miami Beach, FLTypical starting/peak prices: $750/$1,400Best for: CouplesOn-site amenities: Pool, restaurant, barPros: The hotel's old-world-inspired grandeur truly is unmatched in Art Deco-filled South Beach.Cons: Because this is a major tourist site in Miami, there can be many people around snapping photos at all hours. Diners at the restaurant are loud, and noise can reach the rooms.Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace was tragically murdered in 1997, but his lavish Miami Beach mansion was preserved to pay homage to his life, and now, operates as a luxury hotel. Today it's called the Villa Casa Casuarina, and was inspired by the Alcázar de Cólon in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. The Spanish-style mansion, built in 1930, captivated Versace, who bought it in 1992 and renovated it to suit his extravagant taste. It's still exquisitely over the top.The hotel's suites feature ostentatious decor in various themes. In the Azure Suite, blue-and-white decor abounds with Roman-inspired architectural details, like the medallion-inlaid pediments above the windows in the bedroom and the tromp l'oeil "plasterwork" in the bathroom. In the Signature Suite, however, there's a far more sultry vibe, with animal print upholstery, a sumptuous warm-tone marble bathroom, and gilded furnishings.But the visual highlight of the entire property is the Million Mosaic Pool, which is comprised of thousands of 24-karat gold tiles. COVID-19 procedures are available by phone at 305-908-1462​​. Amangiri Utah's luxury Amangiri resort is a favorite with celebrities. Amangiri Book AmangiriCategory: LuxuryLocation: Canyon Point, UtahTypical starting/peak prices: $1,931/$3,500Best for: CouplesOn-site amenities: Spa, restaurant, bar, poolPros: This is desert minimalism at its finest — the hotel blends perfectly into its landscape with earth-toned decor. The luxury service is unmatched.Cons: This is not the easiest property to get to, as the closest major airports are more than four hours away. But the remote location is one of the many reasons why people visit.Arguably one of the most exclusive resorts in the US, Amangiri is a lesson in understated elegance. Architecturally, the sleek hotel is designed to blend in with the stark, rocky landscape surrounding its 600 desert acres in Utah, with color palettes that match near perfectly.Despite the indulgent luxury price tag, everything here is understated. Furnishings are made of sinuous wood or matte concrete with white upholstery to maximize the natural surroundings, which are often framed by views so beautiful, they appear like a work of art. With so many clean lines, use the sky for color and take pictures at different times of day to create variation. Though it'd be easy to rest in your luxurious suite all day long, you'll want to spend time in the dramatic Aman Spa, which covers 25,000 square feet. With looming concrete walls, it can at times feel cavernous, akin to the deep canyons found just a few miles away. While expensive, the rate covers all meals (sans alcohol), some activities, and some spa treatments, too. Stunning nature, hiking, horseback riding, or climbing, are all activities that await. COVID-19 procedures are available here. FAQ: Instagrammable hotels What are other unique hotels in the US?For unusual hotels, consider the Dog Bark Park Inn in Cottonwood, Idaho, where the main building is shaped like a beagle; ​​The Inn at Christmas Place in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where Christmas is celebrated year-round; and the Railroad Park Resort in Dunsmuir, California, where guests sleep in converted train cars.How do I find cool hotels to stay in?If you're looking for an Instagrammable hotel, head to Instagram to get inspired by other travelers. Search hashtags like #beautifulhotels or #coolhotels. Or trust the experts, like us!What makes a hotel Instagrammable?Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Styles that some might consider Instagram-worthy might not be quite right for the aesthetic of your feed. But in general, bold interior design is key or a stunning setting. And bold doesn't necessarily mean maximalist. A stark, minimalist interior can be visually dynamic in photographs, too.What are some of the most photogenic hotels in the world?There's no shortage of beautiful hotels in the world, whether you're looking for the classic Italian style of Villa d'Este on Lake Como, the over-the-top safari lodge Ol Jogi in Kenya's Laikipia region, or the futuristic ME by Meliá Dubai, designed by Zaha Hadid. How we selected the most Instagrammable hotels in the US As a travel writer who focuses on architecture and design, I determined that every hotel has photo-worthy design elements, whether in the guest rooms, public spaces, or exterior areas.Each property on the list is highly rated on traveler review sites like TripAdvisor, Booking.com, and Expedia.High-design hotels range greatly in budget. We've selected properties from each end of the spectrum; they cost anywhere from $95 to $$3,500 per night.Tastes vary, so we've picked a selection of decor styles. There's everything from kitschy-themed suites to magazine-worthy interior design.While COVID-19 policies vary from state to state, these hotels still have strict health and safety policies in place to protect both guests and staff. More photogenic hotels The Setai Miami Beach The best luxury hotels in the USThe best themed hotel suites for familiesThe best bucket-list Airbnbs in the US Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderSep 21st, 2021

I used Etsy to decorate my apartment and saw how it beats out Amazon in the home decor department despite longer delivery times

When it came to home decor, I found that Etsy had a leg-up over Amazon despite substantially longer delivery times. Insider/Hannah Towey When decorating my first NYC apartment, I struggled to find affordable, high-quality home decor.  I ordered products from e-commerce sites Amazon and Etsy and compared the experience.  Despite the longer delivery times, Etsy quickly became my go-to for vintage and unique pieces.  Growing up, my art-teacher mother was a pro at finding unique pieces to fill our white walls. The centerpiece for her dining room is a slab of wood her students threw paint-soaked cotton balls at. So, when it came to decorating my own apartment I knew I wanted something other than Urban Outfitters posters and Ikea furniture, but I didn't have the budget to go crazy. And unlike my mom, I lacked any serious do-it-yourself chutzpah.For the first month, I hunted for affordable home decor the old-fashioned way — at flea markets and thrift shops. I was surprised by how expensive the flea market was, with price tags for art pieces ranging from $100 to $500 each. While thrift store prints were less expensive, I didn't fall in love with anything I found. This left me to the overwhelming abyss that is shopping for art on the internet. I eventually Googled "Georgia O'Keefe prints," one of my favorite artists, and landed on an Etsy seller page called ChristinaArtsDesigns. Unlike other e-commerce sites like Amazon, Etsy's design prominently features the people behind their products. Under the "About" tab, I could see that Christina was a freelance graphic designer with a love for Japanese culture and anime. Her manufacturer, Printful, was located in North Carolina. Compared to the mechanical design of Amazon, the humanized layout made me more confident in the quality of Etsy products and the working conditions of the people making it. I could also contact the shop directly if I had any questions and get a response back immediately. ChristinaArtsDesigns had a total 75 Georgia O'Keefe prints that came in nine different sizes, priced between $25 and $45 each. After reading through dozens of five-star reviews testifying to the prints' high quality colors, I was sold. One of the three Georgia O'Keefe prints I ordered on Etsy for $34.99 each.Insider/Hannah ToweyWhy Etsy is worth the wait Etsy describes itself as "a global online marketplace, where people come together to make, sell, buy, and collect unique items," focusing on "creative" buyers and sellers. In June, Etsy announced it's plans to buy the secondhand fashion app Depop for $1.62 billion.The company outperformed Wall Street estimates for its most recent quarter, continuing to benefit from the home renovation and face mask boom during the pandemic. "What it shows is people had to turn to Etsy over the past year, they are choosing to come back even more as we move forward, and we think that's frankly remarkable," CEO Josh Silverman told CNBC in November. The company charges sellers 20 cents for each product listed and focuses on vintage and handmade goods. Home & Living and Art & Collectibles are the site's two most popular categories, according to Statista. I ordered this "antique brass knob" from Etsy for $4.73 to level-up an old bedside table I repainted.Insider/Hannah ToweyAfter my positive experience with the O'Keefe print, I went to Etsy for everything from lamps to brass cabinet knobs.The only downside was that shipping times ranged from a few days to a few weeks. I ordered my prints on November 30 and received them on Dec 16, which seems like a lifetime if you're accustomed to Amazon's one-day shipping.While I was eager for my order to arrive, I knew wall art could make or break a space. If I was going to stare at these every day, I could pass on the two-day shipping and take comfort in supporting a small-batch independent shop. In comparison, I ordered the cheap desk I'm currently writing this article from on Amazon. I rushed the purchase so I could start working from home and immediately regretted it. While it looks nice, it's shaky and not the right size for the space. Despite Amazon's market dominance, I found the tech giant severely lacked in the home decor department — perhaps one of the few product categories left where shoppers aren't willing to sacrifice convenience over quality. Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: personnelSource: nytJan 15th, 2022

Howard Marks January 2022 Memo: Selling Out

Howard Marks memo to Oaktree clients for the month of January 2022, titled, “Selling Out.” Q4 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more As I’m now in my fourth decade of memo writing, I’m sometimes tempted to conclude I should quit, because I’ve covered all the relevant topics. Then a new idea for a memo […] Howard Marks memo to Oaktree clients for the month of January 2022, titled, “Selling Out.” if (typeof jQuery == 'undefined') { document.write(''); } .first{clear:both;margin-left:0}.one-third{width:31.034482758621%;float:left;margin-left:3.448275862069%}.two-thirds{width:65.51724137931%;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element input{border:0;border-radius:0;padding:8px}form.ebook-styles .af-element{width:220px;float:left}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer{width:115px;float:left;margin-left: 6px;}form.ebook-styles .af-element.buttonContainer input.submit{width:115px;padding:10px 6px 8px;text-transform:uppercase;border-radius:0;border:0;font-size:15px}form.ebook-styles .af-body.af-standards input.submit{width:115px}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy{width:100%;font-size:12px;margin:10px auto 0}form.ebook-styles .af-element.privacyPolicy p{font-size:11px;margin-bottom:0}form.ebook-styles .af-body input.text{height:40px;padding:2px 10px !important} form.ebook-styles .error, form.ebook-styles #error { color:#d00; } form.ebook-styles .formfields h1, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-logo, form.ebook-styles .formfields #mg-footer { display: none; } form.ebook-styles .formfields { font-size: 12px; } form.ebook-styles .formfields p { margin: 4px 0; } Get The Full Series in PDF Get the entire 10-part series on Charlie Munger in PDF. Save it to your desktop, read it on your tablet, or email to your colleagues. (function($) {window.fnames = new Array(); window.ftypes = new Array();fnames[0]='EMAIL';ftypes[0]='email';}(jQuery));var $mcj = jQuery.noConflict(true); Q4 2021 hedge fund letters, conferences and more As I’m now in my fourth decade of memo writing, I’m sometimes tempted to conclude I should quit, because I’ve covered all the relevant topics. Then a new idea for a memo pops up, delivering a pleasant surprise. My January 2021 memo Something of Value, which chronicled the time I spent in 2020 living and discussing investing with my son Andrew, recounted a semi-real conversation in which we briefly discussed whether and when to sell appreciated assets. It occurred to me that even though selling is an inescapable part of the investment process, I’ve never devoted an entire memo to it. The Basic Idea Everyone is familiar with the old saw that’s supposed to capture investing’s basic proposition: “buy low, sell high.” It’s a hackneyed caricature of the way most people view investing. But few things that are important can be distilled into just four words; thus, “buy low, sell high” is nothing but a starting point for discussion of a very complex process. Will Rogers, an American film star and humorist of the 1920s and ’30s, provided what he may have thought was a more comprehensive roadmap for success in the pursuit of wealth: Don’t gamble; take all your savings and buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don’t go up, don’t buy it. The illogicality of his advice makes clear how simplistic this adage – like many others – really is. However, regardless of the details, people may unquestioningly accept that they should sell appreciated investments. But how helpful is that basic concept? Origins Much of what I’ll write here got its start in a 2015 memo called Liquidity. The hot topic in the investment world at that moment was the concern about a perceived decline in the liquidity provided by the market (when I say “the market,” I’m talking specifically about the U.S. stock market, but the statement has broad applicability). This was commonly attributed to a combination of (a) the licking investment banks had taken in the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09 and (b) the Volcker Rule, which prohibited risky activities such as proprietary trading on the part of systemically important financial institutions. The latter constrained banks’ ability to “position” securities, or buy them, when clients wanted to sell. Maybe liquidity in 2015 was less than it had previously been, and maybe it wasn’t. However, looking beyond the events of the day, I closed that memo by stating my conviction that (a) most investors trade too much, to their own detriment, and (b) the best solution for illiquidity is to build portfolios for the long term that don’t rely on liquidity for success. Long-term investors have an advantage over those with short timeframes (and I think the latter describes the majority of market participants these days). Patient investors are able to ignore short-term performance, hold for the long run, and avoid excessive trading costs, while everyone else worries about what’s going to happen in the next month or quarter and therefore trades excessively. In addition, long-term investors can take advantage if illiquid assets become available for purchase at bargain prices. Like so many things in investing, however, just holding is easier said than done. Too many people equate activity with adding value. Here’s how I summed up this idea in Liquidity, inspired by something Andrew had said: When you find an investment with the potential to compound over a long period, one of the hardest things is to be patient and maintain your position as long as doing so is warranted based on the prospective return and risk. Investors can easily be moved to sell by news, emotion, the fact that they’ve made a lot of money to date, or the excitement of a new, seemingly more promising idea. When you look at the chart for something that’s gone up and to the right for 20 years, think about all the times a holder would have had to convince himself not to sell. Everyone wishes they’d bought Amazon at $5 on the first day of 1998, since it’s now up 660x at $3,304. But who would have continued to hold when the stock hit $85 in 1999 – up 17x in less than two years? Who among those who held on would have been able to avoid panicking in 2001, as the price fell 93%, to $6? And who wouldn’t have sold by late 2015 when it hit $600 – up 100x from the 2001 low? Yet anyone who sold at $600 captured only the first 18% of the overall rise from that low. This reminds me of the time I once visited Malibu with a friend and mentioned that the Rindge family is said to have bought the entire area – all 13,330 acres – in 1892 for $300,000, or $22.50 per acre. (It’s clearly worth many billions today.) My friend said, “I’d like to have bought all of Malibu for $300,000.” My response was simple: “you would have sold it when it got to $600,000.” The more I’ve thought about it since writing Liquidity, the more convinced I’ve become that there are two main reasons why people sell investments: because they’re up and because they’re down. You may say that sounds nutty, but what’s really nutty is many investors’ behavior. Selling Because It’s Up “Profit-taking” is the intelligent-sounding term in our business for selling things that have appreciated. To understand why people engage in it, you need insight into human behavior, because a lot of investors’ selling is motivated by psychology. In short, a good deal of selling takes place because people like the fact that their assets show gains, and they’re afraid the profits will go away. Most people invest a lot of time and effort trying to avoid unpleasant feelings like regret and embarrassment. What could cause an investor more self-recrimination than watching a big gain evaporate? And what about the professional investor who reports a big winner to clients one quarter and then has to explain why the holding is at or below cost the next? It’s only human to want to realize profits to avoid these outcomes. If you sell an appreciated asset, that puts the gain “in the books,” and it can never be reversed. Thus, some people consider selling winners extremely desirable – they love realized gains. In fact, at a meeting of a non-profit’s investment committee, a member suggested that they should be leery of increasing endowment spending in response to gains because those gains were unrealized. I was quick to point out that it’s usually a mistake to view realized gains as less transient than unrealized ones (assuming there’s no reason to doubt the veracity of the unrealized carrying values). Yes, the former have been made concrete. However, sales proceeds are generally reinvested, meaning the profits – and the principal – are put back at risk. One might argue that appreciated securities are more vulnerable to declines than new investments in assets currently deemed to be attractively priced, but that’s far from a certainty. I’m not saying investors shouldn’t sell appreciated assets and realize profits. But it certainly doesn’t make sense to sell things just because they’re up. Selling Because It’s Down As wrong as it is to sell appreciated assets solely to crystalize gains, it’s even worse to sell them just because they’re down. Nevertheless, I’m sure many people do it. While the rule is “buy low, sell high,” clearly many people become more motivated to sell assets the more they decline. In fact, just as continued buying of appreciated assets can eventually turn a bull market into a bubble, widespread selling of things that are down has the potential to turn market declines into crashes. Bubbles and crashes do occur, proving that investors contribute to excesses in both directions. In a movie that plays in my head, the typical investor buys something at $100. If it goes to $120, he says, “I think I’m onto something – I should add,” and if it reaches $150, he says, “Now I’m highly confident – I’m going to double up.” On the other hand, if it falls to $90, he says, “I’m going to think about increasing my position to reduce my average cost,” but at $75, he concludes he should reconfirm his thesis before averaging down further. At $50, he says, “I’d better wait for the dust to settle before buying more.” And at $20 he says, “It feels like it’s going to zero; get me out!” Just like those who are afraid of surrendering gains, many investors worry about letting losses compound. They might fear their clients will say (or they’ll say to themselves), “What kind of a lame-brain continues to hold a security after it’s gone from $100 to $50? Everyone knows a decline like that can foreshadow further declines. And look – it happened.” Do investors really make behavioral errors such as those I’ve described? There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence. For example, studies have shown that the average mutual fund investor performs worse than the average mutual fund. How can that be? If she merely held her positions, or if her errors were unsystematic, the average fund investor would, by definition, fare the same as the average fund. For the studies’ findings to occur, investors have to on balance reduce the amount of capital they have in funds that subsequently do better and increase their allocation to funds that go on to do worse. Let me put that another way: on average, mutual fund investors tend to sell the funds with the worst recent performance (missing out on their potential recoveries) in order to chase the funds that have done the best (and thus likely participate in their return to earth). We know that “retail investors” tend to be trend-followers, as described above, and their long-term performance often suffers as a result. What about the pros? Here the evidence is even clearer: the powerful shift in recent decades toward indexing and other forms of passive investing has taken place for the simple reason that active investment decisions are so often wrong. Of course, many forms of error contribute to this reality. Whatever the reason, however, we have to conclude that, on average, active professional investors held more of the things that did less well and less of the things that outperformed, and/or that they bought too much at elevated prices and sold too much at depressed prices. Passive investing hasn’t grown to cover the majority of U.S. equity mutual fund capital because passive results have been so good; I think it’s because active management has been so bad. Back when I worked at First National City Bank 50 years ago, prospective clients used to ask, “What kind of return do you think you can make in an equity portfolio?” The standard answer was 12%. Why? “Well,” we said (so simplistically), “the stock market returns about 10% a year. A little effort should enable us to improve on that by at least 20%.” Of course, as time has shown, there’s no truth in that. “A little effort” didn’t add anything. In fact, in most cases, active investing detracted: most equity funds failed to keep up with the indices, especially after fees. What about the ultimate proof? The essential ingredient in Oaktree’s investments in distressed debt – bargain purchases – has emanated from the great opportunities sellers gave us. Negativity reaches a crescendo during economic and market crises, causing many investors to become depressed or fearful and sell in panic. Results like those we target in distressed debt can only be achieved when holders sell to us at irrationally low prices. Superior investing consists largely of taking advantage of mistakes made by others. Clearly, selling things because they’re down is a mistake that can give the buyers great opportunities. When Should Investors Sell? If you shouldn’t sell things because they’re up, and you shouldn’t sell because they’re down, is it ever right to sell? As I previously mentioned, I described the discussions that took place while Andrew and his family lived with Nancy and me in 2020 in Something of Value. That experience truly was of great value – an unexpected silver lining to the pandemic. That memo evoked the strongest reaction from readers of any of my memos to date. This response was probably attributable to (a) the content, which mostly related to value investing; (b) the personal insights provided, and especially my confession regarding my need to grow with the times; or (c) the recreated conversation that I included as an appendix. The last of these went like this, in part: Howard: Hey, I see XYZ is up xx% this year and selling at a p/e ratio of xx. Are you tempted to take some profits? Andrew: Dad, I’ve told you I’m not a seller. Why would I sell? H: Well, you might sell some here because (a) you’re up so much; (b) you want to put some of the gain “in the books” to make sure you don’t give it all back; and (c) at that valuation, it might be overvalued and precarious. And, of course, (d) no one ever went broke taking a profit. A: Yeah, but on the other hand, (a) I’m a long-term investor, and I don’t think of shares as pieces of paper to trade, but as part ownership in a business; (b) the company still has enormous potential; and (c) I can live with a short-term downward fluctuation, the threat of which is part of what creates opportunities in stocks to begin with. Ultimately, it’s only the long term that matters. (There’s a lot of “a-b-c” in our house. I wonder where Andrew got that.) H: But if it’s potentially overvalued in the short term, shouldn’t you trim your holding and pocket some of the gain? Then if it goes down, (a) you’ve limited your regret and (b) you can buy in lower. A: If I owned a stake in a private company with enormous potential, strong momentum and great management, I would never sell part of it just because someone offered me a full price. Great compounders are extremely hard to find, so it’s usually a mistake to let them go. Also, I think it’s much more straightforward to predict the long-term outcome for a company than short-term price movements, and it doesn’t make sense to trade off a decision in an area of high conviction for one about which you’re limited to low conviction. . . . H: Isn’t there any point where you’d begin to sell? A: In theory there is, but it largely depends on (a) whether the fundamentals are playing out as I hope and (b) how this opportunity compares to the others that are available, taking into account my high level of comfort with this one. Aphorisms like “no one ever went broke taking a profit” may be relevant to people who invest part-time for themselves, but they should have no place in professional investing. There certainly are good reasons for selling, but they have nothing to do with the fear of making mistakes, experiencing regret and looking bad. Rather, these reasons should be based on the outlook for the investment – not the psyche of the investor – and they have to be identified through hardheaded financial analysis, rigor and discipline. Stanford University professor Sidney Cottle was the editor of the later versions of Benjamin Graham and David L. Dodd’s Security Analysis, “the bible of value investing,” including the edition I read at Wharton 56 years ago. For that reason, I knew the book as “Graham, Dodd and Cottle.” Sid was a consultant to the investment department at First National City Bank in the 1970s, and I’ve never forgotten his description of investing: “the discipline of relative selection.” In other words, most of the portfolio decisions investors make are relative choices. It’s patently clear that relative considerations should play an enormous part in any decision to sell existing holdings. If your investment thesis seems less valid than it did previously and/or the probability that it will prove accurate has declined, selling some or all of the holding is probably appropriate. Likewise, if another investment comes along that appears to have more promise – to offer a superior risk-adjusted prospective return – it’s reasonable to reduce or eliminate existing holdings to make room for it. Selling an asset is a decision that must not be considered in isolation. Cottle’s concept of “relative selection” highlights the fact that every sale results in proceeds. What will you do with them? Do you have something in mind that you think might produce a superior return? What might you miss by switching to the new investment? And what will you give up if you continue to hold the asset in your portfolio rather than making the change? Or perhaps you don’t plan to reinvest the proceeds. In that case, what’s the likelihood that holding the proceeds in cash will make you better off than you would have been if you had held onto the thing you sold? Questions like these relate to the concept of “opportunity cost,” one of the most important ideas in financial decision-making. Switching gears, what about the idea of selling because you think a temporary dip lies ahead that will affect one of your holdings or the whole market? There are real problems with this approach: Why sell something you think has a positive long-term future to prepare for a dip you expect to be temporary? Doing so introduces one more way to be wrong (of which there are so many), since the decline might not occur. Charlie Munger, vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, points out that selling for market-timing purposes actually gives an investor two ways to be wrong: the decline may or may not occur, and if it does, you’ll have to figure out when the time is right to go back in. Or maybe it’s three ways, because once you sell, you also have to decide what to do with the proceeds while you wait until the dip occurs and the time comes to get back in. People who avoid declines by selling too often may revel in their brilliance and fail to reinstate their positions at the resulting lows. Thus, even sellers who were right can fail to accomplish anything of lasting value. Lastly, what if you’re wrong and there is no dip? In that case, you’ll miss out on the ensuing gains and either never get back in or do so at higher prices. So it’s generally not a good idea to sell for purposes of market timing. There are very few occasions to do so profitably and very few people who possess the skill needed to take advantage of these opportunities. Before I close on this subject, it’s important to note that decisions to sell aren’t always within an investment manager’s control. Clients can withdraw capital from accounts and funds, necessitating sales, and the limited lifespan of closed-end funds can require managers to liquidate holdings even though they’re not ripe for selling. The choice of what to sell under these conditions can still be based on a manager’s expectations regarding future returns, but deciding not to sell isn’t among the manager’s choices. How Much Is Too Much to Hold? Certainly there are times when it’s right to sell one asset in favor of another based on the idea of relative selection. But we mustn’t do this in a mechanical manner. If we did, at the logical extreme, we would put all of our capital into the one investment we consider the best. Virtually all investors – even the best – diversify their portfolios. We may have a sense for which holding is the absolute best, but I’ve never heard of an investor with a one-asset portfolio. They may overweight favorites to take advantage of what they think they know, but they still diversify to protect against what they don’t know. That means they sub-optimize, potentially trading off some of their chance at a maximal return to increase the likelihood of a merely excellent one. Here’s a related question from my reconstructed conversation with Andrew: H: You run a concentrated portfolio. XYZ was a big position when you invested, and it’s even bigger today, given the appreciation. Intelligent investors concentrate portfolios and hold on to take advantage of what they know, but they diversify holdings and sell as things rise to limit the potential damage from what they don’t know. Hasn’t the growth in this position put our portfolio out of whack in that regard? A: Perhaps that’s true, depending on your goals. But trimming would mean selling something I feel immense comfort with based on my bottom-up assessment and moving into something I feel less good about or know less well (or cash). To me, it’s far better to own a small number of things about which I feel strongly. I’ll only have a few good insights over my lifetime, so I have to maximize the few I have. All professional investors want good investment performance for their clients, but they also want financial success for themselves. And amateurs have to invest within the limits of their risk tolerance. For these reasons, most investors – and certainly most investment managers’ clients – aren’t immune to apprehension regarding portfolio concentration and thus susceptibility to untoward developments. These considerations introduce valid reasons for limiting the size of individual asset purchases and trimming positions as they appreciate. Investors sometimes delegate the decision on how to weight assets in portfolios to a process called portfolio optimization. Inputs regarding asset classes’ return potential, risk and correlation are fed into a computer model, and out comes the portfolio with the optimal expected risk-adjusted return. If an asset appreciates relative to the others, the model can be rerun, and it will tell you what to buy and sell. The main problem with these models lies in the fact that all the data we have regarding those three parameters relates to the past, but to arrive at the ideal portfolio, the model needs data that accurately describes the future. Further, the models need a numerical input for risk, and I absolutely insist that no single number can fully describe an asset’s risk. Thus, optimization models can’t successfully dictate portfolio actions. The bottom line: we should base our investment decisions on our estimates of each asset’s potential, we shouldn’t sell just because the price has risen and the position has swelled, there can be legitimate reasons to limit the size of the positions we hold, but there’s no way to scientifically calculate what those limits should be. In other words, the decision to trim positions or to sell out entirely comes down to judgment . . . like everything else that matters in investing. The Final Word on Selling Most investors try to add value by over- and underweighting specific assets and/or through well-timed buying and selling. While few have demonstrated the ability to consistently do these things correctly (see my comments on active management on page 4), everyone’s free to have a go at it. There is, however, a big “but.” What’s clear to me is that simply being invested is by far “the most important thing.” (Someone should write a book with that title!) Most actively managed portfolios won’t outperform the market as a result of manipulation of portfolio weightings or buying and selling for purposes of market timing. You can try to add to returns by engaging in such machinations, but these actions are unlikely to work at best and can get in the way at worst. Most economies and corporations benefit from positive underlying secular trends, and thus most securities markets rise in most years and certainly over long periods. One of the longest-running U.S. equity indices, the S&P 500, has produced an estimated compound average return over the last 90 years of 10.5% per year. That’s startling performance. It means $1 invested in the S&P 500 90 years ago would have grown to roughly $8,000 today. Many people have remarked on the wonders of compounding. For example, Albert Einstein reportedly called compound interest “the eighth wonder of the world.” If $1 could be invested today at the historic compound return of 10.5% per year, it would grow to $147 in 50 years. One might argue that economic growth will be slower in the years ahead than it was in the past, or that bargain stocks were easier to find in previous periods than they are today. Nevertheless, even if it compounds at just 7%, $1 invested today will grow to over $29 in 50 years. Thus, someone entering adulthood today is practically guaranteed to be well fixed by the time they retire if they merely start investing promptly and avoid tampering with the process by trading. I like the way Bill Miller, one of the great investors of our time, put it in his 3Q 2021 Market Letter: In the post-war period the US stock market has gone up in around 70% of the years... Odds much less favorable than that have made casino owners very rich, yet most investors try to guess the 30% of the time stocks decline, or even worse spend time trying to surf, to no avail, the quarterly up and down waves in the market. Most of the returns in stocks are concentrated in sharp bursts beginning in periods of great pessimism or fear, as we saw most recently in the 2020 pandemic decline. We believe time, not timing, is the key to building wealth in the stock market. (October 18, 2021. Emphasis added) What are the “sharp bursts” Miller talks about? On April 11, 2019, The Motley Fool cited data from JP Morgan Asset Management’s 2019 Retirement Guide showing that in the 20-year period between 1999 and 2018, the annual return on the S&P 500 was 5.6%, but your return would only have been 2.0% if you had sat out the 10 best days (or roughly 0.4% of the trading days), and you wouldn’t have made any money at all if you had missed the 20 best days. In the past, returns have often been similarly concentrated in a small number of days. Nevertheless, overactive investors continue to jump in and out of the market, incurring transactions costs and capital gains taxes and running the risk of missing those “sharp bursts.” As mentioned earlier, investors often engage in selling because they believe a decline is imminent and they have the ability to avoid it. The truth, however, is that buying or holding – even at elevated prices – and experiencing a decline is in itself far from fatal. Usually, every market high is followed by a higher one and, after all, only the long-term return matters. Reducing market exposure through ill-conceived selling – and thus failing to participate fully in the markets’ positive long-term trend – is a cardinal sin in investing. That’s even more true of selling without reason things that have fallen, turning negative fluctuations into permanent losses and missing out on the miracle of long-term compounding. * * * When I meet people for the first time and they find out I’m in the investment business, they often ask (especially in Europe) “what do you trade?” That question makes me bristle. To me, “trading” means jumping in and out of individual assets and whole markets on the basis of guesswork as to what prices will do in the next hour, day, month or quarter. We don’t engage in such activity at Oaktree, and few people have demonstrated the ability to do it well. Rather than traders, we consider ourselves investors. In my view, investing means committing capital to assets based on well-reasoned estimates of their potential and benefitting from the results over the long term. Oaktree does employ people called traders, but their job consists of implementing long-term investment decisions made by portfolio managers based on assets’ fundamentals. No one at Oaktree believes they can make money or advance their career by selling now and buying back after an intervening decline, as opposed to holding for years and letting value lift prices if fundamental expectations prove out. When Oaktree was formed in 1995, the five founders – who at that point had worked together for nine years on average – established an investment philosophy based on what we’d successfully done in that time. One of the six tenets expressed our view on trying to time markets when buying and selling: Because we do not believe in the predictive ability required to correctly time markets, we keep portfolios fully invested whenever attractively priced assets can be bought. Concern about the market climate may cause us to tilt toward more defensive investments, increase selectivity or act more deliberately, but we never move to raise cash. Clients hire us to invest in specific market niches, and we must never fail to do our job. Holding investments that decline in price is unpleasant, but missing out on returns because we failed to buy what we were hired to buy is inexcusable. We’ve never changed any of the six tenets of our investment philosophy – including this one – and we have no plans to do so. January 13, 2022 Updated on Jan 14, 2022, 12:38 pm (function() { var sc = document.createElement("script"); sc.type = "text/javascript"; sc.async = true;sc.src = "//mixi.media/data/js/95481.js"; sc.charset = "utf-8";var s = document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(sc, s); }()); window._F20 = window._F20 || []; _F20.push({container: 'F20WidgetContainer', placement: '', count: 3}); _F20.push({finish: true});.....»»

Category: blogSource: valuewalkJan 14th, 2022

Check out 10 pitch decks that legal-tech startups used to raise millions

Real examples of legal tech pitch decks that startup founders used to nab VC funding. See decks from Contractbook, Evisort, Disco and more. The legal-tech space has raised more than $1 billion in funding so far this year.Samantha Lee/Insider Funding for legal-tech has surprassed $1 billion for 2021 so far.  VC firms, private equity, and even traditional law players are pouring money in.  Check out these 10 pitch decks for examples of how legal-tech startup founders sold their vision.  See more stories on Insider's business page. As law firms and their clients seek to digitize and streamline work, VCs have been opening their wallets to the growing legal-tech space. The total value of deals in the global legal-tech market through the end of the third quarter of 2021 clocked in at $1.47 billion — far surpassing the $607 million figure from all of 2020, according to data from PitchBook.PE firms invested upwards of a record-breaking $7 billion in legal tech and outsourced legal services in 2021, according to estimates by JEGI. The figure is likely to be larger, since many PE firms don't disclose their deal numbers.Here's a look at our legal-tech pitch deck collection.LawtradesRaad Ahmed, founder and CEO of Lawtrades.Leonard OkporLawtrades, an online hiring marketplace for freelance legal work, raked in $6 million for its Series A in December 2021.In 2016, Raad Ahmed and Ashish Walia, both former lawyers, created an easy, all-in-one app for companies to hire legal talent. A growing number of white-collar professionals have been leaving their companies in droves in search of better work-life balance, flexibility, and personal fulfillment. Lawtrades has more than 1,000 freelance lawyers, paralegals, and other legal specialists on its network, Ahmed said.Companies can use Lawtrades' matchmaking algorithm to find legal talent for specific engagements, and can use built-in calendar, video conference, and time-tracking features to manage the project from start to finish. Hiring lawyers through Lawtrades is also much cheaper than hiring one from a Big Law firm. Lawtrades lawyers cost companies around $150 to $250 an hour, depending on the practice area. Here's the futuristic 24-page pitch deck that landed legal freelancing app Lawtrades a $6-million Series ACourtCorrectLudwig Bull, who founded CourtCorrect in 2019.CourtCorrectCourtCorrect, which helps individuals and businesses submit and manage civil cases, snapped up $2.95 million (£2.2 million) in seed round funding in November 2021.Founded in 2019 in London, the legal-tech startup brings together claimants, defendants, lawyers, and judges into a single platform, where they can bring cases and reach resolutions without having to go to court.Investors included RLC Ventures, Ascension Ventures (UK), and The Twenty Minute VC. Visionaries Club and other angel investors also participated in the round.See the 12-page pitch deck that landed legal-tech startup CourtCorrect nearly $3 million in seed fundingMalbekHemanth Puttaswamy, CEO and co-founder of Malbek.MalbekMalbek, which helps companies' legal, sales, and finance teams manage and analyze their contracts, announced in September 2021 that it raised $15.3 million for its Series A.Contract lifecycle management, or CLM, has been red-hot in the legal-tech space. Of the $1.4 billion invested in legal-tech during the first half of 2021, almost a quarter was snapped up by six contract companies, including Ironclad, Contractbook, and Icertis. SoftBank recently led the $115 million Series C for ContractPodAi, another CLM company.Founded in 2017, Malbek helps these departments through the entire contracting process, from drafting contracts with optimal terms through tracking contractual obligations after they're signed.The Series A was led by Atlanta-based Noro-Moseley Partners, which invests in early-growth tech and healthcare companies. TDF Ventures and Osage Venture Partners also participated in the round.This 11-page pitch deck scored a contract-management startup $15.3 million for its Series AContractPodAiSoftBank founder Masa Son.Reuters/Issei KatoA startup looking to streamline how companies handle contracts nabbed an investment from one of the world's most high-profile investors in a nod to the rising interest in legal tech.  ContractPodAi, which helps in-house legal teams automate and manage their contracts, raised a $115 million Series C in late September 2021 led by SoftBank. The round quintupled ContractPodAi's valuation since its last funding round in 2019, though the company declined to disclose specific valuation numbers.The investment came from SoftBank's Vision Fund 2. Its predecessor, the original $100 billion megafund Vision Fund, has invested in dozens of household names including WeWork, Uber, and DoorDash. While some of the fund's bets were wildly successful, others fell short of expectations.ContractPodAi is the first legal-tech investment by either of SoftBank's Vision Funds.Here's the 7-page pitch deck that legal-tech startup ContractPodAi used to convince SoftBank's Masa Son to lead its $115 million Series CJus MundiJean-Rémi de Maistre, CEO and co-founder of Jus Mundi.Jus MundiJus Mundi, an AI-powered legal search engine for international law and arbitration, snapped up $10 million for its Series A in September 2021.In 2019, Jean-Rémi de Maistre, a former lawyer at the International Court of Justice, co-launched the company after realizing how hard it was to conduct research for cross-border legal cases.Paris-based Jus Mundi raised a €1 million ($1.17 USD) seed round in March 2020, spurring a fivefold growth in annual recurring revenue over the span of 2020, according to the company. Its most recent $10 million Series A was led by C4 Ventures, a European VC firm founded by Pascal Cagni, a former head of Apple Europe. The VC firm has also invested in hot-ticket companies like Foursquare, Nest, and Via.Here's the 16-page pitch deck that landed legal research company Jus Mundi a $10 million Series ALawVuLawVu co-founders Tim Boyne and Sam Kidd.LawVuLawVu, an end-to-end software platform for in-house legal teams, snapped up a $17 million Series A in August 2021.Founded in 2015, the New Zealand-based startup enables companies' in-house lawyers to manage contracts, documents, billing, and more on one platform. The funding round was led by the private-equity firm Insight Partners, which has invested in other legal-tech companies like DocuSign, Kira Systems, and ContractPodAI, as well as big-ticket businesses like Twitter, Shopify, and Hello Fresh. AirTree Ventures, an Australia-based venture-capital firm, co-led the Series A.See the 12-page pitch deck that LawVu, a startup that wants to be Salesforce for lawyers, used to nab $17 million from investors like Insight PartnersAthennianAthennian's CEO and founder, Adrian Camara.AthennianAthennian, which helps law firms and legal departments manage data and workflow around legal entities, raised a $7 million CAD (more than $5.5 million USD) Series A extension in the beginning of March 2021, nearly doubling its initial $8 million Series A round last year. Athennian's revenue and headcount more than doubled since the original Series A, according to founder and CEO Adrian Camara. He declined to disclose revenue numbers, but said that the sales and marketing team grew from 35 people in September to around 70 in March.Launched in 2017, Athennian is used by nearly 200 legal departments and law firms, including Dentons, Fastkind, and Paul Hastings, to automate documents like board minutes, stock certificates, and shareholder consents. The Series A extension was led by Arthur Ventures. New investors Touchdown Ventures and Clio's CEO, Jack Newton, also participated in the round, alongside Round13 Capital and other existing investors. To date, Athennian has raised $17 million CAD, or around $14 million USD, in venture capital funding, per Pitchbook.Here's the small but mighty pitch deck that nearly doubled legal tech Athennian's Series A to $12 million.EvisortEvisort's CEO and co-founder Jerry Ting.(Courtesy of Jerry Ting)Contract tech is the frontrunner in the legal tech space, as companies across industries seek to streamline their contract creation, negotiation, and management processes.Evisort, a contract lifecycle management (CLM) platform, raised $35 million in its Series B announced late February 2021, bringing total funding to $55.5 million. The private equity firm General Atlantic led its latest funding round, with participation from existing investors Amity Ventures, Microsoft's venture firm M12, and Vertex Ventures.Founded in 2016, Evisort uses artificial intelligence to help businesses categorize, search, and act on documents.Its CEO Jerry Ting founded Evisort while he was still attending Harvard Law School. He spent one summer working at Fried Frank, but soon realized that he didn't want to be a lawyer because he didn't want to spend excruciating hours manually reading fifty-page contracts. He did, however, recognize how important they are to corporations, and co-founded Evisort as a tool to locate and track valuable information like a contract's expiration date and obligations like payment dates.Evisort's CEO walks through the 11-page pitch deck that the contract software startup used to nab $35 million from investors like General Atlantic — and lays out its path to an IPOContractbookNiels Brøchner, Jarek Owczarek, and Viktor Heide founded Contractbook to offer a client-centric tool to manage contracts,ContractbookTry to imagine the contracts negotiation process, and one might conjure up a scene where a sheaf of papers, tucked discreetly into a manila folder, is shuttled from one law office to the mahogany table of another. With a stroke of a fountain pen, the deal is sealed.Those old-school methods have long been replaced with the adoption of PDFs, redlined versions of which zip from email inbox to inbox. Now, contracting is undergoing another digital shift that will streamline the process as companies are becoming more comfortable with tech and are seeking greater efficiencies — and investors are taking note.Contractbook, a Denmark-based contract lifecycle management platform, raised $9.4 million in its Series A investment round late 2020, led by venture capital titan Bessemer Venture Partners. In November 2019, Gradient Ventures, Google's AI-focused venture fund, led Contractbook's $3.9 million seed round.Founded in Copenhagen in 2017, Contractbook uses data to automate documents, offering an end-to-end contracts platform for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Niels Brøchner, the company's CEO and co-founder, said that Contractbook was born out of the notion that existing contract solutions failed to use a document's data — from names of parties to the folder the document is stored in — to automate the process and drive workflow.Here's the 13-page pitch deck that Contractbook, which wants to take on legal tech giants like DocuSign, used to raise $9.4 million from investors like Bessemer VenturesDiscoKiwi Camara, CEO and cofounder of Disco.DISCOCloud-based technology is having its moment, especially in the legal industry.As attorneys have been propelled to work remotely amid the pandemic, data security and streamlined work processes are top-of-mind for law firms, leading them to adopt cloud technology. Investors are taking note. Disco, a cloud-based ediscovery platform that uses artificial intelligence to streamline the litigation process, snapped up $60 million in equity financing in October 2020.Its Series F, led by Georgian Partners and also backed by VC titans like Bessemer Venture Partners and LiveOak Venture Partners, brings total investment to $195 million, valuing the company at $785 million.Launched in Houston in 2012, Disco offers AI-fueled products geared towards helping lawyers review and analyze vast quantities of documents, allowing them to more efficiently determine which ones are relevant to a case.The CEO of Disco, a legal tech that sells cloud-based discovery software, walked us through a 20-page pitch deck the startup used to nab $60 millionBlackBoilerDan Broderick, cofounder and CEO of BlackBoiler.BlackBoilerBlackBoiler is an automated contract markup software that's used by Am Law 25 firms and several Fortune 1000 companies.The software uses machine learning to automate the process of reviewing and revising documents in "track changes." This saves attorneys the time they would typically spend marking up contracts that often use standard boilerplate language.As a pre-execution software used in the negotiation and markup stage of the contracts process, BlackBoiler has carved out a unique space in the $35 billion contracts industry, said Dan Broderick, a lawyer who co-founded the company in 2015 and is now its CEO. Broderick walked Insider through the pitch deck the company used to attract funding from investors, including DocuSign as well as 10 attorneys that run the gamut from Am Law 50 partners to general counsel at large corporations.Check out the 14-page pitch deck that contract-editing startup BlackBoiler used to nab $3.2 million from investors including DocuSignRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 14th, 2022

51 gifts for teens that they won"t toss away in their closet, from a popular hair dryer to a tie-dye kit

The best gifts for teens are ones they'll actually want to use, like tech gadgets, beauty products, and cool accessories. Here are 51 unique gifts. Prices are accurate at the time of publication.When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.One of the best gifts for teens is a portable, waterproof speaker they can bring with them on trips with friends.Amazon It's never easy to shop for a teenager, especially if their tastes change frequently. We rounded up 51 gifts to make it easier to find the perfect gadget, game, or accessory.  Browse all of Insider Reviews' gift guides for more great gift ideas. Being a teenager is tough, but trying to buy a gift for one is even harder: They can be picky and fickle when it comes to what products they want. Sometimes, the best way to show a teen that you care is just to listen, and sometimes it's a thoughtful gift to show them you see them.To make the gift search easier, we curated 51 gifts ranging from a card game to a smartwatch to a quick-drying hair towel at various price points to ensure as many options as possible.If you are still unsure of what to get (and you can't ask them directly) try consulting their friends. Either way, a smart general rule of thumb is to make sure your gift is returnable. The 51 best gifts for teens: A tie dye kit they can use for a fun at-home activityTargetTulip 37pc One Step Tie Dye Kit, available at Target, $9.99They can revitalize white clothes and spend a few hours having fun doing something creative, whether solo or with family or friends.This one-step hair dryer brushElana Rubin/InsiderRevlon Salon One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer Hot Air Brush, available at Target, $54.99Who doesn't love a one-step tool that feels luxurious? This popular round brush acts as a hairdryer while they brush, giving their hair volume without much finesse or time. You can find a full review of the Revlon One-Step here. An Apple AirTag to keep track of their belongingsLisa Eadicicco/InsiderApple AirTag, available at Target, $29.99The teenager in your life can attach this tag to their backpack, wallet, keys, or any other easily lost item and find it easily with the Find My app whenever they've misplaced it. Using the app, they can opt for the tag to play a sound until they've found their keys sandwiched between couch cushions or their wallet in the pantry.A board game that feels like a video gameAmazonCephalofair Games Gloomhaven Multi-Award-Winning Strategy Boxed Board Game, available at Amazon, $111.47This collaborative board game (good for one to up to four players) is sort of like Dungeons & Dragons, Magic the Gathering, and other cult-favorite fantasy adventure games that forces its players to contend with monsters and mercenaries, explore a new world, and discover treasure and fame. Players make tactical decisions, and the game unfolds in reaction to their choices. Disposable cameras to help them stay in the momentAmazonFujifilm Instax Mini 9 Instant Camera, available at Amazon, $69.04Funsaver One Time Use Film Camera (2-pack), available at Amazon, $45.30Disposable cameras are popular right now, partly because of the nostalgic aesthetic of a polaroid and partly because of their simplicity. Spending so much time immersed in technology — and combatting the temptation to retake and edit photos in real-time — keep us from staying present.Disposable film cameras or polaroids help preserve memories without adding to their screen time. Plus, they give them cute photos to decorate their room with!Glossier's fan-favorite productsGlossierBoy Brow + Balm Dotcom + Futuredew Pack, available at Glossier, $42No-makeup makeup is in right now and, if your teen is into beauty products, they may appreciate a gift from Glossier, which is the "natural and glowy" brand Olivia Rodrigo says she wears in her Vogue beauty diary.We'd recommend a gift card or a pack like the Boy Brow + Balm Dotcom + Futuredew pack, which covers three of its fan-favorite products.A great bookAmazon"Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline, available at Amazon and Bookshop, from $11Books are an incredible gift if your teen is a reader. It can translate into hours of enjoyment at a minimum and, at its best, a favorite story that follows them well into adulthood.Plus, if you've read the book, it can also mean great conversations about it or movie adaptations to watch together. It's also a gift where money doesn't really matter; you can find a great read for $20 and spending more won't make much difference.Some book suggestions:"All the Bright Places," a popular YA book on TikTok"Scythe," a bestselling dystopian YA book similar to "The Hunger Games"The best young adult books, according to a teenagerThe best young adult romance booksThe best young people's literature of 2021 according to the National Book AwardsThe best books we read in our 20sAn eco-conscious tie-dye beanieFree The EarthFeel the Earth Breathe Tie Dye Beanie, available at Free People, from $40These unisex tie-dye beanies come in cool colors and with a unique plant logo. (To date, the Parks Project has reportedly contributed over $2,000,000 to help fund vital projects in national parks around the US).Ribbed beanies are big right now, à la the popular Carhartt beanie. If they've got that staple covered, the Parks Project also has tube socks. A splashproof, portable Bluetooth speaker perfect for outdoor tripsAmazonUltimate Ears Wonderboom 2, available at Amazon, $98This rugged, compact speaker can go with them anywhere. It's waterproof, has an "outdoor boost" button specifically for listening outside, is "drop-proof," and boasts a 13-hour battery life.A plush toy that they can heat upUrban OutfittersSmoko Mini Toasty Heatable Plushie, available at Urban Outfitters, $18Whenever they need some cozy comfort, they can heat up this cute animal-shaped heating pad for a snuggle.A portable phone chargerAmazonElecjet Powerpie Portable Charger, available at Amazon, $54.99This handheld charger can charge up your teen's smartphone or various devices like an iPad or small laptop so they can stay in touch, turn their paper in on time, or just never have to stress about 5% battery life.Sheet masks to go with a Netflix marathonAmazonTONYMOLY I'm Real Sheet Masks, available at Amazon, $26There are few things my 15-year-old sister loves more than oversized hoodies, Boba, and an endless supply of sheet masks. Grab a pack, throw them on, and make a night out of it with your teen's favorite candy and TV show.A pair of trendy, easy-to-use AirPodsAppleApple AirPods Pro with Charging Case, available at Target, $199.99If you're after the title of their favorite relative of the year, here's a good place to start. AirPods are both easy to use and functional as well as trendy. A Boba-shaped AirPods Pro caseUrban OutfittersSmoko Boba Tea AirPods Pro Case, available at Urban Outfitters, $18As I mentioned, part of my 15-year-old sister's ideal trifecta is Boba. You can pick up a cute, fun case no matter what their interest is — Baby Yoda, gaming, Boba, or whatever else. A Bluetooth water bottle speakerGrommetBluetooth Water Bottle Speakers, available at Grommet, $39.95This Bluetooth water bottle speaker offers a boost of hydration and fun for everyone. The water-resistant speaker resides at the top, ensuring greater sound quality that lasts 6-10 hours. It's the perfect accessory for them to bring to every hang-out session. A slim leather walletAmazonBellroy Slim Sleeve Leather Wallet, available at Amazon and Bellroy, $79This thin wallet is a subtle nudge toward minimalism, something many teens appreciate. The Bellroy Slim Sleeve wallet offers room for up to eight cards and a pocket to stash cash. It comes in a variety of colors and features environmentally certified leather.An eco-friendly phone casePelaPela Phone Case, available at Amazon and Pela, from $38.95Pela offers a wide variety of biodegradable cases for iPhone and Android, all made from plant-based polymers. Pela cases are rugged enough to offer drop protection, and if a phone has both a Pela case and screen protector but still cracks, Pela will cover the bill to get it fixed.A comfortable and sustainable Patagonia pullover they'll wear all the timePatagoniaLightweight Synchilla Snap-T Pullover, Men, available at Patagonia, $119Patagonia Women's Better Sweater 1/4-Zip Fleece, available at Patagonia, $119A Patagonia sweater is a particularly good gift for teens who are interested in sustainability. The company has been turning plastic bottles into polyester for its clothing since 1993 and continues to do so today.Its Snap-T pullover is the unofficial uniform of the cozy adventurer. It and the Better Sweater are long-held favorites, and both are comfortable classics that they'll no doubt come to rely on heavily during colder weather.Not sold on the Patagonia option? They may also appreciate the Acadia Recycled Polar Trail Fleece from the environmentally-conscious Parks Project.A gift card for stylish new glassesWarby ParkerGift Card, available at Warby Parker, from $50Teens are a notoriously picky bunch, so you can never go wrong with a gift card. If they're in the market for new glasses or sunglasses, we recommend Warby Parker because of its versatility, size flexibility, and free at-home try-on program. An Amazon Echo Dot for hands-free calls, alarms, music, updates on the weather, and moreAmazonEcho Dot (4th gen), available at Best Buy, $34.99The Amazon Echo Dot is the most popular Amazon device for a reason — it's compact and has all the capabilities of Alexa (weather updates, recipes, music, news) without any of the bulk. A smartphone-sized travel photo printerTargetHP Sprocket 200 Photo Printer, available at Amazon and B&H Photo, $79.99This tiny, compact device prints photos with sticker backing on ZINK film with Zero Ink technology. It connects to devices via Bluetooth, and multiple devices can connect at once (personalized LED lights indicate who's currently printing). String lights with clips for photosAmazon/Business InsiderPhoto Clip LED String Lights, available at Target, $10Perfect for creating the archetypal teen room that's most often seen in Netflix movies and old Taylor Swift music videos, the photo clip string lights combine warm light and Polaroids (or other memorabilia). A trendy Champion sweatshirtUrban OutfittersChampion Reverse Weave Fleece Crew Neck Sweatshirt, available at Urban Outfitters, $54Like Fila, Champion is a brand that's had a resurgence as of late. If you want to get them something they'll end up wearing all the time, this is a good candidate. A great video game"The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD" / Nintendo"The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD", available at Amazon, from $49.94If they're really into video games, all other gifts may pale in comparison to a really good new one. Check out "Hades," "NBA 2K22," and "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD."A vinyl record membershipVinyl Me, PleaseGift Membership, 3 months, available at Vinyl Me, Please, $119There's no greater joy than adding to a record collection or playing a new album for the first time. Your recipient gets to choose from three different types of tracks each month and will also receive extra goodies in each package. They'll also get one bonus record as part of the three-month gift membership. A gentle facial cleansing device that removes 98.5% of dirt and makeupFOREOLuna 3 Facial Cleansing Device, Men, available at Foreo, $199Luna 3 Facial Cleansing Device, Women, available at Foreo, $199FOREO's cult-favorite Luna 3 cleansing device gently and effectively cleans with thin, antimicrobial silicone touch-points, and it removes 98.5% of dirt and makeup residue without irritating the skin. Plus, it's 100% waterproof and the battery life lasts for a few months per charge.This newest generation also offers an array of massages to tighten the skin for a youthful look. Find a full review on the previous generation Luna 2 from a female reporter and a male reporter here.Comfortable lounge pants that look put-togetherMeUndiesThe Lounge Pant, Men, available at MeUndies, $68The Lounge Pant, Women, available at MeUndies $68MeUndies is a popular LA startup that makes some of the most comfortable underwear we've ever tried. Their lounge pants, however, are the real hidden gem — perfect for lounging around on weekend mornings or heading to the dining hall when they get to college (yep, they'll last that long) while still looking sleek.A subscription to a famous book club that sends them great hardcovers each monthBook of the Month/Instagram3-Month Gift Subscription, available at Book of the Month, $49.99If your teen is a bookworm, Book of the Month is an especially cool gift. It's a book club that has been around since 1926, and it's credited with discovering some of the most beloved books of all time (like "Gone with the Wind" and "Catcher in the Rye" to name a couple).If you gift them a subscription, they'll receive a hardcover book delivered once a month. Books are selected by a team of experts and celebrity guest judges.If they're really more into audiobooks or e-reading now rather than hardcovers, check out a gift subscription to Scribd (full review here).An Apple Watch that combines their smartphone with a fitness trackerAmazonApple Watch SE GPS, 40mm, available at Apple, from $279If you have a little extra to spend on your teen, consider getting them a smartwatch. The Apple Watch SE is like a smartphone, fitness tracker, and music player all in one. Just like on their phone, they can customize the watch to show their favorite apps to pick, including social media.A cute iPhone caseSociety6Coffee Reading iPhone Case, available at Society6, $22This fun iPhone case is funny and unique, and most of their friends probably won't have the exact same one. Reusable strawsAmazonHiware Reusable Silicone Straws (10-pack), available at Amazon, $6.99Help teens do their part to keep single-use plastics out of trash bins, landfills, and the ocean by giving them this pack of reusable silicone drinking straws. They come in various colors and include a few cleaning brushes as well.A set of velvet retro-inspired scrunchiesAmazon/Business InsiderHair Scrunchie Variety Pack, available at Target, $6.99Another trendy gift is as many scrunchies as you can carry. This pack comes with 12 options in enough colors to work with virtually any outfit or mood. A multicolor mini cinema light boxUrban OutfittersMulticolor Cinema Light Box, available at Uncommon Goods, from $20These trendy lightboxes are inspired by cinema marquees, and they come with 100 letters and symbols for personal messages. This one also has color-changing LED lights for further customization.Fun and useful PopSockets for the back of their phoneAmazon/Business InsiderPopGrips, available at PopSockets and Amazon, from $10PopSockets have become their own cultural phenomenon in recent years, and they're surprisingly useful. Get your teen one for their own phone or tablet, and depending on their age, you may find it's the gift they're most excited about. It doesn't hurt that there's free domestic shipping on orders over $20, or that you can actually design your own.A waterproof e-reader with a no-glare screenAmazonAll-New Kindle Paperwhite, available at Amazon, $129.99Amazon's Kindle Paperwhite is its thinnest, lightest version. It also has double the storage, a built-in light that adjusts to accommodate reading indoors or outdoors, and is waterproof for reading anywhere, including the beach or bath. Plus, a single battery charge lasts weeks rather than hours.Cool backpacks from a popular startup with a charitable missionSTATE Bags/FacebookState bags and accessories, from $15State bags are increasingly popular thanks to their versatile, laid-back aesthetic and characteristically bright nylon colorways. They're also known as #GiveBackPack(s), because for every State bag purchased, State hand-delivers a backpack — packed with essential tools for success — to a local child in need. The Lorimer and Bedford are two of the company's best sellers.A three-month subscription of beauty productsBirchBox3-Month Subscription, available at BirchBox, $45Teens are usually among the most interested in the latest and greatest beauty or grooming products — but may lack the funds to try all the full-sized versions. Birchbox sends samples of new and beloved products once a month, so they can test out new finds and discover products they may want to buy a full size of in the future. (It's also just fun to get an ongoing gift.)Personalized NikesNikeCustomizable Nikes, available at Nike, from $120Nike makes great stuff, but it's nice to get the benefits of a great shoe without forsaking what makes something unique. You can customize a pair of Nikes for them, or give them a gift card so they can get creative making something one-of-a-kind on their own.A great Alexa-enabled speaker they can control by voiceSonosSonos One Smart Speaker, available at Sonos, from $219The new Sonos One smart speaker fills any room with clear, rich sound, and they can use Alexa to play and control their music without ever lifting a finger. Find a full review here.A cult-favorite hair towel that reduces damage and cuts drying time by 50%Aquis/Business InsiderAquis Rapid Dry Hair Towel, available at Amazon and Sephora, from $20.99Aquis' cult-favorite hair towels can cut the amount of time it takes your hair to dry in half — a claim we're happy to report holds up. The proprietary fabric also means there's less damage to wet hair while it dries. If they've ever complained about frizzy hair, this and a silk pillowcase are thoughtful gifts they'll actually use. A Disney+ subscription for access to classic movies and moreDisney PlusDisney+ Gift Subscription Service, available at Disney, $79.99/yearDisney Plus is the new Disney-centric streaming service. The platform includes Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and 20th Century Fox. You can gift a whole year of access for $80, which is something their entire family can benefit from.If you'd rather test Disney Plus out before buying, you can sign up for a free weeklong trial.A suitcase with an ejectable battery that can charge their devices on the goAwayThe Carry-On, available at Away, from $225Travel startup Away makes a great carry-on thanks to an ejectable battery that can charge devices seamlessly on the go, 360-degree wheels, and a lightweight build that travels easily. In other words, it takes a lot of the angst out of travel and may make family trips far more enjoyable and stress-free.Durable sunglasses that look good, tooAmazonSmith Optics Lowdown2, available at Backcountry, $129Who better to make a pair of durable, performance-based sunglasses than the company known for innovating the ski goggle? The Lowdown2 features bio-based materials for the frame, ChromaPop lens technology which creates high contrast and vibrant colors, and an anti-reflective smudge-resistant coating.Plus, the brand offers peace of mind with free shipping, 30-day returns, and a lifetime warranty.Comfortable, high-quality sheets that come in lots of colors and patternsBrooklinenLuxe Hardcore Sheet Bundle, available at Brooklinen and Amazon, from $240We think Brooklinen makes the best high-end sheets at the best price on the market, and most of the Insider Reviews team uses Brooklinen on their own beds. It's perfect for lazy Saturday mornings or the rare occasion sleeping in is encouraged.The Luxe Hardcore Sheet Bundle comes in 15 colors and patterns that range from classic to fun, and you can mix and match them to suit their preferences. Grab a gift card (delivered digitally) if you want to give them more freedom.Fidget ballsSpeksSpeks 2.5mm magnet balls, available at Speks, $34.95Made from rare earth magnets, these tiny balls can be molded into an infinite number of shapes and designs. The size of Speks balls makes them ideal for teens to keep with them for those unpredictable moments of nervousness that fill those teenage years.A pack of smart plugs so they can control devices from a distanceAmazon/Business InsiderTP-Link KIT WiFi Smart Plug, 2-Pack, available at Amazon, $35.99Whether they're wondering if they turned off their hot iron or just don't want to get up to turn off the TV, a smart plug lets them control devices from a distance. You can connect to them using any smart device.A Time-Turner clock that actually spinsHarry PotterHarry Potter Time-Turner Clock, available at Pottery Barn, $79It may not be able to take them back in time or help them be in two places at once, but this Time-Turner clock will help them stay on top of their schedule. It even has a functional hourglass on the back so they can time their study breaks. A toothbrush with a timerAmazonOral-B Pro 1000 Electric Toothbrush, available at Amazon, $39.97Rigorous dental hygiene isn't usually on the top of the list of things teens care about, which is all the more reason a rechargeable toothbrush with a timer is a fantastic gift. This rechargeable brush breaks up 300% more plaque on the gum line than traditional brushing and lets them know when two minutes have passed.Compact hand sanitizer sprayTouchlandTouchland Power Mist Hand Sanitizer, available at Touchland, $9It's in the car, the house, and their pocket these days, but many hand sanitizers can smell a little like household cleaner. Touchland comes in scents like Vanilla Cinnamon and Forrest Berry, or keep it simple and choose unscented.The compact sanitizer features 67% alcohol for killing germs but balances it with soothing aloe vera and essential oils to hydrate the skin. A lottery card that donates to charitiesLottoLove/Business InsiderLottoLove Card, available at LottoLove, from $5When you gift this lottery card, you're actually giving the gift of charity. When you "win big," you're winning a charitable prize that gets donated to nonprofits in one of four categories: Clean water, solar light, nutritious meals, or literacy tools. To date, LottoLove and its partners have impacted lives in over 70 countries.Gift cards for concert tickets, food, and clothesChipotleYou can't go wrong with money for their favorite things, especially for teens who are often relying upon part-time jobs to fund their frequent Chipotle meals and concert trips with friends. Check out more gift card ideas here.Everything: Visa Gift Card / Amazon Gift CardCoffee and food: Starbucks Gift Card / Chipotle Gift CardEntertainment and live events: Netflix Gift Card / Xbox Gift Card / Hulu Gift Card / StubHub gift cardMusic: Spotify Gift CardSheets: Brooklinen Gift CardGroceries and food: Whole Foods Gift Card / Chipotle Gift CardClothes: Nordstrom Gift Card / Everlane Gift CardTech: Best Buy Gift CardRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 13th, 2022

54 Amazon gifts teenagers actually want, from a mystical board game to cozy loungewear

Finding a gift for a teenager can be tough, but there are a lot of options on Amazon. Here are 54 gift ideas teens will actually want to keep. Prices are accurate at the time of publication.Amazon has an abundance of great gifts for teens, from the "Dune" books to a Kindle to read them on.Amazon Teens are notoriously difficult to shop for, especially when it comes to gifts.  To help ease shopping stress, we put together a list of 54 cool and convenient Amazon gifts.  Still looking for gift ideas? Check out our list of the all-time best products we've ever tested. Teens may be difficult to shop for, but you don't need to search far and wide for gift ideas — Amazon has options in everything from tech to beauty products.From the popular book-turned-into-movie "Dune" to a Nintendo Switch, we rounded up the best 54 best gifts for the teens in your life. They cover a range of prices and brands, including newer startups you didn't even know you could find on Amazon. Check out all 54 gifts for teens on Amazon:A board game that feels like a video gameAmazonThis collaborative board game (good for 1-4 players) is sort of like "Dungeons & Dragons," "Magic the Gathering," and other cult-favorite fantasy-adventure games that invite players to contend with monsters and mercenaries, explore a new world, and discover treasure and fame. Players make tactical decisions and the game unfolds in reaction to their choices. $111.47 FROM AMAZONA magnetic dartboardAmazonA magnetic dartboard is a fun, compact activity they can play alone or with friends, indoors or outdoors. This one is also magnetic, so you don't have to worry about ant exceptionally sharp flying objects.$29.99 FROM AMAZONA soft, wearable blanketAmazonWhat teen doesn't want something decadent and ultra-comfortable to wear around the house? This soft fleece blanket-turned-sweatshirt is perfect for making every activity cozier, whether it's reading, studying, watching shows, or sleeping.$36.99 FROM AMAZONA pair of trendy, easy-to-use AirPodsAmazonIf you're after the title of their favorite relative of the year, AirPod Pros could be the convenient, easy-to-use gift to get.If you're looking to spend less, we also recommend great headphones that won't break $50.$197.00 FROM AMAZONOriginally $249.99 | Save 21%$199.99 FROM TARGETOriginally $249.99 | Save 20%$219.99 FROM BEST BUYOriginally $249.99 | Save 12%$179.00 FROM WALMARTOriginally $249.00 | Save 28%$209.00 FROM B&HOriginally $249.00 | Save 16%A cute waffle makerCrate & BarrelSometimes all anyone wants is anything delicious and aesthetically appealing — like mini waffles. This waffle maker is small, too, so it shouldn't crowd their kitchen too much.$16.98 FROM AMAZONSmart lights that are compatible with Amazon AlexaAmazonThey can use their voice to control these smart light bulbs through an Alexa Echo, Echo Dot, or Google Home Assistant. They can also give hands-free commands to set the brightness, turn lights on and off, change colors, create timers, and more to customize their space.$15.29 FROM AMAZONA GoProAmazonGoPro is the rugged, waterproof action camera they can take with them anywhere. While older models will still get the job done, the Hero10 is the newest and best overall model.You can read a full GoPro Hero 10 review here, but the gist is this: The Hero 10 is a performance camera, but its upgrades allow it to do what even bigger and more expensive cameras can do, too. $488.99 FROM AMAZONOriginally $588.99 | Save 17%A fun outdoor game they can play with friendsDICK'S Sporting GoodsOn a beautiful, sunny day in the city, you'll probably see at least one group playing this fun and active game in the park. With rules similar to volleyball, it's incredibly easy to learn — so friend groups or families can get involved.$64.98 FROM AMAZON$69.98 FROM DICK'S SPORTING GOODSThe new Fire HD 10 tablet for music, games, and mediaAmazonWe think Amazon's latest Fire tablet is the best and most affordable tablet for basic needs on the market (as long as you don't expect to use Google apps). With it, they can stream videos, browse the web, and read books. Read more about it here.$149.99 FROM AMAZONThe popular Dune seriesAmazonAfter "Harry Potter" and classics commonly found on high school syllabi, Dune is the #15 bestselling young adult book on Amazon. The first movie in the series, which stars Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya, premiered on October 21 (you can watch it on HBO Max) and the second is coming out October 2023 — so they'll have enough time to catch up before the next installment.$84.99 FROM AMAZONOriginally $108.00 | Save 21%The Nintendo SwitchNintendoThe Nintendo Switch is one of the gifts that, with good reason, tend to elicit lots of excitement. This model has a battery life of up to nine hours and can be played with friends or solo, and at home or on the go.Note: Some colors are currently out of stock.$299.00 FROM AMAZON$299.99 FROM GAMESTOP$299.99 FROM BEST BUYAn instant cameraAmazonInstax's cute instant camera is great for anyone who loves taking photos. All they need is some film to get started. It features a small selfie mirror to ensure proper framing, a macro lens attachment, and a variety of modes to account for different indoor and outdoor environments.$59.99 FROM AMAZONA multi-color alarm clock that doubles as a speakerAmazonBeyond helping ensure they're up on time, this alarm clock doubles as a Bluetooth speaker and as a dimmable, multi-color bedside lamp.$39.99 FROM AMAZONA beanie with built-in headphonesAmazonSoundbot makes soft beanies that have built-in headphones for on-the-go listening. They have a rechargeable battery, built-in microphone, and wireless range of up to 33 feet. $19.98 FROM AMAZONOriginally $25.10 | Save 20%An Echo Dot that doubles as a clockAmazonThe Amazon Echo Dot is the most popular Amazon device for a reason — it's compact and has all the capabilities of Alexa (weather updates, recipes, music, and news). $34.99 FROM AMAZONOriginally $49.99 | Save 30%One of the best young adult books of the yearAmazonIf you're looking to gift a good book they likely haven't read yet, we suggest snooping through literary awards, where judges do the heavy lifting for you. This book, a queer love story set in 1954 Chinatown, was shortlisted for the 2021 National Book Award in young adult literature.Some more book suggestions: "All the Bright Places," a popular YA book on TikTok"Scythe," a bestselling dystopian YA book similar to "The Hunger Games"The best young adult books, according to a teenagerThe best young adult romance booksThe best young people's literature of 2021 according to the National Book AwardsThe best books we read in our 20s$14.20 FROM AMAZONAn effective electric toothbrushAmazonWe love this electric toothbrush as a budget-friendly option that doesn't compromise on performance. It's also the path of least resistance to helping your teen build their own healthy habits.$39.97 FROM AMAZONOriginally $49.94 | Save 20%A necklace featuring their zodiac signAmazonZodiac signs, and the unique personality traits tied to each one, have become extremely popular in recent years. Pick up their sign in a dainty, gold-dipped necklace they can wear every day.$16.98 FROM AMAZONA portable chargerAmazonWhether used for traveling or keeping in contact with friends or parents while on the go, this external battery is great for giving parents and teens convenience — and peace of mind. $49.99 FROM AMAZONPopSockets for the back of their phonePopSocketPopSockets have become their own cultural phenomenon. Besides being useful, they offer a bit of personalization to tech and come in a variety of colors and patterns.$7.99 FROM AMAZONOriginally $9.99 | Save 20%$15.00 FROM POPSOCKETSNew video games: "Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury"AmazonUltimately, no gift may compare to a great new video game they can play solo or with friends. $59.99 FROM AMAZON$59.99 FROM BEST BUY$49.94 FROM GAMESTOPNew video games: "The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD"Amazon$49.94 FROM AMAZONOriginally $59.99 | Save 17%$50.99 FROM BEST BUYOriginally $59.99 | Save 15%$49.94 FROM GAMESTOPOriginally $59.99 | Save 17%$49.94 FROM WALMARTOriginally $59.99 | Save 17%New video games: "Animal Crossing: New Horizons"Amazon$59.99 FROM BEST BUY$49.99 FROM AMAZON$59.99 FROM GAMESTOPNew video games: "FIFA 22"Amazon$69.98 FROM TARGETA hair towel that cuts drying time in halfAquisAquis' cult-favorite hair towels can cut the amount of time it takes your hair to dry in half — a claim we're happy to report holds up. They also help keep hair protected from harmful friction in its most vulnerable state. If the teens in your life have ever complained about frizzy hair, this and a silk pillowcase are thoughtful gifts they'll actually use.$20.99 FROM AMAZONOne of the best young adult books ever writtenAmazonFor the kind of gift they'll still mention 10 years later, give them one of the best young adult books you've ever read — or one of the 37 best young adult books Business Insider staff members recommend. Or, check out Amazon's list of the 100 books you should read in a lifetime.$5.89 FROM AMAZONA splashproof, portable Bluetooth speakerAmazonThis rugged, compact speaker can go with them anywhere. It's waterproof, has an "outdoor boost" button specifically for listening outside, is "drop-proof," and boasts a 13-hour battery life.$99.99 FROM BEST BUY$99.99 FROM AMAZON$64.98 FROM AT&TOriginally $99.99 | Save 35%$79.98 FROM DELLOriginally $99.99 | Save 20%A set of Korean sheet masksAmazonThe best way to initiate a pampered staycation is a cult-favorite, 16-pack of Korean sheet masks — something any beauty- or skin-care-obsessed teen will likely already know about.$11.99 FROM AMAZONOriginally $13.30 | Save 10%A waterproof e-reader with a no-glare screenAmazonThis isn't the latest or most features-packed Kindle (that'd be the Kindle Oasis), but the Paperwhite is still a great product, and we think it's the best mid-range Kindle that combines cost with performance.It's waterproof, has a six-week battery life (based on 30 minutes of reading daily), and the 32GB option stores thousands of books or 160 Audible audiobooks.$129.99 FROM AMAZONComfortable, high-quality sheets for their bedBrooklinenWe recommend Brooklinen often, and for good reason. Most of the Insider Reviews team sleeps with Brooklinen on their own beds; we think they're perfect for sleeping in on lazy Saturday mornings.$240.00 FROM AMAZONA surprisingly good projector that's the size of a soda canAnkerAnker's Nebula Capsule is tiny but mighty. It's the size of a soda can, weighs only one pound, and has a quiet and continuous playtime of four hours. It'll kick movie nights up a notch, and they can easily pack it on trips. Find a full review here.$299.99 FROM AMAZONMario Badescu's cult-favorite facial mists with aloeAmazonMario Badescu's cult-favorite facial mists refresh and hydrate the skin for a dewy glow. They're available on Amazon individually or in a two-pack of the rose water and cucumber sprays.$14.00 FROM AMAZONA leather toiletry bag for grooming and beauty essentialsLeatherologyLeatherology's shave bag is a great purchase if you want to gift your teen a leather beauty bag that will age gracefully. $110.00 FROM AMAZONComfortable headphones with long battery life and good soundBeats by DreThe Solo3 headphones are perfect for commuting, studying, or zoning out during family road trips. They offer good sound quality and up to 40 hours of battery life, but the best part? Five minutes of charging equals three hours of playback. $129.94 FROM AMAZONOriginally $199.95 | Save 35%A slime-making kitAmazonOne of the ongoing internet trends is a fascination with slime, and teens have run successful businesses by sharing videos of it. And what's better than vicariously living through TikTok slime-makers? Making your own. $26.95 FROM AMAZONA gentle facial cleansing deviceFOREOFOREO's cult-favorite Luna 2 cleansing device gently and effectively cleans with thin, antimicrobial silicone touchpoints, and claims to remove 99.5% of dirt and makeup residue without irritating the skin. Plus, it's waterproof, and the battery life lasts for a few months per charge. The Luna 2 is available in five varieties: men, normal, combination, sensitive, and oily skin. Find a full review from a female reporter and a male reporter here.$169.00 FROM AMAZON$169.00 FROM FOREOA cult-favorite clay maskAmazonThe Aztec Clay Mask is one of those cult-favorite products that's been plucked from obscurity and gone straight to the limelight of YouTube testimonials with over 4 million views and widespread popularity. You can read a full review here.$14.95 FROM AMAZON$12.19 FROM TARGETString lights with photo clipsAmazonPerfect for creating the archetypal teen room that's most often seen in Netflix movies and old Taylor Swift music videos, photo clip string lights add warm light to your teen's favorite Polaroids or memorabilia. $10.98 FROM AMAZONColorful reusable strawsAmazonTrying to adopt more eco-friendly habits is one of the great characteristics of younger generations, especially teens who grew up among videos of sea turtles being harmed by discarded plastic straws. These are colorful, bendable, and fun to use. $6.99 FROM AMAZONOriginally $10.00 | Save 30%Gift card for everything: VisaShutterstock/Zivica KerkezFor teens who often rely on part-time jobs to fund their hobbies and cravings, gift cards are one gift that's always appreciated. Here are some of Insider Reviews' top choices:$105.95 FROM AMAZONGift cards for everything: AmazonAmazonA gift card to Amazon is a gift card to pretty much anything they've got on their wish lists — tech, clothing, books, and more. $10.00 FROM AMAZONGift card for coffee: StarbucksStarbucks/FacebookWhether they're ordering multi-hyphenate drinks at Starbucks or regular hot chocolates, they add up.$25.00 FROM AMAZONGift card for food: ChipotleChipotleOne of the mainstays of teenage life is meeting up with friends at fast-casual restaurants — and Chipotle is a perennial favorite.$50.00 FROM AMAZONGift card for gaming: XboxAmazonIf you know they have an Xbox but don't know which games they already have or need, this is a great way to ensure they get exactly what they want.$100.00 FROM AMAZON$100.00 FROM NEWEGGGift card for clothes: NordstromNordstromNo matter how spot-on your gifts are, your giftee is the best person for the job of dressing themselves. And even if you nail the latest trend they're excited about, there will be more in the future — this lets them pick things out for themselves, without having to dip into their allowance or savings.$200.00 FROM AMAZONGift card for tech: Best BuyAmazonUnsure of which tech they already have or which tech they'd want? A Best Buy gift card will save you the probing questions and help you give them a gift they're really excited about. $25.00 FROM AMAZONA music subscription that includes 50 million songsAmazonIf they don't already have a music subscription, give them access to 50 million songs with Amazon Music Unlimited. $7.99 FROM AMAZONColorful scrunchiesAmazonScrunchies are having a moment. If you want to get something particularly on-trend, you may want to look into a few. This set comes with a whopping 46 colors.$8.99 FROM AMAZONAn audiobook subscriptionAlyssa Powell/Business InsiderIf they love to read, or you're trying to get them to love to read, a gift subscription to Audible is a great idea. They'll get three free titles for each month they're a member (one audiobook and two Audible Originals), and 30% off any additional audiobooks they buy. They can listen and read anywhere and anytime using the free app. $45.00 FROM AMAZONA popcorn machine for movie nightsAmazonPerfect for movie nights with family or friends, this popcorn maker can make as much as six quarts of popcorn for a night in. $43.45 FROM AMAZONAn eyeshadow paletteAmazonIf they're getting into makeup, an eyeshadow palette is one of the coolest gifts you can probably give them. This option has 16 shades, almost 15,000 reviews, and a 4.4-star rating overall. $13.95 FROM AMAZONA karaoke machine that allows duetsAmazonThis system has more features than a really nice car. It has two mics, a sing-along and record function, and 300 songs ready for action.$199.99 FROM AMAZONA cool, holographic fanny packAmazonWhat's old is new and cool again — and that includes fanny packs!$16.98 FROM AMAZONA mini griddle for individual servings of foodAmazonThis tiny griddle is perfect for making individual servings of breakfasts and pretty much any food — from eggs to cookies to grilled cheese.$12.99 FROM AMAZONRead the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 13th, 2022

I tried out a luxury autonomous car considered the Chinese rival to Tesla — it was like driving an airplane

Touted as the Chinese rival to Tesla, the new electric car aims to redefine the image of the country's car industry. Nio may be "China's answer to Tesla" due to its innovative strength.NOK The Nio ET7 is being billed as the Chinese Tesla. The design is a joint effort from centers in Munich and Shanghai. It features an impressive interior and is ready for autonomous driving. See more stories on Insider's business page. Often, Chinese car manufacturers don't have the same reputation as those in Western countries. Historically, this has been down to poor production quality and the tendency of some manufacturers to copy European designs. Despite this, China has risen to quickly become one of the leading "car nations" — electric cars have been subsidized by the state in China for years. Electric cars account for a large share of new registrations each year.One manufacturer, Nio — which specializes in autonomous cars — was founded in Shanghai in 2014.The startup is considered "China's answer to Tesla" due to its innovative strength, and it's already produced over 100,000 cars there. Even Tesla CEO Elon Musk commended the manufacturer on Twitter for reaching this milestone."Karuun" is a renewable material made mostly out of rattan that should theoretically be as resistant as plastic.NOKI was given the opportunity to take a ride in Nio's new luxury model and to talk to its design chief Kris Tomasson.Tomasson has previously worked at BMW and has also designed private jets, which is clear when you take a moment to appreciate the clean, no-frills finish of the ET7. The hatchback has a cW value of 0.23, but in terms of aerodynamics, it's outperformed by the world champion Mercedes EQS (0.20) and the Tesla Model S (0.208).According to Nio, the exterior design of the approximately 5.10-meter-long sedan was inspired by the distinctive silhouettes of the seventies. The roofline and C-pillar in particular are reminiscent of the Citroën CX or the Rover SD1. Behind the wheel, I felt like I was in an airplane cockpit.NOKAlthough the ET7 is a hatchback, the designers gave it a classic trunk lid."We did without a large tailgate because we wanted to optimize the space available in the interior. At the same time, we didn't want to design a conventional three-box sedan, as that wouldn't have fit the ET7's novel character," Tomasson explained this decision when asked by Business Insider. The model also has to do without a frunk (front luggage compartment). The rear luggage compartment, however, appears quite large at first glance.Record-breaking rear legroomAccording to project manager Tomasson, the in-house Eve study from 2017 served as the starting point for the design process. At first glance, there may be few visual parallels to the extremely futuristic-looking and fully autonomous concept car. The exterior design of the approximately 5.10-meter-long sedan was inspired by the distinctive silhouettes of the seventies.NOKAccording to the designer in charge, however, the proportions have been taken from the production model. With its 3.07-meter wheelbase, the ET7 has a similarly elongated appearance to the study. Together with the short overhangs, it should provide plenty of space in the interior.During my first seat test, I found that Nio wasn't exaggerating when it boasted about leg space — there was considerable room for my legs to the point where I could almost fully stretch them out.According to the manufacturer, the ET7 is even supposed to be the best in this category. The elbow and headrests were also very comfortable, with the latter curving inwards and adapting to the shape of the head.A spokesman for Nio said that the ET7 is "ready for the future," which is evident from looking at the car's exterior, too.NOKThe huge panorama roof, which extends almost all the way to the rear, means that the rear of the car is flooded with light. However, the headroom leaves a lot to be desired due to the steeply sloping roof. At just under 1.85 meters tall, my head was bumping into the roof. Tall people will probably have to slouch in the back seat.Sustainable wood instead of plastic Behind the wheel, I felt like I was in an airplane cockpit. There is a floating center console next to me and a screen displaying digital readouts in front of me. The infotainment system is operated by a 12.8-inch touchscreen mounted on top of the center console.But there's another, much more modern option: Nio itself has developed the NOMI digital assistant, which uses artificial intelligence and the latest version of Qualcomm's Snapdragon processors.I was also amazed by the attention to detail, which I wasn't expecting from a Chinese car.For example, the window control panels, often standardized by other manufacturers, aren't made of plastic but of metal. They have been beautifully designed.Nio itself has developed the NOMI digital assistant.NOKThe gear selector lever was also individually designed, while the air vents are very thin.Instead of lining the car with plastic, Nio consistently relies on a lighter and much more sustainable material for the interior of the ET7, which the Chinese developed together with German company "Out of space". "Karuun" is a renewable material made mostly out of rattan that should theoretically be as resistant as plastic.A spokesman for Nio said that the ET7 is "ready for the future," which is evident from looking at the car's exterior, too.On the roof, as well as in the mudguard, and on all sides, there are a large number of sensors, cameras, and a lidar. So the sedan is already ready for autonomous driving. Removable batteries and a range of up to 1,000 kilometersThe Shanghai-based manufacturer is also on the cusp of developing another future-critical technology — Nio wants to deliver the 480-kW ET7 in China with a solid-state battery as early as the fourth quarter of 2022. This would be at the same time as the market launch in Germany. The latter is not only lighter and more compact, but also offers a higher energy content. Nio expects the car's battery capacity to be at around 150 kWh, which should be enough for a range of an impressive 1,000 kilometers. In China, the company already operates 400 stations where batteries can be exchanged within a very short time.NOKUnits that have already been delivered can be retrofitted with the innovative battery. In China, the company already operates 400 stations where batteries can be exchanged within a very short time.Whether Nio can actually outstrip them in Europe and the US will depend on whether the Chinese carmakers can shed their cheap image. However, with sophisticated and appealing models like the ET7, this should happen quite quickly.The ET7 will compete with the BMW i5It's no coincidence that the brand has its European headquarters and one of its two design centers in Munich. Nio founder and chief executive William Li anticipates high demand for his cars in Europe. If sales go figures develop well, he hasn't ruled out manufacturing in the EU.Nio founder and chief executive William Li expects strong demand for his cars in EuropeNOKThe brand has targeted the fourth quarter of 2022 for market launch in Germany.While most Chinese manufacturers are trying to gain a foothold in this country with trendy SUV models, Nio is focusing on its new ET7 electric sedan. The high-seat ES8, ES6 and EC6 are likely to follow later.Read the original article on Business Insider.....»»

Category: topSource: businessinsiderJan 6th, 2022