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Go inside the modern bachelor pad of a New York financier

Californians are calling for a split from the US — but one secessionist group has odd ties to Russia

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californian national party website screenshot

The tweets began within hours of President Trump's victory on November 8.

"We'll just take our avocados and legal weed and go#CalExit," one person tweeted.

"#Calexit I'm all in for this! We're basically in our own little world anyway. And let's elect #BernieSanders as our supreme leader!" another wrote.

Since the election, the Calexit movement has grown from a hashtag to a legitimate campaign for California's independence. Secession backers are now collecting voter signatures to get a measure on the 2018 state ballot which, if passed, would help clear a path for legal secession.

One in three Californians surveyed by Reuters/Ipsos in a recent poll want the state to leave the US. But support for California's secession has been growing long before Trump took the White House.

There are two fringe political groups fighting for the Golden State's breakaway: The Yes California Independence Campaign and the California National Party (CNP). Though the groups are both working toward Calexit, they have different ideas on how to get there.

Now the two groups are duking it out for California's support, with the groups' respective leadership picking fights on social media and in press releases in an effort to mar each others' reputation.

Yes California, a political action committee founded in 2014, wants to pass a constitutional amendment in California that would make secession possible. It's currently collecting voter signatures in the state. The CNP, a year-old political party, wants to take the long way around to the same end, by establishing a political party, registering voters, and seeking representation in Congress first.

On January 21, the CNP released a statement calling Yes California a "Russian puppet organization," whose ties to the country and President Vladimir Putin are "alarming."

Vladimir Putin

Yes California's links to Russia have been well documented. Before Calexit started trending in the US, the PAC began gaining favorable attention from news outlets backed by the Russian government. The group's leadership attended a conference in Moscow dedicated to the right of secession last September, and later opened an unofficial "embassy" in the capital.

Some argue that the Kremlin's endorsement stems from a Russian tradition of fostering US secession efforts in order to spread disinformation and exploit tensions in the West.

"Yes California isn't a Californian movement," Jed Wheeler, the general secretary of the CNP, told Politico Magazine. "Yes California is a movement whose optics are all designed for a Russian audience to reinforce Putin, by talking about … how terrible America is, and reinforcing [the idea that] Putin is this great guy who is admired all over the world."

yes california moscowYes California denies accepting any financial support from Russian government officials in a statement on its website. It has, however, received free press from Kremlin-backed media.

But Louis Marinelli, president of Yes California, told Business Insider in November that he's not embarrassed by the group's links to Russia.He said Yes California will work with any group that supports the right of self-government.

"It sounds kind of controversial," Marinelli said, "but we want California to become an independent country and we're not going to hold any punches to make that happen."

Marinelli and his Russian wife currently live in Yekaterinburg, a city outside Moscow, where he is waging California's secession battle 5,900 miles away from the state. Marinelli, a former English teacher in Russia, has lived there almost as long as he called California home.

Yes California also appears to have co-opted the CNP's identity.

On January 16, Yes California sent a newsletter to subscribers encouraging them to register with the Californian National Party, which it called, "the only officially-sanctioned pro-independence #Calexit political party in California."

logos california secession groups

The letter did not mention the CNP, which formed in August 2015 — about one year after Yes California organized — and filed a letter with the Secretary of State's office last year to become a recognized political party. While the two groups are unaffiliated, Marinelli has ties to both.

He tweeted in January that the new party was a sort of spinoff of the CNP.

Natalie Blake, who serves as co-chair of the CNP's Los Angeles chapter in addition to serving as the party's attorney, told Business Insider that Marinelli served as an interim officer of the CNP in June 2016. The party held an informal convention that elected a new chair last summer.

Marinelli has not been involved with the CNP since his move to Russia last year, Blake said.

Blake said she has "no ill will against these folks," but is worried that Californians who support independence will no longer be able to tell apart the groups because of similar branding.

Meanwhile, Marinelli maintains that the CNP is ripping off his party, not vice versa. His Twitter feed reads like a never-ending rant against his political adversaries.

It's highly unlikely that either group gets its way in the pursuit of California independence. The last time a state seceded from the US, it was the 1860s and a civil war broke out.

Blake said the CNP is leaving it up to voters to decide the best path forward.

"We're encouraging people to make their own, individual decisions about it," she said.

SEE ALSO: Silicon Valley is divided on whether California should secede from the US in a 'Calexit'

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: People in California are calling for a 'Calexit' after Trump’s victory

Hilton just revealed a game-changing update to its rewards program

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hilton los cabos

If you travel often for work or for leisure, making use of a hotel company's rewards program can be a great way to have that travel work for you. 

In that spirit, Hilton today announces major changes to its loyalty program, previously called Hilton HHonors and now rebranded to the "more authentic, less marketing-centric" Hilton Honors, according to Mark Weinstein, Hilton's senior vice president and global head of loyalty and partnerships.

Among the changes to the program, which has more than 60 million members globally, is the introduction of the ability to combine points and money when booking a room at a Hilton property. Customers can use a slider tool on the Hilton Honors website to decide what combination of points and money they'd like to use. The Points & Money feature will be available in late February, and there are no blackout dates. hilton Slider

"It's an industry first to use a slider tool on the site," Weinstein said. "It offers frequent travelers a way to use their points more quickly." 

Hilton Honors is still free to join. Members can earn points in a variety of ways, from staying at hotels in the Hilton portfolio to spending with certain credit cards that partner with Hilton.

The company is additionally introducing the ability to pool points with up to 10 other people, which Hilton says will give its members more value and flexibility, as even those travelers with fewer points will be able to use them for a free stay more quickly. The points pooling feature will be free to use.

Also new to the program is the ability to redeem points for purchases on Amazon. Hilton is the first hotel group to partner with Amazon's Shop With Points, which allows customers to use rewards points just as they would any other payment method on Amazon. Weinstein says the exact exchange rate may evolve over time.

"We see this as a more immediate value for people who don't travel as frequently," Weinstein said. 

hilton cleveland downtownAnother new benefit will help those who have attained the program's most elite status to keep it. Diamond members — those who have either booked 30 stays, stayed 60 nights, or earned 120,000 Base Points in one year — have typically had to maintain that same level of travel to keep their status year to year. Hilton is introducing the ability to put a pause on your Diamond benefit should a life event keep you from traveling as much as you had in the past.  

"Sometimes life sends you a curveball, and the last thing you should be worrying about is re-qualifying," Weinstein said. "They just let us know [by phone or email] that they want to do a one-time reserve of Diamond status. Ultimately we want to have a relationship that has momentum to it, and we want to reward and celebrate with you that you're taking time off from the road." 

Hilton has a portfolio of 14 hotel brands encompassing 4,900 properties in 104 countries. It first introduced its loyalty program as a scratch-off promotion tied to the US Olympic Team in 1987. 

"Our goal is to connect with every traveler in a meaningful and personal way," Weinstein said. "We're pushing travel to be a lot more human, a lot more personable, and a lot more relevant." 

SEE ALSO: Wealthy Americans have a new attitude about traveling — and it should terrify hotel chains

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: This $21,000 hotel suite comes with a private spa and bulletproof windows

The Levante proves that Maserati can build a luxury SUV (FCAU)

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Maserati Levante

It would be hard to overestimate the importance of the Levante SUV for Maserati. The brand came back to the US over a decade and and half ago, but since the financial crisis and amid an SUV boom, it's been selling only stylish luxury sedans and sexy GT sports car.

That will all now change, and it couldn't happen at a more important time for the Italian automaker, part of the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles empire. It's down at the bottom of the luxury sales hierarchy in the US, with a puny 0.1% overall market share (Porsche sells five times as many vehicles annually).

The Quattroporte and Ghibli sedans have their fans (me, for example). But in the US and increasingly China, you really need a strong crossover offering. Porsche established the template for an automaker that had never built an SUV crossing that river in the early 2000s when it created the Cayenne, a hugely successful vehicle.

Now Maserati has taken the same plunge.

We first saw the Levante when it was revealed at the 2016 Geneva Motor Show and later in the flesh at the New York auto show. Last year, we spent some time behind the wheel. It was a relatively brief, two-hour run from a working farm and restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, about an hour north of New York to Bear Mountain.

This wasn't enough time to fully evaluate the vehicle — we'll get a crack at that later — but we formed some early impressions. And those impressions were good.

Read on:

SEE ALSO: The Levante is Maserati's first SUV — here's what it's like to drive

I arrive at the driving site. It's the rustic Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, home to the well-known and highly regarded Blue Hill restaurant.



The scenery is spectacular. This is a working farm. There are cows and sheep in the fields, a beekeeping area, and lots of farming plots and pastures.



Gorgeous. A fine day to drive an Italian luxury SUV.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

These are the foods that would be affected by a 20% tax on Mexican goods

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President Trump wants to build a border wall with Mexico. In order to finance its construction, he's proposed a 20% tariff on all goods imported from Mexico. We consume a lot of goods from Mexico, and here's what we would be hit the hardest.

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I took a $400,000 Rolls-Royce Dawn convertible on a road trip through New Jersey — and it blew me away

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Rolls Royce Dawn 29

Over the past 15 years, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, a company with more than a century's worth of heritage and brand equity, has completely reinvented itself under BMW ownership. This reinvention was not conducted in a way that abandons tradition — because that would be foolish— but rather by embracing it while injecting a heavy dose of modernity.

In other words, rather than slapping a the brand's badge on a run-of-the-mill luxury car, they decided to build honest-to-God Rolls-Royce motor cars with the latest chassis, engine, and infotainment technology money can buy.

First there was the flagship Phantom limo. Then came the "entry-level" Ghost sedan. That was followed by Wraith coupe. Now, with the arrival of the Dawn, it's safe to say the Rolls-Royce revolution is complete.

Late last year, just before the winter chill bore down on the Northeastern part of the US, Rolls-Royce dropped off a brand new Dawn for Business Insider to check out at our top secret suburban New Jersey road test facility — the nerve center of our vast vehicle evaluation operation. Otherwise known as my colleague Matt DeBord's drive way.

Obviously, this was the perfect opportunity for a weekend drive through the wilds of New Jersey. 

The Rolls-Royce Dawn starts at a lofty $335,000. However, our option-laden test car clad in Midnight Sapphire and Blue Ice livery cost a whopping $402,675.

Hollis Johnson contributed to this story.

SEE ALSO: Porsche now sells 21 different versions of the 911— here they are

I began the day at Business Insider's suburban test car facility located not too far from BMW/Rolls-Royce North America's headquarters in Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey.



The Dawn is the latest addition to the Rolls-Royce family. It joins the flagship Phantom, ...



... The Ghost, and...



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

A pair of Harvard students have designed tiny houses that could be the future of weekend getaways

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getaway tiny house eleanor archinger 8

Sometimes vacations are more trouble than they're worth. You spend a lot of money, travel far, and leave stressed.

Getaway, a hospitality startup launched out of the Harvard Innovation Lab in 2015, shakes up that routine by offering tiny houses for rent. It's like camping, but with the creature comforts of home.

The company maintains a dozen tiny houses, ranging between 160 and 200 square feet, in remote, wooded areas of Massachusetts and New York. Guests can book them for $99 to $129 a night.

Founders and college friends Pete Davis and Jon Staff recently pitched their vacation startup on "Shark Tank." The pair walked away from a $7 million investment because the judges offered a "lower valuation than we thought we were worth," Davis told WTPO News.

We spoke with Staff, the CEO of Getaway, to see why tiny houses might be the future of tourism.

SEE ALSO: This couple quit their jobs and traveled 22,000 miles in a tiny house

Getaway, founded by two Harvard graduate students, aims to provide a convenient and affordable way to disconnect from the daily grind.



"We really want you to do nothing at all," says Staff.



This is the Ovida, the first tiny home designed and built by Getaway.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Obama's vacation style shows why there's only one hat a grown man can get away with wearing

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ballcap

Hats used to be as common as shoes in America. You wouldn't dare leave the house without one. If you were a gentleman, you wouldn't dream of keeping it on indoors.

Now things are a little different. The guys who attempt to wear those kinds of hats — trilbies, fedoras, and panama-style hats, but also flatcaps — are either mocked mercilessly, or should be.

Fedoras and the like are not fun accents to add to your outfit. They are formalwear, meant to be worn with suits. They just don't work in other contexts.

There are, however, two exceptions to this strict no-hat rule:

  • If you're one of the two people who can get away with wearing a wild hat. They are: a man who could have been alive when men did wear hats every day, back in the early 20th century; or Johnny Depp and quirky people like him (and even he is pushing it). 
  • If the hat in question is a baseball cap. While a bit sporty of a look, a baseball cap can be worn in more casual styles with a high degree of success.

Former President Barack Obama once said: "Here's the general rule: You don't put stuff on your head if you’re president. That's politics 101. You never look good wearing something on your head."

But now that Obama is a normal citizen, he's subject to the same rules as the rest of us. And he seems to be taking advantage of that while vacationing on Richard Branson's private island, wearing a baseball cap backwards on the way to the beach with wife Michelle. It's essentially the perfect time to wear a hat.

Unless you're at the beach or in a very casual setting, hats come off as strange and try-hard. There are so many easier ways to add interest to your outfit. There's no reason to bring headwear into this. Almost every outfit that was paired with a hat would be better without that addition.

SEE ALSO: The fabulous life of legendary fashion billionaire Ralph Lauren, who dressed Melania Trump for the inauguration

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Watch the Obamas officially welcome the Trumps into the White House

Buying a house in New Zealand is Silicon Valley code for getting 'apocalypse insurance'

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sheep new zealand

New Zealand, home of rolling hillsides, endless sheep, and film locations for "The Lord of The Rings" trilogy, has racked up a new claim to fame.

Silicon Valley billionaires are reportedly buying property on the small island nation so that they have somewhere to flee in the event of a global catastrophe. "Buying a house in New Zealand" has become a sort of code for getting "apocalypse insurance."

A new essay in The New Yorker digs into the ways some of the wealthiest people in America are preparing for doomsday. Reid Hoffman, the cofounder of LinkedIn and a notable venture capitalist, told the New Yorker he estimates more than 50% of Silicon Valley billionaires have bought some level of apocalypse insurance, like an underground bunker.

Hoffman recalled a time when he thought about visiting New Zealand, and a friend asked him if he planned to buy apocalypse insurance while he was there.

"Saying you're 'buying a house in New Zealand' is kind of a wink, wink, say no more," Hoffman told The New Yorker. "Once you've done the Masonic handshake, they'll be, like, 'Oh, you know, I have a broker who sells old ICBM silos, and they're nuclear-hardened, and they kind of look like they would be interesting to live in.'"

peter thiel new zealandPeter Thiel, cofounder of PayPal and a member of President Donald Trump's transition team, became a New Zealand citizen in 2011 and owns real estate there. According to The New Zealand Herald, Thiel bought a mansion in the southern resort town of Queenstown in 2011 and a sprawling estate on the shores of Lake Wanaka — valued around $10 million — in 2015.

A real estate listing described the 477-acre property as "a most beautiful and picturesque farm," offering "a secluded and peaceful setting." It sounds like a nice place to wait out Armageddon, though the venture capitalist has yet to expressly name New Zealand his "backup country."

Y Combinator president Sam Altman allegedly wants to fly to Thiel's property in the case of a pandemic.

Tech billionaires are channeling their inner Bear Grylls for a number of reasons. Hoffman told The New Yorker that some rich people fear a backlash against Silicon Valley as artificial intelligence takes away an increasing number of jobs from humans. The CEO of a large tech company cited Russian cyberattacks as evidence of risk that the US might fall into disorder.

In response to all of this, Recode's Kara Swisher shared a joke she heard from a techie.

"In the event of doomsday, I have some good news and some bad news. The good news is I have a bunker in New Zealand. The bad news? Peter Thiel is my neighbor," Swisher wrote.

SEE ALSO: Silicon Valley billionaires are preparing for the apocalypse with motorcycles, guns, and private hideaways

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: These doomsday shelters for the 1% make up the largest private bunker community on earth

A former J.Crew exec just opened a menswear paradise for the modern guy who 'wants to look American'

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Todd Snyder wants to sell you his vision of modern American style. And he wants the average guy to be more comfortable choosing it for himself. 

"Being an American menswear designer, I wanted to do something that represented me," Snyder told Business Insider during a tour of his eponymous brand's new store, which opened at 25 E 26th St in New York City in December. "[The] brand really represents the guy who wants to dress better, who wants to look American."

Snyder translates to "tailor" in Dutch, but this designer didn't always want to get into fashion. Snyder originally wanted to be a designer of a different breed — an architect — and only switched to fashion after becoming frustrated with the slow path a career in architecture would require. He went on to design menswear at Ralph Lauren, Gap, and J.Crew, where he eventually became a senior vice president.

But what exactly is American style? To Snyder, it's the "eclectic mix of everything that we know," including British style, streetwear, and everything in between. 

"Clothing is about a feeling," Snyder said. "Otherwise we'd all be walking around in gray sacks and not really give a hoot. We all dress the way we do for a reason. There's emotion built behind it. We want the store to feel that way."

SEE ALSO: This tuxedo rental startup wants to completely change the way guys dress for weddings

The new store, which opened in December, is a veritable paradise of menswear.



Snyder said that the store was envisioned as a one-stop shop for guys looking to get fashionable clothing, plus anything else they might need. An on-site barbershop and bar area are opening soon, and there's also a space where purchased garments can be tailored.



The store is similar to J.Crew's Liquor Store concept — a new kind of menswear store that Snyder created while he was head of menswear design for the brand. It includes the namesake collection in addition to hand-picked pieces from brands that complement the look.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

28 crazy pictures of micro-apartments around the world

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tiny apartment hong kong

Humanity is increasingly moving into cities, but the Earth isn't getting any bigger.

That means our apartments are getting smaller, and our living arrangements denser.

Some people get roommates to avoid living in such small spaces. Others, due to poverty or personal obligations, have no choice but to accept their crowded circumstances.

We don't know how they do it, but somehow they make it work.

SEE ALSO: Here's what cities could look like in 10 years

Wang Cunchun, 90, lives with his 60-year-old son in a 107-square-foot apartment in Shanghai, China.



China's largest developer China Vanke showcases a micro-apartment at the Pearl River Delta Real Estate Fair in the city of Guangzhou.



In space-deprived China, tiny is the new big.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The most active day for dating apps is coming up, and it's both funny and a bit depressing

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Happy Couple on Date at Restaurant

February has started, Valentine's Day is right around the corner, and that means single people are about to kick into overdrive, according to dating app Happn.

In fact, Happn says its most active day in the US is February 7, one week before Valentine's Day.

This makes sense, in a slightly depressing way. You don't want to be frantically messaging a match too close to Valentine's Day, since having a first date on the actual day, or even around it, is a bit much. A second date on Valentine's Day, on the other hand, seems much more reasonable.

Still, the fact that February 7 is so active is a sobering reflection on how much we let Valentine's Day impact our romantic lives.

Happn also says that while people might assume that New Year's Eve would follow a similar pattern, with dating activity seeing a boost the week before, it's actually the opposite. The data shows a spike in the week after New Year's. New year, fresh start in finding your soul mate, it seems.

Happn got its start in Paris, and matches you up with people you cross paths with. My colleague Steven Tweedie has called it the "hopeless romantic among dating apps."

Read more about it here.

SEE ALSO: People think Netflix makes more interesting originals than rivals like HBO and Amazon

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: ROGER STONE: Trump is 'never going to change'

The woman behind 'female Viagra' sold her company for $1 billion — see how she spent the money

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cindy whitehead pinkubator 3

Cindy Whitehead, the serial entrepreneur who built the company behind the "female Viagra," has a new venture aimed at helping women avoid the pitfalls that nearly ended her career.

In August 2015, a little pink pill designed to boost women's sex drives was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The next day, Whitehead sold the company behind the drug to a pharma giant for $1 billion. That's when everything fell apart.

The buyer, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, became embroiled in scandal forjacking up the prices on some of its drugs. It doubled the cost of Addyi, the libido pill, which some say is the reason it never found its footing in the market. Whitehead stepped down as CEO in 2015.

In an interview with Business Insider, Whitehead said she's since turned her focus to helping female founders make breakthroughs of their own. The Pinkubator, which opens February 1, is a startup incubator based in Raleigh, North Carolina, where entrepreneurs will launch new products and companies under the guidance of Whitehead and handpicked mentors. 

Take a look inside.

SEE ALSO: The woman behind 'female Viagra' sold her company for $1 billion — that's when everything fell apart

The Pinkubator is no ordinary startup accelerator.



For starters, it was built with the money Whitehead made from selling her last startup, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, which was responsible for the "female Viagra."

Whitehead hopes to leverage her own experience to help female founders find success.

"Being in this position, the best way to pay it forward is to say 'I stepped on that mine. Step left,'" Whitehead told Business Insider in October. "You've been there. You've done that. And hopefully they're advantaged by your own experiences — successes and failures."



Whitehead describes the Pinkubator as a membership service for women-led or women-focused businesses, which means men can join if their startups are relevant to women's needs.

Entrepreneurs can join for $500 a month, or $99 for access to mentorship, networking events, and special pricing on brand-building services, without the office space.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

10 of the best American cities to live comfortably on $40,000 a year

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Canon City, Colorado

Much of America's charm is predicated on small-town life. It's community-oriented, nostalgic, and generally more affordable than living in a big city.

In its October-November print issue, AARP The Magazine highlights 10 great hometowns for anyone on a modest budget of $40,000 a year. (See the shorter online version here).

To create the list, the magazine teamed up with Sperling's Best Places, which focuses on quality-of-life research, to determine a livability index, factoring in metrics on housing affordability, access to work and recreation, transportation, healthcare, and safety. Each city on the list has a score above the average livability index score of 50.

Read on to check out 10 US cities where life is robust and affordable.

DON'T MISS: 15 of the most fun American cities that are actually affordable

SEE ALSO: The 25 cities with the best quality of life in the US

Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Livability index: 65

Population: 115,300

Median housing price: $127,300

Sunny days per year: 188

Just one hour north of Milwaukee, you'll find this distinctly Midwestern town on the shores of Lake Michigan at the opening of the Sheboygan River, the area's main draw and a hotspot for surfing and sailing. Residents laud Sheboygan's free and affordable events and activities, including the annual Brat Days festival, a celebration of the city's most famous culinary export.



Eugene, Oregon

Livability index: 59

Population: 358,300

Median housing price: $222,000

Sunny days per year: 155

Nestled in the lush Willamette Valley, Eugene has "carefully cultivated its image as an outdoor-lover's paradise," according to AARP The Magazine. Its high concentration of nature mavens — including the area's college students and retirees — frequent farmers markets, vineyards, hiking and biking trails, museums, and galleries.



Cleveland, Ohio

Livability index: 56

Population: 2 million

Median housing price: $124,000

Sunny days per year: 166

Situated on the shores of Lake Erie, Cleveland has experienced a cultural renaissance of late, led by growing populations of baby boomers and millennials alike. The city's robust art and music scene is complemented by lively nightlife and award-winning restaurants, not to mention a renewed excitement among NBA fans with the return of hometown hero LeBron James.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Watch thousands of people walk over the largest lake in central Europe

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Frigid temperatures in early January froze over a giant portion of Lake Balaton — the largest lake in central Europe. Instead of staying inside, locals braved the cold and ventures out onto the ice. And it was just a few — people flocked to the frozen lake by the thousands. Here's some epic footage of the event.

Video courtesy of Kurcz Lorinc

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Groundhog Day is one big party — here's what it's like to experience in person

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groundhog

There are few traditions more distinctly American than Groundhog Day.

Although most people hear of the infamous groundhog Phil's weather prediction via a quick blurb in their morning news on February 2, the event is a very real pilgrimage to Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where tens of thousands gather to watch the little guy come out of his hole and pray that he doesn't see his shadow.

This is where my adventure begins.

SEE ALSO: The most popular Super Bowl snack in every state this year

Groundhog Day, despite being celebrated nationwide in America, stems from European legend. A groundhog comes out of its hole. If it sees its shadow and retreats back into its hole, it's considered a bad omen, and there will be six more weeks of winter. No shadow seen? Early spring. It's celebrated on February 2 every year in multiple cities and towns across America.

But no celebration is as grand as the one held in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. This small town fills with thousands of travelers who are there to see the most important man of that day predict the weather. Punxsutawney Phil emerges in the wee hours of the morning of February 2. But the celebrating starts many hours before …



I was attending Clarion University of Pennsylvania in 2012 when I decided to meet a friend in Punxsutawney. Having grown up in Pennsylvania, I'd always heard that it was a great party. As the photo editor for our campus paper at the time, I brought along a camera.



As I drove into town on the night of February 1, I was surprised to see very little signage telling me where to go. Thousands of people? Where was everyone?

I pulled into a Walmart parking lot and rolled down my window as I approached the first person I saw. "Where's the party?" I asked. "Right here," he said, and subsequently handed me an adult beverage.



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What it's like to stay at Mar-a-Lago, Trump's 'winter White House'

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mar a lago trump

The Mar-a-Lago Club is Trump's Florida resort and home base outside of Manhattan.

The former home to the heiress of Post Cereal, Marjorie Merriweather Post, Trump turned it into a luxury resort in the '80s.

Trump frequently visits the compound, and will continue to do so throughout his presidency. White House press secretary Sean Spicer called it the "winter White House" when he informed reporters that the president would be visiting over the weekend of February 3.

Here's what it's really like to stay at the president's favorite retreat, where the initiation fee for membership was just doubled to $200,000.

Raisa Bruner contributed reporting to an earlier version of this post.

SEE ALSO: Trump's childhood home in New York City is going up for auction — take a look inside

Mar-a-Lago is a beach and pool club and spa, with rooms, suites, and cottages spread over 20 acres.

Source: Mar-a-Lago Club



The club has been the site of everything from Trump's most recent wedding, to Maya Angelou's 80th birthday party (hosted by Oprah Winfrey), to various victory parties and events throughout Trump's campaign for president.



The 118-room resort was built in the 1920s by Marjorie Merriweather Post, at the time America's richest woman. She bequeathed it to the US government when she died, in the hopes that it would be the future home of presidents.

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Source: The New York Times



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No one wants to buy Richard Nixon's 'western White House'

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Nixon overview

It seems that La Casa Pacifica, famous for being the "western White House" of former President Richard M. Nixon, doesn't have the allure it once did.

After listing in August 2015 for $75 million, the price of the magnificent California estate has dropped by $11.5 million to $63.5 million.

Nixon was the historic San Clemente home's second owner, purchasing it in 1969 for $1.4 million. Built in 1926, the home was used by Nixon as a retreat to write his memoir after Watergate, according to NPR.

The current resident is former Allergan Pharmaceuticals CEO and founder Gavin S. HerbertHerbert, along with some business partners, has owned the home since 1980, and volunteered to be the head gardener even before he owned it. The gardens are still in top-notch shape.

Rob Giem of Hôm Sotheby's International Realty has the listing. 

Brittany Fowler contributed reporting to an earlier version of this article.

SEE ALSO: See inside the $5.3 million Washington, DC, home that the Obamas will move into after they leave the White House

The two parcels of land that comprise the estate total 5.45 acres, with 450 feet of beachfront property.



Built in 1926, the 9,000-square-foot main residence includes five bedrooms, a grand main room, a den, a bar, and a guest suite.



But there's also a detached two-bedroom guest house across the way, just in case the guest suite is occupied.



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7 time-saving hacks that will free up hours in your schedule

15 hobbies highly successful people practice in their spare time

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Bill Gates playing bridge

The most successful people know there is more to life than simply eating, sleeping, and working.

Everyone needs to enjoy some downtime every now and then, and making the most of your free time by taking up a hobby can even help make you more successful.

Playing a musical instrument, for example, can stimulate your creativity, analytical skills, and fine motor skills.

For a little inspiration, here are the hobbies of 15 highly successful people:

SEE ALSO: 15 high-paying side jobs that will put your hobbies to good use

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Richard Branson plays chess

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Branson is well-known for his adventurous side, and you've likely seen many a photo of the Virgin Group founder kitesurfing and hanging out on the high seas. But perhaps his favorite hobby is far more of a mental activity.

"I think chess may just be the best game in the world," he writes on Virgin's blog. "It combines the greatest aspects of many different sports — tactics, planning, bravery and risk-taking — plus you can have a cup of tea and often a stimulating conversation while you play!"

Branson says he's likely played thousands of games in his lifetime, and he tells The Telegraph afternoons on Necker Island are always spent on the beach, oftentimes playing chess with his kids.



Jack Dorsey hikes

In 2011, when Dorsey was running Twitter and Square full-time for the first time, the cofounder told the audience at Techonomy 2011 that, to get it all done, he gave each day a theme. This allowed him to quickly recall and refocus on the day's task once distractions were out of the way.

Dorsey said he would dedicate his Saturdays to hiking.



Meryl Streep knits

The award-winning actress says she loves to knit, and she's even said to have hand-knitted the shawl she wore in the movie "Doubt."

Streep admits that she spends much of her time on set knitting and finds the hobby to be therapeutic: "For me it was a place to gather my thoughts and understand the contemplative (life) ... it's a sort of clearing out place."

In fact, tons of celebrities, especially actors who have plenty of time to kill on set between takes, love to spend their free time knitting. The list includes Julia Roberts, Ryan Gosling, and Christina Hendricks.



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