The DIY Rapper Shoots for the Big Time

IPhone? Check. Portable speaker? Check. Empty park? Check. Brittney Carter is ready. 

Reciting lyrics over and over in her head, the 28-year-old Chicago native takes her position on the park staircase as rehearsed. Today, her production crew of one is her boyfriend, serving as cameraman and audio technician.

After pulling up the song and positioning the camera, Carter gives a cue to record and proceeds to get lost in her artistry, delivering potent bars with every bit of her lyrical arsenal on display. 

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“Every step is calculated & accounted for..”

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If you’re an innocent bystander, you might think she’s working on a school project or is an aspiring model on a low-budget photo shoot. Either way, you’d be wrong. 

With 11 videos amassing more than 100,000 views and counting, Carter has been able to bypass the middlemen, labels and other relics of music industry old. By using resources most Americans have in their pockets, she bet on herself and became her own gatekeeper. 

Every aspect of Carter’s musical journey has been organic and unforced.

“It was just me saying yes, really,” Carter says. “I think a lot of people are just nervous and scared about putting themselves out there. I did it because I thought: ‘This shit sound cool.’” 

In just a little over a year and with only the guidance of Chicago-based artist management and development agency Loop Theory, Carter has had legends like Bone Crusher reach out to her, won a fan-picked showcase for which she opened for the rapper Jay Rock — of the revered Top Dawg Entertainment label — and even had a song placement on the Comedy Central show South Side.

It’s all the more remarkable considering the self-described introvert didn’t plan on being a rapper. Her first passion was poetry, thanks to a pen and pad that was placed in her hands at age 7. From then on, she spent every free moment writing.

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God body, nobody but God stop me.

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Raised on the South Side, Carter intended to follow her mother’s footsteps into childcare and even enrolled at Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois, as an early childhood and development major before deciding after two years it wasn’t for her. 

Working at Home Depot and taking care of herself while living alone, she didn’t think to perform in public until a friend unknowingly submitted her into the legendary Young Chicago Authors open mic in 2014. But instantly, Carter was hooked. The open mic circuit allowed her to network, eventually leading to her first rap song — a freestyle verse to Mobb Deep’s “Shook Ones” as part of an all-female rap cypher, or informal freestyle group. The exposure encouraged her to perform more often, with the group and as an individual, which is how Loop Theory founder Rafael Navarro came across her.  

He became determined to manage her, even though she hadn’t established herself as an artist. “A lot of people are good at writing songs, a lot of people are good at putting lyrics together, a lot of people have something to say, but she has this other factor to her. She has a powerful voice,” Navarro says. 

After Loop Theory did some convincing and put together a studio with engineers, Carter agreed to go under its management. The final piece was exposure, which she decided would be earned via mini-drops filmed by iPhone — without micromanagement. Sometimes Navarro finds out about the videos due to his phone blowing up from notifications.  

From falling into performing poetry and traveling the city with the all-female cypher to partnering with Navarro, every aspect of Carter’s musical journey has been organic and unforced. Her flow feels the same way.

Carter is far from the first rapper to put freestyles on the internet. But her music is resonating because of her authenticity. “My sole purpose for making music and the videos was because I loved it,” she says. “I had a great time finding the instrumental to rap over; I had a great time putting the raps together.” 

Now comes the harder part: taking the next leap to stardom. Nascent, a Chicago producer who was behind Chance the Rapper’s Grown Ass Kid and who’s also produced the tracks “Back Then” and “The Signs” for Carter, says it’s just a matter of rubbing the right elbows. 

“She’s progressing. She’s in a better place musically, and you hear growth from even six months ago,” Nascent says. “Production plays a big role in that too. You need producers to elevate your sound. Skill sharpens skill, so if you’re in a room with 100 people who are good at their craft, some of that is going to rub off and you’re going to learn some shit.”

Carter, firmly a Chicagoan with no plans to hasten the process of her dream, is now at work trying to sharpen her debut album, projected for release in 2020. As for those freestyle videos, she assures more are on the way … and they’ll drop on Carter’s schedule alone.

Give the Gift of ‘Oh Yeah’: The Elevated Sex Toy Gift Guide

When it comes to gift-giving, there are the presents that end up in the “I know you’ll regift this, but I also need to fulfill my social obligation and spend $20 on you” camp. (We see you, balsam-scented candles.) There are the personalized gifts from someone who has busted out the crafting supplies (or at least shopped on Etsy early enough for pre-holiday delivery). And then, there are the vibrators.

Um, what?

Here’s the thing: Yes, sex toys are personal. But they are also expensive, indulgent and embarrassing to buy for yourself. In other words, the perfect holiday gift. And I speak from experience as someone who has given more than a dozen vibrators to friends and acquaintances in my life, and no gift (except maybe the XBox I gifted to my brother in 2006) has landed better. I still remember how my friend Renee, 36 weeks pregnant and horny as hell, lit up when I brought a bag of vibrators to her baby shower and discreetly deposited them in her car.

Krista McHarden, a sex writer and sex toy expert, agrees that a sex toy can be a more heartfelt gift than, say, a fruit basket. “Of course it depends on your relationship with the person, but given in the right spirit, it says, ‘I love you and you deserve to have an amazing time between the sheets,’” says McHarden. 

Dirty Lola, a single-moniker sex expert, agrees. “When you give sex toys as gifts, you are giving more than just an object. You are giving a doorway to new experiences.” And who doesn’t want a doorway for the holidays?

There are some considerations when it comes to sex toys. It’s probably a bad idea to give one to your boss, but could one work for your grandma? Maybe. Here are some of the smartest, most aesthetically pleasing sex toys on the market — and exactly who to give them to. 

For your long-distance male partner

Tenga Flip Zero

Can a masturbating device for men be cute? Yes, it can. While it’s no substitute for the real thing, this discreet and compact vibrating device looks like a bedside lamp. But flip it open and add some lube and the magic commences. This gift says, “I know it’s not as good as the real thing, but you still deserve to have a solid orgasm when I’m not there.”

For your recently divorced baby boomer aunt

Fifty Shades of Grey Greedy Girl Bullet Rabbit Vibrator

FiftyShades_Rabbit

Fifty Shades Rabbit

While there are plenty of ways to achieve tech-assisted orgasms, this is a classic (and a cliché) for a reason. Yes, it’s basic, but it’ll get you off, fast. And if Auntie is taken aback, you can always say that you thought it was a back massager.

For your newlywed sibling 

FiftyShadesofGrey_Trio

Fifty Shades of Grey Trio

Fifty Shades of Grey Wicked Weekend Gift Set 

With a vibrator, a cock ring and an “open-ended texture stroker,” this multipack has something for everyone. The Fifty Shades of Grey label gives it a little less edge — it’s a gag gift that will also get your sibling and their spouse off and be way more welcome than a matching set of Mr. and Mrs. bathrobes. 

For the grandparents who have the Story of O on their bookshelf

Tango Tease Kit 

A kit full of erotic adventures, Tango offers “flirty games” as well as accessories (riding crops, blindfolds, nipple clamps, etc.). The founder of the brand is a Harvard grad who markets the box as a “pleasure-based curriculum.” It’s a great way to show grandparents what the kids are up to these days — and it may inspire them to learn some new lessons too.

For the couple you made out with in the past

Lelo Tiani 3 vibrator and Lelo Hugo remote control prostate massager

Had a three-way with a committed couple? We’ve all been there. This couples’ gift shows that you’re not the jealous type and have no desire to break them up. It can also suggest the possibility of an encore.

For your wanderlusting ex-roomie

Tenga Iroha Mini Fuji Lemon

It’s cute! It’s pastel! It’s waterproof! And the price is right. While Tenga creates luxury products that often cost over $100, this $25 marvel does the job discreetly. This gift says, “You deserve to get off anywhere in the world.”

For your friend with benefits

UVee Home Play

It’s consensual adult fun … but since you don’t know who else that person might be playing with, do everyone a favor by gifting this sex-toy-cleaning kit. The Home Play not only claims to kill 99.9 percent of harmful germs and bacteria but it also has three USB charging ports, so you can charge and sanitize at the same time. Safe and thoughtful? Win-win!

For the office white elephant Exchange

Lovehoney Oh! Vanilla Massage Candle

At less than $10 and with low-key graphics, this candle just makes the office-acceptable cut. After all, you don’t have to eat it as part of sex play. You could just light it and then enjoy it on ice cream later. And this type of gift is way more desirable than yet another mug-and-coffee set. 

For you

Crave Vesper

You deserve self-love. Designed as a necklace (with the option of custom engraving), the Vesper is a discreet vibrator that’s attractive enough to wear at holiday gatherings — and then use in private to release any awkward holiday party tension.

Can Ecuador’s Native Communities Survive an Oil Rush?

The story of Yasuní National Park is a classic example of how good intentions to protect the environment and the rights of indigenous people can run aground when they come up against the reality of politics and the interests of big business.

Designated in 1979, the park covers 10,000 square kilometers of primary rainforest on Ecuador’s eastern border with Peru. It is one of the most biodiverse spots on the planet, with more than 200 species of mammals, 550 species of birds, 380 species of fish and more than 2,000 types of trees. Jaguars, tapirs and monkeys live in its dense undergrowth, while pink dolphins swim in its rivers.

The park is also home to the Tagaeri and Taromenane, two fiercely independent tribes that have resisted all attempts to integrate them into modern life. Unfortunately for them, and for the environment, Yasuní sits on vast deposits of oil — up to 40 percent of Ecuador’s reserves.

Even before Yasuní was declared a national park, Texaco had started drilling nearby. These days, state-owned Petroamazonas, Spain’s Repsol, Italy’s Agip and the China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. (Sinopec) are working in or around Yasuní.

In 2007, Ecuador’s government, led by then President Rafael Correa, came up with what seemed like an ingenious plan to protect the eastern reaches of the park, where there are three major oil deposits. Correa said Ecuador would leave the oil in the ground if the international community gave the country $3.6 billion to compensate it for lost revenue. Environmentalists applauded.

Western governments hailed the plan as an enlightened way to curb global warming. Some pledged money to the project, known as the ITT Initiative after the names of the three deposits — Ishpingo, Tiputini and Tambococha.

Oil sustains the earth’s equilibrium. Below the oil, spirits live. The land has life.

Manari Ushigua, tribal leader

The devil in the detail, though, was Rafael Correa. Western donors wanted to know how their money would be used. Correa said that was Ecuador’s business, and by 2013 the project had collapsed. “The world has failed us,” Correa lamented, accusing governments of paying lip service to the idea of protecting the Amazon and fighting climate change.

“The ITT idea was brilliant in theory, but in practice it was never going to work,” reflects Enrique Morales, a representative of Pachakutik, an Ecuadorian indigenous movement. “The donors wanted the money put in a blind trust, but Correa always had other ideas.”

With the project dead, Correa gave the oil industry the green light to expand its operations in the park. In 2016, Petroamazonas started drilling in Tiputini, and the following year in Tambococha, in the heart of Yasuní.

In February last year, Correa’s successor, Lenín Moreno, gave environmentalists hope of a reprieve. In a referendum, he asked Ecuadorians whether they wanted to expand the so-called untouchable zone of the park — where the Tagaeri and Taromenane live — while reducing the area that oil companies can exploit. Two-thirds of those who voted said yes.

But since then, while expanding the protected area that has no oil, the government has approved plans for new drilling farther inside the park.

“It’s trickery and a farce,” says Belén Paez, executive director of the Pachamama Foundation, a Quito environmental organization, referring to Moreno’s presidential decree, issued in May, which was supposed to enact the result of the referendum.

With Tiputini and Tambococha already producing oil, the environmental battleground has moved to the final deposit: Ishpingo.

“In many ways it’s the most important of the three,” says Carlos Larrea, an architect of the ITT Initiative and head of the climate change and sustainability program at the Simón Bolívar Andean University in Quito. “It’s the largest, containing around half of all the oil in the ITT, and it’s also the southernmost and therefore the most sensitive, because it encroaches on the untouchable zone and the buffer zone around it.”

Petroamazonas, which is pumping oil from Tiputini and Tambococha in partnership with China’s Sinopec, declined to comment on its plans for Ishpingo.

The company is by far the largest oil producer in Ecuador, accounting for about 80 percent of national output. About a quarter of that comes from within the Yasuní park.

While the battle for Yasuní’s future rages, elsewhere in the Ecuadorian Amazon indigenous communities have scored notable victories against the oil industry.

In March, the Waorani people successfully sued the Ecuadorian state, saying it had failed to consult them before opening up their ancestral lands to drilling.

Lawyers say the court ruling could serve as a precedent for other indigenous groups, possibly halting the future auction of oil blocks in the Amazon.

In an area just south of Yasuní, Chinese consortium Andes Petroleum this year declared force majeure on a contract to search for oil, saying indigenous protests had made their job impossible.

The company, a joint venture between the China National Petroleum Co. and Sinopec, still has a contract to work in an adjacent area but that too is proving challenging.

“We want both contracts annulled,” says Marlon Vargas, president of Confeniae, a confederation of indigenous groups from the Ecuadorian Amazon.

While some indigenous communities are open to the idea of working with oil firms — so long as they benefit too — others have a different mindset and are adamant that Ecuador’s fossil fuels should remain in the ground.

“Oil is a mineral and it sustains the earth’s equilibrium,” says Manari Ushigua, a leader of the Sápara people, one of the groups that forced the Chinese to declare force majeure. “Below the oil, spirits live. The land has life.”

The Indian Temple Where Hair Fetches Millions

There are many legends of how Lord Balaji, one face of the Hindu deity Vishnu, lost a portion of his hair. But while the details vary, they agree on a few things: Lord Balaji was hit on the head, and the hair ceased to grow from that spot. A woman, hoping to help, offered up some of her own flowing hair to cover the god’s bald patch.

This legend is why every day as many as 75,000 devotees visit the Tirupati Balaji temple dedicated to Lord Balaji. Pilgrims travel into the hills of Andhra Pradesh specifically to cut off their hair and offer it up in exchange for blessings. It’s the most visited temple in the world, according to the Guinness World Records book, and it’s also the richest. Every month, temple authorities auction off tons of human hair. In fact:

Barbers at the salon managed by the temple shave as many as 80 heads per day each.

That’s on holy days with a lot of traffic, but the temple’s 1,320 barbers, who work in shifts around the clock all year round, shave an average of 40 heads even on regular days. It’s estimated that they shave one head every 10 minutes, a service for which they don’t charge — and hundreds of barbers were fired in 2017 for accepting tips from believers.

Tirupati Pilgrimage in Andhra Pradesh

Hindu pilgrims come to the Tirupati Venkateswara Temple to shave their head, offering one’s ego to the god Vishnu.

Source Soltan Frédéric/Sygma via Getty

Once the temple collects the hair — the most collected by any entity on the planet — it’s separated into grades. If it is longer than 31 inches, it is considered grade 1 hair. “If it is above 15 and below 30 inches, it is grade 2, and if it is shorter than 15 inches, it is grade 3. Different grade hair goes by a different price on e-auctions,” says Talari Ravi, a spokesperson for the temple.

The next step is an e-auction, which is how the temple profits from the hair. In February of this year, the temple sold at least 157 tons of hair, raking in more than $1.6 million.

The tradition has continued since Lord Balaji sustained his head injury, according to temple officials. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for change. In 2006, Tirupati changed its prohibition on female barbers and hired women to cater to female devotees who weren’t comfortable having their hair cut by a man. Now, Ravi says, there are 274 female barbers employed by the temple — though, as mandated by scripture, they can’t enter if they’re menstruating.

The custom is that once you visit the temple to ask Lord Balaji for favors, you offer your hair. Once your wish is fulfilled, you return to offer your hair again as a thank you. Head shaving is part of a more general tradition of pilgrimage — Hindu worshippers often shave their heads before undertaking such a journey as a symbolic way to shed past wrongs. Tonsuring one’s head is also seen as an abandonment of vanity. Still, only about 40 percent of pilgrims to Tirupati shave their heads.

The hair auctioned off is used for wigs and extensions around the world, but also for some unexpected purposes. Nitin Gadkari, an Indian politician and former president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, last year crowed that amino acids extracted from waste hair produced by Tirupati were such an impressive fertilizer for his garden that he established a factory to extract them on a large scale. “If there is appropriate leadership, then one can even turn waste into gold,” he told crowds. 

Pilgrims might or might not get their wishes fulfilled — but the temple, at least, is cashing in on them.

Poland’s Gaming Its Export Economy — Literally

It all started with a computer borrowed from a high school.

In the early 1990s, just after the Communist regime collapsed, not many in Poland could afford their own PC. Certainly not the Miechowski brothers, who were born to working-class parents in Lubin, in southwestern Poland. “Grzegorz, my older brother, had some ideas for his first game and wanted to work on them,” Paweł Miechowski, a bearded, focused 40-year-old, tells me. “So he brought the ZX Spectrum from his school.”

Some 30 years later, 11 bit studios, a Warsaw-based game development company founded in 2009 by Grzegorz and his high school friend Adrian Chmielarz, was ranked Poland’s third biggest video game company in 2018, with a revenue of over $21 million, four times more than in 2017. Their flagship video games, This War of Mine and Frostpunk, have together sold more than 6 million copies over the world since they were released in 2014 and 2018, respectively.

Their global success is part of Poland’s dramatic emergence as one of the world’s biggest video game creative hubs. The country’s exports of video and card games went up 750 percent, from $95 million in 2012 to $808 million in 2017, according to the latest data from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s OEC database, which tracks global trade. In 2012, Poland was Europe’s 13th largest exporter in the industry. Today, it’s the world’s sixth largest exporter.

Video games have indeed the potential to grow as Poland’s flagship export product.

Sławomir Biedermann, Polish Agency for Enterprise Development

According to Poland’s ministry of development, the country now has some 800 registered video game producers. And with global esports revenue expected to cross $2 billion by 2023, Poland’s journey as a major supplier of video games is only starting.

“Our mother didn’t really believe that this kind of business can succeed. I think, after all these years, she’s changed her opinion,” says Paweł, senior partnership manager at 11 bit studios, with a smile.

His explanation for Poland’s surge in the field is simple: “Ułańska fantazja.” This traditional phrase, which refers to the Polish light cavalry from the 18th century, describes untamed imagination, creativity and the ability to take risks.

But there are more practical reasons too. Under communism, Poland — home of the Odra, one of the best computers developed in the former East bloc — rose as an aspiring technology force. With high-quality technical education and widespread popular science, which included Bajtek, the first Polish computer magazine established in 1985, the country unleashed dozens of IT specialists.

With the fall of communism, a young generation, armed with passion, curiosity and knowledge, added a capitalistic sense of entrepreneurship to that legacy. “We started our business in garages, as many in our generation,” Paweł recalls. “But from the beginning, we wanted to turn professional and make a living out of games.”

The biggest name in the Polish video game industry is CD Projekt, with a revenue of close to $100 million in 2018, and the fantasy novel–based blockbuster series Wiedźmin (The Witcher) on its roster. Eight years ago, when Poland’s then–prime minister Donald Tusk gave President Barack Obama the Wiedźmin 2 game during his visit in Warsaw, many saw it as a diplomatic gaffe. But, in fact, it symbolized the birth of a surprising economic success story.

Paweł Miechowski

Paweł Miechowski, senior partnership manager at 11 bit studios.

Source Dariusz Kalan/OZY

Since the first Wiedźmin was released in late 2007, the series of three games and another four spin-offs have sold over 40 million copies around the world. “Wiedźmin opened the door for Polish video games,” says Katarzyna Sacha, market analyst at PMR, a market research firm. “But it has also set the threshold high for other producers, who must now work harder to be able to cope with the Wiedźmin phenomenon.”

Poland’s video game developers are adapting with the times — and to their increasingly global market. Over the years, sales at traditional brick-and-mortar stores have plummeted as more consumers download games. In Poland, 98 percent of games are produced for export, with their plots designed to be understood on the other side of the globe. Teenagers were the industry’s target in the 1990s. Today, a sizable section of the more than 2.5 billion gamers around the world are well-established 30- to 40-somethings happy to pay more for high-quality products.

“The game industry went through maybe the deepest democratization with the introduction of digital distribution,” says Jakub Marszałkowski, head of the Poznań-based Game Industry Conference, one of Europe’s biggest game expos. “Exporting music, movies, cars or shoes is not that viable. Meanwhile, nearly everywhere on the globe, you can produce games and have almost the same access to markets and chances of success.”

Unsurprisingly, the global interest in Polish games has drawn the government’s attention and support. Poland, the only country in the European Union to avoid a recession during the 2008 global financial crisis, is counting on video games as the next fillip to its export-driven economy. At the moment, the video game industry’s contribution to the country’s GDP is negligible. But Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said the industry in the future could “pull the Polish economy up, and the whole country too.”

That’s a view shared by Sławomir Biedermann, a specialist at the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development, a state-run body established in 2000 to help local entrepreneurship. “Video games have indeed the potential to grow as Poland’s flagship export product,” he says. “Relatively easy to promote, they have a strong dynamic growth, and our producers can use the momentum of a booming global games market.”

The big concern? The growth might be too rapid for Poland to manage. Local universities are not keeping pace with the development of the industry, and companies are now complaining about the lack of qualified specialists. Paweł says 11 bit studios must bring in employees from all over Europe, “from France to Ukraine.”

He insists that video games aren’t just another IT sector industry. “Video gaming is something more and requires other skills than just programming,” he says. “We sell stories and emotions. It is storytelling. It is art.”

Would You Use an Eco-Friendly Credit Card?

If you’re feeling climate-anxious but unwilling to cut your consumption … behold, the eco-friendly credit card.

Today, credit card consumers can put points earned toward frequent flier miles or, if they’re feeling altruistic, channel them toward philanthropic causes. What if a points-based card automatically offsets the carbon footprint of all your purchases? This could be the card for people who spend money and love to jet-set but feel ashamed about it. (There’s even a Swedish word for that: flygskam).

An eco-friendly card might appeal to two camps: Those looking to reduce their carbon footprint (but either don’t know how or are unlikely to make serious lifestyle changes), and those looking to use it as a social signaling device (they have the money to spend and want to appear eco-savvy).

The benefit of a card that exclusively allows green redemption would require rigorous thought to be done responsibly.

But the card’s planet-friendly mission could be compelling enough to draw new customers, particularly as public consciousness of climate change rises. The climate-induced mental health crisis has evolved to become an accepted phenomena: solastalgia, eco-anxiety, eco-paralysis, tierratrauma (acute environmental change leading to acute trauma) and global dread (the anticipation of a totally bleak future) are just a few terms to describe the genuine fear many are grappling with as humanity observes the destructive impacts of climate change firsthand, from severe droughts to blazing wildfires.

That said, those with the means to travel have not been slowing down. Airline passenger numbers more than doubled between 2003 and 2017, according to the International Air Transport Association. Meanwhile, the greenhouse gas effect of a single flight is sobering: The per-passenger carbon emissions of a round-trip flight from San Francisco to New York, for example, results in the loss of roughly 5 square meters (roughly 54 square feet) of Arctic ice, according to Shame Plane, an online tool that quantifies the impact of air travel. It’s worth noting, however, that the aviation industry produces just 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.

New research suggests travelers may be willing to pay more for airline tickets if they believe the money will be used to offset carbon emissions, according to research published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. Eighty-one countries have agreed to participate in a 2021 pilot program through Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA) as of July 2019, and many major airlines already have an offset program for customers.

An eco-inclined credit card would be another extension of this “consume with consciousness” brand. Another option? Design the card so points automatically fund institutions that drive climate change research.

This would be a tough move for a company driven only by their bottom line — some proclivity toward public impact would be required to ensure success. Credit card rewards operate via a shared subsidy: If the credit card company pays $1, the beneficiary company pays the other $1 for every $2 in benefits a customer receives, says Jake Yormak, a partner at Story Ventures, an early-stage venture fund. But with an eco-friendly card, the “green” recipient for whom the benefits are meant to serve wouldn’t be putting up their $1. This means either a greater financial burden would fall on the credit card company, another company would have to subsidize the cause or points would accrue at a slower pace. But the scheme could be profitable if mission-driven branding and marketing appeal are strong enough to draw and convert sufficient new customers, Yormak says.

He argues that a card with a carbon footprint calculator, which compiles customers’ spending data, could create more meaningful impact than a points-based model with offsets. There’s demand for comprehensive tracking, but people hesitate to provide data about their spending to third-party apps and platforms, so credit credit companies that already have data are well-positioned, he says.

No doubt, there’s something morally incongruous about a quid pro quo where people spend money to appease their conscience. This bartering sounds vaguely reminiscent of purchasing indulgences through the Catholic Church to wipe one’s sins clean to barrel their way to heaven (Martin Luther probably wouldn’t have endorsed this card). One must ask: Do people sin more when they know they’ll have a moral do-over?

Still, others could argue that a card that locks spenders into all-green cash actions — a commitment device without chances to deviate toward more alluring personal perks — is a net positive so long as it doesn’t spur people to travel, buy and emit more than they did before. This concept taps into behavioral biases that affect decision-making — the concept of nudges, popularized by psychologists and economists like Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky and Richard Thaler — says Deepak Rajagopal, an associate professor at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.

The benefit of a card that exclusively allows green redemption would require rigorous thought to be done responsibly but does have its merits, says Rajagopal. Back-end work would be needed to determine which vendors qualify because “when it comes to offsets, not all offsets are equal,” he says. Options could include redeeming for public transit tickets, in organic stores, for charging electric vehicles or in future ride-share electric cars with Lyft or Uber, he suggests. Given that all methods aren’t equally green, creating a reliable ranking or report card across categories like transport or groceries would be useful.

The larger question of whether it’s morally permissible to jet off and see the world as it deteriorates still looms. In the meantime, travelers could keep this card on hand as they say “bon voyage.”


What Color Is Your Marriage?

There are so many ways to assess compatibility between couples. Love of Scrabble. Ability to go on a multiday road trip with minimal arguments. Similar tastes in street food. But a couple may not truly know they’re compatible until they have a brand-new house, four white walls and an endless array of Home Depot paint chips.

At this point? True differences start to emerge: She likes bold, he likes basic. She wants bright, he wants beige. Compromises occur. Bargaining is brought up. And before you can say “eggshell blue or ecru,” both parties are wondering whether they’ve made a mistake. Is it just paint … or a parable about wanting too much?

Red paint as a metaphor makes sense, but red paint as ambiance, while you eat your eggs every morning, does not.

But love is all about jumping into the unknown. So, as a couple, you make a decision. The risky, unexpected decision you might not have made if it was just you. You go big. You go bold. And you go for the brick-red paint for the kitchen.

Then? Then you begin painting. And painting. And painting. And the red keeps soaking into the kitchen wall, never quite covering it. Which is right around the time you realize that this might be a metaphor for marriage: Forever trying for the ideal. So, together, you have a flash of insight. Red paint as a metaphor makes sense, but red paint as ambiance, while you eat your eggs every morning, does not.

So maybe the experiment was just that. But was it a failed experiment? No, because you both learned a little about yourselves, about each other … and about just how much paint it takes to cover up white walls.

Here, Ken and Anita Corsini, a husband-and-wife design team and co-hosts of HGTV’s Flip or Flop Atlanta, share how choosing paint colors ended up making their marriage better. 

American Family Insurance offers customizable coverage to help you protect what matters most. And when it comes to buying your first home, it’s important to have the right insurance partner at your side that’ll be here for you through this big “adulting” moment. Insure carefully so you can dream fearlessly.

Special Briefing: Can the Left Rebuild After Boris’ British Triumph?

This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.

WHAT TO KNOW

What happened? British voters have spoken: Projected by exit polls to win 368 seats, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party appears to have secured a massive majority in Thursday’s general election. The opposition Labour Party will likely take 191 seats — which would be its worst result since 1935 — while the Scottish National Party will take 55. Having promised to “get Brexit done,” Johnson now is in a position to end more than three years of political turmoil by pushing through his withdrawal deal to leave the European Union on Jan. 31.

Boris Johnson Campaigns For Conservatives On Eve Of UK Election

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to supporters at the Copper Box Arena on December 11, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. Boris Johnson spent the final day of the general election campaign visiting constituencies from West Yorkshire to Wales, trying to persuade voters to elect Conservative MPs and give him a governing majority to secure his Brexit deal.

Source Leon Neal/Getty

Why does it matter? This election seals the fate of Brexit and the Labour Party too. If it wants to return to power anytime soon, it’ll be forced to seriously rethink its strategy. Many believe the historic loss lies at the feet of party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who often waffled on his view of Brexit and struggled to hold on to party supporters amid revelations of anti-Semitic statements from some Labour politicians — a scandal to which Corbyn was slow to react. Polls showed Corbyn was the most unpopular leader of a party heading into an election since at least 1983.

HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT

Labour intensive. All eyes will likely turn to Corbyn’s political future and potential successors. Ahead of the election, Labour members had reportedly been planning leadership challenges, but Corbyn’s allies encouraged their comrades to focus on winning today’s vote. Now that it’s over, the country’s main opposition force may well descend into an intra-party clash over its future course: Stay radical, like Corbyn, or move toward the center? Many of the rumored leadership contenders, like Corbyn supporters and shadow secretaries Rebecca Long-Bailey and Emily Thornberry, are women, potentially signaling that Labour will look to establish a new image more than a new ideological direction. 

Middle of the road? Both Johnson and Corbyn suffered from low approval ratings and accusations of radicalism: The latter is further left than most Labour leaders, while the former expelled nearly two dozen conservatives for veering from his hardline position on Brexit. But both were running on new ground, since the electoral map appears to have been redrawn around Brexit. Many Remain voters were uncomfortable with Corbyn’s equivocation over the issue, while old-school Labour supporters who voted Leave are likely to have shuffled over to Johnson’s camp in this vote. Meanwhile, an American-style divisiveness colored the campaign, with many supporters of either party unwilling, or unable, to see eye to eye. That raises another question: Could that spark fresh demand for centrism?

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn Votes In The U.K. General Election

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party, second right, with Laura Alvarez, his wife, depart after casting their votes in the U.K. general election at a polling station in London, U.K., on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019. The U.K. votes on Thursday to determine whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson gets the mandate he wants to “get Brexit done,” or Corbyn replaces him in 10 Downing Street to pursue his “radical agenda” of wealth redistribution and nationalizations. Photographer: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Source Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty

Not so fast. Despite the impressive results, conservatives shouldn’t hope to rest easy. Sure, Brexit now appears on track — but negative economic effects are anticipated, and the party will need to navigate the country through the challenges. Their overwhelming majority means they’ll have to take responsibility for it with voters. One recent analysis found that Johnson’s negotiated breakup deal with the E.U. would shrink the U.K.’s GDP per capita by 6.4 percent. 

Meanwhile, across the pond … Given the similarity in voting trends between the U.S. and Britain since the 1980s, Labour’s stinging loss raises questions over the staying power of leftist Democratic presidential candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. And on matters of business, 2020 candidates may find themselves increasingly thinking about how they’d approach a post-Brexit U.S.-U.K. trade deal with a Conservative-led British government.

WHAT TO READ

Forget Brexit: The New Battle Is Over Jeremy Corbyn’s Successor, by Zoe Williams in The Guardian

“This is no longer a question of where the party stands on membership of the EU: We know Labour’s destination. The question is who will survive the landing, and in what kind of shape.”

Our Politicians Have No Answers to the Greatest Challenges of Our Time, by Jeremy Warner in The Telegraph 

“On how the government will tackle mass migration, ageing and AI, the voters were offered not a clue.”

WHAT TO WATCH

Watch Boris Johnson Drive Digger Through a Wall

“It’s time for the whole country symbolically to get in the cab of a JCB … and remove the current blockage.”

Watch on Bloomberg Politics on YouTube: 

What Next For Labour? LBC’s Panel Look at the Way Forward

“Most of the Labour party has effectively been taken over by Corbyn in his politics.”

Watch on LBC on YouTube:

WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER

Up north. Other potential effects of the election could include the breakup of the United Kingdom. While Johnson says there won’t be a second Scottish referendum, Scots have long rankled over being taken out of the EU against their will when a majority of residents there voted to remain. Today’s results reflect that: The SNP added 20 seats in Scotland this time, for a total of 55, and former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson had promised to swim naked in Loch Ness if they even got 50.

Are Polish Politics Turning Even More Extreme?

Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, faced something new as he addressed Parliament for the first time after the country’s recent general election: attacks from left and right.

Adrian Zandberg, from the left-wing alliance Lewica, eviscerated Morawiecki’s Law and Justice party (PiS) for failing to improve public services during its first term in office. Robert Winnicki, from the far-right group Konfederacja, accused PiS of being too soft on cultural issues such as LGBTQ rights, and “capitulating … to the rainbow, leftist revolution.”

The hostility toward Morawiecki as he outlined his plans for the next four years points to a shift in Poland’s politics. During PiS’ first term the bulk of the parliamentary opposition to its agenda, which combines Catholic-tinged social conservatism with big-state economics, came from the political center.

But October’s election propelled into Parliament two groups, Lewica and Konfederacja, that will fight PiS on both those fronts, and could shake up the duopoly of PiS and its centrist rival Civic Coalition that has dominated Polish politics for the past decade.

PiS has done nothing to improve public services.

Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bak, Lewica MP

Lewica, an alliance of three left-wing groups that came third behind PiS and Civic Coalition, has set out to challenge PiS on its record of welfare provision. While PiS’ flagship child benefit program has been a big reason for its success, other aspects of Poland’s welfare state, such as the notoriously underfunded health service, are widely seen as underperforming.

“PiS has done nothing to improve public services. On the contrary, some of them, like the health care system, have found themselves in an even more dramatic situation under PiS,” says Agnieszka Dziemianowicz-Bak, one of Lewica’s MPs, adding that cutting the price of medicines would be one of the party’s priorities.

“The social left is a problem for PiS,” says Jacek Kucharczyk, head of the Institute of Public Affairs, a think tank, arguing that Lewica’s progressive credentials would make its social pledges harder for PiS to dismiss than those of the centrist opposition, which has oscillated between criticizing PiS and trying to outbid it on welfare spending.

Konfederacja, which came fifth in the election, poses a different challenge. One of PiS’ guiding principles has been to avoid being outflanked by the political right. But it will now have to compete with a far-right party whose members have called for the return of the death penalty, backed a near-total ban on abortion and floated anti-LGBTQ legislation.

Electoral Campaign in Gdansk

Electoral posters of the Koalicja Obywatelska (Civic Platform), Lewica (Left Alliance), Konfederacja and Prawo I Sprawiedliwosc (Law and Justice) parties are seen in Gdansk, Poland. (Photo by Michal Fludra/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Source Getty Images

One of Konfederacja’s leading figures this year summed up its platform as: “We don’t want Jews, homosexuals, abortion, taxes or the EU,”

Ryszard Luczyn, from Polityka Insight, says that if PiS tries to counter Konfederacja by moving sharply to the right, it risks losing voters to more moderate rivals such as the Polish People’s Party, PSL, which has rural roots but is gaining ground in cities.

“If it were only Konfederacja, PiS could … toughen up on some issues, wave the sword a bit.… But you also have PSL, which … seems to be transforming itself from an agrarian party to kind of a Christian Democratic, more [urban] party,” Luczyn explains.

“So if you have Konfederacja … threatening PiS from [the extreme right] of the political spectrum, and PSL threatening PiS from the [center-right], then obviously this will be a challenge,” he adds.

Unless the math in Poland’s Parliament changes unexpectedly, neither Lewica nor Konfederacja will be able to defeat PiS in the Parliament itself. Konfederacja doesn’t have the 15 members of Parliament necessary to put forward bills. And as long as PiS can keep its majority (currently of five), it will be able to block any proposal Lewica puts forward.

But analysts say the new parties would undoubtedly change the nature of Poland’s political debate, which could, in turn, put pressure on PiS to change some of its policies.

Some polls since the election have shown Konfederacja and Lewica gaining ground. But the first real test of how the two parties’ greater prominence is playing with voters will come in the spring when Poland holds presidential elections — the final leg of the electoral marathon that has occupied the country for the past year.

The PiS-backed incumbent, Andrzej Duda, is the favorite. But analysts say Poland’s new political constellation will make his job harder.

“Duda will have to fight off Konfederacja on the right, and at the same time it will make him less credible as a centrist, and there is already competition in the center,” says Kucharczyk. “It will not be easy for Duda to fight on all these fronts.”