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Neutron star discovery marks breakthrough for 'multi-messenger astronomy'

News of a collision between a pair of neutron stars some 130 million light years away has arrived via two completely different messengers – electromagnetic waves and gravitational waves – revealing clues to some long-standing mysteries of the universe.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his wife are expecting their first child. Is it a boy or girl?

There’s another Earnhardt on the way. NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. announced on Instagram on Monday afternoon that he and his wife, Amy, are expecting their first child soon.   … Click to Continue »

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How Historic Racial Injustices Still Impact Housing Today

For the majority of Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity, owning a home is a major goal. According to the first Zillow Housing Aspirations Report, 63 percent of whites, 63 percent of blacks and 73 percent of Hispanics believe owning a home is necessary to live the American Dream. But although they share the same dreams as whites, for blacks and Hispanics getting into a home remains as challenging as ever-in part due to financial challenges and decades of discrimination.

Historically Denied

Historically, the homeownership rate among people of color has lagged behind the homeownership rate among white Americans, in part because of institutional barriers to entry. Until the late 1960s, federal government-backed subsidies-many of them funded through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)-were off limits to people of color. The FHA, which was established to help people remain in their homes during the Great Depression, began to promote homeownership during the years after World War II.

And the lagging homeownership rate wasn’t just the result of one program. There were others created to boost homeownership that resulted in similar outcomes for people of color. Black military veterans, for example, weren’t able to borrow money through the GI Bill to purchase homes.

Middle- and lower-income whites benefited most from federal government programs, including low-cost mortgages and subsidies for home builders to construct affordable homes in racially-segregated communities.

Even today, minorities still face more hurdles, similar to the ones they experienced in the past. When blacks and Hispanics try to secure FHA loans, they’re denied about twice as often than their white peers-denials which can sometimes be linked to injustices endured outside of housing. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that fewer blacks and Hispanics apply for these programs.

But for those who do, “far fewer actually get accepted, and the groups that are highly at a loss are black potential homeowners and Hispanic potential homeowners,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell.

The Consequences

“Housing segregation has not been something that has been quickly changed due to personal prejudice,” said Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, director of the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at Prosperity Now.

Yesterday’s outright discriminatory policies helped keep minority homeownership low and largely limited to less-advantaged areas. And today, those disparities persist. The Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trend Report 2017 revealed that although they each account for 13 percent of all U.S. households, blacks and Hispanics only account for 8 percent and 9 percent of U.S. homeowners.

Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, director of the Racial Wealth Divide Initiative at Prosperity Now, said low homeownership rates is connected to other disparities.

“African-Americans, in particular, still faced the income wealth disparity, legal segregation, legal job discrimination,” he said. “That continued on through the creation of the American middle class, which limited African-American participation as it pertains to homeownership.”

“Housing segregation has not been something that has been quickly changed due to personal prejudice,” he said. That’s especially true when it comes to those same FHA loans-it’s not just a problem of the past.

Discrimination Still Exists

While Asante-Muhammad says outright legal discrimination has since been outlawed, we’re still seeing the repercussions of the country’s historic discriminatory practices.

“In the 21st century, I think we’re looking more at the issue of the results of housing discrimination and discrimination as a whole,” he said. That discrimination, he added, leads to strong racial economic inequality, which, in turn, makes it harder for people of color to move into more expensive neighborhoods.

Part of the problem, he said, is there’s still market discrimination against homes in black communities.

“A home in a predominantly black neighborhood and the exact same home in a predominantly white neighborhood will have less value because it has less market appeal because people don’t want to live in neighborhoods with black populations somewhere above 20 percent,” he said.

Asante-Muhammad argues some of the discrepancies can be attributed to racial and personal animosity keeping people of color out of higher-valued neighborhoods. But the gap could also be due in part to high negative equity rates-the share of homeowners who owe more on their home than it’s worth-in largely minority communities. When a homeowner is in negative equity, it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to sell their home at all, let alone for a profit they can then use to help buy a different home in another neighborhood.

In black and Hispanic communities, home values fell farther than in white communities, and haven’t been able to fully bounce back from the recession.

Less Money, More Problems

“In terms of closing the gap of white and black homeownership, we’re not moving,” Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell said.

While minority buyers are trying to enter the housing market, it’s made increasingly difficult due to their lack of wealth.

Gudell said wealth-building in predominantly black communities is hard because of yesterday’s inequalities. It’s actually impossible to point to one single event that led to gaps in wealth for minorities since there have been decades of inequality. Gudell says it’s a compounding effect and something that we “haven’t been able to figure out how to fix it yet.”

“In terms of closing the gap of white and black homeownership, we’re not moving,” Gudell said. “If you look at white homeownership, it’s increasing, while black homeownership is falling.”

Asante-Muhammad echoed those concerns.

“Wealth inequality … reinforces what had been maintained by law and by personal prejudice in the past,” he said. And that lack of wealth is only exacerbated when it comes to home buying.

“So, let’s say you’re getting a $200,000 house and want to put a 10 percent down payment, that’s $20,000. That’s much higher than the median wealth of blacks and Latinos,” he said. A 10 percent down payment is already outside the traditional norm. Typically, a down payment is 20 percent of the home’s value, so $40,000 for that same $200,000 home.

But even if these would-be buyers took advantage of some of the systems in place to help address some of these issues-including utilizing an FHA-backed loan which allows borrowers to make a down payment as low as 3.5 percent-it’s often still not enough.

Asante-Muhammad said even if these buyers got an FHA loan on a $200,000 home-the median-valued home nationwide-the down payment would still be beyond the wealth of most blacks and Latinos. For that $200,000 home, a 3.5 percent down payment would equate to $7,000-or roughly 68.5 times the wealth of African-Americans and 58.5 times Hispanic wealth.

And their wealth today is much less than it was even 10 years ago, when black and Hispanic wealth was $10,400 and $10,200, respectively.

“If things keep going the way they’ve been going, in 2053, the African-American median wealth will be zero,” Asante-Muhammad said.

And that lack of wealth has big repercussions for the future.

“I hope things will get better, but I don’t think the gap will close anytime soon,” Gudell said. “These are such big problems that you can’t just have a quick fix for them but my hope is that we would have equality and balance in the future.”

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Hight wins Funny Car at Texas Motorplex

Robert Hight drove to the Funny Car victory Sunday at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex. Hight raced to a 3.877-second pass at 332.34 mph in his Chevrolet … Click to Continue »

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. takes pole for final Talladega race

Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won the pole for his final scheduled Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway. Earnhardt is retiring from full-time competition at the end of the season, and the … Click to Continue »

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Kenseth eyeing job driving school bus if NASCAR fails

Matt Kenseth has no job lined up for next season, but he has a backup plan should there be no seat for him in NASCAR. “You know, I was thinking … Click to Continue »

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Why is a Storytelling Meta-Template Powerful?

The storytelling meta-template is a tool that will allow you to get much better at PR and content marketing.

So, you want to sell a washing powder. You can write a standard copy: the highest washing quality, the best price, a back to school promo, buy now! But wait! In advertising everything has to be a story now, so why not sell the washing powder using the power of storytelling?

Here’s the basic template. ”Meet Kate. Kate desperately wanted to wash her clothes but couldn’t. That is until the off voice told her about this new washing powder. Now Kate’s clothes are clean and she’s happy!” Do we have a story? Yes. Is it poor? Incredibly poor. Why? Two reasons.

An ad revolves around a product. The story’s central point is the protagonist. But we have Kate in the above example. So why doesn’t it work? Well, in order for the audience to root for the hero, we need to be aware of a couple of things. First, a hero needs a goal. She needs to want something, crave for a change. Do we have a goal in our story? Well, sort of. There’s one very important thing missing from it.

A stake. We need to know why the protagonist’s craving is so important. In an ideal story, it’s the matter of life and death. Of course, we don’t have to treat it liter- ally every time but consider this: Kate met a guy yesterday, he is everything she’s ever dreamt of. And he invited her on a date today! But she’s just landed in a foreign city after two weeks of hiking, and all she has is a bag full of dirty clothes. Now her desire for the clean clothes is more interesting. Because it’s no longer about the laundry — it’s about Kate winning the love of her life. Most of the corporate storylines already have a protagonist (“Our CEO opened the new production line” or ”Wesley became the newest member of our product team”) but fail to emphasize the importance of the goal they try to achieve. Fix this one thing and your stories will be better. But there is more to it.

 

Do you know how do you engage your curiosity? I just did.

When Emma Coats tweeted the Pixar’s Rules of Storytelling, many asked: which one is the most important of them? My vote goes to this one:

You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

The harder your character tries to succeed, the harder the audience roots for him. Now let’s get back to Kate’s story. There’s no trying at all there! The same goes for most of the corporate storylines: a CEO opened the new production line. Wesley became the newest member of our team. How do you make your character try? Use the second rule of good storytelling:

What is your character good at? What is he comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them.

If the salesperson is good at winning new clients, a story about her winning a new client is no story at all. Have the CEO (a nerdy tech genius with a social anxiety) go to the sales meeting and see how she copes. It makes for a much better story, right?

 

A structure to rule them all

A book titled Culture And Narration appeared in 1976. Its authors, Edmund Leach and Algirdas Greimas, researched the structures of folk tales. They came up with a story structure: six elements each story should have. What can we find there?

  • The hero. Your typical story protagonist: Kate from the story above, our nerdy CEO or Wesley, the newest member of our team.
  • The goal. Most of the stories have them. Good stories emphasize the stakes. So the CEO needs to open the new production line or the company goes bankrupt. Kate needs her clean clothes so she can win the love of her life. You get it.

But this is where things get interesting. How do you throw your protagonist in a situation he clearly does not want to be in? You add two elements to your story.

  • The giver is someone (or something) who throws our protagonists out of their comfort zones. For Kate, it’s her two-week hiking. The nerdy CEO has to go to a sales meeting because of the nasty flu that’s decimating his team.
  • The receiver. You can come up with a very fancy reason for your protagonist to abandon his comfort zone, but your audience still needs to believe it. This is where the receiver comes in. Why would our character agree on doing something completely out of character? What would trigger them? Kate does it in the name of love. And what about our CEO?

If you got the previous ones right, you still have two more to go. These are about your story’s turning point.

  • The enemy. In classic fairy tales, it’s the dragon. In Kate’s story, it’s her dirty laundry. For our CEO it’s his social anxiety. The better you depict the enemy, the more emotional your audience will get. You need the protagonist to fall.
  • The help(er). Another character or a magical artifact that comes to the rescue. Our hero can be helped directly (think Sam carrying Frodo in The Lord of the Rings) or he can have something called the a-ha moment (like when Rafiki talks Simba into going back in The Lion King).You can recognize this structure in fairy tales, movies or advertising. But many of these stories feel… schematic. Why? Because they’re based on the same template? Well… Here comes the best part.

 

A template for a template?

Most of the advertising or PR copy that is written using the story structure follows the basic template: Your customer is the protagonist and the product is the help(er). You can squeeze a fairly decent story out of it (by giving your protagonist an unusual goal or a surprising motivation), but the audience will know (sooner rather than later) what you are trying to achieve.

You should know that there are three more meta-templates (the templates for using the story structure template) that you can use. And they’re not that obvious.

  • The product and the customer are the helpers. Someone important for the customer is the hero. Just look at the brilliant execution of this template below:

 

  • The seller is the protagonist, the customer is the helper and the prod- uct… is the enemy! A boy sells his engagement ring on eBay. He does not want to have it because the girl said no. You’ll help him… by buying the ring!
  • The product is the hero! Think of a lamp that just wants to be useful. Or furniture that craves for some warmth from the butts of a loving family…

 

 

Next time you’ll want to build your story, think of the above set of tools. Then disregard the first thing that comes to your mind. Get rid of the second and third thing, too. Now you can start telling your story.

The power of a storytelling meta-template

 

The post Why is a Storytelling Meta-Template Powerful? appeared first on GetResponse Blog – Online Marketing Tips.

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1920s Japanese Tea House Turned Zen Retreat – House of the Week

When Larry Genovesi set out to build a home on Massachusetts’ Little Harbor, he didn’t realize he would end up saving a piece of history in the process.

It started as a typical day in 2000. He was strolling through Cohasset, a small seaside town of about 8,000, when a tiny, 1920s Japanese tea house caught his eye. The view of the harbor – and the Atlantic Ocean in the distance – was a huge selling point; the ability to fish just beyond the doorstep was another.

Photo by Brian Doherty.

Genovesi bought the place on a whim, becoming the third known owner of the property. Next on his list: convincing his wife to live in 550 square feet.

“We ended up living there for eight years. I think it’s a testimony to a great marriage if you can live with your wife in 550 square feet,” Genovesi joked. “But it was interesting and it helped us understand the property – the seasons and all that. I’ve always been a fan of Japanese architecture.”

Photo by Brian Doherty.

The couple used that inspiration when they set out to design a larger, earth-friendly house in the same spot. Genovesi wanted to save as much of the existing structure as possible while immersing something modern in the lush landscape. 

The result is a nearly 4,000-square-foot home, surrounded by the harbor on three sides. Each window in the 3-bedroom, 4-bathroom home offers a view of trees or water.

Photo by Brian Doherty.

Of note, a soaking tub in the master bathroom is positioned to take in views stretching to the Atlantic Ocean.

“It’s a great feature – probably my wife’s favorite,” Genovesi said. “It’s a calm place to soak and meditate.”

Photo by Brian Doherty.

The home has other zen features, too, including a koi pond and waterfall. A rooftop deck allows for unobstructed views of the stars. On cooler nights, the owners will cozy up near a firepit at what they’ve nicknamed “sunset point.”

Photo by Brian Doherty.

Added bonuses: the ability to kayak and canoe from the house, regular visits from deer, and blue herons and fruit trees on your front doorstep.

Glass panels in the floor of the dining room honor the surrounding landscape, too, allowing natural light to flood the lower level. There is a kitchenette, a bathroom and a game room there.

Photo by Brian Doherty.

The details are decidedly modern for a home steeped in history. Builders saved nearly 70 percent of the original house, which served as social gathering spot for a well-known New England family.

Workers salvaged three of the four original stone walls, each about two feet thick. They added a steel structure for support and salvaged some of the old-growth Douglas Fir, which Genovesi transformed into the dining table.

Photo by Brian Doherty.

The family has put the home on the market as they search for another adventure – potentially starting an agricultural school to inspire the next generation of farmers.

“It’s very much a place where if you live there, you live in the land. I think the person who buys this needs to appreciate that fact,” he said. “It isn’t one of those big massive houses that you live inside. You really live outside all year-round.”

The home is listed for $4.995 million by Gail Petersen Bell of Home Center Sotheby’s International.

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As an asteroid approaches, NASA carries out a cosmic fire drill

NASA is using the approach of a small asteroid to test the International Asteroid Warning Network. The test, involving scientists all around the world, has proven successful and could be used could be used to track any asteroids on a collision course with planet Earth. 

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Sorensen Classic: Interview with Dale Jr., including his plan for retirement in 2013

Editor’s note: This column originally published on May 25, 2013. The glass doors to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s hauler open and a public relations representative summons me inside. “Tell him we’re … Click to Continue »

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