NNN – No New News? – 12/28/21 – America’s crime wave tests both parties

Opinion by Frida Ghitis

Updated 1:36 PM ET, Tue December 28, 2021

Frida Ghitis, (@fridaghitis) a former CNN producer and correspondent, is a world affairs columnist. She is a frequent opinion contributor to CNN, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post and a columnist for World Politics Review. The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)One of the lessons of the past two years — and one that will come in handy in 2022 — is that when problems are real, playing political games and twisting the truth does not help to solve them. That seemingly self-evident bit of wisdom, ignored with deadly results by the previous administration, should stand as the centerpiece in another major challenge — the battle against the rise in violent crime across in the United States.Frida GhitisFrida Ghitis

Whether you prefer Democrats or Republicans, the key here is solving the problem: stemming the rise in violence that is leaving thousands of Americans dead and millions more feeling vulnerable and unsafe.

First, the facts. The murder rate in the US exploded in 2020, up 30% from 2019, according to provisional numbers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That was the largest single-year increase in 100 years (although it’s well below the homicide rates of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s). The numbers have continued to rise in 2021, although at a slower rate. Other types of crime also increased but not as much as murder.

To hear the GOP tell it, this is all the product of Democratic policies, affecting cities and states led by Democratic leaders and majorities. In reality, the facts tell a different story. Crime increased last year in most states in the US. The largest increases came in Montana (84% increase), South Dakota (81%), Delaware (62%) and Kentucky (61%.) That’s hardly a geographic atlas of progressive politics.

To be sure, crime rates are higher in urban areas, where there’s higher density, and cities tend to be more Democratic than Republican. But the dominant factors are more likely related to realities of urban life — not party affiliation.So, why has the level of violence soared in the country? There’s no simple answer. The pandemic has something to do with it. People are frustrated, anxious and stressed. But the pandemic has hit the entire planet, and the crime rate has not soared across the world. The exploding murder rate is an American phenomenon.

Rising crime puts Democrats on edge

Rising crime puts Democrats on edgeNo developed country has more guns than the US, and guns are being used in an even larger number of murders. When guns are brandished in a fight or in a robbery, the chance that someone dies is much greater.Enter email to sign up for the CNN Opinion newsletter.close dialog

Sign up for the latest thoughts and analysis on today’s news headlines, political op-eds, and social commentary.SIGN ME UPBy subscribing you agree to ourprivacy policy.Crime rates have also likely increased because of friction between the police and the community. Racial tensions and animosity have led to many police officers leaving their jobs, have made others reluctant to intervene in conflicts and have caused the public to hesitate calling police they don’t trust.In my view, another factor is the political climate. With so many Republicans arguing the system is unfair and falsely claiming elections are illegitimate and with many Democrats claiming the system is rigged to favor the rich and powerful, there is a growing sense of anger and mistrust among segments of the public.As the 2022 political campaigns gain traction, we will hear more and more claims that murders are rising because Democrats chanted “defund the police,” even though many Democrats oppose such defunding measures. Democrats, for their part, may choose to blame it all on America’s wild availability of guns.For responsible political leaders, the right approach is to tackle the problem with facts, creative ideas and effective implementation.

Smerconish: Police reform intersects with crime surge

Smerconish: Police reform intersects with crime surge 06:28Sure, the mind-boggling number of weapons in the hands of civilians is a daunting problem with deadly consequences, and the failure to address it is a blemish on America’s system of government. Efforts to create gun safety rules should continue, but that cannot be the only focus.The elections of late 2021 already showed that “defund the police” may have been a satisfying street chant after horrifying murders perpetrated by police officers, but the public — including Democrats of all races — want policing, and many want additional officers, too. That’s one reason Eric Adams, a former policeman, was elected mayor of New York City and why boosting and improving policing was a major issue in Atlanta’s mayoral election.The Justice Department has just launched a massive $1.6 billion program of grants, with hundreds of communities across the country set to receive funds to reduce violent crime. The money will support projects on gangs, domestic violence and novel crime prevention ideas.But creative thinking on crime should not require reinventing the wheel. When one looks at the rest of the developed world, the failure of the United States is breathtaking.In the Netherlands, where I spend part of the year, the number of murders in 2020 dropped from already low figures. The total number of homicides for the entire country was 121, less than 7 per 1 million people. That’s about one-tenth the rate in the US. The capital, Amsterdam, a city of more than 800,000, suffered just one murder a month.Get our free weekly newsletter

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Join us on Twitter and FacebookInterestingly, according to the European Commission on Human Rights, police only shoot to kill when it’s “absolutely necessary.” And when they shoot, they often aim for the legs of assailant. In the US, officers are generally allowed to use deadly force when they have a “reasonable belief” that their life is in danger.

I’ve watched Dutch officers interact with the public in difficult situations. They seem supernaturally focused on keeping calm and reducing tensions. The imperative of deescalation techniques is finally gaining attention in the US, where the police have seemed increasingly militarized.As you read this, you may be hearing a siren blaring in the background or have just read yet another news account of a shooting. The problem is real. Downplaying it will not do. But simply playing politics is hardly the answer. As politicians eye the 2022 elections, voters would do well to watch closely and see how they handle this challenge. Their words and their actions should tell us which among them deserve support.

NNN – No New News? – 12/27/21 – ‘Encanto’ shifts the female paradigm

Opinion by Allison Hope

Updated 9:24 PM ET, Mon December 27, 2021

Hollywood Minute: 'Encanto' leading holiday box office

Hollywood Minute: ‘Encanto’ leading holiday box office 01:03

Allison Hope is a writer whose work has been featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Slate and elsewhere. The views expressed here are the author’s. Read more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)To all the girls who prefer baseball diamonds to rings, who consider themselves both strong and beautiful — and to all children and their parents who ought to learn that this option exists — Disney’s “Encanto” offers an antidote and a new paradigm in female representation.Allison HopeAllison Hope

“Encanto” is Disney’s latest movie, the 60th in its animated repertoire, and hit the theaters in late November and Disney+ on Christmas Eve. The film is beaming with more positive, diverse female representations than any Disney movie, or even any other movie that I can think of.

The story follows a magical, matriarchal family, the Madrigals, who live in the mountains in Colombia and serve as the spiritual guides and healers to the town’s denizens. The movie’s protagonist, Mirabel, voiced by Stephanie Beatriz, is the black sheep of the family, the only member of the household not to have any known superpowers. One sibling can lift anything, another can make roses out of thin air, Mirabel’s mother can heal any wounds, a banished uncle can see into the future, her young cousin can talk to animals.

Mirabel feels like the pariah in her home, but she maintains a semblance of confidence and never gives up on her intuition, intellectual curiosity and sense of justice to uncover the truth and protect her family.

The plot line is beautiful, resonant with themes that are ever-present in this second pandemic holiday season — of holding family close, of homes as the mainstage for all the action, of intuition and how things come apart and go back together again, if we’re lucky. The music, written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is catchy, the character development is nuanced and refreshing, and the plot, though as predictable as any Disney movie, is suspenseful nonetheless.Perhaps most poignantly, “Encanto’s” female characters refreshingly diverge from Disney’s long history of casting Barbie-like sexualized figures who are missing ribs (think: “Cinderella,” “Snow White”). Even when they trade their mops and brooms and the need to be saved by a man’s kiss (“Sleeping Beauty,” Ariel in “The Little Mermaid,” Princess Jasmine in Aladdin”), and they are superheroes who save the day (think: “Moana,” “Pocahontas”) they are still large-busted, small-featured, curvy feminine women with long hair and little clothing.

In contrast, Mirabel in “Encanto” is a flat-chested, average weighted, artsy, glasses-donning antihero. She is geeky and antisocial, with a wide, freckled nose and thick eyebrows, a far cry from the rib-less Disney stars of movies past.Enter your email to subscribe to the CNN Newsletter The Point with Chris Cillizza.close dialogSign up for CNN’s

CNN’s Chris Cillizza cuts through the political spin and tells you what you need to know.Sign Me UpNo ThanksBy subscribing, you agree to ourprivacy policy.What’s more, the main character’s sister, Luisa, voice by Jessica Darrow, is a strong woman, with bulging muscles and a butch demeanor. She would undoubtedly be male in any other movie, but is pleasantly female, and just happens to have a more masculine gender expression. It’s brilliant. I can’t imagine any other Disney movie — or any other movie for that matter, animated or not — where a female character is ripped and beloved. Large biceps and manual labor are assigned to men, or else to women who are pariahs. The 12-year-old in me has a giant crush on her.

Spielberg's West Side Story shows us the value of multilingualism

Spielberg’s West Side Story shows us the value of multilingualismThey also allow Luisa room to be multidimensional. Mirabel, at the end of the song, “Surface Pressure,” in which Luisa admits that she feels insecure beneath the strong exterior, tells her, “You are carrying too much,” and Luisa pulls her sister in for a tight hug. The message: You can be strong and feel weak, be tough and feel insecure. It is a critical message for our children, particularly as they watch this film through the pandemic lens, coming of age in a world that is ever more tenuous.The Madrigal household is notably female, run by Abuela, the grandmother, a stoic woman with a square jaw and a wide gait, who everyone listens to. There is no father, no grandfather, no mayor or president or other authority figures in the film to speak of — no male, in other words, present or in utterance, to step in and take charge or exert his maleness to drive the plot forward.The only males in the film are Maribel’s father, a meek man who is afraid to speak up when Maribel learns that the family may be in trouble and encourages her to keep it a secret; and a brother-in-law, brother-in-law-to-be, as well as a cameo from a priest, all of whom take supporting roles at best and offer no salve.As I kid, I loved watching Disney movies. I had all the songs memorized and daydreamed that I was inserted into the plots, swishing my mermaid tail through the ocean with Flounder in “The Little Mermaid,” or flying on a magic carpet in “Aladdin.”I never, though, felt like I could relate to the female characters. Much like women in fashion magazines or on TV shows, whether for adults or children, the club felt reserved for women who were skinnier, prettier, more feminine than I could ever be. This film is a big change.To be clear, however, the film’s female representation leaves some room for improvement. For one, sinewy Luisa, who slings a pile of donkeys on her shoulders with ease, wears a skirt and her hair pulled back into a ponytail. Would it be be asking too much to have her present as butch and wear pants or short hair?Also, in one of the opening numbers, Mirabel sings her family tree to the town’s children to help explain who everyone is, she describes her feminine sister Isabela as “beauty” and the muscle-ripped one as “brawn,” presupposing that the two are somehow diametrically opposed, as if the strong, butch sister can’t also simultaneously be beautiful.This still reinforces the feminine beauty ideals that demure and tiny and pink is closer to what we consider aesthetically pleasing than a thick middle and etched facial features. I, for one, find butch beautiful (full disclosure, I am butch).Get our free weekly newsletter

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Join us on Twitter and FacebookStill, there is so much joy and reason to celebrate this new piece of culture that has entered our living rooms and children’s hearts.

Directly translated from Spanish, encanto means the allure of something, something that is sweet or charming. It is a close neighbor of encantar, the verb “to love” and “to enchant.”As I watch “Encanto” for the eighth time in three days with my 4-year-old, I channel my inner child, fulfilled to see women reflected on screen who feel more like me. And I marvel that my child will grow up knowing that women can be both strong and beautiful, can be in charge and can save the day.

NNN – No New News? – 12/28/21 – These 4 Yoga Poses Will Sculpt Your Obliques and Side Abs—No Crunches Required

Ellen O’Brien

December 28, 2021·3 min read

If you’re looking to sculpt some killer abs and increase your core strength, you might first turn to crunches. Hey, it’s a habit. Instead, roll out your yoga mat and try these standing yoga poses to sculpt, tone, and strengthen your side abs–and improve your overall yoga practice. Not only will you see a difference in your body, but more importantly, building those obliques will make you feel stronger, more balanced, and have better mobility.

How yoga works your obliques and side abs

If you’re thinking that Side Plank Pose is the only way to work your side abs, think again. As much as I love this pose (and consider it an all-time oblique-strengthening favorite), there are tons of other poses that effectively work your side abs.

Tiffany Cruikshank, the founder of Yoga Medicine, says poses that engage your rib cage are beneficial to your obliques and side abs. This means that many yoga poses, including some standing twisting postures, can be great options for working your obliques. “This hovering action and rotational motion of the ribs is what helps target the obliques,” she says. And those small movements and rotations? They can lead to big changes in the strength of your side abs and obliques.

We asked Cruikshank for some of her favorite poses to work those obliques. Read on to discover her favorites (and some may even surprise you).

See also: 10 Poses to Build Strength & Stability in Your Core

4 yoga poses to strengthen your side abs

Woman practices Half Moon Pose
(Photo: Christopher Dougherty)

Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose)

Requiring balance, strength, and focus, this pose will tone your side abs–while also improving your stability. If the full posture of this pose is difficult for you, you can opt to modify it by placing a block under your grounded hand. Cruikshank says this pose doesn’t necessarily feel like core work–even though it is. “The key for [this pose] is to focus on moving the skin of your top ribs back in order to turn your ribcage toward the long edge of your mat,” she says. This rotation of your ribs is what strengthens your side abs and obliques.

A person demonstrates Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana) in yoga
(Photo: Christopher Dougherty)

Utthita Parsvakonasana (Extended Side Angle)

Like Half Moon Pose, Extended Side Angle enables you to engage your rib cage in a way that targets those side abs and obliques. If you find core work a bit boring, Cruikshank says this is the pose to turn to. By opening your chest up, engaging your lower body, and extending through your upper arm, you’ll feel every inch of your physical body activated–including your obliques. To make this pose more challenging, you can also opt to take a half or a full bind with the top arm.

Woman demonstrates Side Plank Pose
(Photo: Christopher Dougherty)

Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose)

A tried-and-true for oblique work, Side Plank Pose is a great option for strengthening your side abs–no oblique crunches needed. If balancing in Side Plank Pose is challenging for you, opt to bring your top foot down as a “kickstand” to your bottom leg. Want to target those side abs even more? Bring your supporting arm down to to your forearm–instead of lifting through the fully extended arm. Your obliques will be on fire in no time.

A person demonstrates Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana) in yoga
(Photo: Christopher Dougherty)

Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose)

This pose engages your ribs in a similar way to Extended Side Angle Pose and Half Moon Pose, Cruikshank says. While in this pose, try making the same adjustments Cruikshank recommended for Half Moon Pose–moving the skin of your top ribs back, in order to create space and rotation throughout your ribcage. This movement will allow you to fully engage your obliques. “To ramp this [pose] up simply get lighter and lighter on the lower supportive arm or you can even take the arms overhead for an additional challenge,” Cruikshank says.

See also: 5 Poses to Strengthen Your Lower Back and Core–All Without Standing Up

NNN – No New News? – 12/28/21 – Dr. Dre’s Ex-Wife Scores Massive Divorce Settlement

Tatiana SiegelTue, December 28, 2021, 4:45 PM·3 min readIn this article:

  • Dr. DreDr. Dre – American rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur

 0:16 0:50   Dr. Dre and ex-wife Nicole Young come to 100M divorce settlement

One of Hollywood’s messiest divorces also will mark one of the industry’s most costly.

Dr. Dre and ex-wife Nicole Young reached a massive divorce settlement Tuesday that will see Young walk away from their 24-year marriage with $100 million. Sources familiar with the settlement tell Rolling Stone that the two sides have finalized terms of their split, with the Death Row Records co-founder forking over more than one-fifth of his fortune and roughly half of his liquid assets. Young will be required to move out of their Malibu beach house by the end of the month but will keep a Rolls Royce, Range Rover, Escalade limousine, and Spyder motorcycle as well as all of her jewelry.

More from Rolling Stone

The $100 million settlement concludes an 18-month divorce proceeding that played out in the press following Young’s filing in June 2020 and Dre’s move to enforce a prenuptial agreement signed in 1996. But powerhouse attorney Samantha Spector fought the validity of the prenup, arguing that Young had signed it under “duress.” (The couple share two adult children, Truice and Truly.)

Over the past year and a half, the battle between the 56-year-old rapper and producer — whose real name is Andre Romelle Young — and Nicole Young, 51, aired plenty of dirty laundry. Nicole claimed in court papers that Dre kicked her out of their home in early April and “plotted to secretly transfer their assets, to deny Nicole her equal share.” She also accused him of multiple instances of domestic abuse, including holding a gun to her head twice and punching her in the head and face, all of which he denied. In April, Nicole won her bid to compel three of Dre’s alleged mistresses — Jillian Speer, Kili Anderson, and Crystal Rogers — to testify in the case. Likewise, Dre filed a separate lawsuit in September, claiming that Nicole stole $353,571.85 from the coffers of Recording One studio in Sherman Oaks.

Legal observers say the turning point in the case came earlier this year, when Spector successfully pushed for the removal of Laura Wasser, another superstar divorce attorney, from Dre’s team. Spector and Wasser have squared off in the past, most notably in the Johnny Depp-Amber Heard divorce (Wasser represented Depp, while Spector was on Heard’s team). Likewise, Howard King, who had repped the couple on previous legal matters, was barred from representing Dre in the divorce. As a result, Anne Kiley, whose clients include Brad Pitt, took over as the point on Dre’s legal team.

With Wasser and King out, Nicole added more firepower to her legal team, bringing in attorneys Lisa Helfend Meyer and Bryan Freedman to untangle intellectual property issues given the record producer’s vast library of music created during the couple’s union. According to Tuesday’s settlement, Wasser and King each agreed to pay Nicole $50,000 to put to bed any potential claims between them. Both Dre and Nicole have agreed not to appeal the agreement. A source close to the rapper tells Rolling Stone he is delighted with the settlement.

Although Dre is often dubbed the hip-hop world’s first billionaire, divorce papers filed with L.A. Superior Court on Nov. 18 place his net worth at $458.2 million, with $182.7 million of that sum in cash, $6.3 million in stocks, and $269.2 million in property and assets, including intellectual property. Dre was believed to be worth considerably more after Apple bought his Beats Electronics in 2014 for $3 billion; his stake was reportedly worth $800 million at the time. It is unclear what accounts for the discrepancy.

NNN – No New News? – 12/29/21 – 4 Ways To Grow $100,000 Into $1 Million for Retirement Savings

Jennifer Saibil(TMFanibird)Dec 29, 2021 at 8:18AMAuthor Bio

Key Points

  • Investing $100,000 gives you leverage to reach millionaire status relatively quickly, depending on your investing style.
  • Index funds, growth investing, and dividend investing are all reasonable ways to grow your money for retirement.
  • A diversified portfolio is king for giving you fast, secure investment opportunities.

Motley Fool Issues Rare “All In” Buy Alert

Turning $100,000 into $1 million means you let your money grow 1,000%. That’s a huge gain, but it’s very doable if you give it enough time. Compounded over many years, the annualized growth rate doesn’t have to be very high to get you to millionaire status by retirement. If you’re starting late, it’s also possible to grow your money quickly, but that would entail more risk.

You also don’t have to start with $100,000. If you have a more modest initial investment but add funds to your accounts over time, you can become a millionaire. That’s why there are several ways to make it happen, and one of them likely fits your timeline and investing style. Here are four options.Three people, with one person shaking the other's hand.

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

1. Invest in an index fund

The tried-and-true index fund is definitely one of the most reliable tracks toward wealth. It’s a slow process, but one that yields results. An index fund, such as the Vanguard S&P 500 (NYSEMKT:VOO)exchange-traded fund (ETF), tracks the movements of a stock index, in this case, the S&P 500 index. The S&P 500 is a collection of industry-leading U.S. stocks, each of which has at least $11.8 billion in market cap, in addition to a few other requirements. That makes this index a capable representative of the broader market. From time to time, companies are traded out of the index and others take their place, so there are always 500 stocks in the composite at any given time.

The S&P 500 has gained an annualized rate of about 14% over the past 10 years. If you invested $100,000 10 years ago, without adding extra funds, today you would have $370,000. Keeping that rate constant, you would be a millionaire after 18 years.Compound annual growth rate chart

IMAGE SOURCE: INVESTOR.GOV.

Consider that this scenario doesn’t include any extra contributions. If you would add money to this investment over the years, you would become a millionaire faster and have a lot more at the end of the 18 years. Or if you have a smaller amount to begin with but add money over time, you can still become a millionaire over a similar period of time. 

Eighteen years is also a relatively short time span. If you start earlier, you could become a millionaire with a much smaller amount of money for your initial investment or with a lower annualized growth rate.

2. Invest in high-growth stocks

If you don’t have 18 years to get to millionaire status, you can grow your money more quickly through growth investing. Investing in growth stocks can supercharge your portfolio, because growth stocks can gain in value very quickly. The occasional growth stock can even gain 1,000% in one year. However, the catch is that they typically have a high degree of associated risk.

Growth stocks are usually young companies that are growing rapidly and have lots of potential, but they aren’t always proven, and the trajectory doesn’t always go as planned. If you choose to invest in growth stocks, you may want to balance them out with safer value stocks or choose a number of stocks to vary your holdings and up your chances of success. Sometimes, a stock that gains too quickly can also implode, so you don’t want to tie up all of your retirement money in risky choices.

Let’s use fintech stock Upstart Holdings (NASDAQ:UPST) as an example. The company started trading publicly last December, and by November, its stock had gained more than 750%. However, the hype came back to reality, and the stock is now up a still-impressive 263% over the past year. If you’d invested in Upstart, you would have beaten the market by a wide margin — the S&P 500 is up 28% over the past year.

3. Invest in dividend stocks

Dividend stocks are typically attractive to the already retired, because they provide income. Dividends are payments per share that a company doles out to shareholders, usually quarterly. They are a fixed amount, but investors usually calculate the yield they get based on the price of the stock.

For example, one of the best-known dividend stocks is Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO). The company’s most recent dividend was for $0.42 a share on Dec. 15, so if you owned 100 shares, you would have received $4.20. With a current price of $58, that works out to an annual yield of 2.9%.

Over time, and with enough money invested, dividends can provide a very nice income. They can be reinvested to buy you more shares without having to add any direct contributions, paving the way to a millionaire retirement.

4. Create a diversified portfolio

All of these methods work best when they are applied together to create a diversified portfolio of quality stocks. Investing part of your money in an index fund builds a safety valve into the portfolio and grows your money securely over time. Investing some into an array of growth stocks gives them a chance to grow faster with less risk, and putting some into dividend stocks gives your money the opportunity to grow while providing income or increasing your equity.

All together, these strategies maximize your chances of becoming a millionaire while keeping your investments secure — $100,000 is an excellent starting point, and it puts you well on your path to your goals if you start today.

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NNN – No New News? – 12/28/21 – Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver finalize their divorce … after announcing their split in 2011

Raechal Shewfelt·Editor, Yahoo EntertainmentTue, December 28, 2021, 7:46 PM·2 min readIn this article:

Explore the topics mentioned in this article

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver haven’t been a couple for more than a decade, but their divorce is only now official, according to multiple reports. 

Yahoo Entertainment has reached out to lawyers for both.

The couple initially announced their separation in May 2011, after he revealed that he’d fathered a child, Joseph Baena, by then 14, with the family housekeeper. Shriver filed for divorce two months later.

They had married in 1986, after being introduced by journalist Tom Brokaw at a charity event. 

Schwarzenegger and Shriver share four adult children, including Katherine Schwarzenegger, who’s married to movie star Chris Pratt. Their marriage included his time as governor of California, from 2003 to 2011.

According to TMZ, a judge who had worked to mediate the breakup “signed off on a divorce earlier this month,” but it was Tuesday that the required sitting judge made it official by logging it into the court system. The hold up, apparently, was “a very complicated property settlement agreement.”

In the more than a decade since the breakup, the actor-turned-politician has made projects including The Expendables 3 and Terminator Genisys. Shriver, meanwhile, has worked for NBC News and authored a book, I’ve Been Thinking …: Reflections, Prayers and Meditations for a Meaningful Life, which was a New York Times bestseller. 

In June 2015, Schwarzenegger revealed his feelings about the split to Howard Stern on his SiriusXM radio show.

“This was without a doubt the biggest setback and the biggest failure [in my life],” he told Stern. “Not only failure, but you really feel like, ‘I’m to blame for it. It was me that screwed up,’ and you can’t point the finger at anyone else.”

Schwarzenegger has reportedly dated his current girlfriend, Heather Milligan, since 2013. At one point, Shriver was reportedly dating Republican strategist Matthew Dowd.

Still, both have always continued to spend time with their now adult children, sometimes even at the same events.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver attend a 2017 movie premiere in Los Angeles. (Photo: Phillip Faraone/Getty Images)
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver attend a 2017 movie premiere in Los Angeles with their children. (Photo: Phillip Faraone/Getty Images)

Schwarzenegger also appears to have grown close to Baena, who’s an actor like his father.

NNN – No New News? – 12/30/21 – ‘I couldn’t even use the degree.’ I racked up $80K in student loans, but only make $40K a year. How to get out of student loan debt faster

Updated: Dec. 30, 2021 at 7:36 a.m. ETBy 

Alisa Wolfson

191

Student loan debt now tops $1.7 trillion. Here’s how to cope.

GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

Question: “I have high student loan debt, about $80,000 in total. When I got the loans, I thought I’d be paying a lot less than I ended up paying. Even worse: I couldn’t even use the degree. Now I make only $40,000 a year, and I’m the only person working in my household. The loans are on pause now, but I am worried when that stops. I need help trying to figure this out.”

Need help with student loans or other debt?
Email chill@marketwatch.com
.https://www.credible.com/partners-widgets/student-loan-refi/rate-table/?variation=shortened&source=marketwatch&theme=default&pageUrl=80Kstudentloans111621

Answer: Like a lot of students who have enjoyed a pause on their federal student loans — as part of the coronavirus relief package, the government suspended loan payments, incited a 0% interest rate and stopped collections on defaulted items — you see the end is near. The program is set to end in May 2022, and you’re worried. The first thing to know is you’re not alone: The average student loan borrower has more than $36,000 in debt, according to the Education Data Initiative. The good news? You do have options to help you manage the debt. Here’s what you may want to consider.  

The first thing to do is contact your loan servicer to talk about what your options are if you’re struggling. One good option for you may be to look into income-driven repayment plans for your federal loans (details here). “If the amount you owe and your monthly payment feels unmanageable, [a good] option is to contact your servicer about enrolling in an income-driven repayment plan. This will cap payments at a portion of your income and extend your repayment to 20 or 25 years. After the term ends, the remainder is forgiven,” explains Anna Helhoski, NerdWallet’s student loan expert. There are other repayment plans for federal loans (details here) that you may want to consider.

Loan forgiveness may be an option, too, says Lee Busby, a financial wellness program manager at Johnson Sterling. Indeed, if you work in public service — employed full-time by a U.S. federal, state, local or tribal government or non-profit organization — and your student loan debt is federal, you could seek public service loan forgiveness. There are other ways to get loans forgiven too, which you can learn about here, including forgiveness options for some teachers, and some in the medical field and military. What’s more, more people are now eligible for loan forgiveness thanks to new policies by the Biden administration. Some employers also have some student loan relief as part of their benefits package.

Another option for those struggling with student loan debt? “You can also refinance private loans into lower interest rates if you can qualify for them,” says Busby. While it’s true that interest rates on student loan refis are very low now, as you can see here, and a lower interest rate can mean significant savings for a borrower, those with federal loans should think twice, as you could potentially forfeit federal protections such as deferment, forbearance or income-based repayment. Before you refi loans, read the MarketWatch Picks guide to refinancing your student loans here.

NNN – No New News? – 12/29/21 – $1M Is No Longer the Standard Nest Egg — Here’s How Much Most Americans Think You Actually Need To Retire

Gabrielle OlyaWed, December 29, 2021, 2:00 PM·5 min read

Geber86 / Getty Images
Geber86 / Getty Images

A common financial rule of thumb is that you should have $1 million saved for retirement, but this piece of advice may now be outdated — you may actually need roughly double that. At least, that’s what most 401(k) plan participants believe.

A recent survey conducted by Schwab Retirement Plan Services found that on average, 2021 plan participants think they need to save $1.9 million for retirement. But how accurate is this number?

Read: Jaw-Dropping Stats About the State of Retirement in America
See: Here’s Exactly How Much Savings You Need To Retire In Your State

$1.9 Million Is a Good Estimate for How Much You Will Need in Retirement

Nathan Voris, director of business strategy at Schwab Workplace Financial Services, thinks that the survey participants have a pretty accurate idea of how much they will need in retirement. “I think for a survey like this, that’s a pretty good number,” he said. “That’s a ballpark range for a wide range of folks. Obviously, retirement is not one-size-fits-all, but that’s sort of the middle of the range for a lot of people.” As Voris notes, there are numerous factors that will affect how much someone will actually need in retirement, so some may need more and others may need less. “There’s so much written about that, but I boil it down into just a couple of things. One is, when do you want to retire?,” Voris said. “If you’re going to retire at 50, you need to plan for 45 years of living expenses. If it’s 67, you need to plan for 30 years. That has a huge factor in what your plan should be.”

Learn: The Downsides of Retirement That Nobody Talks About
Find Out: How Long $500K Will Last in Retirement in Each State

“One of the other levers is, what lifestyle are you going to have in retirement?” he continued. “Where are you going to live? Are you going to live in California or Wyoming? Think about the state tax perspective. Are you going to have an active lifestyle? Or are you living close to grandkids where you’re going to be pretty local? There’s a lot of factors in what level of lifestyle you want to live in retirement.” Finally, how much you need to have saved for retirement will depend on your other sources of income in retirement. This includes Social Security, pensions, assets and inheritance. “Those kinds of things can be a factor in what the retirement future looks like,” Voris said.

Why $1 Million Is No Longer Enough

There are a number of factors that may require retirees to have a larger nest egg saved up, but one of the main ones is that people are living longer in retirement. “Retirement could be a long time,” Voris said. “That idea of 20 years in retirement, that was maybe tied to that $1 million number. That’s sort of not a realistic expectation anymore. That 4% rule, that $80,000 income bogey is still out there, but you could be retired for 25, 30, 35 years.”

Check Out: 14 Key Signs You Will Run Out of Money in Retirement
Discover: 27 Most Lucrative Side Hustles for People Over 50

How To Save $1.9 Million for Retirement

“If you tell someone they need to save $1.9 million, that can be daunting on the surface. But there’s a way in which you do that through planning and decision-making processes that makes it attainable,” Voris said. The first step is simply making the choice to be an active participant in your financial planning. “Be your own advocate. Be engaged. Start early. Take it seriously. Have a plan,” Voris said. “The attitude towards finances in retirement when you have a plan versus not is night and day.” If you’re just starting out, be sure you’re not leaving any free money on the table. “Make sure that you’re getting every penny that your employer offers, whether that’s a 401(k) match or that’s a stock purchase plan discount or HSA contribution match — all of those assets that are free. Don’t leave any of them on the table,” Voris said. “Approach open enrollment in that mindset, and make sure that you’re leveraging the most from your employer.”

See: States Where Your Retirement Will Cost Less Than $45,000 a Year
Read: 17 Tips To Live Comfortably Off Just a Social Security Check

Voris said to also be mindful of debt, which can derail your retirement savings plans. “Be mindful of credit card debt, be mindful of healthcare debt and have a debt plan if you have multiple cards or you have a car loan,” he said, noting that your plan should be focused on paying down high-interest debt first. You should also have an emergency savings fund so that you do not have to take on more debt or tap into your retirement savings in case the unexpected strikes.

“Practically speaking, for someone who is on the edge of being financially secure, a life event can be disastrous,” Voris said. “If the car breaks down or you accrue some medical debt or you get behind on rent — those kinds of things can really throw a wrench in things.” Having three to six months’ worth of living expenses saved can keep you on track with your retirement savings plans even if something were to happen.

Learn: The Standard Emergency Savings Advice Was Wrong — How Much Do You Really Need?
Find Out: Should You Put Money Into Retirement or Your Savings? Here’s How To Know

Next, Voris said to ask for help coming up with a plan to meet your retirement goals. The Schwab survey found that only 40% of 401(k) plan participants felt very confident in investment decisions made on their own, versus 56% who felt very confident in investment decisions made with professional help. “Take the advice that’s offered,” Voris said. “Most 401(k) record keepers have advice and financial wellness accounts, and those things will help a person build a plan. Have an engagement partner, have a sounding board. Increasing your confidence increases your ability to be successful from a savings and investment perspective.”

Lastly, keep in mind that $1.9 million is a long-term goal — it’s not a lump sum you’re expected to save up overnight. “If you think about someone who is 24 or 25, that’s a 35- to 40-year work savings career,” Voris said. “It seems daunting — that’s a big number — but the ability to get there if you have a plan and if you’re saving over a 30-, 35-, 40-year period, it’s attainable. That $1.9 million [goal] should empower you to make small steps and right decisions incrementally.”

NNN – No New News? – 8/9/21 – Oklahoma is the new “Wild West of weed” — and Colorado marijuana entrepreneurs are helping fuel the green rush

By SAM TABACHNIK | stabachnik@denverpost.com | The Denver PostPUBLISHED: August 9, 2021 at 6:00 a.m. | UPDATED: August 16, 2021 at 10:15 a.m.

OKEMAH, Okla. — Chip Baker surveyed a vast field on the outskirts of an old hay farm an hour east of Oklahoma City, his ponytail waving in the thick, humid air, his voice growing excited.

“This is probably the largest collection of Squirt in the world!” he boasted, pointing to an array of neatly plotted cannabis plants before him that will soon flower pounds of the popular strain.

Baker would know. From the time he planted his first marijuana plant at 13, he’s been all about growing weed. A dream formed in the Georgia fields took him to Humboldt County, California — the nation’s earliest pot epicenter — then Colorado, the country’s first recreational market.

But it’s here in rural Oklahoma, down a dusty dirt road along the banks of the North Canadian River, where true cannabis cowboys — including droves of Colorado entrepreneurs like Baker — are buying mammoth properties to grow mammoth numbers of plants, all in a quest for mammoth stacks of kush-derived cash.Top ArticlesDolphins Q&A: Is this the year Zach Thomas gets into the Hall of Fame?READ MOREOmar Kelly: Can we stop pretending Dolphins’  Tua Tagovailoa has been set up to succeed?Longhorn steer lead the annual National ...Becky Hammon to lead WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces after 8 years as NBA assistantKansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes ...Dolphins Q&A: Is this the year Zach Thomasgets into the Hall of Fame?https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.494.0_en.html#goog_1364675084https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.494.0_en.html#goog_1283663207https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.494.0_en.html#goog_1124611954Dolphins Q&A: Is this the year Zach Thomas gets into the Hall of Fame?

It’s a place unlike virtually any other in America.

“Other states grow patches,” Baker said with a grin, taking in the 90-acre, 40,000-plant cannabis farm before him. “In Oklahoma, we grow fields.”

The Sooner State, as deeply red as the American political palette will go, has almost overnight become the hottest place in the country to grow marijuana. It’s an unprecedented look at what happens when the government stays largely out of the picture and lets the free market run wild.

And Colorado businesses are pumping their sizeable dollars and cannabis expertise into the state, hoping to cash in on what Baker and others in the industry call the next green rush.

“It’s the Wild West of weed,” he said, “in all its glory.”Huff Media Productions 2022 Company ReelHuff Media Productions is on a mission to tell exciting stories with eternal truths. This reel is a look back at the many exciting projects our team has been a part of either in partnership or full production capacity. See full length videos of the clips featured at the following links: Dot…SPONSORED BY HUFF MEDIA PRODUCTIONSSee more

Oklahoma is now America’s most unlikely bastion of bud — a law-and-order mecca that took the war on drugs to its extreme and still imprisons a higher percentage of its population than every state but Louisiana.

Contrary to most other highly regulated cannabis markets, in Oklahoma there are no caps on how many plants you can grow and no limit to how many grows or dispensaries the state can handle. As a result, Oklahoma now has the most medical marijuana patients per capita in the nation — and it’s not even close. Just three years after legalization, the state has seven times the number of growers as Colorado and twice as many dispensaries.

Land is affordable and plentiful. Doctors conduct virtual consultations that help people get medical licenses in as little as 15 minutes — no approved medical condition necessary.

These low barriers to entry make Oklahoma the new eye of the national weed storm.

“Anyone with a dollar and a dream can get started in Oklahoma,” said Brent McDonald, marketing and sales director at Apothecary Farms/Apothecary Extracts, one of the many Colorado cannabis companies competing in what has quickly become a national marijuana arms race.

The flip side to this wild west environment, Oklahoma law enforcement officials contend, is a state flooded with people — including those migrating from Colorado — looking to take advantage of the lax new laws.

Illegal growers are setting up shop in rural areas, they contend, forcing their workforce to live in squalid conditions and diverting their product out of state for massive profits. Meanwhile, land prices are going for five times their value, with eager growers paying in straight cash.

“I’m not frustrated,” said Haskell County Sheriff Tim Turner, whose deputies in rural eastern Oklahoma busted two Colorado individuals in June for allegedly operating an illicit 10,000-plant grow. “I’m madder than hell.”

In rural Haskell County a sign ...
RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostIn rural Haskell County, a sign tells customers there is a dispensary down the road in Keota, Oklahoma, on July 29, 2021.

Leaving Colorado for greener pastures

After getting his start in California, Baker spent a decade honing his cannabis chops in Colorado’s medical and, later, recreational scenes.

In Denver, he formed his Cultivate Colorado brand that supplies growers with the soil, lights, shovels and anything else they might need to raise plants into mature products.

But soon after Oklahomans in June 2018 voted to legalize medical marijuana, Baker noticed transportation costs for his hydroponic supplies were five times higher than normal.

All of it, Baker realized, was going down to Oklahoma.

“I didn’t even know they legalized medical,” he said.

It only took three months for Baker and his wife to sell their Denver home, buy 110 acres outside Oklahoma City and move their operations east.

“We follow the green rush,” he said. “Always have.”

Chip Baker spends a lot of ...
RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostChip Baker spends a lot of time driving dirt roads in his Subaru Outback, seen here parked in Okemah, Oklahoma, on July 27, 2021. Barker, who moved to Oklahoma from Colorado, does consulting work for Tribe Collective’s cannabis farm in rural Oklahoma.

In addition to operating his own farm, Baker also manages the 90-acre grow in Okemah whose owners converted an old hay farm into what Baker claims is one of the largest cannabis plots in the nation.

The Tribe Collective owners are Oklahomans from a variety of backgrounds: oil and gas, tech and even Hollywood. They ditched the old industries and went all-in on growing bud.

The sprawling farm sits on a 900-acre property, replete with multiple greenhouses, a state-of-the-art extraction lab, walk-in freezer — and that’s before you get to the outdoor grows. Driving down the dusty dirt road, it looks like it could be any rural swath of American heartland.

But then you see the plants — more than 40,000 of them swaying gently in neat rows of fields with names like “Skinny Marie” and “Lucky Day.”

On a recent, oppressively hot Oklahoma summer day, workers drenched in sweat installed rope lines to keep the plants upright. Nearby, Baker and his team strategized about the best ways to keep irritating caterpillars off the marijuana leaves, discussing plans to expand even further on the seemingly endless property.

Jana Sudbrock works at Tribe Collective ...
RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostJana Sudbrock works at Tribe Collective setting support lines for growing cannabis plants in Okemah, Oklahoma, on July 27, 2021.

“People used to say ‘Oklahoma’ like a cuss word when we moved here,” Baker said with a laugh. “But this will prove to be the biggest cannabis state in the country.”

For New Orleans native Jeff Henderson, Colorado served as a crash course in cannabis. But it was time to take the training wheels off.

Henderson — who goes by “Freaux,” a shortened, Cajun version of “Jeffro” — did a bit of everything in Colorado’s marijuana scene. Bottom of the totem pole stuff. Trench work.

“I was trying to break into the scene, getting licenses, getting investors,” he said. “But Colorado real estate is god-awful expensive, the licenses are expensive. I kinda came up short in that realm.”

So when Oklahoma legalized medical marijuana, Henderson jumped at the opportunity to get in on the ground floor.

He and his partners, who had Oklahoma ties, didn’t have deep pockets, but some savings here, a bridge loan from a friend there, and the wide-eyed cannabis connoisseurs had themselves a boot-strapped business.

They worked 16-hour days, the four partners doing the work of 10 people.

“We’re the furthest guys from corporate,” Henderson said on a recent day inside his Jive Cannabis facility in Inola, a town 25 miles east of Tulsa. As he showed off his plants, pointing out the deep-purple coloring, Henderson took the tone of a proud father.

“We were just four guys with a hope and a dream,” he said.

Brittany Pearsall works hand watering cannabis ...
RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostBrittany Pearsall works at Jive Cannabis Co. on July 28, 2021.

“Unprecedentedly low barriers to entry”

Everything changed for Baker, Henderson and the state of Oklahoma on June 26, 2018, when 57% of voters checked the “yes” box on legalizing medical marijuana.

In the months leading up to the vote, a frenzied coalition of state medical and hospital associations, district attorneys, sheriffs, the State Chamber of Oklahoma and the state’s Republican governor lined up to oppose the measure.

“This is a bad public health policy that does not resemble a legitimate medical treatment program,” Dr. Kevin Taubman, former president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association and chairman of the opposition group, told the Associated Press after the vote passed.

Then-Gov. Mary Fallin feared the proposal was essentially legalizing recreational marijuana.

Many Oklahomans, including those in the cannabis industry, wouldn’t argue. Up and down the board, there were very few restrictions put in place on who could operate a grow, how many there could be and how easy it would be to obtain a medical card.

Unlike in many states, including Colorado, patients don’t need qualifying medical conditions in order to get a card. Doctors sometimes would set up outside dispensaries, offering their services. Websites with names like NuggMD and PrestoDoctor promised customers a medical marijuana card online in 15 minutes.

Business licenses cost just $2,500, a fraction of the price in other states, making it possible for nearly anyone with a bit of cash to start a grow or dispensary.

A downtown dispensary stays open after ...
RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostA downtown dispensary stays open after dark in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on July 28, 2021.

In Arkansas, on the other hand, a licensing fee runs $100,000 — plus a $500,000 performance bond. In New York, an application costs $10,000, with a $200,000 registration fee.

Colorado charges roughly $7,500 for initial recreational and medical shop licenses, and renewing that license annually will run an operator thousands more each time, depending on how many plants they want to grow.

Then there’s the “finding of suitability” fee — a state check to make sure someone is allowed to actually run a business. That’s another $800 per person, or $5,000 for a publicly traded company. Not to mention, of course, the local fees that come on top of the state’s, which can run thousands more per year.

The costs quickly add up.

Additionally, Colorado companies or individuals can’t just grow as many plants as they wish on their own — they must apply with the state in order to add or subtract plants.

Cities and counties in Oklahoma, meanwhile, aren’t allowed to outlaw dispensaries or grow operations — another major break from states like Colorado, where despite legalization, the drug is still barred from being sold recreationally in many local jurisdictions.

“These are unprecedentedly low barriers to entry” in Oklahoma, said John Hudack, a cannabis expert at the nonpartisan Brookings Institution, a Washington D.C., think tank.

With typical roadblocks and red tape shoved to the side, the industry has exploded.

Cannabis grows under lights in the ...
RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostCannabis grows under lights in the greenhouses at Canna Culture in Chickasha, Oklahoma, on July 26, 2021.

Nearly 376,000 Oklahomans — roughly 10% of the state’s population — have medical marijuana cards, by far the highest share in the country, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

New Mexico, by contrast, has the second-highest number at 5.35%, with Colorado at 1.5%.

Even at the height of Colorado’s medical marijuana boom in 2011, however, the state topped out at 128,698 patients, a third of Oklahoma’s total, and just 2.5% of the state population.

The cost difference between getting in the game in Colorado versus Oklahoma is stark.

“To even think about opening a (marijuana) business in Colorado, you have to have a million dollars liquid to get the ball rolling,” said McDonald, the Apothecary Farms executive.

In Oklahoma? You can be fully vertically integrated for $7,500, Henderson said.

Cheaper land prices, building costs and license fees mean “it’s easily 10 times cheaper here than in Denver,” he said.

Those factors, combined with the state’s hands-off approach, means it’s getting awfully crowded in Oklahoma’s cannabis space.

Some states that legalized marijuana created a small, set number of licenses. Arkansas, for example, allows for only 40 dispensaries in the state. Connecticut has just four cannabis producers and 18 dispensaries nearly a decade after legalizing medical marijuana.

But Oklahoma decided to let the free market run unencumbered. As a result, the state is now home to nearly 12,600 marijuana business licenses, including more than 8,600 growers and upwards of 2,300 dispensaries.

That’s more than double Colorado’s combined recreational and medical stores — despite the fact that Oklahoma has some 1.8 million fewer people. The Centennial State has more than 1,200 cultivation operations, per state data, nearly seven times fewer than Oklahoma.

The town of Bristow, a 4,200-person community nestled between Oklahoma City and Tulsa, used to thrive on oil and cotton. Its downtown strip along historic Route 66 has a few restaurants, a host of vacant buildings — and three dispensaries.

Superior Buds is one of three ...
RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostSuperior Buds is one of three dispensaries in Bristow, Oklahoma, a small town along historic Route 66.

That’s the story all over Oklahoma, where small towns from the panhandle to the Missouri border boast more pot shops than grocery stores. Meanwhile, Oklahoma County, which is home to Oklahoma City, now sports 530 dispensaries — three times as many as Denver.

“People see this as an opportunity to enter a market that’s costly elsewhere and so there’s this rush of people who think they’re going to make it rich,” Hudack said. “We know how this story plays out. We saw a less permissive system operate in Oregon and they ended up with hundreds of thousands of pounds of excess inventory.”

McDonald called it the “Armageddon stage” for Oklahoma cannabis.

“There are serious windfalls that come with barriers being so low,” he said. “The market is so oversaturated in Oklahoma. What this has done is make it a true buyer’s market. Things are so competitive, it’s a race to the bottom.”

Industry watchers predicted a bloodbath in the near future as companies peter out, selling for pennies on the dollar.

The freedom to operate has been the driving force bringing companies to Oklahoma — but some are finding that the lack of regulation is hurting those trying to do things the right way.

On the surface, the Oklahoma market seemed incredibly enticing for Clear Cannabis Inc., a legacy cannabis company headquartered in Denver: a plethora of clients, endless shelves to stock its products.

But without the regulator framework, “it makes it challenging for a compliant business like us to truly succeed,” said Seth Wiggins, the company’s president.

Martrice Fails with her two daughters, ...
RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostLEFT: Martrice Fails and her two daughters, Lynn, 5, left, and Maurie, 3, head into Walmart to go grocery shopping in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on July 26, 2021. “If they can have liquor stores on every corner here they can have dispensaries, too. It’s medical, it’s not as harmful as liquor,” Fails said. She says doesn’t use medical marijuana herself, but knows a lot of people in the area that do. RIGHT: A medical marijuana dispensary and a liquor store are next to each other in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on July 26, 2021.

Oklahoma marijuana regulators still lack an important tool to ensure compliance: a seed-to-sale tracking system used in nearly every other state with a medical or recreational cannabis program. The system lets regulators track a plant’s movement anywhere, so if it’s found, say, in New York, they know exactly where it came from.

The state tried rolling it out — only to be met with a lawsuit alleging the company, Metrc, acted as a monopoly since businesses were not given any other options to track their plants. The matter is still working its way through the legal system.

Without seed-to-sale tracking, Wiggins and other industry workers said, less compliant individuals can more easily divert weed elsewhere without detection. Plus, companies skirting the rules are offering prices that Wiggins and other legitimate competitors can’t touch.

“Folks doing it right are getting penalized right now,” Wiggins said, noting that the company’s sales are “substantially lower than we would have anticipated” in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma’s medical marijuana regulators are rapidly staffing up to meet the demand of the burgeoning industry — even recruiting some of their top people from Colorado.

Taylor Hartin, the state’s deputy director of compliance and enforcement, who came from Colorado’s private sector, said the agency paused field inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic, but is now increasing its work.

RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostAlex Elhardt works in the extraction lab at Tribe Collective in Okemah, Oklahoma, on July 27, 2021. Elhardt moved from Colorado to work in the growing cannabis market in Oklahoma.

“We’re not going to tolerate it”

That lack of regulation is also frustrating state and local law enforcement officials, who say the drug’s hasty legalization ushered in an alarming rise in illicit grows and other criminal activity.

While it’s difficult to put a number on a market that lives in the shadows, officials say anecdotal evidence points to out-of-staters, including people from Colorado, coming into Oklahoma to operate unregulated operations.

Nearly every week brings another news story about large raids conducted across Oklahoma, where, authorities allege, people are growing and shipping vast quantities of marijuana for sales out of state.

The illicit grows also bring in other ancillary crime, including prostitution, harder drugs like ketamine and labor trafficking, said Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.

When the agency saw how the new marijuana law was written three years ago, they knew people would come to the state to take advantage, he said.

But law enforcement didn’t realize just how many people it would be — and how quickly they would set up shop.

“This was a Trojan horse,” Woodward said. “We let this into our village because it looked really good on the surface.”

The Bureau of Narcotics simply can’t keep up with the number of illicit grows, he said. In response, Oklahoma has asked for $4 million in federal funding to battle the unregulated marijuana market, with the state legislature promising additional money to fund a unit dedicated to the issue.

“What we will be concentrating on is drug trafficking organizations that are transnational and national drug organizations that have infiltrated Oklahoma,” Donnie Anderson, the agency’s director, told local reporters in July as he announced the federal aid request. “They’re here in Oklahoma and they’re not going away anytime soon.”

In June, authorities in rural eastern Oklahoma arrested two Colorado individuals for allegedly operating an illicit 10,000-plant grow as part of a larger transnational money-laundering operation. When officers raided the property, they also found 100 pounds of processed marijuana.

“I would say 60% of the grows in Haskell County are from Colorado residents,” said Turner, the Haskell County sheriff — though he didn’t provide any hard data.

A tour through the 12,000-person county, located 100 miles southeast of Tulsa, showed old chicken coops being converted into grow houses on vast parcels of land, their white tops visible through a thicket of trees lining the roadway.

As Undersheriff Terry Garland drove slowly past grow houses, he glanced over to see the license plates in the driveways. Some had Minnesota tags, others showed Washington and Oregon.

RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostHaskell County Undersheriff Terry Garland stands on the spot where the sheriff’s office burned and buried four dump-truck loads of marijuana seized in a June raid in Haskell County, Oklahoma. Two people from Colorado were arrested during the raid.

“I’m gonna run those plates later,” he said as he inspected one car.

For Garland and Turner, legal marijuana has upset their rural slice of life.

“The price of our land has gone up, and citizens can’t swim in their pools because they have to smell marijuana growing every day,” Turner said. “Folks here growing are not even residents of Oklahoma. They come here because it’s the Wild West — well, we’re not going to tolerate it.”

When it first started, Garland said, people in the county would laugh when they smelled weed coming from next door.

“Now they’re not laughing,” he said, pausing to point out a new grow operation that seems to have sprung up overnight. “A lotta people hate the idea that it’s in our county.”

Gary Coyle just can’t believe what the influx of pot farmers has done to real estate in this rural community.

A former welder, Coyle was forced out of his old career as his health declined and needed a new source of income. One day two years ago, his brother suggested he open up one of those marijuana dispensaries.

“I didn’t know a damn thing!” he said regarding his previous cannabis knowledge. Coyle never smoked himself, abiding by his father’s old axiom that the drug “puts you in prison or puts you in the grave.”

If the grows are legal in town, Coyle said he doesn’t mind, but he wishes sales were better in his shop. After the 10th of the month, when everyone in town has spent their paycheck already, sales slow to a trickle.

He and Garland swapped stories about land prices inside Coyle’s G&C Dispensary in Keota, expressing disbelief at what some of their friends and family were being offered. Since legalization, out-of-towners have been showing up to people’s doorsteps, offering four, five, eight times the value for their land — and the ability to pay in cash, they said.

“I said, ‘You done fell out the well and hit your head!’” Coyle said after reciting a story about one particular offer.

RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostBilly Moon was a former police officer in a tactical unit with the Oklahoma City Police Department before starting a cannabis farm at his family’s farm in Chickasha, Oklahoma.

“Oklahomans are outlaws”

But despite the wishes of some Oklahomans, marijuana is here to stay. And the people it’s attracting would surprise even themselves.

Ten years ago, Billy Moon would have thought you were crazy if you told him he’d one day be operating a professional cannabis business.

The former Oklahoma City police detective spent his career dealing in the dark world of cartels and narcotics, his nights occupied taking down meth houses.

But after being diagnosed with a form of blood cancer, the doctor told him to try cannabis. The cancer caused Moon to feel burning sensations in his hands and feet, but he realized that smoking and taking edibles would make the pain disappear.

“That was it,” he said. “I thought, ‘We’re missing (out) on something.’ There’s some obvious benefits to this plant.”

Moon partnered with Rich Cardinal, a Colorado cannabis lifer, to set up a grow operation called Canna Culture on a family-owned piece of property in Chickasha, a small town 45 minutes southwest of Oklahoma City.

The former police detective is selling Cardinal on the Oklahoma way of doing business.

“Oklahomans don’t want that lazy, hippie vibe,” Moon said next to an outdoor field full of cannabis. “Oklahomans are outlaws. It’s a ‘(expletive)-the-government’ kind of attitude.”

Alejandro Salas prunes cannabis plants at ...
RJ Sangosti, The Denver PostAlejandro Salas prunes cannabis plants at Canna Culture in Chickasha, Oklahoma, on July 26, 2021.

But the fact that a state as red as Oklahoma is leaning into legal cannabis should no longer be surprising, said Ricardo Baca, a former Denver Post journalist who was the country’s first cannabis editor and founder of the Denver-based Grasslands marketing agency.

The turning point, he said, came in 2016. When most of the country had its eyes peeled on the presidential upset, eight states — including deeply conservative ones like Arkansas, Montana and South Dakota — were quietly legalizing some form of marijuana, a precursor to places like Oklahoma turning from red to green.

“Cannabis is no longer a partisan issue,” Baca said. “And we need to stop treating it as such.”

Back in Okemah, Baker studied the drip irrigation system — a technique perfected in the Israeli desert — now used to grow tens of thousands of marijuana plants.

“We’re looking at two tons of weed right here,” he said, smiling.

Last year, the Tribe Collective crew raked in 50,000 plants — the equivalent of 63,000 pounds of pot.

“That’s what’s beautiful about Oklahoma,” Baker said. “They call it the Wild West. Well, we’re a little wild here. It’s a business-friendly state. They don’t overregulate any business here.

“For good or for bad,” he said, “that’s what capitalism is supposed to be.”

NNN – No New News? – 12/29/21 – China Is Running Out of Water and That’s Scary for Asia

By Hal Brands +FollowDecember 29, 2021, 4:00 PM CST

Up the creek.
Up the creek. Source: AFP/Getty Images

Hal Brands is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist, the Henry Kissinger Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, and a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Most recently, he is the co-author of “The Lessons of Tragedy: Statecraft and World Order.”

Nature and geopolitics can interact in nasty ways. The historian Geoffrey Parker has argued that changing weather patterns drove war, revolution and upheaval during a long global crisis in the 17th century. More recently, climate change has opened new trade routes, resources and rivalries in the Arctic. And now China, a great power that often appears bent on reordering the international system, is running out of water in ways that are likely to stoke conflict at home and abroad.

Natural resources have always been critical to economic and global power. In the 19th century, a small country — the U.K. — raced ahead of the pack because its abundant coal reserves allowed it to drive the Industrial Revolution. Britain was eventually surpassed by the U.S., which exploited its huge tracts of arable land, massive oil reserves and other resources to become an economic titan.

The same goes for China’s rise. Capitalist reforms, a welcoming global trade system and good demographics all contributed to Beijing’s world-beating economic growth from the late 1970s to the early 2000s. The fact that China was nearly self-sufficient in land, water and many raw materials — and that its cheap labor allowed it to exploit these resources aggressively — also helped it to become the workshop of the world.More fromTheranos Directors Pay No Price for Holmes’s FraudSlaying the Blood Unicorn‘Fake It Till You Make It’ Will Live On After TheranosThe Bond Market Sends a Hopeful Message About Omicron

Yet China’s natural abundance is a thing of the past. As Michael Beckley and I argue in our forthcoming book, “The Danger Zone, Beijing has blown through many of its resources. A decade ago, China became the world’s largest importer of agricultural goods. Its arable land has been shrinking due to degradation and overuse. Breakneck development has also made China the world’s largest energy importer: It buys three-quarters of its oil abroad at a time when America has become a net energy exporter.

China’s water situation is particularly grim. As Gopal Reddy notes, China possesses 20% of the world’s population but only 7% of its fresh water. Entire regions, especially in the north, suffer from water scarcity worse than that found in a parched Middle East.

Thousands of rivers have disappeared, while industrialization and pollution have spoiled much of the water that remains. By some estimates, 80% to 90% of China’s groundwater and half of its river water is too dirty to drink; more than half of its groundwater and one-quarter of its river water cannot even be used for industry or farming.

This is an expensive problem. China is forced to divert water from comparatively wet regions to the drought-plagued north; experts assess that the country loses well over $100 billion annually as a result of water scarcity. Shortages and unsustainable agriculture are causing the desertification of large chunks of land. Water-related energy shortfalls have become common across the country.

The government has promoted rationing and improvements in water efficiency, but nothing sufficient to arrest the problem. This month, Chinese authorities announced that Guangzhou and Shenzhen — two major cities in the relatively water-rich Pearl River Delta — will face severe drought well into next year.Opinion. Data. More Data.Get the most important Bloomberg Opinion pieces in one email.EmailSign UpBy submitting my information, I agree to the Privacy Policy and Terms of Service and to receive offers and promotions from Bloomberg.

The economic and political implications are troubling. By making growth cost more, China’s resource problems have joined an array of other challenges — demographic decline, an increasingly stifling political climate, the stalling or reversal of many key economic reforms — to cause a slowdown that was having pronounced effects even before Covid struck. China’s social compact will be tested as dwindling resources intensify distributional fights.

In 2005, Premier Wen Jiabao stated that water scarcity threatened the “very survival of the Chinese nation.” A minister of water resources declared that China must “fight for every drop of water or die.” Hyperbole aside, resource scarcity and political instability often go hand in hand.

Heightened foreign tensions may follow. China watchers worry that if the Chinese Communist Party feels insecure domestically, it may lash out against its international rivals. Even short of that, water problems are causing geopolitical strife.

Much of China’s fresh water is concentrated in areas, such as Tibet, that the communist government seized by force after taking power in 1949. For years, China has tried to solve its resource challenges by coercing and impoverishing its neighbors.

By building a series of giant dams on the Mekong River, Beijing has triggered recurring droughts and devastating floods in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Laos that depend on that waterway. The diversion of rivers in Xinjiang has had devastating downstream effects in Central Asia.

A growing source of tension in the Himalayas is China’s plan to dam key waters before they reach India, leaving that country (and Bangladesh) the losers. As the Indian strategic analyst Brahma Chellaney puts it, “China’s territorial aggrandizement in the South China Sea and the Himalayas … has been accompanied by stealthier efforts to appropriate water resources in transnational river basins.”

In other words, the thirstier China is, the more geopolitically nasty it could get.