Being transparent about money matters is critical in partnerships and marriage. Here’s how to spot financial infidelity — and rectify it. When Melissa Houston and her husband first got married, they had a financial plan and laid out some joint money goals. “We knew what we were saving for and how we should spend money,” she says.
But as the years went by, Houston found herself emotionally spending, dropping $1K to $2K on weekend trips with her friends, as well as shelling out thousands on home renovations and random impulse buys. “I was using credit to cover my expenses and hid that from him,” she recalls. “As the boxes came in the mail, he asked me what was going on, and I assured him we had the money.”
Eventually, Houston told her husband the truth. She had been hiding her spending from him and had gotten the family into a financial hole. It put a giant strain on her marriage, and she is still working to gain back her husband’s trust. The duo has since gone back to their previous ways of openly discussing money. Houston is honest about her spending and runs big purchases by her partner instead of buying them behind his back.
What Houston and her husband experienced was financial infidelity. “Simply put, financial infidelity is when your spouse lies to you or keeps details about financial transactions and financial assets hidden from you,” says Sandra Radna, an attorney and the author of You’re Getting Divorced … Now What? You could be on the receiving end of financial infidelity, or you could be the one committing it, like Houston was. Either way, financial infidelity can be incredibly toxic to a marriage and is something that you should work to avoid at all costs.
What does financial infidelity look like?
Financial infidelity could be everything from declining to reveal some of your credit card purchases or other debts to your partner to stashing a portion of your paycheck into an account that your partner doesn’t know about, and making large purchases without consulting your significant other.
“We see financial infidelity occur in some really common ways, like not mentioning how much you spent on your credit card, or when one person makes a large purchase without telling their partner,” says Lauren Silbert, the vice president of personal finance with the Balance. This type of infidelity, she explains, can also occur when one person is keeping a secret account or hoarding cash or other valuables without the other person knowing.
“Another instance is the higher-earning spouse actually hiding how much money they make, keeping the majority of it for themselves, without their partner ever knowing it existed,” Silbert adds. It’s important to build a foundation of open communication and trust when it comes to dealing with financial infidelity.
The dangers of financial infidelity
Financial infidelity can break the trust in your marriage. “Arguably, the most important part of any relationship is trust,” explains Radna. She stresses that if one of the people in the relationship is not honest about what is happening in your joint financial lives, it’s a huge breach and is difficult to overcome.
“It begs the question ‘If you are lying about that, what else are you lying about?’” Radna says. And in her experience, for some couples the emotional aftermath of financial infidelity is insurmountable and can be a definite cause of divorce.
There can be significant financial repercussions as well, since, when you’re married, your partner’s debt becomes your debt. “It could also impact your credit score,” explains Ben Reynolds, the CEO and founder of Sure Dividend.
In order to avoid the repercussions of financial infidelity from occurring, it’s important to be open about your financial goals, purchases, and spending habits with your spouse. Here are some tips to keep financial infidelity at bay.
Be up front from the start
The way that you start your marriage can really set the tone for how you both talk about money. “I recommend that both parties leave everything on the table from the beginning,” says Jayden Doye, a certified public accountant and the owner of Prestige Accounting Solutions in Sandy Springs, Georgia. “They should lay out all of their assets and debts and discuss financial goals.
” Doye has seen too many couples enter into relationships with financial secrets, hiding student loans, debt, and spending habits from each other. Getting on the same page from the beginning and discussing your debt, making a plan for your spending, and working together on this can keep financial infidelity from ever occurring.
Victoria Lowell, founder of Empowered Worth and a certified divorce financial analyst and college finance counselor, agrees. “Couples need to start discussing money and finances very early on, and definitely before moving in together or marrying,” she says, noting that she often coaches clients with premarital financial counseling, which her clients find extremely beneficial.
Make money discussions routine
“Communication is the key,” says Ted Rossman, a senior industry analyst with Creditcards.com. “Most people have a hard time talking about money, but we need to get over that hurdle,” he adds. Rossman suggests scheduling regular money check-ins with your partner. “They don’t have to be long or formal. Perhaps once a month, go through upcoming bills and recent expenses and make sure you’re on track,” he says.
In addition to expenses, talk about your goals as well. This, says Rossman, can be really freeing and can reframe the discussion in a very positive way. “Do you want to buy a home in a couple years? Retire early? Send your kids to college? Identifying your money goals and values and working towards them together is so important and strengthens a relationship,” Rossman explains.
If you have been hiding things surrounding money from your partner, it’ll be easier to handle the sooner you tell the truth.
Money conversations may seem daunting at first, but it all starts with building trust and safety around money, says Silbert. She says to start with some “gentler money talks. For example, don’t try to make tough decisions right away. Instead, share about how your parents handled money. Talk about your experiences with financial institutions. Tell each other what item or experience has always represented true luxury in your mind.
And so on.” As the safety grows, then move on to harder conversations. These, explains Silbert, are usually the ones that have more opportunities for disagreement or discomfort. And when having these conversations, it’s important to approach them with an open mind and to create a judgment-free zone.
Come clean if you’ve been hiding things from your partner
The longer you conceal money and spending habits from your partner, the more damage you are likely to cause to your relationship and your finances. To heal from financial infidelity, the offending partner needs to come forward. Carrie Krawiec, a licensed marriage and family therapist at Birmingham Maple Clinic in Troy, Michigan, shares her three steps for admitting to financial infidelity:
Take responsibility without excuses.
Take all steps and measures to make sure the behavior doesn’t repeat itself.
“When the first three are done, there should be acknowledgment by the wounded party that one to three have been sufficiently met,” she explains.
Bring in a third party
It can be beneficial to schedule meetings with a financial adviser who can help you draw up money goals as a couple and get you thinking about a long-term financial strategy. A couple’s counselor can also assist partners with working through any conflicts that they may be having about everyday spending.
And it’s especially important to get help when you’re working through a bout of financial infidelity in your marriage, as this can be hard to navigate alone. “I strongly suggest that couples who are facing this seek counseling,” suggests Lowell, who notes that a marriage therapist or financial coach can help partners open up the dialogue to discuss their philosophy about money, debt, and so forth.
Gratitude is sometimes used as a stick with which to beat someone down. ‘Try to be grateful for how good your life is’, when thrown at someone talking about their experiences of depression, feels immensely dismissive, while ‘you should be grateful’ (whether that’s for a relationship or a job) can be an attempt to gaslight people into accepting poor treatment.
This isn’t to say gratitude is a bad thing – far from it. But when wielded as a weapon, it gets a bad rap. Gratitude, viewed properly, as being thankful for the good things in your life, can be a powerful thing.
There’s a wealth of research that points to gratitude – feeling it and expressing it – making us happier and boosting mental wellbeing. The key is not to ignore issues by sticking gratitude on top as a plaster, but incorporating gratitude more seamlessly into your day-to-day life.
It’s about recognising that things aren’t perfect, but there’s some stuff that’s worth appreciating. ‘Gratitude works to improve our mental health,’ says Counselling Directory member Kirsty Taylor. ‘It’s a really powerful emotion.
‘Gratitude is strongly associated with emotions such as optimism, greater life satisfaction and enjoyment of the moment, an improved ability to handle a crisis situation, increased self esteem, better resilience and increased physical and mental wellbeing.
‘Gratitude, simply, allows us to appreciate situations, people and every day things in a way that increases our happiness and allows us to take grater pleasure in all aspects of life.’
Bringing an attitude of gratitude into your life isn’t as easy as just telling yourself to buck up and be grateful, of course. It’s a conscious practice, a change to your way of thinking. So, how do you bring more thankfulness into your being?
Make a conscious decision to be grateful
Changing the way you think, feel, and behave isn’t going to happen magically, with no effort on your end. Sorry.
‘It can be hard to cultivate gratitude when the daily grind of life makes it hard for us to do so,’ Kirsty tells Metro.co.uk. ‘People can have stressful environments, jobs, families and life situations that make it especially hard to feel grateful for our lives and our circumstances.
‘However, if we don’t make a place for gratitude in our life, it can be a much darker world that we live in. ‘Gratitude is often a chosen state of mind or being and can be increased by making a conscious decision to try and focus on happiness.’
Growing up in Yerevan, Armenia, Rema Matevosyan and her amateur astronomer grandparents enjoyed heading outside in the middle of the night, paper map carefully marked, to observe the stars. Now as CEO of geospatial data startup Near Space Labs, her technology takes her close.
While the billionaire space race has helped spur a wave of interest in companies looking to travel, manufacture and mine off-planet, Near Space is focused a little bit closer, in the stratosphere. There, Matevosyan’s startup collects geospatial data through small autonomous robots attached to weather balloons, a contraption it calls “the Swifty,” capturing up to 1,000 square kilometers of imagery each flight from more than 60,000 feet up.
The process is cheaper—and carries a much lower carbon footprint—than flying a special plane or launching a satellite, Matevosyan says. But its data sets could prove just as valuable to insurers, governments, disaster recovery and autonomous vehicle operators alike.
“We are a very rebellious Earth-imaging company when everyone is launching satellite constellations,” Matevosyan says. “Don’t get me wrong, they’re beautiful devices. But with the rapid adoption of our product and our rapid growth wherever we’ve deployed, it speaks to the dire need for this data that we are providing.”
Now, with more than 150 flights completed, Brooklyn- and Barcelona-based Near Space is raising a $13 million Series A funding round led by Crosslink Capital, with Toyota Ventures and existing investors Leadout Capital and Wireframe Ventures joining in. The funding brings Near Space’s total funding to $16.8 million so far, and comes as the business is looking to hire more than a dozen roles to expand its customer base across the U.S. The startup plans to launch 500 flights in 2022.
After moving to Moscow to conduct funded master’s degree research in mathematics, the trilingual Matevosyan (she’s currently trying to pick up Spanish as a fourth) met cofounders Ignasi Lluch, Near Space’s CTO, and Albert Caubet, its chief engineer, while starting to earn a Ph.D. and working as a junior research fellow studying complex aerospace systems, specifically how satellites communicate with each other.
Her research took her to launches in remote parts of central Russia in December—an activity she does not recommend—and convinced her that some applications of geospatial data would be impossible to cover effectively through satellites, even with billions of dollars pouring into space tech.
Originally founded as Swiftera in late 2016, Near Space Labs was admitted to New York-based accelerator Urban-X, a five-month program operated by MINI and Urban Us that invests $100,000 in two cohorts of ten urban tech startups each year. Matevosyan abruptly relocated to Brooklyn, initially crashing on a friend’s couch, and got a working prototype running before the program’s completion.
A few months later, in June 2018, the company raised $2 million from Leadout, the VC firm founded by former Facebook executive Alison Rosenthal, Wireframe Ventures and others; it added another $1.5 million last year, with Matevosyan appearing on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for manufacturing and industry in between.
Near Space launched its first major commercial rollout in July 2020, slowed a bit by the pandemic. While Matevosyan operates out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, an emerging hub for frontier tech and hardware startups, her cofounders and much of the hardware R&D is located in Barcelona. (Despite interest from Europe and Southeast Asia, especially, Matevosyan says Near Space’s immediate focus is on the U.S. market.)
The startup operates several business models, sending up Swifty platforms on a contract basis as needed for custom projects, while also launching them regularly from its own launch sites to maintain coverage for a fresh data set of geospatial data. “The idea is that we will have a global constellation of our Swifties, and then people will be subscribing to this data set and using it,” says Matevosyan.
The device itself ships in a small box; operators on the ground switch them on, attach them to the weather balloon and Near Space manages them autonomously from there. “Everybody wants to come to a launch site, which is also great for our sales, because it’s a very exciting event,” Matevosyan admits.
At new lead investor Crosslink, partner Phil Boyer says his firm was excited to back Near Space due to its familiarity with the geospatial market—it’s also backed Arturo, Descartes Labs and Enview—and the differentiation of Near Space collecting its data cheaply from the stratosphere. The potential for recurring revenue from a large market for such data, Boyer adds, meant the firm saw Near Space’s economics only improving over time. Particular growth areas of interest include real estate, disaster recovery and providing updated map information for autonomous vehicles—which helps explain Toyota’s venture arm on the cap table.
That was more than enough for the VC firm to overcome any hesitation about betting big on balloons in an age of rockets. “When you say the word ‘balloon,’ you certainly get a couple of odd looks, like, you invested a balloon company? What does that mean?” Boyer says. “But it wasn’t a huge leap of faith for us.”
Near Space is rooting for its peers in satellites and rockets, too, says Matevosyan, arguing that more activity in the category generally is good for all players. As for taking balloons seriously? “The questions drop when I show them our data,” she says.
Soaring property prices are forcing people all over the world to abandon all hope of owning a home. The fallout is shaking governments of all political persuasions.
It’s a phenomenon given wings by the pandemic. And it’s not just buyers — rents are also soaring in many cities. The upshot is the perennial issue of housing costs has become one of acute housing inequality, and an entire generation is at risk of being left behind.
“We’re witnessing sections of society being shut out of parts of our city because they can no longer afford apartments,” Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller says. “That’s the case in London, in Paris, in Rome, and now unfortunately increasingly in Berlin.”
That exclusion is rapidly making housing a new fault line in politics, one with unpredictable repercussions. The leader of Germany’s Ver.di union called rent the 21st century equivalent of the bread price, the historic trigger for social unrest.
Politicians are throwing all sorts of ideas at the problem, from rent caps to special taxes on landlords, nationalizing private property, or turning vacant offices into housing. Nowhere is there evidence of an easy or sustainable fix.
In South Korea, President Moon Jae-in’s party took a drubbing in mayoral elections this year after failing to tackle a 90% rise in the average price of an apartment in Seoul since he took office in May 2017. The leading opposition candidate for next year’s presidential vote has warned of a potential housing market collapse as interest rates rise.
China has stepped up restrictions on the real-estate sector this year and speculation is mounting of a property tax to bring down prices. The cost of an apartment in Shenzhen, China’s answer to Silicon Valley, was equal to 43.5 times a resident’s average salary as of July, a disparity that helps explain President Xi Jinping’s drive for “common prosperity.”
In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has promised a two-year ban on foreign buyers if re-elected.
The pandemic has stoked the global housing market to fresh records over the past 18 months through a confluence of ultralow interest rates, a dearth of house production, shifts in family spending and fewer homes being put up for sale. While that’s a boon for existing owners, prospective buyers are finding it ever harder to gain entry.
What we’re witnessing is “a major event that should not be shrugged off or ignored,” Don Layton, the former CEO of U.S. mortgage giant Freddie Mac, wrote in a commentary for the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University.
In the U.S., where nominal home prices are more than 30% above their previous peaks in the mid-2000s, government policies aimed at improving affordability and promoting home ownership risk stoking prices, leaving first-time buyers further adrift, Layton said.
The result, in America as elsewhere, is a widening generational gap between baby boomers, who are statistically more likely to own a home, and millennials and Generation Z — who are watching their dreams of buying one go up in smoke.
Existing housing debt may be sowing the seeds of the next economic crunch if borrowing costs start to rise. Niraj Shah of Bloomberg Economics compiled a dashboard of countries most at threat of a real-estate bubble, and says risk gauges are “flashing warnings” at an intensity not seen since the run-up to the 2008 financial crisis.
In the search for solutions, governments must try and avoid penalizing either renters or homeowners. It’s an unenviable task.
Sweden’s government collapsed in June after it proposed changes that would have abandoned traditional controls and allowed more rents to be set by the market.
In Berlin, an attempt to tame rent increases was overturned by a court. Campaigners have collected enough signatures to force a referendum on seizing property from large private landlords. The motion goes to a vote on Sept. 26. The city government on Friday announced it would buy nearly 15,000 apartments from two large corporate landlords for €2.46 billion ($2.9 billion) to expand supply.
Anthony Breach at the Center for Cities think tank has even made the case for a link between housing and Britain’s 2016 vote to quit the European Union. Housing inequality, he concluded, is “scrambling our politics.”
As these stories from around the world show, that’s a recipe for upheaval.
With annual inflation running around 50%, Argentines are no strangers to price increases. But for Buenos Aires residents like Lucia Cholakian, rent hikes are adding economic pressure, and with that political disaffection.
Like many during the pandemic, the 28-year-old writer and college professor moved with her partner from a downtown apartment to a residential neighborhood in search of more space. In the year since, her rent has more than tripled; together with bills it chews through about 40% of her income. That rules out saving for a home.
“We’re not going to be able to plan for the future like our parents did, with the dream of your own house,” she says. The upshot is “renting, buying and property in general” is becoming “much more present for our generation politically.”
Legislation passed by President Alberto Fernandez’s coalition aims to give greater rights to tenants like Cholakian. Under the new rules, contracts that were traditionally two years are now extended to three. And rather than landlords setting prices, the central bank created an index that determines how much rent goes up in the second and third year.
It’s proved hugely controversial, with evidence of some property owners raising prices excessively early on to counter the uncertainty of regulated increases later. Others are simply taking properties off the market. A government-decreed pandemic rent freeze exacerbated the squeeze.
Rental apartment listings in Buenos Aires city are down 12% this year compared to the average in 2019, and in the surrounding metro area they’re down 36%, according to real estate website ZonaProp.
The law “had good intentions but worsened the issue, as much for property owners as for tenants,” said Maria Eugenia Vidal, the former governor of Buenos Aires province and one of the main opposition figures in the city. She is contesting the November midterm elections on a ticket with economist Martin Tetaz with a pledge to repeal the legislation.
“Argentina is a country of uncertainty,” Tetaz said by phone, but with the housing rules it’s “even more uncertain now than before.”
Cholakian, who voted for Fernandez in 2019, acknowledges the rental reform is flawed, but also supports handing more power to tenants after an extended recession that wiped out incomes. If anything, she says greater regulation is needed to strike a balance between reassuring landlords and making rent affordable.
“If they don’t do something to control this in the city of Buenos Aires, only the rich will be left,” she says.
As the son of first-generation migrants from Romania, Alex Fagarasan should be living the Australian dream. Instead, he’s questioning his long-term prospects.
Fagarasan, a 28-year-old junior doctor at a major metropolitan hospital, would prefer to stay in Melbourne, close to his parents. But he’s being priced out of his city. He’s now facing the reality that he’ll have to move to a regional town to get a foothold in the property market. Then, all going well, in another eight years he’ll be a specialist and able to buy a house in Melbourne.
Even so, he knows he’s one of the lucky ones. His friends who aren’t doctors “have no chance” of ever owning a home. “My generation will be the first one in Australia that will be renting for the rest of their lives,” he says.
He currently rents a modern two-bedroom townhouse with two others in the inner suburb of Northcote — a study nook has been turned into a make-shift bedroom to keep down costs. About 30% of his salary is spent on rent; he calls it “exorbitant.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s conservative government announced a “comprehensive housing affordability plan” as part of the 2017-2018 budget, including 1 billion Australian dollars ($728 million) to boost supply. It hasn’t tamed prices.
The opposition Labour Party hasn’t fared much better. It proposed closing a lucrative tax loophole for residential investment at the last election in 2019, a policy that would likely have brought down home prices. But it sparked an exodus back to the ruling Liberals of voters who owned their home, and probably contributed to Labor’s election loss.
The political lessons have been learned: Fagarasan doesn’t see much help on housing coming from whoever wins next year’s federal election. After all, Labor already rules the state of Victoria whose capital is Melbourne.
“I feel like neither of the main parties represents the voice of the younger generation,” he says.
It’s a sentiment shared by Ben Matthews, a 33-year-old project manager at a university in Sydney. He’s moving back in with his parents after the landlord of the house he shared with three others ordered them out, an experience he says he found disappointing and stressful, especially during the pandemic.
Staying with his parents will at least help him save for a deposit on a one-bedroom flat. But even that’s a downgrade from his original plan of a two-bedroom house so he could rent the other room out. The increases, he says, are “just insane.”
“It might not be until something breaks that we’ll get the political impetus to make changes,” he says. -Jason Scott
Days after calling an election, Justin Trudeau announced plans for a two-year ban on foreigners buying houses. If it was meant as a dramatic intervention to blind-side his rivals, it failed: they broadly agree.
The prime minister thought he was going to fight the election — set for Monday — on the back of his handling of the pandemic, but instead housing costs are a dominant theme for all parties.
Trudeau’s Liberals are promising a review of “escalating” prices in markets including Vancouver and Toronto to clamp down on speculation; Conservative challenger Erin O’Toole pledges to build a million homes in three years to tackle the “housing crisis”; New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh wants a 20% tax on foreign buyers to combat a crisis he calls “out of hand.”
Facing a surprisingly tight race, Trudeau needs to attract young urban voters if he is to have any chance of regaining his majority. He chose Hamilton, outside Toronto, to launch his housing policy. Once considered an affordable place in the Greater Toronto Area, it’s faced rising pressure as people leave Canada’s biggest city in search of cheaper homes. The average single family home cost 932,700 Canadian dollars ($730,700) in June, a 30% increase from a year earlier, according to the Realtors Association of Hamilton and Burlington.
The City of Hamilton cites housing affordability among its priorities for the federal election, but that’s little comfort to Sarah Wardroper, a 32-year-old single mother of two young girls, who works part time and rents in the downtown east side. Hamilton, she says, represents “one of the worst housing crises in Canada.”
While she applauds promises to make it harder for foreigners to buy investment properties she’s skeptical of measures that might discourage homeowners from renting out their properties. That includes Trudeau’s bid to tax those who sell within 12 months of a house purchase. Neither is she convinced by plans for more affordable housing, seeing them as worthy but essentially a short-term fix when the real issue is “the economy is just so out of control the cost of living in general has skyrocketed.”
Wardroper says her traditionally lower-income community has become a luxury Toronto neighborhood.
“I don’t have the kind of job to buy a house, but I have the ambition and the drive to do that,” she says. “I want to build a future for my kids. I want them to be able to buy homes, but the way things are going right now, I don’t think that’s going to be possible.”
Back in 2011, a public uproar over the city-state’s surging home prices contributed to what was at the time the ruling party’s worst parliamentary election result in more than five decades in power. While the People’s Action Party retained the vast majority of the seats in parliament, it was a wake-up call — and there are signs the pressure is building again.
Private home prices have risen the most in two years, and in the first half of 2021 buyers including ultra-rich foreigners splurged 32.9 billion Singapore dollars ($24 billion), according to Singapore-based ERA Realty Network Pte Ltd. That’s double the amount recorded in Manhattan over the same period.
However, close to 80% of Singapore’s citizens live in public housing, which the government has long promoted as an asset they can sell to move up in life.
It’s a model that has attracted attention from countries including China, but one that is under pressure amid a frenzy in the resale market. Singapore’s government-built homes bear little resemblance to low-income urban concentrations elsewhere: In the first five months of the year, a record 87 public apartments were resold for at least SG$1 million. That’s stirring concerns about affordability even among the relatively affluent.
Junior banker Alex Ting, 25, is forgoing newly built public housing as it typically means a three-to-four-year wait. And under government rules for singles, Ting can only buy a public apartment when he turns 35 anyway.
His dream home is a resale flat near his parents. But even there a mismatch between supply and demand could push his dream out of reach.
While the government has imposed curbs on second-home owners and foreign buyers, younger people like Ting have grown resigned to the limits of what can be done.
Most Singaporeans aspire to own their own property, and the housing scarcity and surge in prices presents another hurdle to them realizing their goal, says Nydia Ngiow, Singapore-based senior director at BowerGroupAsia, a strategic policy advisory firm. If unaddressed, that challenge “may in turn build long-term resentment towards the ruling party,” she warns.
That’s an uncomfortable prospect for the PAP, even as the opposition faces barriers to winning parliamentary seats. The ruling party is already under scrutiny for a disrupted leadership succession plan, and housing costs may add to the pressure.
Younger voters may express their discontent by moving away from the PAP, according to Ting. “In Singapore, the only form of protest we can do is to vote for the opposition,” he says.
Claire Kerrane is open about the role of housing in her winning a seat in Ireland’s parliament, the Dail.
Kerrane, 29, was one of a slew of Sinn Fein lawmakers to enter the Dail last year after the party unexpectedly won the largest number of first preference votes at the expense of Ireland’s dominant political forces, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.
While the two main parties went on to form a coalition government, the outcome was a political earthquake. Sinn Fein was formerly the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, yet it’s been winning followers more for its housing policy than its push for a united Ireland.
“Housing was definitely a key issue in the election and I think our policies and ambition for housing played a role in our election success,” says Kerrane, who represents the parliamentary district of Roscommon-Galway.
Ireland still bears the scars of a crash triggered by a housing bubble that burst during the financial crisis. A shortage of affordable homes means prices are again marching higher.
Sinn Fein has proposed building 100,000 social and affordable homes, the reintroduction of a pandemic ban on evictions and rent increases, and legislation to limit the rate banks can charge for mortgages.
Those policies have struck a chord. The most recent Irish Times Ipsos MRBI poll, in June, showed Sinn Fein leading all other parties, with 21% of respondents citing house prices as the issue most likely to influence their vote in the next general election, the same proportion that cited the economy. Only health care trumped housing as a concern.
Other parties are taking note. On Sept. 2, the coalition launched a housing plan as the pillar of its agenda for this parliamentary term, committing over €4 billion ($4.7 billion) a year to increase supply, the highest-ever level of government investment in social and affordable housing.
Whether it’s enough to blunt Sinn Fein’s popularity remains to be seen. North of the border, meanwhile, Sinn Fein holds a consistent poll lead ahead of elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly due by May, putting it on course to nominate the region’s First Minister for the first time since the legislature was established as part of the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998.
For all the many hurdles that remain to reunification, Sinn Fein is arguably closer than it has ever been to achieving its founding goal by championing efforts to widen access to housing.
As Kerrane says: “Few, if any households aren’t affected in some way by the housing crisis.”
It’s called “other-oriented perfectionism,” and it can have a negative effect on children. Here’s why it happens.
Joliene Trujillo-Fuenning, who lives in Denver, Colorado with her two kids, ages 3 and 22 months, has some pretty clear perfectionist tendencies. If she sends an email with a typo in it, she says, “It will drive me nuts for a solid week or two.” After her husband cleans the bathroom, she has to fight the urge to criticize. (Sometimes she’ll just clean it again.)
And when it comes to her 3-year-old’s education, Trujillo-Fuenning says, “I have been very much struggling with the fact that she doesn’t want to write letters,” and finds herself thinking, “You are supposed to be at this point by three and a half or four, and if you don’t do it, you’re never going to.”
What Trujillo-Fuenning struggles with is something called other-oriented perfectionism. (You may have seen a shorter piece I wrote about the phenomenon for the Atlantic back in July.) Other-oriented perfectionism bears similarity to self-oriented perfectionism, when a person puts tremendous pressure on themselves to be perfect and then self-flagellates when they can’t be.
It’s also a little bit like socially prescribed perfectionism, where one internalizes the need to be perfect thanks to perceived pressure from others. The big difference is that with other-oriented perfectionism, unrealistic expectations are directed at, well, others.
When a parent sets exacting standards for their child and assumes a critical attitude, it can change how they parent (to their child’s detriment) and leave the parent bitter, resentful, and sometimes even wishing they’d never had children. That’s particularly problematic in light of new research suggesting that both parental expectations and parental criticism have been on the rise.
The impulse behind child-oriented perfectionism comes mostly from early life experiences and societal forces outside individuals’ control, but understanding — and interventions — can help thwart it, improving the wellbeing of both parent and child.
Natalie Dattilo, Ph.D., a psychologist at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has a patient roster made up mostly of young doctors, some of whom are the targets of other-oriented perfectionists who are “looking around and wondering why everybody [they] work with is incompetent.” For a supervisor like that, she said, “There is going to be an over-reliance on control, especially wanting to control how people do things.”
The other-oriented perfectionist seems self-assured. They always know the best way to do things and everything would be splendid if only others weren’t so flawed.
“On the surface it looks like grandiosity,” said Thomas Curran, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at London School of Economics and Political Science, “but at root, it’s really a profound insecurity about place in the world and whether you’re worth something.” The other-oriented perfectionist’s judgment, he said, is actually just “my way of projecting the things that I dislike in myself onto other people.”
“I had a friend who pointed out that her language, her enunciation, her knowledge is pretty advanced for her age,” she explained, “And immediately, I had this sense of like, ‘Ha!’ It had nothing to do with me! Yet you still have a part of your brain that’s like, ‘She speaks well. That means I did my job right.
If she reads early, I did my job right.'” The pressure Trujillo-Fuenning feels to be perfect requires being — and being perceived as — a perfect parent. “How you’re doing as a parent is a reflection of who you are,” she said, “There’s no separation there in my head.”
In a paper published in 2020, Konrad Piotrowski, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology at SWPS University in Poland, reported that both mothers and fathers there “tend to accept to a greater extent the mistakes and ‘imperfection’ of their children than those of their partner.” But sometimes they don’t.
John Lockner’s experience supports that idea. He was a stay-at-home dad for years and told me, “I kind of still am,” since he works part-time and spends the rest of it with his two teenage sons. “It’s definitely a struggle not to be on them all the time,” he said, but he knows that’s more about him than them. “I never wanted to be a manager, because I know I would expect my employees to do their best, and it would be very hard for me when they don’t,” he told me.
As one of just a handful of dads involved at their old school, Lockner said, “I felt this pressure to be better, and because of that my kids needed to be better.” With up-to-the-minute access to their assignments and grades through an online portal, he’d issue reminders on the drive to school: “You have to be sure to check on that and make sure it was turned in” or “You’re going to ask for that extra credit, right?” And he’d grill them on test results as soon as they got into the car at pickup.
But now, he said, “I’m kind of working on myself, to let some of that go.” What seems to be the key determinant is which relationship—the romantic one or the parental one—is more strongly associated with the parent’s self-esteem. Those who hang their identity on their parental role, like Trujillo-Fuenning, are more likely to experience child-oriented perfectionism than those who do not, Piotrowski theorized.
The impact of other-oriented perfectionism on children
That’s likely a good thing for his kids. Curran, the British perfectionism researcher, looked at a questionnaire that’s been given to cohorts of young people for decades. He and his team found that current college students perceive that their parents were more expectant than past generations — which is problematic, because studies (old and new) tie a caregiver having performance-oriented goals to controlling, critical parenting.
Though the research is murky, because different forms of perfectionism both overlap and function in distinct ways, children of parents who are perfectionists likely have higher odds of developing psychological distress, including anxiety and depression. Even when the impact falls short of clinical classification, children whose parents expect them to be perfect often grow up in homes characterized by conflict and tension. “It’s going to be a pressure cooker,” Curran told me.
The end result is often another generation of perfectionists. A 2017 study of 159 father-daughter dyads found a tie between “controlling fathers who demand perfection” and perfectionist daughters. And Curran’s own research has found that as parents’ expectations and criticism have increased, so too have rates of adolescent perfectionism.
We make jokes about perfectionism. (Did you hear the one about the perfectionist who walked into a bar? Apparently, it wasn’t set high enough.) But it’s a truly stressful way to live, Dr. Dattilo said, “Always striving to prove that you are capable, to prove that you are worthy, prove that you are successful based on other people’s evaluations.”
It should come as no surprise then, that there are, in Curran’s words, “huge, uncharacteristically strong correlations” between perfectionism and psychological distress, including anxiety, depression, suicidal ideation, and anorexia.
“The data’s never that clean,” he told me. Gayani DeSilva knows what it feels like to be one of those data points. “My parents really did put a lot of pressure on me as a kid to be perfect,” recalled the child and adolescent psychiatrist who practices in Southern California. “I had to have straight As, couldn’t have an A-minus.”
When she carried a D in Calculus at one point, “I was so afraid that I actually thought that my parents were going to kill me.” Now looking back with a therapist’s eye, she said, “I couldn’t imagine them actually physically harming me, I just knew that I was gonna die.”
She internalized their exacting standards, “There was just no room for anything other than what they expected.” And when she couldn’t meet them, she said, “I faced all this guilt, like, ‘Why couldn’t I do it?'”
Josh McKivigan, a behavioral health therapist based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, sees an impact at both ends of the economic spectrum. For kids of highly educated, well-off parents, he said, “You’d see them well put together, amazing grades, but behind the scenes, they’re barely holding it together. The only type of school they feel is acceptable is an Ivy League. They say things like, ‘I couldn’t imagine going to UCLA.'”
McKivigan also works with a refugee population. With these kids, he sees pressure to make something of a parent’s dangerous immigration journey. They end up saying, “I gotta make this right. I can’t let them down,” McKivigan told me.
But some kids don’t develop perfectionism of their own, instead responding to a parent’s pressure by rejecting their goals. After all, if someone is impossible to please, why bother trying?Nicole Coomber, Ph.D., an assistant dean at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, said research on motivation explains why.
“Autonomy is an important piece of this where you have to actually buy into whatever the goal is,” she notes. Requiring that a child practice piano for hours each day when they’d rather be playing soccer “can really backfire,” she added. Kids can end up feeling like their parent’s project or product — and push back by quitting. No matter how much bravado accompanies that move, there’s often also a sense of having let themselves and their parents down.
DeSilva failed her first year of medical school, she said, “because I just didn’t know how to ask for help.” After a car accident, she quit residency and then spent two years in therapy: “Once I was able to admit, ‘I’m not perfect,’ I was successful at pretty much everything I wanted to do, and I didn’t have to be anxious about it. I knew I could do it, whereas before, when I had to be perfect, I was really insecure.”
After she worked through her perfectionism, she said, “I was trying for my own standard, my own goals, my own desires, instead of somebody else’s standard for me.”
Other-oriented perfectionism is bad for parents too, but they can change
Child-oriented perfectionist tendencies aren’t just bad for kids. Trujillo-Fuenning started to feel burned out by her high standards in the parenting realm. The cumulative effect of a thousand little maximizations, like “trying to make sure they were eating the right things every meal,” became overwhelming and depleting. “To be honest, that’s part of why I went back to work,” she told me.
In his 2020 study, Piotrowski found that parents who target their children with other-oriented perfectionism tend to display higher levels of stress, dissatisfaction with parenthood, and feeling so burdened by the parental role that they regret parenthood entirely. He explained, “For mothers characterized by increased other-oriented perfectionism, family life is probably associated with many frustrations and stress, hence the focus on alternative visions of themselves that seem to be better than [being] a parent.”
When she starts trying to work on literacy again, Trujillo-Fuenning said, “I have to pull back and remind myself, if she’s fighting you, just let it go.” The same thing goes for micromanaging her kids’ appearance. “I’m catching my own insecurities of like, ‘You don’t look well put together. People are going to look at you and think I’m not taking care of you.'” But to avoid acting on those impulses requires “a constant mental check,” she told me.
Every now and then Lockner’s wife would say, “You’re being too hard on them. You are expecting too much.” But that doesn’t seem to be what made him change. His sons are at an all-boys school now, and, Lockner said, “Being around other groups of dads made a difference. Listening to how they act, and how their kids are, made me think, ‘Maybe I can ease up a little. My kids really are pretty good.'”
This sort of shift is what Curran sees happening in society as a whole—only in reverse.Other-oriented perfectionist parents aren’t the only ones ratcheting up expectations and pressure. Some parents don’t want to push, Curran said, “but they feel like they have to in this world where elite college is harder to access, where you basically have an economy where the middle class is downwardly mobile with increasing costs of living and stagnated income, and you’ve got chronic and increasing inequality.”
And the pressure can be even more intense for parents like Eric L. Heard, author of “Reflections of an Anxious African American Dad.” He described feeling “the need for immediate feedback” from his son’s teachers: “I always held a fear that I would not address some problem and he would head down a well-worn road of destruction” for Black men, he wrote. “My mind was haunted by the crippling thought of how I would be judged …. I would wear a permanent brand … a large white D for being a deadbeat dad who couldn’t save his son.”
If you’re a parent ruminating on the odds stacked against your child, it is rational to drive them to work harder, achieve more, and be better. Other parents react the same way, the result of which is a frenzied, fearful “rug rat race.” Once that starts to kick in, Curran said, “it’s really hard to stop, at a societal level. It creates an echo chamber where everybody’s engaging in unhealthy behaviors and no one wins.”
He doesn’t just mean that we all lose when we succumb to perfectionism. It also just plain doesn’t work. “Everybody’s engaging in this frantic upward comparison, and no one gains an advantage,” he said. “We just move the average of what’s expected further and further. It’s looking bad.”
But individuals can push back against a trend of overwhelmed young people and parents who, like the old Lockner, feel no choice but to be “the bad guy.” Now that he’s backed off, he said, “It’s easier on me. It’s easier on them.” They do more for themselves, and “they seem more willing to do stuff if I’m not on them all the time.” Truth be told, he likes himself more now.
Therapists can help their clients get there. Dr. Dattilo would tell an other-oriented perfectionist they need to believe it when someone says, “I’m doing the best I can.” Parents can interrogate their perfectionism in psychotherapy: Why is having a perfect child so important to me? Where did this need come from? And cognitive-behavioral therapists push people to fact-check their anxiety: What level of pressure is really necessary to prepare your child to live a good life? Is parental pressure truly the most effective way to forestall your fears? What will happen if you just back off?
When it came to parenting her son, DeSilva, the perfectionist-turned-psychiatrist, said she made a conscious decision. “I was going to raise him to have his own ideas and his own set of standards and really, for me to learn about and help him develop his strengths. And also, to really be comfortable with his weaknesses and vulnerabilities.” That puts her at odds with her own parents. When it comes to her son’s homework, they think, “It’s your job.
You have to make sure his homework is done,” she said. His grandparents even tell her to fix it for him “so it’s correct.” Instead, she explained to her son the consequences of not doing homework, or not doing it well, and let him decide. “He didn’t like it that his teacher was upset with him. So the next time he did his homework, he did it as best he could.”
Tying it all together
Yet individual parents can’t reverse course alone. Putting aside economic inequality for a minute, Curran said, “I think if the pressures of things like standardized testing — for young people to perform perfectly in school at such a young age — could be recalibrated downwards” it would take pressure off parents too. He called online grade portals “even scarier.”
If kids were just allowed to learn, to be, without all the tracking, assessing, and ranking, maybe more parents would feel like they can afford to break — and encourage their kids to break — the link between one’s accomplishments and one’s worth.
With these five mindset shifts, higher-ed institutions can immerse digital learning into their strategies and operations, reveals Tij Nerurkar, Business Leader for Cognizant’s Education practice.
The news that online learning platform 2U is acquiring edX, a nonprofit platform run by Harvard and MIT, is yet another sign of the momentum of digital learning.
Among the deal’s synergies is 2U’s access to edX’s global learner base of 39 million registered users and 120 million annual website visitors. This increases 2U’s reach and stands to lower student acquisition costs, which typically account for as much as 20% of online program managers’ revenues.
Often overlooked amid the headlines, however, is the reality that technology is only part of the change that digital learning is inflicting on higher education. Equally important is the change in mindset among colleges and universities as they shape the direct-to-consumer (DTC) learning experiences that will engage today’s students.
How to make the higher-ed shift
To reimagine the college experience and make the transition to digital learning, higher-education leaders need to think like a tech company would. The following mindset shifts will propel them forward to immersing digital learning into their strategies and operations:
Out with the old culture, in with the new.
This change is among the toughest for colleges and universities to execute. Many university leaders we talk with focus exclusively on the technology that the DTC model requires. But the reality is that DTC is an outside-in approach that puts the student experience first, ahead of any administrative and departmental priorities. It brings changes that ripple across campuses, especially the institutional mindset.
Thriving in today’s higher-education environment requires all campus functions — from recruitment and admissions to financial aid and academics — to move quickly and in seamless, connected ways. Reimagining the student experience will require organizational changes that break down siloes and emphasize collaboration.
Be willing to take risks.
While bold moves don’t come naturally to higher-ed institutions, they can be an important differentiator. For example, when the pandemic halted college entrance exams, a nonprofit testing organization used the hiatus to overhaul the paper-based exams that millions of students took annually at its 7,000 centers. Our team built a new-generation platform that digitized the entire testing workflow, including online and mobile apps designed to appeal to Gen Z learners accustomed to multitasking and virtually interacting with their peers. As higher ed begins to emerge from the pandemic, the company is ready with a business model fit for today’s students.
View the CIO’s role as strategic.
In our recent research, higher-ed leaders said they believe industry disruption will only accelerate; however, we see too many higher-ed institutions that still limit their CIOs to overseeing back-office operations. A talented CIO can help institutions think out of the box by spotting new business models and investment opportunities to drive enrollments and revenue.
Glossy direct-mail brochures are a common and costly rite of passage. The median public university spends 14% of its marketing and recruiting budget on student lists purchased to identify prospects, with one public university’s student data costs topping $2 million from 2010 to 2018. Building predictive analytics capabilities can help organizations reach targeted student populations more intelligently and fill seats more effectively than the basic demographics of lists.
For example, St. Mary’s College credits predictive analytics with increasing its applicant pool. When data showed that prospective students who visited the Maryland campus were more likely to enroll, St. Mary’s doubled down on personalized campus tours that deliver a more on-brand experience. Investing in data modernization, automation and robust platforms requires greater capital investments upfront, but it also creates better and long-lasting pull as universities seek to attract lifelong learners.
It takes a platform.
The single biggest lesson to learn from educational technology players is the ability to respond to market conditions with agility, and platforms are at the heart of that flexibility. Ed-tech companies are able to pivot quickly and scale their business models in new directions.
For instance, 2U built momentum and scale by positioning itself not just as a provider of online degree classes for individual students but also as a provider of cloud-based software as-a-service (SaaS) platforms to colleges and universities. The strategy elevates 2U from a services-only business model to the SaaS model.
Now colleges and universities are beginning to take steps in the same direction: Last fall, ASU launched the University Design Institute, through which it scales the innovative approaches and solutions it has developed for its own campus to help other universities create online offerings and is even partnering on community-based projects such as supply chain improvements in Ghana and across Africa. Thinking like a tech company means investing in the right platforms and building the ability to scale.
Capitalize on higher-ed strengths
The most successful tech companies also know and relentlessly develop their strengths, which is why you don’t see Apple rolling out a social network or Netflix designing smartphones. It’s no secret that education’s disruptors offer curriculum options that are fast, dirt-cheap and job-ready. Coursera estimates students can complete a Google Professional Certificates program by studying five to 10 hours per week for eight months or less.
Ed-tech clearly knows its market strengths. At the same time, two-thirds of students between the ages of 19 and 30 still think a college degree is a good investment, whether in-person or virtually. Higher ed’s brand value remains strong in the wake of COVID-19: In another survey, 93% of students polled — both enrolled in fully online programs and studying remotely due to COVID-19 — expect a positive return on their online education investment.
The scalability enabled through digital can help colleges and universities press their pedagogic advantages and compete with online competitors’ lean operations. For example, at a time when applications to full-time MBA programs have declined, enrollment in the University of Illinois’ online MBA program has reached 4,000 — up from 114 since the program’s 2016 launch.
The key to capitalizing on the momentum of digital learning is to reimagine a student experience that taps into today’s youth by reshaping your institution’s mindset and approach to education.
Kshitij (Tij) Nerurkar is the North America leader for Education Business at Cognizant. For over 25 years, Tij has advised and implemented digital learning solutions across private and public sector clients on a global basis. In his current role, he helps educational institutions and ed-tech companies develop and implement digital strategies to transform their business model, reimagine learner experience and drive skill enablement. Previously, Tij was the Head of Cognizant Academy in North America. In this role, he was responsible for developing industry partnerships for the Academy and worked as a core member of the talent team to help bridge the reskilling gap through innovative synergistic business models. Tij has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and a master’s degree in management studies from the University of Bombay, India, and he has completed a sales and leadership program at Harvard University. Tij is also on the executive learning council of the Association for Talent Development (ATD). He can be reached at Kshitij.Nerurkar@cognizant.com
Roughly 80 percent of Americans have back pain at some point in their lives. Historically, many of those people were told that, barring a specific, treatable injury, there’s one prescription for back pain: rest. But research today tells us that the answer is actually just the opposite.
“The advice to rest and not stress your back runs counter to what we now understand to be the best course of action,” says Eric Robertson, a spokesperson for the American Physical Therapy Association and an associate professor of clinical physical therapy at University of Utah and University of Southern California. One of the main issues that physical therapists and physicians alike have run into is that we don’t actually know what causes the pain.
Pain in any muscle can come from being too tight or stiff, but it could also be from a weakness or if it’s not moving in the right way, explains Robertson. Like a car, he says, if there’s one weak spot other parts of the vehicle are going to wear down more quickly—and that’s where you can get pain.
Strengthening your core and back muscles, then, can be incredibly helpful in treating and preventing back pain. And the good news is that you don’t need to do serious weight training to see benefits. The more you move generally, the less likely you are to have pain.
“Standing frequently throughout the day, walking or pacing whenever feasible, and stretching the hips, hamstrings, and hip flexors regularly are a good way to be proactive in preventing these issues,” says Lauren Shroyer, Senior Director of Product Development and a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) at the American Council on Exercise. Robertson agrees.
He says walking is one of the best exercises for back pain, since it’s non-load bearing and easy to do—but even just moving more overall is going to be helpful (and research backs him up). Back pain can often be the predictable result of a sedentary lifestyle that more and more Americans have, so it may not take much movement to increase strength in the core and back enough to relieve pain.
If you’re having pain right now, you should consult a physical therapist who can design a program specific to your body and your pain. But if you want a general exercise regimen to help prevent back issues, Shroyer has some recommendations.
You may also want to incorporate stretching in with your strength training. Shroyer recommends a basic program for staving off back issues. “In general, when you are not experiencing acute pain and want to be proactive in preventing it, a regular program of stretching the hips and strengthening the legs, abdominals and spine is best.” If you want specifics, check out Williams flexion exercises, the figure-4 piriformis stretch, the cat-cow stretch, and the spinal twist.
You can also determine from your lumbar (or lower) spine position which types of other exercises may be the most helpful, Shroyer says. If you look at yourself from the side in a full-length mirror, check out how much your lower back curves. If it’s fairly straight, hamstring stretches are going to give you the best benefit. If you have a deep curve, hip flexor stretches may be best.
If you’re experiencing minor pain or are simply trying to prevent back problems in the future, the recommendations so far may be all you need. But many people who have chronic back pain find that even doing basic stretches or exercises are overwhelming.
“All pain experiences are a combination of physical and emotional responses,” Robertson says. That might seem tangential to solving your back pain, but the truth is that a large part of overcoming that discomfort is about overcoming the fear of being in pain.
If you’re in pain every time you move, he explains, it’s normal to become afraid of moving—and it’s a physical therapist’s job to enable you to start moving enough that you can move past the fear. Lots of people are told that they simply have a bad back. But the truth is that about 90 percent of back pain isn’t serious, Robertson says, and that means most people can get on track to being pain-free with the right training.
Some folks will get flare-ups, but recurrences don’t mean that you have to live with a bad back for your whole life. (If you have changes in bowel or bladder like trouble peeing, tingling or numbness especially in the groin, or neurologic symptoms like weakness or numbness that may be a sign that you are in the 10 percent of people with a more serious issue—and you should go see a doctor!).
Robertson says that he’s personally experienced back pain intermittently throughout his life, and that it’s still a struggle for him. “Every time, I have this feeling that it’s going to be forever. It’s an okay thing to acknowledge—it’s scary and overwhelming,” he says. We all need to talk about back pain in a more positive light, he says, as something that might be awful now but can be overcome.
Europe is preparing for an extreme winter as an energy emergency that has been a very long time in the making leaves the landmass depending on the ideas of the weather.Faced with flooding gas and power costs, nations from the U.K. to Germany should rely on gentle temperatures to traverse the warming season. Europe is shy of gas and coal and if the breeze doesn’t blow, the most dire outcome imaginable could work out: far and wide power outages that power organizations and plants to shut.
The extraordinary energy crunch has been fermenting for quite a long time, with Europe developing progressively reliant upon discontinuous wellsprings of energy like breeze and sun based while interests in petroleum products declined. Natural strategy has likewise pushed a few nations to close their coal and atomic armadas, decreasing the quantity of force establishes that could fill in as back-up in the midst of shortages.
“It could get very ugly unless we act quickly to try to fill every inch of storage,” said Marco Alvera, CEO of Italian energy framework organization Snam SpA. “You can survive a week without electricity, but you can’t survive without gas.”
Energy request is ascending from the U.S. to Europe and Asia as economies recuperate from the worldwide pandemic, boosting modern movement and powering worries about swelling. Costs are so high in Europe that two significant compost makers reported they were closing plants or shortening creation in the region.
And it’s not simply organizations. Governments are additionally worried about the hit to families previously battling with greater expenses of everything from food to move. As force and gas costs break records for a long time, Spain, Italy, Greece and France are largely stepping in to shield shoppers from inflation.
“It will be expensive for consumers, it will be expensive for big energy users,” Dermot Nolan, a previous CEO of U.K. energy controller Of gem, said in a Bloomberg TV meet. “Electricity and gas prices are going to be higher at home than everybody would want and they are going to be higher than they have been for about 12 years.”
Europe’s gas costs have dramatically multiplied for the current year as top provider Russia has been checking the extra conveyances the landmass needs to top off its exhausted stockpiling locales following a virus winter last year. It’s been difficult to get hold of elective supplies, with North Sea fields going through weighty support after pandemic-instigated postponements, and Asia gathering up cargoes of condensed gaseous petrol to fulfill rising need there.
Higher gas costs helped the expense of creating power as renewables wavered. Low wind speeds constrained European utilities to consume costly coal, draining stores of the dirtiest of petroleum products. Energy strategy additionally assumed a part, with the expense of contaminating in the European Union flooding over 80% this year.
“Gas supply is short, coal supply is short and renewables aren’t going great, so we are now in this crazy situation,” said Dale Hazelton, head of warm coal at Wood Mackenzie Ltd. “Coal companies just don’t have supply available, they can’t get the equipment, the manufacturers are backed up and they don’t really want to invest.”
European gas inventories are at their most minimal level in over 10 years for this season. Gazprom PJSC’s CEO Alexey Miller said Europe will enter the colder time of year in with regards to a month without completely renewing its support reserves. The Russian gas monster has been pushing to begin its questionable Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Europe now needs great climate. While forecasters say temperatures are probably not going to plunge beneath typical one month from now, assumptions can generally change. Comparable climate gauges didn’t appear last year, bringing about an unpleasant temperatures that sent LNG costs in Asia to a record in January.
“It may happen again,” said Ogan Kose, an overseeing chief at Accenture. “If we end up having a very cold winter in Asia as well as in Europe, then we may end up seeing a ridiculous spike in gas prices.”
In 2018, a profound freeze that became known as the Beast from the East shocked energy brokers. This year there’s additionally a possibility that a La Nina climate example would grow once more. While the wonder can carry warm climate to Europe, it will in general send temperatures diving in Asia.
The U.S. Environment Prediction Center said there’s a 66% possibility that a La Nina example will return some time from November to January. That could fuel the battle for LNG cargoes, as purchasers from Japan to India start alarm purchasing because of fears of rivalry with Europe.
“Unfortunately, the way the weather works, when it’s cold, it is cold: it’s cold for the U.S., it’s cold for Europe and then it gets cold for Asia,” said Snam’s Alvera, who is wagering on hydrogen as the future for efficient power energy markets.
Europe should diminish request if the colder time of year is cold, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said, anticipating the district will confront power outages. There are as of now indications of stress, with CF Industries Holdings Inc. closing two compost plants in the U.K. furthermore, Yara International ASA will have diminished its smelling salts creation limit by 40% by next week.
Shutdowns additionally hazard hitting the food store network, which utilizes a side-effect of compost creation in everything from meat handling to brew. The sugar and starch businesses are likewise influenced, with France’s Tereos SCA and Roquette Freres SA cautioning of higher energy costs.
And it doesn’t stop there. Europe top copper maker Aurubis AG said greater costs will keep on getting edges through the remainder of the year. Indeed, even synthetic compounds goliath BASF SE, which delivers the greater part of its force, said it has been not able to completely turn the effect of record-breaking power prices.
Supplies are probably not going to improve altogether any time soon. Russia is confronting its very own energy smash and Gazprom is guiding its extra creation to homegrown inventories. Costs could remain high regardless of whether Europe winds up with a gentle winter, said Fabian Ronningen, an expert at energy specialist Rystad Energy AS.
“With natural gas prices already hitting record highs in Europe ahead of rising winter demand, prices could move even higher in the coming months,” said Stacey Morris, overseer of exploration at file supplier Alerian in Dallas. “There is a potential it can get worse.”
A widely followed Pinterest influencer has filed a lawsuit against the company and its billionaire cofounders, saying she helped start the business but was cut out of any financial rewards.
Christine Martinez, a former Walmart executive turned online personality, says she counseled Pinterest founders Ben Silbermann and Paul Sciarra as they initially worked on the firm around its start in 2008. According to the lawsuit, Martinez advised the pair on many different aspects of the company, including its signature visual-bookmarking feature and the ability to create collections of images called “boards,” and helped find influencers to promote the site. She originally met Silbermann through her husband, who had lived with Silbermann while studying at Yale.
Martinez says she never had anything in writing about her status as a cofounder but expected to be compensated similar to Silbermann, Sciarra and a third cofounder, Evan Sharp. Silbermann remains Pinterest’s CEO, and Sharp works there still as its chief design and creative officer. Sciarra left Pinterest within a few years of its founding. Silbermann and Sciarra retain billion-dollar stakes in the company.
A Pinterest spokesperson dismissed Martinez’s story as “completely without merit and we will defend our position in court.” In the litigation, Martinez accused Silbermann and Sciarra of breach of implied contract, idea theft, unjust enrichment and unfair business practices.
Martinez’s allegations will likely revive questions about how Pinterest, a social network popular among women, treats its female executives. Last year, Pinterest’s former chief operating officer, Françoise Brougher, sued the company, alleging gender discrimination. Pinterest settled in December for $22.5 million but only after additional comments and stories about racism and inequities at the company surfaced from other Pinterest workers, prompting a virtual staff walkout last August.
In court documents, Martinez’s attorneys say she believed she’d be rewarded after the company went public, which it did in 2019. If that is the case, it would’ve been hard to sit on the sideline recently: The company shares struggled at first but soared during last year’s coronavirus lockdown—they trade for around $55 today, roughly double from the IPO—as Pinterest saw a marked increase in users.
Five years ago, from her prison cell, trans whistleblower Chelsea Manning sketched out a new way to protect online privacy. Now, she is helping an MIT-affiliated cryptographer bring the next generation of privacy software online.
Chelsea Manning’s long blonde hair catches in a cool summer breeze as she turns the corner into Brooklyn’s Starr Bar, a dimly lit counter-cultural haunt in the heart of the hipster enclave of Bushwick. The 33-year-old best known for leaking hundreds of thousands of top-secret government documents to Julian Assange in 2010, then coming out as a transgender woman, walks past a poster depicting sea turtles, humans and geese merging to form the outline of a dove. Beside the image are the words, “Your Nations Cannot Contain Us.”
Dressed in a black suit and wearing a silver Omega watch, she makes her way to a small wooden table illuminated by a shaft of sunlight. She orders a Coke. Contrary to what one might expect, this whistleblower turned trans icon looks uncomfortable in the hip surroundings. A fan reverently approaches her and welcomes her back. “This is my life,” she says after he leaves, expressing gratitude for the well wishes and lamenting the loss of her privacy. “I’m not just famous—I’m in the history books.”
While serving the longest sentence ever doled out to a whistleblower after she used the privacy-protecting Tor Network to anonymously leak 700,000 government documents, she used her time in incarceration to devise a better way to cover the tracks of other online users.
Knowing that the nonprofit Tor Project she used to send files to Wikileaks had become increasingly vulnerable to the prying eyes of intelligence agencies and law enforcement, she sketched out a new way to hide internet traffic using blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin, to build a similar network, without troublesome government funding. The entire plan was hatched in a military prison, on paper.
Fixing the known weaknesses of these networks is about more than just protecting future whistleblowers and criminals. Private networks are also vital for big businesses who want to protect trade secrets. The privacy network industry, including the virtual private networks (VPNs) familiar to many corporate users, generated $29 billion in revenue in 2019 and is expected to triple to $75 billion by 2027.
Manning thinks that not-for-profit efforts like Tor, which relies on U.S. government funding and a worldwide network of volunteers to run its anonymous servers, aren’t robust enough. “Nonprofits are unsustainable,” says Manning casually, sipping from her Coke. “They require constant upholding by large capital funds, by large governments.”
By January 2017, she was 7 years into a 35-year sentence at Fort Leavenworth, home to the likes of former Army Major Nidal Hasan, who killed 14 fellow soldiers in 2009. As President Barack Obama prepared to leave office, he granted Manning an unconditional commutation of her sentence. Newly tasting freedom, she was contacted by Harry Halpin, the 41-year-old mathematician who worked for World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee at MIT from 2013 to 2016 helping standardize the use of cryptography across Web browsers.
Halpin asked Manning to look for security weaknesses in his new privacy project, which eventually became Nym, a Neuchâtel, Switzerland-based crypto startup. Halpin founded Nym in 2018 to send data anonymously around the Internet using the same blockchain technology underlying Bitcoin. To date, Nym has raised some $8.5 million from a group of crypto investors including Binance, Polychain Capital and NGC Ventures. The firm now employs ten people and is using its latest round of capital to double its team size.
Halpin was impressed by Manning’s technical knowledge. More than just a famous leaker who happened to have access to secret documents, Manning struck Halpin as someone with a deep technological understanding of how governments and big business seek to spy on private messages.
“We’ve very rarely had access to people who really were inside the machine, who can explain what they believe the actual capabilities of these kinds of adversaries are, what kinds of attacks are more likely,” says Halpin. “She’ll help us fix holes in our design.”
Born in Oklahoma on December 17, 1987, Manning had her first exposure to what’s called network traffic analysis in high school. She and her Welsh mother, Susan, had moved to Haverfordwest, Wales, in 2001, when Manning was 13. In a computer class there, in 2003, she first learned to circumvent blocks put in place by the school to prevent students downloading certain files—and got caught pirating music by Linkin Park, Jay-Z and others.
The headmaster had been watching remotely. “It was the first moment where it dawned on me, ‘Oh, this is a thing. You can do this.’ By 2008 Manning’s interest in network traffic analysis first brought her to The Onion Router (Tor), a volunteer network of computers that sits on top of the internet and helps hide a user’s identity. The nonprofit organization leveraged something called “onion routing,” which hides messages beneath layers of encryption.
Each message is only decipherable by a different member of the network, which routes the message to the next router, ensuring that only the sender and receiver can decipher it all. Ironically, the network colloquially known as the “Dark Web,” used by Manning to send classified documents to WikiLeaks, was developed by the U.S. government to protect spies and other government agents operating online.
At around the same time Manning discovered Tor, she joined the U.S. Army. As a young intelligence analyst her job was to sort through classified databases in search of tactical patterns. After becoming disillusioned with what she learned about the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, she plugged into her computer, put in her headphones, and loaded a CD with music from another of her favorite musicians, Lady Gaga.
Instead of listening to the album, though, she erased it and downloaded what would eventually be known as the largest single leak in U.S. history, ranging from sensitive diplomatic cables to video showing U.S. soldiers killing civilians, including two Reuters journalists.
In prison she studied carpentry, but she never stopped exploring her earlier vocation. “I’m a certified carpenter,” she says. “But when I wasn’t doing that, I would read a lot of cryptography papers.” In 2016, she was visited in prison by Yan Zhu, a physicist from MIT who would later go on to become chief security officer of Brave, a privacy-protecting internet browser that pays users in cryptocurrency in exchange for agreeing to see ads.
She and Zhu were concerned with vulnerabilities they saw in Tor, including its dependence on the goodwill of governments and academic institutions. In 2020 53% of its $5 million funding came from the U.S. government and 27% came from other Western governments, tax-subsidized nonprofits, foundations and companies. Worse, in their opinion, the technology being developed to break privacy was being funded at a higher rate than the technology to protect it.
“As the Dark Web, or Tor and VPN and all these other services became more prolific, the tools to do traffic analysis had dramatically improved,” says Manning. “And there’s sort of been a cold war that’s been going on between the Tor project developers, and a number of state actors and large internet service providers.” In 2014, the FBI learned how to decipher Tor data. By 2020 a single user reportedly controlled enough Tor nodes to steal bitcoin transactions initiated over the network.
Using two lined pieces of composition paper from the prison commissary, Manning drew a schematic for Zhu of what she called Tor Plus. Instead of just encrypting the data she proposed to inject the information equivalent of noise into network communications. In the margins of the document she even postulated that blockchain, the technology popularized by bitcoin, could play a role.
Then, this February Halpin woke her up late one night with an encrypted text message asking her to take a look at a paper describing Nym. Developed completely separately from Manning’s jailhouse sketch, the paper detailed an almost identical system disguising real messages with white noise. A hybrid of the decentralized Tor that relies on donor support and a corporate-owned VPN that requires trusting a company, this network promised the best of both worlds.
Organized as a for-profit enterprise, Nym would pay people and organizations running the network in cryptocurrency. “The next day I cleared my schedule,” she says. By July she’d signed a contract with Nym to run a security audit that could eventually include a closer look at the code, the math and the defensive scenarios against government attacks.
Unlike Tor, which uses the onion router to obscure data sent on a shared network, Nym uses what’s called a mix network, or mixnet, that not only shuffles the data, but also alternates the methods by which the data is shuffled, making it nearly impossible to reassemble.
“Imagine you have a deck of cards,” says Manning. “What’s really unique here is that what’s being done is that you are taking essentially a deck of cards, and you are taking a bunch of other decks of cards, and you are shuffling those decks of cards as well.”
And, as it, turns out, not every government is comfortable using a privacy network largely funded by the U.S. government. Despite Halpin’s commitment to build a network that doesn’t require government funding to operate, in July Nym accepted a €200,000 grant from the European Commission to help get it off the ground.
“Knowing that Wikileaks had become increasingly vulnerable to prying eyes from intelligence agencies and law enforcement, she sketched out a new way to hide internet traffic using blockchain, the technology behind bitcoin.”
“The problem is that there was never a financial model that made any sense to build this technology,” says Halpin. “There was no interest from users, venture capital and big companies. And now you’re seeing what we consider a once-in-a-lifetime alignment of the stars, where there’s interest in privacy from venture capital. There’s an interest in privacy for users.
There’s interest in privacy from companies. And most of the interest from the venture capital side and the company side and the user side has been driven by cryptocurrency. And this was not the case even five years ago.”Even Tor itself is exploring how to use blockchain to create the next generation of its software. After receiving 26% of its total donations in cryptocurrency last year, the Tor Project received a $670,000 grant from advocates of the Zcash cryptocurrency and sold a non-fungible token (NFT) representing the first .onion address for $2 million in May, 2021.
Now, Tor cofounder Nick Mathewson says the Seattle-based nonprofit is exploring some of the same techniques developed by cryptocurrency companies to create Tor credentials that let users develop a reputation without revealing their identity. What he calls an “anonymous blacklistable credential.”
“If you’ve got a website, and somebody does something you don’t like, you can ban them,” says Mathewson. “You can ban the person who did that activity without ever finding out what other activities they did or figuring out whom you banned.”
Though Mathewson is interested in the possibility of using blockchain to upgrade Tor itself, he warns that making for-profit privacy infrastructure could lead to more money being spent on marketing than product development. “Our mission is to encourage the use of privacy technology,” says Mathewson. “I don’t really care whether that privacy tool is the one I made or not.”
Ironically, the same cryptocurrency culture Halpin says brought so much attention from investors, deterred Manning from getting involved earlier. Though she counts herself among the earliest bitcoin adopters, claiming to have mined cryptocurrency shortly after Satoshi Nakomoto activated it in 2009, she sold her bitcoin last year for decidedly nonmonetary reasons.
“I am not a fan of the culture around blockchain and cryptocurrency,” she says. “There’s a lot of large personalities that are very out there, like your Elon Musks and whatnot,” she says. “And it‘s very, like, ‘Oh, we’re going to get rich off of blockchain.’ It’s very nouveau riche. Like a new-yuppies-bro-culture that’s surrounded it. It has gotten a little bit better in some corners. But I think that culture is what I’m talking about. It’s like Gordon Gekko, but blockchain.”