Allow me to remind you about Mandark’s laugh
Mr Copperhead has added witchcraft to his gin. The notorious alchemist is on a constant search to improve and elevate his elixir of life. His enchantment with witchcraft, life prolongation and the elder tree pushed him to explore the elderberry bush that is said to have healing properties and the power to repel evil. So then it would come as no surprise that Mr Copperhead took those pitch-black berries from the Sambucus Nigra shrub and improved his spirit to stimulate the immune system.
The Alchemist’s gin, Copperhead’s Black Batch is a surprise for the senses with the careful balance between the black elderberries and black Ceylon tea that creates an exquisite variant of the original Copperhead recipe. Combined with juniper berries, orange zest, angelica root, cardamom and coriander seeds, the gin has a more intense herby and floral, more than the traditional gin – but in the best way possible. It’s combined with a dark and spicy flavor with a soft citrus kick. This is more than regular fin and spring fields of flowers. This is powerful stuff with a 42% ABV. You should probably try it. Welcome to the dark side of gin folks.
I an disappointed they missed that vodka is good for keeping homemade ice cream scoopable
Labeled as one of the most popular spirits throughout the world, the uniqueness of vodka stems from its versatility as it can be consumed straight up or used in a variety of mixed drinks to create a plethora of delectable concoctions. However, its uses many also extend beyond the confines of bars, clubs, or party scenes as it can be used as an ingredient in some fantastic dishes or as an alternative to your average household objects. With that said here are the 5 surprising uses for vodka.
Treating Poison Ivy
While the origins of this versatile drink are still unknown, it has been established that since the Middle Ages vodka was used as a form of medicine to heal certain afflictions such as inflammations from bacteria or poisons. In this case, vodka can be used to cleanse and soothe poison ivy by pouring the liquid on the area the rash forms. By doing this the ivy’s irritating oils are cleansed away preventing the wretched itchy feeling. While it is wasting a fine drink, it is a suitable alternative to rubbing alcohol.
Drunken Shrimp Scampi
Shrimp scampi is incredibly delicious and aromatic with whatever array of spices you wish to add in (provided that they don’t clash). Drunken Shrimp Adding vodka to the mix however not only tenderizes and flavors the shrimp but also bolsters the flavor of the sauce it is cooked in.
Orange-Vanilla Ricotta Cheesecake
Orange vanilla Creamsicles have always been a delight on a hot summer day whenever regular popsicles could not do justice. But do you ever wonder what would happen if you took these two flavors plus vodka and combine them with a delicious ricotta cheesecake? The result is a smooth and exquisite cake with a vodka infused marmalade gaze with a hint of vodka and you will have created a delicious alcohol infused dessert perfect for dinner parties or social gatherings.
It comes as no surprise to hear about how vodka has enough strength to eliminate bacteria when you look at the high alcohol content printed on the label. This makes it perfect for not only treating poison ivy but also ear aches. Just pour a few drops in your ear and let it sit for a few minutes before draining and voila!
Have a Mold Problem?
If you have a huge mold problem and plenty of bottom-shelf vodka you are willing to part with then you can put it all to good use. All you have to do is pour some inside a spray bottle and spritz it on the mold. Let it sit for approximately 15 minutes before scrubbing it all away with any hard brush in your possession.
Small-scale commercial marijuana gardens would be permitted in Sonoma County’s rural residential areas under a medical cannabis zoning ordinance approved by the county Planning Commission on Thursday night.
The vote followed a renewed dispute between growers and residents who don’t want the plant cultivated in their neighborhoods.
The five-member commission’s final vote was unanimous, but it acknowledged an impassioned plea by Commissioner Willie Lamberson to reject the so-called “cottage grows” in two rural residential zones.
“Wherever marijuana goes, crimes follow. That’s a fact,” Lamberson said. “Nothing good will come of this.”
In a direct appeal to his fellow commissioners, Lamberson, who represents the Fourth District, said: “In good conscience, I can’t vote for something I would not want for myself,” adding that his colleagues should take the same approach.
“Let’s be honest here,” he said. “Eighty or 90 percent of this cannabis ain’t going to dispensaries.”
The proposed land use rules, drafted in a hurry by county officials in the past 10 months, apply only to medical cannabis cultivation and other businesses in the unincorporated area outside the county’s nine cities.
State officials are in the process of establishing regulations for medical pot based on a law enacted by the Legislature last year, and California voters approved adult recreational use of marijuana at the polls last week.
Lamberson’s motion to prohibit small crops — up to 25 plants outdoors, 500 square feet indoors or 2,500 square feet in greenhouses — in rural residential areas died for lack of a second.
“There’s thousands of these already,” Commissioner Komron Shahhosseini said, moving for approval of the staff recommendation to allow cottage grows in agricultural, resource and rural residential areas.
Commission Chairwoman Pamela Davis suggested an amendment banning small outdoor grows, but Shahhosseini refused to accept it.
His motion was initially approved 4-1, with Lamberson dissenting, but the panel ultimately cast a 5-0 vote that acknowledged Lamberson’s objection.
The proposed zoning ordinance, which now moves to a public hearing before the Board of Supervisors on Dec. 6, allows residents to grow six plants or up to 100 square feet per residence for personal use.
That provision and licenses for marijuana dispensaries take effect in 30 days after approval, officials said.
County permits for all other medical cannabis operations, including manufacturing, testing, distributing and transporting, will not be issued until the supervisors propose and voters approve a county marijuana tax aimed for vote in March.
If the tax is not approved, the county will be unable to issue the permits, said Jennifer Barrett, deputy director of planning for Permit Sonoma.
The state medical cannabis law and Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, both allow cities and counties to tax marijuana, and they also give local governments the power to restrict or ban marijuana businesses.
From the time it was introduced six weeks ago, the county’s marijuana zoning measure has pitted small family farmers, who make up the bulk of the local industry, against rural residents.
Michael Hilber, a southwest Santa Rosa resident, urged the commission Thursday to prohibit all commercial activity in rural areas.
“I expect to see a lot of noncompliance,” he said, calling the county’s proposed civil code enforcement procedure inadequate.
Wow, can you believe it, Mickey Mouse is 88. That hilarious cartoon character that has made us laugh for generations is just 12 years shy of 100.
Premiering in 1928’s cartoon classic "Steamboat Willie," in which Mickey, in the role of Willie, drove a steamboat — stop it, it’s too funny — Mickey was created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwreks. Mickey was based on an earlier cartoon called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. Because Oswald was owned by Universal, Disney rebranded the character and started making his own cartoons. Oswald, I’m sure, was also very funny.
For years, Mickey was used as an everyman like character, who’s hilarious antics totured the lives of his friend Goofy, Donald, and dog Pluto, who cannot talk, while Goofy, also a dog, can talk. Hilarious.
Now, of course, Mickey is more of a logo than anything else, but his hilarious visage is among one of the most recognizable in the world, providing millions with joy and laughter because, wow, he is just too funny.
To that end, we say “Happy Birthday, Mickey.” You keep being you.
Submitted by: (via Watch Mojo)
Here's how you should be investing if you're sitting on a lot of cash, but the stock market scares you
IMDB / Paramount Pictures
• If you've always been reluctant to invest, put your money in a target date fund and you'll wake up years from now a lot richer than if you let that money sit in a savings account.
If you want any shot at a comfortable retirement, you need to be investing — yesterday.
Saving is great, but letting your money sit in an account earning no interest means it's going to lose value over time, thanks to inflation, when it could be earning interest and compounding exponentially instead. You need that investment growth to lift your retirement prospects, as many people won't be able to afford the same lifestyle of their younger days relying on the raw savings from their salary alone.
"The more you put in today, the much more you'll have later down the road because of the time value of money and the growth on investment returns," Michael Solari, a certified financial planner with Solari Financial Management, told Business Insider.
But millennials, many of them scarred by the financial crisis and what they saw it do to their parents, are notoriously leery of the stock market. Only a third of people age 19-35 invest in the market, according to financial information website Bankrate.com.
So what should you do if you feel ill-equipped or too nervous to deal with the stock market, but you've got several thousand dollars gathering dust in a bank that you'd like to put to work?
First, understand that no investment comes devoid of risk. You've got to have some skin in the game to make money.
And in the current market climate, you're not going to get much of a return avoiding stocks entirely.
"It's tough, because it's such a low-interest-rate environment, that getting exposure to something that's risk-averse has been extremely difficult for wealth managers and financial planners," Solari said. "If you're looking to get 4% or 5% you're not necessarily going to get that with bonds these days unless you're going to lower the credit quality. Then you're getting yourself into a rabbit hole."
As a first step, you should at the bare minimum move your pile of money into a "high-yield" savings account. "High" in this scenario is relative. There are dozens of good options out there — Ally, Goldman Sachs, and Barclays all offer accounts with no minimum — but you're only looking at a 1% annual return, or $100 on $10,000 in savings. It's not much, but it's still 100 times better than traditional savings accounts, where you earn 0.01% on your money (that's $1 on $10,000).
Set it and forget it
But in reality, you can get exposure to higher-interest investments with pretty low risk — especially if you're young and investing for the long haul.
The smart play, according to Solari, is to put your money in a low-cost target date retirement fund. Sometimes known as "set it and forget it" investments, these diversified funds automatically adjust their asset allocation and risk exposure based on your age and retirement horizon. Early on, when the need for that money is still a couple decades away, the fund will adopt a more growth-focused strategy. As you ripen toward retirement, it dials back the risk.
"If you're a novice investor, the best thing to do is go to Vanguard, open up a Vanguard account and pick a Vanguard target date retirement fund, because it's going to give you exposure to different asset classes," Solari said. "It's an index, so it's at a lower cost and you get diversification."
Again, nothing is ever guaranteed in the stock market, but if you've got a large chunk of money just sitting idle, this comes pretty close to a no-brainer. Consider that the S&P 500 has averaged an 11% annual return since 1966.
IMDB / Paramount PicturesYou may not get 11% in your target date fund — given you'll be invested in a blend of stocks, bonds, and alternative assets — but if you get even 6% per year, that original $10,000 investment will be worth more than $32,000 in 20 years without you having to do a single thing. In your high-yield savings account, you're looking at $12,200, and in your traditional savings account, you wind up with $10,020.02.
When you consider the money at stake here, there's really no reason to wait. Pay no attention to Donald Trump or whatever calamity the markets and prognosticators are hand-wringing about. Trying to time the market is a fool's errand.
"Instead of trying to navigate that, you really want to make sure you're in it. Because markets are up more often than they're down," Solari said. "No one can time the market, so know that if there is a decline, it's going to bounce back. Over time, being in the market pays off more so than staying out of it."
If you've always been queasy about investing, take a deep breath and trust fall into a target date fund. You'll wake up 20 years from now thousands richer than you would have been otherwise.
Amazon has partnered with Fiat Chrylser to sell cars online for the first time, showing the company's growing ambition to go after the $1.2 trillion auto sales market.
According to Reuters, Fiat Chrysler will sell three models — the 500, the 500L, and the Panda — on Amazon's Italian site at a price that is up to 30% cheaper than other dealerships. The service will only be available in Italy.
The report said buyers will be connected with a dealer once they buy the car on Amazon. Then they will be able to finalize the deal with the dealer and pick up the car within two weeks of making the purchase. It's unclear if Amazon will be holding actual inventory or it's merely serving as a middleman for Fiat.
Amazon wasn't immediately available for comment.
The news comes just three months after Amazon launched a new car browsing site called Amazon Vehicles. The site lets users read and leave reviews while browsing the specs of thousands of different car models, although it doesn't allow actual purchases.
Some investors believe Amazon will eventually start selling cars on its US site. Morgan Stanley wrote in a note published in August that the launch of Amazon Vehicles, its partnership with Hyundai to deliver test drive vehicles, and the Echo integration with car brands all points to a new car selling site in the future.
During its most recent earnings, Amazon downplayed these speculations, saying the new Vehicles site is simply intended to be a research destination. But its head of investor relations Darin Manney did hint at the possibility of going further. He said:
"Certainly we'll try to build a one-stop shop for vehicles as an extension to the automotive store which engages customers to add information about their cars in their garage and which makes it actually easier to shop for parts and accessories for your particular vehicle. And so we think there's a lot of opportunity there to add convenience for customers."
By David Murphy
This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer's guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter's independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.
After spending 140 total hours researching Wi-Fi extenders and testing more than 20, we recommend the TP-Link AC1750 Wi-Fi Range Extender RE450 for most people who need to boost their Wi-Fi signal to part of a house or apartment. Though the RE450 costs around $100 at this writing, it's worth that price, as it offers the best combination of range, speed, portability, and physical connections of any extender we tested.
Why you should (or shouldn't) buy this
Before you invest in a Wi-Fi extender, first you should make sure your router is near the center of your living space and out in the open if possible, not hidden in a closet or behind a desk. If you've used the same wireless router for years, consider upgrading to a better one, such as our pick for the best Wi-Fi router. If you still can't get a signal where you need it, running an Ethernet cable directly from your router to a Wi-Fi access point or a router set up as one will get you much better performance than a Wi-Fi extender. But if you can't run Ethernet and parts of your home or apartment still don't get a good Wi-Fi signal, a wireless extender can help.
How we picked and tested
We tested the final 13 contenders after looking at 39 extenders. Photo: David Murphy
A good extender, like a modern router, should support both the older, more crowded 2.4 GHz band and the newer, faster 5 GHz band. You also need a dual-band extender to avoid the performance hit of connecting to your devices on the same band as the one for connecting to your router. An extender should also support at least two spatial streams (also called data streams) on each band. We looked at any N600 or AC1200-plus extenders from major manufacturers that met these criteria, had good reviews (if any), and weren't too expensive.
To test the 13 final contenders, we set up one of the fastest routers we've tested, Netgear's R8500, in one corner of a 2,577-square-foot, single-story house, with the extender in the next room, to minimize the effects of the router's performance on the extender's benchmarks and to test the range of the extenders' signals.
We connected each extender to the router's 5 GHz Wi-Fi signal. For the tests, we connected an Asus ZenBook UX305LA (which uses two-stream 802.11ac Wi-Fi) to each extender from two locations—one obstructed and one unobstructed—both 43 feet away from the extender.
We tested the extenders using iPerf3, a network monitoring and measuring tool, to evaluate data transfers between a desktop PC (connected to the router via Gigabit Ethernet) and our test laptop. Each iPerf3 test attempted to transfer as much data as possible from the test laptop to the desktop PC (via a single TCP connection). We let 15 seconds elapse before recording the average transfer speed across 60 one-second intervals, and ran each test for each extender, on each band, at each test location. To learn more about our testing plan, read our full guide.
The TP-Link RE450 will eat up most of your wall socket when you plug it in—the price you pay for great Wi-Fi range. Photo: David Murphy
The TP-Link AC1750 Wi-Fi Range Extender RE450 is the best wireless extender for most people because it offers incredible performance at long range and supports the fastest wireless speeds of any device you're likely to own, even if you have a MacBook Pro. It was the only extender that hit triple-digit speeds on our easier long-range 5 GHz test, and its long-range 2.4 GHz performance was better than that of everything else we tested. This model is simple to set up, and it has a few useful features within its easy-to-navigate user interface.
The biggest issue with the RE450 is its size. It's huge. If you plug it into a wall outlet, bigger devices (like a power strip) likely won't have room.
Even so, in each of our tests, the RE450 had not just the best performance of any of the extenders in the group, but also the best price-to-performance ratio (aside from our slower, cheaper budget pick). You spend about as much for the RE450 as you would for our best Wi-Fi router pick, but you get proportionate speed and range—the most of any extender we've recently tested.
For home offices and entertainment centers
Linksys's RE6500 isn't as convenient as a wall-plug extender, but it has more Gigabit Ethernet ports and doesn't take up much space on a coffee table or shelf. Photo: David Murphy
If our pick is sold out or unavailable, or if you have a lot of wired devices that need access to your home network, the Linksys AC1200 Max Wi-Fi Range Extender RE6500 is an excellent alternative. In our tests it gave us around three-fourths the speed of our primary pick; of all the wireless-ac extenders we recently tested, however, it had the second-fastest average speeds and the second-best price-to-performance ratio. In addition, it won't block an extra wall outlet, it has three more Gigabit Ethernet ports than our pick, and its user interface is more helpful for people with less networking experience. Read more in our full guide.
The low-cost, last-gen alternative
The Asus RP-N53 is a tiny, wireless-n extender with a signal-strength LED indicator plus another LED on the back that works as a night-light. Photo: David Murphy
If you just need Wi-Fi in a far-flung area, don't care about 802.11ac, and don't want to spend a lot of money, get the Asus RP-N53 Dual-Band Wireless-N600 Range Extender. This wall-plug 802.11n extender is notably small, but it offers better performance and features than other extenders in its price range, including an easy-to-use Web configuration screen, music-streaming capabilities, and the ability to function as a night-light. To learn more, see our full guide.
Note from The Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.
The Witcher 3
Between the northern European landscapes of Wild Hunt and the Mediterranean charms of Blood & Wine, CD Projekt Red provides a gorgeous and complete representation of the Witcher universe. It’s not just the bleakly beautiful vistas that make regions like the Skellige archipelago so extraordinary to explore, it’s that the developers clearly thought about how genuine wild places feel when creating them. Also, Toussaint is the closest games have come to offering a fantasy holiday destination you’d actually want to visit.
Bohemia is the king of beautiful and sprawling environments. The 270km2 island of Altis in Arma 3 is one hell of an achievement, and thanks to the heavy emphasis on simulation in the Arma games, it feels extremely realistic. I still count the day I spent wandering around there with the rest of the PCG team—while Andy Kelly played with the weather and mission conditions in Arma 3’s Zeus Mode—as one of the most thrilling I’ve had in an open world. In the Apex expansion, Tanoa offers an arguably more compelling jungle setting to enjoy.
Grand Theft Auto 5
I love that GTA V’s Los Santos understands the appeal of Los Angeles as a vast urban sprawl, with both beautiful and rough areas. All my favourite places are represented in Rockstar’s open-world crime capital, despite it being a fraction of the size of the real thing. And the way it captures the city’s flat, pounding heat is a step beyond what we once expected from visual effects in games. This is better than the real world. At Christmas, Rockstar covers the city in snow in GTA Online. This year I’ve planned my holidays around it.
A friend once told me the food in Sleeping Dogs’ night market looked so good that it made him hungry in real life. He’s not wrong. I frequently find myself with a strong hankering for a pork bun when I play this game. It may have been created in the spirit of the various trashy crime games that sprang up in the wake of GTA III, but its recreation of Hong Kong is remarkable. While Rockstar seems mainly interested in bringing American cities to life, Sleeping Dogs is a strong attempt at replicating another part of the world.
Rocksteady went from creating an isolated but convincing setting in Arkham Asylum to a beautifully grim urban sprawl in Arkham Knight, decorated with a Blade Runner-ish mix of bright lights and endless rainfall. It’s one of the best open-world settings around, even if the game’s tiring use of the Batmobile muddies your perception of it a little bit. The stuttery PC port aside, everyone should glide over this gigantic version of Gotham at least once. It’s just such a detailed representation of Batman and his fictional universe.
The world of Dishonored is represented in the first game through a collection of hub-style urban environments packed with side stories and bits of lore to uncover. A mix of magic, Georgian imperialism and whale-oil powered steampunk, the rat-infested, historically familiar and not overly stylised city is a neat sidestep from Thief. The second game will build on those little impressions of a wider world that you glimpsed out of the corner of your eye while playing this one. Personally, I can’t wait to see more of the place.
It’s no classic when it comes to combat or story, but Avalanche’s Mad Max is just the ticket if you’ve seen Fury Road and ever fancied using the game’s photo mode to mimic imagery from the movie. The game’s vast, nearly Just Cause-sized setting has a surprising amount of colour variation and unexpected weather effects, which collectively create a decent facsimile of the post-apocalyptic wasteland the movies are famous for.
Dark Souls 3
While the first Souls game features some of the series’ most memorable locations, the third game’s haunting, gothic world has much more fidelity. From the faded grandeur of the colossal Lothric Castle to the haunting, wintry Irithyll of the Boreal Valley, it’s one of From Software’s greatest artistic achievements. And as well as looking pretty, the locations fill in the blanks left by the sparse, enigmatic story. Places like the Cemetery of Ash are full of subtle clues about the series’ rich mythology.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
If you’re looking for an amazing fantasy world, The Witcher 3 probably clinches it, but Skyrim offers a little more high fantasy without as much grime, and with more dragon fights. Its variety of tundra still impresses, and with mods like Flora Overhaul and Realistic Water Two, it can look as contemporary now as your PC is able to handle. Or, you can wait for the Bethesda devs to update it themselves next month.
Bioshock and Bioshock 2
Revisiting Rapture for this feature made me remember just how new and foreign it felt the first time I saw the storefronts in the Medical Pavilion, or a giant diving-suit man walking through a flooding atrium escorting a demonic-looking little girl. Rapture is so bloody strange, in its mix of sci-fi otherworldliness and art deco. It’s perhaps the strongest instance of fiction and setting working together on this list—an unforgettable journey under the sea.
Play BioShock now and the size of its locations reflects the technical constraints of the time, however well the accomplished art direction covers it. Play Infinite, and it feels like the sky city of Columbia was created with unlimited resources and few restrictions. It’s dreamlike, varied and gorgeous. It doesn’t have to leave anything to the imagination—from the Hall of Heroes to the Shanty Town and Elizabeth’s tower, it’s a whole game of postcard-worthy sights, brought to life by a team of amazingly talented artists.
The Shoshone Forest of Firewatch was created from the stylish 2D art and direction of popular artist Olly Moss. And then, remarkably, it was built in 3D by just one person—environment artist Jane Ng. It feels sun-parched and wild—and rambling, despite the environment having been created mainly for the purposes of telling a linear story rather than exploration. This Wyoming wilderness is a place filled with secrets, where you will inevitably take lots of arty screenshots you’ll then shamefully upload to Steam.
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag
Aside from Venice in Assassin’s Creed II,Black Flag’s setting is the only one I find exciting in Ubisoft’s third-person murder universe. The art is always great in these places, they just don’t feel handcrafted. That’s not a problem when much of your game is set at sea, and you travel by ship between islands and other biomes, with the occasional settlement like Havana thrown in. Black Flag offers a sense of real exploration, inspired perhaps by the best 3D Zelda game, Wind Waker, which the series would do well to recapture on its inevitable rebirth over the next few years.
This unusual, sort-of-Myst-inspired island of maze puzzles integrates its mysterious environment into its challenges. You’re always learning more about it, and little of that is superficial. It’s a gorgeous, handcrafted landscape, and you can see why it took Jonathan Blow and company over seven years to make. But having said that, do you ever look at these inoffensive Clinton Card images and think, “wouldn’t it be good if I could land a military chopper on this shit then pop a bullet in some poor bastard’s head?” Joking.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution
I deliberated on this one with Andy, since Prague in Mankind Divided has many gorgeous-looking districts, and has benefitted from five years of progress in videogame technology. But Human Revolution’s Hengsha holds up. It’s not huge, but the use of signage and densely packed, narrow streets creates a convincing sense that this is the bottom rung of a two-tiered futuristic city. Nothing feels over-designed, and the Hive nightclub is a standout.
Far Cry: Primal
Andy and Tony suggested Far Cry 4, an equally beautiful setting that’s immersive enough to keep you playing for dozens of hours, but I love Primal’s stone age backdrop. The sound design is brilliant and often unsettling: in the distance you hear the cries of creatures that no longer exist. The effect of this untouched setting, as well as your relatively primitive powers (remote-controlled owls notwithstanding), is that you never feel entirely safe exploring it. I marginally prefer it to the other Far Crys for that reason, though the whole series offers some pretty amazing places to visit.
Future Boston itself is a pretty, damaged urban environment, but it’s the edges of the map I love. The journey to the irradiated Glowing Sea is so memorable, as you travel from the withered trees on its outskirts to a nightmarish deathtrap filled with Fallout’s nastiest creatures. You find the eerie remnants of an aircraft and a church, among other things. Maybe Bethesda’s post-Oblivion RPGs are starting to feel a little familiar in structure, but there’s no doubting that the team making these worlds are at the top of their game.
Half-Life 2’s world still captivates, partly because of the skilled way Valve rolls back each layer to reveal the next. It’s all revealed one map at a time along your journey, until you’ve built up a detailed picture of this conquered world. It helps that they’re always giving you something new to do. From the canals of City 17 to Ravenholm and Nova Prospekt, Valve’s visual storytelling is still unparalleled. Half-Life 2 has dated, inevitably for a 12-year-old game, but its environments still have the power to dazzle.
I waited my whole life for a game set in the Pacific Northwest of Twin Peaks, then I got two in the space of about a year: Alan Wake and Deadly Premonition. Alan Wake’s misty forests, empty cabins and eerily unpopulated towns are the perfect setting for this mostly nighttime horror shooter. A clever recurring technique used by Remedy is the teasing of enemies and new locations in the far distance, something made possible by game engine tech originally put in place when Alan Wake was going to be open-world.
Metro: Last Light
Here’s a cheerful note to end on. The post-nuclear Moscow setting of the Metro series offers the most beguiling and tonally bleak post-apocalypse around, whether you’re in the irradiated overworld, or one of the admirably detailed underground settlements filled with NPCs telling stories of the game’s horrible setting. For me, the highlight of exploring this world came early on when I found a downed aircraft that had been rotting among the ruins for two decades. I experienced the plane’s final moments in a vision, before returning to its depressing present-day remnants. Misery has never looked so attractive.
You might have thought that when Asus debuted its water-cooled GX700 laptop last year that it would be a one-and-done design, but you'd be wrong. Asus is at it again, this time with the ROG GX800, a similar looking system that's even bigger and more powerful.
Instead of a 17-inch panel, Asus supersized the ROG GX800 with an 18.4-inch display. It still boasts a 4K (3840x2160) resolution, as anything less could be deemed silly on such a sensible system (just a bit of slight sarcasm there), along with 100 percent coverage of the RGB color space. Oh, and it supports G-Sync, too.
Underneath the massive hood is an Intel Core i7-6820HK processor that's begging to be overclocked and not one, but two GeForce GTX 1080 GPUs in SLI. Yeah, it's like that.
This is a no-compromise laptop. Well, except for the obvious—portability. It's big (458x338x454mm) and heavy (5.7kg) all on its own, but add the Hydro Overclocking System, which tacks on another 4.7kg, and you're looking at staying stationary for a spell.
The cooling system is the most unique thing about the GX800. It's essentially a liquid cooling dock that allows you to overclock the CPU, GPU, and RAM without fear of the thing cooking itself.
"With the Hydro Overclocking System, ROG GX800’s Intel K-SKU CPU can be overclocked to 4.2GHz so you get mind-blowing levels of performance. The graphics cards can be overclocked to 1961MHz, while VRAM and DRAM can be pushed up to 5,200MHz and 2,800MHz respectively," Asus claims.
Configurations will come with up to 64GB of DDR4-2800 RAM. It also supports up to three M.2 PCIe-based SSDs in RAID 0 and has built in 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, two USB 3.1 Type C ports, three USB 3.0 ports, separate microphone and headphone jacks, a GbE LAN port, HDMI and mini DisplayPort output, and a memory card reader.
Asus didn't say when the GX800 will be available or for how much, though with the GX700 selling for around $4,700, we suspect this one will top the $5,000 mark.
A 14-year-old in Britain just won the right to have her body frozen for thousands of dollars — here's the science behind it
A 14-year-old girl in Britain has just been granted the right to have her body cryonically frozen in the hope that she will be brought back to life one day. The teen, from London, was dying from cancer when she took her case to the high court.
"I don’t want to be buried underground. I want to live and live longer and I think that in the future they might find a cure for my cancer and wake me up," she said. "I want to have this chance. This is my wish."
Cryonics is the practice of preserving a human body in extremely cold temperatures after they die, with the hope of being able to revive them sometime in the future when science has advanced enough.
People who undergo the procedure must be declared legally dead, as it's illegal to cryonically preserve someone who's still alive. However, legally dead is not the same as completely dead. Legal death occurs when the heart has stopped beating, but you're technically still alive until all brain function ceases.
Cryonics works in this narrow but crucial window, to preserve that tiny amount of cell function that's still happening. If you sign up at one facility, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Arizona, the protocol consists of four elements: deployment and standby, stabilization, cryoprotectant perfusion and cryogenic cool-down.
1. Deployment and standby
You have to be signed up with a cryonics facility before your death, so that the team can be prepared. Decomposition starts happening pretty much immediately, so the window of time for the team to start the preservation process is narrow.
They will still try though. On the Alcor website it states: "it is a general principle of cryonics that cryopreservation should proceed after legal death even under poor biological conditions when standard protocol procedures cannot be performed."
A team is notified of your death and rushes to your side once you've passed, and they stabilize your body by supplying your brain with oxygen and blood to preserve minimal function.
After this, you are injected with heparis — an anticoagulant that prevents blood clots — and packed in ice. Your lungs might be ventilated too.
If it will take a long time to be transported to the operating room, your blood may be replaced with an organ preservation solution.
3. Cryoprotectant perfusion
The freezing begins when you reach the cryonics facility. Your body cannot simply be frozen in liquid nitrogen because it would damage your cells. You are around 70% water, so if it all froze, your cells would shatter.
Instead, the cryonics team starts a process called vitrification. They remove all the water from your cells and replace it with a chemical mixture of organ preservation and antifreeze chemicals called a cryoprotectant.
In theory, this protects organs and tissues from forming ice crystals and instead are put into a state of suspended animation. It's the same technique that has dramatically improved the way eggs and embryos are frozen and thawed in fertility treatments.
Vitrification has successfully been used to freeze small pieces of tissue, and scientists even managed to preserve and recover the brain of a rabbit. However, we're probably still a long way off from being able to freeze and thaw larger structures, as vitrifying organs such as human kidneys for transplantation has not been done successfully.
4. Cryogenic cool-down
Once vitrified, your body is cooled on a bed of dry ice until it reaches -130 degrees Celsius. Then you're placed head down in a large metal tank filled with liquid nitrogen at around -196 degrees Celsius.
It costs over £100,000 to get your whole body cryonically preserved, but for a smaller fee, you can choose just to freeze your brain. This relies on the idea that one day in the future, scientists will be able to grow a clone of your body and you will somehow be revived.
That's still not the end of it though.
Nobody has ever been revived from being frozen, because this technology doesn't exist. It also hasn't been around enough for everyone who has been preserved to be cured from whatever illness was killing them in the first place.
That being said, medicine has come a long way in that people are often, technically, brought back from the dead. Defibrillators can shock your heart into a regular rhythm again, and in some surgeries, people are cooled down to very low temperatures so doctors can operate on aneurysms.
There's also the ethical issues to consider about whether a clone grown from your cells would really be "you" or not. With the brain being such a complex organ, it's also impossible to know how much damage has been done by the process until you wake them up again.
The biggest problem with revival would be thawing a person the right way at the right speed. If it isn't done exactly right, your cells could turn to ice and be destroyed.
The first person to be cryonically preserved was 73-year-old Dr James Bedford, who was frozen in 1967. He died of kidney cancer and was frozen a few hours after his death. In the cryonics community, January 12th is celebrated as "Bedford Day."
According to Alcor, Bedford's body is still in a good condition. It's quite possible that his metastasized cancer would be treatable now if he were revived, it's just the warming him back up again that needs to be figured out.
The US oil rig count jumped by 19 to 471 this week, according to oilfield-services giant Baker Hughes.
It was the largest weekly increase since July 2015, and the highest number of rigs since the week ending February 5, 2016.
Last week, the tally of oil rigs increased by two.
As crude prices stabilized in a price range between $40 and $50 per barrel earlier this year, demand for oilfield services increased. That spiked the rig count at a pace not seen since oil prices crashed two years ago.
Oil prices swung negative after the data release on Friday. The West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures contracts for December delivery expire on Monday, which means that the market could get more volatile before then.
WTI was down 0.7% to $45.09 per barrel.
This is the latest chart of the count:REUTERS/Jim Urquhart
Welcome to Finance Insider, Business Insider's summary of the top stories of the past 24 hours.
The plot thickens.
Prosecutors in New York on Thursday charged two executives over a kickback scheme meant to inflate the value of a specialty pharmacy before it was sold to Valeant. Lawyers representing the executives have said the two will prove their innocence.
The charges filed so far are putting the focus on a man who worked for both Valeant and Philidor, the specialty pharmacy that was selling Valeant's products directly to patients.
Valeant's share price dropped on the news of the charges, before recovering. But the market seems to be ignoring a massive elephant in the room, according to Business Insider's Linette Lopez.
In related news, Bill Ackman, the activist hedge fund manager who heads Pershing Square Capital Management, could soon have a seat on Chipotle's board. And hedge funds fled healthcare stocks before the election — and may have missed out on big money.
In markets news, the Nasdaq has hit a new intraday all-time high, and a "violent rotation" is taking place in the market, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
The Bank of Mexico says the US election has made the global economy "more complex." And here's how money managers at a $813 billion investment giant tweaked their strategy after Trump won.
In deals news, DraftKings and FanDuel are merging. Brookfield Asset Management has proposed a deal to take a 50% to 60% percent stake in TerraForm Power. And Tesla shareholders have approved the SolarCity takeover.
Here's everything you need to know about the solar roof Tesla plans to build with SolarCity.
In tech news, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is done cozying up to Microsoft — now he's BFFs with Amazon. And here's what Apple's suppliers are saying right now about iPhone 7 sales.
Here are the top Wall Street headlines at midday
Economist on Trump's impact: '¯\_(ツ)_/¯' - Paul Ashworth, the chief economist at Capital Economics, does not know what to make of President-elect Donald Trump's effect on the economy.
LORD TURNER: 'We are in a deeply profound deflationary trap' - With the world gripped in a deep deflationary trap and seemingly no clear way out, former UK Financial Services Authority chief Lord Turner is advocating a policy of debt monetization, with central banks financing major fiscal deficits.
Article 50 author: Populism will not 'sweep' across the west — it will soon 'fade' - Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, a British peer who has served as an ambassador both to the EU and US, does not expect rising populism across the west to deliver any more shock results in upcoming major elections.
China is really worried about capital outflows - Chinese policymakers have been unfazed by the yuan's recent slide, but they are ready to slow its descent for fear of fanning capital flight if the currency falls too quickly through the psychologically important 7-per-dollar level, policy advisers said.
Volkswagen is spiking 30,000 jobs as part of a huge restructuring programme - The German carmaker Volkswagen is axing about 30,000 jobs over the next five years as part of a huge restructuring programme.
The new Maserati Levante SUV has raised the luxury bar - It would be hard to overestimate the importance of the Levante SUV for Maserati.
(Header © Intel Extreme Masters)
Although the Rainbow Six Pro Season 3 Finals came to an end, there’s still plenty of explosive action to watch–from the intense firefights of CS:GO and Overwatch to the fantastic coordination of Dota 2 and League of Legends. All the details on this weekend’s action can be found below.
CS:GO: Intel Extreme Masters Season XI Oakland
The CS:GO Intel Extreme Masters concludes in Oakland this weekend as the teams battle it out for their share of the $300,000 prize pool. Quarterfinals kick off Saturday at 10:45 PST / 19:45 CET, while the semifinals start the following day at 10:00 PST / 19:00 CET. The grand finals start at 18:00 PST, but those of us in Europe will need to be up bright and early on Monday to catch the explosive action at 03:00 CET. Tickets can be purchased , while the event can be watched live by heading over to the .
League of Legends: Intel Extreme Masters Season XI Oakland
The Intel Extreme Masters will also be holding a League of Legends tournament with six international teams starting this Saturday. The IEM Oakland champions will be competing for $100,000 and will also qualify for the crowning event at on March 2017. Playoffs begin at 10:00 PST / 19:00 CET, while the semifinals start Sunday at 9:30 PST / 18:30 CET. The grand finals will start at 17:00 PST / 02:00 CET and can be watched over on .
Dota 2: Summit 6
It’s been a lengthy wait for Dota 2 fans, but The Summit 6 finally gives us something to look forward to before The Boston Major in December. The Summit 6 is held outside Los Angeles, California with a $100,000 prize pool up for grabs. The summit tournaments are known for their fun, casual atmosphere and laid back couch commentary. Amongst the various pro players present at the event, there will also be some special guests to look out for. More information about the event and its schedule can be found .
StarCraft II: HomeStory Cup XIV
This event is organised by StarCraft II caster Dennis "TaKe" Gehlen. TaKe invites star players from around the world into his home to compete for their share of the $20,000 prize pool. The first group stage can be viewed today at 04:15 PST / 13:15 CET, while the second group stage and playoffs begin Saturday. HomeStory Cup provides multiple streams and interviews that aim to create a fun atmosphere for both players and fans alike. You can watch the event live .
Street Fighter V: Asia/Oceania Regional Finals
The Capcom Pro Tour 2016 Asia Finals take place this Saturday at the Global Game Exhibition in Busan, South Korea. So far the CPR has brought together players and spectators from all over the world to share their love of Street Fighter. The Asia finals are sure to pack a punch and can be watched over on . Full schedule and times can be found .
Overwatch: Carbon Masters
In the wake of an action-packed qualifying event, teams -Bird Noises- and Denial Esports came out victorious. They will now join the six invited teams, to battle it out in the competitive playoffs, which kicks off on November 19th at 11:00 PST / 20:00 CET. All eight teams have a lot to prove, as the best North American Overwatch players will be battling it out to prove their worth. The event can be watched over on Carbon Entertainment’s channel.
Rocket League: Cross Pacific Championship Cup
Rocket League’s two day Cross Pacific Championship Cup takes place this weekend. The tournament will pit the Oceanic and South American regions against one another to determine who's the best at Rocket League. The finals will take place today 15:00 PST / 00:00 CET and will continue tomorrow at 14:00 PST / 23:00 CET. You can catch all the action on .
Hearthstone: Red Bull Team Brawl
Red Bull's second Team Brawl is this weekend, an invitational that pits teams of three against each other in simultaneous games. The teams will be able to talk among themselves during the matches to strategize, and deck building is limited to the "sealed" format where each team gets 240 cards they must use to build three decks. The tournament starts tomorrow at 12:00 PST / 21:00 CET can be watched on Twitch.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and vice president elect Mike Pence don't always see eye to eye.
Benioff famously went to war with Pence last year when the Indiana governor signed a law that would have potentially allowed business owners to refuse to serve people based on their religious beliefs. Benioff threatened to move Salesforce out of Indiana, where it's the largest tech employer, and eventually got Pence to change the law.
Even as recently as September, Benioff warned people not to vote for Pence, saying he could do "some very bad things to the people that we love."
But now that the election is over and Pence is slated to be vice president of the country, Benioff is taking a step back.
During Salesforce's earnings call on Thursday, Benioff said it's time to put the election in the past and move forward. He said:
"In my view, it’s in the past, we’re moving forward. We have a beginner’s mind and we have a sense of optimism for future, and we’re going to cultivate that optimism and we’re going to manifest it into our business because that is how we operate here.
I have met with CEOs of some of the largest companies in the world this week, and in each and every case, all of them are moving forward, OK? And we know what we have to do. We now need to execute."
It's understandable why Benioff wants to make nice with Pence. Salesforce is a $50 billion business that generates 75% of its revenue from the US, and there's no good for him to pick a fight with the second most powerful political figure in the world.
Benioff isn't the only CEO to take a much warmer stance on the Trump administration. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has congratulated the president-elect recently, while GE CEO Jeff Immelt is now saying he "looks forward to working with Trump," after calling his racist comments "unacceptable."
Sixty-six teams of competitors from countries all around the world converged on Zurich, Switzerland, for what’s been called the first cyborg Olympics. But “Cybathlon” is much more than just a series of games—it’s a more like a super trade-show for assistive technology, where cutting edge creations that help humans grapple with disability can be displayed, and ideas exchanged about how to improve them.
People who have been robotically enhanced are paired with researchers including roboticists and neurologists. Competitors with similar disabilities compete in Olympic-style races where the fastest time wins: One arm prosthetic race included household chores like hanging clothes and cutting bread.
The researchers use the experiences of disabled competitors to explore the limitations of current technology in an effort to develop and commercialize the unique devices being used in the games.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Republican President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to make Russian leader Vladimir Putin his new best friend on the international front has been causing heartburn among some conservatives who are warning the New York businessman that he is traveling down a dangerous path.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a former GOP presidential nominee who has frequently differed with Trump, delivered a blistering speech from the Senate floor on Tuesday.
He ridiculed Trump’s attempt to “reset” U.S-Russian relations after a frosty stretch and denounced Putin for murdering his political opponents, invading Ukraine, threatening America’s allies, tampering with the U.S. election and siding with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in a civil war that has decimated the country.
“At the very least, the price of another ‘reset’ would be complicity in Putin and Assad’s butchery of the Syrian people,” McCain bellowed. “That is an unacceptable price for a great nation. When America has been at its greatest, it is when we have stood on the side those fighting tyranny. That is where we must stand again.”
Trump’s blossoming bromance with Putin has long galled the GOP’s political establishment and prompted sharp rejoinders from many of his GOP presidential primary opponents who for the most part share the views of President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that Putin cannot be trusted.
In a provocative and unpatriotic campaign message, Trump frequently praised Putin for being a much stronger leader than Obama and for being willing to fight ISIS terrorists in Syria. "If Putin wants to go and knock the hell out of ISIS, I am all for it, 100 percent, and I can't understand how anybody would be against it," Trump said during the fourth Republican presidential debate.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush said during the primaries that Trump’s views on Putin were emblematic of a foreign policy novice who doesn’t grasp "how the real world works." And Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said, "I've never met Vladimir Putin, but I know enough about him to know that he's a gangster.”
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Now the Heritage Foundation, one of the most prominent conservative think-tanks in Washington that is strongly backing the president-elect, has issued a new global study concluding that Putin’s Russia poses the gravest threat to the United States and its NATO allies – even more than Iran, Middle East and African terrorist groups, China or North Korea.
The Heritage Foundation’s “2017 Index of the Military Strength,” a report that has been in the works for months, was released just days after the November 8 election and Trump’s phone conversation with Putin on Monday. The two men reportedly agreed to work together to improve relations between the two countries that are at the lowest level since the Cold War and find common cause in Syria in combatting ISIS terrorism.
Putin has been playing Trump like a violin ever since he told an ABC reporter last December that he thought Trump, a former reality TV host, was “a very colorful person -- talented without a doubt. Trump took that as a supreme compliment, and boasted afterward that the Russian leader considered him to be “brilliant” or even a “genius.”
Though the two men had never met, Trump couldn’t say enough good things about him. That was doubly the case even after U.S. national intelligence and homeland security experts confirmed last month that high-level Russian officials had authorized the hacking of Democratic National Committee emails subsequently posted on WikiLeaks to try to influence the election. Trump also continued to praise Putin after Secretary of State John Kerry called for the Russian and Syrian governments to face a formal war-crimes investigation over attacks on civilians in Aleppo and other parts of war-torn Syria.
But the new Heritage study implicitly warns Trump against the high risks of cozying up with a Russian strong man who orchestrated an invasion of the Crimean Peninsula of Ukraine, poses a growing threat to Central Europe and is pummeling and killing tens of thousands of rebels and innocent residents in Syria in the service of propping up the Assad regime.
“Russia seeks to maximize its strategic position in the world at the expense of the United States,” according to the new report, which was first reported yesterday by The Washington Post. “It also seeks to undermine U.S. influence and moral standing, harass U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces and is working to sabotage U.S. and Western policy in Syria.
“Russia’s explicitly belligerent behavior during the past year further adds to the need for the U.S. to give due consideration to Russia’s ability to place the security of the U.S. at risk,” the study warns.
Mark Wilson/Getty ImagesRetired Army Lt. Gen. Thomas W. Spoehr, the director of Heritage’s Center for National Defense, told The Post that the foundation “unequivocally believes” that Russia poses a threat, adding that he fears that the U.S. could be left behind as Russia, China and other adversaries continue to build up their military. Jim DeMint, the former U.S. senator from South Carolina and president of the Heritage Foundation, authored the preface of the lengthy study.
On a scale from “very weak” to “very strong,” the new Heritage index describes the Army as “weak” and the remainder of the U.S. armed services – including the Navy, the Air Force, the Marines and nuclear defenses – were described as “marginal.”
“While all six threats [from rival nations and terrorists] have been quite problematic in their behavior and in their impact on their respective regions, Russia and China continue to be the most worrisome, both because of the investments they are making in the modernization and expansion of their offensive military capabilities and because of the more enduring effect they are having within their respective regions,” the study states.
“Russia has maintained its active involvement in the conflict in Ukraine and has inserted itself into the Syrian conflict, and China’s provocative behavior has expanded to include militarization of islands that it has built in highly disputed international waters” in the South China Sea.
The findings bolster the importance of the U.S. alliance with NATO forces and are completely contrary to the New York billionaire businessman’s global view of Putin, the former KGB officer and iron-fisted leader. Those views potentially could complicate Heritage’s efforts to influence the shaping of the president-elect’s cabinet and other senior positions in the new administration.
A number of prominent figures with ties to Heritage have been assisting Trump’s transition team, including Rebekah A. Mercer, a wealthy Republican party donor who is on the foundation’s board of trustees; Edwin Feulner, the former president of the Heritage Foundation, and Edwin Meese, a former top Reagan administration official, and James Jay Carafano, a heritage vice president and national security expert.
Trump’s transition team, charged with helping to assemble Trump’s national security and foreign policy, has been in disarray following a purge of senior transition officials who had been recruited by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Christie was dumped after running afoul of Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
Neither Spoehr nor a spokesman for the foundation was available for comment.
A water meter reader gone rogue is leading to some higher-than-usual water bills for North Marin Water District customers in Novato.
Water district officials reported getting an unusually high number of complaints from customers about pricey bills in September and October.
“All the calls we got triggered an investigation,” said Chris DeGabriele, general manager of the district.
It turned out there was a reason for the spike. Customers were undercharged over the summer by a meter reader who apparently was estimating water use, instead of logging in actual totals as he entered figures into his hand-held computer while making his rounds in the field.
When bills were adjusted to reflect actual use, the make-up tallies made it appear as though customers were using more water in the period than they actually did. Those catch-up counts of water catapulted users into higher — and more expensive — tiers of water use, even though their usage was stable.
Water officials say customers will have those fees waived. In fact, because it is having trouble identifying which customers’ meters were not read, all tier charges will be waived from the Nov. 10 through Jan. 5 billing cycles. That move approved by the water board Tuesday will cost the district at least $50,000 in revenue. The district has an overall budget of about $35 million.
About 15 to 20 percent of the district’s roughly 60,000 customers are affected. Because meters are read once every two months, bills received this month or in December may include a catch-up cost arising from the prior under-reported meter reading.
After the complaints came in about high bills, water district officials conducted an audit. They noticed July and August meter readings were abnormally low for summer, a time when water consumption typically increases as the days grow warmer. Initially, water officials were perplexed at the low readings.
Eventually staffers discovered the employee “had been recording a significant number of meter reads in quick succession,” wrote David Bentley, the water district’s auditor controller, in a report on the investigation. “The hand-held computer into which the (employee) enters meter reads time stamps each read. Staff discovered that an (employee) hired in May of 2015 was reading meters at a speed that defied reason.”
Some of the meters were read in less than 10 seconds, according to general manager DeGabriele.
“That’s when we knew something was amiss,” he said.
The worker apparently figured that if he entered a low total, customers wouldn’t complain and he wouldn’t have to read every meter.
The employee was confronted and he admitted he had been “just punching in the numbers” and he was fired, according to Bentley’s report.
“We really have no idea (why),” DeGabriele said.
It will take another six weeks of readings to accurately assess water use in areas that were read incorrectly. New controls are being put into place, including random field audits to assure readings are correct. Other mechanisms will alert supervisors if reads are occurring too fast.
In addition, the water district is planning to install “advanced meter information” equipment to enable remote, more accurate meter reading rather than the traditional manual process within the next two years.
“We do apologize to all our customers for this,” DeGabriele said.
By Jan Schwartz WOLFSBURG, Germany (Reuters) - German carmaker Volkswagen and its labor unions have agreed to 30,000 job cuts by 2021 at its VW brand as part of a plan to boost profitability and fund a shift to electric and self-driving cars after its emissions scandal, a source told Reuters on Friday. Europe's largest automaker is trying to increase savings at its biggest unit in Germany, where its costs are high, while needing to find billions of euros to pay for the cleanup related to its diesel emissions cheating scandal. The agreement, details of which are to be announced at a news conference at 9.30 am local time (0830 GMT), foresees 3.7 billion euros ($3.9 billion) in annual savings at VW's namesake brand, which will involve 23,000 job cuts in Germany alone, another source said.
The transit center in downtown San Rafael will have to be revamped quickly so SMART trains can pass through the hub en route to Larkspur as soon as 2018.
The big changes will come as Golden Gate Bridge district officials make plans to move the entire center in as soon as five years.
It was the district that gave Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit a right of way through the center, so the disruption is not a complete surprise.
Officials at the district, which runs buses in and out of the transit center, initially planned to study the center’s future and where it might be located as SMART came online.
But last December SMART officials announced the agency was in line to receive funding to extend the commuter rail service to Larkspur, which includes going through the transit center. With construction of commuter train service to Larkspur starting as soon as summer 2017, the transit center will have to be revamped to squeeze rail and bus service into the site.
“When the study was originally conceived we thought the SMART extension to Larkspur would be several years in the future,” Ron Downing, director of planning for the district, told the Transportation Committee on Thursday. “The study changed course when we realized that extension would be happening a lot sooner.”
Construction will include new tracks, barriers and crossing arms. The rail line will go through Platform C, eliminating bus stops, meaning passengers will be picked up on adjacent streets instead. The Marin Airporter will pick up its passengers on Fourth Street under Highway 101, a block from the transit center. Cijos Street also will undergo improvements so it can better accommodate bus traffic.
Those changes will be permanent even after SMART finishes putting track through the transit center. That’s because the rail line will have to be sectioned off by concrete so pedestrians can’t cross tracks, limiting access to buses at the center. Presently, pedestrians can go from platform to platform without restriction.
The modifications are expected to cost about $3.5 million, money provided by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission that was intended to be used for an abandoned ferry project at Port Sonoma.
The transit center — known as the C. Paul Bettini Transit Center for a former mayor — opened in 1991 and is used by 9,000 people daily.
The bridge district eventually wants to build a new transit center in the same area. Committee members Thursday discussed three sites, including using the existing site between Second and Third streets and land between Third and Fourth streets. A second option would use land between Third and Fourth streets and Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue, where Citibank and House of Bagels are now. A new site will likely involve buying property that currently houses buildings.
Another possible site would stretch from Fourth Street to Mission Avenue. That design would close Fifth Avenue to vehicle traffic at the SMART train tracks, which has sparked concern from San Rafael officials who note downtown is already congested.
A new transit center would cost between $32 million and $42 million, according to preliminary estimates, and could be funded by federal grants. Housing on top of a new transit center also could be part of the mix, officials said.
Passengers will have to live with the new alignments at the existing transit center for the near future, officials said.
“A new transit center is at least five years away,” said Denis Mulligan, bridge district general manager.
Amazon is poised to challenge Netflix on the global stage with a massive expansion of its on-demand video streaming service, The Wall Street Journal reported. Amazon Prime Video service is currently available in Austria, Britain, Germany, Japan and the United States, with a promise of availability soon in India. This would put the Seattle-based online retail titan's on-demand video service on a level playing field with Netflix, which at the start of this year expanded to 190 countries to proclaim itself the first global television service.
PIC FROM MERCURY PRESS (Image license supplied to Caters from source)
A girl’s chilling selfie in a car appears to show a ‘child ghost’ sitting in the back seat which paranormal experts believe was a warning from beyond the grave.
Melissa Kurtz, 48, was driving her daughter Harper to a beauty pageant when the 13-year-old became bored and started taking snaps of herself.
However the mum-of-two claims she later spotted the ghostly face of a young boy lurking behind Harper – despite insisting there was one else in the car with them.
Researching the stretch of road they were travelling on, Melissa discovered that the spooky selfie coincided with the anniversary of a deadly road accident which she thinks could have involved the same little lad.
Multiple paranormal investigators analysed the image with one claiming the ghost’s hand appeared to be reaching for Harper.
But Melissa says she was not scared by the suspected haunting as she claims Harper is a magnet for paranormal activity.
PIC FROM MERCURY PRESS (Image license supplied to Caters from source)
Melissa, from Florida, said: “Where the picture was taken there was an automobile accident one year ago exactly. When I looked into it, someone had been medevacked away in a helicopter.
“However they would not tell me any specific details when I enquired, which leads me to believe that it was a child, as that might be why they couldn’t provide the information.
“I didn’t notice it until about a month later when I was going through my camera when taking pictures for something else.
“It was a real ‘Oh my god’ moment. I was really shocked by it, incredibly shocked. I ran into the other room and said to friends who were staying with me ‘you have to see this’. Everyone was awestruck.
“I think it’s very important to the world to see that picture because I know it’s genuine and real and we were the only two in the car.
“So many people have hope for the afterlife and this proves it – to me anyway. People [who have seen it] have taken comfort in that.
“Harper didn’t have her seatbelt on and one of the investigators who analysed the photo called Greg Pocha thought [the ghost] could be trying to warn her.
“[Her seatbelt] is something I yell at her about all the time. I’ve had 13 traffic tickets in two years due to her not wearing one. She is very stubborn – though I’m always trying to catch her when she hasn’t got it on.
"I'm not sure about that as it really looks to me like he has two fingers up, like he is putting rabbit ears up behind her. I think it is just a little boy playing, trying to be funny. I think it's a positive thing though.
"[However] I very much appreciate that if the child has died because of not having a seatbelt on then that's what he could be doing."
The image was taken in July this year on a highway in the Maitland area of Florida, near Orlando, when Melissa, a photographer and writer, was driving Harper to a junior beauty pageant, where she eventually placed fourth.
Melissa was so shocked by the image she submitted it to Greg Pocha, who is director of parapsychology, afterlife and paranormal studies at Eidolon Project Canada.
He claims that using an image analysis program, also used by the FBI and CIA, shows the boy has no colour or 'temperature' in the picture, which he says adds 'to the possibility that the photo may be authentic as a ghost photo'.
This story originally appeared on The Sun.
shocking U.S. events:
Mark Lyons/Getty Images
Does Trump’s economic plan carry the seeds of its own demise?
Trump’s blasted Janet Yellen and the Fed for keeping interest rates artificially low. But if he’s going to spend over $1 trillion on national infrastructure over the next decade, he might have to whistle a different number…
Trump’s plan calls for a combination of public and private investment in roads, bridges, airports, utilities, etc.
Low interest rates are the key. Says Wilbur Ross, billionaire investor and Trump economic adviser, “With interest rates so low, this has got to be the best time from a break-even point of view, from a societal point of view.”
But Ross indirectly points out the joker in the deck: “With interest rates so low”…
Trump’s massive spending proposals have raised the specter of inflation at long last. But those same inflation expectations have the Fed ready to pounce. Fed funds futures are showing a 91% chance of a rate hike next month.
If Trump’s plans make it over the hurdles and inflation starts flexing its muscles, the Fed might have to start raising interest rates aggressively to put a lid on it.
But could those rising interest rates play the devil with the entire proposal? Could they, in fact, sabotage the whole thing? Trump’s proposals seem to make sense only in a low interest rate world. Their assumption of cheap money may be the fatal flaw, the hole below the waterline…
Goldman put the Trump plan under its microscope. It concluded that “Mr. Trump’s infrastructure plan implies that a significant increase in interest rates could be a hurdle for the plan’s feasibility.”
And Kessler Investment Advisors says that “the Trump administration [needs] low rates to try to sell fiscal stimulus to the nation…”
When interest rates rise, so does the cost of servicing debt — not just new debt, but old debt that gets rolled over in the form of freshly issued Treasuries. And they’re rolled over at the going rate, not the old one. So the cost of servicing all that debt rises if rates rise.
Despite the mounting $19 trillion national debt, servicing that debt has been a manageable affair for the past several years.
Last year, for example, Uncle Samuel forked over $223 billion to keep the chains of debt around his neck. That’s less than he paid to service his debt 10 years ago, when the national debt was only about 40% of today’s.
The difference? Low interest rates. The Fed’s monetary contortion acts over the past eight years have nailed rates to the floor. So despite the higher total debt, it’s actually cost less to finance.
If rates start rising, a different… darker… picture emerges…
The Fiscal Times reports the findings of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Those findings show that if 3-month Treasuries rise to about 4% by 2018, and if 10-year Treasuries rise from today’s 2.24% to roughly 5.2%, “interest payments on the federal debt will soar to $505 billion in 2018.”
That’s $282 billion higher than last year. The point being, debt doesn’t seem to matter… until it does. University of Chicago finance Professor John Cochrane:
"Here’s the nightmare scenario: Suppose that four years from now, interest rates rise 5%, i.e., go back to normal, and the U.S. has $20 trillion outstanding. Interest costs alone will rise $1 trillion (5% of $20 trillion) multiplying already unsustainable deficits! This is what happened to Italy, Spain and Portugal. Don’t think it can’t happen to us. It’s even more likely, because fear of inflation — which did not hit them, since they are on the euro — can hit us."
Macro economist Richard Duncan is a Daily Reckoning contributor. Bear in mind Richard’s a boomer for quantitative easing and ultra-low rates. But he says in no uncertain terms that interest rates must not be allowed to rise to normal levels. Richard recently fired off a letter of advice to President-elect Trump. From which:
"You have… been elected at a time when the global economy is in grave danger of collapsing into a depression, one from which it might not recover for decades — if ever… If interest rates go up significantly, the bubble will pop and the New Great Depression will begin. One wrong move on your part and the economy will spiral out of control into a depression. It won’t be short and sharp like 1921. It will be long and devastating like 1929–1945."
One wrong move doesn’t allow much wiggle room. Richard says Trump can’t impose trade tariffs or cut taxes, which are both planks of his agenda. They’re both inflationary in Richard’s estimate. And inflation will bring higher interest rates…
Tariffs would drive up the price of imports and fuel inflation. And cutting taxes would increase the budget deficit, forcing the government to borrow more. Trump needs to spend on infrastructure, says Richard. But he has to get it right, no tariffs or tax cuts… or else face the above scenario.
We don’t pretend to know if Richard’s right or how it all plays out in the months and years ahead. But of this we are certain: Donald Trump, president, cannot be Donald Trump, reality show star.
The only question is… can he successfully switch roles?
Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), the chairman of the budget committee, told reporters on Thursday that Republicans are eyeing major changes to Medicare in 2017.
Price, who is being floated as a possible Health and Human Services Secretary in the next administration, said that he expects Republican in the House to move on Medicare reforms "six to eight months" into the Trump administration.
Privatization of Medicare has been a central feature of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan's budget proposal for years, and the House GOP has voted in favor of it multiple times. Ryan himself said last week that Medicare would be on the table in the new Congress, signaling it could be taken up early in the new year. Price's comments suggest privatization won't be part of the first round of legislative initiatives rolled out by the Trump administration and GOP-controlled Congress.
Price also noted that Republicans are eyeing using a tactic known as budget reconciliation to make the change. That process allows Republicans to pass bills with a simple majority in the U.S. Senate.
When asked by TPM about timing for changes to Medicare, Price said "I think that is probably in the second phase of reconciliation, which would have to be in the FY 18 budget resolution in the first 6-8 months."
Republicans plan to tackle the Affordable Care Act in the first budget reconciliation process, which could take place as early as January. Tackling Medicare reform and Obamacare repeal at the same time could prove too high a risk for Republicans who have yet to reveal a clear plan to replace Obamacare with.
During his weekly press conference House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) remained vague about the timing for such reforms, saying only that those discussions are still underway.
One of the oil world’s longest and best kept secrets may finally be revealed. Saudi Arabia is preparing to unveil how much oil it holds, a closely guarded state secret that has been kept quiet for decades.
The decision to bring such important data to light comes as Saudi Aramco is preparing to partially privatize its assets, an IPO that could bring in some $100 billion. The IPO will be a monumental event, one that the Wall Street Journal says could offer Wall Street some of the largest fees in history.
Saudi Arabia often trades off with Russia – and more recently, with the U.S. – as the world’s largest oil producer. But while it produces at similar levels as Russia and the U.S., it is long been a vastly more influential player in the oil world. That is because of two reasons – the size of its reserves, and the ability to use latent spare capacity to quickly adjust supply, affording it an outsized influence on crude oil prices.
But while everyone believes Saudi Arabia has some of the largest oil reserves in the world, perhaps rivaled only by Venezuela, there has been a lot of uncertainty and skepticism over exactly how much sits beneath the Saudi desert. The world’s largest oil field, Ghawar, has been producing since the 1950s, raising speculation about the longevity of the supergiant oilfield. It alone is thought to hold around 75 billion barrels, and it churns out more than 5 million barrels every single day. Surely, it cannot continue like this indefinitely, but the Kingdom has not revised its official reserves for years, which have stood at 260 billion barrels since the 1980s. It is hard to overstate how valuable this information is, and how fiercely Saudi leadership protected it.
However, the collapse of oil prices since 2014 has pushed the Saudi budget deep into the red. The Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is undergoing an historic transformation of the Saudi economy, a multi-decade plan to diversify the country’s economic base and create new sources of revenue. At the heart of the plan is spinning off roughly 5 percent of Saudi Aramco, the most valuable oil company in the world. Saudi officials believe that the company is worth between $2 and $3 trillion.
But in order to settled on a valuation and launch an IPO of some of Aramco’s assets, investors need to get a look beneath the hood. That is why Saudi Arabia is now prepared to unveil not just its financials, but also the long sought after data surrounding its oil reserves. “Everything that Saudi Aramco has, that will be shared, that will be verified by independent third parties,”Khalid al-Falih, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister, told the Financial Times in an interview. That would include, “reserves … costs [and] profitability indicators.” He went to lengths to emphasize Saudi Arabia’s seriousness about the IPO, in an effort to dampen skepticism. “This is going to be the most transparent national oil company listing of all time,” he said.
There is a great deal of suspicion regarding Saudi Arabia’s insistence that its reserves still stand at 260 billion barrels. After all, how could such a figure stay constant when it is producing 9 to 10 million barrels every day, which adds up to a few billion barrels each year? Aramco would have to add billions of barrels of newly discovered reserves on an annual basis in order to prevent its reserve base from declining. It is doubtful that it has done that consistently since the 1980s. But nobody knows except the Saudis.
As the FT notes, this figure will have massive ramifications for both Saudi Arabia and the global oil market. Right now, everyone is operating under the assumption that Saudi Arabia can continue to pump at its current pace for another seven decades. Long-term oil forecasts are predicated, in part, on Aramco’s ability to do that. More important for Saudi Arabia itself, its credit rating as well as the fortunes of its economy over the coming decades is also predicated on that assumption. A sharply lower reserve estimate could send oil futures up if fears over supply surface, and it might also affect Saudi Arabia’s credit rating.
Aramco is preparing to launch the IPO in 2018, which means that it will need to publish data on its oil reserves before then. The oil world’s biggest secret could soon be publicly released.