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Stop Feeling Bad If You’re Not Saving Every Penny to Buy a Home

If you feel a little behind on your homeownership goals—or if you’re wondering whether homeownership should even be one of your goals—don’t worry. First, you’re not alone. Second, it’s harder to save up for a home than it’s been in a long time.

A recent CNBC article on the difficulties of saving up that down payment noted that it now takes nearly a decade to accumulate the cash:

Housing expenses such as rent and insurance add nearly three years to the time it takes a typical renter to save up for a 20% down payment on a median-priced home. That’s according to home and apartment rental site Hotpads, which is owned by Zillow. That’s because the typical renter spends about 34% of his or her income on housing. It takes the typical renter about eight years to save for a down payment, if they are able to sock away about 16% of their income each year. And of course, in some locations that’s easier to do than in others.

Eight years, if you can set aside 16% of your income each year in addition to the 34% you’re likely already putting towards housing costs.

Plus the 15% you’re supposed to be putting towards retirement.

And that three-month emergency fund you’re trying to save up.

And debt repayment.

And so on.

If you’d like a different perspective on homeownership than “just keep saving,” Curbed recently published a longread on why we’re currently in an affordable housing crisis:

Nearly two-thirds of renters nationwide say they can’t afford to buy a home, and saving for that down payment isn’t going to get easier anytime soon: Home prices are rising at twice the rate of wage growth. According to research from the advocacy group Home1, 11 million Americans (roughly the population of New York City and Chicago combined) spend more than half their paycheck on rent. Harvard researchers found that in 2016, nearly half of renters were cost-burdened (defined as spending 30 percent or more of their income on rent), compared with 20 percent in 1960.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition found that a renter working 40 hours a week and earning minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom apartment (i.e., not be cost-burdened) in exactly zero counties nationwide. In other words, it isn’t possible.

Although the entire piece is great, and you should check it out if only for the charts and graphs, the tl;dr is that finding an affordable home these days is hard. So is finding an affordable apartment.

Moving to a lower cost-of-living area can help, but only to a certain point—and only if you can find equivalent work in your new location. I’ve written a lot about how moving from Seattle to Cedar Rapids, Iowa has improved my finances, but that’s in part because I was able to take my freelance career with me when I moved. Also, even though my monthly rent is half of what it used to be, my loft-style studio apartment is only 448 square feet (that’s 14 feet by 32 feet, if you’re curious).

So if you feel like you should be a homeowner by now, or should be setting aside more money for that down payment, or should be living in an apartment that’s bigger than a one-car garage, well… I mean, I can’t tell you how to feel, but I can suggest that you not beat yourself up over it.

Because the math isn’t in your favor right now.

One more tip: if you’re thinking about homeownership because you’ve heard it could be a good long-term investment, remember that you can always just put your money into investments.

As financial blogger Paula Pant puts it:

Are you better off:

  1. Tying up your cash into a home
  2. Finding an alternative investment, coupled with a rent payment?

Any cash that’s tied up in home equity, including the down payment, is locked into a lifetime of just-keeping-pace-with-inflation.

This opportunity cost, combined with the additional overhead of homeownership, can (in many markets) negate any advantage that comes from owning.

If you decide to go that route, don’t feel bad if you’re not putting every extra penny into your investments. Save what you can, buy and hold, and let your net worth grow.

And if you feel like it, you can always take money out of those investments and use it on the down payment for a home.

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How I Increased My Net Worth by $27,000 in Six Months

According to You Need a Budget (YNAB), my total net worth is currently $108,940.66.

That’s $6,193.91 higher than it was at the beginning of last month.

$11,657.14 higher than it was two months ago.

It’s $27,213.44 higher than it was six months ago, when I switched my budgeting app from Mint to YNAB and began focusing on growing my net worth as quickly as possible.

I wasn’t expecting the numbers to grow quite this fast, honestly.

So let’s look at how they did.

Moving to a lower cost-of-living area

In November 2017, I moved from Seattle to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. This move, which I wrote about in detail for Vox, cost me $5,929.10. (This includes travel, shipping my belongings, buying new furniture, etc.)

It also cut my expenses by close to $1,000 a month, much of that in rent costs.

This means it took about half a year for the move to “pay for itself.” After that, any money I saved by living in a lower cost-of-living area became, for lack of a better term, pure profit.

The move also improved my quality of life considerably—I’m closer to family, I’ve joined community and arts organizations, and I can finally afford to live in an apartment that isn’t held together by mold and grime.

It was a win-win, on all counts.

Working towards financial independence

Moving to a lower cost-of-living area decreased my expenses, which enabled me to think differently about my future. With more money comes more options—not just today, but years down the road.

It took me a little over a year to think about what I might do with these new options—or to even realize I had them. My expenses were lower than my income, I was regularly putting money into my retirement and brokerage accounts, and I wasn’t really thinking about long-term growth; I figured that would take care of itself.

Then I received an advance reader’s copy of Grant Sabatier’s book Financial Freedom: A Proven Path to All the Money You Will Ever Need.

This book blew my mind. More importantly, it made financial independence seem achievable, even for someone like me who earns around $70K annually (pretax).

I read Financial Freedom three times, cover-to-cover. I did all the exercises and plugged my numbers into Sabatier’s online calculators. I realized that with my current expenses, I could “retire” and live off my investments as soon as those investments hit $750,000—which, at the time, the calculators predicted would take twelve years to achieve.

Of course, I’m not really planning to retire in my late 40s. I’m both a writer and a novelist; we tend to keep working until our final hours. But I’m also realistic. I’ve been a freelancer for seven years, but I can’t guarantee my web writing career will last another seven; even if there’s still the same demand for articles and content, I may start getting passed over for fresher faces with a better grasp of pop/youth culture.

Plus, I might have different demands on my time in the future, which might make it harder to devote as much time to freelancing (or other jobs).

So I’m looking at this financial independence plan as a type of insurance, really. The freedom, to borrow Grant Sabatier’s term, to cut back on my freelancing if I have to. To spend more time writing novels, or caregiving, or taking care of my own health, or whatever might come next.

Investing as much as possible

Once I knew that “all I had to do” to achieve financial independence was get myself a $750K investment portfolio, I began asking myself how I could get there as quickly as possible.

This meant investing as much as possible. Pouring every extra dollar into my IRA or my SEP IRA or my brokerage account. (Freelancing has this interesting quirk where every dollar you put into either a traditional IRA or a SEP IRA is counted as an “above-the-line” tax deduction, which means that the more I’m able to put in those accounts, the less I have to pay in taxes and the larger ACA health insurance subsidy I’m entitled to take. This provides a huge incentive to max out both accounts, which I did in 2018.)

According to Vanguard, $4,729.49 of my $27K net worth increase came from investment returns. That’s 18% of the total growth.

Increasing my income

The other way to reach that $750K portfolio as quickly as possible was by increasing my income. As a freelancer, this is easier for me to do than it might be for someone with a traditional job; I’m the upper limit on how much I can earn, after all. (At least until I get to the age where clients might start wanting to replace me with someone younger.)

So I picked up some new clients, including some higher-paying clients. My income is currently higher than it’s ever been, and it looks like it’ll stay that way for the next few months at least—and yes, I’m already thinking about how I’ll cover the income gap if/when one of my freelance gigs ends.

This is the part where I have to mention that my income jump coincided with my decision to stop running The Billfold (and that a portion of my 2018 SEP IRA contributions came from money I had originally set aside for Billfold operations, after closing everything out and paying the freelancers, the vendors, the accountants, and the lawyers). If you’re not familiar with my entire career arc—and there’s no reason why you should be—I spent five years writing and editing for The Billfold, a personal finance site that was part of the Awl Network. When the Awl Network stopped publishing in early 2018, they asked me if I would be interested in running The Billfold as its own project, which I did for a year.

It would be very, very easy for me to write this post as a story of consistent growth and triumph, but realizing that I could no longer keep The Billfold going—and then deciding to accept that realization, after going through every single stage of grief—did not feel particularly triumphant. It was both a personal and a career failure; worse than that, it meant telling a community of readers and commenters that the site they’d been visiting every day for years was going to stop publishing.

And then, once it was over, everything got better—for me, anyway. (I know many Billfold readers still miss the site.) In many ways it was like leaving Seattle for Cedar Rapids; the decision was not easy, people were sad to see me go, and I still miss many aspects of living in the city. But once I was settled into my new life, I knew I’d made the right choice.

Living the frugal life

There are a lot of reasons why I am able to save as much money as I currently save—I’m single, I’m healthy, I have no children, I live in a low cost-of-living area, and I’ve been growing my freelance career for nearly a decade.

I also don’t own a car.

I cut my own hair.

I spend, on average, $55 a month on dining out.

I find one shirt I like and buy nine of it, so I never have to think about what to wear. Plus, I rarely look in the mirror and think “I need a new outfit because I don’t like the way I look today.” (If all my clothing looks the same, I always look the same—which means I always feel the same way about how I look.)

I do a lot of really frugal, kinda weird things in the name of keeping my expenses as low as possible. I eat the same things every day: breakfast is Huel plus a banana; lunch is Huel plus an apple; dinner is quinoa, which I buy in bulk, cooked with frozen vegetables and spices and served with a side of cottage cheese plus frozen blueberries for dessert. I visit the library probably three times a week (okay, that one isn’t that weird). I got rid of Netflix, and I only subscribed to HBO long enough to catch the last season of Game of Thrones.

I try to save money wherever I can, so I have the freedom to spend money on things like self-publishing my novels and spending a week in Walt Disney World.

Now I’m living the frugal life so I can work towards financial freedom as well.

In case you haven’t done the backwards math: in order for me to hit financial independence with a $750K portfolio, I need to keep my monthly expenses around $2,500. That’s not difficult for me, in part because I’ve been living very frugally for a very long time. Whether it becomes more difficult in the future—well, we’ll have to see. That’s why I’m looking at this financial freedom project as insurance, rather than the point at which I’ll never have to work another day in my life.

The calculators have already updated my target goal date from 12 years to 10 years.

We’ll see how my net worth changes over the next six months.

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Huawei’s European Customers Are Put on Hold by U.S. Ban

They’re unsure how Android phones will keep working as Google and other companies assess a Trump administration order.

Image

A London billboard promoting the Chinese company Huawei, which has captured more than a quarter of the smartphone market in Europe.CreditCreditSuzie Howell for The New York Times

LONDON — Europe has been one of Huawei’s biggest success stories. Now it is on the front line of the trade and technology war between China and the United States.

The move by Google this week to cut off Android support to phones made by Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant, will hobble their European users and highlights how deeply the Continent relies on American and Chinese companies for gadgets, apps and internet services.

From its early days selling equipment to wireless carriers, Huawei has expanded at an extraordinary rate in Europe, capturing more than a quarter of the smartphone market. Google’s action is “potentially catastrophic” for Huawei’s hopes in Europe, said Ben Stanton, a senior analyst at Canalys, a research firm.

The Trump administration’s order this month barring American telecommunications firms from using foreign-made equipment that could pose a threat to national security — exactly what Washington has accused Huawei of doing — is likely to have a knock-on effect on smartphone users’ experience. Google Maps and other apps, for example, will not be supported.

European customers will be hit harder than those in the United States or China. Huawei phones are largely unavailable in the United States, and Google’s services have long been blocked in China by the government.

But they are best sellers in countries like Greece, Portugal and Spain. Those phones, plus robust sales of telecommunications equipment, have made the market covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa into Huawei’s second biggest after China. It accounted for 28 percent of Huawei’s revenue in 2018, compared with 7 percent from the Americas.

The pressure has mounted. Since the administration’s order, one company after another has moved to suspend business with the company, which is the world’s second-largest smartphone maker, after Samsung.

Google announced its pullback on Monday. The Commerce Department said it would grant a 90-day extension for companies to work out how to support existing cellular networks and handsets, but Google said it planned to abide by the ruling once the time expired.

On Wednesday, two British carriers, EE and Vodafone, said they would not offer Huawei phones to customers who wanted access to their new 5G services. Two of Japan’s largest mobile carriers also said they would delay the debut of a new smartphone by Huawei.

Image

Huawei phones at an EE store in London. EE and Vodafone said this week that they would not offer Huawei phones to customers who wanted access to 5G services.CreditSuzie Howell for The New York Times

Huawei will be unable to recover quickly, analysts said.

“It would be extremely unlikely that they would use their own operating system here in the short term,” said Dario Talmesio, a telecommunications analyst at Ovum, a research and consultancy firm in London. “And that means people with existing Huawei devices will gradually see devices that are reliant on Android deteriorate because they are not able to perform certain upgrades.”

Customers shopping for a handset are unlikely to buy one that doesn’t come with Google’s latest version of Android, apps like Gmail or the Play app store. The drop in demand for Huawei phones could also hurt European carriers that are “very heavily relying on the quality, with fairly low cost, of Chinese devices” to get customers onto the new hyperfast networks that are on the horizon, Mr. Talmesio said.

Huawei’s bottom line could suffer from the loss of sales of its more expensive phones, with their high profit margins, said Steve Tsang, the director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. And the diminished prospects in Europe may hinder Huawei’s ability to expand elsewhere.

“Being able to make it in Europe means that it is a lot easier for Huawei to make it in the rest of the world,” Mr. Tsang said. “Success in Europe is significant for Huawei, both in terms of revenue and in terms of future growth.”

To succeed in Europe, Huawei made a sustained effort over nearly two decades to work with network operators and allow governments to test its equipment for security flaws. Huawei first made inroads by providing cheap gear to build phone networks in countries including Britain, Germany, France and Poland. The company became the world’s largest seller of telecom equipment, besting Nokia and Ericsson.

Huawei deepened its reach when it began selling mobile devices, first as low-cost alternatives to a Samsung Galaxy or an Apple iPhone and then with pricier models respected for their technology. Huawei gives carriers and retailers better financial terms than rivals by allowing them to make money from every handset sale. Industry analysts said retailers had an incentive to display and promote Huawei phones.

The strategy helped Huawei sell more than 42 million smartphones in Europe last year, according to Canalys. “Huawei has been the darling of the European smartphone industry for the last three or four years,” Mr. Stanton of Canalys said.

Huawei’s growth highlights how Europe’s influence in tech has faded.

European policymakers have been trying to nurture the region’s technology sector, which played an important role in the growth of the global tech industry. Finland’s Nokia was once the world’s largest seller of mobile phones, and Skype, founded by Scandinavians, helped pioneer the now-common ability to make calls over the internet. But Europe could not keep up with Silicon Valley or Shenzhen, where Huawei has its headquarters.

For months, Washington has been warning allies of security risks associated with Huawei, but several countries balked at its assessment. The Trump administration has threatened America’s intelligence-sharing relationship with Germany, Britain and other allies as Huawei sought to build their fifth-generation, or 5G, networks. The networks promise not only faster cellular service but also better wireless connections for “internet of things” devices like autonomous cars, security cameras and industrial equipment.

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A Huawei service center in Brussels. “Now Huawei is out of the market for me,” a customer in a Brussels mobile phone store said. CreditMashid Mohadjerin for The New York Times

The Trump administration’s order moved the debate about Huawei beyond the more obscure equipment needed to make wireless networks to which handsets consumers can buy and apps they can use.

“It’s not in our control,” said Mr. Talmesio at Ovum. “We are stuck in the middle of this commercial war, and we are becoming very much a kind of proxy war territory.”

Google’s decision surprised potential phone buyers in Europe, and many were hesitating. Security risks were not their worry. They wanted to know that their phones would work anywhere.

“Such applications as YouTube and Google Maps, they are vital,” said George Kirmizidis, a civil servant browsing at a BASE mobile phone shop in Brussels. “If I cannot access those through my smartphone, what’s the point of buying a smartphone altogether?”

“As a customer, of course I would like to have the choice to choose between different products, and now Huawei is out of the market for me,” Mr. Kirmizidis, 44, added. “I have a limited choice of products, which is not fair if we support capitalism.”

Solongo Unurbat was examining a Huawei phone priced at more than $1,000 in the Mall of Berlin, and the 34-year-old was not concerned about the loss of Google functionality.

“For me, it’s all about the camera, ” she said.

Keerthana Annamaneni contributed reporting from Brussels, and Christopher F. Schuetze from Berlin.

Huawei and the Tech Cold War

​Amie Tsang is a general assignment business reporter based in London, where she has covered a variety of topics, including the gender pay gap, aviation and the London Fatberg. @amietsang

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NASA is opening the space station to commercial business and more private astronauts

Today, NASA executives announced that the space agency will open up parts of the International Space Station to more commercial opportunities, allowing companies unprecedented use of the space station’s facilities, including filming commercials or movies against the backdrop of space. NASA is also calling on the private space industry to send in ideas for habitats and modules that can be attached to the space station semi-permanently.

A new interim directive from NASA allows private companies to buy time and space on the ISS for producing, marketing, or testing their products. It also allows those companies to use resources on the ISS for commercial purposes, even making use of NASA astronauts’ time and expertise (but not their likeness). If companies want, they can even send their own astronauts to the ISS, starting as early as 2020, but all of these activities come with a hefty price tag.

It’s a significant turn for NASA, which has long been antagonistic toward commercializing the ISS. Russia is more open to ads and branding on the ISS (as it was with the Mir space station) and has sent tourists to the ISS before. But NASA has strictly prohibited the use of its side of the International Space Station for commercial purposes. Up until now, any company wishing to send products to the ISS had to show that there was some educational component to the undertaking or that it revolved around some kind of technology demonstration. No purely commercial projects are allowed to be sent to the ISS, and NASA astronauts are even prohibited from working on experiments if there’s a possibility that the research will be used to make a profit.

In August, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine formed a committee to look into ways of opening up the space agency to commercialization, arguing that doing so could provide new sources of revenue and name recognition for NASA. “Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to a spacecraft or the naming rights to its rockets?” Bridenstine said to a group of advisers for NASA in August. “I’m telling you there is interest in that right now. The question is: is it possible? And the answer is I don’t know, but we need somebody to give us advice on whether or not it is.”

NASA leadership has made it clear that the space agency wants to eventually transition control of the International Space Station and its region of space, low Earth orbit, to the private sector someday. It costs NASA $3 to $4 billion a year to operate the ISS, and by handing over control of the station, NASA could have more money to pursue much more ambitious missions, like the agency’s goals of building a new space station around the Moon and sending humans back to the lunar surface. In 2018, the president’s budget request called on ending direct funding for the ISS by 2025 and ceding operations of the orbiting lab to private companies. The White House is no longer pursuing that deadline of 2025 due to pushback from lawmakers, but NASA is still looking to jump-start the private space industry’s takeover of low Earth orbit.


The price of using resources and astronaut time on the International Space Station.
Image: NASA

To help achieve this, NASA commissioned 12 companies to study ways of establishing a heavy commercial presence in this region of space. Each company detailed ideas for new private space habitats that could either be attached to the ISS or fly free in low Earth orbit. Such platforms could serve as “destinations” for research and even private visitors, according to NASA, generating revenue and opening up entirely new business models. NASA did admit that the barrier to entry is still high since transporting people and cargo to space is quite expensive. But the space agency is still moving forward with commercialization based on what these studies found.

“You see, the space agency is looking at probably another 10 years of the ISS being in orbit, and saying, ‘Okay, how do we move forward?’” Jeff Manber, the CEO of NanoRacks, which coordinates shipments and experiments on the ISS, tells The Verge. “Let’s put our toes in the water on purely commercial projects. Let’s begin to allow tourism. And let’s begin to have the first commercial platforms supported by NASA. And so it’s a very important step forward. This is the beginning of a new chapter.”

Using the space station will come with some restrictions. NASA is allocating 5 percent of its resources on the station for these commercial activities. Only 175 kilograms per year in commercial cargo can be sent to the ISS, and NASA crew will only dedicate 90 hours a year to commercial activities. NASA has also released a list of approved commercial activities that the agency will allow on board. Private astronaut missions to the ISS are limited to two flights a year, and the astronauts will only be able to stay for 30 days. Right now, the only viable option for crew getting to the ISS is via new spacecraft being developed by SpaceX and Boeing for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which still haven’t flown people yet.

Additionally, using the space station’s facilities will be incredibly expensive. It’ll cost $11,250 per astronaut per day to use the life support systems and toilet and $22,500 per day for all necessary crew supplies, like food, air, medical supplies, and more. Even power will cost $42 per kilowatt-hour. Ultimately, one night’s stay would be about $35,000 for one person, according to Jeff DeWit, NASA’s chief financial officer. “But it won’t come with any Hilton or Marriott points,” DeWit joked at today’s announcement.

Some companies might want to go even bigger and send their own module up to the International Space Station. If they do, NASA has made sure that they will have an available docking port. The agency is making the port on the station’s Harmony module available for a commercial habitat to attach to for a limited period of time. Habitats that dock to this port will have access to the station’s utilities, and astronauts could potentially use the module during their stay in space. NASA will soon ask for proposals of habitats that can be attached to Harmony and will make final selections by the end of the fiscal year, according to the space agency.

NASA made today’s announcement at the Nasdaq Marketsite, with representatives of more than a dozen commercial aerospace companies in attendance. And some are already taking NASA up on its new policy. Space habitat developer Bigelow Aerospace, for instance, says it has already booked four private flights of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, and will send up four of its own private astronauts on each mission once the vehicle finally starts carrying people.

And it’s possible that even more opportunities for commercial activities are on their way. NASA executives made it clear that these new policy changes are just the beginning, and that they’re eager to get feedback from the industry. “This is the beginning of us actively starting open dialogue with the industry to figure out how we can open up space to commercial activities, where revenue can be generated from private sector companies,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration.

Update June 7th, 12:45PM ET: This article was updated to include quotes from the press conference, as well as new information from Bigelow Aerospace.

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The Morning After: AMD, NVIDIA and Intel do battle at Computex


Phones that do more and last longer are on the way.ARM’s latest Cortex-A77 and Mali-G77 chip designs promise 60 percent faster AI on phones

Wondering how the next generation of mobile phones will improve? The technology that companies like Samsung and Qualcomm rely on as a basis for new chips just got a significant boost, as the latest Cortex A-77 CPU claims 20 percent faster instructions-per-clock performance without hurting efficiency. Meanwhile, the Mali-G77 GPU design touts 40 percent faster overall graphics than the G76, a whopping 60 percent increase in machine learning speed and 30 percent better efficiency.


Taking aim at NVIDIA’s mid-range chips with Radeon DNA (RDNA).AMD’s first Navi GPUs are the Radeon RX 5000-series

As expected, AMD took the wraps off of its first 7nm Navi consumer GPUs at Computex, though the company is still playing coy with details. The Radeon RX 5000 series is the name of the new lineup, and the first featured card is the RX 5700, a mid-range offering that will go toe-to-toe with NVIDIA’s RTX 2070 GPU.

The company says we can expect 25 percent better performance-per-clock and 50 percent faster performance per watt with the new architecture, compared to its older Graphics Core Next technology, plus support for PCIe 4.0 and fast GDDR6 memory. For more details — or information on AMD’s plans to support ray-tracing technology — we’ll have to wait until E3.


More power.Intel’s latest Core i9 CPU can run all eight cores at 5GHz


It’s still early.Lenovo’s Project Limitless 5G laptop makes a lot of promises

For something named Project Limitless, Lenovo’s prototype 5G laptop has a lot of caveats. On the one hand, its Snapdragon 8cx is built to provide battery life that measures in days instead of hours with an improved GPU that can handle Chrome better. However, lingering concerns over app compatibility, an unexciting design and a shallow keyboard left Cherlynn Low with more questions than answers.


Now with ray-tracing.NVIDIA is bringing pro-level Quadro RTX GPUs to laptops

The mobile Quadro RTX 5000 (or 4000 or 3000, depending on your budget) edition is designed for professionals who do a lot of heavy graphics or video work. At launch, there are 17 laptops, made by seven partner companies, that will carry the new Quadro GPUs, which will be branded under the “RTX Studio” name. The company also claimed that the machines can run up to seven times faster than the equivalent MacBook Pro with 32GB RAM and AMD’s Pro Vega 20 GPU.

Laptops that are already lined up to add the new hardware include Acer’s ConceptD line and Razer’s Blade. The only thing we don’t know, however, is exactly how much the upgraded laptops will cost.

But wait, there’s more…


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Can ‘Men In Black: International’ Travel To $100M+ Worldwide Opening? – Deadline

With sequelitis in full swing at the domestic box office before Disney/Pixar’s Toy Story 4 changes that course, Sony is plotting for its responsibly-budgeted reboot of Men in Black: International to carry the load exactly there — overseas.  Currently, industry estimates are now at $30M in U.S. Canada at 4,200 theaters and $70M-$85M overseas. Total global launch is between $100M-$115M. China should match the U.S. opening and hopefully U.S. doesn’t fall lower as tracking for fanboy IP has been greatly over-inflated in recent weeks. Previews start at 4PM in the U.S. at 3,500 sites. MIB 4 will also play in Imax.

Sony releases MIB 4 around the world beginning today, notably in France and Korea. Through Friday, the film will be in 56 markets repping 92% of its offshore footprint and excluding Indonesia, Netherlands, Italy and some smaller hubs which will go later. The big question being with the fourthquel: Will the comedy translate abroad?

Despite the $110M-production cost being floated out there, we hear the net before P&A cost on Men in Black: International is actually under $100M (per those with knowledge of the budget, not studio sources). We hear co-finance partners Hemisphere and Tencent are each in for just under 18% each, helping to reduce Sony’s risk. Already working in the pic’s P&A favor is $75M through a number of largely high-end promotional partners like Lexus cars and Paul Smith suits.

Men in Black: International is a popcorn movie, definitely not one for reviewers who are wishing that their minds were erased after seeing the movie at 32% Rotten. Some of the better reviews have recognized that the film should have been called ‘Woman in Black’ as new lead Tessa Thompson is the most winning factor in the movie per positive reviews. She is joined by her Thor: Ragnarok co-star Chris Hemsworth. The attempt here of course is that Men in Black: International can work off their Ragnarok punch and snap, duh. Despite hunk Hemsworth in the movie, we hear stateside tracking is skewing heavily male. The studio also hopes that a combo of nostalgia and the uninitiated to the franchise could possibly propel ticket sales.

Because Men in Black: International does not star the original franchise stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, grosses will of course be lower with the latest’s 3-day opening well below the previous MIB 3 3-day high of $54.6M (that pic launched over Memorial Day). Men in Black 1 and 2 opened over 5-day Independence Day holidays in 1997 and 2002. Of course, because of Smith, the Men In Black movies have also historically been solid grossers overseas with the first making $338.7M (to domestic’s $250.6M) and the third, MIB 3, doing $445M in 2012 (to U.S./Canda’s $179M). The middle film, 2002’s Men In Black II, was the lowest of the trio abroad $251.4M (but $190.4M domestic) (all figures unadjusted).

The markets have shifted greatly in the intervening years with only MIB 3 releasing in China where it did over $77M just as the box office was beginning its upward trend. Other key hubs on the threequel included Japan, Russia, the UK and Germany. The growing Asian markets should lean in on this one.

Previous MIB pics aren’t the best comparisons given the years in between and the cast change-up. Better are those that resonate tonally, toward the fun. Think recent titles like Shazam! ($89.5M opening in like-for-like markets) and Pokémon Detective Pikachu ($98.6M).

Overseas promotion for the movie included a Sony junket in Bali and an appearance by Hemsworth on the UK’s Graham Norton Show. Also in London with him were Thompson, director Gary Gray, Kumail Nanjiani, Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald. The main duo were further in Paris and Russia, and this past Sunday hit Beijing, grabbing lots of local press coverage. Hemsworth is so well-known for playing Thor that in China, fans call him “Chuige” or Hammer Man, per local reports. And he’s not above leaning into that. For one of its TV spots, Sony went meta, including a scene of Hemsworth’s Agent H fighting an alien with a tiny hammer. Thompson also went to Brazil for ComicCon.

Shaft 2019 movie

New Line

New Line’s Shaft is expected to do between $17M-$18M at 2,950 theaters. It could do more should it over-index to African American audiences. Warners sold overseas rights to Netflix on this $35M estimated production which brings together all the Shafts from the 1971 and 2000 versions. The last movie, starring Samuel L. Jackson (who here reprises his role as John Shaft), opened to $21.7M and legged out to $70.3M stateside. Previews start at 6pm at 2,800 locations.

Amazon’s Late Night after notching the best specialty theater average of the year to date last weekend of $61,5K is eyeing $4M-$5M at 2.050 theaters.

Focus Features’ Cannes Film Festival opener, Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Don’t Dieis expected to bring in $2M at 550 locations. Pic currently has a 52% RT Score.

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Travel blogger regrets sharing ‘positive’ posts about trip to Dominican Republic, claims she was actually assaulted: ‘It’s not safe’ – Fox News

A travel blogger with nearly 27,000 followers on Instagram says she regrets not portraying her trip to the Dominican Republic in a more honest light, as she claims she was actually assaulted and nearly kidnapped during her stay.

Cora Smith, who makes up one half of the team behind @The_greatescape.blog along with her husband Jay, recently told Insider that they were initially wary of documenting the negative aspects of their 2018 trip online.

SEE IT: INSTAGRAM COUPLE RESPONDS TO CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING INFINITY POOL PIC

“We were very worried about bashing anyone or anything,” she told Insider. “In all honesty, influencers are too scared to tell the truth and feel they need to show the beautiful side. Most people only want to hear the positive things.”

The couple had spent three months in the Dominican Republic – between March and June 2018 – but Smith says she was accosted twice within the first few weeks.

The first incident, as she told Insider and recounted in a 2018 blog post, occurred while out on a jog along a boardwalk in Santo Domingo. Smith says the driver of a car attempted to force her inside and even stopped in her path before she ran off in the other direction.

TRAVEL BLOGGERS SLAMMED FOR POSTING PHOTOS ON MOVING TRAIN

And later, in Punta Cana, Smith says three men on a motorbike stopped her while she riding a bike before proceeding to grope her.

“The man on the back of the scooter reaches out and grabs my butt,” she recounted. “I was completely shocked and furious. He started to laugh at me in my face.”

Smith says she attempted to kick over the men’s bike, but when she did, “the guy reaches out and grabs my chest” and “full on groped” her.

“They were violating me in every way you can except being raped,” she told Insider, explaining that she kept repeatedly kicking them until she was able to break free and away toward Jay, who was biking up ahead.

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Even while they were in the Dominican Republic, Smith says she feared telling local authorities about the incidents after a run-in with police, during which they were more interested in trying to take her husband’s cash.

Smith had even shared part of the story in a blog post shared in 2018, but photos from the couple’s trip focus on the beaches, architecture, landmarks and murals the couple encountered.

“I didn’t tell my story, and I think it’s out of fear,” Smith said.

She added that she wanted to share her experience after hearing the story of Tammy Lawrence-Daley, a Delaware woman who claims she was attacked by man wearing a hotel uniform of the Majestic Elegance resort in Punta Cana and left for dead.

Police in the Dominican Republic are said to be investigating the incident.

“I feel like I can’t sit here and listen to the prime minister and say ‘Our country is safe,’ because it’s not safe,” Smith said.

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Cora and Jay Smith are currently in Ibiza, Spain, Insider reports. They have also recently been sharing photos from Indonesia, Thailand and Peru.

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Learn Water Safety for Little (or No) Money With This YMCA Program

Illustration for article titled Learn Water Safety for Little (or No) Money With This YMCA Program

Image: Pexels

Heading to the pool or paddle boating around the lake can sound like a fun way to spend a summer afternoon. However, if you’re someone that doesn’t know how to swim then particpating in any water activity potentially be a terrifying proposition.

While traditional swim classes can often be prohibitively expensive, the YMCA also offers a low-cost program called “Safety Around Water” designed to help educate children and adults alike on how to be safe.

Skills are learned over eight 40-minute lessons and teach attendees things like how to back float and tread water and what to do if they see someone in the water who needs help.

It’s not an entire traditional swimming lesson in that it focuses on basic water safety rather than swimming techniques, but it does provide enough groundwork so that should a child (or adult) find themselves near water they will feel comfortable and safe in that situation. Skills taught in the class include how to tread water, back float, safely submerge your face in the water, and how to swim 10 feet without assistance, amongst others.

You aren’t going to be ready to join the swim team afterward, but you will be comfortable doing something like going on a paddle boat ride or wading in the community pool.

When the program is offered varies by location, as does the price. In many areas, the course is entirely free. In others, like my local San Francisco Y, the cost of the course is $5. For some perspective, traditional swim classes are typically priced around $200. The Y tells us that it’s providing 33,000 scholarships for the program this year alone.

Classes are open to members and non-members of the Y so anyone who needs or wants to can take part. However, the classes each have a cap on the number of students, so it pays to register earlier rather than later.

Since the course times and price are dictated by local Ys, your best move if you’re interested is to contact yours and see what’s available. You can find your local Y and get instructions for how to enroll on the YMCA’s website.

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This week in tech history: Google unveils the first consumer Chromebooks

Google has been holding I/O, its annual developer conference, in early May for years now. As such, there’s often a lot of notable Google-focused anniversaries to recognize this time of year, and today is no exception. Eight years ago (May 11th, 2011), Google announced the first two commercially-available Chromebooks from Acer and Samsung. At the time, these were just a pair of announcements in the middle of two days of news, but it was a big milestone for Google’s fledgling Chrome OS. And while it took years for Chromebooks to shake a reputation of being devices that were both cheaply-made and not very capable, we can look back now at these laptops as the start of something significant for Google.

The 11.6-inch Acer Chromebook and 12.1-inch Samsung Series 5 Chromebook were cut from similar cloth. Both used low-power Intel Atom processors, used small solid-state drives and claimed impressive battery life, at least for the time: 6.5 hours for the Acer and over 8 hours for the Samsung. With relatively small displays, both computers seemed easily comparable to the many small, low-cost Windows netbooks that were commonplace in the early 2010s. Though with prices starting at $350 and up, these Chromebooks actually cost a bit more than some netbooks running Windows 7 at the time.

Google I/O 2011

With a semi-expensive price tag of $429 and an unproven OS, Samsung’s Series 5 Chromebook wasn’t an obvious winner — but it turned out to be a surprisingly solid option. The hardware itself was study and well-built, the screen was decent, battery life was strong and the performance adequate — provided that you could get by with the many limitations imposed by Chrome OS in 2011. There was basically no offline mode to speak of, Netflix didn’t work and buyers only had 16GB of local storage to work with. At a time when cloud storage was both expensive and not always reliable, a Chromebook was certainly not for everyone.

But even in 2011, it was equally true that much of what one needed a computer for could be done in a web browser, assuming your needs were fairly simple. Gmail, Gchat, Google Docs and Facebook covered a lot of use cases — and while Netflix didn’t work with Chrome OS right off the bat, Google did promise it would add support before long. Add in the new cloud music locker that Google announced at I/O, and a lot of basics were covered. Indeed, when we reviewed the Series 5, we found that while it wasn’t ready to be a main computer, it was far more capable than we might have anticipated.

While Chrome OS felt a bit like another beta product when it launched, the good news it that Google has kept up a steady stream of improvements. Given that Google has a bit of a reputation for abandoning and killing projects at a moment’s notice, the company has been consistently supportive of Chromebooks, eventually turning them into far more than laptops that “can only run a browser.” Features like offline support, better web apps and Google Play / Android compatibility all made the software experience more complete.

At the same time, Google’s hardware partners quickly started selling Chromebooks under $300, making it an ideal option for students or for people who wanted a simple, low-cost laptop as a second computer. And after gaining some traction in the market with those inexpensive laptops, hardware makers followed the lead Google set with its wildly expensive but well-built Chromebook Pixel and started making higher-end Chromebooks of their own.

Now, eight years after these first consumer-ready Chrome OS devices were announced, 21 percent of all laptops sold in the US in Q4 2018 were Chromebooks. Google has also made undeniable progress in education, with one research firm estimating that Chromebooks made up 60 percent of K-12 laptop purchases in 2018. And that strength is based largely around what made Chromebooks attractive in 2011, even when they were still very much a work in progress. There’s something to be said for simplicity and speed.

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