Gabrielle OlyaWed, December 29, 2021, 2:00 PM·5 min read
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financial rule of thumb is that you should have $1 million saved for retirement, but this piece of advice may now be outdated — you may actually need roughly double that.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.
$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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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.
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.”
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 ArticlesREAD MOREDolphins 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_1124611954
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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 anothernewsstory 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.
“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.
“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.”
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.”
By Hal Brands +FollowDecember 29, 2021, 4:00 PM CST
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.
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 someestimates, 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 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 worrythat 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.
It also means TikTok is the most popular social media platform, overtaking Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram. Overall, people are spending more time watching funny videos than they are checking their emails or writing work documents.
The video sharing app now has more than one billion active users worldwide, meaning that around 21 percent of everyone who has Internet access globally uses the site.
Google Stadia’s 2021 could be best described as having an explosive start followed by a low simmer for the rest of the year. I don’t mean explosive as if the platform was firing on all cylinders and capitalizing on its own momentum. I mean it blew off a few limbs with fireworks and handicapped itself with much lower expectations.
Stadia in 2020 was not perfect since it still lacked basic features and a small library, but the end of the year saw the releases of high profile games like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, showing the support was there. Cyberpunk 2077 capped off the year with Stadia unexpectedly becoming the best place to play it at launch, making the case that streaming could offer benefits that aging hardware could not.https://d-614157718841531456.ampproject.net/2111242025001/frame.html
However, Google had other plans for Stadia for 2021.
Google got out of video game development
Source: Android Central
Google kicked off 2021 by announcing in February that it was shutting down its first-party game development studio, Stadia Games and Entertainment. Around 150 developers would be out of jobs and potentially shifted to other roles within Google, while studio head Jade Raymond would leave the company and found independent studio Haven a month later.
This prompted many to believe that Stadia was dead, which is a reasonable take to have when a company announces it would be scaling back investment of its own recently launched product. This is especially the case for Google, which has a history of starting projects and then abandoning them. (My personal tragedies include the Reader RSS feed and Inbox by Gmail.)
Google Stadia vice president and general manager Phil Harrison cited the high cost of investment and development time as reasons for the shutdown in the initial announcement, even though he praised the studio’s progress a week prior. The focus would instead shift to helping third-party developers and publishers take further advantage of “Stadia’s advanced technical infrastructure and platform tools,” which was a key distinction to make instead saying Stadia itself. Google would allow other companies to use Stadia technology without buying into the entire Stadia ecosystem, which is what AT&T did by offering a playable browser version of Batman: Arkham Knight at no additional cost for its mobile customers.
Despite the closure and departures, Google did not abandon Stadia for the rest of 2021.
The renewed focus is not surprising considering the company reportedly spent “tens of million of dollars” to get AAA releases like Red Dead Redemption 2 on the platform, and the initial results “missed its targets for sales of controllers and monthly active users by hundreds of thousands.”
Despite the closure and departures, Google did not abandon Stadia for the rest of 2021. Updates for promised features took time, but many did launch this year. For example, Google added a search option 17 months after launch. Other catch-up features include public party support, joining games without an invite, using a smartphone as a controller, and limited-time game trials. Google also expanded the list of hardware that could play Stadia games from Android TV devices to LG Smart TVs, so players’ didn’t have to play on the five-year-old Chromecast Ultra anymore.
The company did throw a bone for potential future Stadia development with an increased revenue split for studios towards the end of the year until 2023. Google now only takes a 15% cut of revenue until $3 million is earned, then goes back to the current split, which is not known. But is it enough to attract more games to Stadia when the depth of 2021 was thin?
The Stadia games of 2021
Source: Square Enix
One week after the Stadia Games and Entertainment closure, Google announced more than 100 games would be coming to the service in 2021. (I would think you should announce that alongside the closure to somewhat alleviate concerns, but I digress.) Stadia did hit its target of adding at least 100 games to the service this year, but were they enough to carry the service?
The platform only saw two exclusive games this year with Hello Engineer and Pixeljunk Raiders.
Some big Stadia releases included Hitman 3, Outriders, Resident Evil Village, Madden NFL 22, Just Dance 22, and many others. These games also launched on Stadia on day one alongside the PC and console versions. It was not a huge list of actually new releases when other platforms have these games and a lot more, but some are or are close to being the best games on Stadia. Stadia also saw some big ports of slightly older games, like Control and a lot of representation from Ubisoft with Rainbow Six Siege, Rayman Legends, and a few decade-old Assassin’s Creed titles. Electronic Arts also ported FIFA 21 and Madden NFL 21, which seemed redundant considering the new versions launched six months after.
The platform only saw two exclusive games this year with Hello Engineer and Pixeljunk Raiders. There were also two First on Stadia titles, or timed exclusives, this year with Young Souls and Wavetale, both of which were smaller titles that players did not need to rush to Stadia and play immediately. This didn’t help with getting customers to flock to Stadia over other platforms.
Some of the Stadia versions of games did have issues or did not compare to other platforms. On the worst end, you had Terraria, which almost did not launch because the developer was locked out of his Google account and had to push for a month to get it restored. While Square Enix’s Outriders suffered from multiple issues across all platforms at launch, the Stadia version was special because it launched in a beta build, had broken cross-platform play, and did not receive the constant post-launch updates until half a year later.
Ubisoft’s latest games on the platform also took performance hits with Far Cry 6 and Riders Republic only able to run at 30 FPS. While Ubisoft is a staunch supporter of Stadia, these newer titles only being able to run at last-gen console specs is concerning. It also does not help that Google, Bungie, and id Software are currently facing a class-action lawsuit for advertising 4K resolution for its games, but are instead upscaling to 4K from a lower resolution.
What can we expect from Stadia in 2022?
Source: IO Interactive
With no first-party game support and a drip-feed of new games coming, there is not much to look forward to as a Stadia player. High-profile games coming to Stadia include Rainbow Six Extraction in January, Life is Strange Remastered Collection in early 2022, potentially Dynasty Warriors 9 Empires, maybe Windjammers 2, and Ubisoft games like Avatar: Frontiers of Pandora. And all of this is addition to ports of any 2021 games that developers decided were worth the extra work to throw onto the service.
There is not much to look forward to as a Stadia player.
Sure, Google will continue to add more devices that can officially play Stadia and perhaps make another deal or two similar to the AT&T promotion, but that does not benefit the players. It benefits the service and recouping the investment on it, but it is not going to drive new players when comparable services like GeForce Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming gaining some traction.
My feeling for Stadia in 2022 is the same as it has been the past six months: apathy. Every game launch comes with reservations or the constant idea that I could play this elsewhere. No downloads or managing storage space is nice, but not at the cost at reminding people that your mileage may vary because a game’s performance is entirely reliant on your internet connection.
I recently moved and had to switch from a Verizon Fios fiber connection to an Optimum cable connection because there were no other options. I read so many reports and heard personal accounts of people unhappy with Optimum, with issues like bad customer service and connections dropping as much as multiple times per day. I was able to eschew those issues with an internet-only package, but those with cable bundled or not savvy enough to do the work themselves might not be as lucky, and unreliable internet does not make Stadia a viable option.
The best example for the future of Stadia recently came courtesy of the official Stadia Twitter account. It tweeted last week that the account, not the store itself, would be kicking off “12 Days of Stadia,” highlighting “12 days of deals and games.”
First, in a follow-up tweet, it had to clarify that the Stadia store did not support game gifting because some replies thought that the feature would be coming. Second, the promotion did not actually highlight new deals or sales, but games already on the service like free-to-play Destiny 2 and Spiritfarer: Farewell Edition or announcements like a free weekend for Assassin’s Creed Odyssey and Bloodstained coming to Stadia Pro next month.
(CNN)Physics professor Vinod Menon doesn’t get much mail at the office, so when The City College of New York (CCNY) returned to in-person classes this semester, he was greeted with some junk mail and a nondescript package in a battered cardboard box.Menon, the chairman of the physics department, at first thought it was some sort of memento sent by a former student, but when he opened the box on September 1, he found stacks for $50 and $100 bills — $180,000 in all. You might likeBiden offers rare praise of Trump during Covid speechPerfectly preserved baby dinosaur discovered curled up inside its eggFauci calls for Fox News host to be fired ‘on the spot’ for ‘kill shot’ commentsCleveland-area hospitals battling Covid surge put plea in local paper: ‘Help’
“I’ve never seen this kind of money in real life in cash form,” Menon told CNN. “I’ve never seen it except in movies, and so, yeah, I was shell shocked and I just did not know how to react.”
“Assuming that you are (a) bit curious as to why I am doing this, the reason is straightforward: the excellent educational opportunity available to me — which I took full advantage of at CCNY (and Stuyvesant High School) — gave me the basis to continue to develop,” the letter said.
The donor said they had had “a long, productive, immensely rewarding” scientific career.The box of money weighed 4 pounds, 8 ounces and it cost $90.80 to send by 2-day Priority Mail from Pensacola, Florida. It had been delivered to CCNY on November 12, 2020 — long after the school had moved to distance learning in March because of the Covid-19 pandemic.Menon said he has been going to his lab pretty regularly during the pandemic, but not to the science building where he taught classes.”Seeing the money was a shock. Reading the letter really made me proud and happy to belong to this institution, which actually made a difference in that person’s life,” Menon said.The letter asked that the money be used to help junior and senior students also double majoring in physics and math who need financial support to continue their studies.
These historically Black universities just got their biggest ever financial gifts all thanks to one generous donorMenon said he called the Dean of Sciences immediately and they contacted campus police and the department that handles gifts when they realized how much money they had.Before CCNY could keep the money, officials had to make sure that it wasn’t the proceeds of some sort of criminal activity.Investigators from the school, The City University of New York (CUNY) system, NYPD, US Postal Service and the FBI and Department of Treasury determined the money was clean.They were not able to identify the donor — there was a name on the package, but it didn’t match anyone in the CCNY alumni records. The return address didn’t solve the mystery either, Menon said.Once they knew the gift was legit, the CUNY board of trustees voted unanimously on December 13 to approve a resolution accepting the money.Board members marveled at the unheard-of gift during their meeting and one suggested that they bronze the box and put it on display as a tribute to the donor’s generosity and the honesty of the campus mail system.Menon said he doesn’t know what happened to the box, but his department would honor the anonymous donor’s wish by giving out two full-tuition scholarships each year.
Tuition at CCNY is about $7,500 per year, so the gift will fund the scholarships for a decade, Menon said.”I’d like them to know that firstly, we are thankful for the gift. I’m really honored that he or she decided that this was the right place to spend that kind of money on,” Menon said. “And I’m also proud of the fact that the person had a wonderful career based on the education that they received at City College.” Menon said they are still working out the details for creating the scholarship, but the first students could receive it as soon as the fall semester in 2022.
Last week, I wrote a post about people answering the question, “What is something that is illegal but isn’t wrong ethically?” People — including our very own BuzzFeed Community — had some incredibly interesting responses.
Here’s some of what people shared:
1.”Ringing up two bananas instead of four to six at the grocery self-checkout. Produce is already inflated.”
6.”In New York state, there are laws against ‘fortune tellers’ that are still on the books. I remember going through my penal code book in school and asking, ‘WTF?!’ It’s just one of those old things that state legislature doesn’t have time or incentive to change and goes back culturally to the racial stigma of ‘gypsy’ scam artists.”
8.”In my country, it’s illegal to feed stray animals, which are mostly very friendly. On the other hand, it’s perfectly legal, and I see it hundreds of times a day, to litter everywhere you want. Trash, plastic, cigarette butts are everywhere, the air is polluted and so is the water. Anyone can take down a tree or row of trees and destroy a forest, but you can’t feed stray puppies and kittens? Seriously?”
11.”Sex work! It’s a consensual transfer of money for services. The only reason it became illegal is because it gave women independence, and the only reason it is dangerous now is because it’s illegal. Legalize it, regulate it, and make people in the industry feel safe to report crimes and abuse.”
13.”Downloading college ebooks for free instead of spending $400 on the latest version. Usually, all they did was change the spelling of a few words and called it v87.12458281648391846 of the book, and then they required it for your college class.”
16.”There’s a stoplight on my commute where I need to turn left. The light is a hard red/not on a timer. It’s not motion-detected. So even at 5:30 a.m., when there is zero traffic in the lanes ahead or behind me, I must wait for the timer or risk a photo-triggered ticket. The left turn lane should be a blinking yellow arrow at all times, TBH.”
22.Thailand holds an annual Monkey Buffet Festival where residents of Lopburi honor the 3,000 monkeys that live near the Phra Prang Sam Yot temple by providing 4.5 tons of fruit, vegetables, and treats for them to eat.
23.Shredded cheese packages typically contains cellulose (also known as wood pulp or sawdust) to prevent them from clumping.
24.Shakira’s school teacher told her she was bad at singing and banned her from choir. Her classmates stated she sounded like a goat.
25.Dr. Seuss created Green Eggs and Ham because his publisher bet him he couldn’t write a book shorter than The Cat in the Hat.
26.The Yoruba people of Nigeria are known for giving birth to more twins than anywhere else in the world — 50 per 1,000 births.
It’s a great big world out there — and there are so many places to see. But it can be difficult to decipher between disappointing tourist traps and destinations that are actually so worth the hype. To help with this, I scoured advice from travelers on Reddit and within the BuzzFeed Community. Here are 33 overrated places that — according to them — are not worth your precious time. (Plus 26 others that actually are!)
2.Overrated: Downtown Dubai
3.Underrated: Lima, Peru
4.Overrated: Bourbon Street, New Orleans
5.Underrated: New Mexico
6.Overrated: Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles
7.Underrated: Pienza, Italy
9.Overrated: Pisa, Italy
10.Underrated: Dakar, Senegal
11.Overrated: The Blue Lagoon, Reykjavik
13.Underrated: Ibiza, Spain
14.Overrated: Phuket, Thailand
15.Overrated: Clearwater Beach, Florida
16.Overrated: The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
17.Overrated: Atlantic City
19.Overrated: Cancún, Mexico
20.Overrated: Manila, Philippines
21.Overrated: Kuta, Bali
22.Underrated: San Sebastian, Spain
23.Overrated: Times Square, New York
24.Overrated: Niagara Falls (New York Side)
25.Overrated: Nashville, Tennessee
26.Underrated: Hilo, Hawaii
27.Underrated: Portland, Maine
28.Overrated: Las Vegas
29.Underrated: Tallinn, Estonia
30.Overrated: Athens, Greece
31.Overrated: Geneva, Switzerland
32.Underrated: Republic of Georgia
33.Overrated: Machu Picchu, Peru
34.Underrated: Taipei, Taiwan
35.Overrated: Bondi Beach, Sydney
37.Overrated: Walt Disney World, Orlando
42.Overrated: Cinque Terre, Italy
43.Underrated: Girona, Spain
44.Overrated: The Waikiki Strip, Honolulu
45.Overrated: Angkor Wat, Cambodia
46.Underrated: Giethoorn, Netherlands
47.Overrated: The Great Wall of China, Beijing
48.Overrated: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
49.Underrated: Alentejo, Portugal
50.Underrated: Mainland Greece
52.Overrated: Goa, India
53.Underrated: Adelaide, Australia
54.Overrated: Venice, Italy
55.Overrated: Caminito, Buenos Aires
56.Underrated: Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Earlier this year, we asked the BuzzFeed Community about which movies they love that critics did NOT love. We got so many good answers that we decided to put them all together in one post. Here are some of the most egregious failures from movie critics to recognize genius!