White Island Volcano

New Zealand Authorities File Charges Over Fatal White Island Volcano Eruption 

Officials in New Zealand have filed charges against 13 parties that supposedly failed to perform their proper health and safety obligations when doing wellness visits on the White Island volcano to see its eruption status. When the volcano erupted last year it killed 22 individuals as a result of these failings. 

White Island is an active volcano that is also referred to by its Maori name, Whakaari. It’s located right off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island and was one of the countries most popular tourism destinations before it erupted in December 2019 and killed a multitude of local tour guides and visitors. 

WorkSafe New Zealand is the company that acts as the country’s workplace health and safety regulator. This Monday WorkSafe announced that it had filed charges against 10 separate organizations and three specific individuals for allegedly not performing standard, and “reasonably practicable,” health and safety procedures that were put in place to protect White Island workers and visitors from a potential eruption. 

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The 10 organizations are facing a maximum fine of 1.5 million New Zealand dollars, which is equivalent to $1.1 million. The three individuals are facing a maximum fine of what’s equivalent to $211,000 in America; 300,000 New Zealand dollars. WorkSafe chief executive Phil Parkes recently spoke with the press after making the lawsuit announcement. 

“This was an unexpected event, but that does not mean it was unforeseeable and there is a duty on operators to protect those in their care.”

In the weeks leading up to the eruption, New Zealand volcano monitoring service GeoNet raised the alert level on White Island to a Level 2 out of 5. A Level 2 alert means that at the time there was “moderate to heightened volcanic unrest,” and surrounding individuals and communities should be concerned. 

When the blast initially happened, 47 individuals were on the island,  including honeymooners and young families on vacation. Parkes stated that the hardest part of this whole ordeal is knowing that those people were going to the island with the “expectation that systems were in place to make sure they made it home safely.” 

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“As a nation we need to look at this tragedy and ask if we are truly doing enough to ensure our mothers, fathers, children and friends come home to us healthy and safe at the end of each day.”

Parkes described the investigation that preceded the charges being filed this week as the “most extensive and complex in WorkSafe’s history.” WorkSafe didn’t name the specific organizations and individuals charged – as they may seek anonymity when the case is first heard in December of this year – but they did mention that they weren’t investigating any of the organizations involved in the rescue and recovery of the victims after the eruption, as all of the charges relate to failings that occured weeks before the blast, not how it was handled during. 

GNS Science – a Crown research organization that monitors volcanic activity – has released a statement revealing it’s one of the 10 organizations being charged in the suit. “We stand by our people and our science which we will continue to deliver for the benefit of New Zealand,” they wrote. 

The National Emergency Management Agency has also confirmed that they’re facing charges. The Agency is a government entity which handles the country’s entire civil defense; which includes defense from natural disasters. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said this week that her thoughts were with the families of those who experienced a tragic loss as a result of this eruption, and hopefully these court proceedings can serve some justice.

Music Awards

2020 Billboard Music Awards Recap: Post Malone Wins Big In Nine Categories 

Post Malone proved to be the big winner of 2020’s Billboard Music Awards, taking home nine awards including top artist for the year. Kelly Clarkson hosted the ‘Covid-19 style” award show that involved many remote performances, a crowd less Dolby Theater, and plenty of distancing for the artists that were there to accept their awards. Eight of Post Malone’s awards were delivered to him via cart by Clarkson. 

The show was originally scheduled for April, but obviously the pandemic through a wrench in that plan. Since this award show was meant to take place six months ago, it mainly awarded songs, and albums from last year. For example, Lil Nas X took home four prizes for his 2019 shit single ‘Old Town Road.’

Many of the winners for the evening used their speech time to urge their fans to get out and vote. Lizzo took it all a step further and wore a simple black dress with the word ‘Vote’ repeated all over it while she accepted her award for being the Top Song Sales Artist. 

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“Let me tell y’all something, when people try to suppress something, it’s normally because that thing holds power. They’re afraid of your power. So whether it’s through music, protest or your right to vote, use your power, use your voice, and refuse to be suppressed.”

Billie Eilish picked up three awards throughout the whole night including top female artist and top new artist. When Eilish won the new artist award she stood on the stage and simply said “Please vote, please wear a mask, and please wash your hands and be safe.” Demi Lovato also performed her new politically charged single ‘Commander-In-Chief” which takes aim at President Trump and his harmful policies in terms of the pandemic and other areas of reform.

NBC censored the part of Lovato’s performance which displayed the word “Vote” on the screen, as the broadcasters felt it would be seen as a call to vote against the current president, instead of a neutral call to action. NBC did, however, tweet out the image of Lovato with the word displayed behind her. 

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John Legend gave an emotional performance of his song ‘Never Break,’ which he dedicated to his wife Chrissy Teigen, who suffered a misscarriage a couple of weeks ago. There were several other performances throughout the three-hour show, including a performance of ‘Love Looks Better’ by Alicia Keys and ‘Better Together’ by Luke Combs. The two performances have been regarded as heartfelt and empowering. Combs also won the award for Top Country Artist this year. 

“I know everybody out there has been through so much this year. I want to thank the crew that is working on this show tonight, because they have gone through some insane stuff to make this happen for you guys. I hope everybody’s staying safe at home.”

BTS gave a remote performance of their hit single ‘Dynamite’ from South Korea, where they shortly after won the award for Top Social Artist; an award that’s voted on by the fans. Doja Cat then gave a ‘Chicago’ inspired performance of her songs ‘Say So’ and ‘Juicy.” 

The real winner of the night was Post Malone, and unsurprisingly so as well considering what a year 2019 was for the young artist. In 2019 alone Malone scored two multi-platinum singles in the US with ‘Sunflower’ and ‘Circles,’ while his third studio album ‘Hollywood’s Bleeding’ sold three million copies. The singer-songwriter and rapper, 25, said he was “blown away, just by the love that everybody’s shown to me.”

For a list of all the winners, click here

Golden Gate Bridge

Has Your Hometown Been Voted The Rudest City In America?

A recent survey by Insider has shown what we all know, us Americans love to have our opinions about people and we like to share them!

Whether it’s due to first hand experience, the location of our favorite sports’ team and the rivalry that comes with it, stereotypes from the media or just something that we “know”, the survey asked over 2,000 Americans which cities they believed were the rudest in the country. We have taken a look at the top ten below:

10. San Francisco, California.

Out of all the respondents 9.8% thought that San Francisco had the rudest citizens in the United States, with the belief that cyclists are the main reason that they made the list.

According to some surveyed, cyclists are taking over the area, with some traveling so fast many tourists who may not be as familiar with the area – including Alexander Avenue and the Hurricane Gulch area – have reported having abuse thrown at them. As some of them may feel they do not have to stick to the same speed limits as vehicles, many are exceeding it, causing danger to pedestrians as well as other road users.

9. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

With 9.9% of those surveyed believing that Philly had some of the rudest people in America this could be purely down to sports. With a well-known sports base in teams including American Football team the Philadelphia Eagles, there have been many instances that could be seen as rude.

Philadelphia Magazine put together a list of incidents including a replacement Santa being pelted by snowballs in 1968, ex Dallas Cowboy player Michael Irvin attracting cheers from the crowd when he received a neck injury that subsequently finished his playing career, and a police horse being punched by an intoxicated fan in 2018.

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8. Baltimore, Maryland

Hitting double figures, Baltimore is seen as rude by 11.2% of all respondents thanks to several reasons, including the 20-year-old comedian who kept “roasting” visitors to a local park earlier this year. With a possible nod to shows such as Impractical Jokers, passers by would have a camera aimed at their face while the “comedian” made remarks about the way they looked, the way they dressed and even about their race. Although his aim was to “get reactions out of people” he was eventually arrested and charged with 16 counts of trespassing and five counts of harassment.

7. Buffalo, New York

Not the first area in New York to hit the rudest list, and certainly not the last. 11.3% believed that Buffalo had the rudest inhabitants. While no reason was given in particular, it is believed that the opinion piece from anti-Muslim speaker Robert Spencer stating that he had been “drowned out” as he tried to talk, was also told to be quiet and called names, including a “Nazi,” has not helped.

6. Detroit, Michigan

Thanks to incidents such as employees almost being tasered by customers because their McDonald’s’ order was “taking too long,” Detroit was voted the sixth rudest city in America by 11.6% of those surveyed.

5. Boston, Massachusetts

The city that was once known as somewhere that “everybody knows your name” may no longer seem as friendly. 14.9% surveyed believed the locals’ reputation for cutting the line was a major influence in the decision. The idea that someone pretends to know someone further ahead in the line, purely to gain a closer position to the front was seen as bad etiquette.

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4. Chicago, Illinois

With a local newspaper editorial claiming rudeness was “chronic, thoughtless, and utterly pervasive,” in 1985 it seems 18.6% of respondents continue to believe that Chicago is a rude city, and has been for decades. Further evidence has been provided thanks to a local waitress being rude to customers, who was caught on camera saying “if you want good service, you go somewhere else. I know Hooters is probably more your speed, but you came here on purpose.” With the video going viral the diner eventually had to close down.

3. Washington, D.C.

Maybe it’s the way we hear our politicians talk to each other not just in the workplace but also in social life too. The recent Trump administration has seen the levels of abuse received by employees increase with many being shouted at during meals at local restaurants. This could easily be one of the reasons 18.9% believe it is rude in Washington.

2. Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles has been featured several times in the top ten most expensive properties in America so it seems a surprise that 19.7% of those surveyed believed that they should come second on this list.

1. New York, New York

A staggering 34.3% of all those who answered the survey thought that New York had the rudest citizens in America, but this is not something new.

According to reports, New York has been seen as the rudest city for several centuries. In 1774 former President John Adams commented that he had not seen a real gentleman in the area, while the people he had met talked “very loud, very fast.”


Do You Know The Biggest Health Trends of 2019?

Health and fitness continued to grow across America during 2019 but did you participate in the biggest trends of the year?

The annual Fitness Trends report from ClassPass has been released and it has taken a look at the many different trends in the last year as well as a sneak peak at what they believe will be the top trends to look out for in 2020.

Founded six years ago, ClassPass started increasing their bookings around three years ago and is a firm favorite for fitness lovers, meaning they were able to decipher what was hot and what was not thanks to over 100 million workouts carried out by their members in their 30,000 studios.

It seems that there is a trend that the bigger the city the bigger the person. Not only has strength training been the number one exercise carried out in Miami, New York, Chicago, Dallas and San Francisco, but it has also seen an increase in participants in Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

Although the Workout of the Day (WOD) trend — which incorporates “Strength Training,” or CrossFit — has seen a reduction in numbers over the last few years, the actual number of gyms dedicated to the exercise regime has maintained a steady balance, with between 12 and 20 dedicated gyms in each of the mentioned cities.

However, there has also been a massive increase in interval-based strength training. Slightly similar to HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), interval-based strength training focuses on lower to moderate intensities while HIIT focuses on extremely intense working periods, more commonly known as bursts.

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While both interval-based strength training and HIIT are positive routines for helping you stay fit, it is important that you always work with a professional to ensure that each move is performed correctly, therefore reducing the risk of injury.

Another trend that has seen a massive increase, not just in the United States but across the world, is travel fitness.

With the focus in recent times on maintaining a healthy mental attitude, the wellness and travel industries have become closer. While in years past people would head off on their holidays to escape everything, nowadays there are more people looking for the local gym so they can continue with their workout routines.

It’s not just holidaymakers that are working out in other cities. According to a survey, 18% of professionals are utilizing gyms in cities that are not their base towns, an increase of 4% in the last twelve months. With the word “bleisure” now existing it is expected for these numbers to increase next year showing that a workout is becoming the new way to wind down after a busy day.

Yoga is also increasing with the popular activity becoming the most booked wellness class on ClassPass this year. Although New York had the most bookings throughout America, the rest of the country was close behind. With our lives becoming more stressful each year — especially with the effects computer and smartphone screens are having on our brains — a session of yoga appears to be calming us all down again.

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Another trend that has hit our shores this year is working out with a friend. The survey found that 80% of people who were hitting the gym were going along with a friend. While this is partially due to the many different exercise classes that are offered now, doing your own individual workout with a friend is the latest craze that seems to have stuck. Maybe if you are looking to join a gym as your new year’s resolution you should “buddy up” to help you maintain your aim of not only getting in shape but keeping fit too.

If you are a fan of Pilates you have probably tried out Megaformer Pilates. The class became the quickest trend of the year, showing a 37% increase compared to last year. However, many have laid the reason firmly at Meghan Markle’s feet. When asked about her fitness regime she commented that the Megaformer machine had changed her body “in just two classes.” While trends among celebrities usually create a short-lived fad, this one seems to have stayed.

Perfect in a class setting, the Megaformers machine was invented by Lagree Fitness owner Sebastien Lagree. Bigger than the Pilates Reformer, the Megaformer emphasizes strength and balance while also focusing on quads, glutes, and abs. While on first glance the Megaformer appears to be quite difficult to master, it is relatively easy once a professional has demonstrated how to utilize the machine to your best ability.

It is also worth noting that more organizations are offering wellness and fitness packages which is helping them retain the best talent for their business, with 58% of professionals surveyed admitting these packages are more likely to sway their decision.

Which just shows that exercise is clearly the way forward to a healthy life, both physically and mentally.

Video Presentation

How The Social Network Holds Up in 2019

The Social Network, which dramatizes the rise of Facebook by depicting Mark Zuckerberg’s invention of the platform and the various lawsuits it spawned, was released in 2010 to widespread critical acclaim. But the social media landscape has transformed dramatically over the past decade, meaning today’s audiences likely have a much different view of Facebook and its controversial founder than those of the time of the movie’s release. As such, it is instructive to take a look back at this nearly ten-year-old classic to determine how the viewing experience has changed since the film initially hit theaters and whether the movie’s message about social media platforms continues to resonate. Happily, I can report that not only does the film hold up after nine years, but its message about the intersections of social media, technology, and society have never felt more prescient.

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Reviews of the film from 2010 were overwhelmingly positive; The Social Network currently boasts a 96% approval rating on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, as reviewers praised the film’s clever dialogue, immersive acting, and fast-paced direction. While some critics took issue with the accuracy of the film’s depiction of events, calling its perspective biased, they nonetheless conceded that the core dramatic elements of the narrative were expertly crafted and represented. In 2010, however, public perception of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook was very different; though the social media site had already exploded in popularity, amassing hundreds of millions of users, few could have predicted scandals like the ones involving Cambridge Analytica and Zuckerberg’s refusal to ban false political advertisements. Nine years ago, many observers had a vague understanding that social media would have a tremendous societal impact around the world, but few could predict the parameters of this impact.

The Social Network’s portrayal of the character of Mark Zuckerberg is harsh, to say the least. The film’s version of Zuckerberg is highly intelligent and ambitious, prizing upward societal advancement above all else, but nonetheless feels egotistical contempt towards existing social institutions, including his own personal relationships. Indeed, the film opens with a breakup between Zuckerberg and his girlfriend Erica Albright, who tells him, “You are probably going to be a very successful computer person. But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.” The events of the movie explore and mostly defend this interpretation of Zuckerberg’s character, as he destroys his remaining interpersonal relationships with his smugness, contemptuousness, and derision while simultaneously building the largest social network the world has ever seen. Zuckerberg ends the film completely alone, sending a friend request to his ex-girlfriend on the platform he created, knowing the odds that she’ll accept his request are slim to none.

In a moment that bore little significance in 2010 but resonates eerily today, the film’s Zuckerberg describes the concept of “The Wall” as an element of Facebook’s design, which to modern audiences evokes images of today’s polarized political environment, characterized by resentment and hatred.

At the time, many felt that this view of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg was needlessly harsh and pessimistic, as it implied that the company is better at alienating people and empowering psychopaths than it is at facilitating connections. The film predicts the transformational impact of social networks through the character of Sean Parker, who at one point says, “we lived on farms, then we lived in cities, and now we’re going to live on the internet!” even as the film’s characters grow increasingly isolated and alienated, in large part as a result of the toxic and destructive personality of the website’s founder. Public opinion about Mark Zuckerberg and about social networks generally was largely neutral or positive in 2010, as Zuckerberg was recognized mainly for becoming the world’s youngest billionaire and for inventing an innovative and promising digital platform.

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Today, however, public opinion has turned, particularly in the aftermath of social media’s enabling of the proliferation of fake news as well as successful attempts by Russia and other countries to leverage social media platforms to influence elections, which Zuckerberg has responded to less than forcefully. As such, The Social Network’s diagnosis of the societal impact of platforms like Facebook now seems more accurate than ever, as the paradox at the heart of the story, involving a combination of technology capable of connecting human beings with one another on an unprecedented scale and widespread feelings of isolation and social alienation, comes to fruition. In a moment that bore little significance in 2010 but resonates eerily today, the film’s Zuckerberg describes the concept of “The Wall” as an element of Facebook’s design, which to modern audiences evokes images of today’s polarized political environment, characterized by resentment and hatred. Accordingly, some critics have proclaimed The Social Network to be the defining film of the decade, as its themes serve as an ever better cultural critique today than they did in 2010.

Eifel Tower

2019’s Most Popular Travel Destinations

2019 was a huge year for international travel. UK based market research company Euromonitor International recently measured and listed the top 100 travel destinations people visited within the past year, and some of the results may surprise you. While Hong Kong has been making major world news headlines due to its political unrest and civilian protests, it remained the number one travel destination for 2019. So much so that Euromonitor reports that by the time the month is up the city will have been visited by 26 million travelers this year alone. The protests have led to an 8.7% decline compared to last year’s stats; however, that didn’t stop the metropolitan city from being at the top of the list.

The decrease in travel isn’t isolated to just Hong Kong. Over-tourism and tourist misconduct has become a growing issue, and has already lead to a lot of restrictive travel policies, especially in Europe. Europe and Asia are the two continents that typically take over Euromonitor’s list every year. However, this year due to a combination of the stricter tourism policies in Europe and an increase in Chinese tourists travelling to other countries within the continent, Asia has dominated the entirety of the list, but Europe and some spots in America are also mixed in there. 

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Hong Kong

Euromonitor reports that Asia had the fastest growth in international traveler arrivals. This is also most likely due to the extreme size of Asia and the many different cultures and countries available for travel lovers to go to. Bangkok and London took the second and third spot on the list; Euromonitor is able to measure all of this information by pulling airline data and marking the parts that show international travelers who spend over 24 hours in their destination. This year, they measured travelers who went to over 400 different cities. 

Since the company uses airline data, international travel via cruise ship or any other possible mode of transportation is not taken into account. The reports for 2019 indicated that Asia was the most popular destination for tourists this year, followed by Europe, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa. The reports also predict that European travel is on a relatively steady decline, and Singapore, which took spot number 5 on the list, is the travel destination that will likely gain the most popularity in 2020. Singapore offers a very authentic and engaging tourism market that allows travelers to fully engulf themselves in their culture and beautiful landscapes, which is why it increased in popularity by almost 6% this year. 

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Bangkok, Thailand

Euromonitor also reports that in general, tourism is down, and a lot of it has to do with travelers wanting a more “localized” experience. 

“They are proving popular as travelers seek newer, more localized experiences and less crowded locations. The popularity and increased number of low-cost carriers to these destinations has also favored the growth of previously less explored destinations,” says Euromonitor

This is mostly in regards to European travelers, and their desire to branch out more within their own continent. Travelling from country to country is a lot easier in Europe, as there are many forms of public transportation that go all over the continent. It’s for this reason that a majority of European tourists are mainly remaining in Europe, or going “across the pond” to scratch their traveler’s itch. Below is the top 20 list of top travel destinations based on collective data from 2018 and 2019, according to CNN

Euromonitor’s Top 20 Cities:

1. Hong Kong
2. Bangkok, Thailand
3. London, England
4. Macau
5. Singapore
6. Paris, France
7. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
8. New York City, USA
9. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
10. Istanbul, Turkey
11. Delhi, India
12. Antalya, Turkey
13. Shenzhen, China
14. Mumbai, India
15. Phuket, Thailand
16. Rome, Italy
17. Tokyo, Japan
18. Pattaya, Thailand
19. Taipei, Taiwan
20. Mecca, Saudi Arabia
Dictionary 2 Chooses “Existential” as its Word of the Year

2019 has undoubtedly been an eventful year around the world. This year alone, an impeachment inquiry against the President of the United States began, and the U.N. issued a dire warning about the threat of climate change. Fears about climate change were exacerbated by a number of extreme weather events, including a devastating hurricane that destroyed parts of the Bahamas, a historically intense flood in Venice, and massive forest fires in both California and the Amazon. And in the third year of Donald Trump’s presidency, many in the mainstream media, including experts on the Constitution and American history, have publicly worried about the perhaps-irreparable damage the Trump administration is doing to the institutions that preserve democracy. Hong Kong has been besieged by months of violent pro-democracy protests as the city fights against an authoritarian government, and the government of the U.K. has plunged into chaos as Parliament struggles with carrying out Brexit. Given the tumultuous nature of the events of 2019, it’s no surprise that chose “existential” as its word of the year.

Top searches on this year include “polar vortex,” “stochastic terrorism,” and “exonerate,” reflecting, according to the website, a “broader theme of threat and crisis reflected … in culture and news.” But the website ultimately chose “existential,” one of its top searches, as the word that best sums up the year, as it “captures a sense of grappling with the survival—literally and figuratively—of our planet, our loved ones, our ways of life.”

“Existential” is an adjective with two primary definitions. The first is “of or relating to existence,” and fittingly provides the example sentence, “Does climate change pose an existential threat to humanity?” The second definition relates to philosophy, as the word can also mean “concerned with the nature of human existence as determined by the individual’s freely made choices.”

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Both definitions of the word, as points out, apply to 2019 in different ways. The website points out that “existential” is often used when “the fact of someone or something’s being—its very existence—is at stake,” and the word was frequently used this year in connection with news events around the world, from the extinction of species due to climate change to the potential collapse of the institutions that allow for civilized life.

The more philosophical definition applies to 2019 in a more abstract sense, as rapid developments and changes around the world are connected with a sense of evaluating the world in a different light. Existentialism, the philosophy to which the word refers, “affirms out individual agency in making meaningful, authentic choices about our lives.” The word is also used in this context in the phrase “existential crisis,” a psychological episode that leads a person to question the meaning of their life and of existence generally. points out that searches for the word “existential” increased dramatically during the year’s most notable news events. Politicians have used the word to describe the threat of climate change, particularly in the aftermath of natural disasters. The word has also been associated with this year’s several episodes of gun violence, particularly in the context of mass shootings. Lastly, the word has been applied to democratic institutions, notably in the case of Joe Biden, who described Donald Trump as “literally an existential threat to America.” Other popular search terms, including “exonerate” and “quid pro quo,” demonstrate a strong global interest in political matters.

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While the website’s word choice certainly seems bleak and gloomy, also points out that the word can apply to 2019 in a positive sense. In popular culture, humor of an existential nature has proliferated, as in the examples of the sitcom The Good Place, with deals with weighty concepts like death and the afterlife in a humorous manner, and even the animated film “Toy Story 4,” in which one of the main characters is an “existential spork.” 

By choosing the word “existential” to sum up the experience of living in 2019, observes that this time has led many of us to think about the deeper problems in life, and contemplate many of the ultimate questions that have been pervasive throughout human existence. But the philosophy of existentialism gives us occasion for hope, as existentialist philosophy recognizes the human potential of agency, which allows us to take control of our lives even in a bleak or purposeless environment by the power of our individual choices, which define the parameters of our lives. 

2019 was a year of tremendous change for the world, much of which has been fundamentally negative. But times like these also grant us the opportunity to take a step back, look at the big picture, and determine what really matters in our lives and how we should spend our time and energy. During bleak times like these, doing so is perhaps necessary for a meaningful and fulfilling life.

Train Commute

What To Expect For Your Thanksgiving Commute This Year

As the holiday season is about to kick off next week with Thanksgiving, millions upon millions of Americans are gearing up for their first holiday travels of the season. If you’ve travelled for the holidays in the past, then you definitely know that planning is truly everything when it comes to the big commute. Whether you’re flying, driving, or taking the train, commuting during the holiday season can be tricky and stressful and this year is no different. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), there will be a record breaking number of travelers both on the road and in the air this year. 

The AAA reported that a total of 55.3 million people are expected to be travelling between Wednesday November 27th and Sunday December 1st, all via car, train, plane, and even a cruise ship. Compared to last years data that’s an increase of 1.6 million individuals on the road, in the air, and in the sea. 

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“With record levels of travelers, and persistent population growth in the country’s major metropolitan areas, drivers must prepare for major delays. Although travel times will peak on Wednesday afternoon nationally, travelers should expect much heavier than normal congestion throughout the week,” said Trevor Reed, transportation analyst at INRIX, a partner transportation analytics company of AAA.

According to their data the worst day and time to travel via car will be Wednesday afternoon. They predict any individual who begins their commute between the times of 5 to 8 pm can expect an additional 3 and a half hours to what their commute would be with no traffic! However, the data also suggested that severe traffic could begin as early as 1 pm in some areas of the U.S. such as Los Angeles or New York. 

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Air travel predictions estimate that up to 5 million Americans will be flying to get to their Thanksgiving destinations this year. The busiest day for air travel, however, will actually come after Thanksgiving day, as opposed to before like with ground transportation. Sunday December 1st is predicted to see 3.1 million passengers flying via U.S. airlines. The Monday before Thanksgiving is expected to be the lightest travel day for this holiday in particular, for any mode of transportation. 

The AAA suggests for individuals who still aren’t don’t planning their holiday commute this year, consider leaving on Thanksgiving day itself if possible. Not only are the roads predicted to be much less congested, but plane ticket prices will be the cheapest for the week. 

The data also showed that the top places that Americans will be travelling to this Thanksgiving are places with much warmer climates to escape the brutal winter that has already begun here in America. Orlando, Florida and Anaheim, California are the top two destinations this year, and four out of the top 10 destinations in general are located in Florida, Disney World should be predicting massive traffic as always. 

Regardless of where and when you’re planning on travelling, just make sure you do have a plan and give your hosts a heads up of any delays you’ll be experiencing, and most importantly stay safe.

Christmas Gifts

Unique Gift Ideas for Holiday 2019

With Black Friday only a few weeks away, it’s not too early to start thinking about the perfect holiday gifts for everyone on your list this year. Whether you are buying gifts for relatives, close friends, coworkers or a significant other, the Internet is a tremendous resource not only for finding deals and obscure items, but for researching gift ideas that will leave your loved ones surprised and delighted. For help shopping for the person in your life who seems to already have everything, or for the person who refuses to give hints about their ideal gift, this guide offers several suggestions for unique and fun presents this holiday season.

For the person in your life who loves technology, accessories for their devices are always a good idea. Redbubble offers a wide selection of designs for laptop skins, allowing near-limitless customization opportunities. You can order a skin featuring designs from your loved one’s favorite movie, TV show, or video game, as well as a number of custom, abstract design. Additionally, Redbubble offers skins and cases for iPhones, iPads, and other devices, as well as custom wall art in the form of posters, canvas prints, and even metal prints. For even more help, Redbubble’s website even has a page dedicated to gift suggestions. Redbubble’s extensive variety of designs and customizability ensures that you’ll be able to find the perfect gift for someone interested in technology and art.

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Another unique gift idea is a custom map, which can depict an area of your choosing and makes for sleek custom wall art. The maps are available in a number of aesthetically-pleasing designs, and include the option for custom text. The area depicted on the map can represent a person’s hometown, a place that is special to them, or even a place they’d like to visit someday. Prices start at $49 for a paper map, but the maps can be printed on canvas or metal if you prefer for an additional charge. This gift is ideal for someone with whom you have a shared memory from a particular place, as the map serves as a reminder of the relationship between you and your giftee.

Scented candles are a frequent choice for gift-givers, as few people will complain about being gifted a candle. However, ordinary scented candles can be a bit boring. For a more personalized option, consider gifting a candle with scents that bring back memories of a particular place or time. Homesick candles, available on Amazon, are categorized not by scent but by more abstract ideas, such as states, cities, and environments. Instead of attempting to replicate the smell of these places, the scents of Homesick candles are based on input from residences of the places in question in order to invoke a mood associated with the place. The Seattle-themed candle, for instance, smells like “a strong cup of coffee on a perfectly rainy afternoon.”

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For children who enjoy video games but don’t already have a Nintendo Switch, the newly-released Switch Lite is a great option. The handheld costs $100 less than the original console, and while it loses detachable controllers and the ability to play on a TV, it retains compatibility with nearly the entire library of Switch titles, including the critically acclaimed The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. The Switch Lite is available in grey, yellow, and turquoise, and its smaller form factor and more durable construction is perfect for young gamers.

Finally, while most people already have a case for their phone, a new phone case nonetheless presents an opportunity for a personalized, unique gift option. Casetify’s Sand Liquid cases react to gravity and the movement of the phone, creating a dynamic and visually interesting pattern in colors of your choosing. 

Major Democrat Victories in Kentucky, Virginia

It can be tricky to try to predict the results of a presidential contest based on the results of an off-year election like the one held yesterday in the United States. But while the most recent election was not as consequential as midterm or presidential elections, the results nonetheless gave reasons for Democrats to celebrate and for Republicans to be concerned. In Kentucky, a usually deep red state and home to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is up for reelection next year, Democrat Andy Beshear beat Republican incumbent governor Matt Bevin by a slim margin. And in Virginia, as a likely consequence of a court-ordered redrawing of gerrymandered districts, Democrats won full control of the state’s government, paving the way for major policy changes including a higher minimum wage, stricter gun control laws, and the potential passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment that would ensure men and women are given equal rights under the law throughout the country.

Although Democrats have much to celebrate today, Republicans also saw some noteworthy victories. Perhaps most significantly, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves defeated Attorney General Jim Hood by about five percentage points for the position of Mississippi state governor, and the Republican party also gained some legislative seats in New Jersey. But on the whole, Democrats came out on top yesterday, making substantial gains in states across the country, including electoral victories in Pennsylvania, a state that could potentially be decisive for Trump’s reelection.

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Though Governor Matt Bevin has not yet conceded the race, the results of the election in Kentucky are unambiguous, and major news networks have called the race for challenger Andy Beshear. Bevin’s loss is particularly remarkable because of how it is connected to Donald Trump; Bevin ran his campaign by portraying himself as an ally of Trump’s, and the president even appeared in Kentucky to support the incumbent governor’s reelection. Bevin’s governing style, too, has been compared to Trump’s, as he is known for picking fights with groups who have opposed his policies, including teachers and police in the state. He also attempted to dismantle key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which proved to be unpopular with Kentucky voters. 

Yesterday’s results show how gerrymandering, when left unchecked, can totally transform the politics of an entire state in favor of the minority party.

As such, several commentators view Bevin’s loss as a rebuke of Trumpism, and have opined that suburban voters are revolting against the GOP in the wake of impeachment proceedings and a deeply unpopular president. However, supporters of the president argue that Bevin was a uniquely troubled candidate, who lost despite Trump’s assistance, and point out that the Republican party overall did much better in the state for more local candidates farther down the ballot. That being said, the news of the upset in Kentucky is certainly cause for concern among Republicans, who normally expect easy victories in the state. The full implications of their loss remain to be seen, but the results certainly don’t give Republicans any cause for optimism in 2020, particularly because of what they mean for Mitch McConnell, perhaps the most powerful figure currently occupying the Senate.

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The most substantial governmental change undoubtedly happened in Virginia, a state where elections for legislative and executive roles are held on off years like this one. Virginia has been in the news lately for the battle over gerrymandered districts which was recently decided by the state’s courts. In Virginia, courts ordered district lines to be completely redrawn after the 2017 election, after which Republicans maintained control of significant parts of the government despite losing the popular vote overall as a result of having drawn electoral maps in their favor, in a process called “gerrymandering.” After Virginia courts ruled that the gerrymandered districts unfairly favored Republicans who drew the maps in question, these maps were redrawn, paving the way for yesterday’s Democratic victory in the state.

Yesterday’s results show how gerrymandering, when left unchecked, can totally transform the politics of an entire state in favor of the minority party, and how court-ordered redrawing of districts can cause election results to line up more closely with popular sentiments. They also suggest that impeachment is not as effective as a rallying cry as Republican strategists have hoped, and that anti-Trump sentiment helps to turn out Democratic voters even in deep red states like Kentucky. Although Virginia went for Clinton in 2016 and winning the state is not essential for Trump’s reelection, the tendency for courts to redraw gerrymandered districts in states like Virginia has ominous implications for the Republican party, who depend on gerrymandered districts to maintain in both state and national positions, and are already beleaguered by rising national support for impeachment and removal of the president from office.