Middle East analyst Ehsan Abdoh Tabrizi says that while Iran President Hassan Rouhani remains limited in impacting the country’s foreign policy, his landslide re-election gives him a significant opportunity for domestic reforms
For a growing number of young people who want to purchase a home of their own, rising rents and crippling student debt has meant that many are putting off that dream of home ownership — or changing what their ideal of what home ownership looks like.
For some, that means ‘going tiny’ — purchasing or building their own smaller homes. For some of these tiny housers who have the travel bug, that has meant going an even more unconventional route, and converting retired school buses into full-time homes on wheels, as Brittany and Steven of Adventure or Bust have done.
Based out of Sarasota, Florida, the couple say that they built their bus home because they wanted to easily travel, without having to buy a truck to tow a tiny home, and to have a home of their own, rent-free, which would allow them to also save money to pay off their student debt. They did all the work on the bus themselves, taking about a year to complete the project. Brittany is a user experience (UX) designer for websites, which means she can work with only a wifi Internet connection while on the road, while Steven is finishing nursing school, with the intention of becoming a travel nurse — a nurse who is hired to work in a specific location for a limited amount of time. Check out this tour of their self-built bus home via Girl Gone Green:
Coming into the well-insulated bus, we see the lounge area, which has a L-shaped couch with storage hidden under the seats. Part of the couch can pull out to create a full-size bed for guests, and a flatscreen television has its place of honour right across on the other wall.
The kitchen has full-size but energy-efficient appliances: stove, refrigerator and an all-in-one combo washer and dryer. The bus has a side door right beside the washer, which the couple have put to good use by building a detachable insert in part of their kitchen counter, making it a good spot to haul things in and out for a barbecue, or as an extra fire egress.
The middle part of the bus has their closet, and bathroom with a Nature’s Head composting toilet, and a standard-sized shower. No blackwater is produced, and all greywater is recuperated and used in their veggie garden, while the compost is used on their fruit trees.
At the very back is the sleeping area. Their queen-sized bed lifts up with the use of hydraulic hardware, and underneath there’s storage space made out for their 100-gallon water tank and camping gear. This is also the space where the couple’s two dogs hang out.
The bus was renovated for a relatively modest sum of USD $17,600 — including the purchase of the bus. To help others interested in doing something similar, they’ve posted a detailed expense sheet here for reference. The couple are now saving up for their solar power system, and as Steven mentions in the video, they have also saved up enough from the first few months of living in their bus that they are now planning a trip abroad — something they wouldn’t have been able to do before as renters. They also chose to go the bus home route rather than a tiny home, as building a tiny home would have also meant buying a truck to tow it on their travels, and subjecting their home to hurricane-force winds.
Building their dream home was also a challenge that they unwaveringly took up, despite their lack of experience, says Brittany:
When we started this build the only tools we owned was a mechanics tool set and a hammer. Having never undertaken such an immense task we were understandably nervous, but totally excited. Our transition to skoolie life has been pretty easy honestly. During the build we were also working on simplifying our lives. Our goal was to make the switch as easy as possible. Our dogs LOVE the bus. Since moving into the bus we spend much more time outside, which means so do they.
It’s quite a lovely and thoughtful DIY renovation, and yet another example of enterprising young people taking control of their lives into their own hands, and building something that works for them, rather than them working for something that might not necessarily fit them. To see more, visit Adventure or Bust, Facebook and Instagram.
The Pixel 2 is going to be big. Literally very, very big…
The ‘Taimen’ has surfaced. The third of three codenamed Pixel handsets – Muskie, Walleye and Taimen – until now it was only rumoured through anecdotal code fragments, but now the device itself has appeared and revealed its core specifications.
The handset was picked up having been tested on ubiquitous benchmarking software Geekbench – a famous honeytrap for upcoming devices. It recorded the handset’s CPU as a “Qualcomm @ 1.90 GHz, 1 processor 8 cores”, aka the Snapdragon 835 used in the US edition of the Galaxy S8. There was also 4GB of RAM and it was running Android O, the next generation of Android due for release later this year.
So how did the GoogleGOOGL +0.51% Taimen perform? In line with other Snapdragon 835 models:
Google Taimen: Single Core: 1804 | Multi Core: 6284
Galaxy S8: Single Core: 1929 | Multi Core: 6084
Xperia XZ Premium: Single Core: 1943 | Multi Core: 5824
This is impressive given the Taimen is still a pre-production device. Then again the first generation Pixel and Pixel XL actually used a Snapdragon 821 chip, which was an incremental advancement over the Snapdragon 820 in the Galaxy S7. Whether the 821 only existed due to issues with the 820, however, is a matter for debate and there are no signs a Snapdragon 836 is planned at this stage.
So why is the Taimen massive? Because of Google’s smartphone codename history:
Google has always used fish (or whales in the case of the Nexus 6) and they always correspond to size with the larger phone getting the larger species. Muskies (up to 17kg / 38lbs) are larger than walleyes (up to 11kg / 24lbs), but Taimen are in another league altogether with specimens caught over 100kg (220 lbs).
Of course there is a chance such a size difference means the Taimen will be a tablet like the Nexus 9 or hybrid like the Pixel C, though Google has historically differentiated these lines with Nvidia Tegra chipsets and 4GB of RAM in a hybrid would seem low for a late 2017 device.
Furthermore Apple will launch three new iPhones this year (maybe four) with a standout premium 10th anniversary edition among them. Could Taimen be Google’s equivalent standout Pixel? The optimist in me certainly hopes so…
Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton debate in Milwaukee on Thursday, February 11. (Photo: AP)
During Thursday night’s Democratic presidential debate, Hillary Clinton criticized Bernie Sanders’ proposal for a “Medicare for All” healthcare program, stating, “the numbers just don’t add up.”
“A respected health economist said that these plans would cost a trillion dollars more a year,” Clinton said, likely referring to a recent analysis by Emory University professor Kenneth Thorpe, who helped craft a single-payer healthcare system in Sanders’ home state of Vermont, which said Sanders’ proposal was off by an extra $1.1 trillion annually.
“So if you’re having Medicare for all, single-payer, you need to level with people about what they will have at the end of the process you are proposing,” Clinton said. “And based on every analysis that I can find by people who are sympathetic to the goal, the numbers don’t add up, and many people will actually be worse off than they are right now.”
But according to other healthcare experts, both Clinton and Thorpe are working with false calculations.
Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, a professor in public health at City University of New York at Hunter College and co-founder of the advocacy group Physicians for a National Health Program, said Friday that the “numbers on single-payer do, in fact, add up.”
“It’s indisputable that single-payer systems in other countries cover everyone for virtually everything, and at much lower cost than our health care system,” Woolhandler said. “Experience in countries with single-payer systems, such as Canada, Scotland, and Taiwan, proves that we can have more, better and cheaper care.”
For example, “if the U.S. moved to a single-payer system as efficient as Canada’s, we’d save $430 billion on useless paperwork and insurance companies’ outrageous profits, more than enough to cover the 31 million Americans who remain uninsured, and to eliminate co-payments and deductibles for everyone,” she said.
In January, Woolhandler and her colleague Dr. David Himmelstein authored a response to Thorpe’s analysis that found it to be based on “several incorrect, and occasionally outlandish, assumptions,” including “administrative savings of only 4.7 percent of expenditures” and “huge increases in the utilization of care, increases far beyond those that were seen when national health insurance was implemented in Canada, and much larger than is possible given the supply of doctors and hospital beds.”
“Moreover, it is at odds with analyses of the costs of single-payer programs that he produced in the past, which projected large savings from such reform,” the professors wrote.
Woolhandler said Friday, “A single-payer system could save even more money by bargaining with drug companies for discounts on drugs. Other countries get discounts of about 50 percent, and as the biggest customer we could have the bargaining power to get similar savings…Finally, single-payer systems have been better at controlling costs over the long-haul.”
“Our medical arms race—with hospitals competing to offer expensive high tech care, even when they don’t do enough to be good at it—has driven up costs and compromised the quality of care. In contrast, single-payer nations have used thoughtful health planning, to invest in expensive high tech care where it’s needed, not just where it’s redundant but profitable,” she said.
During Thursday’s debate, Sanders rejected the argument that his plan was “unachievable.”
“Every major country on earth, whether it’s the UK, whether it’s France, whether it’s Canada, has managed to provide healthcare to all people as a right and they are spending significantly less per capita on healthcare than we are,” he said. “So I do not accept the belief that the United States of America can’t do that.”
“Please do not tell me that in this country, if—and here’s the if—we have the courage to take on the drug companies, and have the courage to take on the insurance companies, and the medical equipment suppliers, if we do that, yes, we can guarantee health care to all people in a much more cost effective way,” he said.
The charge that the numbers for a sweeping healthcare reform plan “don’t add up” is one that Clinton herself has been hit with in the past, regarding the Health Security Act—dubbed ‘Hillarycare’—introduced in 1993 under President Bill Clinton’s administration.
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It does seem a bit unusual – akin to a vegetarian ordering tofu at a barbecue joint. But it turns the pastor’s weekly coffee klatch is all about prayer. Yes, prayer.
Every Thursday morning, Pastor Thomas puts on a clergy collar and sets up shop in a local coffee house. He sets out a little sign that reads, “Free Prayer,” and then waits to see who God sends his way.
“I’m humbled all the time by the way that the Spirit works,” the pastor told me. “God is working to give people the courage to say, ‘All right – I’m going to take this pastor up on this offer.’”
And they have – by the hundreds.
The “Free Prayer” program started quietly last summer – inspired by a word of advice Pastor Thomas had received from another member of the clergy — a pastor is doing the job well when at least half of his or her time is spent outside the office.
That advice was something of an epiphany for the young Lutheran preacher. He wrote about his experiences next in a column titled, “Why I Offer ‘Free Prayer’ In A Coffee Shop.” “Sometimes we have to move beyond the shadows of a steeple to take care of our people,” he wrote. “And in so doing, we may just find that God takes care of us, too.
The preacher admitted to being a little more than nervous when he set up shop for the first time in the local outpost of Panera Bread.
“I went in with fear and trembling,” he recounted. “I put the sign up, put my nose into a book – I was afraid to make eye contact.”
But eventually, Pastor Thomas grew courageous – and soon the Lord was sending many customers to his table – wayfaring strangers looking for a place to cast their cares.
There was the owner of a Dunkin Donuts and the manager of Starbucks. There was someone whose nephew had an ailment and a schizophrenic who said she saw witches.
“Sometimes it’s a 45-minute conversation about someone who is searching for answers, saw the open chair and that invitation for prayer,” he said.
A stranger happened upon that empty chair last October. He had business at a nearby courthouse and had stopped by to get a cup of coffee. When he saw the pastor’s sign – tears filled his eyes. He left his coffee and the court documents on the table and walked outside. The pastor followed.
“As we strolled together over the next hour, I heard all the unuttered prayers and pains he had held inside for two years,” Pastor Thomas wrote of the encounter. “His wife had experienced an identity crisis and left him. A dear friend had died from a blood clot. An aunt had died from medical malpractice. Another friend had died from an overdose. Finally, death had taken his sister. Death had hollowed out [his] spirit, and he had spoken about it to no one.”
And so it was that on a brisk autumn day the spiritually wounded stranger had stumbled upon Pastor Thomas.
“It seemed that God had enacted a little apocalypse, an awakening in [his]) soul,” he wrote. ‘And all I had to do at first was sit there.”
Imagine what could happen if more of us followed the path of Pastor Thomas and stepped out of the church house and into the coffee house.
It doesn’t matter if you might be anxious. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t drink coffee.
“Trust that God is already sitting with you – encouraging you and giving you the confidence to put yourself out there for the sake of your community,” Pastor Thomas told me.
So if you happen to be going through a rough patch in life — consider making your way to a coffee house in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Who knows – you just might discover a divine appointment of the caffeinated kind.
Thousands of industry participants gathered in London for their annual get-together, only to find a world awash in crude and hardly a life jacket in sight.
by Andy Hoffman
U.S. Is Running Out of Room for Oil
The thousands of attendees seeking reasons for optimism didn’t find them at the annual International Petroleum Week. Instead they were greeted by a cacophony of voices from some of the largest oil producers, refiners and traders delivering the same message:
There are few reasons for optimism. The world is awash with oil. The market is overwhelmingly bearish.
Producers are bracing for a tough year. Prices will stay low for up to a decade as Chinese economic growth slows and the U.S. shale industry acts as a cap on any rally, according to Ian Taylor, chief executive officer of Vitol Group, the world’s largest independent oil trader. Even refiners, whose profits have held up better than expected, are seeing a worsening outlook.
“The oil industry is facing a crisis,” said Patrick Pouyanne, CEO of Total SA, Europe’s biggest refiner. BP Plc boss Bob Dudley described himself as “very bearish” and joked that the surplus is so extreme that people will soon be filling swimming pools with crude.
As the world runs out of places to store oil, “I wouldn’t be surprised if this market goes into the teens,” said Jeff Currie, head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
Cuts? What Cuts?
Crude prices surged briefly last month on speculation the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries would team up with Russia to cut production. The head of the nation’s biggest oil company had other ideas.
“Tell me who is supposed to cut?” said Igor Sechin, CEO of Rosneft. “Will Saudi Arabia cut production? Will Iran cut production? Will Mexico cut production? Will Brazil cut production? Who is going to cut?”
Supply exceeds demand by as much as 1.7 million barrels a day, so cutting 1 million from production would in theory make prices more “reasonable,” Sechin said. Nevertheless, Rosneft is focused on preserving its traditional markets against the competition, he said.
Cuts on the scale required to balance the market just aren’t happening. While some fields have started to fall victim to low prices, only 0.1 percent of global output has been curtailed because it’s unprofitable, researcher Wood Mackenzie estimates.
A Profitable Opportunity
Traders are the only ones enjoying the slump as they profit from sky-high volatility and a market structure called contango – where prices in the future are higher than today – that means they can make money just by keeping oil in storage tanks.
Goldman’s Currie Expects Oil Volatility to Go Higher
As the price of U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate crude slumped close to 12-year lows this week, another opportunity emerged: super-contango. Places to store oil on land are running out in some places, and the contango is getting so steep that it’s becoming profitable to hire supertankers, fill them with crude and anchor them offshore.
Terrible Market, Great Party
Throughout the gloom, champagne flowed, backed by a jazz quartet.
If it’s hard times for the industry, that wasn’t obvious from the cocktail party circuit. Kuwait Petroleum Corp. welcomed guests to ballroom of the Four Seasons hotel in London’s exclusive Mayfair district with hospitality as if nothing had changed since 2014, when oil was $100 a barrel. Tables were laden with shashlik, oysters and even a whole lamb carved by a chef. In the dessert room, a chocolate fountain bubbled alongside bowls of strawberries.
The State Oil Co. of the Azerbaijan Republic – where a currency crisis has provoked street protests – offered four whole roast lambs, a sushi bar and chocolate truffles to thousands of guests at Park Lane’s Grosvenor House Hotel.
“We didn’t cut back,” said Elshad Nassirov, the company’s vice-president of marketing and investments, “in order not to spoil the mood.”
Back in 1958, Arthur Radebaugh started a comic series that set out visions of the future called Closer than we think; According to Matt Novak of Paleofuture, it “gave people a look at some of the most wonderfully techno-utopian visions that America had to offer”. One of those visions was of a self-driving car, and it really is now closer than we think.
Along with the technological problems to be solved are the legal ones, including the question of whether you can actually have a car without a driver. Google has concluded that the biggest problem with the self-driving car is the person in it, and wants to build them without steering wheels or brake pedals which software can handle but meatware screws up. Google “expresses concern that providing human occupants of the vehicle with mechanisms to control things like steering, acceleration, braking… could be detrimental to safety because the human occupants could attempt to override the (self-driving system’s) decisions.” The State of California didn’t like this idea and ruled last year that the cars should be capable of having humans drive them, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the regulatory body for the whole country, appears to be open to the idea.
Last November Google asked the NHTSA for a ruling, in particular noting that their proposed car…
…is designed to perform all safety-critical driving functions and monitor roadway conditions for an entire trip. Such a design anticipates that the driver will provide destination or navigation input, but is not expected to be available for control at any time during the trip. This includes both occupied and unoccupied vehicles. By design, safe operation rests solely on the automated vehicle system.
The NHTSA responded in a letter recently, mostly positively. The key point of contention is whether the car’s self driving system (SDS) can be considered a driver; the key issue is a rule, S5.3.1, that all cars must have foot operated brakes.
Google argues that because the SDS will control all aspects of braking, it would not be necessary or beneficial for safety for a human occupant to be able to brake the vehicle….We agree that Google’s SDS may be deemed to be the driver for purposes of compliance with these provisions. Given that there will be no foot (or even hand) control to be activated. indeed, given that the SDS will have neither feet nor hands to activate brakes, we understand that Google’s described vehicle design would not comply with S5.3.1 as written.
This is very big; it lays out a legal path for approving the cars, and may well set the pattern for dealing with other issues of insurance and liability. On The Verge, one expert, Kelley Blue Book automotive industry analyst Karl Brauer, looks at the impact:
The intricate maze of legal questions surrounding autonomous vehicles is as big a hurdle to their arrival as the remaining technological challenges. However, if NHTSA is prepared to name artificial intelligence as a viable alternative to human-controlled vehicles it could substantially streamline the process of putting autonomous vehicles on the road.
Joanna Gaines of Fixer Upper Breaches Her HGTV Contract, But You’ll Never Guess Why BY WENDY MILLER UPDATED WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21, 2017 SHARE TWEET EMAIL BREAKING NEWS: HGTV has ousted Joanna Gaines for breaking her contractual agreement, not even Chip knew what was going on. News broke of this legal whirlwind just a few days […]
by Stephen Ulrich Another beautiful rainy June day in Vancouver. Washington, not Canada. For some reason, we live here. OK, I know why we live here: Family, friends, Wide Open Spaces, Affordability…… certainly NOT the weather. The month of February where it didn’t get over 28’F for two weeks, and marked the wettest weather […]
by Stephen Ulrich – My wife is the most wonderful, inelligent, strong, loving, attentive, patient, beautiful, sexy, and dependable partner a man could ever ask for. Did I mention that I like her too? And that her job pays for my health insurance? It just doesn’t get any better than this. I must admit I […]
BY JUSTIN FEIT – Changes are underway with the new administration – how will they impact you? ••••• President Trump’s agenda places several programs that have helped FMs in danger of being eliminated. Their survival depends heavily on the ability or willingness to push some key parts of his agenda through Congress. After the unprecedented […] […]
Here we go again. By Stephen Ulrich – Washington (CNN)Rep. Steve Scalise, a congressional staffer and members of the Capitol police force were shot Wednesday in Alexandria, Virginia, during Republicans’ early-morning practice ahead of a charity baseball game. Another day, another shooting. This time it was not a terrorist. We think. Who knows, who […] […]