Tag Archives: United States

KantoorKaravaan offers a tiny desk-sharing space in the wilderness

Kantoor Karavaan offers a tiny desk-sharing space in the wilderness

© Erik Lindvall

Do you ever feel like you’d be more productive in the middle of nowhere? Like you could really get a lot done if you were just surrounded by woods, but still had, say, WiFi and coffee?

The designers behind KantoorKaravaan must have had some of these impulses. A project of The Tipping Point Foundation, this off-grid workplace consists of several micro-offices as well as food carts and tents. KantoorKaravaan (which translates from Dutch as “office caravan”) is mobile, so it may be found in the forest or countryside of Netherlands. It has solar power and a composting toilet. Just bring your laptop or other materials and get to work.
© Erik Lindvall
© Erik Lindvall
The space will be operated as a desk-sharing service, where users can rent the space. If you’re short on cash, the creators say they will accept services for the caravan or its surroundings as a form of payment.

The caravan can accommodate either individuals or groups, and can be tailored to fit the occasion. Tom van de Beek, one of the co-founders of KantoorKaravaan told TreeHugger that as the community is growing, they’re continuing to convert vintage mobile homes into miro-offices. They also have plans to expand the concept to other countries. “We’re planning on setting up something similar in Sweden, Greece, Spain, and the US,” van de Beek said.
© Erik Lindvall
© Erik Lindvall
The project was started earlier this year. “The offices are a spinoff of SustainsVille, a five-year-old project that is building a self-sustaining community of tree houses for cultural creatives,” said van de Beek. “To be more agile and get things rolling faster we decided to build a moving version of the concept.”

In addition to the appeal of getting away from urban distractions, van de Beek points to a number of benefits of working in nature. “There are clear advantages to working from a campsite instead of a high-rise, beyond the fact that multiple studies prove that being around nature helps improve the quality of work,” he said. “It just feels good to charge your phone and laptop batteries and prepare your soy latte on solar energy while charging yourself on the virtues of nature. It’s a very effective remedy to reduce stress or avoid burn-outs. Compared to your typical office our concept, it gives you plenty of space, much needed silence, and ultimate freedom.”


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Scam Targets Free-lancers: Photographers and others be ware!


Freelance photographers are getting targeted by a new con. Scammers are posing as potential clients and fooling photographers into paying thousands of dollars. It’s a new twist on the classic overpayment scam.

How the Scam Works:

You are looking online for freelance photography jobs. One post looks particularly promising, a family in your area is hiring a photographer to take family portraits. You send a message to the email provided, but, in their reply, the potential client has some odd requests.

First, the client doesn’t want to meet or talk on the phone. He or she only wants to communicate by email.  Second, the family is amazingly flexible with their time. They give you a huge window in which they are available for photos. Finally, there’s the biggest red flag of all. The client wants to send you a check for far more than your fee. You are supposed to deposit it and transfer the difference to an “event planner” or other third party.

Don’t take the job! A version of this scam is targeting freelance photographers across the US and Canada. The exact scenario given may change, but the central scam remains the same. If you deposit a fake check, the money will appear to be in your account. But if you transfer the funds before the bank officially clears the check, you are responsible for the difference.

How to Spot a Freelance Scam:

  • Don’t fall for an overpayment scam. No legitimate job would ever overpay a contractor and ask him/her to wire the money elsewhere. This is a common trick used by scammers.
  • Watch out for clients who won’t meet in person or talk on the phone. You may be an excellent candidate for a job, but beware of offers made without talking first. Scammers use many excuses to avoid talking, ranging from having surgery, being out of the country or even being hearing impaired. If your “client” will only communicate through email or text message, that’s a big red flag.
  • Watch out for bad grammar. Many scams targeting job seekers and freelancers operate overseas. Be wary of help wanted postings and emails written in poor English.
  • If a job looks suspicious, search for it online. If the result comes up in other cities with the exact same post, it is likely a scam.


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Gay Marriage Backers Win Supreme Court Victory

WASHINGTON — In a long-sought victory for the gay rights movement, the Supreme Courtruled on Friday that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the 5 to 4 decision. He was joined by the court’s four more liberal justices.

The decision, the culmination of decades of litigation and activism, came against the backdrop of fast-moving changes in public opinion, with polls indicating that most Americans now approve of same-sex marriage.

Justice Kennedy said gay and lesbian couples had a fundamental right to marry.

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family,” he wrote. “In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

“It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage,” Justice Kennedy said of the couples challenging state bans on same-sex marriage. “Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., in a dissent joined by Justice Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, said the Constitution had nothing to say on the subject.

“If you are among the many Americans — of whatever sexual orientation — who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote. “Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”

In a second dissent, Justice Scalia mocked Justice Kennedy’s soaring language.

“The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic,” Justice Scalia wrote of his colleague’s work. “Of course the opinion’s showy profundities are often profoundly incoherent.”

As Justice Kennedy finished announcing his opinion, several attendees seated in the bar section of the court’s gallery wiped away tears, while others grinned and exchanged embraces.

Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired in 2010, was on hand for the decision and many of the justices’ clerks took seats in the chamber, which was nearly full as the ruling was announced.


Supporters of same-sex marriage gathered outside the Supreme Court on Friday.CreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

As in earlier civil rights cases, the Supreme Court had moved cautiously and methodically, laying careful judicial groundwork for a transformative decision.

As late as October, the justices ducked the issue, refusing to hear appealsfrom rulings allowing same-sex marriage in five states. That decision delivered a tacit victory for gay rights, immediately expanding the number of states with same-sex marriage to 24, along with the District of Columbia, up from 19.

Largely as a consequence of the Supreme Court’s decision not to act, the number of states allowing same-sex marriage has since grown to 36, and more than 70 percent of Americans live in places where gay couples can marry.

The court did not agree to resolve the issue for the rest of the nation until January, in cases filed by gay and lesbian couples in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee. The court heard extended arguments in April, and the justices seemed sharply divided over what the Constitution has to say about same-sex marriage.

“Gay and lesbian people are equal,” Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said. “They deserve equal protection of the laws, and they deserve it now.”

Lawyers for the four states said their bans were justified by tradition and the distinctive characteristics of opposite-sex unions. They said the question should be resolved democratically, at the polls and in state legislatures, rather than by judges.

The Supreme Court had once before agreed to hear a case arising from a constitutional challenge to a same-sex marriage ban, California’sProposition 8, in 2012 in Hollingsworth v. Perry. At the time, nine states and the District of Columbia allowed same-sex couples to marry.

But when the court’s ruling arrived in June 2013, the justices ducked, with a majority saying the case was not properly before them, and none of them expressing a view on the ultimate question of whether the Constitution requires states to allow same-sex marriage.


A second decision the same day, in United States v. Windsor, provided the movement for same-sex marriage with what turned out to be a powerful tailwind. The decision struck down the part of the Defense of Marriage Act that barred federal benefits for same-sex couples married in states that allowed such unions.

The Windsor decision was based partly on federalism grounds, with Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion stressing that state decisions on how to treat marriages deserved respect. But lower courts focused on other parts of his opinion, ones that emphasized the dignity of gay relationships and the harm that families of gay couples suffered from bans on same-sex marriage.

In a remarkable and largely unbroken line of more than 40 decisions, state and federal courts relied on the Windsor decision to rule in favor of same-sex marriage.


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Yes, you’re a racist… and a traitor


While I was out jogging this morning, I passed a neighbor’s house that I have passed every day for almost three years. Usually I stroll right on by without giving it a second thought. Today, though… today was different. I stopped in my tracks and blankly stared until a car honked at me to move out of the way.

This house flies a Confederate flag.

Actual flag 

I don’t live in South Carolina or even Maryland. I live in a small town in Central Pennsylvania, 50 miles north of Gettysburg – the site of the most famous victory of the Civil War. Yet even here, a few hundred feet from my front door flies the unambiguous symbol of hatred, racism, and treason.

Normally this would elicit some fleeting contempt and I would go about my day. But with the murders in Charleston very much on my mind, I found myself getting angry… very angry. Angry at this person, this “neighbor” of mine. Angry at the culture that permits such blatant hatred. Angry at the media who provide cover for the ignorant. Angry at the teachers who perpetuate historical falsehoods. Angry at myself for not being angry before.

You see, I study traditional culture. More specifically, I study the ways in which today’s culture manufactures and reinforces traditions through mass media. Folklorists have a unique disciplinary perspective for this sort of analysis because there was this period of time when the field was mired in “romantic nationalism.” The “true character” of a people was said to be rooted in the culture of the volk and was glorified and incorporated into more modern political movements. Like Nazism. So folklorists have a keen interest in serving as the sort-of keepers of cultural authenticity, if you will. If anyone should be highlighting the ways in which “traditions” are being manufactured, distorted, and consumed, it is us… me.

In America today, the most prominent, prevalent, and pernicious of these revisionist movements is the Lost Cause narrative: the idea that the Civil War was a romantic struggle for freedom against an oppressive government trying to enforce cultural change. There are scores of books on this topic, and you should check those out at your local library. But probably the most famous popular culture Lost Cause text is Gone With The Wind (both bookand movie).

I hate Gone With the Wind. I hate everything about it. I hate its portrayal of the Civil War. I hate its portrayal of Southern aristocrats. I hate its popularity. I hate that it’s become an iconic movie. I hate that it was ever made in the first place. Gone With the Wind is Birth of a Nation with less horses. The movie, and its position among the American cinematic pantheon, has done more to further the ahistoric Lost Cause bullshit than any other single production. Because that’s the fundamental problem with the Lost Cause narrative: it’s not true.

Let’s go one-by-one through some typical Lost Cause-tinged revisionist talking points:

The Civil War was about economics, not slavery!

  • Yes, the Civil War was about the economics of slavery.

The Civil War was about states’ rights, not slavery!

  • Yes, the Civil War was about the states’ right to maintain slavery.

That’s not the Confederate flag!

  • True, it’s the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, which actually makes your usage even worse. It’s the banner under which men fought and died to enact secession.

Heritage not hate!

  • Funny story: the heritage is hate. This is my favorite talking point because it sets up a false dichotomy and then tries to pretend “heritage” is a signifier for some romantic, noble culture just waiting to be recaptured. When Lindsay Graham says things like, “The flag represents to some people a civil war, and that was the symbol of one side. To others it’s a racist symbol, and it’s been used by people, it’s been used in a racist way,” he makes a mockery of the history. Yes, Senator, it does represent one side of the Civil War: the side that advocated slavery and secession. It’s the flag of treason.

Competing nationalisms… 

The savagery of slavery is offensive enough to justify any level of outrage. The disgusting post-war history of the Ku Klux Klan is offensive enough to justify any level of outrage. But what might be the most absurd part of this neo-Confederate “heritage” romanticism is that its advocates are simply glorifying treason.

Remember that time South Carolina attacked Fort Sumter? That’s the literaldefinition of treason. And I quote Article III, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.” Not exactly abstract legalese that requires a ton of parsing.

The states that seceded to become the Confederacy were actively engaged in open war against the United States government. A war they started because of the election of a man they deemed “hostile to slavery.” A war they fought to maintain the “heaven ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race.” A war they lost.

But it was a war based on a fundamental social conflict that is still not resolved and simmers under the zeitgeist, rearing its ugly head every so often to remind us it hasn’t gone anywhere. It was not resolved in 1865, not in 1965, and sadly, not in 2015.

The “heritage” of the Confederacy, the enduring belief in Lost Cause romanticism, the invention and adoption of revisionist “traditions” and culture, has become society’s Old Faithful: a cultural geyser that periodically lets off steam; a spectacle at which we ogle and wax poetic about the fragility of our condition. But one day it’ll explode and it’ll be a catastrophe from which we might not recover.

The tragedy of America is that this is all self-inflicted. This trajectory to self-destruction doesn’t have to be the outcome. As Jon Stewart so eloquentlypointed out, “al Qaeda… ISIS… they’re not shit on the damage we can apparently do to ourselves on a regular basis.”

The troglodyte that murdered those people in South Carolina wanted to fire the opening shots in a new race war. He is a Confederate in every sense of the word: he is a white supremacist; he is a mass murderer; he is a terrorist; he is a traitor.

The worst part is that he is not some aberration. Oh, we want to comfort and assure ourselves that he is, that he has some mental issue, or that he’s evil, or some other easy excuse that absolves us all of responsibility.

His actions were heinous, but he is the product of a media and culture that protects the ignorant and glorifies division. This is the “heritage” celebrated by those who fly the Confederate flag. By those like my neighbor.

And what about my neighbor? In a perfect world, I would ring his doorbell and have a reasonable discussion with him about how what he’s doing is offensive and ahistoric and I’d love to correct his understanding of the entire mess. But the sad fact is, he’s not alone, either.

In my time here I’ve seen scores of Confederate bumper stickers, license plates, and even other flags. Neo-Confederate revisionism is everywhere. It’s not confined to “dumb rednecks” or red-state voters or Nascar fans or any other easy stereotype we use to deceive ourselves and dismiss painful realities. It’s not even confined to older generations. The murderer in South Carolina is 21. He’s a Millennial. He’s one of us.

And every day that we don’t react to that information, every day we don’t internalize this conflict, every day we tell ourselves nothing is wrong, every day we claim we can’t be racist because we have black friends, every day we share some viral cat video instead of watch the news… is another day nothing will change.


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Microsoft Windows 10 Bombshell: It’s Free For Everyone

There has been a huge amount of interest in Windows 10, especially so in recent weeks as we near the 29th July launch day. The biggest question, and it’s one that hasn’t been answered particularly clearly by Microsoft, is how to get it and who can get it for free. The latter just became a little clearer today.

Genuine Windows 7 and Windows 8 users will get Windows 10 for free, although you need to upgrade within 12 months of Windows 10′s release in July to qualify for this.

Here’s how to reserve your copy and start downloading the upgrade as soon as it’s available

Windows 10 Countdown: How And Why To Reserve Your Free Copy

However, Windows Vista and Windows XP users as well as some other types, have been left out in the cold – until today, we all assumed you’d need to buy a full copy, with Windows 10 Home starting at $119. Today, though, Maximum PC spotted that in its Windows blog, Microsoft has dropped a bombshell for anyone currently without an upgradable version of Windows 10 or Windows 8/8.1.


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The 50 Most Beautiful Urban College Campuses  


Santa Clara University, huh? This is what SCU looks like, the one below sure looks a helluvalot like Stanford to me!


14. Santa Clara University

Santa Clara, California

Points: 16


Founded in 1851, long before the city of Santa Clara was the tech capital it is today, Santa Clara University is now 106 acres of peaceful palm trees and California Mission-style architecture. The Ricard Observatory is one of the favorite buildings on campus. Completed in 1928, the silver-domed building is still both functional and charming. The Student Activities Center was only completed in 2010, but has quickly become one of the more iconic buildings on campus. The center is beautiful to look at, and recently earned an LEED Gold certification for its myriad green features which include low-emissions finishes and brick-paved walkways that limit water runoff.


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NRA board member blames Charleston shooting deaths on pastor’s vote against guns in churches


NRA board member Charles Cotton(L) and Pastor and South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pinckney.

A board member for the National Rifle Association blamed pastor and South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pinckney for not only his own death, but the deaths of eight others in Wednesday night’s terrorist attack at his church, Think Progressreported on Thursday night.

Charles “Chas” Cotton made the remark on the Texas Concealed Handgun License (TexasCHL) forum, which bills itself as “the focal point for Texas firearms information and discussions.” Cotton, who is listed as a moderator on the site, made the derogatory remark in a thread concerning the mass shooting.

“He voted against concealed-carry,” Cotton said of Pinckney. “Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

A screenshot of Cotton’s statement can be seen below:


Pinckney was the head pastor at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church for five years and a member of the state Senate since 2000. The bill, which was proposed in 2011, would have allowed gun owners to bring their firearms into not only churches, but daycare centers and restaurants, but ultimately failed.

Authorities identified the other victims on Thursday as 45-year-old Rev. Sharonda Singleton; Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr., 74; Myra Thompson, 59; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Ethel Lee Lance, 70; Cynthia Hurd, 54; and 87-year-old Susie Jackson.

The suspect, 21-year-old Dylann Roof, was apprehended on Thursday.

Earlier this year, Cotton argued on the TexasCHL website that teachers should be allowed to spank students so that he would not have to “put a bullet” in them. He has also accused President Barack Obama and “multi-billionaires Michael Bloomberg and George Soros,” among others of being part of a plot to undermine Second Amendment rights, particularly after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in December 2012.

“The anti-gun response by all of those making up the Obama-Bloomberg Coalition was too rapid, too coordinated, too well-funded, and too consistent to have been an impromptu response to the tragedy in Newtown Connecticut,” Cotton wrote in a blog post a month after the attack. “President Obama obviously wanted to wait until after the presidential election to launch his the anti-gun campaign.”

Tom Boggioni contributed to this report


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