Manage Your Money, You Must: 10 Money Lessons We Learned from ‘Star Wars’

The Force will be with us — always.

Because “Star Wars” has embedded itself so deeply into our cultural DNA, it continues to shape the way we think about life.

Over numerous movies and assorted iterations, “Star Wars” has taught us about overcoming obstacles, about dealing with family drama, about friendship, about patience, about beating the odds — and even about money.

Because this is The Penny Hoarder, we’re especially interested in the part about money.

Even though the epic saga of Luke Skywalker & Co. played out a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the financial wisdom we gleaned from it applies to the here and now.

Now, prepare to make the jump into hyperspace! Here’s what we’ve learned:

1. Always Pay Your Debts — Or Else

Bingo. This is always the first one everyone thinks of.

Han Solo owes money to the giant slug-like crime boss, Jabba the Hutt. When he doesn’t pay up, Jabba sends bounty hunter Boba Fett after him — basically a debt collector with blaster pistols and green Mandalorian armor.

Instead of declaring Chapter 7 bankruptcy, Han ends up frozen in carbonite. Then Princess Leia, Luke, Lando and the iconic droids have to infiltrate Jabba’s lair to save him in a sequel.

Just like with Solo, the longer you don’t pay off your debts, the bigger the problem gets. The interest piles up.

Pro Tip

Credit cards companies charge compound interest. If you don’t pay off your bill each month, the company charges interest that is added to the amount you owe. Then that new total is charged interest.

Your first step should be to figure out what you’re dealing with. Map out exactly what kind of debt you have. For example, which companies do you owe money to? Are any of your debts in collections? What are your minimum monthly payments on each credit card or loan?

An easy way to start doing this is to sign up with a free service like Credit Sesame. This tool shows your balance on any unpaid bills, credit cards or loans. It also offers tips on reducing your debt and raising your credit score.

2. Used Vehicles Offer the Best Value

The Millennium Falcon takes its share of verbal abuse in multiple “Star Wars” films.

“You came in that thing? You’re braver than I thought,” Princess Leia says upon first seeing the starship. And in “The Force Awakens,” Rey calls the ship “garbage.”

But the Millennium Falcon gets the job done. (Did we mention that it made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs?) Turns out you don’t always need a shiny new vehicle.

Used cars are often a better deal than new ones. Consumer Reports recommends buying a car that’s two or three years old. For tips on buying a used car, go here or here or here.

You’ll need to take care of your ride, though. (The Falcon’s hyperdrive keeps breaking down despite Chewbacca’s best efforts in “The Empire Strikes Back.”)

According to a AAA survey, 1 in 3 U.S. drivers can’t pay for an unexpected auto repair. Consider creating an emergency fund with a high-yield bank account.

3. Negotiate the Best Deal You Can

Early in “A New Hope,” Luke and Uncle Owen are bargaining with some creepy little jawas over the price of some used droids.

When an R2 unit they’d just bought immediately breaks down, Uncle Owen aggressively questions the quality of what the jawas are selling: “Hey, what are you trying to push on us?”

The result: Luke’s family gets the best droid ever, R2-D2.

Negotiating isn’t just for markets and cars, any variable expense can be negotiated to a lower price — you just have to know what to look for.

4. “Do or Do Not. There is No Try.”

Yoda’s admonition to Luke in “The Empire Strikes Back” is probably the biggest zen moment in any of these movies.

As always, Yoda is right on target. You’re either going to do it, or you’re not. Don’t just try.

If you’re going to make financial changes, commit to them and be consistent. Don’t just try once or twice and then forget about it. Sticking to it is the key to success.

Pro Tip

Help yourself by making it harder to spend. Deleting your credit card number from your internet browser can create just enough of a hurdle to force you to pause before giving in to that impulse buy.

For instance, saving money is hard. Consider trying an auto-savings app like Acorns.

Once you connect it to a debit or credit card, it rounds your purchases up to the nearest dollar and funnels your digital change into a savings or investment account.

Because the money comes out in increments of less than $ 1, you’re less likely to feel an impact in your bank account.

5. Don’t Let the Little Details Blow Up On You

The Empire spared no expense on the Death Star, don’t you think?

You’ve got to figure that moon-sized battle stations capable of blowing up planets don’t come cheap (especially two of them).

But they overlooked that pesky little design flaw that allowed the Rebel Alliance to destroy the whole thing. Whoops!

Don’t neglect the details like that, because they’ll burn you. Don’t skimp on maintenance and repairs for big-ticket items like your home and car. If you blow that stuff off, you’ll just end up paying more in the end.

Another lesson from the Death Star: Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The Empire sure had a lot riding on its supercool Death Star, didn’t it?

Don’t depend on just one thing. Diversify your investments. Here’s how one woman used an app to make sure her 401(k) was in balance.

6. Get Rid of Your Old Stuff

The “Star Wars” universe looks different than Star Trek and other sci-fi settings. “Star Wars” has that “lived-in” look — there’s junk everywhere. You know, just like your house.

And in the “Star Wars” movies, people make money selling that junk — just like you should.

In “The Force Awakens,” Rey is a scavenger on the planet Jakku, feeding herself by salvaging parts from ships.

On Luke’s home planet of Tatooine, those jawas we mentioned earlier appear to be scavengers, too.

Pro Tip

Letgo is an app that lets you connect with people who want your old stuff. It’s free to use — just snap a photo, upload your item and add a description and price.

In “The Phantom Menace” — hey, here’s our first and only mention of the prequels! — Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi meet young Anakin Skywalker in a junk shop where he fixes things.

Meanwhile, here on our planet, a number of apps are making it easier than ever to sell your old stuff online.

To free up space and earn some extra cash, use apps to sell your stuff. Listing the right stuff in the right marketplaces means you’re more likely to sell it for the right price.

7. Beware of Scams. Know What Things Are Worth.

Toward the beginning of “The Force Awakens,” a hungry Rey nearly pawns the droid BB-8 in exchange for 60 portions of inflatable food. She’s sorely tempted, but senses something is wrong and backs off.

That’s the surest way to spot a scam: If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is.

Whether you’re selling a droid or shopping for shoes online, you’ve got to watch out for rip-offs. Here’s how to protect yourself from imposter scams, credit repair scams, identity theft and senior scams.

As long as identity theft remains a huge problem you need to keep an eye on your credit and transactions.

8. Embrace the Gig Economy

When Luke and Obi-Wan need transportation to Alderaan, they basically catch an Uber. A space Uber. They pay for the Millennium Falcon to take them there.

Here on Earth, you can make like Han and Chewie in your Honda or Chevy by driving with Uber or Lyft and make extra money each week on your own schedule.

Pro Tip

In addition to age requirements for drivers, Uber and Lyft both have age restriction for your vehicle that are based on regulations in your city.

There are other entry-level ways to make money nowadays that you can do on your own time – and from your phone – thanks to the growing gig economy.

Craigslist is an easy place to sell your services under the “Gigs” section. Pay and tasks will vary, of course. And if you don’t trust Craigslist, check out TaskRabbit or Fiverr – to name just a few.

9. If the Deal Turns to the Dark Side, Cut Your Losses

Here at The Penny Hoarder, we’re always looking for good deals.

We’re always asking, Is this a good deal or not a good deal? And when we hear the words “deal” and “”Star Wars”,” we can’t help but think of Lando Calrissian in “The Empire Strikes Back.”

Lando … Lando did not get a good deal.

When Han, Leia and Chewie first turn up in Cloud City, Lando tells them, “I’ve just made a deal that’ll keep the Empire out of here forever.”

Of course, the deal involves betraying his friends. Later, Darth Vader menacingly informs Lando, “I am altering the deal. Pray I don’t alter it any further.”

Still later, when Vader threatens Lando further and mistreats his friends, Lando fumes, “This deal is getting worse all the time!”

That’s when he switches sides.

If you make a deal and the reality doesn’t match what you were promised, be prepared to walk away. Cut your losses and move on.

10. Sand People Always Walk in Single File to Hide Their Numbers

You see, from this we can learn that … no, no, wait. That’s not a good example at all. We learn no financial truths from that.

We’ve got nothing for you here.

Let’s try this instead. One of the most important lessons we learned from “Star Wars” is:

10. Make Sure You Have a Long-Term Plan

The heroes and villains of the Star Wars” universe are seriously into some long-term planning.

Emperor Palpatine’s master plan takes several movies to unfold. After he reveals himself to be Darth Sidious and strikes, Yoda and Obi-Wan lay low for a couple of decades after the prequels, waiting for their chance to return the favor.

Of course, when we first meet Obi-Wan and Yoda, they’re chilling in a cave and a swamp, respectively. Apparently the Jedi Council didn’t have much of a 401(k) match.

The sooner you start saving, investing and paying down your debt, the better off you’ll be.

All told, that’s everything that “Star Wars” has taught us about money so far. Take it as you will.

Do, or do not.

There is no try.

Mike Brassfield (mike@thepennyhoarder.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. His “Star Wars”-loving co-workers helped out with this post.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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American national parks everyone must visit at some point

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The United States of America is one of the most diverse countries in the world in regards to every aspect of human existence. The food is different from state to state, American citizens have varying accents, and the landscapes are all completely unique. Scattered amongst the towns, villages, and big cities of this country are various different national parks, and they all offer their own unique quirks. There are some that are perfect for hikers, there are others that require skis, and there are others that offer giant geysers that shoot boiling water into the air! These are the American national parks everyone must visit at some point.

Yosemite National Park – California

Yosemite National Park is perhaps one of the most famous national parks in the US, and for a good reason. With bounding waterfalls that cascade from giant rocks, ancient sequoia trees and granite cliffs that just can’t be found anywhere else, this national park truly does have to be seen to be believed. It’s the kind of place where you can camp overnight, and then wake up to endless views over the mountains and the beautiful trees.

Grand Canyon National Park – Arizona & Nevada

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Everglades National Park – Florida

Florida is famous for its Everglades National Park, and it’s certainly one to tick off your bucket list. With 1.5 million acres worth of swampland, hiking trails, and beautiful waterscapes, it’s a paradise for those who love the outdoors and the natural environment. Of course, you can’t take a trip to the Everglades without heading out on a boat tour, which means you might catch a glimpse of the creatures that lurk beneath the water.

Zion National Park – Utah

Zion National Park is one of the most unique parks in the US, thanks to the unusual color of the rocks that stand within it. Filled with canyons, waterfalls, and rivers, this national park is a haven for hikers who want to explore the great outdoors. As if that wasn’t cool enough, Zion is also full of impressive wildlife, so you’ll probably want to remember your binoculars! You don’t want to miss the birds flying over the sandstone cliffs.

Although it’s so easy to base your US trip around big cities and cultural towns, we think it’s about time you looked beyond the skyscrapers and the colonial buildings. Outside the realms of civilization are incredible national parks that are just waiting for you to visit them. So, what are you waiting for?

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12 ‘Must Read’ Books By Black Authors For 2019

With 2018 coming to a swift close, it is a good time to reflect on some of the praiseworthy reads brought to our bookshelves this year by authors of color. The following books by black authors (in alphabetical order by title) were published in 2018 and fall under a wide range of genres. These books are must-reads to add to your 2019 list of books to dive into if you have not yet had the pleasure of reading them.

1.  Becoming (Michelle Obama)

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This book and author need very little introduction, but for the sake of formalities, let’s do this: Becoming is former first lady Michelle Obama’s blockbuster memoir that launched in November 2018—and is taking the world by storm. Mrs. 44, a powerhouse in her own right, shot up the charts at record speed, becoming an instant New York Times No. 1 best-seller. Becoming calls on all the feels; it is thought-provoking, inspiring, has refreshing humor, and in some parts, is outright heart-wrenching. Prepare to be moved at a soul level and have tissues nearby.

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2.  Freshwater (Akwaeke Emezi)

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Author Akwaeke Emezi is a talented millennial Nigerian fiction writer and artist with a graduate degree from New York University. Her debut novel, Fresh Water, released in February of this year has been described as, “A mesmerizing and poetic novel that cracks open notions of self-control, mental illness, and love.” It tells the story of a troubled Nigerian girl named Ada who over time develops multiple versions of herself as a result of being born “with one foot on the other side.”

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3.  How Not to Get Shot: And Other Advice From White People (D.L. Hughley)

books by black authors

D.L. Hughley is a famed American stand-up comedian, actor, political commentator, and radio host. In his hilarious yet soul-shaking truth-telling book, Hughley touches on politics, race, and life as a black American as only he can.

From the book:

White people are always giving out ‘helpful’ advice, such as: ‘Comply with the police and you won’t get shot.’ They’ve been doling out advice to black people ever since ‘I suggest you pick the cotton if you don’t like getting whipped.’ Not getting shot by the police has long been a problem for black people. Even when we had a black president! Now that we have a new set of overlords, with President Trump at the head, wouldn’t it be nice to get a little advice on how not to get shot?

Hughley uses wit and all-too-real jokes to bring the elephant of injustice to the forefront of the room, while also sharing some advice including: ‘If You Do Get Shot, Don’t Rush to Judgement,’ ‘How to Dress Less Threatening,’ ‘What To Name Your Kids,’ and ‘Don’t Drive Like a Suspect.’

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4.  I Can’t Date Jesus: Love, Sex, Family, Race and Other Reasons I’ve Put My Faith in Beyoncé (Michael Arceneaux)

books by black authors

Houston born and raised Howard University grad Michael Arceneaux’s debut memoir is a stimulating laugh out loud take on his life as a millennial, gay, black man in a world programmed to misunderstand him. His clever play on words, obsession with Beyoncé, and pop culture references make this book impossible to put down.

While you’re guaranteed to get multiple chuckles from reading I Can’t Date Jesus, you’re also likely to gain a new appreciation for the struggles of the LGBTQ community.

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5. Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture (Roxane Gay)

books by black authors

Roxane Gay is an award-winning American writer, professor, and commentator. Her book Not That Bad is an informative anthology filled with transparent original pieces and some that have been previously published, highlighting the undeniable rape culture that has been formed and addressing the major issue of women often being second-guessed and discredited when they speak out about their experiences. Some contributors to Not That Bad include, Gabrielle Union, Amy Jo Burns, and Ally Sheedy.

Gay challenges the world to stop forcing women to measure the level of sexual harassment endured, and makes the case that “Not that bad” can no longer be good enough.

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6.  Poet X (Elizabeth Acevedo)

books by black authors

Afro-Dominican award-winning slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo’s YA novel-in-verse debuted in March of 2018 and is still a No.1 best-seller on Amazon. A collection of hard-hitting poems creates the story of Xiomara Batista. A teen girl who wishes for her voice to be heard, but all that is seen in the streets of her Harlem neighborhood are the curves she can no longer hide. She has a lot to say and scribbles her passionate frustrations down in her black leather notebook as she doesn’t want to disappoint her church-going mother.

The New York Times Book Review’s take on Acevedo’s narrative poetry book sums it up perfectly, “The force and intensity behind her words practically pushes them off the page, resulting in a verse novel that is felt as much as it is heard. This is a book from the heart, and for the heart.”

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7. Rise and Grind (Daymond John)

books by black authors

Daymond John, best known for being a shark on ABC’s Shark Tank and co-founding the FUBU clothing line, brought us a gem earlier this year. In January, John released his nonfiction New York Times best-selling business book, Rise and Grind. In John’s much-anticipated follow-up to Power of Broke, Rise and Grind shares that there is no shortcut to success, encouraging readers to out-think and out-work those around them. He also shares helpful routines and success strategies to get ahead.

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8.  Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad (Krystal Sital)

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Author Krystal Sital, a Hunter College grad, was born and raised in Trinidad and moved with her family to the U.S. in the ’90s. Sital is a mix of the Africans brought to Trinidad as slaves and the Indians brought as indentured servants, and in her debut memoir, she shares a story of racism, abuse, and cruelty women endured in paradise.

The author grew up idolizing her wealthy Hindu grandfather until he became hospitalized and the women in her family finally found the courage to share their painful memories of his violent past. Amazon sums this must-read up with, “Violence, a rigid ethnic and racial caste system, and a tolerance of domestic abuse―the harsh legacies of plantation slavery―permeate the history of Trinidad. On the island’s plantations, in its growing cities, and in the family’s new home in America, Secrets We Kept tells a story of ambition and cruelty, endurance and love, and most of all, the bonds among women and between generations that help them find peace with the past.”

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9.  Shook One (Charlamagne Tha God)

books by black authors

Celebrity radio personality of The Breakfast Club, Charlamagne released his second book Shook One in October 2018. Shook One shares Charlamagne’s secrets for overcoming fear and anxiety in everyday life.

The author gets transparent about his own battles with anxiety since childhood, along with the fears that still creep up for him today, all while providing a blueprint for readers to manage their own fears and anxiety to succeed.

With mental health finally starting to get the attention it deserves, and the increase of anxiety in the world today, this book could not have come at a better time.

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10.  The Wedding Date (Jasmine Guillory)

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Author Jasmine Guillory is a Bay Area native and Standford Law School grad who, outside of penning novels, has written for the likes of Shondaland, Cosmopolitan, and The Toast.

In this fictional story, Alexa Monroe agrees to accompany Drew Nichols (a random man with whom she gets stuck on an elevator with) to a wedding. If you’re looking for a fun, charming, stress-free easy read, this rom-com novel is it. The Wedding Date was released in January 2018. Guillory has released another (unrelated) rom-com novel The Proposal in October of this year and her next novel, The Wedding Party, is set to be released in 2019.

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11.  This Mournable Body (Tsitsi Dangarembga)

books by black authors

Tsitsi Dangarembga is an author and filmmaker from Zimbabwe. She studied medicine at Cambridge, leaving to return home after experiencing racism and isolation. In her fiction story This Mournable Body, she shares a tale of a young girl from Zimbabwe whose hopes become bitter over time due to the combination of betrayal, colonialism, and capitalism.

Vanity Fair described the book noting, “The novel explores how race, gender, class, and age are at play in Zimbabwe, and the overwhelming strength of these forces in the face of even the most optimistic and ambitious women.”

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12.  When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir (Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele)

books by black authors

Co-author Patrisse Khan-Cullors co-founded the Black Lives Matter movement following George Zimmerman’s acquittal after his shooting of Trayvon Martin. Having grown up in L.A. in an impoverished neighborhood and raised by a single mother, she witnessed the prejudice blacks suffered at the hands of law enforcement first-hand. When They Call You a Terrorist is the powerful memoir of the author’s life and how the entire Black Lives Matter movement began, triggering frustration, sorrow, and a fire to get involved.

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Upcoming Bonus Book – Confessions of Frannie Langton (Sara Collins)

books by black authors

This book will not be released until April 4, 2019, but the description alone makes it worthy of a mention as a book to look out for. The story is of a Jamaican slave given as a gift to England’s “finest mind” as a maid for his Mayfair mansion. Frannie has an affair and falls in love with her new master’s wife—who ends up dead, and fingers get pointed at her.

Historical novelist Sara Collins was born in Jamaica, raised in Grand Cayman, and studied law at London School of Economics.

Collins has shared that initially, she was reluctant to write a story about a black slave as a black woman. In an interview with Penguin publishing house Collins shares, “Slavery is one of those topics people expect to be written about in a certain way. Historically, slave narratives were written with an agenda: to inform white readers about the terrible suffering endured by slaves, and thereby persuade them to the abolitionist cause. It’s the kind of writing that tells you what happened to a person, but not much about who they were. One of history’s many failings is that those early black chroniclers were required to spend all their energy addressing the emergencies that had been made of their lives, instead of leaving behind a proper record of themselves.”

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The post 12 ‘Must Read’ Books By Black Authors For 2019 appeared first on Black Enterprise.

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Must Be Nice: 10 Extravagant Services People Hire for the Holidays

For many, the holidays are a whirlwind of activity, chock-full of decorating, entertaining, and shopping for that perfect gift to put under the tree. But even at this busiest time of year, some people aren’t rushing around. In fact, they’re not even lifting a finger. A few smart—and well-heeled—folks are turning to professionals to take care of all their holiday needs. Click through to discover some of the unbelievable (and pricey!) services people hire for the holidays.
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How Long Must Incarcerated Women Wait for Dignity?

It’s been fits and starts for the FIRST STEP Act, the prison reform bill that’s been resurrected in the news after the Senate drafted its own version including modest sentencing reform. In a matter of five days, the President signaled his approval of the bill, the Majority Leader rejected the notion and the incoming Senate Judiciary Committee Chair said to press that he would push it forward. The religious right and the ACLU, in a unique partnership, have been lobbying for the legislation for the past two weeks.

What will happen now with the FIRST STEP Act is anyone’s guess. But even if it stumbles, meaningful prison reform is imminently achievable in this Congress. Protecting women, the fastest-growing prison population, should be a priority—but instead, The Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act has been stalled in Congress since it was introduced in 2017.

Women in U.S. prisons are routinely denied free tampons and sanitary pads, and pregnant women are shackled and housed in solitary confinement. About 80 percent of women in prison are mothers, and their incarceration—through distance, high phone rates and suboptimal visiting policies—separates them from their children in multiple ways; about 94 percent have a history of physical or sexual abuse, and can’t get the appropriate treatment they need on the inside.

The Dignity Act, introduced in July 2017 to much fanfare by Senators Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Richard Durbin, would remedy these maladies, giving women in prison the lives they’re already entitled to under the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners.

Within just a week of its introduction alone, the bill spurred the Bureau of Prisons to implement new procedures. In Congress, it was quickly referred to the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Chuck Grassley, a relatively recent convert to belief that our prisons are in crisis who likely would have wrangled the Republicans on the committee to getting it to the floor—and its passage was never likely to be a partisan war.

When similar “dignity acts” were presented this year in the state legislatures of California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Louisiana and Virginia, not one opposing vote was cast. That’s not surprising: The various “dignity acts” are each a referendum on human rights, and voting against them is hard. Who would vote to shackle pregnant women? Hopefully no one.

Yet, despite its momentum, there’s been no significant movement for the Act. Instead, drafters of the FIRST STEP Act borrowed its ban on shackling, as well as the mandate for access to personal hygiene supplies. In September, a House bill that would ban the shackling of pregnant women also popped up.

Altogether, it seems like someone simply gave up on the Dignity Act long ago and didn’t bother to tell anyone—which is rather undignified. In its place, the FIRST STEP Act has become the sole focus of reform efforts, eclipsing holistic dignity without good reason, since we know from similar successes that the provisions in the Dignity Act have broad support from lawmakers of all persuasions.

Undoubtedly, there will be people who think the Dignity Act shouldn’t have priority in the midst of prison reform efforts in Congress, precisely because of its focus on women. But the reality is that the Dignity Act would be impactful across the system—and might even achieve more than the FIRST STEP Act even could.

The Vera Institute of Justice released a report last month calling for grounding correctional practice on human dignity and fostering respect for incarcerated persons within the prison system, and urged officials to “elevate and support personal relationships” and “respect a person’s capacity to grow and change.”

The recommendations from the Vera Institute are only partially enshrined in the FIRST STEP Act. FIRST STEP contains carve-outs that prevent people convicted of certain crimes from participating in certain programs—exceptions that don’t respect a person’s capacity to rehabilitate themselves. Close reading of the bill also reveals that there are specific populations which lawmakers don’t think deserve the dignity of inclusion and investment of government resources.

The Dignity Act, on the other hand, would establish an ombudsman and a mentoring program by formerly incarcerated people for all people held in federal custody—recognizing the standing that any inmate has to demand human treatment and rehabilitation. And because it addresses the rights of primary caregivers, it uplifts men and women serving time with family waiting on the outside.

This isn’t to say that the FiRST STEP Act isn’t a good bill. (It is.) And the approximately 4,000 people who will feel relief immediately if it passes into law will also include some female federal prisoners, including changes to mandatory minimum sentencing laws that could impact the more than half of women in prisons charged with non-violent property and drug crimes that carried grotesque mandatory sentences, sometimes for life in prison. Alice Marie Johnson, whose life sentence was commuted by President Trump this summer, was one of those women—sentenced to life without parole for selling drugs to make ends meet, her first offense.

It doesn’t matter which statute prevents men from snapping metal clasps and chains around the ankles of a pregnant woman or denying them a maxi-pad during a heavy flow day. As long as it gets done in this country, it’s a win. But we can’t let would-be victories siphon our attention away from the revised prioritization of the Dignity Act.

How women’s dignity got downgraded is just a replay of what happens routinely when we focus on the needs of incarcerated women. We hail efforts to help women in prison when they’re announced, but if our interest in this change doesn’t endure, the energy behind them inevitably gets redirected the needs of male prisoners.

The FIRST STEP Act doesn’t need to be the first step. There’s no good reason why the Dignity for Incarcerated Women Act hasn’t already been made law or been brought to the floor for the vote it deserves.

If we don’t center women, they often get left behind. If we don’t continue fighting for them, there will be no victories for them. The well-being of women in prison should not need to be sacrificed for the “greater good” of the men serving time alongside them—men whose needs are entirely different than theirs.

Dignity for women is reform for all.

Every year, Ms. sends thousands of magazines to women in prisons and domestic violence shelters. To support our efforts and help us expand our reach—and to show women in prisons that they aren’t alone—please give to our Women in Prisons and Domestic Violence Shelters program today.

Chandra Bozelko writes the award-winning blog Prison Diaries  She’s a 2018 “Leading with Conviction” Fellow with JustLeadership USA and a 2018 Pretrial Innovation Leader with the Pretrial Justice Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @aprisondiary.

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The post How Long Must Incarcerated Women Wait for Dignity? appeared first on Ms. Magazine Blog.

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These are the must have best Tech Gifts for Christmas 2018

Marie-claire-best-tech-gifts

Words by Megan C. Hills and Sunil Makan

From the wireless headphones to speakers with built in Alexa and fitness trackers to hair straighteners these are the best tech gifts for Christmas 2018.

Fitness trackers

Oura Heritage Ring

tech gifts 2018

Prince Harry is known to wear one of these and if it’s good enough for the Duke, it’s good enough for us. Smaller and sleeker than a chunky tracker bracelet, these stylish Finnish rings are packed with a ton of sensors and other tech. The Oura ring tracks your activity, sleep and keeps tabs on everything from your body temperature, steps and even your breathing. Available in several different shades, it’s a pretty nifty piece of tech and syncs to an app on your phone.

Rings start at £279, available at Oura

Buy now

Hair straighteners

ghd Gold – Glacial Blue Professional Styler

tech gifts

A great hair styler is a total investment piece and luckily, ghd’s released a luxe icy blue version of their best-selling product. Designed to both curl, straighten and keep your hair looking smooth and sleek, it’s as tech-forward as they come with two heat sensors to optimise the temperature.

Priced at £139, available at lookfantastic

Buy now

Tech teen gifts

Super Mario Party

tech gifts

Nintendo stans have been waiting a long time for this classic party game and it’s finally dropped. If you thought Mario Kart could get competitive, you’ve obviously never given Mario Party a go as you’ll have to compete with one another to win mini games and collect the most stars.

Priced at £49.99, available at Nintendo

Buy now

Tech geek gifts

Sphero Star Wars BB-8 App Enabled Droid

tech gifts

If you or someone you know is a massive Star Wars buff, this little droid is the perfect gift. Perfect for if your landlord won’t let you have a pet, you can instead grab BB-8 from the new gen of Star Wars and make him roll around from an app on your phone. For those who are more old school, there’s also an R2D2 version.

Priced at £96.48, available at Amazon

Buy now

Tech gifts for kids

littleBits Avengers Hero Inventor Kit

tech gifts

It doesn’t get much cooler than this. This Avengers-themed kit both teaches kids how to code and make their own superhero identity a reality. It syncs up to an app which will help walk them through step by step how to assemble the electronic building blocks to create circuits and bring cool new powers to life.

Priced at £149.99, available at Amazon

Buy now

Tech gifts under £50

Echo Dot (3rd Generation) Smart Speaker with Alexa

tech gifts

Ever wanted to channel your inner Tony Stark and have your own computerised butler? Amazon’s upgraded their voice-controlled speaker and it’s enabled with Alexa, their digital assistant. If you give her a shout, she’ll be able to do things like help you stream music from Spotify, check the weather, set alarms and even work with your other smart home products if you’ve got them.

Priced at £49.99, available at Amazon

Buy now

 

Shark DuoClean Cordless Upright Vaccum Cleaner with Powered Lift-Away and TruePet IC160UKT

Shark DuoClean Cordless Upright Vacuum Cleaner with Powered Lift-Away and TruePet IC160UKT

The new Shark DuoClean Cordless Upright With Powered lift-Away and TruePet, is designed for homes with pets. You wouldn’t expect such great performance from such a lightweight and cordless vaccum bit it really does make light work of the whole vacuuming thing. And, with an impressive battery run time to boot. Huge thumbs up from us.

£479.99 from Shark.

Buy Now

 

RIVA Concert Speaker, Compact & Portable Smart Speaker, £199

RIVA Concert Speaker, Compact & Portable Smart Speaker, £199

This powerhouse of a speaker which features RIVA’s Patented Trillium Audio Technology – which means impressive surround sound without distortion at any volume – has Alexa built-in and several methods of connectivity.

£199 from Amazon.

Buy Now.

 

Mophie power station plus 600 Universal Battery with Lightning Connector, £69.95

Packing an impressive 20 hours of extra life in here (around 4 charges) this handy Mophie power station with integrated Lightning cable is a real game changer.

£69.95 from Apple.

Buy Now.

The post These are the must have best Tech Gifts for Christmas 2018 appeared first on Marie Claire.

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Style Your Home’s Outdoors with All the Perfect Additions from MacKenzie-Childs! Save on Tables, House Letters & Chairs. Shop Now!

McConnell must allow a vote on bipartisan criminal justice reform

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won’t commit to a floor vote for the First Step Act — even though the bipartisan bill has President Trump’s backing and is sure to pass. This is nuts. First Step would trim some mandatory sentences for drug-related felonies, make more nonviolent offenders eligible for early release and provide more…
Opinion | New York Post

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AFI Film Festival Roundup: 6 Films You Must See to Believe

AFI Film Festival Roundup: 6 Films You Must See to Believe

After multiple rounds of film festivals from Venice to Telluride to Toronto to New York that all occur in the span of a little more than a month, the AFI Film Festival is where the almanac of festival movies comes to a close. The Hollywood-set film festival, curated by the American Film Institute, gets a few splashy world premieres (this year On The Basis of Sex, Mary Queen of Scots and Netflix’s Bird Box) but it's also the last theatrical release for many titles before Oscar voters…

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Must Read: Burberry Bets on Riccardo Tisci to Drive Turnaround, Hedi Slimane’s First Accessories for Celine Drop Monday

These are the stories making headlines in fashion on Thursday. Burberry bets on Riccardo Tisci to drive turnaround   Riccardo Tisci received a positive reception for his debut collection at Burberry at London Fashion Week in September, but it will take time to turn …

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Trump must reckon with new realities in wake of the election

After nearly four years of improbable political momentum, President Donald Trump demonstrated Tuesday his brand of race-baiting and fear-mongering politics — which inflamed his base voters but scorched the rest — can still win some elections.


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‘People Must Vote!’ Robert De Niro Responds After Police Intercept Suspicious Package

Robert De Niro is thanking “security and law enforcement people” after police intercepted a suspicious package mailed to his New York City restaurant on Thursday.

“I thank God no one’s been hurt, and I thank the brave and resourceful security and law enforcement people for protecting us,” De Niro said in a statement Friday. “There’s something more powerful than bombs, and that’s your vote. People MUST vote!”

The actor was an intended recipient of one of at least 13 packages allegedly sent by Florida man Cesar Sayoc, who was arrested by federal agents on Friday afternoon. Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmed at a press conference Friday that Sayoc was specifically targeting Democrats. “He appears to be a partisan,” Sessions said.

De Niro has publicly condemned President Trump multiple times, most famously saying “f**k Trump” at the Tony Awards this year.

Law enforcement officials are still investigating the packages, many of which were addressed to high-ranking Obama Administration officials, including former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Attorney General Eric Holder.

Other intended recipients have also spoken out against the attacks. One of them, James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence and frequent critic of President Donald Trump, said on CNN he believed the packages were a form of domestic terrorism.

Another intended target, former Vice President Joe Biden, said Thursday that he hoped the country would pull together after the incidents. “My hope is this recent spate of who knows what they were, pipe bombs being mailed, might wake everybody in my business up a little bit and we will begin to put this nation back together again.” he said.

Congresswoman Maxine Waters, also a target, said in a statement that she is “appreciative of the law enforcement entities who intercepted the package and are investigating this matter.

“I unequivocally condemn any and all acts of violence and terror,” Waters added.


Entertainment – TIME

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Saudis must face consequences for killing Khashoggi

Twenty-three days after Jamal Khashoggi vanished at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Saudi officials are finally calling it premeditated murder. Now what? The king is most unlikely to let his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, be exposed as ordering the hit, and hard proof of it seems unlikely. Whether this disaster sidelines MBS as…
Opinion | New York Post

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China says must balance stable growth and risk prevention

China must balance the need for stable growth while managing risks and maintain a prudent and neutral monetary policy, the State Council, the country’s cabinet, said on Sunday following a meeting of top economic and financial policymakers.


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She Spent $16m In Harrods. Now She Must Explain Where The Money Came From

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

Harrods, the iconic London department store, burnished its questionable credentials as the go-to destination of the global kleptocracy this week after it emerged that the wife of a wealthy, jailed Azerbaijani criminal spent more than £16m ($ 22m) in the London store over a 10-year period.

Zamira Hajiyeva, 55, the wife of a former state banker in Azerbaijan, is the target of the UK’s first Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO), a new piece of anti-money-laundering legislation that compels its subjects to provide a “clear account” of how they purchased British assets.

Hajiyeva is the wife of Jahangir Hajiyev, 57, the former chairman of the state-owned International Bank of Azerbaijan. In 2016 he was sentenced to 15 years in jail for defrauding the bank out of up to 5bn manat ($ 2.9bn).

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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Must Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

Just in case our ever-decreasing anonymity in this tech-driven world hasn’t scared you enough, new studies find that within a few years 90 percent — 90 percent! — of Americans of European descent will be identifiable from their DNA. If you fall into that group, it doesn’t even matter whether you’ve given a DNA sample to one of the popular gene-testing sites (like 23andMe). Enough of your distant relatives have, so there’s a good chance you’re in the system.

Take your mind off that by checking out what you may have missed in health care this week.

The biggie, of course, was President Donald Trump’s opinion piece in USA Today about “Medicare-for-all.” (And the rebuttal from Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.)

Fact checkers came out in droves to comb through Trump’s arguments and found that nearly every paragraph contained a misleading statement or falsehood.

The Washington Post: Fact-Checking President Trump’s USA Today Op-Ed on ‘Medicare-for-All’

More than shedding any kind of light on the complicated topic, the back-and-forth highlights how much of a role health care is playing in the upcoming midterm elections. Each side has doubled down on its respective talking points (read: preexisting conditions and Medicare-for-all — I warned you you’d get tired of me saying that). In fact, health care is featured so heavily in ads that it trumps the topics of jobs or taxes.

The Wall Street Journal: Health Care Crowds Out Jobs, Taxes in Midterm Ads

(Side note: If you do want some light shed on Medicare-for-all and single-payer systems, check out these great pieces from KHN’s own Shefali Luthra.)

Speaking of midterms, the Democrats’ attempt to block the administration’s expansion of short-term plans (very predictably) failed, with only Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins joining the Democrats. It was never about winning, though. What it did was force Republicans to go on record with a vote that is potentially politically dangerous in the current landscape.

Politico: Senate Democrats Fail to Block Trump’s Short-Term Health Plans

In stark contrast to the sharply partisan discourse, Trump signed two bipartisan health care measures into law this week. The bills banned “gag clauses” on pharmacists, which had prohibited them from offering consumers cheaper options. The legislation won’t directly affect drug prices, but it might mean people will pay less at the register.

The New York Times: Trump Signs New Laws Aimed at Drug Costs and Battles Democrats on Medicare


For the first time, premiums for the most popular level of insurance sold in the health law marketplaces have gone down. The numbers are the latest sign that the marketplace is stabilizing. (Centene’s expansion into new states is another from this week.) CMS Administrator Seema Verma touted the success, saying the news counters any accusations of sabotage. Health experts, however, said those price tags would have been even lower if not for the administration’s actions over the past year.

The Washington Post: Premiums for Popular ACA Health Insurance Dip for the First Time


The Justice Department approved CVS’ $ 69 billion merger with Aetna, and although the deal still needs approval from state regulators, the green light is a major hurdle cleared. The merger would reshape the health landscape and mark the end of an era for free-standing pharmacy benefit managers. The potential consolidation is just one of many in recent years in a fast-evolving industry — a trend critics worry will lessen competition and drive up prices for consumers.

The New York Times: CVS Health and Aetna $ 69 Billion Merger Is Approved With Conditions


Hospitals scrambled to ensure patient safety as Hurricane Michael battered Florida and Georgia this week. “It was like hell,” said one doctor who rode out the storm at Bay Medical Center in Panama City, Fla. The hurricane brought with it memories of last year’s power outages that came with Hurricane Irma and were linked to the deaths of several nursing home residents.

The New York Times: Hospitals Pummeled by Hurricane Michael Scramble to Evacuate Patients


Now that the Brett Kavanaugh battle is over and he’s taken a seat on the Supreme Court, Planned Parenthood has gone into planning mode in case anything happens to Roe v. Wade. A key component of the organization’s plan is to shore up networks in states where abortion would likely remain legal (with longer hours for clinics, for example). On the other side, abortion-rights opponents are getting primed for a new high court that’s likely friendlier to them by strategizing what cases would be best to move forward with.

NPR: With Kavanaugh Confirmed, Both Sides of Abortion Debate Gear Up for Battle

How do you fight measures to expand abortion rights in progressive states? Make it about money. A battle in Oregon illustrates a strategy that — although unlikely to be successful — gives opponents of the bills at least a hope of winning.

Politico: Oregon’s Unlikely Abortion Fight Hinges on Taxes


Holes in the court system have allowed state judges to grant full custody of migrant children to American families — without notifying their parents. Federal officials say it should never happen, but oversight of the problem is scattershot and challenging because states handle adoption proceedings differently.

The Associated Press: Deported Parents May Lose Kids to Adoption

Democrats have been vocal about what they don’t like when it comes to immigration policy. But they have a problem: a lack of cohesion within the party about the correct way forward.

The New York Times: The Democrats Have an Immigration Problem


In the miscellaneous, must-read file:

• A gripping piece takes you into the bowels of a Philadelphia neighborhood dubbed the “Walmart of heroin.” “Drug tourists” come from all over to buy the cheap, pure heroin flowing through the veins of the streets, and some never make it out. (Warning: Make sure you have some time before you start, it will suck you in completely.)

The New York Times: Trapped by the ‘Walmart of Heroin’

• Why were nursing home residents getting extremely pricey therapy in the last weeks of their lives? Bloomberg takes a closer look at these cash-strapped facilities and the questionable decisions made about patients’ rehab.

Bloomberg: Nursing Homes Are Pushing the Dying Into Pricey Rehab

• In good news from the segment of people who were too old to take advantage of the HPV vaccine, the Food and Drug Administration just approved its use for those up to age 45.

The Associated Press: FDA Expands Use of Cervical Cancer Vaccine up to Age 45


As an office of ardent dog lovers, we were distressed to hear the news that therapy dogs in hospitals are little germ machines, leaving behind happiness but also superbugs.

Have a great (hopefully superbug-free) weekend!

Kaiser Health News

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