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The Most Anticipated Albums of 2020

As the New Year charges on, some the biggest artists on the planet have been preparing to reveal their latest releases. In anticipation, we’ve put together a list of some of the most exciting upcoming albums that we think will be playing on repeat over the next twelve months.

Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
Expected: Feb 14
Tame Impala’s style may be a hard-to-define blend of genres, but they certainly honed it on 2015’s Currents. The Aussie group has already given us a taste of the fourth album, having spent last year releasing a steady stream of singles, and while the familiar moments of dance-able psychedelia are there, so are shimmering pop sounds and heavy riffs. It’s safe to say the band is unpredictable, but you have to admire front-man Kevin Parker’s insistence on keeping things fresh.

Grimes – Miss Anthropocene
Expected: Feb 21
Since the release of 2015’s Art Angels, most news about Grimes seems to have been focused on her coupling with tech-bro extraordinaire Elon Musk – in fact recently she announced her pregnancy via some very Grimes-like Instagram posts. Hopefully the release of her new album should put the spotlight firmly back on her music. Named after an anthropomorphic goddess of climate change (as if you didn’t already know that), each song on Miss Anthropocene represents “a different embodiment of human extinction as depicted through pop star demonology”, according to the artist herself. She’s already released a few tracks from the LP, but what the rest of it sounds like is anyone’s guess.

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Frank Ocean – TBD
Expected: spring/summer
Frank Ocean released two singles near the end of last year; the cover art for each single featured Frank sitting in a specific pose, and along the bottom was a silhouette of the pose alongside twelve others. Surely this points to an album, or at the very least a series of thirteen single releases. Conspiracy theories aside, Odd Future’s biggest success story (sorry, Tyler) has been discussing new material in recent interviews and even signed a new publishing deal in December. If this wasn’t enough, there’s a Coachella headline slot with his name on it, and he’ll need something to promote.

Kendrick Lamar – TBD
Expected: spring/summer
Having released three of the most critically acclaimed hip-hop albums over the past decade, it will surely be interesting to see how Kendrick Lamar begins the 20’s. Rumors have circulated that the Compton native has been “pulling in more rock sounds” for his new material, according to former Billboard editorial director Bill Werde, but it’s unclear how this will compare to his previous releases. What we do know is that Kendrick has a number of European festival headline slots booked, so it shouldn’t be long before he has some new songs to perform.

Cardi B – Tiger Woods
Expected: summer
Cardi wasted no time after releasing her debut album, Invasion of Privacy, back in 2018, claiming that she began work on the follow-up immediately. Since then she’s dropped standalone singles, featured on various other artists’ songs, gotten to grips with motherhood, made her acting debut in ‘Hustlers’ and even found time to talk up future political aspirations, with inspiration from Bernie Sanders. What does all this mean for her second album? Presumably a whole wealth of new sources for her to draw lyrical inspiration from.

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The Strokes – TBD
Expected: late 2020
Frontman Julian Casablancas recently told fans “the 2010’s… we took ‘em off but now we’ve been unfrozen and we’re back.” The garage rock icons last full-length album was 2013’s Comedown Machine, so it’s fair to say they’ve had a relatively relaxed decade. Recent shows have seen The Strokes play only songs from their first three albums, while others have included new tracks ‘Ode To The Mets’ and ‘The Adults Are Talking’. As it stands, fans are curious to know what effect their extended break has had on the music.

Lady Gaga – TBD
Expected: any time
There’s a lot of anticipation on Lady Gaga’s shoulders right now; she’s still riding high from 2018’s smash hit ‘A Star Is Born’, in which she wowed audiences with both her acting and singing talents. As it stands, it’s not clear what her next release will sound like, having ditched the pop sound that made her famous with 2016’s softer, country-styled Joanne (as well as 2014’s Cheek to Cheek, an album of jazz duets with Tony Bennett). Rumored collaborations for her next release include Sophie, BloodPop, Boys Noize and Shallow co-writer Anthony Rossomando, which doesn’t really clear anything up.

The Cure – TBD x3
Expected: any time
It’s been twelve years since The Cure’s last album, 4:13 Dream. What have they been up to in that time? Well, writing-but-not-releasing three records, apparently. Singer Robert Smith originally stated that the first of these three albums would likely drop before Christmas, but clearly that didn’t come to fruition. However, that surely means that the actual release date can’t be too far off. Smith also claimed that the new songs were “merciless” and lyrically more personal, as well as stating that two of the three albums have a “more advanced” sound. Right now, only time will tell if we’ll get to hear all three (or any) of these new albums this year – but if the rest of The Cure’s discography is anything to go by, it’ll be worth the wait.

Democratic Party

New York Times Endorses Both Warren and Klobuchar for Democratic Nominee

Just days before the first votes are due to be cast in Iowa, the New York Times has announced that, in an unusual move, the editorial board has decided to endorse two candidates for the Democratic nominee. The two candidates, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren, are the only two women candidates remaining in the race, and while their policy platforms differ in a number of ways, the editorial board has come to the conclusion that both candidates are equally qualified to beat Donald Trump in November and serve in the office of the presidency for the next four to eight years.

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The editorial board arrived at their conclusion by holding interviews with each of the major candidates vying to become the Democratic nominee, and found that although the public perceives the contest as being split between progressives and moderates, in reality the different candidates’ views on fundamental issues are strikingly similar. All of the top candidates, for instance, want to expand access to health care far beyond what the government has provided in the past, and each candidate has a vision for the federal government that differs sharply from the way it is run today. Indeed, as the Republican party increasingly slides towards authoritarianism in deference to Trump, the Democratic party as a whole has moved to the left, as positions that were once considered radical like Medicare-for-All have become mainstream.

While the editorial board acknowledges that the issue at the forefront of most voters’ minds is the question of who is able to beat Mr. Trump, it also believes that no one really has the ability to foretell which candidate is most able to do so. Instead, the editorial board focused on which candidates would be most effective at repairing the Republic and embracing new ideas, and the most competent candidates in these two regards were considered to be Klobuchar and Warren. Though both Sanders and Warren represent the progressive wing of the party, the editorial board considers Sanders’ age and health to be a major concern, and considers his approach to his policies to be too ideologically rigid. While the editorial board recognizes Sanders’ contribution of progressive ideas to the party, it feels that Warren has a better understanding of the fundamental issues that plague the country and how best to approach them.

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The second endorsement, Amy Klobuchar, was picked for her experience and effectiveness as a politician. According to the Center for Effective Lawmaking, Klobuchar is the most productive senator in the Democratic field when it comes to bills passed with bipartisan support, and while she is billed as a moderate by most voters, the editorial board feels that Amy Klobuchar might have the best chance of enacting a progressive policy agenda as president. Despite being labelled a moderate by the media, Klobuchar embraces a number of progressive policies, including transitioning to a carbon-neutral economy by 2050 and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. While the editorial board was concerned about reports of how Klobuchar treats her staff, it nonetheless considers Klobuchar to be the most competent and effective “moderate” candidate in the field.

Armed Soliders

America Retaliates Against Iraq

The last six months of 2019 has seen an increase in the war in Iraq, with Iran-backed Shiite militias bombarding American military contractors as well as American troops. Following the sad news that one of our citizens has been killed, the United States has retaliated, launching five airstrikes in both Iraq and Syria that has seen 25 people dead and dozens more injured.

The attack has left the militia commanders promising revenge with Baghdad’s Green Zone seeing thousands of protestors marching through the strongly guarded area before breaking into the American Embassy’s compound – all the while chanting “Death to America” and “down, down USA.”

Riots erupted at the funeral of the 25 fighters of Iran backed Kata’ib Hezbollah in Iraq, resulting in the protests and the US Embassy being torched. Photos have since been released of the insides showing how much damage had been caused.

Although the protest and subsequent siege finished the next day – commanders of PMF asked their supporters to stand down, stating “you have delivered your message” – it appears to have sparked an increase in violence between Iran and America. Fortunately no American personnel were injured in the siege.

The actions have also led to a war of words between Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Trump with Trump announcing that Iran was “fully responsible” for the storming of the embassy. Trump also confirmed that Iran “will pay a very big price” for any loss of life as well as all the damages, stating “this is not a warning, this is a threat.”

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However Iran has responded by claiming America “can’t do a damn thing.”

With President Trump announcing last year that he wanted to avoid any acts of war in the Middle East this action must go against all his policies. When Iran shot down an American drone in June Trump ordered a retaliatory airstrike, which he subsequently cancelled. However this time the airstrikes were approved, showing the world that any attacks on Americans working or serving in Iraq will not be acceptable.

However experts believe that the airstrikes will not serve as a “deterrent” as they believe that the militias were aiming for such a response.

American fighter bombers were targeting Kata’ib Hezbollah who is seen as the most dominant of the militias. Backed by Iran, the predominantly Shiite groups have been put together under the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) to fight against ISIS. However Kata’ib Hezbollah, whose commander is considered one of the most powerful men, currently has over 5,000 troops as well as an undisclosed amount of civilian contractors who are training security forces in Iraq to prevent a jihadist comeback. Yet the militia are also working to send the American forces home, leaving Iran to keep their influence in Iraq.

It is also worth noting that Iraq has suffered months of demonstrations, mostly of a violent nature, which has led to the resignation of Adel Abdul Mahdi, Iraq’s Prime Minister. The resignation has resulted in a major power struggle within the country.

Iran backed militias in Iraq have seemingly become one of the main targets of the demonstrations, due to their increased power, however it appears that Kata’ib Hezbollah have orchestrated a gamble to provoke America into airstrikes which would deflect any passion remaining in the country to be deflected towards anti-American anger.

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However with Iraq now working without a full government they are also struggling to control the violence that keeps fluctuating throughout the country. Yet they now find themselves in a position where they are keen to keep public anger against America under control whilst still maintaining the American influence that counteracts Iran.

However Iran is also suffering thanks to economic sanctions imposed by the United States so it would seem logical that they would want to make costly retaliations to the recent American decision by Trump’s administration.

President Trump imposed strict sanctions on Iran shortly after they withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal so it can be difficult to see how Iran could be prevented from further attacks on our military both in Iraq as well as across the Middle East.

Arranging talks between Iran and America could be the first tentative step however unless there is a potential renegotiation on the nuclear deal or discussions on the conflicts in Syria or Yemen, tensions will continue to run high.

However Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal – as well as the subsequent portrayal of Iran as the main cause of tensions in the Middle East – could see Trump’s administration struggling to get any discussions going.

And with 750 American soldiers being deployed to the Middle East with a further 3,000 being prepared for potential deployments it seems that 2020 could be witness to further Iranian provocations ensuring the United States would be drawn into further battles with the country.

Couple Camping

The Top 5 Campgrounds in New York for 2020

New York is home not only to one of the largest cities in the world, but also some of the country’s most beautiful nature sites, as parts of Niagara Falls, the Adirondack Mountains, and world-renowned beaches can all be found within the Empire State. One of the best and most affordable ways to experience all of the natural beauty the state has to offer is by staying at one of New York’s many campgrounds, whether that means sleeping in a tent, renting an RV, or even booking a cottage or cabin. As many of the best campgrounds in the state tend to book up quickly, it’s best to make plans for a camping vacation early in the year to ensure you can stay at the campsite you prefer. To help you get a head start on your vacation plans this summer, here are the top 5 campgrounds in New York for 2020.

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5) North-South Lake Campground

Nestled deep within the Catskill Forest Preserve, North-South Lake Campground offers a total of 219 camping sites in 7 camping loops, and campers can visit two lakes with two beaches as well as picnic areas and hiking trails. A number of historical sites, such as Alligator Rock, Kaaterskill Falls, and the former site of the Catskill Mountain House can be found within the park. This campground is likely to be preferred by residents of Long Island or New York City, as it is located in the southern part of the state, making the trip fairly quick compared to other campgrounds on this list.

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4) Cranberry Lake Campground

This campground is located in a secluded part of the state, in the northwest part of Adirondack Park. Though it is located far away from tourist attractions in the state, Cranberry Lake Campground offers more than fifty miles of hiking trails as well as opportunities for biking and rowing. Campers can choose from among 171 campsites, which can support both tents and RVs, and the park includes a fishing pier, an amphitheater, and a picnic area, among other amenities. Visitors can swim in the lake, though no lifeguards are on duty, and can also use power boats, rowboats, kayaks, and canoes. Cranberry Lake Campgrounds is suitable for a wide variety of campers, as it features hiking trails of all levels of difficulty, each with scenic views of a relatively-untouched wilderness.

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3) Hunter Lake Campground

This campground advertises itself as “a scenic campground built on family values,” and as such, it offers a number of activities that the whole family can enjoy. Located in the western Catskill Mountains, Hunter Lake Campground is home to a country store, an enclosed pavilion where kids can play ping-pong, pool, air hockey, and video games, and a sandy beach at the shore of Hunter Lake, where campers can swim and ride in boats. Each of the campsites have water and electricity, and RV sites include a sewer hookup as well. Pets are allowed at this campground, so all members of the family, including canine companions, are welcome to stay.

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2) Alger Island

Also known as Big Island, Alger Island is located on Fourth Lake within the Adirondack Park. The entire island, which is only accessible by boat, is operated as a New York State Park campground, featuring 15 sites with lean-tos all located by the island’s shore. While the selection of activities available on the island itself is fairly limited, the island is close to several nearby tourist attractions, including a museum, a golf course, and a theme park. Campers can go jet-skiing in the nearby lake and enjoy lunch at the picnic tables provided on the campsites while enjoying their view of the water. Alger Island is ideal for campers looking for a unique experience, but site availability is limited, so be sure to book your campsite well in advance.

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1) Hither Hills State Park

Long Island is home to some of the most celebrated beaches in the world, and there’s perhaps no better way to enjoy the island’s beaches than to stay at one of the campsites at Hither Hills State Park. Though the campground features an impressive 189 sites, Hither Hills is one of the most popular campgrounds in the state, so it’s best to make your reservations as early as possible. Located on the east end of the island in Montauk, Hither Hills offers sites for both tents and RVs, which offer stunning views of the dunes, beach, and ocean. Campers can take advantage of activities hosted on the expansive beach, including volleyball games, sand castle contests, and campfire jamborees, or visit the nearby Hamptons.

Vote Pins

FiveThirtyEight Model Gives Biden 40% Chance of Winning Nomination

As the first votes in the 2020 Democratic nomination process have not yet been cast, it’s impossible to predict with certainty who will emerge as the democratic nominee to face Trump in the general election, particularly considering the historically large field of candidates running for president this year. That being said, pollsters have worked tirelessly since the beginning of the primary season to measure voters’ preferences towards each of the candidates, generating a tremendous amount of data for analysts at organizations like FiveThirtyEight to sift through. Accordingly, FiveThirtyEight just published the first iteration of its forecast simulating the outcome of the primary season, which claims that Biden has a 2 in 5 chance of winning the nomination and Sanders has a 1 in 5 chance of winning, whereas Warren has a 1 in 8 chance and Buttigieg has a 1 in 10 chance, with all other candidates having just a 1 in 40 chance of winning the nomination.

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The results of the study, which are based on computer simulations of the primary season that are run thousands of times based on data collected from polling organizations and models generated from an analysis of previous presidential nominations, were published in an interactive format that allows users to view the calculated probability of victory for each candidate in each state. Though FiveThirtyEight has analyzed political polls for more than ten years, this year marks the first time the ABC News-owned organization has published a “complete back-to-front model of the presidential primaries.” Despite the number of complexities involved, such as the difficult-to-predict impact of the winner of one state primary or caucus on future ones, the organization feels confident enough in the accuracy of its simulations to publish its findings even at this early stage in the process. One of the factors that led to the organization’s confidence this year is the amount of data collected on the primary processes of 2008 and 2016, which helps analysts understand the nuances of how presidential primaries tend to play out. The outcome of the Iowa caucuses, for instance, has historically had a tremendous impact on voters in the other 49 states.

The race is still very much up in the air

That being said, FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver stresses that their model is a “forecast, … not an estimation of what would happen in an election held today” and that the forecast is “probabilistic” with a high degree of uncertainty. As more political events shape voters’ opinions on the candidates, more polls are conducted, and the first states begin to hold primaries and caucuses, the organization will continue to refine their predictions and update their forecast. Silver also stresses that FiveThirtyEight’s predictions should be taken literally, meaning that although Biden is currently calculated to have the best chance of any of the candidates of winning the nomination, the probability of his victory is only 40%, making it actually more likely than not that one of the other candidates will win instead.

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Although Trump’s surprise victory in 2016 led many observers to feel as though poll data is not to be trusted, as organizations like the New York Times had predicted with 85% certainty on the eve of the election that Clinton would win, FiveThirtyEight has a better track record than most organizations when it comes to the accuracy of its predictions. In 2016, FiveThirtyEight was far more pessimistic than most news outlets about the likelihood of a Clinton victory, giving the former First Lady a two-in-three chance of winning. As Nate Silver once commented, “one-in-three chances happen all the time;” when viewed from this perspective, it’s no surprise that Trump won in 2016, provided one has a realistic understanding of how to interpret the results of statistical models of probability. Accordingly, while Joe Biden has consistently led opinion polls since announcing his candidacy last year and has by far the highest probability of any candidate of winning the race for Democratic nominee, the race is still very much up in the air, as three other candidates stand a decent chance of victory as well.

Brazil

Where to Visit in 2020

Somehow we have made it not only to the end of another year but also to the end of another decade and many of us are starting to think of ways we can make our lives better in 2020.

If “travel more” is on your list of New Year’s resolutions then look no further as we have put together a list of some of the best places to visit during the next year.

Cape Town, South Africa

Located on the shores of Table Bay, Cape Town is a must for anyone wishing to visit an area that fully embraces everything that Africa believes in.

With a strong history – including Robben Island which is a short boat trip away and where former president Nelson Mandela was kept prisoner – as well as some fascinating culture, nature and of course, the amazing music and festivals.

However if shopping is more your thing there are plenty of markets around including at the Old Biscuit Mill and Green Market Square, where you can taste some of the local cuisine as well as pick up some souvenirs to remind you of your experience.

Cape Town also houses some of the funkiest food and accommodation venues with Long Street home to many bars, cafes, restaurants and hotels.

And if beaches are more your thing head towards one of their stunning beaches and take part in some water sports including surfing or even shark cage diving if you are really adventurous.

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Any of the Greek Islands

One of the most sought after locations of 2020 will be any of the 6,000 Greek islands, including the picturesque Santorini. The village of Oia is famous for its blue and white architecture which will be even more accessible during 2020 thanks to the local council’s plans to build more roads and parking.

Or why not book a boat tour and head out for a day on the Aegean sea, stopping at beaches along the way – such as Akrotiri and its famous red beach – and eat a magical dinner on board as the sun sets? We could think of worse ways to end the day.

If you are after a bit more of the party scene, book a two hour ferry and head across to Mykonos. Known around the world for its summer long party, dance clubs line the beaches – such as Paradise and Super Paradise – attracting world famous DJs to keep you partying all night.

Armação dos Búzios, Brazil

Thanks to a change in restrictions in June 2019, Americans no longer need a visa when heading to Brazil and we strongly recommend visiting the stunning beach resort of Armação dos Búzios.

Located to the east of Rio de Janeiro, this ‘higher end’ vacation spot is perfect for those looking for water sports and nightlife adventures.

If parades are more your thing you should head south west to Rio de Janeiro in February and witness one of the most exciting carnivals in the world. Full of amazing music, dancing and a host of other activities, the Rio carnival is definitely one not to be missed. And while you are there you should also take a look at the spectacular Sugarloaf Mountain.

Slovenia

Part of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia is fast becoming the “go to” place for adrenaline junkies thanks to its reputation for providing some record-breaking activities. Head to Planica and have a ride on the steepest declining zipline in the world, or if bungee jumping is more your thing why not visit Bridge Solkan and jump off the longest train bridge built of stone blocks? And for those of you who prefer water sports such as kayaking or rafting, Soča has crystal clear waters perfect for a day of water-based fun.

However, if you prefer a more relaxed break head towards one of the many spa resorts dotted around the country. As an area renowned for its healing mineral water, visitors flock to the region each year making Slovenia a must visit place for 2020.

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British Columbia, Canada

Just across the border in Canada you will find many areas of beauty however British Columbia has something for everyone.

With award winning wine regions, remote islands and vibrant cities – including Vancouver – there are also many outdoor activities to be found in this beautiful part of Canada, including some world class ski resorts.

However we strongly recommend visiting the capital. Located on Vancouver Island, Victoria is fast becoming a tourist attraction thanks to its stunning Victorian architecture and bright buildings as well as places such as Fisherman’s Wharf, the Inner Harbor, Hatley Castle and Butchart Gardens.

There are so many more places that you should visit around the world and these are just a few suggestions to get you started. As soon as you start exploring and seeing how beautiful our world is, you will not want to stop.

House Keys

2020 Predictions for the Real Estate Market

The real estate market in America has seen its fair share of ups and downs throughout 2019 including the fall of interest rates and the increase in house prices – we recently saw the “Beverly Hillbillies house” in California sell to Lachlan Murdoch for around $150 million. We also saw many of our shopping malls close, even though the commercial real estate sector was on the increase. And although many Americans are struggling to find property they can actually afford, investors were seeing their efforts being rewarded. But what is predicted for 2020?
According to fool.com there are several key predictions their team believe will be hitting us in 2020. We took a look at some of them here:

Increase in retail closures

By the end of 2019 more than 9,000 retail outlets will have had to close across America, and with 5,524 closing in 2018 and 8,139 closing in 2017 this is a worrying trend that seems to be on the increase.

The rise in shopping online has seen the decline for traditional “brick and mortar stores,” meaning many retailers, including J.C. Penney and Sears, have had to close large numbers of their shops – with many more losing their businesses altogether.

In an attempt to buck this trend, many malls are changing some of their space from retail to entertainment and leisure with gyms, restaurants, hotels and bowling alleys just some of the ways they are trying to entice money back to their premises. This looks to continue into the new year, but in the short term many landlords will be finding it hard to find the new tenants, leaving the consumer with fewer outlets to choose from.

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More starter homes will be built

At the end of the Great Recession the number of starter homes being built were low thanks to the number of people being able to afford them also being at a record low. This in turn led to all new builds being aimed at those that had the money to spare.

2020 has been predicted as the year that investors will start to build more starter homes to cope with the demand of young people who want to buy their first home. 2019 saw orders for starter homes increase and with the economy in a strong position – and unemployment continuing to stay low – it seems that the trend will continue.

The affordable housing crisis will see new solutions

America is currently in the middle of a housing crisis with the requirement of low cost housing at a high, not just for the lower earners but also those on a median wage.

According to a recent report, more than 7 million citizens are seeking homes in America, a demand that is not as of yet being met. And while in the past not-for-profit organizations or government bodies have had to find the money to resolve this, the new local and federal tax incentives alongside upcoming rent control laws mean the private sector are finally able to help resolve the situation, without affecting their bottom line.

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Multifamily housing problems to increase

When developers roll into neighborhoods across America with the aim to knock down homes and replace them with high-rises they are often seen as the baddies, the villains in the real estate story. However, with the affordable housing crisis continuing into 2020 it seems that many are looking at this option as the only option, much to the disapproval of others.

Earlier in 2019 Gavin Newsom, the governor of California, overrode single-family zoning while homeowners in the wealthier communities of Los Angeles have gathered together against transit-oriented community (TOC) developments, higher density developments and any other developments that could potentially resolve the crisis.

But as in every situation, you get the good and the bad. In the case of the LA issues, the TOC incentives have seen several new developments being brought forward and there have been a variety of investors trying to create solutions. However, while they are looking at multifamily investments by implementing smaller projects to see if they work, some of the developers of luxury condos are dedicating as little as possible of their low-income units in the hope they too can be awarded some of the incentives.

Over in Newark, Mayor Ras Baraka’s 2017 ordinance “Inclusionary Zoning for Affordable Housing” has helped to protect some of its most vulnerable residents yet has invited multifamily developers to the area as well as tech communities and even a $2.7 billion renovation at their airport.

With all of this in mind, the problems created by these multifamily housing problems are predicted to increase with many “not in my backyard” (NIMBY) feelings being brought forward by the neighborhoods as well as the anger that has been seen up and down the country when any type of gentrification has been implemented.

New Years Resolution

How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

At the end of each year, millions of people resolve to improve some aspect of their lifestyle for the following year, whether these resolutions include a pledge to work out more, to stick to a diet, or simply to read more books. However, most people don’t end up keeping their resolutions as the year progresses; in fact, according to various sources, only 25% of people continue their new habit a month after making a New Year’s resolution, and only 8% of people maintain their resolution into the following year. Habits can be hard to break and it’s even harder to keep new habits over time; as such, when making a New Year’s resolution, you should have a realistic and well-thought-out plan for how to accomplish your goal.

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One of the biggest mistakes people make when deciding upon New Year’s resolutions is being too ambitious. The start of the year seems to many of us like an opportunity to remake ourselves for the future, as expressed by the popular phrase “new year, new me.” However, while it may seem motivating to set high expectations in this way, seeing the change of the year as a new beginning is a way to set yourself up for failure. This is because in reality human beings are creatures of habit, and as such we are all likely to simply continue our existing habits into the new year, just as we would at the start of a new month or a new week. Instead, it’s a better idea to start with a small goal, and gradually work towards increasing the scope of your goal. For instance, if you’re somebody who doesn’t work out but wants to get fit, resolve to go to the gym once a week instead of five times a week, and then gradually increase the frequency of your gym visits as time goes on and you grow accustomed to this lifestyle change.

Another mistake is to make resolutions based on the outcome of a behavior, not the behavior itself. Though we all have some control over the habits we maintain, there are some things people tend to make as their resolutions which are entirely outside of their control; for instance, if someone’s resolution is to find love within the year, they could be setting themselves up for failure, as whether or not a person finds love depends heavily on factors outside of one person’s control. Instead, a better goal would be to take concrete steps to hopefully improve the probability of that outcome, such as attending more social events and using online dating services.

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An additional tip is to ensure that your resolution is thoroughly planned and specific. If your New Year’s Resolution is to lose weight, for instance, you’ll find yourself failing to achieve that goal unless you are clear with yourself about how you plan to go about doing so. Instead, spend some time researching the most effective strategies to lose weight, such as determining how often to exercise and how many calories to eat each day. As with many personal goals, the answer to how best to lose weight varies dramatically from person to person, so it is essential to educate yourself about the basics of nutrition and exercise in order to tailor your plan to your individual needs. Writing this plan down and keeping a detailed calendar of how you are progressing are two excellent ways to ensure that you maintain motivation throughout the year to continue your habit, and these strategies provide the added benefit of enabling you to track your improvement over time.

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself! Even when we forgo setting ambitious goals for the new year, we often overestimate our ability to carry through with a plan when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, and as a result don’t meet our own expectations of ourselves for the new year. At this point, many of us give up on our goals, feeling that we have failed to achieve what we set out to do. Instead of doing this when you perform more poorly than you had hoped, view the mistake as an opportunity to learn, and consider what factors led you to fall short of your goal. Doing so will allow you to avoid making the same mistake in the future and increases the likelihood of maintaining your resolution through the end of the year.

Election Pin

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg Launches Presidential Campaign

The former mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, has entered the race to be the next President of the United States, but will he be able to ‘buy’ a presidential term?

As one of the world’s richest men – Bloomberg is reportedly worth $51.4 billion – many have concerns regarding his campaign, which already has a record-breaking budget. Yet with issues including climate change and gun control high on his agenda should we be really be looking at the amount of money being spent promoting Bloomberg?

Each presidential campaign appears to have more money spent on it than the previous campaign, and this is evident with both the Bloomberg and Trump campaigns.

However is having more money than your competitor enough to secure a win?

Not always. It is worth remembering that Hillary Clinton spent around twice as much money as President Donald Trump did in their 2016 campaigns, showing money cannot always buy the White House.

One of the fall outs from Trump’s win was the question of what Clinton actually received for the extra money spent, with many supporters wondering whether the campaign’s staff are capable of budgeting their campaigns efficiently.

But surely the main aspect to any winning election campaign is to persuade voters that you are more passionate about subjects the public care about than your competitor.

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In 2016 Trump ensured all his rallies drew large and passionate crowds, especially in the primary process. This action has been credited as being one of the main strategies that helped him win the presidency. Passion is a huge draw to any campaign, as Bloomberg will soon find out.

Regardless of the amount of money a candidate may have, if there is no passion, poor issues and a lack of credibility, a campaign will struggle to gain the momentum required to be a success.

This is not to say that Trump would have still won on passion alone. Every campaign requires a monumental amount of cash spent, which is why fundraising is so important. Although Trump was also able to fill his rallies thanks to the staggering amount of free publicity he received, mainly through news outlets around the world reporting on both him as a person as well as how his campaign was fairing against previous campaigns.

However when voters are asked to give cash to a political campaign it is easy for them to believe they are being asked due to the campaigner believing they are essential to their campaign, when in fact the candidate is merely more persuasive than the alternative party.

With Bloomberg joining the campaign for 2020’s presidential election, it is easy for him to dismiss fundraising worries, thanks to his ‘bottomless’ money supply. However unless he can become more passionate and more persuasive, filling his rallies will be difficult.

His official video announcing his campaign clearly shows he is yet to find that spark that will encourage voters to back him for president and it appears that both Bloomberg and his staff believe they can win the campaign without any passion necessary.

In his announcement Bloomberg also criticized Trump’s administration, saying, “I’m running for president to defeat Donald Trump and rebuild America. We cannot afford four more years of President Trump’s reckless and unethical actions. He represents an existential threat to our country and our values. If he wins another term in office, we may never recover from the damage.

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The stakes could not be higher. We must win this election. And we must begin rebuilding America. I believe my unique set of experiences in business, government and philanthropy will enable me to win and lead.”

Many Democrats are capitalizing on the anti-Trump feelings that are currently growing across the country, even more so thanks to his current impeachment hearing, but is this enough to land them the top job? Have they – and Bloomberg – made a credible enough case as to why you should vote for the Democrats rather than the Republicans?

Democratic Party rival Senator Elizabeth Warren has already slated Bloomberg’s campaign, accusing him of trying to buy the White House, and therefore American democracy:

“Michael Bloomberg is making a bet about democracy in 2020. He doesn’t need people, he only needs bags and bags of money.”

Senator Warren continued, “That’s exactly what’s now in play in 2020 – which vision, which version of our democracy is going to win? If Michael Bloomberg’s version of democracy wins, then democracy changes.”

Mr. Bloomberg, speaking at his first campaign event in Norfolk, Virginia, declined to answer her remarks however he did discuss the use of his wealth for his campaign:

“For years I’ve been using my resources for things that matter to me. I am going to make my case and let the voters who are plenty smart make their choice.”

Whichever way the voters decide to go, it is clear that the campaign for the Democratic candidate – and the next presidential administration – should be an interesting journey.

Virtual Reality

Valve Announces Half-Life: Alyx, a Virtual Reality Exclusive

Over the past several years, the game development studio Valve has shifted its focus from developing new titles in its various critically-acclaimed video game franchises to developing Steam, its content-delivery platform and investing in innovative technology like virtual reality. As such, it came as a surprise when Valve announced Half-Life: Alyx, a new entry in the famed Half-Life series which revolutionized the first-person shooter genre when its first entry was released for PC in 1998. Half-Life: Alyx, the first entry in the series in more than a decade, is not the highly-anticipated Half-Life 3 that fans of the series have waited for, but instead takes place before the events of Half-Life 2 and puts players in the shoes of Alyx Vance, a supporting character from the main series. As the game is built from the ground up for VR, it will not resemble a first-person shooter in the traditional sense, but rather will ask players to use motion controllers to manipulate objects in virtual 3D space to solve puzzles and engage in combat.

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Valve has not released all of the details about the upcoming title, but has announced a launch date of March 2020 and has promised the game will be a full-length experience. The game’s trailer, posted to Youtube a few days ago, showcases the improved graphical capabilities of the Source 2 engine, which enables advanced lighting and other high-quality effects. Additionally, the trailer gives players a hint of the kind of gameplay they can expect, as the player character is depicted firing weapons and interacting with the visually-updated dystopian world first featured in 2004’s Half-Life 2. The title will only be available for PC, but will support all virtual reality platforms that can be used with a Windows computer.

It doesn’t seem likely that a real Half-Life 3 will ever see the light of day, as Valve has seemed to move on from traditional game development; however, fans may experience some long-awaited closure in the form of Half-Life: Alyx.

While fans are of course excited by the announcement of a new title in the Half-Life series, the game’s exclusivity as a VR title has drawn criticism. For one, though their price has lowered in recent years, virtual reality headsets continue to be prohibitively expensive for most, and they require a similarly-expensive high-powered gaming PC to function well. One of the biggest challenges in VR game design is the problem of locomotion, as allowing players to move freely within a virtual world while remaining physically stationary in the real world causes sensations of nausea in many people. As such, the locomotion system featured in Half-Life: Alyx is likely to be extremely limited compared to the movement systems featured in previous titles in the series. 

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Half-Life: Alyx will mark the first commercial use of the company’s Source 2 engine, an update to the revolutionary Source engine upon which previous titles in the series were built. Valve is also opening up their game development tools to the public, updating Hammer, the company’s free level authoring tool, for compatibility with the new game. Valve has promised that Half-Life: Alyx will be a flagship experience for the VR format, and the game’s $59.99 price tag reflects this ambition. While Half-Life 2 featured the “Gravity Gun” weapon as a tool to manipulate objects in the environment, showing off the game’s then-unique use of a full physics engine to breathe life into the game’s setting, Half-Life: Alyx gives players “Gravity Gloves,” allowing them to pick up objects, like guns and puzzle items, from a short distance.

The last entry in the series, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, ended on a major cliffhanger that after twelve years remains unresolved; while Valve’s newest title in the series takes the form of a prequel, fans still hope that the game will shed light on what happens in the aftermath of the precious title. It doesn’t seem likely that a real Half-Life 3 will ever see the light of day, as Valve has seemed to move on from traditional game development; however, fans may experience some long-awaited closure in the form of Half-Life: Alyx.