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8 times in history when a war on Christmas actually happened


Santa Claus gun

• Starting with Bill O'Reilly in the early 2000s, many figures on the American political right have argued that there is an ongoing war on Christmas.

• Observers have questioned the reality of such a conflict, given the holiday's prominent place in US culture.

• But throughout history, governments and societies — including certain Christian sects — have tried to do away with the festivities.

Every December, Americans take part in a time-honored tradition: letting slip the dogs of the war on Christmas.

Some folks assert that there's a concerted effort in American society to secularize or erase Christmas, while others call this belief ludicrous. Writing in Politico, Daniel Danvir estimates the most recent iteration of the clash began in 2004, with ousted Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly firing the opening salvo. Since then, "...the War Over Christmas has become tarted up, 24-houred and Twitterized — even as it has grown drearily routine, an annual pageant in which culture warriors line the trenches," Danvir wrote.

The results? "Xmas" has gotten a bad rep in some circles. US President Donald Trump has shouted about bringing back "Merry Christmas" at rallies, while First Daughter Ivanka Trump stoked controversy by wishing people "Happy Holidays" on Twitter. The Yuletide tension between the First Family notwithstanding, this fearsome fight mostly occurs between pundits — Business Insider's Mark Abadi reports most people don't give two sugar plums about your choice of season's greetings.

But that doesn't mean there haven't been so-called wars on Christmas in the past — sometimes waged by Christians themselves.

Here's a look at historic instances during which Christmas was banned or twisted beyond recognition:

SEE ALSO: What the biggest 'War on Christmas' controversy gets wrong about history

DON'T MISS: Fake news is nothing new — here’s how it killed my ancestor over 300 years ago

A group of radical Christians outlawed Christmas — and sparked riots — in 17th century England

People weren't happy when England's Puritan Parliament banned outright Christmas in 1647.

The Puritans had just seized the country from King Charles I. The sect's central quest was to purge the Church of England of all Catholic influences. They viewed Christmas as a mess of a holiday, full of vice and lacking in scriptural basis.

To signal their disdain, the blog History Extra reports Puritans in London would open up shop, show up to Parliament, and shut down their churches on Christmas Day. They even blasted Yuletide delicacies like mince pies as "idolatry in crust," according to Gerry Bowler's "Christmas in the Crosshairs."

But a lot of their fellow subjects didn't agree. In fact, according to "The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern English Literature and Religion," riots broke out in London, Ipswich, and Norwich and other cities. The pro-Christmas residents of Canterbury even took control of their city in defiance of the Puritan leadership.

Christmas only returned to England in an official capacity when Charles II restored the monarchy in 1660.

Many early American colonists hated Christmas, too

The puritanical anti-Christmas vibe wasn't contained to England. It seeped over to the American colonies, too — especially New England. The pilgrims of Thanksgiving fame shunned the holiday in 1620 and did not observe it. Nor did the Puritans who arrived in later years. In fact, much to the dismay of the non-Puritans living in New England, observance of the holiday was banned in Boston until 1659.

Even the early days of the United States, the holiday wasn't a terribly big deal. In urban areas, Christmas was oftentimes marred by violence — often against African Americans and Catholic immigrants — and vice.

The Christmas spirit as we know it today only began to take hold in the mid-1800s. In 1870, President U.S. Grant declared Christmas Day a national holiday, TIME reported.

French revolutionaries rebranded Christmas cakes and renamed the holiday 'Dog Day'

The decadent aristocrats weren't the only ones in the French revolution's crosshairs. The increasingly anti-clerical movement also ultimately went after two unusual enemies of the revolution — Christmas and cake.

According to "Christmas in the Crosshairs," Christmas was renamed "dog day" to mock the holiday, as the government shut down Catholic churches, drowned priests, and established a national, atheistic substitute: the Cult of Reason.

The revolution even went after bakers who dubbed holiday cakes "galette des rois" — or king cakes — after the three magi. Those were rebranded "liberty cakes" or "equality cakes," while mothers who bore sons were permitted to celebrate "the Festival of Birth" around Christmastime.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Meet the Ukrainian children who no longer fear bombs and bullets after more than 3 years of war


Ukraine war donbas marinka

The "children don't care about their safety anymore," Mila, the school principal in the village of Marinka, told Business Insider through a translator.

"They got so adjusted to the situation ... They hear the sounds of shelling and shooting, and they just don't care that they could get hurt."

The war in eastern Ukraine, which has killed more than 10,000 people and wounded more than 24,000, will turn four years old next April.

After a series of failed ceasefires, the conflict has mostly devolved into stagnant trench warfare, where Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists often exchange light artillery and sniper fire from a distance.

Shelling and small arms fire have become regular background noise along the 250 mile long front lines, especially in hotspots like Avdiivka or Marinka. Misfires still kill and wound civilians.

In March, we spoke with multiple children and adults living in Marinka about how this prolonged conflict has effected the children.

Here's what they said:

SEE ALSO: Here's what it's like inside the bunkers Ukrainian troops are living in every day

The population of Marinka has dropped from about 10,000 to 5,000 since the war began — and it's filled with shelled buildings like the one below.

This is the school in Marinka, which is guarded by armed Ukrainian soldiers.

The school didn't have heat in March and was really cold, and the windows were lined with sandbags.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

There's new evidence that a 'party drug' is a rapid-fire treatment for depression


party fun happy couple

  • Ketamine —  used legally as an anesthetic and illegally in club settings — is emerging as a potential new treatment for some types of depression.
  • A new study found that ketamine was better at curbing suicidal thoughts in depressed patients than a sedative.
  • Researchers have called ketamine "the most important discovery in half a century."
  • We visited a ketamine clinic that offers 45-minute infusions of the therapy in San Francisco.

After a 45-minute infusion of ketamine, clients at a clinic in San Francisco's Nob Hill neighborhood are not partying.

Instead, they're in a state of quiet contemplation — reclining on cushioned chairs, listening to music, or occasionally striking a tranquil yoga pose.

These clients are patients at one of ten ketamine clinics operated by Actify Neurotherapies, a network that offers the treatments to people diagnosed with severe forms of anxiety and depression. Ketamine is best known for its illegal recreational uses — it is a powerful dissociative that can induce feelings of being separated from one's own body. But it is also one of the safest and most widely used legal anesthetics. And ketamine's utility as an antidepressant has recently started to gain attention.

A new study out of Columbia University Medical Center found that ketamine worked significantly better at curbing suicidal thoughts in depressed patients than a commonly used sedative.

A spate of studies over the past several years have also suggested that ketamine may provide swift and powerful relief to people suffering from some of the hardest-to-treat forms of depression — an illness that is the leading disability worldwide. The findings have been so promising, in fact, that some researchers are calling it “the most important discovery in half a century," though other experts say more research is still needed.

The US Food and Drug Administration has not approved ketamine for the treatment of anxiety or depression, so clinics that offer it for these uses are doing so off-label. Actify Neurotherapies is one of an estimated 50 to 100 such clinics taking the same approach across the US.

The potential promise of ketamine

Actify Neurotherapies' San Francisco office is a cross between clinical and therapeutic. In each treatment room, a reclining clinical chair sits facing a large window. In the corner is a chair decorated with a colorful crocheted blanket.

sf ketamine clinic

"We're striking a balance between a clinical setting and a home setting," Steve Levine, a psychiatrist and the CEO of Actify Neurotherapies, told Business Insider.

Each two-hour visit includes 45 minutes of ketamine infusion, 45 minutes of a saline drip, and a consultation with Alison McInnes, a physician who founded a regional ketamine therapy program with Kaiser Permanente.

"Therapy and ketamine go together like peanut butter and chocolate," Levine said. "And with our approach, you have someone with an extensive background in mental health and therapy always present, and talk therapy happens before and after the infusion."

The latest research on ketamine's potential to treat depression — specifically the deadliest complication of the disorder, suicide — was published in December in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The Columbia University researchers found that ketamine did a significantly better job of curbing suicidal thoughts in depressed patients than a commonly prescribed sedative.


Current interventions for people who find themselves thinking of ending their lives are limited to hotlines, sedative drugs, and talk therapy, and 90% of people who die by suicide have a mental illness at the time of their deaths, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

So for the latest study, researchers randomly assigned a group of 80 people with depression to either receive the sedative midazolam or ketamine.

Within 24 hours, the patients given ketamine had less suicidal thoughts than those who received the midazolam. They also had greater scores on tests designed to measure their mood and fatigue levels — benefits that, in some of the patients, lasted for more than a month.

That builds on findings from the first large, non-preliminary study of ketamine in people suffering from some of the hardest-to-treat forms of depression. For that study, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports in May, researchers at the University of California, San Diego used an FDA database of 8 million patients and found that those who'd been given ketamine for chronic pain reported symptoms of depression 50% less frequently than those who'd been given other combinations of pain drugs.

"This reduction in depression is specific to ketamine and is known to be much more rapid than current antidepressants," the researchers wrote in their paper, adding that their observations were "very promising" for people with serious depression or thoughts of suicide.

"These patients cannot afford to wait up to six weeks for reductions in their depressive symptoms," they wrote.

Developing ketamine treatments

These results have not gone unnoticed amongst pharmaceutical companies.

Johnson and Johnson is developing a form of ketamine that could be better tolerated and would be marketed as an antidepressant; Allergan is in the last phase of clinical trials with a drug that acts on the same receptor as ketamine.

iv drip bag

Still, like any drug, ketamine may have its own risks and side effects. Some studies have suggested these could include kidney and blood pressure complications, for example. Plus, most studies on ketamine use in people with depression have been limited to about two weeks, so it remains unclear how long the benefits last.

Furthermore, such treatments often range from $400 to $1,000 per infusion around the US, a price tag that can leave vulnerable patients paying out of pocket and not getting reimbursed at all. A single infusion at Actify costs $650, and insurance doesn't officially cover any of that, but Levine said his team can typically get providers to reimburse "a lot of it."

For Levine, all those negatives pale in comparison to the host of downsides that can accompany most treatments for depression.

"When you're treating very very ill people, you will have side effects. That's a reality," Levine said, adding, "these are people who've been sick for decades and heard from multiple doctors that there's nothing else they can do. We're enabling them to get back to their normal lives."

Other treatments for depression, like talk therapy and antidepressants, mostly haven't improved since they were introduced in the 1950s. Decades of research suggest that those existing treatments don't work that well for everyone, and may not work at all for some. Yet physicians and psychiatrists have been doling out the same medications to clients for 70 years.

'Why the heck aren't we using this?'

At Actify, most patients receive 10 infusions over the course of 10 weeks — three in the first week, two in the second, and one infusion in the third, fourth, and fifth weeks. The last two infusions are spread between weeks seven and 10.

Levine opened the network's first treatment center in 2011 in Princeton, New Jersey, and the other nine followed between 2015 and 2017. At each facility, doctors track patient progress, and patients fill out a standard depression and anxiety questionnaire before each treatment and the following day. Each Actify clinic has a psychiatrist or mental health professional on staff, though not all clinics offering ketamine infusions do.

Levine said that when he first saw a study about ketamine's impact on people with severe depression, it "spun his head around."

A 2012 review of four preliminary studies in patients with severe depression concluded that approximately 65-70% of patients responded well to ketamine. The other 35-30% either did not have a significant response, or their relief from depression was only short-lived.

"The findings were unanticipated, especially the robustness and rapidity of benefit," the authors wrote in their review. "Ketamine appeared to directly target core depressive symptoms such as sad mood, suicidality, helplessness and worthlessness, rather than inducing a nonspecific mood-elevating effect."

Some scientists seeking a new approach to treating depression have also looked to psychedelics like ayahuasca and magic mushrooms, which appear to reduce depressive symptoms by increasing the connectivity between certain parts of the brain. So it's not a complete surprise that they're also exploring the depression-reducing qualities of ketamine, Levine said.

"Here's an incredibly safe medicine that works within hours," he said. "So my immediate question was, 'Why the heck aren't we using this?'"

SEE ALSO: Peter Thiel is betting on magic mushrooms to treat depression — and he's not the only one

Join the conversation about this story »

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5 secrets you can keep from your partner without destroying your relationship


couple relax outside

  • Generally speaking, you and your partner should know each other well before things get serious.
  • But there are certain areas of your life where it's okay to keep some secrets.
  • Those areas include daily spending habits and any lingering feelings for your ex.

You and your partner should know a lot about each other before you decide to spend your life together. What do you consider cheating? How do you feel about divorce? Do you want kids? These conversations are key.

But there are certain areas of your life where a little mystery is OK. We spoke to Andrea Syrtash, relationship expert and author of "He's Just Not Your Type (And That's a Good Thing)", about five things you don't always need to share with your partner before things get serious.

"Overall, a lot of information does need to be discussed," Syrtash said, related to each person's needs, wants, and expectations. And yet "you don't need to divulge every last detail."

Read on for those details you can leave out, without jeopardizing your relationship.

SEE ALSO: 7 unavoidable questions to ask your partner before it's too late

How many sexual partners you've had

When it comes to sex, Syrtash said, you should know that you're both free of sexually transmitted infections. And if you're in a monogamous relationship, you should know that you're both committed to each other.

You don't need to know each other's "headcount," Syrtash said.

Interestingly, the 2015 Singles in America survey, highlighted in The Wall Street Journal, found that just over half of respondents didn't want to know how many people their partner had slept with. And a 2015 study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, found that about 60% of participants hadn't revealed their "number" to a current sexual partner.

What you don't like about them

You never want to play a game of "What do you hate about me?" Syrtash said. Sharing a life with someone is a big step, she added, and you're not carbon copies of each other. So your partner will necessarily display some quirks that irritate you.

If there's something that's really bothering you — say, you want your partner to lose weight for health reasons — it's possible to frame it positively. Syrtash suggested something like, "Let's sign up for a marathon and train together."


Your daily spending habits

Syrtash emphasized that it's important for your partner to know about your debt, including how much you have and how you're paying it off.

Indeed, lying about money— from how much you earn to how much debt you're saddled with — can destroy your relationship.

That said, Syrtash added that you "don't need to be checking in on every last purchase" the other person makes. Syrtash said the spender/saver dynamic is common in romantic relationships, meaning that monitoring every penny your partner spends (or vice versa) can lead to unnecessary conflict and anxiety.

What's more important, is to discuss your money philosophies, or how you each approach money and what you learned about it from your families.


See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Why the Olympics are a terrible investment for the host city


The Olympics are a terrible investment and a huge risk for the host city. Following is a transcript of the video.

Cities pay billions of dollars to host the Olympics. But is it worth it?

Rio estimated the 2016 Olympics would cost $3 billion. Instead, the final cost was closer to $13 billion. The city had to cut healthcare and police spending to afford it. This is what the venues look like just 1 year later.

Host cities hope the increased tourism will be worth it and that the new venues will be used long after the games. However, the costs frequently go over estimates.

Russia estimated the Sochi games would cost $12 billion. Instead, the final cost was around $50 billion. Many oligarchs contributed money to cover the buildout. Russia wound up making just $53 million on the endeavor.

China spent over $40 billion on the 2008 Olympics. While they made a $146 million profit, this is what the stadiums look like today.

To help pay for the 2006 Turin Olympics, the Italian government launched a scratch-off lottery game. Ultimately, the city lost $3.2 million hosting the Olympics. Today, its Olympic Village is used to house refugees.

The 2004 Olympics cost Greece around $11 billion. Many of the stadiums are in disrepair today.

With runaway budgets and stadiums that may never be used again, the Olympics continue to be a big risk for any city to host.

Join the conversation about this story »

Business Insider UK is hiring a paid video editing fellow



We are hiring a video editing fellow for Business Insider UK.

The fellowship position is at our London office located in Aldgate East. The fellowship starts immediately and will run for six months. Fellows are paid hourly and encouraged to work full-time (40 hours a week) if their schedule allows.

The role includes editing short and insightful videos across a range of subjects, including technology, innovation, business, food, and culture.

Candidates should know how to edit on Adobe Premiere and how to use Adobe After Effects and Photoshop, various types of audio and digital video equipment including Canon and Sony cameras, and how to shoot awesome video with their smartphones.

Our fellows are an integral part of our team. We seek out self-starters and people who are enthusiastic about collaborating with reporters, fellow producers, social media editors, and other team members.

Here are some of our recent videos to give you a feel for the types of video you’d be creating:

Join the conversation about this story »

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The best part about traveling to Cuba is that you don’t have to plan anything — here's why


Cuba (2 of 7)

  • Traveling to Cuba is different from vacationing in most other countries.
  • Many of the best and most reasonably priced lodging and activities are only available on the island because of the lack of internet.
  • If you don't book ahead of time and instead book things on the island, you will likely save money and make sure more of your tourism dollars go to actual Cubans.


Travel to any country on vacation and you almost always have to plan ahead. As you get closer, hotels get booked, events sell out, and prices go up. There's a huge advantage to planning everything.

Not in Cuba.

On a recent trip to the island, I discovered that while you can certainly plan ahead, there are distinct advantages to arriving on the island with nothing but your return plane ticket, plenty of cash, and a vague idea what you want to see and do.

Here's why.

SEE ALSO: I traveled to Cuba after Fidel Castro's death — and it was far different from what I expected

Not booking ahead of time will save you money and direct more of your tourism dollars to actual Cubans, rather than the Communist Party or American corporations.

Because of the scarcity of the internet and the island's general isolation, most lodgings, car services, and tourist activities aren't listed online. The ones that are listed likely have a very basic booking system, are run by the most privileged Cubans, and have inflated prices.

You are paying extra for the convenience of internet booking.

While some lodgings are listed on services like Airbnb, you are then paying an American company 15% of money that should go to Cubans, with little benefit to you. The official hotels, meanwhile, are generally government-run, overpriced, and not nearly as nice as pictures would suggest.

Once you get to Cuba, however, you realize the system actually works efficiently if you don’t book ahead. That’s because of the "casa particulare" system.

The casa particulare system allows certain Cubans to rent out rooms in their houses or apartments to tourists for 20 to 40 CUC per night in a sort of proto-Airbnb. (In fact, Airbnb has latched onto this system to rapidly expand in the country.) 

The system has been around officially since 1997, when the government allowed casa hosts to register with the government as legal businesses, though reports say Cubans rented out rooms under the table for years before.

The casa system is like a home-stay, where tourists can stay with actual Cubans (although most are on the wealthier or more privileged side, and pay heavy taxes to the government).

"Casa particulares" are everywhere, marked by this blue insignia on the front of houses.

If you are looking for a place to stay, just walk around the neighborhood you want to stay in, find one of those signs and knock on the door. They'll usually have a room open.

If they don't, they'll be happy to find you a room with a friend of theirs (for a small commission), or you can just walk a little further until you find another one.

If the room they have available seems overpriced or not to your liking, either ask for them to arrange a different room or head back out to search on your own.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The Ivy League has released early-application acceptance rates — here's where they all stand


The Yale Bulldogs celebrate as students rush the field after their victory over the Harvard Crimson at Harvard Stadium on November 19, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Another year of early acceptance notifications, another year where the acceptance rates declined.

That's the story for the Ivy League classes of 2022, who received their acceptance, rejection, or deferral notes over the past week. 

Almost all eight schools in the competitive Ivy League reported declines in acceptance rates, meaning it's the hardest year on record to get into the colleges.

Columbia and Cornell Universities did not publicly release early-admission figures.

class of 2022 early admission rates

Harvard reported the lowest acceptance rate, with 14.5% of applicants gaining acceptance. The rate stayed flat from a year previous. But every other school posted declines in admissions rates.

Despite getting more difficult, the rates are actually higher than acceptance rates during regular admission in the spring. For comparison, Harvard's acceptance rate released for regular decision last spring, the lowest in the Ivy League, was 5.2% for the class of 2021. Cornell, which has the highest in the Ivy League, was 12.5%.

Early applications come with some stipulations. Harvard, Princeton, and Yale are restrictive early-action schools, meaning applicants can apply to only one school early but have until May to accept.

SEE ALSO: Harvard just released its early admissions decisions — here's how many students got in

Join the conversation about this story »

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Why most jeans are blue


When was the last time you can remember that blue jeans were out of fashion? These pants have become an American icon, but how did they get that blue color in the first place? Following is a transcript of the video.

People have been wearing blue jeans for centuries. Originally, the blue color came from a natural indigo dye. The dye was chosen for the way it interacted with cotton. When heated, most dyes penetrate the cotton fibers but indigo dye attaches to the fiber's surface, instead. The result? During each wash, some of the fibers and dye molecules escape, giving jeans that signature faded look over time.

Today, jeans are dyed with a synthetic indigo dye. Take a closer look and you'll see a clever design. The warp thread is dyed but the weft thread is left white. This reduces the amount of dye needed for each pair of jeans. It's also why many jeans are blue on the outside but white on the inside. Each pair of jeans requires 3-12 grams of dye. Each year, we produce several hundred thousand tons of indigo dye. Most of that is mused for making blue jeans. Do the math, that's between 90 million to 2.2 billion new jeans per year. Looks like this fashion trend will stick around for a while.

Join the conversation about this story »

9 ways getting married may change your relationship — even if you think it won't


wedding couple marriage

These days, many couples live together, sleep together, and spend a lot of time getting to know each other before their wedding day. And still, getting married is more than just a symbolic step — it can change a lot.

To learn more about those potential changes, we checked out a Reddit thread where hundreds of people posted about the biggest ways their relationship changed after marriage — and how they adjusted. Some of those changes are more superficial (one Redditor posted about getting used to wearing a wedding ring); others go deeper.

We pulled out the most compelling and most surprising responses, so you can know what to expect if you're thinking about tying the knot.

SEE ALSO: 5 ways to reignite the passion in a tired relationship

Combining bank accounts

"We lived together before getting married but still had separate bank accounts," says killary. "We merged them when we married and it was very strange for a while."

magictravelblog added, "It is a bit odd the first time you view your bank transactions and see some other person doing stuff."

'My husband started referring to me with other people as "my wife"'

trickyone writes, "Silly I know, but it shock[ed] me harder than anything."

'You talk about money. A lot.'

we_are_sex_bobomb says they struggled early on in their marriage to make ends meet:

"I realized pretty quickly that I was going to have to let her help me manage the money and I couldn't do [it] all myself. That was extremely difficult for me, having been single for a long time. I never would have imagined that just sharing your monthly budget with someone could require so much trust and humility but for me it did."

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

A 'pod hotel' beloved by millennial travelers is making one of North America's most luxurious ski resorts accessible to anyone


03. Suite

  • Pod and capsule hotels— where guests sleep in tiny rooms equipped with the bare minimum — are becoming increasingly popular in Asia and Europe.
  • This coming spring, a pod hotel will open in Whistler, British Columbia, near the luxurious Blackcomb Ski resort.
  • Prices haven't yet been released, but the hotel should give budget travelers access to one of North America's best ski resorts.


The Blackcomb Ski resort in Whistler, B.C. is one of the most luxurious in North America. Averaging around $253 for a day and night, its slopes attract celebrities like Justin Bieber, and during peak season hotels can be up to $800 a night.

The Pangea Pod Hotel— opening in spring of 2018 — is hoping to attract a different kind of tourist to the heart of Whistler with its shared spaces, promised low rates, and tiny private sleeping pods.

Pod and capsule hotels have become increasingly popular among young, budget-conscious travelers in Japan,Amsterdam, and Singapore. Providing the bare minimum in a small space, these type of accommodations generally range between $24 to $65. Below, see the renderings for the Pangea Pod Hotel.

SEE ALSO: The 10 best ski resorts in the US

DON'T MISS: Millennials are paying $40 a night to live in these tiny 'pods'

The Pangea offers 88 independent sleeping pods each with their own bathroom. Shared spaces include a living area, and a rooftop bar.

Each pod comes equipped with a double mattress, a built-in fan, a small lockable storage closet, and a space to hang clothes.

The light wood, mirrors, and artwork accentuate the space.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Rian Johnson describes how Mark Hamill reacted to the Luke Skywalker storyline in 'The Last Jedi' — 'It wasn't the thing he wanted to necessarily hear'


the last jedi lucasfilm

  • "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" director Rian Johnson said the first big challenge of writing the movie was figuring out what Luke Skywalker was doing on that island.
  • That led to him realizing that Skywalker's fate would have to be explored in the movie as well.

Warning: Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

There’s a lot to digest after watching the latest “Star Wars” movie, “The Last Jedi,” but perhaps the biggest is Luke Skywalker's return to the franchise.

Following “The Force Awakens,” where the Jedi master shows up in the last shot of the movie and doesn’t utter a single word, “The Last Jedi” picks up right at that moment. For a lot of the story, we stay with Luke (Mark Hamill) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) on his secluded island.

Luke Last Jedi Falcon“The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson said that was the first big hurdle of writing the script — why was Luke on that island and why won’t he leave?

“I had to figure out something that made sense, and you don't know much about where's Luke's head is at coming out of ‘The Force Awakens,’ Johnson told Business Insider. “For me growing up, I know Luke as a hero. I know that he must think he's doing the right thing by taking himself out of the equation, and that means he thinks the best thing for the galaxy is that he's not a part of this and, by extension, that the Jedi are not a part of this. So that leads you down a certain path.”

The path Johnson took was exploring Skywalker as he’s riddled with guilt for believing he failed as a master Jedi by trying to show Ben Solo (aka, Kylo Ren) the ways of the force, only to realize his nephew is drawn to the dark side. Skywalker is even more frighted when he finally gives in to Rey's request for training and realizes her enormous raw power in the force.


Eventually Luke does leave the island — not physically, but through a force projection — and comes to the rescue of the Resistance. In doing so, he goes up against Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) using the force in an extremely clever way. However, the power exerted by Skywalker leads to his death as he fades away with his cloak flying off into the breeze.

“As I worked out that his arc was going to be coming to a place where he does this big heroic act that is going to be spread throughout the galaxy — basically taking back the mantle of Luke Skywalker, a Jedi master, a legend — it just slowly became clear to me that it would be this big grand act,” Johnson said of writing Skywalker’s final scene. “It would be an act of mythmaking. And if there was ever going to be a place in this entire trilogy to give him this emotional moment of a goodbye, this was probably going to be the most emotionally potent place to do it.”

But, how did Hamill take the news?

Rian Johnson Mark Hamill Charley Gallay Getty final“It wasn't the thing he wanted to necessarily hear,” Johnson said with a laugh. “Understandably so. Mark had all these years to think what Luke's triumphant return would be. Luke's the hero coming back into this story, and the fact that this character and this movie could not be that — this character in this movie was by necessity what he had to be, and also in relation to Rey, that brought its own necessity.”

Johnson said that if Skywalker just came back like he did in the original trilogy, an optimistic fighter, he’s just an older version of Rey. And Johnson needed someone to bounce up against Rey.

“It’s not what Mark had in his head initially, and that's why he's spoken very openly about his being caught off guard by the script and where the character ends up,” Johnson said. “But I knew this is where it had to be. We got into the conversations, and we got into the work, and we talked, and we argued, and we discussed, and that process ended up being very good for the character and also for our working relationship. It was a very good one.”

However, anyone who knows the “Star Wars” saga is aware that the Jedi always come back to give guidance to their pupils. What Johnson did in “The Last Jedi” sets up that possibility for “Episode IX,” which will be directed by J.J. Abrams.

“I’m not sure what J.J. and [screenwriter] Chris Terrio are going to do in the next one with Luke,” Johnson said, “but setting up possibilities for the next one, honestly, it seems much like Obi-Wan going where he did after 'New Hope.' The possibilities seemed even more exciting in terms of what Luke's place could be in the next chapter with him entering into this other realm as opposed to him having a lightsaber and being with our heroes. It opened more possibilities as opposed to fewer.”

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is currently playing in theaters.

SEE ALSO: "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" director Rian Johnson reacts to the backlash and addresses the movie's most shocking moments

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San Francisco is getting a new mayor after Ed Lee’s death, and the tech industry’s cozy status in the city may be finished


london breed

  • San Francisco mayor Edwin Lee died last week, leaving behind a seven year legacy in city politics. 
  • Lee is considered largely responsible for bolstering the city's economy by ushering in the post-recession tech boom. 
  • Lee faced past controversy regarding San Francisco's increased gentrification and punishing housing market. With his passing, it's possible that city candidates might take a tougher stance on the tech industry. 

The tech industry's cozy status as San Francisco's most favored group could be on its way out as a new group of politicians jockey for the vacant mayor's seat following the sudden death of Ed Lee last week. 

Two of the top contenders for the job, Acting Mayor London Breed and former State Senator Mark Leno, are both expected to take a tougher line with the tech firms that have sprouted throughout the city thanks to generous tax breaks and other favorable policies.

Although none of the major contenders for the mayor's job have been outright antagonistic towards tech, they've shown a willingness to be less accommodating than Lee. And with the city's housing crisis throbbing, and ongoing debate about the effect of gentrification and "tech bros" on San Francisco's infrastructure, affordability and culture, the days of hands-off treatment for tech may be coming to an end.

"What you’ll see is a less friendly environment, more scrutiny, and possibly less of an appetite for a tax break ever again," a longtime San Francisco political consultant told Business Insider.

google bus protests twitter san franciso"As these companies mature, and as the city matures, the policy discussions are going to become a little less one-sided, and a little bit more about what the companies need to do in order to behave," the consultant, who declined to be identified, added. 

A special election to choose the new mayor will take place in June 2018. Until then the city's board of supervisors must agree on an interim Mayor to serve as a caretaker. 

Breed, until recently the president of the city's board of supervisors, is viewed as one of the favorites for the June election, although she has yet to official declare her intention to run. 

A 43-year old San Francisco native who grew up in public housing, Breed has turned critical eye on the city's tech industry in the past — a stance which put her at political odds with Mayor Lee. Last year, she co-sponsored a bill which proposed a strict 60-day-per-year limit on short-term rentals in a direct response to Airbnb's largely unregulated influence on the city's housing and hotel markets. Lee vetoed the bill, saying that it would only drive more homeowners to rent their properties illegally.

In 2016, Breed centered her supervisor re-election campaign on building and protecting affordable housing, a crucial issue in a city where the median cost of rent has soared to $4,450 a month. The city's punishing housing market is considered a direct result of the influx of high-wage earning tech workers, and Breed has described her resolve to fight towards tenants rights as a "personal matter." It's a stance that could cause tension with big tech, which until now has comfortably sprawled throughout the downtown districts, both commercially and residentially

"Your success has also created tension"

That's not to say that Breed is inherently opposed to tech or unwilling to collaborate with the industry. Appearing at the 2015 "Crunchies" awards organized by tech blog TechCrunch, Breed said she had "great respect for the tech sector, for the dreamers and entrepreneurs who want to create something new, something innovative."

But, she added, "right or wrong, your success has also created tension." 

"It's time for us to work together and make sure every San Franciscan shares in the prosperity," she said.

The race to replace Lee, who died of a heart attack on Tuesday after seven years in office, comes as San Francisco struggles to adapt to the rapid changes brought by the tech industry. Only last week, the city's board of supervisors unanimously approved stringent regulations on delivery robots that ride on city sidewalks

twitter hqLee oversaw San Francisco through a time of severe economic upheaval following the recession and played an integral role in fostering San Francisco's developing tech industry. During his time as mayor, he provided generous tax incentives to tech companies, held close relationships with prominent venture capitalists, and took an active interest in nurturing the city's burgeoning start-up scene

Mark Leno, who had already declared his intention to run for Mayor after Lee's term expiredhas been critical of Lee's accommodating stance toward tech.

“As mayor, I’ll fight on behalf of regular San Franciscans — immigrants, tenants, homeowners and small businesses. I promise to give a voice to every resident of our city — especially to those who feel marginalized or left behind," he told the LA Times in May.

Like Breed, Leno is focused on the city's housing market, spearheading a bill protecting tenants rights in 2015And he has approved of tighter tech regulations in the past. In 2014, Leno authored the smart phone "kill switch bill" which called for antitheft security features to be included in smartphones. 

Leno and Breed did not return requests for comment on their views about tech. 

Tech 'hasn't paid its fair share'

ron conway ed lee

According to a San Francisco Examiner report citing anonymous sources on Monday, famed tech investor Ron Conway, one of Lee's biggest backers, recently voiced support for Breed to be the next mayor. A representative for Conway speaking to the Examiner, disputed the report, which said that Conway had made the comments at Lee's memorial service.

While tech figures, such as Conway, were big supporters of Lee's, the late mayor's stance towards the tech industry was criticized by many city residents. In November,  the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Lee's approval ratings had sunk to just 30 percent.

"The tech industry hasn't paid its fair share and has contributed to the displacement of low-income communities, seniors and our most vulnerable," Gilbert Williams, a member of the grassroots activist group Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment told Business Insider in an email. 

"We would hope the new mayor took the tech industry's enormous wealth, and used it to help create a permanent anti-displacement fund that includes immediate solutions for renters and homeowners," he said.

SEE ALSO: The father of virtual reality sounds off on the changing culture of Silicon Valley, the impending #MeToo backlash, and why he left Google for Microsoft

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The most popular shopping chain in each state


Americans are passionate about where they shop.   

While more and more people turn to online shopping for their food and clothing needs, plenty of shoppers still prefer to visit brick-and-mortar stores.

The location intelligence company Foursquare put together a list of the most popular department stores, clothing stores, and big box store chains in each state across the US, based on its own visit data.  

Foursquare looked at the average number of visits per store in each state to determine its ranking. That allowed for some smaller chains like Uniqlo and Fred Meyer to beat out Walmart and Target in some states.

Check out the full list below. 

 clothing stores map


ALASKA: Walmart


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This $2,800 Japanese bento box comes with nine pounds of beef


Love high-quality meat? Check out this bento box from Japan. Following is a transcript of the video.

This $2,800 Japanese bento box comes with nine pounds of beef.

Bento boxes typically contain well-balanced Japanese cuisine. Delivery service Gochikuru is taking the bento box to the next level. The cow-shaped box contains premium wagyu beef.

You get slices of cooked sirloin, prime rib, brisket, tongue, and more. It's all arranged over rice. Plenty of dipping sauces to go around. It's only deliverable in Japan. The delivery process takes two weeks. If you're a meat lover, it may be worth it.

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This blood delivery drone is saving lives in remote areas


Following is a transcript of the video.

This blood delivery drone is saving lives. Silicon Valley startup Zipline wants to change the way medical supplies are delivered. 95% of roads in Africa wash out every year. This makes it difficult for medical supply delivery in developing countries. Zipline's drone can fly the supplies from hubs to clinics and hospitals. They are already being used in Rwanda. 

Health workers can order their supplies via text. Most often, blood bags are needed. Each supply box can hold up to three pounds. The drones shoot up into the air. They fly autonomously but can be controlled manually at any time. The supplies get dropped via parachute. 

Zipline has delivered 2,600 units of blood in Rwanda. The company is planning on expanding their system to other countries. 

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The iPhone was the camera of choice in 2017, but standalone cameras still have a loyal following (AAPL)


Your smartphone's built-in camera can't match the photo quality and features offered by a standalone camera, but that's not stopping most people from using their phones to take pictures. According to recent data from photo-sharing site Flickr, charted for us by Statista, smartphones are far and away the most popular photographic device.

Half of the photos uploaded onto Flickr in 2017 were captured by phone cameras, while digital SLR cameras accounted for one third of the pictures. Point-and-shoot cameras, once the standard tool for amateurs to snap red-eyed photos of family dinners and birthday parties, are now a distant third place.

When it comes to smartphone cameras, Business Insider's Antonio Villas-Boas found the iPhone 8's camera to be the best of the pack. And Flickr users seem to agree: more than half of all photos uploaded to the service in 2017 were taken on an iPhone.


SEE ALSO: Americans love to buy toys, jewelry, and music on their smartphones

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Inside the Palo Alto 'Facebook House' where Mark Zuckerberg lived, that's now a Mecca for aspiring-entrepreneurs


la jennifer facebook house

  • In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg and the early Facebook team moved into a five-bed house in Palo Alto, California.
  • It was run like a "frat house," and would later be made famous by the 2010 film "The Social Network."
  • Today it's a haven for budding entrepreneurs and business students, and Business Insider got a look inside.

Before Facebook was a $500 billion behemoth with 2 billion users and the power to reshape society, it was just another scrappy startup.

Founded in the halls of Harvard, the Facebook founders moved west to Palo Alto, Calif. in the summer of 2004 — a relocation that was made famous by the 2010 film "The Social Network."

In those early days, the Facebook team lived and worked in a nondescript five-bed home in Palo Alto, building their fast-growing social network in a setting that one former executive likened to a "frat house." Today, the company's offices are still nearby, in Menlo Park — while the "Facebook House" has become a mecca for budding entrepreneurs and business students with dreams of following in Zuckerberg's footsteps.

Business Insider took a tour of the property to see the historical location in Silicon Valley history up close — and to meet the people living there today.

SEE ALSO: Inside the world of Silicon Valley's 'coasters' — the millionaire engineers who get paid gobs of money and barely work

The "Facebook House" where the social network's team lived in the summer of 2004 is located in a sleepy, tree-lined neighborhood in Palo Alto, California — about 30 miles south of San Francisco.

819 La Jennifer Way is a five-bedroom bungalow, and outwardly shows no signs of its key role in Silicon Valley history.

It's a "pass down" house for people studying at the Stanford Graduate School of Business — each year, a group of students rent it for a year, before passing it down to the next. Current residents include Derek Tsoi and Shalva Daushvili.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

This northern UK city has beat out the likes of Cuba and Chile for the title of 'best place to visit in 2018'


newcastle shutterstock kanchanawat sompomtip

  • Newcastle has been named the number one place to visit in 2018 by Rough Guides.
  • The definitive guide includes a range of cities, countries, and regions.
  • The US Civil Rights Trail, set to open for the first time on January 1, was the runner-up.

Newcastle, England has been named Rough Guides' number one place in the world to visit in 2018, beating out the likes of Malta's Valletta, New Orleans' nightlife, Malawi's landscapes, and Cuba's booming tourist trade to first place.

The northern hub may be best known for its partying spots, bitter temperatures, and that fantastic bridge, but Rough Guides believes that "the capital city of the northeast" has more to offer tourists than cheap double-vodka-red bulls and a charming accent.

The definitive list of the best countries, cities, and regions praised Newcastle for its "Geordie geniality, lively nightlife, burgeoning restaurant scene, fantastic museums, and architectural feats."

newcastle shutterstock davidgraham86

The city is also the host of the first ever Great Exhibition of the North— a series of exhibits, street performances, technological innovations, and interactive experiences open to the public, which will take place next year — earning Newcastle further praise from the Rough Guides panel.

Commenting on the list, Coralie Modschiedler, Senior Web Editor at Rough Guides, said: "This year, we wanted to include destinations that will be big news next year but also look at places that are underrated, up-and-coming, or newly back on the tourist map."

literary and philosophical society of newcastle flickr michael d beckwith

Two destinations were selected to represent the UK in Rough Guides' top 10. As well as Newcastle, Wales' rolling hills and lush landscapes earned the country a place in the listing.

Over in the US, New Orleans' jazz culture, street parties, and food scene caught the guide's attention, while the US Civil Rights Trail, set to open for the first time on New Year's Day 2018, was named the overall runner-up.

Here are Rough Guides' 10 top travel destinations for 2018:

1. Newcastle, England

2. Civil Rights Trail, USA

3. Malawi

4. Valletta, Malta

5. Wales

6. Cuba

7. Russia

8. New Orleans, USA

9. Chile

10. Sierra Leone

SEE ALSO: The 25 places you need to visit in 2018, according to the world's top travel experts

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50 Christmas gift ideas under £50


BI Graphics_UK Holiday Gift Guide_4x3 (1)The team at Business Insider writes about and tests out products we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we may get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

It's officially almost Christmas, and whether you like to have your gifts bought early or you spread your purchases out to make the most of the season, it's about time you got your shopping done.

And, if you get your list right, the season doesn't have to mean going into debt or blowing your entire paycheque.

Our advice: Go for quality over quantity, and look for meaningful, personal gifts that are perfectly suited for each person on your list, whether you're shopping for a mum, a brother, a colleague, a son, or your in-laws.

In order to suit every budget — and save you some time — we've put together a comprehensive guide of the best gifts your money can buy under £50.

They are carefully arranged in ascending price order, so you can start at the cheapest and work your way up. Scroll on to see our top picks for under £50.

Star Wars Light-up Toothbrush — £3

A budget-friendly way to satisfy the Star Wars fan on your list, complete with light-up effects and Kylo Ren's voice from the film.

Buy it here.

"Beauty and the Beast" Chip Mug — £5

For the person on your list who loved 2017's modern take on "Beauty and the Beast."

Buy it here.

Bulldog Skincare Moisturiser Cracker — £6

Give the gift of healthy skin for the men in your life with this hydrating moisturiser  — perfect as a stocking filler.

Buy it here.

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