V ia: Who Is Thylane Blondeau?
V ia: Who Is Thylane Blondeau?
Have you ever been to Estonia? Could you find it on a map?
Estonia, in the Baltics, has completely transformed its economy by supporting startups
The Baltic nation of only 1.3 million citizens stands out from its Eastern European neighbors in that it has an advanced economy and a high standard of living. And it’s a technology paradise. You may know it as the home of Skype. But there’s a lot more to the tiny country than that.
In Estonia, voting, signing documents and filling out tax returns is done online, thanks to X-Road, an online tool that coordinates multiple online data repositories and document registries. X-Road provides all Estonians — ordinary citizens, enterprises and government officials — with unparalleled access to the data they need to do business, get licenses, permits and other documents that would take days, weeks or even months in other countries.
X-Road is built with scalability in mind, so that the growing number of services and repositories can easily be attached to the system. Although this digital backbone alone is rather impressive, it’s just one of many products in tech-forward Estonia.
Instead of being held back by its past and falling victim to ailments that plague many post-communist countries, such as corruption, a bloated government and an obsolete education system, Estonia has decided to start with a clean slate and invest in its future. To transform its society into a community of tech-savvy individuals, children as young as 7 are taught the principles and basics of coding. (In comparison, only one in four schools in the U.S. teaches computer programming.)
Such strong foundations have yielded impressive results: Estonians are driven, forward-thinking and entrepreneurial, and the same goes for the government. It takes only five minutes to register a company there and, according to The Economist, the country in 2013 held the world record for the number of startups per person. And it’s not quantity over quality: Many Estonian startups are now successful companies that you may recognize, such as Skype, Transferwise, Pipedrive, Cloutex, Click & Grow, GrabCAD, Erply, Fortumo, Lingvist and others. By the way, Estonia uses the euro.
If all this sounds enticing and you wish to become an entrepreneur there, you’re in luck; starting a business in Estonia is easy, and you can do it without packing your bags, thanks to its e-residency service, a transnational digital identity available to anyone. An e-resident can not only establish a company in Estonia through the Internet, but they can also have access to other online services that have been available to Estonians for over a decade. This includes e-banking and remote money transfers, declaring Estonian taxes online, digitally signing and verifying contracts and documents, and much more.
E-residents are issued a smart ID card, a legal equivalent to handwritten signatures and face-to-face identification in Estonia and worldwide. The cards themselves are protected by 2048-bit encryption, and the signature/ID functionality is provided by two security certificates stored on the card’s microchip.
But great innovations don’t stop there. Blockchain, the principle behind bitcoin that also secures the integrity of e-residency data, will be used to provide unparalleled safety to 1 million Estonian health records. The blockchain will be used to register any and all changes, illicit or otherwise, done to the health records, protecting their authenticity and effectively eliminating any abuse of the data therein.
While there are many lessons that the U.S. and the rest of the world can learn from Estonia, these are especially important: A country must be willing to adapt and change the infrastructure of both the government and the economy if needed, and to continually optimize them. A nation needs to understand that a change of mindset should be thorough and start with the young. An education system should be designed in a way that doesn’t cripple young minds, or overburden them with too much irrelevant information. And, finally, if you want entrepreneurship to thrive, it is necessary to remove bureaucratic and technical obstacles at all levels.
The DMV has driven one man to do something extraordinary.
On Dec. 11, Nick Stafford pushed five wheel barrels full of loose coins into Department of Motor Vehicles in Lebanon, Virginia, according to a statement he made on his company’s website.
Stafford, who has been fighting with DMV for months, decided to pay $2,987.14 in taxes on his car with 298,745 pennies. The facility’s automated coin-counting machine couldn’t handle the load, and employees were forced to count the 1,548 pounds of change by hand. Stafford said that he arrived at the DMV at 9 a.m. Wednesday and staff was not done counting the pennies until early Thursday morning, the BBC reports.
The whole thing stemmed from a longstanding grudge against the department.
“You may ask, why go though all this trouble?” Stafford wrote on his website. “In 2016 I paid nearly $300,000 just in state and federal income taxes and I have zero tolerance for any government employee refusing to follow the laws of the Commonwealth, that’s why.”
In September, Stafford tried to call his local DMV to ask what he calls a “30 second question” about where to register his car and pay the sales tax, since he owns multiple houses in the area.
The phone number listed online put him on hold for over an hour. A direct line to the Lebanon DMV wasn’t listed online, so he made a Freedom of Information Act request for the number, which he was given.
When Stafford called, the person who answered told him he wasn’t allowed to call that number and hung up on him. He called the same number repeatedly until he finally had his question answered. Yet, to “prove a point” he called the number again and requested the private, unlisted numbers of nine other DMV offices in Virginia.
The Lebanon DMV refused, so Stafford took them to court.
“If they were going to inconvenience me then I was going to inconvenience them,” he told the Bristol Herald Courier.
Stafford dropped $165 to file three lawsuits in Russell County General District Court. One lawsuit was against the Lebanon DMV itself, and two were against specific employees.
On Dec. 10, a judge dismissed all the lawsuits when Stafford was provided all the phone numbers in court by a representative from the state’s attorney general.
Stafford has posted all of these numbers on his website.
“I think the backbone to our republic and our democracy is open government and transparency in government and it shocks me that a lot of people don’t know the power of FOIA,” Stafford told the Herald Courier.
Yet, Stafford wasn’t done.
Less than 24 hours later, he collected hundreds of rolls of pennies to pay his taxes at the DMV. He then hired 11 people at $10 an hour to help him break open the rolled coins. It took them four hours to do this, costing Stafford $440. He then bought the five wheelbarrows, which cost him another $400. All in all, Stafford spent $1,005 to get 10 phone numbers and drop off a bunch of pennies at the DMV.
Not to mention the $2,987.14 he had to pay in taxes, which he happily brought to the DMV on Wednesday morning.
The DMV had to accept his form of payment because the US Coinage Act of 1965 says that coins are “legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes and dues.”
According to Stafford, the employees at the DMV did not cause a fuss.
“The DMV employees are being very respectful and accommodating considering the situation,” he wrote on his website.
Nutella, the popular hazelnut spread, is being removed from supermarket shelves around the world as a result of a report that suggested one of its ingredients, palm oil, is linked with cancer.
Already, one of Italy’s larger grocery chain, Coop, has stopped selling the spread, according to the BBC. The European Food Safety Authority report, released in May 2016, said the palm oil in spreads such as Nutella was more likely to have carcinogenic components—including Glycidyl fatty acid esters— than other vegetable oils. It’s unclear why the eight-month-old report is only now causing panic.
The report found that palm oil becomes more carcinogenic when heated above 200°C (392°F). While no consumers typically eat the spread heated at that temperature, some companies do cook palm oil at high temperatures to burn off its natural red coloring and to neutralize its odor. Ferrero, the maker of Nutella, told Reuters its industrial processes do not reach that high temperature.
The report stopped short of saying people should stop consuming palm oil altogether—more research is needed before that conclusion can be drawn. Still, it hasn’t stopped some supermarket chains from taking action. So far there are no reports of the spread being pulled from stores in the US.
The chocolatey spread can be traced back to the food rationing days in Europe following World War II. Back then, it was mostly marketed as an affordable, nutritious spread for toast. The product hit the US in the 1980s, and quickly gained a loyal following. Initially, US consumers used the spread more as a dessert topping, but data show those habits have changed through the years to reflect more European habits.
Maybe true love really does exist, you know? Despite the odds and everything. Maybe there’s more to life than playing the field. Well, you can create your own relationship success by looking for the right traits in a woman instead of just swiping right on everyone on Tinder. Let’s take a look at the top 10 things in a significant other that’ll make for a lasting relationship.
No one gets into a relationship to be a babysitter. If she’s had a rough day at work, it’s great to be her shoulder to cry on. But if she can’t seem to function without you, you’ll eventually suffocate, and if you’re smart you’ll run for the nearest exit.
Independence is key to a happy relationship, for both the man and the woman. You’ll find you’re still getting to know her long after you’ve gotten serious if she has a host of interests and commitments outside of your relationship.
I hate to be the one to tell you this, but the bimbo routine gets real old, real fast. A woman who can meet you at an intellectual level is a total turn-on.
An intelligent woman will constantly surprise you and keep you on your toes. She won’t let you get bored or complacent. Besides, it’s nice to have something to talk about between all that headboard-rattling sex.
While we’re on the topic, a great girlfriend has to be sexually compatible with you. For instance, if you’re into S&M and she’s more the “fluffy lingerie” type, that’s a problem. The two of you have to be on the same page — or, at least, if it’s what you really crave, she has to be willing to wear leather and use a whip from time to time.
Of course, this doesn’t imply that she has to know all the right moves straight away; it simply means that you and she have an undeniable attraction toward each other and are able to communicate your desires verbally (or with physical cues). It is important that you please each other in the bedroom — or on top of the dryer — whatever the case may be.
I know, this one is kind of obvious, but important nonetheless. A great girlfriend will not only want to look good for you, but also for herself.
Being seen with her should make you feel better about yourself. And this doesn’t mean that she has to be a Heidi Klum clone. Whatever floats your boat. Your mutual attraction should make you both want to stay looking your best.
This is a biggie. Your girlfriend must respect you — otherwise you have to wonder why she bothers to be with you. This means that she takes the time to listen to you, even if you’re in a heated argument.
A great girlfriend will keep major disputes private rather than taking you down in public. She’ll make an effort to see things from your point of view (provided you do the same for her). The key here is that the respect be mutual — it’s very hard for one of you to respect the other while feeling disrespected. The golden rule has no better application than in terms of respecting your significant other.
Do not — I repeat — do not get involved with a woman who tries to get you to eat cottage cheese and fruit for breakfast and insists that you give up poker night with the guys. You will end up resenting her more than you can imagine. A good girlfriend lets you be a guy in all your glory, poker night and all. If she’s a great girlfriend, she’ll even bring you and your buddies a couple of beers and make you some of her famous sandwiches.
She has to understand that men and women are different and should allow you to be yourself. Just like you wouldn’t deprive her of going shopping with her best girlfriend, she shouldn’t expect you to give up the guys for her.
We’ve never met a man who was convinced to change his behavior because of his girlfriend’s nagging. A great girlfriend knows this and chooses her battles wisely. She knows when to get upset and when to let it slide.
However, if you live together and you stay out all night without calling her, and she lets you have it, then you’re setting yourself up for disaster. This is a situation that nobody would let slide — not even a great girlfriend. Don’t push your luck with anyone, least of all your girlfriend.
A great girlfriend will make an effort to get to know your people. She’ll help your parents out at Thanksgiving, try to understand your brother’s twisted sense of humor, and want to get to know your friends.
She’ll actually empathize with your sister’s getting dumped and suggest that you guys take her out to cheer her up. Not only that, but your friends won’t roll their eyes and moan when you mention that she’ll be joining you guys when she gets off work — she’s one of the crowd.
If you have found a woman who loves you for who you really are and not who you pretend or try to be sometimes, you should definitely hang on to her. Of course, everyone has their slightly annoying habits that their mate has to contend with, but if she really loves you, she’ll be able to cope with these.
Another way to know if she really loves you is by observing the way she looks at you and treats you on an everyday basis. If the sight of you doesn’t seem to faze her either way, and she doesn’t really seem to care about what you have to say, she’s either playing very hard to get, or she sees you as just some guy. But if a surprise visit or phone call from you makes her light up, there’s no denying that she loves you.
Stop making that face . . . Any man who has a great girlfriend or wife will tell you that she makes him want to be a better man. She doesn’t have to say or do anything; it just is that way. If you suddenly feel bad about how you treated your sister when you were younger or find yourself trying to get your finances in order to prepare for the future, you might want to think about your motivation for doing so. It could be love.