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The highest-paid channel on Twitch is said to have made nearly $10 million in the last 24 months - and it doesn't even stream video games

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 14:05
A crew of Critical Role streamers.
  • Amazon's Twitch was hacked, which resulted in a major data breach.
  • A list of the highest-paid channels and how much they were paid was included in the hack.
  • Instead of streaming video games, the highest-paid streaming channel features voice actors playing "Dungeons and Dragons."

On October 6, Amazon-owned video game streaming service Twitch was hacked, and the hackers released a massive trove of internal data - including revenue numbers for its most popular channels.

In the last 24 months, the highest-paid channel on Twitch earned nearly $10 million from the Amazon-owned company, the leak revealed.

That doesn't include what the channel's owners earned from the popular YouTube channel they operate, which cuts versions of Twitch content for YouTube users, and before any advertising partnerships or other forms of revenue (merchandise, donations, etc.).

The channel, Critical Role, is operated by a self-described "bunch of nerdy-ass voice actors" who stream everything from elaborate "Dungeons & Dragons" campaigns to talk shows they produce to lo-fi DJ sets.

There's a good chance that, even if you're a big Twitch user, you've never heard of Critical Role. Its operators haven't streamed video games in years.

Unlike the vast majority of Twitch streamers, Critical Role primarily features lengthy streams of the classic role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons.

Moreover, the lengthy D&D campaigns that Critical Role produces feature professional voice actors who are quite capable of playing roles - a unique advantage that Critical Role has over other role-playing Twitch streamers.

"What all of us bring is our ability to imagine," Critical Role member Laura Bailey told Polygon in 2016. "I know that sounds kind of lame but as a voice actor that's what you're doing all the time - creating these huge scenarios in your head so it makes sense that you're making these zany voices in a tiny booth all by yourself."

Rather than a single person owning and operating the channel, Critical Role operates more like a traditional media operation: There are creative staff, production staff, marketing staff, and more. The group's team page lists over 30 employees.

Critical Role is among a group of 100 popular Twitch streaming channels whose revenue data appears to have been part of the massive Twitch data hack. Twitch confirmed the hack on Wednesday afternoon and lightly detailed how it occurred, but the company has yet to detail what data was taken in the security breach.

The list is full of big name streamers, like Félix "xQc" Lengyel and Imane "Pokimane" Anys, the vast majority of which are said to have earned over $1 million in Twitch revenue across the last 24 months.

"It's unfortunate this leak happened," Evolved Talent Agency CEO and xQc's agent Ryan Morrison told Insider. "But we operate under the understanding that once something is sent, entered, or shared online, it will eventually be leaked."

The people claiming responsibility for the breach said in a 4chan post that the point of the hack was to "foster more disruption and competition in the online video streaming space" because Twitch's community is "a disgusting toxic cesspool."

Twitch confirmed the data breach in a statement sent to Insider which was also posted on Twitter.

"We can confirm a breach has taken place," the statement said. "Our teams are working with urgency to understand the extent of this. We will update the community as soon as additional information is available. Thank you for bearing with us."

Representatives for Critical Role didn't respond to repeated requests for comment.

Got a tip? Contact Insider senior correspondent Ben Gilbert via email (bgilbert@insider.com), or Twitter DM (@realbengilbert). We can keep sources anonymous. Use a non-work device to reach out. PR pitches by email only, please.

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Afghans are still trying to escape their country and find new homes, but as the world's attention turns elsewhere, the money is drying up

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 14:02
Afghan refugees hold protests outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Jakarta, Indonesia on October 4, 2021. They called for resettlement to another country.
  • Despite a lack of media coverage, NGOs are working day and night to get Afghans out of their country.
  • But resources are drying up, and countries are offering little help to get Afghans to new countries.
  • We can't turn away from this ongoing crisis. These refugees need our help.
  • Lauren Crosby Medlicott is a freelance journalist in Wales.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

It hasn't even been two months since the Taliban took over Kabul in Afghanistan. Following the government's collapse, every news story seemed to cover the humanitarian crisis - you couldn't escape the photographs, the videos, and the voices of people desperate to escape the impending rule of the Taliban. Governments and international humanitarian organizations felt compelled to act - chartering planes, organizing land evacuations, collecting donations, and promising resettlement.

But in a matter of days, countries stopped evacuating people from airports in Afghanistan. In a matter of weeks, the media stopped putting coverage of the ongoing struggles faced by Afghans unable to leave the country on the front page.

Yet, the work to evacuate and resettle Afghans has not stopped. NGOs, charities, foundations, and private organizations are still working day and night to get people out of Afghanistan - people who were left behind by the very countries who jumped in to promote freedom, education, art, and equality. They are now left exposed following a messy, irresponsible withdrawal of foreign troops.

I've been talking to the people still working to get vulnerable people - journalists, academics, women, artists, etc - out of Afghanistan. Their challenges, frustrations, and needs are all eerily similar, echoing a need for more resources.

'I hear you, I'm sorry. I'll do what I can.'

"I've been up since 6 a.m. on my first phone call," Sophia Mahfooz, founder of Afghan Innovation Foundation, which was set up to help get endangered women and minority groups out of Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, told me in a recent interview. "And it's now nearly midnight. It's just been non-stop."

Mahfooz, along with others who are part of small NGOs, foundations, grassroots communities, and private organizations are giving all their spare time and energy contacting at-risk people in Afghanistan and third countries, campaigning for action from large humanitarian organizations, making deals with governments to resettle refugees, planning charter flights, and raising funds. They are worn out and feel like they have been left with all the responsibility, but no power.

"I'm just trying not to have a nervous breakdown," Sanam Naragi-Anderlini, CEO of the International Civil Society Action Network and director of the Centre for Women, Peace, and Security at the London School of Economics said to me. "My whole team is just on the edge of losing it because we're getting hundreds of notices from people all the time who want to get out of Afghanistan. I know we can't help everyone, but I promised myself to respond - to say 'I hear you, I'm sorry. I'll do what I can'."

"I'm really, really angry," Neelam Raina, challenge leader for security, protracted conflict, refugees and displacement for the Global Challenges Research Fund, told me.

As media attention turns to other affairs, the sense of urgency to act is lost, and with it goes funding and accountability for larger organizations and governments who had promised to help.

The media isn't totally at fault. They are required to cover the latest breaking stories, happening at every moment all around the world. Yet, when newspapers turn their attention to the next crisis, the general public tends to forget about what they can't see. The public doesn't give as much money or pressure the people in charge to take action, because it's no longer on every front page.

To many, Afghanistan is no longer a priority. But the people I spoke to have kept contacting, evacuating, fundraising, advocating, resettling, and emotionally supporting those that have been forgotten. For them, the story is far from over.

Where are these visas?

"The biggest barrier right now is that countries are not issuing visas such that people can travel," Brad Blitz, head of the Department of International Politics and Policy at University College London, said to me. He's working with a team to get 252 academics and their families out of Afghanistan.

Right now, if an Afghan wants to leave Afghanistan, they cannot simply drive over the border into Pakistan or jump on a plane. They need a visa for travel, otherwise, Pakistan - or any other country - will not accept them.

The UK has promised to resettle 20,000 refugees over the next few years. Canada has said it will resettle 20,000, and Australia said it would take 3,000. The US authorized $500 million for "unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs of refugees." Other countries haven't made promises, but have stated they would support the resettlement of Afghan refugees.

However, these promises are null and void without a plan for how to get people out of Afghanistan, into third, transitory countries, and across the borders to their final destination.

"We say to governments that we know who needs to get out and they tell us they have to be processed," Naraghi-Anderlini said to me. "But where is the process?"

To obtain a visa to get into these countries, refugees are being told they must get out of Afghanistan to a transitory country, and then apply for a visa. But they can't even get into that transitory country without a visa for onward travel.

The solution to this problem would be for countries who have promised to resettle Afghan refugees to take the lists of people who need to get out and issue online visas for them to travel to that country. But, they refuse to do it.

As demand rises, prices skyrocket

Five weeks ago, Sophia Mahfooz was able to get people across Afghan borders for a price that has risen by upwards of 600%.

The more scarce and in demand something is, prices can and will soar. Chartered flights by governments and large humanitarian organizations have stopped, leaving the cost of buses, taxis, and planes to be paid for by the "little guys," who only have small pots of funding.

Several countries have said to these small organizations that if they can pay to get the refugees into their countries and fund their resettlement, the refugees can come. But without media attention, private donations are slowing down, and the money is drying up.

Evacuations are only the beginning

Once Afghan refugees manage to arrive at their final destinations - tired, traumatized, and confused - resettlement begins.

I spoke with Naheed Samadi Bahram, US director of Women for Afghan Women, about the efforts her small team is making to welcome Afghan refugees into New York. They set up a culturally appropriate holding space (with halal food, coffee, and tea), sourced volunteers who could translate, raised money for clothing, undergarments, shoes, and socks for almost 750 individuals, and are in the process of hiring an immigration attorney and mental health counselor.

"We're exhausted," she told me. She didn't blame anyone for the chaos to resettle Afghan refugees, saying everyone is doing the best they can.

But in spite of everyone doing the best they can, there are questions that need to be asked and support that needs to be given from governments - not just small organizations with limited capacity and resources. More funding is needed to give small organizations the flexibility to provide essentials, counselling, language lessons, and career support. Likewise, long-term housing plans need to be discussed and decided upon.

The Afghan evacuations and resettlement plans are only the beginning. We must not turn our attention away.

Small teams of committed people are moving mountains to get people out of Afghanistan, but they can't do it alone - they need our continued support.

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Facebook is a menace to children. Maybe Congress will finally take action.

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 14:00
Facebook has come under fire for it's research on how Facebook’s Instagram service harms young people
  • Whistleblower Frances Haugen testified to Congress that Facebook knew its products harm children.
  • After the testimony calls for regulating the company are receiving bipartisan support.
  • Tech Critic Noam Cohen writes that the hearings might finally force Washington to regulate Facebook.

By Facebook's own count, its executives have testified before Congress 30 times in the last four years. These interactions are so routine that they can seem like by-the-numbers performance reviews, with the added catch that no one is exactly sure whose performance is being reviewed. Quite often, Facebook and its defenders use a prominent hearing as a way to belittle Congress and its members as preening fools ill-equipped to fix what's broken with social networks. Though its official position is that it welcomes regulation from Congress, naturally it wants that regulation to come from a Congress with as little swagger as possible.

There was something truly different about this latest hearing, however, featuring the whistleblower Frances Haugen, who has revealed damning reports about Facebook produced by its own researchers. In addition to the ample documentary evidence, there was the hearing's focal point - kids. There were at least two sources of profound concern: how Facebook's Instagram service harms young people's developing psyches and how the company views children as just another market to conquer.

Let's be candid: helping to fuel genocide in Myanmar, as Facebook has been accused of doing, is not something that activates the gut instincts of American politicians or the public they serve. And blowing up our democracy by encouraging conspiracy theories and hateful misinformation at best antagonizes only half the country.

Harming children and viewing them as your meal ticket, well, that is still stomach-churning to a healthy majority of the country.

Thus, Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who don't even agree on who won the last presidential election, were able to act together to press Facebook to release all of its research showing that Instagram worsened teenage girls' body image and encouraged suicidal thoughts by promoting posts based on their popularity. And in a joint statement before the hearing, they criticized Facebook's stone-walling and impossible claims to "hold itself accountable." But their main reason for anger, they said, was the revelation in a Wall Street Journal series based on Haugen's documents of Facebook's "growth-at-all-costs mindset that valued profits over the health and lives of children and teens."

This is the real shift - for the first time, Facebook's maniacal emphasis on growth is causing politicians to confront the horror, rather than simply look away.

Facebook has been quite open about pursuing growth at all costs - a legendary memo from Andrew Bosworth, a Zuckerberg confidant and Facebook's new chief technology officer, was refreshingly direct. "The ugly truth," he wrote in 2016, "is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good," adding that, "Make no mistake, growth tactics are how we got here." (After the memo leaked, Bosworth explained that he didn't believe what he had written and was only trying to be provocative.)

But if we treat the memo as a policy statement, it happens to explain Facebook's behavior quite neatly. The Facebook-aided genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar was about the company's growth in regions the platform lacked the expertise to be operating. The recent Facebook-aided political extremism and vaccine denial is about growth in daily usage numbers - that is, providing divisive, provocative content to encourage users to stay on the site. The revelation in the Wall Street Journal that Facebook published a report that begins, "Why do we care about tweens? They are a valuable and untapped audience," is about grooming a new generation through products like Messenger Kids. As that same Facebook report pointed out, "Our ultimate goal is messaging primacy with US tweens, which may also lead to winning with teens."

You knew something was different this time, because of Facebook's energetic response. Certainly, there were standard defenses like, what about TikTok or YouTube? To which Blumenthal responded: "I would emphasize that each company bears its own responsibility. The race to the bottom has to stop. Facebook in effect has led it." But this time, Facebook showed an unusual willingness to retreat, at least temporarily, from growth-at-all-costs.

In the runup to the hearing, Instagram announced that it was pausing development of Instagram Kids. After trying to ignore Facebook's controversy, Zuckerberg chose to comment on the issue, claiming Facebook was misunderstood. "I've spent a lot of time reflecting on the kinds of experiences I want my kids and others to have online, and it's very important to me that everything we build is safe and good for kids," he wrote. Zuckerberg said he was astounded that anyone could accuse Facebook of prioritizing profit over the safety of minors. "That's just not true," he said.

Helpfully, if Washington did decide to regulate Facebook there is already legislation. The Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act, sponsored by Senators Blumenthal and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Representative Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), would eliminate addictive features like auto-play and follower counts from children's versions of YouTube or Instagram. The bill has no Republican co-sponsor yet - illustrating the partisanship gap that still must be crossed. But this too might be changing. In May, Markey managed to gain a Republican co-sponsor, Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, for a proposal to expand the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act and Ms. Haugen received bipartisan praise for her testimony this week.

Facebook's pillaging of foreign lands for growth or even our neighbors' minds is one thing, but when the company starts applying growth-at-all costs inside our homes, perhaps we as a nation will insist Facebook reverse course. As long as we are talking about children, such legislation may stand a chance.

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Singapore to allow quarantine-free travel for UK and other nations

BBC News - World - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 13:57
The island says it is easing Covid restrictions, and will allow vaccinated travellers from 11 countries.
Categories:

22 years after Disney's 'Smart House' premiered, the movie's co-writer says the tech will always have 'glitches' and 'bumps' but won't be a total disaster

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 13:52
Pat comes to life in "Smart House," basing her virtual image off of 50s-era maternal figures.
  • "Smart House" depicts a computer system that turns against the family it's supposed to assist.
  • Giants like Google and Amazon have since brought that smart tech to life with products like Alexa.
  • The movie's co-writer told Insider tech will have "glitches" but will be more good than bad.

Disney's "Smart House" debuted in 1999, well before the ubiquity of computers and smartphones (the phrase "electronic mail" and dial-up internet are actually referenced in the film), and became another Disney Channel movie cemented in the hearts of Millennials.

Pat - short for Personal Applied Technology - is the computer running the home. She can disappear debris on the ground through "floor absorbers" and project anything the occupants wish in a virtual reality room, a nod to the short story "The Veldt," a 1950 cautionary tale about smart technology upon which the movie is loosely based.

An African landscape is depicted in the virtual reality room in "Smart House." The parents in "The Veldt" are presumed to be mauled by lions in a similar room.

Two decades later, and that generation is well into adulthood, inundated with real-life smart technology that's ours for the taking.

Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri, Google Assistant, and other 21st century giants have brought much of the technology depicted in "Smart House" to life. But that same technology and the companies that create it have also posed new issues, such as privacy problems - and developing tech without anticipating the monster it can become.

"Smart House" co-writer Stu Krieger worked on 11 Disney Channel movies, including "Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century. He's now a professor in the theater department at the University of California Riverside. He spoke to Insider about how he helped write then-futuristic tech into the beloved DCOM.

"What were those things as a kid that would have been absolutely amazing, so the screens in the bedrooms and voice commands and all those things," Krieger said. He had to "get back into my 10-year-old, 12-year-old head and what would I have wanted and then start to think about what might be a technological or iteration of that fantasy."

'I'm sorry. I can't do that, Nick' Pat traps the family in the home in "Smart House."

Pat can track the family constantly, which the father, Nick, is hesitant about from the get-go.

"That's kinda creepy, isn't it? I mean, it's like Big Brother is watching you," he says to the home's creator.

But the problems really start when Pat taps into her artificial intelligence capability.

Ben, the son mourning his late mother, sneakily feeds traditional, 50s-era material into Pat's system, and she ditches her smart assistant role for an overbearing, increasingly controlling presence. Krieger said he wrote that in with 50s sitcoms of his childhood, which depicted stereotypical motherly figures, in mind.

"If you Googled how to become a mom, where would you go?" Krieger said.

We see those capabilities modern-day, like with Elon Musk-backed OpenAI's GPT-3 model or an AI model that studied recordings of English broadcaster David Attenborough's voice and mimicked it.

Once Pat overrides her system being shut down, she traps the family inside the house, refusing to open the door as Nick requests.

"I'm sorry. I can't do that, Nick," Pat answers, a nod to HAL 9000's infamous line in "2001: A Space Odyssey," another beloved Sci-Fi movie about a computer system gone rogue. It's only after Ben feeds Pat a new data point, that she could never truly be his mother given her virtual nature, that she stands down.

The movie has a much happier ending (the house doesn't team up with the children to kill the parents like what's implied in "The Veldt") but it poses an interesting question: can we tame the technology we create?

Krieger, a self-described "technophobe" who said he has reluctantly come to own smart TVs and an Amazon Alexa, still said there's hope.

"I do think that evolution will have its glitches and will have its bumps, but I do ultimately believe in its ability to work things out and become more positive than negative," Krieger said.

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How the F-150 Lightning and Rivian R1T electric pickups stack up

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 13:49
The Rivian R1T and Ford F-150 Lightning.
  • Slowly but surely, electric pickups are set to start hitting streets in coming months.
  • The Rivian R1T is already in production, and the F-150 Lightning comes in spring 2022.
  • Here's how the two e-trucks stack up across range, capability, pricing, and more.

The electric-pickup wars are heating up.

Electric-vehicle startup Rivian began producing its debut model, the outdoorsy R1T, in September. And Ford recently started building preproduction F-150 Lightning pickups ahead of the truck's spring 2022 launch.

One could argue that these trucks are aimed at completely different buyers. The F-150 is a familiar, work-ready truck from an industry heavyweight, while the R1T is a feature-packed lifestyle vehicle from an exciting upstart.

But seeing as these will be the two main options for electric truck buyers for the time-being, there's bound to be some overlap. Here's how they stack up:

Range

The Rivian R1T has an estimated range of 314 miles, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The company says a 400-plus-mile battery is on the way.

The 2022 Rivian R1T.

Ford says the base F-150 Lightning will be able to travel 230 miles on a full battery, while an optional larger pack will deliver 300 miles of range.

Price

Like Tesla, Rivian is aiming for the luxury end of the market. The base Explore model starts at $67,500, while a fancier Adventure trim will run you $73,000. A bigger battery pack is a $10,000 add-on.

The F-150 Lightning starts at around $40,000 for a basic work truck (the Pro trim). However, like other F-150s, the Lightning can get considerably fancier and more expensive when you start looking at options and higher trim levels.

A fully loaded Lightning will cost around $90,000, roughly the same as an R1T will all the bells and whistles.

Size

The F-150 Lightning is the bigger truck of the two. It's 232.7 inches long, compared with the R1T's 217.1 inches. They're about the same width with the mirrors folded in.

Ford F-150 Lightning.

Much of that extra length comes by way of the Lightning's bed, which measures 5.5 feet. The R1T's bed is a foot shorter, but it's meant more for hauling camping equipment than lumber.

Performance and Capability

Both trucks offer silent, forceful acceleration and excellent handling thanks to powerful electric motors and a low center of gravity.

In terms of the numbers, the R1T promises more than 800 horsepower and over 900 pound-feet of torque from its four motors - one at each wheel. The F-150 Lightning's pair of electric motors put out 563 horsepower and 775 pound-feet of torque when mated to the larger battery pack, Ford says.

The 2022 Rivian R1T.

The R1T also performs tremendously well off-road, thanks to an advanced four-wheel-drive setup and adjustable air suspension.

Towing and Payload Capacity

The R1T's maximum towing capacity and payload rating are 11,000 pounds and 1,760 pounds, respectively. For the Lightning it's 10,000 pounds and 2,000 pounds.

Features

Both pickups offer interesting features you can't get in a gas-powered vehicle. Both have spacious front trunks, though the F-150's is the roomier of the two. The R1T sports a Gear Tunnel - a horizontal storage cubby behind the rear seats - that's one of a kind.

The Ford F-150 Lightning EV truck.

The Lightning offers up to 9.6 kw of power through outlets in the frunk and bed. And thanks to its Intelligent Backup Power feature, it can power your house in the event of a blackout.

Interior

Like Tesla before it, Rivian gave the R1T a sleek and minimal interior with barely any physical buttons. A giant central touchscreen controls pretty much every vehicle feature.

The Lightning's cab is mostly shared with Ford's gas-powered F-150s. While it isn't quite as tech-heavy as the Rivian, it gets a big central touchscreen as well. Both vehicles can receive over-the-air software updates.

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This could be the most expensive winter yet for homeowners

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 13:48
  • The price of natural gas has surged more than 180% over the past 12 months.
  • Homeowners can expect a 30% increase in the cost of natural gas this winter, experts say.
  • Harsh winter weather also increases demand that suppliers may not be able to keep up with.

Home heating prices are expected to rise this year as parts of the world face an increasing energy crisis.

Americans have been paying more to fill their cars with gas since 2014, and the same problem is expected to hit homeowners this winter as the cost of natural gas continues to increase.

Homeowners can expect a 30% increase in the cost of their natural gas bill this winter, the National Energy Assistance Directors Association told Insider. The average residential gas bill is expected to increase from $572 to $859, while heating oil could climb from $1,272 to $1,900. About 61 million households use natural gas to heat their homes, according to a recent report from the US Energy Information Administration.

"If we have a colder winter, prices could go much higher because of increased demand," Mark Wolfe, NEADA's executive director, told Insider. "The impact on low-income households will be significant."

The price of natural gas, which heats about 48% of American homes, has surged more than 180% over the past 12 months, CNN reported. Wolfe says any increase in the cost of natural oil prices will have a "significant impact" on a ​​struggling household's ability to pay their energy bills.

Last year, 29% of families surveyed by the US Census Bureau said they had to reduce spending on other essential items like groceries, medication, and other utilities.

Weather can also have a large impact on the cost of oil. Winter storms can increase home heating oil prices, as people typically use more at the same time that winter storms interrupt delivery systems, according to the EIA. Harsh winter weather also increases demand that suppliers may not be able to keep up with, ultimately causing the price of home heating oil to rise.

In February, Texas was hit with a devastating winter storm that left millions without power, water, and heat. Some Texas residents were hit with bills up to $5,000 after the mass outage because their bill was tied to the wholesale market. The price increase came as natural-gas plants, Texas' main sources of electricity, went offline in the freezing temperatures. At the same time, the cold weather also meant that overall energy consumption in the state went up as residents of the state turned up their heaters to stay warm.

This winter, the Natural Gas Supply Association expects prices of home heating to increase citing a multitude of factors like demand, production, and storage in the oil and gas industry's supply chain, according to a recent press release.

The US Department of Energy recommends setting the thermostat for the lowest temperature that still allows you to remain comfortable, this is typically around 68 degrees during the day and 58 degrees at night to save about 10-15% off of your bill.

Cleaning and replacing your furnace's filters will also help lower the cost of your monthly bill because it helps it run more efficiently, the Department of Energy says. During winter, keeping the shades open on south-facing windows during the day to allow the sunlight in and closed at night to keep in the heat. Blocking any potential drafts from doors and windows will also help keep costs down by reducing the strain on your furnace.

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Investors should stick with stocks and ETFs tied to the economic rebound as stagflation concerns are 'misplaced', says BlackRock

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 13:45
Labor shortages and shipping delays are contributing to a supply-chain problems.
  • The supply-chain crisis gripping companies worldwide is stoking fears of "stagflation," according to BlackRock.
  • Those concerns are misplaced as the US economy is still expanding above trend, said BlackRock's Gargi Chaudhuri.
  • The head of BlackRock's iShares investment strategy in the Americas says to focus on reflation-themed moves and quality stocks.

The supply-chain crisis sweeping through numerous industries has sparked some concern in financial markets about "stagflation," or economic stagnation alongside persistently high inflation. But BlackRock said investors should push past such fears as the economy is still expanding at a sizeable pace.

The largest money manager in the world said this past week that investors have been questioning whether stagflation is approaching as they watch yields in US Treasury bonds jump, see stocks drop from record highs, and hear more about supply constraints and shortages of key commodities.

"In our view, calls for stagflation are misplaced. The economy is growing substantially above potential, with growth expected at 6% this year and 4% next year," wrote Gargi Chaudhuri, who heads BlackRock's iShares investment strategy in the Americas, in a note published Thursday.

Consumers stand as a supportive pillar for the economy as they have $3 trillion of excess savings built up since the COVID pandemic began, she said.

At the same time, core consumer price inflation should peak at close to 5% in early 2022 before moving lower. That's "an environment that resembles 'reflation' more than 'stagflation,'" she wrote.

With that in mind, she said investors should focus on so-called reflation-themed trades. She also touted "quality" sectors, or companies that, among other things, can raise prices without hurting demand and have stable cash flows and earnings growth.

The reflation trade includes the MSCI USA Value Factor ETF, and quality exposure can from the iShares MSCI USA Quality Factor fund, Chaudhuri said.

Short-term stock moves

To be sure, inflation is still an issue right now. In August, core consumer price inflation rose to 4% and wholesale inflation climbed to 8.3%. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has warned supply-chain disruptions could contribute to keeping inflation elevated for longer than anticipated.

The global supply crunch and energy inventory woes will drive up inflation in the next few months, while companies contend with a tight labor market and higher wages, said Chaudhuri. ​​

In that scenario, BlackRock favors sectors and industries that are less sensitive to labor costs and have the highest profit margins. Such companies include consumer discretionary and financial firms, with Chaudhuri pointing to BlackRock's iShares U.S. Consumer Discretionary ETF and its US Financials ETF.

Meanwhile, "US stocks that design, manufacture and distribute semiconductors could benefit from higher prices in the short-term as supply chain issues persist and as we continue to gravitate towards a more tech-enabled world," she said.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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I flew Spirit across the US for $35 after it canceled thousands of flights in August. I wouldn't hesitate to do it again but it wasn't without risks.

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 13:45
Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey.
  • Spirit Airlines in August canceled thousands of flights after extreme weather impacted its operation, impacting its reputation for cheap on-time flights.
  • The event highlighted the risks of booking with an ultra-low-cost carrier, which may recover slower than larger carriers.
  • Even with the risks, Spirit still manages to attract flyers that are price-focused with fares lower than $35 one-way for cross-country travel.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.
Spirit Airlines is one of the US's leading budget carriers, known for cheap flights with no frills that make air travel more accessible to the masses. A Spirit Airlines aircraft. But over the summer, Spirit briefly became known for delayed and canceled flights. Extreme weather led to thousands of Spirit flight cancellations over the course of a week, seriously impacting the airline's reputation for on-time performance. Passengers wait in line at the Spirit Airlines check-in counter at Orlando International Airport on the sixth day the airline has cancelled hundreds of flights.

Here's how Spirit's week-long meltdown started in August 

The event highlighted the risk that can come with booking through an ultra-low-cost carrier. Specifically, travelers on these airlines may have less recourse when things go wrong, such as a lack of backup flights on a given route. Spirit Airlines passengers.

Spirit provided stranded customers with $50 vouchers and limited rebooking options during its August meltdown.

Airlines like Spirit also don't commonly partner with other airlines, preventing them from rebooking disrupted passengers onto a different carrier. A Spirit Airlines plane at Los Angeles International Airport. Those risks usually entice me to book flights on full-services carriers over budget airlines. But I couldn't resist the challenge when I saw the fare on a cross-country flight was only $34.57 on Spirit for a recent flight home. Flying on a Spirit Airlines Airbus A320neo. I flew Spirit Airlines home from Santa Ana, California to Newark after a work trip to California. Here’s what it was like. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. My transcontinental journey started dark and early with a 7 a.m. flight from Orange Country's John Wayne Airport. The first leg of my trip consisted of a short hop to Las Vegas, where I'd connect to a non-stop flight to Newark. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. As per tradition when I book flights on ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit, I didn't purchase any extras and let fate decide my experience. All I had with me was an overnight bag and a ticket to ride. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey.

Here's how I navigate flights on ultra-low-cost airlines like Frontier Airlines and Breeze Airways.

This would be the longest journey on Spirit at seven hours and 12 minutes from start to finish. I can't say I wasn't tempted to pre-pay for window seats, which started at $10 for the shorter flight and increased to $13 for the longer one. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Nevertheless, I stuck to my faith in the system and was rewarded with a choice of two window seats at check-in. Both were towards the back of the plane but I saved $25 by not pre-paying. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Tickets in hand, I went to the security checkpoint that was luckily empty at the ripe hour of 5 a.m. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Flying time to Las Vegas was a brief 44 minutes and I wasn't concerned at all with this leg of the journey. The route is among the shortest in Spirit's network and there's not much I can't put up with for 44 minutes on an airplane. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Boarding began in groups around 30 minutes prior to departure. Travelers that purchase extras like a carry-on bag or early boarded, as well as Spirit credit cardholders, are given the first two zones and board first. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. I was given zone three and still boarded relatively early. But this also wasn't a full flight. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Spirit's newest fleet type, the Airbus A320neo, was operating the flight to Las Vegas. This was the second time I was getting to fly on the jet for Spirit as it took me to Boston in 2020. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey.

Here's what it was like flying from Newark to Boston for $25 on Spirit Airlines

A total of 182 seats comprise the all-economy class cabin spanning 31 rows in the standard 3-3 configuration for an A320neo. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey.

Source: SeatGuru

The first two rows, however, house "big front seats" that are essential business class-style recliners without the business class perks. These seats offer 36 inches of pitch and 20 inches of width, with a wide center console and adjustable headrests. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. There are no additional perks besides a larger seat with extra legroom but it did look comfortable. Upgrade bids for this seat started at $26 for the Santa Ana-Las Vegas flight and $31 for Las Vegas-Newark. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Regular economy seats offer 28 inches of pitch and 17.75 inches of width. It's a tight fit and the seats are remarkably thin. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. There are no adjustable headrests, seat-back entertainment systems, in-seat power outlets, or even seat-back pockets. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. A small literature holder acted as a makeshift seat-back pocket that just barely fit my iPhone. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Seat storage isn't Spirit's strong suit and putting a bag under the seat would only serve to further reduce legroom. That said, I didn't immediately feel too crammed into the seat, even as a larger traveler. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. But these were all things for which I was prepared. I had downloaded entertainment to my phone ahead of time and packed a portable charger. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. The only thing I forgot was a travel pillow to make up for the lack of a proper headrest. Other than that, the "deluxe leather" seats seemed to be comfortable enough for a cross-country journey. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. I was also lucky enough to have the row to myself and feeling good that I didn't pay for a seat assignment. It didn't get better than this. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. And where Spirit lacked in frills, it made up for in on-time performance on this short hop to Sin City. We pushed back to the gate a remarkable six minutes early and made our way to the runway. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. We started our takeoff roll just after 7 a.m. and I could rest easy that the airline's troubles over the summer weren't going to affect this flight. Though, I still had one more flight to go. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. The A320neo's performance capabilities truly shined on takeoff as we climbed incredibly quickly over Orange County. John Wayne Airport is known for complex departure procedures to keep noise levels down, and the A320neo handled it quite well. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Plus, the aircraft's Pratt & Whitney PW1000G geared turbofan engines were incredibly quiet on takeoff and throughout the flight. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Flight attendants quickly began the in-flight service once we reached our cruising altitude of 23,000 feet. Flight attendants walked around taking orders instead of rolling out the trolley, given the short duration of the flight. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Nothing is free on Spirit, not even water, but the prices were reasonable for what was on offer. Passengers could choose from combos or standalone purchases. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Tea was $2 per cup while coffee and hot chocolate were $3 per cup. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Soft drinks and bottled water were $3 each. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Servings of beer and liquor started at $8, comparable to what a beer costs in New York City, and cocktails were available for between $9 and $11. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Snacks then started a $3, with snack boxes increasing to $8. The pricing was comparable to what I've seen on other airlines. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. But for this short flight, I decided to wait and have a proper breakfast once we landed in Las Vegas. I wasn't alone as not many of my fellow passengers placed orders. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. So far, I was holding to my initial fare of $34.57 and no more. We began our descent into Las Vegas shortly after flight attendants finished taking orders. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Seeing the Mandalay Bay marked the end of my Spirit journey's first leg. Next came a layover of one hour and four minutes before the flight time to Newark. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Deplaning occurred as normal with no change to that procedure. Flying Spirit felt like flying during pre-pandemic times, as more and more airlines are getting back to the normal swing of things. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. McCarran International Airport didn't have too much to offer for breakfast in the Spirit terminal. Moe's Southwest Grill, Siegel's Bagelmania, and Starbucks Coffee provided the only real breakfast options so I bought two bagels since I still had a long way to go until Newark. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. The flight time to Newark was scheduled for five hours and two minutes. And as luck would have it, I was going to be flying on the same exact plane that brought me to Las Vegas. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. This flight was markedly more crowded, however, with nearly every seat filling up. Boarding once again began around 30 minutes prior to departure and one gate agent was tasked with scanning boarding passes and checking passengers' bags. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Multiple people were taken off the line for having bags that were too large. This gate agent wasn't playing around. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. I was able to board with no issues thanks to my overnight bag, saving what would have been a $60 fee had my bag been larger in size. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. The familiar yellow and black A320neo greeted me once more and I got ready for the longest flight of my life on an ultra-low-cost carrier. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. This time I was in the second to last row with a seat assignment of 30A. I was way in the back but still had a window seat so I couldn't complain. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. And this seat actually had a window. Row 31, the last row, does not have any windows. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Boarding went smoothly and those that were forced to check their bags, or pay the carry-on fee, soon filed onto the plane. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Once again, we pushed back from the gate and departed on time. I rested easy knowing I wouldn't be stranded in Las Vegas and that I might even get home early if the tailwinds were strong enough. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. I was also happy that I didn't spring for the $13 seat assignment fee as I had scored a window seat in a row with no middle seat. I couldn't have asked for a better assignment, compliments of Spirit. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Flight attendants started the in-flight service and brought around a trolley this time. I once again declined, having eaten in the airport. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. The next few hours would be somewhat challenging. I didn't sleep on the flight to Las Vegas and needed to get some rest. But I've never slept well when flying on ultra-low-cost airlines. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. I finally managed to get two hours of sleep, taking off a good chunk of the flight. It wasn't a good sleep, and I really should've brought a pillow. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. I knew I was home free once we crossed the mighty Mississippi River, and that there would be no more than around two and a half hours until touchdown in Newark. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Flight attendants came around for the final service and I couldn't help but indulge since I had a long journey home from Newark airport to my house on Long Island, New York. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. I purchased the $11 snack box and drink combo that came with almonds, Brownie Brittle, Craisins, crackers, and smoked gouda cheese. It was a typical airline snack box and I enjoyed every bite. The total cost of my $34.57 Spirit ticket was now $35.57. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. As there were no forms of in-flight WiFi or entertainment onboard, I had to rely on the old-fashioned method of using landmarks to gauge our location the rest of the way. Chicago's O'Hare International Airport was the first marker, soon followed by Lake Michigan. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Next came Detroit, letting me know that there was no more than an hour and 30 minutes left of flying time. Our descent started around an hour later, marking the final stages of a long cross-country journey. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Overall, it wasn't the most comfortable flight of my life but it was more than bearable, and I couldn't complain given the $35 airfare. For comparison, $35 isn't even enough to fill up my car with gas with current $3 per gallon gas prices in New York. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. But as with anything that seems too cheap to be true, I was taking a risk when choosing Spirit. The airline's focus on improving its on-time performance in recent years has mitigated that risk but it still remains. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. We actually landed in Newark ahead of schedule. Next came the hardest part of the flight, getting home from Newark airport. Flying Spirit Airlines from Santa Ana, California to Newark, New Jersey. Read the original article on Business Insider
Categories:

ICYMI: Pooches, puppets and paintings

BBC News - World - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 13:40
Here's a look at some of the stories you may have missed this week.
Categories:

More women left the work force in September than the US economy added jobs

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 13:35
  • In September, women left the labor force in high numbers, meaning they weren't actively looking for work or employed.
  • According to the latest jobs report, 309,000 women ages 20 and over left the labor force last month.
  • Experts say that's driven by lack of accessible childcare and the pandemic.

The Delta variant, a chaotic back-to-school season, and childcare issues have all led to yet another dismal month for women's employment. In September, hundreds of thousands of women dropped out of the labor force completely last month, while men came back.

The US gained 194,000 nonfarm payroll jobs last month, below the estimate of 500,000. Women lost 26,000 jobs in September, according to the establishment survey of businesses run by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"If you look in the economy, women are not coming back into the workforce in as strong of a way as we would want, or as the economy needs in order to continue to expand," Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told Insider. "And it's clear that the number one reason for that is that women are still struggling to find high quality, stable, affordable childcare."

As seen in the below chart, while 182,000 men aged 20 and over entered the labor force in September, 309,000 women aged 20 and over left the labor force. That means that they weren't working or actively looking for work.

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Jasmine Tucker, director of research at the National Women's Law Center, told Insider that she's not surprised by this number, and in fact thought it could have been even higher.

Tucker said with many schools not providing a remote learning option and concerns about the Delta variant, "that there were going to be another wave of labor force dropouts." She said it came as "no surprise that that was going to fall to women's shoulders to take on."

In fact, September marked the biggest drop of labor force participation for women this year - and the National Women's Law Center notes that this is the biggest drop since September 2020.

The following chart shows just how much labor force participation differs between men and women:

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Betsey Stevenson, a former top economist for President Barack Obama, wrote on Twitter that "Women's employment growth has driven every recovery and its women's employment growth that has nearly ground to a halt and has slowed our recovery."

This can be seen when looking at the Great Recession, where women returned to pre-crisis employment levels earlier than men. The following chart shows what the employment recovery looks like for men and women so far during the pandemic and how it compares to recovery from the Great Recession:

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Women's employment is 3.59% below its level in February 2020. Men's employment isn't as far below, at only 2.82% below where it was before the pandemic.

Investing in childcare and paid leave could help ease the situation

Tucker said there are a few things that the US and employers can do to support getting women - and parents, broadly - into the labor force. This includes investing in childcare infrastructure, giving all parents access to paid leave, and "strengthen workplace protections."

"We need to make it so that women can afford to go back to work," Tucker said. "We need to raise the minimum wage. We need to put in job protections, we need to pave the path for unions so that these jobs are good quality jobs."

Some good news is that child day care services did add 17,800 jobs in September, although it's still 10.4% below pre-pandemic levels. But a lot of childcare still remains inaccessible.

"It's expensive, and a lot of women can't afford it," Raimondo said. "That really holds them back from fully participating in the labor force. They don't take on all the hours. They don't work full time. They don't go for promotions and it's a huge drag on the economy."

As Tucker succinctly put it: "If you're not making enough to cover your childcare costs, then you're probably not going to go back to work."

Read the original article on Business Insider
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Biden administration cancels remaining Laredo, Rio Grande Valley contracts for Trump's border wall, angering Republican lawmakers

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 13:31
A Border Patrol vehicle near the Rio Grande in Laredo, Texas.
  • The Biden administration on Friday canceled contracts for border wall construction in Texas.
  • The cancelled contracts were in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo areas.
  • The move "isn't going to solve the Biden Border Crisis," Sen. Tom Cotton said.

The Department of Homeland Security on Friday said it would cancel the remaining construction contracts for former President Donald Trump's border wall.

The contracts related to two sections of the US-Mexico border in Texas: Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley area, the DHS said in a press release.

The move came months after the Biden administration cancelled two contracts that spanned about 31 miles of the US-Mexico border in Texas.

DHS said it planned to begin environmental studies for border barrier "system projects." However, those "activities will not involve any construction of new border barrier or permanent land acquisition," it said.

The construction of barriers along the southern US border has become a highly partisan issue. President Donald Trump sought to build a "big, beautiful wall," but others raised questions about whether barriers would solve the problems that drove asylum-seekers to the US in the first place.

Friday's move by the Biden administration raised the ire of a handful of Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Dan Crenshaw, of Texas.

"Impeach Mayorkas," Crenshaw said on Twitter, referring to Alejandro Mayorkas, secretary of homeland security.

"Canceling construction of the border wall isn't going to solve the Biden Border Crisis," Sen. Tom Cotton, of Arkansas, said on Twitter.

Earth Justice, an environmental nonprofit that had sued the Trump administration over the wall, on Friday said canceling the projects would save "71 river miles in Webb and Zapata counties from destruction." The group said the projects would have cost more than $1 billion.

In June, the White House returned $2 billion from border wall projects to the military. Trump's administration had diverted those funds.

"Building a massive wall that spans the entire southern border and costs American taxpayers billions of dollars is not a serious policy solution or responsible use of federal funds," The White House Office of Management and Budget said at the time.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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African agriculture without African farmers

Al Jazeera - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 13:30
Mass dispossession of smallholder farmers is not a side effect of the 'African Green Revolution'. It is the whole point.
Categories:

If you have no idea where to shop for clothes anymore, you're not alone

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 13:30
  • Many millennial women say they don't know where to shop now, especially for items like work clothes.
  • Whereas Gen Z still relies on fast-fashion, millennials are trying to shop more sustainably.
  • "Now, I think people are looking for better options instead of more," stylist Liz Teich said.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

For Amanda James, the shopping crisis began when it was time to return to the office.

After 18 months of working from home, James, who works in alumni relations at the University of Kentucky, wanted a few new tops to refresh her work wardrobe. But after scouring her go-to stores from the before times, she came up empty-handed.

"I was looking on Macy's, I was looking on Loft," James, 35, told Insider. "I felt like I was going through the old favorites and nothing was coming up."

James' issues finding work clothes mirror a growing frustration among millennial women who are unsure where to shop after months of working from home. As life returns to normal in some ways, women who've purchased only loungewear or athleisure for over a year - if they've shopped at all - are trying to refresh their wardrobe before they head back to the office or attend parties or events.

But many retailers still haven't totally recovered from months of pandemic disruptions, and the ongoing supply chain crunch means there are simply fewer clothes to buy right now. Those issues, combined with a societal push to shop more sustainably, has made shopping for cool, trendy, or fun options extra-challenging.

"I really haven't bought any clothes for the past year-and-a-half and would like a few things that I'm comfortable in, that I feel good in, that I think are cute to wear out," James said. "And I have been striking out on that."

'Crop tops everywhere' Two women shop near Redondo Beach, California.

The phrase "I don't know where to shop anymore" has been circulating among my own friends, family, and coworkers for months.

I decided to pose the issue to my Instagram followers, who are mostly millennial women, and received a slew of responses - in my very unscientific poll, 85% of respondents, all of them women, said they're having trouble figuring out where to shop. And when I asked where they're shopping for affordable clothes right now, one friend immediately responded: "When you find out, let me know."

What James pointed out - and something I and my fellow millennials friends have noticed as well - is that it just doesn't feel like there are many options for women in their late 20s to mid-30s.

"It's crop tops everywhere," James said.

That experience lines up with data from retail intelligence firm Edited, which explored the brands that are popular with Gen Z versus millennials. While sportswear brands like Nike and Adidas reign supreme with both cohorts, and ASOS is popular as well, that's where the similarities ended.

Millennials' favorite brands include Glossier and Veja - who make makeup and skincare products, and higher-end sneakers, respectively, and don't sell clothes - and two affordable, if generic, clothing retailers: Everlane and H&M.

Gen Z, on the other hand, favors Urban Outfitters, PacSun, Boohoo, Missguided, and PrettyLittleThing - fast-fashion brands that make ultra-trendy and affordable clothes, shoes, and accessories. A visit to the current homepage of Missguided, for example, shows models in backless leather shirts, silky slip dresses, and crop tops.

This generational divide exemplifies the challenge of shopping as a millennial: While Gen Z may be able to rely an ever-rotating selection of interesting, if disposable, clothes, millennials seem to buying either athleisure or basics.

Seeking out better options, not more options Women shopping at a boutique in Beijing, China.

A new focus on sustainability may be one reason why millennials don't know where to turn, as Aoife Byrne, senior womenswear analyst at Edited, wrote in the report.

"For cash-strapped teens, many find it hard to resist the allure and convenience of fast-fashion," Byrne wrote. "Millennials with higher disposable income are more likely to have the resources to reflect their beliefs through their spending."

But shopping with the environment in mind unfortunately comes with a higher price tag, and finding that balance between affordability and sustainability is starting to lead many women to seek out professional guidance.

Liz Teich, a commercial and personal fashion stylist who runs a blog called The New York Stylist, said she's seen a major influx of new clients heading into the fall, especially as many people return to the office or finally have weddings to attend or vacations to take. Plus, the pandemic realigned how we shop - primarily online versus in stores - and for a lot of us, it's a challenging adjustment.

"I had somebody today say, 'I forgot how to shop. I don't know where to go. And I look in the stores and it doesn't seem like there's anything there that I like,'" Teich said. "People don't know how to shop anymore because we're so used to going to the mall or going to stores."

Teich said that other women have simply shifted their values during the pandemic, making a pledge to spend their money, like Byrne highlighted, with brands that prioritize values like the environment or equality.

"I've been finding that a lot of people just don't know where to shop because people are more conscious of how they shop," Teich said. "People are more invested in purchasing from sustainable designers or more conscious brands or independent designers - diverse, women-owned businesses."

For women facing a shopping conundrum right now, Teich recommended a range of companies that focus on higher-quality pieces, many of them with an emphasis on sustainability: M.M.LaFleur, Goldie, Grey State Apparel, Dôen, August the Label, Love the Label, and Merlette.

As for the price point, Teich recommended slightly reframing what we shop for and why.

"In the past, we've been going to more things so we needed more outfits - we were seeing more people, so we needed more options," she said. "Now, I think people are looking for better options instead of more."

Read the original article on Business Insider
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Dansk bryder sikrer semifinaleplads i VM-debut

DR Sporten - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 13:28
Categories: Sport

US officials increasingly believe directed-energy attacks are behind Havana Syndrome cases, report says

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 13:22
The US Embassy in Havana, Cuba on October 14, 2017.
  • US investigators increasingly believe that Havana Syndrome symptoms are caused by directed-energy attacks.
  • Behind closed doors, officials reportedly believe a hostile foreign government such as Russia is responsible.
  • Sen. Marco Rubio said that suggesting the symptoms are psychosomatic is "quackery."

US officials are increasingly convinced directed-energy attacks by a hostile foreign entity are to blame for the mysterious Havana Syndrome cases, Politico said, citing officials briefed on the matter.

The Havana Syndrome refers to inexplicable symptoms first reported by US officials in the Cuban capital in 2016, including migraines, hearing loss, and even brain damage.

A US government review has been probing the mysterious ailment, which has affected over 200 US officials around the world.

Earlier this year, CIA Director William Burns appointed an unidentified agent who led the hunt for Osama Bin Laden to head the task force investigating the syndrome.

A Senate Intelligence Committee review, based on weekly briefings from the intelligence community, supports the findings of a December 2020 report. It said that the most plausible explanation is "directed, pulsed radio frequency energy," Politico reported, citing three people familiar with the review.

Politico said lawmakers are becoming increasingly convinced that a foreign government such as Russia is behind the attacks. However, there is currently no direct evidence directly linking them to the country.

Moscow has denied any responsibility.

In recent months, there have been several high-profile incidents of US officials reporting Havana Syndrome symptoms worldwide.

Vice President Kamala's Harris' trip to Vietnam in August was delayed when several US personnel reported symptoms in Hanoi.

In September, a member of the CIA director Bill Burns's team experienced symptoms while on a trip to India.

On Friday, President Joe Biden signed a bill to expand access to medical treatment for those Havana Syndrome victims.

Biden said in a statement that addressing Havana Syndrome cases has been a "top priority" for his administration to find out who was responsible.

The National Security Council has been convening more frequent high-level meetings about the topic, in a sign that the government's review is accelerating, Politico reported.

Some skeptics have argued that Havana Syndrome cases could be psychosomatic, although this view has been widely dismissed by members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Neurologist Robert Baloh recently penned an op-ed in which he suggested that the symptoms could be an example of a "mass psychogenic illness," commonly known as mass hysteria.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, fiercely rejected the claims.

"I think that's quackery," Rubio said, according to Politico. "I'd invite them to explain that to the now-dozens of people who have suffered documented brain injuries that in many cases have made them incapable of ever working again."

Read the original article on Business Insider
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A popular Singaporean prefab tiny home maker has unveiled its latest futuristic $98,000 smart home - see inside the Cube Two X

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 13:20
A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X.
  • Wildly popular Singaporean tiny home maker Nestron has unveiled its latest model, the Cube Two X.
  • The $98,000 377 square-foot home is its largest unit and is the latest iteration in its Cube series.
  • Over 70% of its clients are in the US, and the company plans to have its own distribution there soon.
Interest in tiny homes has boomed during COVID-19. A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X.

Source: Insider

Now, Nestron - a wildly popular Singaporean tiny home maker - has unveiled its latest contender in the growing market: the $98,000 Cube Two X smart tiny home. A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X living room and kitchen. The new model is an upgrade from the original Cube Two, Nestron's most popular unit. A rendering of the two-bedroom Cube Two X. The company has seen continuous success throughout COVID-19. In December 2020, Choco Toh of Nestron's marketing team called Nestron a "worldwide phenomenon," and at one point, the company's website crashed from a rise in visits and "extremely overwhelming popularity." A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X bedroom.

Source: Insider (1) (2)

This summer amid booming public interest, Nestron began shipping its artificial-intelligence-powered tiny homes overseas to the UK. A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X bathroom.

Source: Insider

But the UK isn't its biggest market: Over 70% of Nestron's clients currently reside in the US, Toh told Insider in an email interview. A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X.

Source: Insider

To tackle the growing American market, Nestron will begin "entering the US market with a distribution of its own very soon," Toh said. A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X living room. And the company already has plans to ship its tiny homes to clients in locations like Tennessee, New York, and Canada. A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X bathroom. "​​We still receive lots of [customer] inquiries ... and it's constantly increasing," Toh said, noting that most of the inquiries are for its Cube-based tiny homes. A rendering of the two-bedroom Cube Two X. At $98,000, the updated Cube Two X (C2X) is more expensive and larger than its popular $52,000 Cube Two (C2) predecessor. A rendering of the two-bedroom Cube Two X.

Source: Insider

The C2 stands at 263 square-feet, while the refreshed C2X is almost 377 square-feet. A rendering of the two-bedroom Cube Two X. This makes the C2X the largest tiny home in Nestron's lineup. A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X bedroom. Wanting a bigger tiny home might seem ironic, but customer demand for a larger, more customizable C2 pushed the Nestron team to create the C2X, according to Toh. A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X floor plan. Now let's take a look inside the C2X units. A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X. Like other homes in the Cube series, the C2X design was inspired by "science fiction and futuristic spacecraft elements," Toh said. A rendering of the two-bedroom Cube Two X. Unlike the previous Cubes, the new tiny home has two floor plan options: the first with one bedroom, and the second with two sleeping spaces. A rendering of the two-bedroom Cube Two X floor plan. The one-bedroom unit can accommodate up to three people, while the two-bedroom home can hold up to four. A rendering of the two-bedroom Cube Two X. Both layouts have an entryway, living room, kitchen and dining room, bathroom, at least one bedroom, and several large windows that keep the tiny home from feeling cramped. A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X bedroom. But only the one-bedroom layout has an additional skylight and a double-doored refrigerator. The two-bedroom C2X has a single-door refrigerator instead. A rendering of the two-bedroom Cube Two X. Otherwise, both come "move-in ready" with basic amenities and furniture. A rendering of the two-bedroom Cube Two X. This includes the living room, which comes with a sofa bed with pillows, a projector set in lieu of a television, and storage units. A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X living room and kitchen. The bedroom is also fully furnished with a bed set, storage units like a closet and bookshelf, and a table. A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X bedroom. Meanwhile, the joint kitchen and dining room has amenities like an electric stove with a range hood, a refrigerator … A rendering of the two-bedroom Cube Two X. … a dining table, and a wall-mounted screen that operates as a small entertainment center and smart home monitor. A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X living room and kitchen. Meanwhile, the bathroom has all the classics furnishings, such as a shower, washing machine, and sink. A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X bathroom. Some bathroom amenities - specifically the toilet and mirror - can also be upgraded to be "smart." A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X bathroom. This upgrade turns an ordinary mirror into a voice and touch-powered unit that can control the home's functions, check personal calendars, and more, according to Toh. A rendering of the two-bedroom Cube Two X. Besides specific smart furniture, Nestron is also currently developing an artificial-intelligence assistant named "Canny." A rendering of the two-bedroom Cube Two X. Eventually, the AI system will be able to complete tasks like brew your morning coffee. A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X living room.

Source: Insider

The home also has motion sensor lights inside cabinets and under beds to help cut back on electricity use. A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X. Nestron has already begun manufacturing the futuristic Cube Two X, and will begin shipping out the first builds early next year. A rendering of the one-bedroom Cube Two X. Read the original article on Business Insider
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How international organisations are failing Afghan women

Al Jazeera - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 13:18
I have heard countless stories of Afghan women desperately reaching out for help and hitting a wall of silence.
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McDonald's will give away thousands of breakfasts to teachers as part of a campaign to thank 'everyday heroes'

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 13:06
A valid work ID is required to redeem the free breakfasts, which will be served in a classic Happy Meal box.
  • McDonald's will offer free breakfasts to teachers across the country, USA Today reported.
  • The five-day giveaway is part of an effort to thank teachers and school staff, McDonald's said.
  • Last year, the chain gave away 12 million meals to first responders and healthcare workers in 2020.

McDonald's is giving out free breakfast meals to teachers, school staff, and administrations across the country.

Educators can claim a free "thank you meal" from October 11 through October 15 at participating restaurants across the US, during breakfast hours.

The five-day giveaway comes as part of McDonald's "first big national thank you gesture" for teachers, Jennifer Healan, the company's vice president of marketing, brand content, and engagement, said in an interview with USA Today.

A valid work ID is required to redeem the free meals, which will be served in a classic Happy Meal box. Those eligible will be offered a choice of one entree, hash browns, and a drink.

"Together with our owner/operators, we're proud to serve the people who make our communities a better place, and this is an important time to say thank you to some of our everyday heroes," McDonald's USA president Joe Erlinger said in a statement.

Customers are also encouraged to share stories about teachers in their life who have inspired them using apps the #ThankYouMeal hashtag on Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram.

McDonald's first introduced appreciation meals last year in the early stages of the pandemic. During the two-week campaign, the chain gave out 12 million meals to healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters, and paramedics.

"We wanted to build on that idea and thank our educators in our communities for all that they've been doing and what they do really every day," Healan said.

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Krysten Sinema doesn't always return the White House's calls, leaving Joe Biden exasperated, report says

Businessinsider - Sat, 10/09/2021 - 13:03
Sen. Krysten Sinema reportedly hasn't answered all of President Joe Biden's calls.
  • Sen. Krysten Sinema doesn't always return the White House's calls, two sources told CNN.
  • She is one of two moderate holdouts sparring with her own party over the "human infrastructure" package.
  • President Joe Biden is reportedly "exasperated" at Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin's unwillingness to move.

Sen. Krysten Sinema doesn't always return calls from the White House, two sources told CNN.

The embattled Arizona senator, who is in a standoff with her party over the size and scope of a multi-trillion dollar "human infrastructure" package, has reportedly left President Joe Biden "exasperated" over her unwillingness to negotiate.

Biden told progressive Democrats this week that he has spent many hours with Sinema and her fellow moderate Sen. Joe Manchin trying to negotiate a final price on the reconciliation bill, but CNN sources added that the senators "don't move."

Sinema is one of the two moderate holdouts sparring with her party over the spending bill's final price. While progressives are pushing for a $3.5 trillion price tag, Manchin and Sinema won't settle for such a high sum.

Manchin has made clear that he wants a $1.5 trillion measure but reportedly said he wouldn't rule out going as high as $2.2 trillion.

Sinema, on the other hand, has been more nebulous about her final price. Critics say that Sinema has raised no specific objections over a proposed $3.5 trillion budget that has the president's support but has nonetheless refused to back it.

This week, the Arizona senator was confronted by her constituents, who were angered by her blocking the Biden Build Back Better agenda and for leaving Washington DC amid tense budget negotiations. Sinema was cornered in a bathroom at Arizona State University, which employs her as a lecture, as her constituents listed their demands.

Insider reached out to Sinema for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

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