Opinion: The significance of lying in state

Why do we do this?
The most basic explanation is that we are meaning-making creatures. Life seems random, a pointless series of events that, at some arbitrary point in time, just stop. Death closes its big door.
Jay Parini

But this is profoundly unsatisfying. And untrue, in the sense that we can and do create meaning, often turning to divine as well as secular rituals for assistance. (It’s not for nothing that couples who wish to sanctify their feelings toward each other turn to marriage, a sacred rite of the church, now widely secularized but still relevant.)
Burials have long been viewed as necessary rituals in many societies, an essential aspect of human survival. In The New York Times, there is a report on recently discovered burial sites in Kenya. “Roughly 5,300 years ago,” writes Karen Weintraub, “a group of ancient sheep herders in East Africa began an extraordinary effort to care for their dead.”
The value of ritual preparation of the corpse, preparation of the corpse and proper internment, can be seen in Homer’s Iliad, where the omission of burial rites was regarded as nothing less than a sacrilege. Indeed, Priam begs Achilles for the return of his son’s dead body in Book XXIV, as the return of the body for proper burial means everything to him and to the people of Troy as well.
What it tells us that John McCain drank vodka with Hillary Clinton

What it tells us that John McCain drank vodka with Hillary Clinton

Even within the animal kingdom, there is an instinct to return to the body of the recently deceased. In a wonderfully strange video from a couple of years ago, we can actually watch elephants returning to mourn a deceased elephant as they attempt to cope with the death of a family leader.
“Elephants have respect for their dead,” says George Wittemyer, who studies animal behavior, “but their interaction with their dead is not something we fully understand.” Much the same could be said of the human species. There is so much we do not understand.
For the most part, human beings avoid thinking about death, although mortality is constantly on our minds, if only subconsciously. We know we’re finite. And when a member of our species dies, we need rituals to process the meaning of this powerful experience of loss. Religion has for centuries functioned, in part, to help us process these feelings, allowing us to make meaning from the apparent senselessness of death.
As two of our great leaders — a legend in music and a war hero — lie in state, we approach their caskets, full of respect, with complex feelings and memories, wondering what their life trajectories meant and how their lives intersected with our own, as with our society at large. Of course, we sense our natural revulsion in the presence of dead things. But we then, however briefly, confront our mortality as well, bowing our heads before the great mystery we all face.

Trump orders US to strip $200 million in aid from Palestinians

“At the direction of the President, we will redirect more than $200 million in FY2017 Economic Support Funds originally planned for programs in the West Bank and Gaza. Those funds will now address high-priority projects elsewhere,” according to the official.
Ceasefire reported after more than 24 hours of hostilities between Israel and Hamas

The US gives support to help the Palestinian Authority provide law enforcement and maintain the rule of law — including funds for “programs implemented by the Middle East Partnership Initiative as well as educational and cultural programing through the US Consulate General in Jerusalem,” according to the consulate’s website.
“While funding levels change from year to year, the US Government will remain active in each of these fields,” the website says.
The decision announced Friday comes after Trump ordered a review of “US assistance to the Palestinian Authority and in the West Bank and Gaza to ensure these funds are spent in accordance with US national interests and provide value to the US taxpayer,” the senior State Department official said.
PLO Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi condemned the decision.
“The US administration is demonstrating the use of cheap blackmail as a political tool. The Palestinian people and leadership will not be intimidated and will not succumb to coercion. The rights of the Palestinian people are not for sale,” she said in a statement to CNN.
“There is no glory in constantly bullying and punishing a people under occupation. The US administration has already demonstrated meanness of spirit in its collusion with the Israeli occupation and its theft of land and resources; now it is exercising economic meanness by punishing the Palestinian victims of this occupation,” Ashrawi added.
While in Jerusalem on Wednesday, US national security adviser John Bolton was asked about the timing of the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan promised by the US administration, Bolton said only that it was still being formulated and no decisions have been made about its release.
Bolton vows to exert pressure on Iran but says regime change 'not American policy'

Bolton vows to exert pressure on Iran but says regime change 'not American policy'

The US opened its new embassy in Jerusalem in May, moving it from Tel Aviv despite international criticism and fierce objections from the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority froze relations with the Trump administration last December when the embassy move was first announced, and said it no longer accepted the US playing the role of mediator in any peace process with Israel.
Bolton also took a swipe at the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday, suggesting there was little to choose between it and the militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza. Responding to reports of a potential Gaza ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, Bolton said, “if Hamas cared more about the people of the Gaza Strip than their political priorities, we wouldn’t have a lot of these (humanitarian) troubles. I think it’s a sad outcome for the Palestinian people that all they’ve got now is a choice between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.”
Recent reports have been indicating the Trump administration has made addressing the situation in Gaza a particular focus of its peace efforts. Friday’s decision to cut funding “takes into account the challenges the international community faces in providing assistance in Gaza, where Hamas control endangers the lives of Gaza’s citizens and degrades an already dire humanitarian and economic situation,” the senior State Department official said.

LA's bizarre new supermarket

This article was originally published by The Spaces, a digital publication exploring new ways to live and work.

Smiling strawberries and furry cans of spam line the shelves of Lucy Sparrow’s felt supermarket in Downtown Los Angeles.

The British artist — who created a felt sex shop in London’s Soho in 2015 — has stocked the “Sparrow Mart” at The Standard hotel with 31,000 products, all hand-sewn by her team of five, and hand-painted by Sparrow herself.
Artist Lucy Sparrow.

Artist Lucy Sparrow. Credit: Courtesy The Standard

“As a child, I was obsessed with the exotic, turbocharged technicolor glow emanating from across the Atlantic,” says Sparrow. “The source of this neon rainbow was Los Angeles — a seemingly mythical place to a child growing up in gray, post-recession Britain — and one that has hugely influenced my artistic practice.”

It took exactly a year to make the items in the 2,800-square-foot space, all of which are available to buy. Prices start at $5 for bubble gum.

“Sparrow Mart” follows “8 Till Late,” the artist’s cuddly take on a NYC bodega in 2017, stocked with 9,000 felt goods, including cigarettes and feminine hygiene products. People queued around the block in New York’s Meatpacking District to get their hands on her furry creations, forcing the bodega — located at The Standard, High Line — to close nine days early.

We suggest eager shoppers head down early to the “Sparrow Mart” on 550 S Flower Street — currently scheduled to close on Aug. 31.

7 things you should know about Aretha Franklin

‘);$vidEndSlate.removeClass(‘video__end-slate–inactive’).addClass(‘video__end-slate–active’);}};CNN.autoPlayVideoExist = (CNN.autoPlayVideoExist === true) ? true : false;var configObj = {thumb: ‘none’,video: ‘cnnmoney/2018/08/15/seven-of-aretha-franklin-greatest-moments-orig-mc.cnn’,width: ‘100%’,height: ‘100%’,section: ‘domestic’,profile: ‘expansion’,network: ‘cnn’,markupId: ‘large-media_0’,adsection: ‘const-video-leaf’,frameWidth: ‘100%’,frameHeight: ‘100%’,posterImageOverride: {“mini”:{“width”:220,”type”:”jpg”,”uri”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180814235240-cnnmoney-aretha-franklin-small-169.jpg”,”height”:124},”xsmall”:{“width”:307,”type”:”jpg”,”uri”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180814235240-cnnmoney-aretha-franklin-medium-plus-169.jpg”,”height”:173},”small”:{“width”:460,”type”:”jpg”,”uri”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180814235240-cnnmoney-aretha-franklin-large-169.jpg”,”height”:259},”medium”:{“width”:780,”type”:”jpg”,”uri”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180814235240-cnnmoney-aretha-franklin-exlarge-169.jpg”,”height”:438},”large”:{“width”:1100,”type”:”jpg”,”uri”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180814235240-cnnmoney-aretha-franklin-super-169.jpg”,”height”:619},”full16x9″:{“width”:1600,”type”:”jpg”,”uri”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180814235240-cnnmoney-aretha-franklin-full-169.jpg”,”height”:900},”mini1x1″:{“width”:120,”type”:”jpg”,”uri”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180814235240-cnnmoney-aretha-franklin-small-11.jpg”,”height”:120}}},autoStartVideo = false,isVideoReplayClicked = false,callbackObj,containerEl,currentVideoCollection = [{“descriptionPlainText”:”Musical icon Aretha Franklin is known for her powerhouse vocals, but here are a few other interesting facts about her personal life and career.”,”imageUrl”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180814235240-cnnmoney-aretha-franklin-large-169.jpg”,”title”:”7 things you should know about Aretha Franklin”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/cnnmoney/2018/08/15/seven-of-aretha-franklin-greatest-moments-orig-mc.cnn/index.xml”,”videoLeafUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/08/15/seven-of-aretha-franklin-greatest-moments-orig-mc.cnn”,”videoId”:”cnnmoney/2018/08/15/seven-of-aretha-franklin-greatest-moments-orig-mc.cnn”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/08/15/seven-of-aretha-franklin-greatest-moments-orig-mc.cnn/video/playlists/cnnmoney/”},{“descriptionPlainText”:”SpaceX will be the first private company to launch people into space. Crew Dragon will be heading to the International Space Station after being launched from Florida.”,”imageUrl”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180814181432-spacex-crew-dragon-large-169.jpg”,”title”:”First look inside SpaceX Crew Dragon”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/cnnmoney/2018/08/14/spacex-crew-dragon-heading-to-space-duplicate-2.cnn/index.xml”,”videoLeafUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/08/14/spacex-crew-dragon-heading-to-space-duplicate-2.cnn”,”videoId”:”cnnmoney/2018/08/14/spacex-crew-dragon-heading-to-space-duplicate-2.cnn”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/08/14/spacex-crew-dragon-heading-to-space-duplicate-2.cnn/video/playlists/cnnmoney/”},{“descriptionPlainText”:”In an exclusive interview, Tinder co-founder Sean Rad tells CNN’s Laurie Segall why he and nine others are suing parent company Match Group and its owner IAC for allegedly manipulating Tinder’s valuation and denying some employees billions of dollars.”,”imageUrl”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180813175913-tinder-lawsuit-large-169.jpg”,”title”:”Tinder co-founders and early employees sue dating app’s owners for billions”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/cnnmoney/2018/08/14/tinder-lawsuit-orig.cnn/index.xml”,”videoLeafUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/08/14/tinder-lawsuit-orig.cnn”,”videoId”:”cnnmoney/2018/08/14/tinder-lawsuit-orig.cnn”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/08/14/tinder-lawsuit-orig.cnn/video/playlists/cnnmoney/”},{“descriptionPlainText”:”CNN’s Christine Romans says Facebook’s stock dive is partly due to a strategy shift where the social media giant has had to put privacy over profits.”,”imageUrl”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180726164824-facebook-logo-ipad-iphone-large-169.jpg”,”title”:”Why Facebook’s stock is plummeting”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/cnnmoney/2018/07/26/facebook-stock-plunges-stock-market-open-romans-sot-vpx-nr.cnn/index.xml”,”videoLeafUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/07/26/facebook-stock-plunges-stock-market-open-romans-sot-vpx-nr.cnn”,”videoId”:”cnnmoney/2018/07/26/facebook-stock-plunges-stock-market-open-romans-sot-vpx-nr.cnn”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/07/26/facebook-stock-plunges-stock-market-open-romans-sot-vpx-nr.cnn/video/playlists/cnnmoney/”},{“descriptionPlainText”:”IHOP is IHOB no longer, but did the name change actually help the company sell burgers? IHOP President Darren Rebelez talks to CNNMoney’s Paul R. La Monica about why the restaurant chain sees the controversial PR stunt as a success.”,”imageUrl”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180718155728-ihop-pancakes-large-169.jpg”,”title”:”IHOP President: IHOB gimmick was a success”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/cnnmoney/2018/07/18/ihop-president-ihob-burgers-pancakes-darren-rebelez-cnnmoney-orig.cnnmoney/index.xml”,”videoLeafUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/07/18/ihop-president-ihob-burgers-pancakes-darren-rebelez-cnnmoney-orig.cnnmoney”,”videoId”:”cnnmoney/2018/07/18/ihop-president-ihob-burgers-pancakes-darren-rebelez-cnnmoney-orig.cnnmoney”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/07/18/ihop-president-ihob-burgers-pancakes-darren-rebelez-cnnmoney-orig.cnnmoney/video/playlists/cnnmoney/”},{“descriptionPlainText”:”The last two Blockbuster stores in Alaska are closing their doors for good, leaving only one store left in the United States.”,”imageUrl”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180713123301-blockbuster-bend-oregon-large-169.jpg”,”title”:”Blockbuster has only 1 store left standing”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/cnnmoney/2018/07/13/alaska-blockbuster-stores-closing-orig.cnn/index.xml”,”videoLeafUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/07/13/alaska-blockbuster-stores-closing-orig.cnn”,”videoId”:”cnnmoney/2018/07/13/alaska-blockbuster-stores-closing-orig.cnn”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/07/13/alaska-blockbuster-stores-closing-orig.cnn/video/playlists/cnnmoney/”},{“descriptionPlainText”:”Starbucks and Nestlé customers embraced the brands’ moves to environmentally-friendly packaging. Brands like SunChips were not so lucky.”,”imageUrl”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180713182058-green-packaging-problems-large-169.jpg”,”title”:”What happens when brands try to go green”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/cnnmoney/2018/07/13/when-brands-go-green-orig.cnnmoney/index.xml”,”videoLeafUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/07/13/when-brands-go-green-orig.cnnmoney”,”videoId”:”cnnmoney/2018/07/13/when-brands-go-green-orig.cnnmoney”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/07/13/when-brands-go-green-orig.cnnmoney/video/playlists/cnnmoney/”},{“descriptionPlainText”:”Jeff Bezos’ net worth has grown exponentially in the past few years and is now over $150 billion. That’s well past some of the world’s other richest men like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffett.”,”imageUrl”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/170727141609-jeff-bezos-worlds-wealthiest-man-large-169.jpg”,”title”:”Jeff Bezos: World’s wealthiest man”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/cnnmoney/2017/07/27/jeff-bezos-worlds-wealthiest-man-cnn-tech.cnn/index.xml”,”videoLeafUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2017/07/27/jeff-bezos-worlds-wealthiest-man-cnn-tech.cnn”,”videoId”:”cnnmoney/2017/07/27/jeff-bezos-worlds-wealthiest-man-cnn-tech.cnn”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2017/07/27/jeff-bezos-worlds-wealthiest-man-cnn-tech.cnn/video/playlists/cnnmoney/”},{“descriptionPlainText”:”Go inside the KitKat factory in Japan to see how the candy is made, including unconventional flavors like cheesecake and wasabi.”,”imageUrl”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180623004012-how-kitkats-are-made-00005103-large-169.jpg”,”title”:”Here’s how KitKats are made”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/cnnmoney/2018/06/21/how-kitkats-are-made.cnnmoney/index.xml”,”videoLeafUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/06/21/how-kitkats-are-made.cnnmoney”,”videoId”:”cnnmoney/2018/06/21/how-kitkats-are-made.cnnmoney”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/06/21/how-kitkats-are-made.cnnmoney/video/playlists/cnnmoney/”},{“descriptionPlainText”:”After a series of health scares in recent years, Chipotle is testing new menu items to lure back customers.”,”imageUrl”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180622103112-chipotle-new-menu-items-large-169.jpg”,”title”:”Here’s how Chipotle is making a comeback”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/cnnmoney/2018/06/22/chipotle-comeback-new-menu-quesadilla-milkshake-tostada-orig-cnnmoney.cnnmoney/index.xml”,”videoLeafUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/06/22/chipotle-comeback-new-menu-quesadilla-milkshake-tostada-orig-cnnmoney.cnnmoney”,”videoId”:”cnnmoney/2018/06/22/chipotle-comeback-new-menu-quesadilla-milkshake-tostada-orig-cnnmoney.cnnmoney”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/06/22/chipotle-comeback-new-menu-quesadilla-milkshake-tostada-orig-cnnmoney.cnnmoney/video/playlists/cnnmoney/”},{“descriptionPlainText”:”Orlando International Airport has committed to being the first airport in the U.S. to process its international passengers using facial recognition technology.”,”imageUrl”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180622101424-facial-recognition-airports-large-169.jpg”,”title”:”This airport commits to facial recognition tech”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/cnnmoney/2018/06/22/orlando-airport-facial-recognition-orig-js.cnn/index.xml”,”videoLeafUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/06/22/orlando-airport-facial-recognition-orig-js.cnn”,”videoId”:”cnnmoney/2018/06/22/orlando-airport-facial-recognition-orig-js.cnn”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/06/22/orlando-airport-facial-recognition-orig-js.cnn/video/playlists/cnnmoney/”},{“descriptionPlainText”:”Pop star Demi Lovato opened up about her relapse in a new single “Sober.” Her song comes just weeks after she celebrated six years of sobriety.”,”imageUrl”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180621105828-demi-lovato-large-169.jpg”,”title”:”Pop star opens up about relapse in new song”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/cnnmoney/2018/06/22/demi-lovato-opens-up-relapse-new-song-sober.hln/index.xml”,”videoLeafUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/06/22/demi-lovato-opens-up-relapse-new-song-sober.hln”,”videoId”:”cnnmoney/2018/06/22/demi-lovato-opens-up-relapse-new-song-sober.hln”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/06/22/demi-lovato-opens-up-relapse-new-song-sober.hln/video/playlists/cnnmoney/”},{“descriptionPlainText”:”The all-new Chevrolet Blazer will go on sale in 2019, but those with nostalgia for the classic model may be disappointed.”,”imageUrl”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180621191033-cnnmoney-chevrolet-blazer-large-169.jpg”,”title”:”See the all-new Chevy Blazer”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/cnnmoney/2018/06/22/chevy-blazer-return-orig-llr.cnn/index.xml”,”videoLeafUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/06/22/chevy-blazer-return-orig-llr.cnn”,”videoId”:”cnnmoney/2018/06/22/chevy-blazer-return-orig-llr.cnn”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/06/22/chevy-blazer-return-orig-llr.cnn/video/playlists/cnnmoney/”},{“descriptionPlainText”:”Gen Z, or those born after 1995, is changing the retail landscape and eschewing traditional marketing in favor of social media influencers, who are getting younger and younger. CNN’s Clare Sebastian reports.”,”imageUrl”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180817180650-gen-z-retail-influencers-sebastian-vpx-00000000-large-169.jpg”,”title”:”How retailers are targeting Gen Z “,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/cnnmoney/2018/08/17/gen-z-retail-influencers-sebastian-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoLeafUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/08/17/gen-z-retail-influencers-sebastian-vpx.cnn”,”videoId”:”cnnmoney/2018/08/17/gen-z-retail-influencers-sebastian-vpx.cnn”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/08/17/gen-z-retail-influencers-sebastian-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/cnnmoney/”},{“descriptionPlainText”:”CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod talks with Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, about President Donald Trump’s frequent attacks on the press.”,”imageUrl”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/180819165156-trump-attack-on-journalist-baquet-intv-axe-files-vpx-00000502-large-169.jpg”,”title”:”NYT editor on how Trump is harming the press”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/cnnmoney/2018/08/17/trump-attack-on-journalist-baquet-intv-axe-files-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoLeafUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/08/17/trump-attack-on-journalist-baquet-intv-axe-files-vpx.cnn”,”videoId”:”cnnmoney/2018/08/17/trump-attack-on-journalist-baquet-intv-axe-files-vpx.cnn”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/cnnmoney/2018/08/17/trump-attack-on-journalist-baquet-intv-axe-files-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/cnnmoney/”}],currentVideoCollectionId = ”,isLivePlayer = false,mediaMetadataCallbacks,mobilePinnedView = null,moveToNextTimeout,mutePlayerEnabled = false,nextVideoId = ”,nextVideoUrl = ”,turnOnFlashMessaging = false,videoPinner,videoEndSlateImpl;if (CNN.autoPlayVideoExist === false) {autoStartVideo = true;if (autoStartVideo === true) {if (turnOnFlashMessaging === true) {autoStartVideo = false;containerEl = jQuery(document.getElementById(configObj.markupId));CNN.VideoPlayer.showFlashSlate(containerEl);} else {CNN.autoPlayVideoExist = true;}}}configObj.autostart = CNN.Features.enableAutoplayBlock ? false : autoStartVideo;CNN.VideoPlayer.setPlayerProperties(configObj.markupId, autoStartVideo, isLivePlayer, isVideoReplayClicked, mutePlayerEnabled);CNN.VideoPlayer.setFirstVideoInCollection(currentVideoCollection, configObj.markupId);var embedLinkHandler = {},videoPinner,embedCodeCopy;function onVideoCarouselItemClicked(evt) {‘use strict’;var videoId,articleElem,videoPlayer,thumbImageElem,thumbImageLargeSource,overrides = {autostart: false,muteOverlayClicked: true,videoCollection: this.videoCollection},shouldStartVideo = false,playerInstance;try {articleElem = jQuery(evt.currentTarget).find(‘article’);thumbImageElem = jQuery(articleElem).find(‘.media__image’);videoId = articleElem.data().videoId;if (CNN.VideoPlayer.getLibraryName(configObj.markupId) === ‘fave’) {playerInstance = FAVE.player.getInstance(configObj.markupId);if (CNN.Utils.existsObject(playerInstance) &&typeof playerInstance.getVideoData === ‘function’ &&playerInstance.getVideoData().id !== videoId) {jQuery(articleElem).closest(‘.cn-carousel-medium-strip’).parent().find(‘script[name=”metaScript”]’).remove();playerInstance.play(videoId, overrides);}} else {videoPlayer = CNNVIDEOAPI.CNNVideoManager.getInstance().getPlayerByContainer(configObj.markupId);if (videoPlayer && videoPlayer.videoInstance) {if (!videoPlayer.videoInstance.cvp) {if (typeof thumbImageElem !== ‘undefined’ && thumbImageElem !== null) {thumbImageLargeSource = thumbImageElem.data() && thumbImageElem.data().srcLarge ? thumbImageElem.data().srcLarge : ‘none’;}overrides.thumb = thumbImageLargeSource ? thumbImageLargeSource : ‘none’;shouldStartVideo = true;}if (videoPlayer.videoInstance.config) {if (videoPlayer.videoInstance.config.video !== videoId) {jQuery(articleElem).closest(‘.cn-carousel-medium-strip’).parent().find(‘script[name=”metaScript”]’).remove();CNNVIDEOAPI.CNNVideoManager.getInstance().playVideo(configObj.markupId, videoId, overrides);}}}}} catch (error) {console.log(“error in initializing video player” + error);}}function setInitialVideoEmbed() {}function initialize(){var carousel = jQuery(document.getElementById(‘cn-current_video_collection’)).find(‘.js-owl-carousel’),owl;if (carousel) {carousel.find(‘.cn__column.carousel__content__item’).find(‘a’).removeAttr(‘href’);jQuery(carousel).on(‘click’, ‘.cn__column.carousel__content__item’, onVideoCarouselItemClicked);}}if (CNN.VideoPlayer.getLibraryName(configObj.markupId) === ‘videoLoader’) {window.CNNVideoAPILoadCompleteHandlers = window.CNNVideoAPILoadCompleteHandlers ? window.CNNVideoAPILoadCompleteHandlers : [];window.CNNVideoAPILoadCompleteHandlers.push(initialize);window.CNNVideoAPILoadCompleteHandlers.push(setInitialVideoEmbed);} else {initialize();}CNN.INJECTOR.executeFeature(‘videx’).done(function () {var initMeta = {id:”cnnmoney/2018/08/15/seven-of-aretha-franklin-greatest-moments-orig-mc.cnn”, isEmbeddable: “yes”};CNN.Videx.EmbedButton.updateCode(initMeta);}).fail(function () {throw ‘Unable to fetch the videx bundle.’;});function updateCurrentlyPlaying(videoId) {var videoCollectionId = ‘current_video_collection’,videocardContents = getCurrentVideoCardContents(videoId),carousel = jQuery(document.getElementById(‘cn-current_video_collection’)).find(‘.js-owl-carousel’),domain = CNN.Host.domain || (document.location.protocol + ‘//’ + document.location.hostname),owl,$owlFirstItem,$owlPrevItem,showDetailsSpanContent = ”,gigyaShareElement,showIndex,whatsappShareElement,$carouselContentItems = jQuery(‘.carousel__content__item’, document.getElementById(‘cn-current_video_collection’));gigyaShareElement = jQuery(‘div.js-gigya-sharebar’);if (typeof gigyaShareElement !== ‘undefined’ && CNN.Utils.existsObject(videocardContents)) {jQuery(gigyaShareElement).attr(‘data-title’, videocardContents.headlinePlainText || ”);jQuery(gigyaShareElement).attr(‘data-description’, videocardContents.descriptionPlainText || ”);jQuery(gigyaShareElement).attr(‘data-link’, domain + videocardContents.url || ”);jQuery(gigyaShareElement).attr(‘data-image-src’, (videocardContents.media && videocardContents.media.elementContents && videocardContents.media.elementContents.imageUrl) || ”);}whatsappShareElement = jQuery(‘div.share-bar-whatsapp-container’);if (typeof whatsappShareElement !== ‘undefined’) {jQuery(whatsappShareElement).attr(‘data-title’, videocardContents.headlinePlainText || ”);jQuery(whatsappShareElement).attr(‘data-storyurl’, domain + videocardContents.url || ”);}if (carousel && currentVideoCollectionContainsId(videoId)) {owl = carousel.data(‘owl.carousel’) || {};showIndex = getCurrentVideoIndex(videoId);if (typeof owl.to === ‘function’) {owl.to(showIndex);}$owlPrevItem = CNN.Utils.exists(owl.$element) ? owl.$element.find(‘.cd.cd–active’) : $carouselContentItems.find(‘.cd.cd–active’);$owlPrevItem.removeClass(‘cd–active’);$owlPrevItem.find(‘.media__over-text’).remove();$owlPrevItem.find(‘.media__icon’).show();$owlFirstItem = CNN.Utils.exists(owl._items) ? jQuery(owl._items[showIndex]) : $carouselContentItems.eq(showIndex);$owlFirstItem.find(‘.cd’).addClass(‘cd–active’);$owlFirstItem.find(‘.media a:first-child’).append(‘

Now Playing

‘);if (Modernizr && !Modernizr.phone) {$owlFirstItem.find(‘.media__icon’).hide();}}CNN.Videx.Metadata.init({dateCreated: videocardContents.dateCreated,descriptionText: videocardContents.descriptionText,duration: videocardContents.duration,sourceLink: videocardContents.sourceLink,sourceName: videocardContents.sourceName,title: videocardContents.headlineText},{videoCollectionDivId: ‘cn-7hvzh2’,videoDescriptionDivId: ‘js-video_description-7hvzh2’,videoDurationDivId: ‘js-video_duration-7hvzh2’,videoTitleDivId: ‘js-leaf-video_headline-7hvzh2’,videoSourceDivId: ‘js-video_sourceName-7hvzh2’});if (CNN.Utils.exists(videocardContents.showName)) {if (CNN.Utils.exists(videocardContents.showUrl)) {showDetailsSpanContent = ‘‘ + videocardContents.showName + ‘ | ‘;} else {showDetailsSpanContent = videocardContents.showName + ‘ | ‘;}}fastdom.measure(function getShowInfo() {var $show = jQuery(‘.metadata__show’),$isShowDetailsSpanExists = $show.find(‘span’).hasClass(‘metadata–show__name’),$showName = jQuery(‘.metadata–show__name’);fastdom.mutate(function updateShowInfo() {if (!$isShowDetailsSpanExists) {$show.prepend(‘

New theory paints more sophisticated picture of ancient Easter Island

But a new study suggests a different scenario entirely, and the islanders could have a more complex history than previously believed.
Many aspects of the island, the statues and the Polynesian seafarers who arrived there 900 years ago have been studied over the years. But a study published Monday in the Journal of Pacific Archaeology uses multiple data sets from recent excavations to provide a better understanding of the society that created the statues and how they were carved.
So the researchers used an unlikely method to study the society and discern what might have happened: a chemical analysis of stone tools used on the statues.
Easter Island: Make the most of its mysteries

What they learned from excavating four of the statues and the volcanic stone basalt tools used to carve them painted a different picture: a sophisticated and collaborative society.
“The idea of competition and collapse on Easter Island might be overstated,” said lead study author Dale Simpson Jr., an archaeologist at the University of Queensland, in a statement. “To me, the stone carving industry is solid evidence that there was cooperation among families and craft groups.”
Moai are spread across the landscape of Easter Island.

Moai are spread across the landscape of Easter Island.

A complex society

Easter Island is 2,300 miles off the coast of Chile. About 900 years ago, the founding population landed on the island, called Rapa Nui in the local language. These Polynesian seafarers came on two canoes and were led by Hotu Matu’a, who would become the island’s first chief, according to oral tradition.
Easter Island limits tourism in preservation efforts

Easter Island limits tourism in preservation efforts

The population soared to include thousands of people, and they carved full-body figures, called moai, to represent important Rapa Nui ancestors. There are nearly a thousand statues, many buried up to their heads due to the passage of time. The largest statue is over 70 feet tall.
Their sheer size and number is indicative of a complex, sophisticated society, according to the researchers.
“Ancient Rapa Nui had chiefs, priests, and guilds of workers who fished, farmed, and made the moai. There was a certain level of sociopolitical organization that was needed to carve almost a thousand statues,” Simpson said.
5 reasons to visit Easter Island

5 reasons to visit Easter Island

During the statue excavations, Jo Anne Van Tilburg, director of the Easter Island Statue Project, and her Rapa Nui excavation team recovered about 1,600 stone tools. They did a close chemical and mass spectrometer analysis of fragments from 17 of the tools, called toki.
“We wanted to figure out where the raw materials used to manufacture the artifacts came from,” said Laure Dussubieux, a study co-author and Field Museum scientist, in a statement. “We wanted to know if people were taking material from close to where they lived.”
The location is key because there are three sources, or quarries, where the islanders could have gathered material for tools. The basalt quarries cover the size of two football fields. Basalt samples reveal their sources through their chemical elements, which link back to the geology of the site.
“The majority of the toki came from one quarry complex — once the people found the quarry they liked, they stayed with it,” Simpson said. “For everyone to be using one type of stone, I believe they had to collaborate. That’s why they were so successful — they were working together.”

Looking ahead

This contrasts with the idea that the residents ran out of resources and fought amongst themselves, the researchers said. But later on, it is believed that the arrival of colonists and the institution of slavery decimated the population.
“There’s so much mystery around Easter Island, because it’s so isolated, but on the island, people were, and still are, interacting in huge amounts,” Simpson said. “There are thousands of Rapa Nui people alive today — the society isn’t gone.”
Easter Island statues could fall due to climate change, U.N. says

Easter Island statues could fall due to climate change, U.N. says

But the researchers also urge caution and believe that this study is just the beginning, laying the groundwork for more research.
“The near exclusive use of one quarry to produce these seventeen tools supports a view of craft specialization based on information exchange, but we can’t know at this stage if the interaction was collaborative,” Van Tilburg said. “It may also have been coercive in some way. Human behavior is complex. This study encourages further mapping and stone sourcing, and our excavations continue to shed new light on moai carving.”

Why Beyoncé's Vogue cover matters

Beyoncé’s fourth cover of American Vogue was one for history. Not because she was the first black woman on the cover (Beverly Johnson, 1974), not because she was the first black woman to cover a September issue (Naomi Campbell, 1989), and not because she had racked up the most Vogue covers as a black woman (Shari Belafonte and Rihanna both have five). Instead, for the first time in history, the cover of American Vogue was shot by a black photographer: Tyler Mitchell.
Vogue cover featuring Naomi Campbell (1989)

Vogue cover featuring Naomi Campbell (1989)

“When I first started, 21 years ago, I was told that it was hard for me to get onto covers of magazines because black people did not sell,” Beyoncé wrote in her extended captions that went along with the imagery. “Clearly that has been proven a myth. Not only is an African American on the cover of the most important month for Vogue, this is the first ever Vogue cover shot by an African American photographer.”

In 126 years of Vogue, the magazine has had various permutations. It started as a weekly, transitioned to a bi-weekly and then finally in 1973 went monthly. Representatives from Condé Nast point to a 1932 cover by Edward Steichen of a woman in a bathing suit as the start of cover photography from the publication, but 1959 brought the first year of all photographic covers, beginning to usher in an era of Vogue as we know it today.

These landmark dates bring context to numbers like 126 years and 1,512 issues of Vogue that are bandied about social media — in fact there have been over 2,800 covers. But even with those clarifications, the lack of black photographers still is a glaring omission.

Vogue cover by Edward Steichen (1932)

Vogue cover by Edward Steichen (1932)

“Fashion editors in general tend to have a handful of their favorite, reliable photographers whose work, for whatever reason, seems to move or sell copies,” Valerie Steele the director and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology told CNN in a phone interview this week.

“And with the cover it’s quite a special issue because they want someone who is going to sell copies of a magazine. They are not going to use anyone who is remotely edgy or different, they want someone who is reliable and is going to look similar to other things.” The commercial viability is increasingly important with the September issue, which has been positioned as the most important issue of the year, as explained in a 2009 documentary. As Steele noted, it is known for having the most advertisements of the year.

The majority of high fashion’s most coveted photography is all shot by a small group of photographers. Since beginning to do photographed covers, Vogue estimates that they’ve given the honor to about 60 people, many of whom were reused.

Vogue cover featuring Cindy Crawford, shot by Richard Avedon (1986)

Vogue cover featuring Cindy Crawford, shot by Richard Avedon (1986)

The late Richard Avedon shot over 140 covers, beginning sporadically in the 1960 and 70s before leading to an almost exclusive period, shooting all but one cover from June 1980 to October 1988. Other names also reappear: Steven Meisel, Patrick Demarchelier, Irving Penn, and Mario Testino amongst them. These names, in kind, also routinely book some of the biggest high fashion ad campaigns.

Vogue cover featuring Nicole Kidman, shot by Irving Penn (2004)

Vogue cover featuring Nicole Kidman, shot by Irving Penn (2004)

“I think about how in general most of these photographers are men,” Antwaun Sargent, an art and culture critic said via phone. “And how Annie Leibovitz had to be the only one in some ways. This conversation isn’t just about race, but it extends to gender and things like age. There’s a difference in the ways that men and women shoot the body.”

In records reviewed and information provided by Condé Nast, there are only a handful of female photographers in Vogue’s cover history. Annie Leibovitz appears as the only woman to have shot a cover of Vogue solo since Karen Radkai and Frances McLaughlin-Gill in 1950s and Toni Frissell, who preceded them both in the 1930s and 40s. Inez van Lamsweerde has also shot three covers with her partner Vinoodh Matadin since 2017.

Vogue cover featuring Marion Jones, shot by Annie Leibovitz (2001)

Vogue cover featuring Marion Jones, shot by Annie Leibovitz (2001)

To arrive at this point, Vogue (and the high fashion industry at large) has ignored generations of photographers, including some of the black photographers who have informed Mitchell’s own work.

“The way that [Tyler] thinks about lighting black skin, his interrogation of blackness in general is something that many generations of photographers have looked at,” Sargent said, referring to a variety of Mitchell’s statements, chief amongst them, one that says he shoots with an “honest gaze.”

A costumed showgirl sits on a swing above the audience during a performance at the Latin Quarter nightclub, New York, New York, 1958.

A costumed showgirl sits on a swing above the audience during a performance at the Latin Quarter nightclub, New York, New York, 1958. Credit: Gordon Parks/The LIFE Picture Collection/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

While a few names like Gordon Parks — Parks was the first black photographer to shoot for Vogue in the 40s — and Lorna Simpson have shot for Vogue in-book there’s plenty more that have not. Photographers like Carrie Mae Weems, Awol Erizku, Mickalene Thomas, Micaiah Carter and Shaniqwa Jarvis, all from a variety of generations, and all black, all with a reputation for shooting commercially, have largely been left out of American Vogue. Jarvis has shot for Supreme, Nike and Adidas — while those brands are not high fashion, they speak to commercial viability. In fact, this summer discussion arose that a shoot Juergen Teller did for an international issue of Vogue mimicked Thomas’s trademark aesthetic. Why was Thomas not just hired?

A young highschool student photographed by Gordon Parks

A young highschool student photographed by Gordon Parks Credit: Gordon Parks

On Instagram, Naomi Campbell spoke to the scarcity of black photographers in high fashion. When stylist Ugo Mozie posted, criticizing Vogue for taking so long to cast a black photographer for the cover, the iconic supermodel commented “You’re correct, it’s a disgrace!! In my 32 years, I only got to work with one fashion photographer, this is why I will continue to push for diversity in my industry.” While her agents declined to specify whether Campbell was saying she had only worked with one black fashion photographer at Vogue –she’s had seven covers –or in the industry overall, with a career as prolific as hers, the stat is damning. While her agents declined to specify whether Campbell was saying she had only worked with one black fashion photographer at Vogue — she’s had seven covers — or in the industry overall, with a career as prolific as hers, the stat is damning.

But why is this change coming now?

Before the cover was revealed Huffington Post ran a report that Vogue had ceded control of the cover to Beyoncé. According to the publication, Beyoncé had brought Mitchell to Vogue and as such single handedly initiated this change in history.
Beyoncé by photographer Tyler Mitchell for Vogue

Beyoncé by photographer Tyler Mitchell for Vogue Credit: Tyler Mitchell

“Until there is a mosaic of perspectives coming from different ethnicities behind the lense, we will continue to have a narrow approach and view of what the world actually looks like. That is why I wanted to work with this brilliant 23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell,” she wrote in her cover story. “If people in powerful positions continue to hire and cast only people who look like them, sound like them, come from the same neighborhoods they grew up in, they will never have a greater understanding of experiences different from their own. They will hire the same models, curate the same art, cast the same actors over and over again, and we will all lose.”

Vogue’s recounting paints a different tale. They suggested Mitchell’s name to Beyoncé amongst a list of other photographers, and understanding the historical significance, Beyoncé selected the young creative. Mitchell has even supported this version on his Twitter account, in a now deleted tweet. Regardless of which actually happened, the new move extends fashion’s long running conversation about representation, finally behind the lens.
For decades, Vogue had no real reason to venture out of the creatives they had been using. Stylists and editors continued to use their go-to photographers. But in the past few years with America’s disinterest with print magazines, a slate of sexual assault accusations that caused Condé Nast to distance itself from various photographers and changing conversations in fashion about identity, changes were iminent.
Beyoncé by photographer Tyler Mitchell for Vogue

Beyoncé by photographer Tyler Mitchell for Vogue Credit: Tyler Mitchell

“[My black photography students] have all been saying, we don’t really see ourselves out there, in the industry, in photography.” Kimberly Jenkins, a lecturer at Parsons said via phone. “One of them in particular was saying she wanted to be a photographer because it wasn’t only that she didn’t see black photographers in fashion but she didn’t see any black women photographers.”

That mentality is the latest maturation of a conversation that’s been occuring in fashion for over a decade, arguably starting with a call for more diverse castings of models on runways and in ad campaigns. Those calls were soon met with calls for more black designers and stylists and even the hair and makeup teams. But the role of photographer rarely crept into the dialogue.

“It’s such a powerful position; you know we’re definitely doing the styling now, and we’re definitely doing the hair and makeup but to let a person of color, especially a black person, take control of the lens and control the gaze for a major publication? That’s a huge responsibility,” Jenkins said. “You’re guiding [the public] in how we’re going to look at something.”

And now, even that shall be through a “mosaic of perspectives.”

Samsung joins the crowded smart speaker market

Samsung finally unveiled a smart speaker.

It’s called the Galaxy Home, and the South Korean tech giant offered the briefest glimpse of it Thursday while launching the Galaxy Note 9 smartphone. It looks a bit like an outdoor grill. Or a cauldron.

The Galaxy Home joins a crowded market of voice-activated speakers from the likes of Amazon (AMZN), Google (GOOG) and Apple (AAPL). Amazon pioneered the category with its first Echo device in 2014, so Samsung is definitely playing catch up.

Related: Samsung Galaxy Note 9 will bring a longer battery life — and Fortnite

Samsung didn’t say much about the device beyond touting a “Sound Steer” tool that optimizes sound based on where you are in the room. As with competing smart speakers, users wake the speaker and request a song with a simple trigger phrase, in this case, “Hey Bixby.” With its rounded sides, flat top and three skinny silver legs, it drew some jokes on social media, where people said it looks like something Harry Potter might use or Weber might sell.

No one at Samsung would say what the Galaxy Home might cost, when it might be available, or even what it will do for you.

Answers to those questions will provide some indication of just how big a challenge Samsung faces catching up to Amazon and Google, which rule the roost.

“It’s very late to the smart speaker market. Even later than Apple was,” said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research analyst at market intelligence firm IDC. Apple released the HomePod earlier this year.

Justin Denison, SVP and general manager of Samsung Electronics America, told CNNMoney smart speakers are a “natural fit” for the company, given its investments in connected cars, premium audio, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.

While Denison wouldn’t discuss the company’s strategy with the Galaxy Home, he did say it will provide exceptional sound. “We believe people want a premium audio experience and they want that to be intelligent as well,” he added.

That explains why the Galaxy Home supports Spotify. And the company clearly hopes to draw buyers away from Apple, which has made premium sound a selling point of its smart speaker.

galaxy home 2
Samsung’s new Galaxy Home smart speaker.

Related: Amazon’s Alexa is the biggest challenge for brands since the internet

But analysts say Galaxy Home’s success hinges on Bixby getting better. Samsung’s voice assistant has notoriously lacked the capabilities of its more established rivals, Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant.

“Bixby has to bring Galaxy Home something really disruptive and cool that Alexa or Google Assistant doesn’t have,” said Werner Goertz, a research director at Gartner who covers personal devices. “It’s the use cases that will differentiate it.”

Samsung (SSNLF) showed off some of Bixby’s new abilities, such as being able to have a conversation with you, but that only highlighted how far behind it is.

“A lot of the features they showed off on Bixby today, Google Assistant and Alexa have been able to do for the past year, if not longer,” said IDC’s Ubrani.

Urbani also questions Samsung’s offering a premium product, given that the demand for such a thing is small. Many people are happy spending as little as $50 for a smart speaker from Amazon or Google.

That said, Samsung has a few things going for it. It’s one of the largest electronics companies in the world, it has a reputation for quality, and the Galaxy Home’s unique styling sets it apart, said Patrick Moorhead, president of Moor Insights and Strategy. And Bixby could still catch up.

“I’m keeping an open mind on Bixby,” he said.

Strange 'rogue planet' travels through space alone

The object, named SIMP J01365663+0933473, has 12.7 times the mass of the gas giant Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system. It also has a strong magnetic field that is more than 200 times stronger than Jupiter’s.
The temperature on its surface is more than 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit. Although this sounds hot, it’s quite cool compared with the sun’s surface temperature of about 9,932 degrees Fahrenheit.
So what exactly is this rogue object?
A study published this month in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series includes details from the detection.
Evidence detected of lake beneath the surface of Mars

This is the first radio-telescope detection and first measurement of the magnetic field of such an object beyond our solar system. Astronomers found it using the National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array radio astronomy observatory in New Mexico.
The surprising find is peculiar because it could be a planet or a brown dwarf.
Brown dwarfs are often considered too massive to be planets, but they aren’t quite massive enough to sustain the process of hydrogen nuclear fusion at their core, which powers stars. The first brown dwarf was discovered in 1995, although they were first theorized in the 1960s.
“This object is right at the boundary between a planet and a brown dwarf, or ‘failed star,’ and is giving us some surprises that can potentially help us understand magnetic processes on both stars and planets,” said Melodie Kao, study author and Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at Arizona State University, in a statement.
Did life once exist on the moon?

Did life once exist on the moon?

The difference between a gas giant and a brown dwarf has been the subject of debate among astronomers. However, they agree that a dividing line can be achieved when an object is around the size of 13 Jupiter masses.
When this object was discovered in 2016 along with four brown dwarfs, scientists believed that it was older and more massive. Last year, an independent team of scientists discovered that it was actually part of a young group of stars and less massive.
They were able to determine its mass and determine that the object could be a free-floating planet.
12 new moons discovered around Jupiter

12 new moons discovered around Jupiter

Kao heard those results when she was looking at the newest data from the radio astronomy observatory, which helped the researchers determine the strong magnetic field. That field is also helping produce the auroras, which gave off the radio signal they detected. The auroras are similar to those on Earth that happen when our magnetic field interacts with solar wind.
'Ghost particle' found in Antarctica provides astronomy breakthrough

'Ghost particle' found in Antarctica provides astronomy breakthrough

Brown dwarfs can produce strong auroras as well, but the cause behind them is unclear because they don’t have solar wind from nearby stars. One theory is that auroras happen when a planet or moon interacts with the brown dwarf’s magnetic field.
“[This presents] huge challenges to our understanding of the dynamo mechanism that produces the magnetic fields in brown dwarfs and exoplanets and helps drive the auroras we see,” said Gregg Hallinan, study co-author and assistant professor of astronomy at the California Institute of Astronomy, in a statement. “Detecting SIMP J01365663+0933473 with the VLA through its auroral radio emission also means that we may have a new way of detecting exoplanets, including the elusive rogue ones not orbiting a parent star.”
Kao added, “We think these mechanisms can work not only in brown dwarfs, but also in both gas giant and terrestrial planets.”

Looking to buy your first home? Good luck with that

What you should know before buying your first home

Home buyers are facing a tough shopping season this Spring, especially those doing it for the first time.

There’s just not enough housing available, and the shortage has caused home prices to rise. In the hottest markets, sellers are getting multiple offers well over asking prices.

“It will be tougher this year,” said David Berson, chief economist at Nationwide and a former chief economist for Fannie Mae. “There is going to be less choice and higher prices, and on top of that, mortgage rates have moved up.”

But it gets worse.

Not only do first-time buyers have a dearth of homes to choose from, starter-homes are more expensive, smaller, older and more in need of repairs than they were six years ago, according to a recent report from Trulia.

“Everything about buying a starter home has become less desirable,” said Cheryl Young, Trulia’s senior economist.

Where are all the ‘For Sale’ signs?

Existing home inventory fell to an all-time low at the end February, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Related: It’s getting more expensive to buy a home

Rising land, building and labor costs have made constructing starter homes tough for builders who can get higher returns on upper-tier homes.

People are also staying in their homes longer, adding to the lack of inventory.

“The price difference between starter and medium trade-up homes has gotten wider,” said Young. “People might not have a problem selling their home … but the idea of that price spread has kept people in their current homes.”

Many homeowners are still underwater, meaning they owe more on their mortgage than their home is currently worth, so it wouldn’t make sense to sell right now.

“For many current homeowners, if they bought a home in the last 10 years or have refinanced, they have a lower rate than any time they’ve seen in their lives and possibly ever will,” noted Berson.

Competition is fierce

When a home does hit the market, buyers need to act fast.

“It’s a full-time job to be a buyer,” said Kalena Masching, a real estate agent with Redfin in the San Francisco Bay Area. “They are out there every weekend and also going out right after work and during lunch breaks.”

The Bay Area is one of the hottest markets in the country. It’s common for homes to go into contract within days of hitting the market, with some not even making it to market before bids come rolling in.

Masching said the market has been “crazy” for the last few years.

She recently had a client win a bid after putting in five offers. His winning offer was $500,000 over asking price with no contingencies. He also presented a letter from his parents that detailed all their assets along with their willingness to help him out.

Related: It’s getting more expensive to buy a home

Wanna-be buyers have to get creative to stand out in hot markets. Real estate agent Dana Bull in Boston said she recently wrote an offer that allowed the current owners to stay in the home for free for two months after the sale.

Homes are getting even more expensive

Starter home prices have increased almost 10% compared with last year, while inventory levels fell 14% over the same time period, according to Trulia.

The longer buyers hunt for houses, the more likely they are to face higher costs as home prices and mortgage rates rise.

The rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 3.95% at the beginning of 2018 and climbed to 4.44% before the start of April. That means a buyer will pay $57 more a month now assuming a $250,000 price tag and 20% down payment.

The tax code changed some perks

Changes to the tax code passed at the end of 2017 could also affect some first-time buyers. The interest deduction is now capped at $750,000 of mortgage debt for new home purchases. It used to be $1 million.

Homeowners also have a new $10,000 cap on how much of their property taxes, combined with state and local taxes, they can deduct. These changes could be bad news for home shoppers in high-tax states.

The new code also nearly doubled the standard deduction, which makes home-related deductions less valuable for some filers.

But despite all the obstacles, the successful home buyers are one the ones that come prepared.

“The more prepared you are with your financing and the overall idea of what you are looking for, the better your home search is going to be. And it will be a lot quicker,” said Masching.

Are you currently looking to buy a house or recently become a homeowner? We want to hear from you. Tell us about your experience and you could be included in a future story

Robots and racetracks: 10 unusual cruise ship amenities

(CNN) — Cruise industry folks know that vacationers have literal boatloads of sailing options to choose from these days, inspiring the trend to outfit ships with the most whiz-bang attractions and amenities at sea.

Today you’ll find souped-up ships oozing outrageous features — such as amusement park-worthy diversions (racetracks with hairpin turns), high-tech innovations (robot bartenders) and Instagram-worthy settings (from ice bars to underwater lounges) — as the lines try to one-up each other to get you to travel with them.

Here are 10 unusual cruise ship amenities to ensure you’ll be anything but bored once you’re onboard.

Submarine on Crystal Cruises

This pressure- and temperature-controlled submersible, large enough for a pilot and two guests, can bring passengers down to depths of nearly 1,000 feet.

The sophisticated C-Explorer 3 vessel is outfitted with a see-through, 360-degree acrylic capsule for optimal observation. It is agile enough to allow viewing of whatever ocean treasures await below — from colorful coral reefs to shipwrecks — on the roughly 30-minute dives.

Robot bartenders on Royal Caribbean International

Let Royal Caribbean’s robotic bartenders shake things up on your next cruise. A duo of them literally shake and stir drinks up at the “mixology meets technology” Bionic Bar, found aboard several Royal Caribbean ships (including Harmony of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas and the line’s three Quantum-class ships).

Place your drink order via tablet. You can pick from specialty drinks or design customized cocktails with more than 30 spirits on tap. Then watch the show-stealing pair of robotic arms get to mixing before serving up your concoction.

The one caveat? There’s no program for them to listen to your problems — yet.

Racetrack on Norwegian Cruise Line

This is one way to get your vacation on track.

This is one way to get your vacation on track.

Courtesy Norwegian Cruise Line

Got a need for speed that your ship’s leisurely knots just can’t satisfy? Norwegian answers the call with the largest racetrack at sea aboard its new Norwegian Bliss.

The open-air, 1,000-foot-long track offers great views out over port and sea — that is if you manage to catch them while reaching speeds of up to 30 mph.

The winding, two-level track offers hairpin turns and the chance to leave your competition (of up to 10 drivers) in the dust — though note you won’t be able to actually rev your engines since the electric race cars run silently.

Call it recycling? The Silversea cruise ship company is spending over $100 million to make a very big cruise ship out of a smaller one they already own.​

Snow Grotto on Viking

Part of the LivNordic Spa’s thermal suite area aboard Viking’s four ocean-going sister ships, the “snow grotto” pays tribute to the line’s Nordic heritage and Scandinavian sensibility.

Designed to invigorate and stimulate the circulatory system of guests who don’t mind a chill, the small, snow-covered room pipes in cold air as snowflakes fall from the ceiling.

And if your preferred way of chilling out is to heat up, you can always get your fill at the adjacent steam room and sauna.

Underwater lounge on Ponant

Finally, a chance to find out what cocktails taste like underwater.

Finally, a chance to find out what cocktails taste like underwater.

Courtesy Compagnie du Ponant

Upscale French expedition line Ponant is rolling out an industry-first underwater lounge dubbed the Blue Eye aboard six of its new Explorer-class ships, debuting through 2020 (the first, Le Laperouse, launched in June 2018).

Designed by architect Jacques Rougerie — known for creating transporting underwater structures — the high-tech space is angling for a multisensory experience that will invite guests to a mod, vibrating lounge set below the ships’ water line.

There, two large glass portholes offer a window out onto the underwater world, further augmented by digital screens projecting live images from a trio of underwater cameras, as well as a sound system streaming in subaquatic hydrophone-captured sounds.

Bike ride in the sky on Carnival Cruise Line

Get ready for your very own E.T. moment aboard the SkyRide aerial attraction, found aboard Carnival’s newest ships, Carnival Vista and Carnival Horizon.

The innovative offering lets adventurers put their pedal power to an 800-foot-long suspended outdoor track that’s elevated atop the ship’s top deck, 150 feet above sea level.

The quartet of dangling recumbent-style bicycles can reach speeds of up to 18 miles an hour on twin tracks, but you may want to take it slower to enjoy the killer views.

Skydiving simulator on Royal Caribbean International

Want to try skydiving, but afraid of heights? This is a good compromise.

Want to try skydiving, but afraid of heights? This is a good compromise.

Roy Riley/Royal Caribbean International

Innovator Royal Caribbean — responsible for industry firsts such as rock climbing, ice skating, zip lines and surfing simulation — has also brought the first skydiving experience to sea with its RipCord by iFLY attraction, available on its Quantum-class ships.

Adrenaline-seekers can get a taste of simulated skydiving on an open-air deck — affording stunning sea views as they spread their “wings” and experience what it’s like to float on air in the 23-foot-high wind tunnel.

A brief training course, flight gear and hands-on instruction help ensure that levitating like a pro is a (strong) breeze.

Ice Bar on Norwegian Cruise Line

When they said it was a cool bar, they meant it.

When they said it was a cool bar, they meant it.

Courtesy Susan Seubert/Norwegian Cruise Line

The coolest bar on the high seas, Norwegian’s Skyy Vodka Ice Bar invites cruisers to bundle up and throw back a frosty drink aboard the Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Getaway and Norwegian Epic.

Temperature-controlled at a brisk 17 degrees Fahrenheit (- 8 C), the $20 admission gets guests 45 minutes to chill out at the frozen bar and take in the decorative ice sculptures; two specialty beverages (including Skyy vodka-based cocktails), served in carved-from-ice glassware; and, mercifully, the use of hooded parkas and gloves.

Planetarium on Cunard Line

How to see the stars from the sea.

How to see the stars from the sea.

Courtesy Cunard Line

Cunard Line’s refined Queen Mary 2 boasts the only full-sized planetarium at sea, which is housed in its Illuminations theater.

Passengers can partake in plenty of programming under the giant dome (it’s large enough to accommodate 150 reclining seats), such as narrated star shows, virtual reality rides and special presentations and lectures in partnership with the Royal Astronomical Society.

If you’re a true outer space enthusiasts, board during the ship’s “Transatlantic Space Week” voyage (embarking New York City on October 7, 2018) to share the planetarium — and the rest of the ship — with special guests that include a former NASA astronaut.

Glass-bottomed ‘SeaWalk’ on Princess Cruises

Walking on water is par for the course when you sail on one of three Princess ships (Regal Princess, Royal Princess and Majestic Princess) outfitted with the line’s signature overwater SeaWalk feature.

See the sea from a bird’s-eye perspective while strutting across the 60-foot-long, glass-bottomed walkway, which cantilevers the ships’ sides by 28 feet.

Those lacking a head for heights needn’t apply: SeaWalk overlooks the ocean waves 128 feet below, from a perch atop the ships’ 16th or 17th deck.

Freelancer Elissa Garay has traveled to and reported on nearly 60 countries and 30 cruises around the globe. Tag along on her travels by land and by sea as she reports back on captivating cruises, hot hotels and timely travel trends.