shutdown impact: Mail, air travel, prisons

WASHINGTON — A government shutdown would have far-reaching consequences for some, but minimal impact on others.

Mail would be delivered. Social Security and Medicare benefits would continue to flow.

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But vacationers would be turned away from national parks and Smithsonian museums. Low-to-moderate income borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays.

(Also on POLITICO: Reid spearheads strategy)

A look at how services would or would not be affected if Congress fails to reach an agreement averting a government shutdown at midnight Monday.


Federal air traffic controllers would remain on the job and airport screeners would keep funneling passengers through security checkpoints. Federal inspectors would continue enforcing safety rules.


The State Department would continue processing foreign applications for visas and U.S. applications for passports, since fees are collected to finance those services. Embassies and consulates overseas would continue to provide services to American citizens.


Social Security and Medicare benefits would keep coming, but there could be delays in processing new disability applications. Unemployment benefits would still go out.


Federal courts would continue operating normally for about 10 business days after the start of a shutdown, roughly until the middle of October. If the shutdown continues, the judiciary would have to begin furloughs of employees whose work is not considered essential. But cases would continue to be heard.

(Also on POLITICO: Boehner’s pivotal moment)


Deliveries would continue as usual because the U.S. Postal Service receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations. It relies on income from stamps and other postal fees to keep running.


All national parks would be closed, as would the Smithsonian museums, including the National Zoo in Washington. Visitors using overnight campgrounds or other park facilities would be given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park. Among the visitor centers that would be closed: the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Alcatraz Island near San Francisco and the Washington Monument.


New patients would not be accepted into clinical research at the National Institutes of Health, but current patients would continue to receive care. Medical research at the NIH would be disrupted and some studies would be delayed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be severely limited in spotting or investigating disease outbreaks, from flu to that mysterious MERS virus from the Middle East.


The Food and Drug Administration would handle high-risk recalls suspend most routine safety inspections. Federal meat inspections would be expected to proceed as usual.


A small number of Head Start programs, about 20 out of 1,600 nationally, would feel the impact right away. The federal Administration for Children and Families says grants expiring about Oct. 1 would not be renewed. Over time more programs would be affected. Several of the Head Start programs that would immediately feel the pinch are in Florida. It’s unclear if they would continue serving children.


The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, could shut down. The program provides supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for pregnant women, mothers and their children.

School lunches and breakfasts would continue to be served, and food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, would continue to be distributed. But several smaller feeding programs would not have the money to operate.


Americans would still have to pay their taxes and file federal tax returns, but the Internal Revenue Service says it would suspend all audits. Got questions? Sorry, the IRS says taxpayer services, including toll-free help lines, would be shut as well.


Many low-to-moderate incomes borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays during the shutdown. The Federal Housing Administration, which guarantees about 30 percent of home mortgages, wouldn’t underwrite or approve any new loans during the shutdown. Action on government-backed loans to small businesses would be suspended.


NASA will continue to keep workers at Mission Control in Houston and elsewhere to support the International Space station, where two Americans and four others are deployed. The National Weather Service would keep forecasting weather and issuing warnings and the National Hurricane Center would continue to track storms. The scientific work of the U.S. Geological Survey would be halted.


The majority of the Department of Homeland Security’s employees are expected to stay on the job, including uniformed agents and officers at the country’s borders and ports of entry, members of the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration officers, Secret Service personnel and other law enforcement agents and officers. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees would continue to process green card applications.


The military’s 1.4 million active duty personnel would stay on duty, but their paychecks would be delayed. About half of the Defense Department’s civilian employees would be furloughed.


All 116 federal prisons would remain open, and criminal litigation would proceed.


Most services offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs will continue because lawmakers approve money one year in advance for the VA’s health programs. Veterans would still be able to visit hospitals for inpatient care, get mental health counseling at vet centers or get prescriptions filled at VA health clinics. Operators would still staff the crisis hotline and claims workers would still process payments to cover disability and pension benefits. But those veterans appealing the denial of disability benefits to the Board of Veterans Appeals will have to wait longer for a decision because the board would not issue any decisions during a shutdown.


Federal occupational safety and health inspectors would stop workplace inspections except in cases of imminent danger.

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Is peer-to-peer travel sharing for you?

When it comes to travel, is sharing good for you?

If you’re talking about the $3.5 billion-a-year “sharing” economy, which turns consumers into travel providers, you’ll often hear a “no.”

Whether you’re considering a home rental instead of a hotel or driving someone else’s car over hiring a taxi, experts warn you to beware before you share.

The poster kids for the perils of peer-to-peer travel include Airbnb, where one host recently ran afoul of New York’s law banning short-term rentals, and RelayRides, which last year had a fatality in one of its rental vehicles. Critics also point to companies such as FlightCar, a start-up that offers off-airport car rentals, which they claim are skirting taxes and government regulation.

But ask travelers if sharing is good, and you’re more likely to get a “yes.” And they have the stories to prove it.

Karen Kinnane, a Shartlesville, Pa., antiques dealer, says she’s had “great success” using Airbnb, a popular website that connects people who have a spare bedroom with travelers looking for a place to stay.

For her, it didn’t just offer a more authentic lodging experience; it also cut her lodging bill in half.

She recently needed to find accommodations near an antiques market in Leipzig, Germany. Airbnb set her up with a woman who rented her a room for about $40 a night, about $55 less than the average daily hotel room rate in 2012.

“The place was clean as a whistle,” she says. “You could do brain surgery on the floor. And we hit it off.”

Now she returns to the same place every other month, has her own key to the apartment and pays her host directly.

Dawn Catteau and her husband used a service called Uber, which connects travelers with professional drivers. Uber has experienced more than its fair share of legal roadblocks, placed there by other transportation interests who claim the company is circumventing permitting requirements. But for Catteau, an executive assistant from Chester Springs, Pa., Uber worked better than a taxi or the Metro when she visited Washington. Whenever she needed a ride, she used an iPhone app to hail a car.

“The cars were clean, available quickly, and I didn’t have to fumble around for cash while trying to keep my kids contained,” she says. “I think the service is brilliant and will use it again.”

So what’s with the dire warnings about sharing? Fearing something new is a normal human reaction, and this is still pretty novel. Even Airbnb, one of the breakout successes among travel-sharing companies with a $2.5 billion valuation, remains a relative unknown for some travelers, at least when compared to the more established lodging companies.

Yes, I’ve added to the hysteria just a little. As a consumer advocate, I haven’t missed an opportunity to help Airbnb guests who didn’t get what they thought they’d booked. The horror stories range from lost refunds to substandard facilities and unpleasant landlords. You can’t make this stuff up, but even so, it remains relatively rare, and Airbnb usually fixes the problem promptly.

But there’s something else at work, according to experts on the emerging peer-to-peer economy. The traditional incumbents are spinning a clever narrative about their new competitors. They caution travelers that these upstarts are a risky, passing fad.

“The story you read in the media — and often echoed by travel industry incumbents — is that it’s a Generation Y thing for price-sensitive travelers,” says Rachel Botsman, co-author of What’s Mine Is Yours, a book about the sharing economy. “It’s a sweeping generalization. If you look at the data, it’s simply not true.”

She’s right. The incumbents are nervous. Whenever I write about sharing, they contact me to make sure I consider a follow-up story about how dangerous and unfair sharing can be.

They did after I profiled FlightCar, which faces a lawsuit by the city of San Francisco for operating an off-airport car rental service without a license. FlightCar’s chief executive, Rujul Zaparde, says his company has met all the permit requirements, but understands the city is under pressure from other car rental companies who would have to match FlightCar’s lower prices.

“We’re sure they’re not happy about the competition,” he says of the airport car rental operators.

So, what is going on? The conventional wisdom on sharing companies is completely wrong. The world of travel is changing, and for the better.

“It’s a shift from institutional, big-brand name trust to peer trust,” says Botsman.

Of course established travel companies won’t go out of business as a result of this sharing revolution, but the way we travel will almost certainly become more efficient.

Put differently, your next “hotel” may be someone’s spare bedroom, your next ride to the airport might be in another person’s car, and you might rent a stranger’s vehicle when you arrive.

But, mostly, it means your mother was right all along: Sharing is good.

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7 Ways To Travel Smarter, Cheaper And More Often


By Stephanie Oswald, Next Avenue Contributor

Fall travel season is here, offering endless possibilities for your next trip. One fringe benefit of not having to work around school schedules is getting to hit the road on less crowded highways — and in airports, on planes and at attractions.

Of course, having plenty of time on your hands is only part of what it takes to get away. Assuming you’re fit for the kind of travel you desire, the other big challenge is paying for it. For people who’ve downshifted at work or are putting kids through college, money can be tight. But there are a number of simple ways to make sure you’re stretching those travel dollars as far as possible.

(MORE: The Hottest Trends in Boomer Travel)

Funding Your Bucket List Travel

Here are seven tips for helping your wallet keep pace with your wanderlust.

1. Know where the bargains are. You probably know some ways to watch for deals on airfare and hotels. Make sure you’re also on every possible list for printable coupons and discount codes by signing up for alerts from all your preferred airlines, hotels and rental car agencies and following them on Facebook and Twitter. Always update them when your home or email address changes. If you bid for deals on Priceline, give yourself a competitive edge by consulting BiddingforTravel or BetterBidding to find the lowest acceptable bids.

Another place to find great deals is through online “warehouses,” like Groupon GetawaysTravelZoo andLiving Social Escapes. Just be sure to read the fine print, as these bargains often involve specific timing, usually don’t allow for changes and must be purchased during a small time window.

(MORE: 6 Money-Saving Travel Secrets)

2. Be devilish. Apply that familiar expression “the devil is in the details” to your travel planning. Even as you’re hunting for big savings, don’t overlook the incidentals. They can add up to a lot of money at the end of a trip, especially an extended one. Choose hotels that include gratis such costly extras as breakfast, parking and Wi-Fi. Don’t assume that the fitness or business center is free of charge and ask what’s included in the resort fee, if you’re paying one. Sometimes you can get these perks simply by joining a loyalty program when you check in.

3. Exploit your flexibility. Chris McGinnis, editor at Best Western’s, has been tracking travel trends for more than two decades. He says the ability to be adaptable is a boomer’s great strength when it comes to beating high prices. If your travel plans include perennially pricey destinations, try to go during slow periods, he says. “Take cruises in the fall or head to bucket list destinations like Disney, Prague or Tahiti during the ‘dead weeks’ just before and just after the Christmas and New Years’ rush.”

The ultimate in flexibility is being able to wait for last-minute deals. Apps, like Hotel Tonight (big savings after 12 p.m. on the day of stay), Jetsetter (flash sales for discounts up to 60% on vacation packages or hotels) and Last Minute Hotels (a Travelocity-linked app that offers discount bookings up to 48 hours in advance), are great ways to jump on budget-friendly prices. Websites like Hipmunk (mostly airline tickets, but also hotels) and RouteHappy (a flight database that assigns value to seats, amenities and flyer ratings) track the lowest rates and the highest level of “travel happiness.”

4. Think outside the box. Nine times out of 10, the downtown or center-city hotel rate is far more expensive than accommodations in outer districts or even suburbia. If you’re planning to be out and about most of the day, skimp a bit on the room to free up more money for fun. McGinnis advises finding a suburban hotel near a subway or bus stop. Even with transit back and forth, you could wind up saving hundreds of dollars.

If you’re traveling on a weekend, find a business hotel that’s hungry to fill beds — you’re likely to get an even more attractive rate. Make TripAdvisor your go-to source for user reviews that can provide a reality check.

5. Follow the pros. Popular travel blogger Johnny Jet is away from home more than 200 nights a year. He says one of the best ways for “civilians” to save money on travel is by monitoring experts such as himself. “Sign up for our mailing lists and newsletters and follow us on Twitter and Facebook,” he says. That way you’ll be among the first to know when a special deal or rate is offered. Consumer expert Clark Howard is another super travel sleuth, as is Christopher Elliott.

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Dense Fog Makes Travel Tricky

Chris Daniels, Meteorologist

Dense Fog Makes Travel Tricky

September 30, 2013

Updated Sep 30, 2013 at 6:34 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. ( — A DENSE FOG ADVISORY is in place through 10 AM. Fog has developed in many areas this morning. This is causing some travel and school delays. Use lowbeams on your vehicle and allow extra time to reach your destination. By mid morning, the sun will help burn the fog away.

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Seven Sci-Fi Scenarios For Interstellar Space Travel That Could Happen In This …

Voyager 1 traveled billions of lonely miles before it finally broke free of the sun’s sphere of influence. Earlier this month scientists determined that the stubby probe, popularly known as “The Little Spaceship That Could,” was the first spaceship to cross into interstellar space.

Illustration of Voyager 1 (Courtesy of NASA/JPL)

Voyager 1’s unprecedented achievement raised the possibility anew that humans could soon travel to distant stars. A growing group of space enthusiasts, including eminent scientists like Freeman Dyson, a physicist who unified quantum and electrodynamic theory, and Martin Rees, an astrophysicist who holds the honorary title of United Kingdom’s Astronomer Royal; along with engineers like Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars society, and Peter Schwartz, an acclaimed futurist, believe significant progress toward interstellar travel can be made in this century.

“There are many, many pathways to the stars, and most of them actually get us there,” Schwartz, a director of the Long Now Foundation, told a sold-out audience gathered at the SFJazz Center in mid-September. “A galactic civilization is almost inevitable.”

Unsurprisingly, skeptics abound. “In one hundred years, it won’t happen,” said Cole Miller, a professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland. “Developing any of the technologies for interstellar spacecraft propulsion is likely to take far more than a century,” he said.

 Marc Millis, the former head of NASA’s Breakthrough Propulsion Physics Project,also questions the timeline. Even if viable technologies are discovered in our lifetimes, it could be another century or two before we have the energy necessary to power them, he said during an interview. Still, Millis believes mankind could ultimately succeed, and his Tau Zero Foundation is dedicated to researching new propulsion technologies. “We are not going to make progress by saying it can’t be done,” he noted.

The biggest obstacle is the vastness of space. The nearest stars, located in the Alpha Centauri star system, are at least 4.2 light years away. It would take Voyager 1 more than 70,000 years to reach Proxima Centauri, the closest star in the system. And neither Proxima Centauri nor its two siblings appear to have planets in the “habitable zone,” close enough to their stars to have liquid water.

English: Proxima Centauri, the closest star to...

Proxima Centauri, the closest star to Earth other than the Sun. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Faster crafts, such as the now-defunct Helios space probes, could theoretically have reached Alpha Centauri in just 19,000 years. But it still would have taken the Helios probes an additional 100,000 to 200,000 years to reach the closest star systems with potentially habitable planets.  “We are talking time frames equal to how long homo sapiens have been on this planet,” Millis said.

The challenges to achieving interstellar travel, while sobering, have not stopped the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency from providing $500,000 in seed funding for 100 Year Starship, a long-term, nongovernmental initiative that ensures “the capabilities for human interstellar flight exist as soon as possible, and definitely within the next 100 years.”

Schwartz, who authored “The Art of the Long View,” one of the seminal books on scenario planning, acknowledges that the idea behind 100 Year Starship is audacious. When he was first approached to apply scenario planning to the concept, he initially judged it extremely unlikely. “Anyone who looks at the problem has to be skeptical because it is so hard,” Schwartz said in an interview.

But the more Schwartz examined the idea, the more he realized the opportunities for achieving interstellar travel had increased in number and probability. First, mankind now had definitive evidence that earth is not the only habitable planet in the galaxy. To date, NASA’s Kepler space telescope, launched in 2009, has discovered 152 new planets orbiting distant stars, including around a half-dozen in the “habitable zone.”  And billions of planets remain undiscovered. “What this means is there is someplace to go,” said Schwartz, who holds a degree in aeronautical engineering and astronautics from Rennsselaer Polytechnical Institute.

Second, there is evidence the space between star systems isn’t an empty void. In fact, it seems to be full of matter that can be harvested for fuel, water and other supplies required by voyaging starships. Third, it appears faster-than-light travel won’t be necessary. “It turns out there are many plausible combinations of propulsion and life-support systems that are within our grasp technologically and that do not require huge leaps in fundamental science,” Schwartz said.

In his September talk for members of the Long Now Foundation. Schwartz outlined seven scenarios—and many more are covered in the book “Starship Century,” which was edited by James Benford and Gregory Benford and published in August. The practicality of these scenarios is controversial, but together they represent a future rich in possibility. As Schwartz points out “the likelihood of one or more of the technologies actually working changes the likelihood of success enormously.”

The seven scenarios are:

1. Nuclear thermal rockets.

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Recalls include travel trunk

A line of travel trunks with handles that pose a laceration hazard were among this week’s recalled consumer products. Votive candle holders with arms that can break, resulting in a tipped candle and a fire hazard, were also recalled. Here’s a more detailed look:


DETAILS: Journey Girl Travel Trunks, used to carry 18-inch-tall toy dolls. The 21-inch-tall trunks are purple with a blue pattern and a blue metal handle. The trunks were sold with three clothes hangers and two pull-out drawers for storage. Travel trunks included in the recall have UPC #48970277965070 and model number 5F5F79E. The model number is printed on the bottom of the travel trunk next to the UPC code. They were sold at Toys R Us stores from October 2012 through February 2013.

WHY: The blue metal handle on the trunk can be sharp, posing a laceration hazard to the user.

INCIDENTS: Six reports involving the handle, including one report of a consumer who received stitches.

HOW MANY: About 12,650.

FOR MORE: Call Toys R Us at 1-800-869-7787 or visit, then click on About Us, then select “Safety” at the top of the page, and then “Click here” under Product Recalls.


DETAILS: BBQ Ant Votive Candle Holders designed to resemble a large ant. The words “Backyard BBQ” and “Glass Votive Holder” are printed on the front of the packaging. SKU number 426154 can be found on the underside of the packaging. They were sold exclusively at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store locations nationwide from May 2013 through June 2013.

WHY: The decorative ant’s arms, used to hold up the votive cup, can break. If this happens, a lit candle can tip over or fall out, posing fire and burn hazards.

INCIDENTS: None reported.

HOW MANY: About 7,900.

FOR MORE: Call Mercuries Asia at 1-800-828-9316 or visit

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Kenya asks US to lift "unfriendly" travel warning

NAIROBI, Sept 29 |
Sun Sep 29, 2013 11:01am EDT

NAIROBI, Sept 29 (Reuters) – Kenya on Sunday asked the U.S.
government to lift an advisory warning U.S. citizens over travel
to the east African country after the Sept. 21 Nairobi mall
attack, calling it “unnecessary” and “unfriendly”.

“We believe issuing the travel advisory is
counter-productive in the fight against global terrorism,”
Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku told a news briefing. “We
request the United States, as a friend of Kenya, to lift the
travel advisory,” he added.

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Three Scenarios For Funding Interstellar Travel

Mankind’s only chance for survival in the coming millennium is to spread out into space. So argues British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and a score of other eminent physicists, rocket scientists and intellectuals in Starship Century, a collection of essays and science fiction edited by brothers James and Gregory Benford.

Hawking’s argument, laid out in an essay titled, “Our Only Chance,” is all too familiar. “Our population and our use of the finite resources of planet earth are growing exponentially, along with our technical ability to change the environment for good or ill,” he writes. “But our genetic code still carries the selfish and aggressive instincts that were our survival advantage in the past. It will be difficult enough to avoid disaster in the next one hundred years, let alone the next thousand or million.”

English: Stephen Hawking giving a lecture for ...

Stephen Hawking gives a lecture for NASA’s 50th anniversary (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For these futurists, doomsday scenarios abound—from environmental disasters to overpopulation and the use of nuclear weapons. But the essays are not all doom and gloom. According to contributors like Freeman Dyson, Martin Rees and Geoffrey Landis, the science that has brought us to the brink of destruction may also hold the seeds of salvation. Figuring out how to build a spaceship that can survive centuries-long interstellar voyages could also help us understand how to survive on earth, the mother of all starships, if the environment becomes hostile to life as we know it.

 Marc Millis, founder of Tau Zero Foundation, and former head of breakthrough propulsion physics at NASA, said that the initial research needed to determine the focus and scope of an interstellar space program can be done for a pittance. “We are probably talking about an investment of less than $10 million a year,” Millis said in an interview. (See “Seven Sci-Fi Scenarios For Interstellar Space Travel That Could Happen In This Century” for a review of potentially viable technologies.)

But efforts to put new theories into practice by building and testing space vehicles could quickly add up to trillions of dollars. Robert Zubrin, an aerospace engineer and co-founder of the Mars Society, estimates in his essay that it could cost $125 trillion to build a ship capable of traveling 10 percent of the speed of light and supporting a few score human voyagers. To put that sum in perspective, the entire Apollo program cost about $120 billion in today’s dollars or 1 percent of the planet’s GDP in 1968. An equivalent sum today would be around $841 billion, leaving a funding gap of more than $124 trillion, assuming Zubrin’s estimate is in the ball park.

Should we conclude that interstellar travel is out of reach based on cost alone? Futurist Peter Schwartz, one of the pioneers of scenario planning, said not necessarily. In a September seminar for the Long Now Foundation and an essay in Starship Century, Schwartz lays out scenarios by which funding could materialize for interstellar travel. Here are three of the biggies.

1. Nation states respond to crisis. Things get so bad on earth that governments of major nations are spurred into action. Coalitions of wealthy nations pool their resources and launch starships headed toward habitable planets. This scenario works with sleepships, where human beings travel in stasis, or generation ships, where human beings live out entire generations as they slowly make their way across the galaxy.

2. World religions take the lead. Overpopulation is accompanied by a growth in organized religion. Cities have been replaced by arcologies, huge, self-sustaining habitats. Meanwhile, we have finally encountered signs of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. The largest religions compete to launch interstellar missionary projects.

3. Trillionaires and their toys. A shrinking population controls an enormously wealthy planet. It’s an age of quantum computing, fusion reactors, synthetic biology and highly efficient solar power.

SpaceX Falcon-9 Heavy

SpaceX Falcon-9 Heavy (Photo credit: FlyingSinger)

Average global growth of 5 percent has led to a doubling of wealth every 15 years while breakthroughs in life extension lead to people living beyond 150 years. By 2200, the world is a thousand times wealthier than it is today and has half as many people. Just as today’s hyper-wealthy turn their attention to both life extension and space projects, so do tomorrow’s trillionaires.

When talking about scenarios for funding interstellar travel, it’s hard to escape science fiction. Still, as Schwartz reminded a sold-out audience at the SFJazz Center, no one would have imagined ten years ago the predominant roles that business magnates like Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are playing in the space program today. The “billionaires” scenario is already beginning to play out on earth today. “It’s not implausible that over the next couple of hundred years billions would become trillions,” Schwartz said.

“I put these together, but there are many scenarios here, with different motivations, different forms of propulsion, different levels of population,” Schwartz said. ” There are many ways of doing this. There is no single right answer.”



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Kanye West Tries To Travel Back In Time & Take Back His Jimmy Kimmel Twitter …

Miley Cyrus is bringing the music, and she’s bringing it BIG!

While fans are already loving We Can’t Stop and Wrecking Ball, we think they might really love her new song Adore You!

It’s a bit slower and definitely on the emotional side, but based on a snippet of it, we think it could really pack a punch! Especially with yet another powerful music video!

And from what we hear in the lyrics, it just might be about Liam Hemsworth!

The song is definitely about love, but it’s hard to tell where this love story is going with just this brief preview.

Ch-ch-check it out…AFTER THE JUMP!!!

Read more »

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