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How to check your Amazon gift card balance, and reload your card

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 7:14pm
Before you purchase something with an Amazon gift card, you need to know what your card's balance is.
  • You can check your Amazon gift card balance on either the desktop website or mobile app.
  • From there, you can also manually add to your balance by selecting "Reload Your Balance."
  • If desired, you can set up auto-reload for your gift card balance to plan for big purchases.
  • Visit Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

If you've received an Amazon gift card, knowing your gift card balance is important, especially if you're planning to make a big purchase through the site.

But you don't have to receive a gift card from someone else to take advantage of the feature - you can also purchase value whenever you want to, and set up auto-reload to better manage your finances.

Here's how to get it done.

How to check your Amazon gift card balance

You can either view your balance on the desktop website or mobile app.

On desktop:

1. Go to the Amazon website and log in to your account, if needed.

2. Hover over Accounts & Lists, then click Account.

Go into your "Account."

3. On the next page, click Gift cards.

Select "Gift Cards."

You'll see your gift card balance listed at the top of the page.

Your balance is listed at the top of the page. On mobile:

1. Open the Amazon Shopping app on your iPhone, iPad, or Android and log in, if necessary.

2. Tap the Profile icon in the bottom menu.

Go into your profile.

3. Scroll down to the Gift Card Balance section. You'll see your current balance listed there.

Your gift card balance is listed on the profile section of the app.

Quick tip: Tap Manage to view more information, like your gift card balance activity.

How to manually reload your Amazon gift card balance

​​Manually reloading your balance prevents any automatic card charges. This is a good method if you don't use this balance too often, or if you only want to buy a specific item. The minimum you can add to your balance is $0.50.

On desktop:

1. On the Amazon website homepage, hover over Account & Lists, then click Account.

2. On the next page, select Gift cards.

3. In the menu bar at the top of the next page, click Reload your balance.

Select "Reload Your Balance" at the top.

4. Choose or enter an amount.

Choose how much to add to your gift card balance.

5. Click Buy Now.

On mobile:

1. Open the Amazon Shopping app on your iPhone, iPad, or Android and log in, if needed.

2. Tap the Profile icon.

3. Scroll down to the Gift Card Balance section and tap Manage.

Choose "Manage" to begin reloading your gift card.

4. Select Reload Balance.

Tap "Reload Balance."

5. Choose the amount and tap Buy Now.

How to auto-reload your Amazon gift card balance

You can set your balance to auto-reload on a daily to monthly schedule or when you hit a minimum balance of your choice.

On desktop:

1. On the Amazon website homepage, hover over Account & Lists, then select Account.

2. On the next page, click Gift cards.

3. Select Set up auto-reload.

Choose the auto-reload option.

4. Set the amount, the frequency (daily, weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly), and the start date. Alternatively, you can set your card to auto-reload when your balance hits a minimum threshold.

Choose how much money to add, how often and when to start.

5. Choose your payment method or add a new card.

6. Click Save Your Auto-Reload Setting at the bottom of the page.

On mobile:

1. Open the Amazon app and log in, if needed, and tap the Profile icon.

2. Scroll down to Gift Card Balance and tap Manage.

3. Tap Your Auto-Reload Setting.

Select "Your Auto-Reload Setting."

4. Choose the amount, frequency, and start date settings. Or set your card to auto-reload when the balance falls to a certain amount, if preferred.

Choose your auto-reload settings.

5. Choose your payment method or add a new card.

6. Tap Save Your Auto-Reload Setting at the bottom of the page.

How to redeem an Amazon gift card on Amazon's website and mobile appHow to archive Amazon orders and view or hide items in your archiveHow to cancel your Amazon Prime subscription if you no longer need the serviceHow to cancel an Amazon order or item, before it's been shippedRead the original article on Business Insider

An amateur diver found a 3-foot sword off the Israeli coast - and filmed his discovery. It dates back to the Crusades.

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 7:08pm
A sword that likely belonged to a Crusader lays on the beach in Caesarea, Israel on October 16, 2021.
  • A scuba diver found a 900-year-old sword and ancient anchors off Israel's Carmel coast last week.
  • The iron sword is 3 feet long and weighs 11 pounds. It likely belonged to a knight from the Crusades.
  • The diver was wearing a GoPro camera, and Israeli authorities released video of his discovery.

Shlomi Katzin didn't expect anything out-of-the-ordinary during his dive along Israel's Carmel coast.

The amateur scuba enthusiast was exploring the area's waters on October 9 when he came across a giant sword, covered in shells and marine life, 13 feet under the Mediterranean waves.

The weapon was more than 3 feet long, with a foot-wide hilt. Nearby, Katzin also found giant metal and stone anchors and bits of pottery nestled in a 1,000 square-foot patch of sandy bottom.

Fearing that shifting sands might bury the treasure, the diver carried his finds up to the surface and immediately contacted the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA). Israel has a law dictating that any artifacts found in the country be handed over to the authorities.

Amateur Israeli diver Shlomi Katzin holds up the ancient sword he discovered underwater on October 16, 2021.

The agency thinks that the sword, which is made of iron, dates back to the Crusades - religious wars between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East between the 11th and 13th centuries.

"The sword, which has been preserved in perfect condition, is a beautiful and rare find and evidently belonged to a Crusader knight," Nir Distelfeld, an inspector for the IAA's Robbery Prevention Unit, said in a press release on Monday. "It is exciting to encounter such a personal object, taking you 900 years back in time to a different era, with knights, armor, and swords."

During his dive, Katzin wore a GoPro camera, and so he was able to film his own discovery. The IAA shared some of that footage with Insider and posted the video on its Facebook page. In it, you can see Katzin pick up the sword off the seabed and uncover several anchors as nearby lionfish watch. His breathing punctuates discovery after discovery as he uses flippers to maneuver.

The agency awarded Katzin a certificate of appreciation for good citizenship for handing in the sword.

Storms, currents, and waves bury and unbury ancient treasures A 900-year-old sword discovered by amateur diver Shlomi Katzin underwater near Caesarea, Israel.

Local archaeologists had already been monitoring the area where Katzin went diving, about 650 feet from shore, because that part of the Carmel coast offers a natural cove. Ships have moored since the Crusades, the IAA said, so it's a prime place to look for artifacts.

But fickle undercurrents and waves constantly bury and unbury ancient treasures like those Katzin found.

Kobi Sharvit, director of the Israel Antiquities Authority's Marine Archaeology Unit, holds a sword that dates back to the Crusades, October 16, 2021.

"Even the smallest storm moves the sand and reveals areas on the sea bed, meanwhile burying others," Kobi Sharvit, director of the IAA's marine archaeology unit, said in the release.

According to Sharvit, the anchors found near the sword could be far more ancient than the weapon - dating back to the Late Bronze Age, 4,000 years ago.

An ancient anchor discovered by amateur diver Shlomi Katzin underwater near Caesarea, Israel.

The layer of sand that hid the sword is likely the reason it's so well-preserved.

Being entombed under the seabed meant that the sword wasn't exposed to oxygen, Sharvit explained to CNN. That protected it from rust. Still, it was covered in shells and other bits of marine life - the weapon weighed at least 11 pounds when Katzin turned it in.

The sword itself, however, is likely only 4.4 pounds, Sharvit said.

A relic of the Crusades

The cove where Katzin found the weapon is a mile or so from what was once a Crusader fortress, Sharvit told CNN. That, coupled with the sword's large size and shape, is what led experts to conclude that it probably belonged a knight from the Crusades.

A 3-foot, shell-encrusted sword that likely belonged to a Crusader was recovered near Caesarea, Israel on October 16, 2021.

Between 1096 and 1291, the Roman Catholic Church and western European nations sent Christian armies to reclaim holy sites in cities like Jerusalem and Constantinople, which were under Muslim control. Some battles during the Third Crusade occurred near Israeli beaches, since England's Richard I traveled south along the Carmel coast toward Jaffa to fight Saladin, a Muslim sultan.

The sword is now being examined in the IAA's National Treasures Department. Once the weapon is sufficiently cleaned and studied, the agency said it would ensure the finding is displayed to the public.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The amount of coastal water that can harbor harmful Vibrio bacteria has spiked 56%. One species is flesh-eating.

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 6:51pm
Dead menhaden fish float in the Navesink River in New Jersey on April 2, 2021. The state's Department of Environmental Protection said a species of Vibrio bacteria is likely responsible.
  • Rising sea temperatures are leading the habitat for Vibrio bacteria - which lives in warm, brackish water - to expand.
  • The portion of coastlines in which Vibrio bacteria can thrive has risen 56% since the 1980s.
  • It's one of many ways climate change is worsening human health.

The amount of coastal water in which harmful bacteria can live has increased 56% over the past few decades, a report published Wednesday found.

That bacteria family, called Vibrio, lives in salty or brackish coastal waters, including in the US and Canada. The infection it causes, vibriosis, is usually contracted by eating raw or undercooked seafood or by exposing a wound to bacteria-infested seawater. Mild cases resolve in about three days, but Vibrio can also cause severe diseases, including gastroenteritis, life-threatening cholera, dangerous wound infections, and sepsis.

One species of Vibrio bacteria, Vibrio vulnificus, is referred to as flesh-eating because the bacteria can aggressively destroy body tissue. Those infections, though rare, often require intensive care or amputation. And they can be fatal, killing one in five infected people, usually within two days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The reasons Vibrio is becoming a greater threat are that sea surface temperatures are rising and seawater is getting saltier. That's one of many alarming findings from the medical journal The Lancet's sixth annual report on health and climate change. In it, researchers from academia and the United Nations tracked 44 indicators of health effects linked to climate change.

Their conclusion: Climate change is worsening health around the globe and exacerbating existing health and social disparities.

"As the COVID-19 crisis continues, every country is facing some aspect of the climate crisis," Anthony Costello, executive director of the report, said in a statement, adding, "The Lancet Countdown's report has over 40 indicators and far too many of them are flashing red."

One of those red indicators is the link between rising sea temperatures and waterborne diseases like vibriosis. According to the report, the amount of habitable coastline for Vibrio bacteria in certain latitudes of the northern hemisphere has expanded from 7% in the 1980s to 10.9% in 2020.

Most Vibrio infections happen during the summer

Every year in the US, an estimated 80,000 people are sickened by Vibrio and 100 die from their infections. Because Vibrio bacteria thrives in warm water, 80% of those infections are contracted between May and October, according to the CDC.

The bacteria isn't just a threat to people: In April, after hundreds of dead fish washed up on shore in New Jersey, the culprit turned out to be a species of Vibrio bacteria, according to the Associated Press.

"It is suspected that if there are wider temperature swings during the fall and spring, then this could worsen the impact of these mortality events," the state's Department of Environmental Protection said.

Vibrio vulnificus bacteria can cause severe infections that destroy body tissue.

While 100 human deaths per year is a low toll from a public-health perspective, rising sea temperatures are poised to make Vibrio - and, most likely, the infections and deaths it causes - more widespread.

Specifically,the amount of habitable coastline for Vibrio bacteria rose from 1.2% to 5.1% in the Atlantic Northeast and from 1.2% to 5.1% in the Pacific Northwest between the 1980s and 2020, the Lancet report found. During the same period, the habitable area for the bacteria in the Baltics increased from 47% to 82%.

Other concerning indicators described in the Lancet report include an increased potential for diseases spread by mosquitoes and a concerning link between extreme heat events and poor mental health, including suicidality.

When countries meet next month for the COP26 climate negotiations in Scotland, Costello said, he thinks it could be an opportunity to respond to climate change and COVID impacts simultaneously.

"We have a choice. The recovery from COVID-19 can be a green recovery that puts us on the path of improving human health and reducing inequities, or it can be a business-as-usual recovery that puts us all at risk," he said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

How to connect Spotify to Alexa, and set Spotify as your default music player

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 6:33pm
Connecting your Alexa device to your Spotify account helps you play music with ease.
  • You can connect Spotify to Alexa via the Alexa app to play music with voice commands.
  • You can make Spotify your default music player to avoid having to say "On Spotify" in voice commands.
  • If desired, you can disconnect Spotify from Alexa via either the Alexa app or the Spotify website.
  • Visit Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

An Amazon Alexa device can help you accomplish a variety of tasks, from turning on smart lights throughout your home to playing music.

If you use Alexa to play music via voice command, you can connect your Spotify account to Alexa so that all your music automatically plays from Spotify rather than another music streaming source. Here's what you'd need to do.

How to connect Spotify to Alexa

1. Open the Alexa app on your iPhone, iPad, or Android.

2. Tap the More icon.

Go into the "More" menu.

3. Select Settings.

Go into your "Settings."

4. Choose Music & Podcasts.

Choose "Music & Podcasts."

5. If you don't see Spotify listed, choose Link new service. Otherwise continue to the next step.

Choose Spotify, if listed. Otherwise link a new service.

6. Select Spotify, followed by Link account to Alexa.

Choose "Spotify."

7. Tap Enable to use and log in to your Spotify account.

Quick tip: Spotify is supported on the following devices that use the Alexa virtual assistant: Amazon Echo, Amazon Echo Dot, Amazon Echo Spot, Amazon Echo Show, Amazon Tap, Amazon Fire TV Cube, Facebook Portal/Portal+, and all Sonos players.

How to set up Spotify as default music player with Alexa

If you don't want to have to add the phrase "On Spotify" to your voice commands when playing music, you can make Spotify the default player:

1. Open the Alexa app.

2. Tap the More tab in the bottom toolbar.

3. Hit Settings.

4. Choose Music & Podcasts.

5. Tap Default Services.

Go into the "Default Services" section.

6. Tap Change next to the existing default music player, then select Spotify and then hit Done.

Change your default player to Spotify.

Note: This method doesn't work for podcasts, so you'd still need to specify that you wanted a particular podcast to be played via Spotify in voice commands.

How to disconnect Spotify from Alexa

You can either disconnect Spotify from Alexa via the Alexa app, or on the Spotify website.

On the Alexa app:

1. Open the Alexa mobile app, and tap More.

2. Tap Settings.

3. Tap Music & Podcasts.

4. The Music & Podcasts page lists all the services currently connected to your Alexa (and lets you link new services as well). Find Spotify in the list and tap it.

Tap "Spotify."

5. On the Spotify details page, tap Disable Skill and confirm your choice.

Select "Disable Skill" in the Alexa app to disconnect Spotify. On the Spotify website:

1. In a web browser on your Mac or PC, go to the Spotify website and log in to your account.

2. Click Profile in the upper-right corner and then select Account.

Go into your Spotify account.

3. In the list on the left, click Apps.

Go into the "Apps" section of your account.

4. Find Alexa in the list of apps with access to your Spotify information, and then click Remove Access. Confirm your choice.

How to set up and use the Alexa app on your iPhone'Can Alexa play YouTube?': Not directly - here's how to play YouTube on an Alexa-enabled speaker with a Bluetooth-paired deviceHow to connect Alexa to a Roku device, so you can control your Roku with voice commands'Does Alexa work with a Samsung Galaxy S10?': Yes, it does - here's how to make Alexa your new digital assistantRead the original article on Business Insider

January 6 investigation: Republican leadership instructs members to vote 'no' on criminal contempt charge for Steve Bannon

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 6:13pm
US President Donald Trump congratulates Senior Counselor to the President Stephen Bannon during the swearing in of senior staff in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC on January 22, 2017.
  • Steve Bannon is refusing to comply with the investigation into the January 6 insurrection.
  • A day before the riot, he predicted that "all hell will break loose."
  • Donald Trump sued to prevent documents from his White House being shared with the committee.

Republican leadership is instructing GOP members of Congress to vote against a resolution holding Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress over his refusal to testify before the special committee investigating the January 6 insurrection.

On Tuesday night, the special committee held a unanimous, bipartisan vote to recommend that Bannon be punished for failing to comply with its subpoena. The full House of Representatives is expected to vote Thursday, though it is ultimately up to the Department of Justice whether or not prosecute Bannon.

Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican from Wyoming, said his refusal - and claim to be covered by "executive privilege" - indicated that he had helped plan the insurrection with former President Donald Trump. The ex-president has himself sued to prevent documents from his White House being shared with the committee.

In a memo sent to each House Republican, however, House Minority Whip Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana claimed the special committee's investigation was invalid, arguing it lacked a legislative purpose.

"Congress does not have enumerated constitutional powers to conduct investigations or issue subpoenas outside of that scope," he asserted.

Legal experts, however, say Congress has broad authority to investigate under the US Constitution, particularly when it comes to the actions of past and present government officials. Bannon - who predicted a day before the insurrection that "all hell is going to break loose" - previously served as chief strategist at the White House under Trump.

The January 6 special committee is also considering whether new laws may be needed to prevent future attempts to subvert US elections.

Scalise himself voted on January 6 to block President Joe Biden's victory, challenging the certification of votes from Pennsylvania, despite state and federal court rulings upholding the legitimacy of results there. He has since refused to concede that Trump was defeated in a legitimate election.

Have a news tip? Email this reporter: cdavis@insider.com

Read the original article on Business Insider

Instagram post sizes: The exact ratios for posting perfect photos and videos on Instagram

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 6:09pm
Almost every type of Instagram post has a different size and aspect ratio.
  • The size of your Instagram post will vary depending on how you upload the photo or video.
  • A standard Instagram post should be shaped like a perfect 1:1 square, but Stories are shaped like a phone screen.
  • You can edit the size of your photos in Instagram, or through your phone's Photos app.
  • Visit Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

Instagram is very particular when it comes to the size of your photos. It's not like Facebook, where you can upload any sort of picture and then just tap to enlarge it - if a photo you post on Instagram gets cropped weirdly, whole chunks of it will get deleted.

But while this does mean that you have to be precise when editing your photos for Instagram, it also means that it's easy to predict what your photos will look like once uploaded.

Every kind of Instagram post has an exact aspect ratio that works best for it. Here's a full guide to Instagram's post size requirements, and how to edit your photos to match them.

What size should your Instagram posts be?

There are a few different places to post pictures on Instagram, and each takes a different size of photo.

But when we talk about size, how many pixels they have is less important than their aspect ratio. An aspect ratio is a number that compares how wide a picture is to how tall it is.

For example, a square is in a 1:1 aspect ratio because it's exactly as wide as it is tall. Most TVs, meanwhile, are 16:9 - almost twice as wide as they are tall.

Here are the most important ratios on Instagram.

Regular Instagram posts

By default, standard Instagram posts are perfectly square - they're in a 1:1 aspect ratio. If you're looking for a specific resolution, shoot for 1080 x 1080 pixels (px).

If the picture you're uploading isn't a square, you can tap a button to zoom out. A landscape (horizontal) photo should be in a 1.91:1 ratio, and a portrait (vertical) photo should be a 4:5 ratio. Their resolutions should be 1080 x 608 px and 1080 x 1350 px, respectively.

Videos work the same way as photos, and use the same ratios.

To post a landscape or portrait photo, you might need to cut off part of the image. Instagram Story posts

Unlike regular posts, Instagram Stories can take up your entire vertical phone screen. This means that they should be a 9:16 ratio, or 1080 x 1920 px.

IGTV and Reels video posts

Just like Stories, Instagram Reels and IGTV posts are meant to take up the entire screen. Post them in a 9:16 ratio, or 1080 x 1920 px.

The difference is that IGTV and Reels posts can also show up on your feed or profile. When an IGTV or Reels video appears in your feed, it'll be cropped into a 4:5 ratio - you need to tap it to expand it. And on your profile, it'll show up as a 1:1 square.

When uploading an IGTV video, you'll also be asked for a cover photo. This cover should have a 1:1.55 ratio, or 420 x 654 px.

In all these cases, it means that you should keep the video's most important text or content near the center of the screen so it doesn't get cut off.

IGTV covers don't have to be in a high resolution. Your Instagram profile picture

While it's not the same as a public post, your Instagram profile picture needs to fit a certain ratio too.

Like normal posts, you should upload a perfect 1:1 square as your profile picture. But unlike posts, it doesn't need to have a high resolution - you can keep it at 360 x 360 px.

The ideal ratio and resolution for Instagram postsType of PostIdeal Aspect RatioBest ResolutionRegular photos & videos1:11080 x 1080 pixelsLandscape photos & videos1.91:11080 x 608 pxPortrait photos & videos4:51080 x 1350 pxInstagram Stories9:161080 x 1920 pxIGTV videos9:161080 x 1920 pxReels videos9:161080 x 1920 pxIGTV cover photos1:1.155420 x 654 pxInstagram profile pictures1:1360 x 360 px

How to resize your photos for Instagram

Most people don't take perfectly square photos (although most high-end phones have a setting for it). This means that if you want to post your photos on Instagram, you should crop them.

There are a few ways to resize your photos to make them fit on Instagram. Of course, there are hundreds of apps that offer exact size templates - for example, you can use a free site like Canva or a premium suite like Adobe Spark.

But Instagram has its own photo editor. When you try to upload a photo to the Instagram app from your phone's camera roll, you can crop it into a square or rectangle right from the selection screen.

And if you want a more private cropping experience, head to your camera roll app directly. Both the iPhone Photos app and Android Google Photos app let you crop your photos into the ratios needed for Instagram posts. You can also freeform crop them to fit the ratios manually.

There are a variety of ways to crop or resize a photo. How to view Instagram Stories anonymously in 3 different waysHow to change the Instagram icon on an iPhone or Android and customize the app's appearance on your home screen8 ways to troubleshoot Instagram if it's not working properlyHow to go live on Instagram and broadcast video in real time to your followersRead the original article on Business Insider

Abortion pill providers are fielding high-volume requests from Texans who want to safely terminate their pregnancies

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 6:00pm
  • More patients from Texas are asking abortion providers about a pill to end their pregnancy since the rollout of SB8.
  • SB8 is a restrictive abortion law that went into effect on September 1.
  • The law prohibits anyone from obtaining an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.

Telehealth and healthcare providers are seeing upticks in the number of Texans asking for medical abortion pills to end their pregnancies, suggesting Texans are desperate to find ways to skirt the restrictive SB8 law.

The law, which went into effect September 1, prohibits anyone from obtaining an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. That's a point at which most people do not yet know they are pregnant.

In response, Texans who need an abortion have been looking for alternative approaches to getting one, like traveling out of state.

At online abortion clinic Hey Jane, the number of patients from Texas calling in to get an abortion pill more than doubled from August to September, a timeframe that aligns with the law's rollout.

Mobile reproductive health clinic Just the Pill also saw a "slight uptick" in patients from Texas, Medical Director Julie Amaon told Insider.

"We have had a slight uptick in Texas patients, but we have not been able to see any of them here," Amaon said.

That's because most people are flocking to neighboring states like Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Just the Pill has options set up for people living in or willing to travel to Minnesota or Montana. The company has begun contacting clinics in states neighboring Texas to help people in the area get access to an abortion pill.

For immigrants and people who have commitments like work or children, traveling out of state to get an abortion is not a viable option.

Sometimes buying abortion pills is also not an option.

Abortion pills can cost hundreds of dollars. Just the Pill provides abortion care for $350 per patient, and the clinic does not accept insurance.

"It's a ton of money, and trying to get your funds together is one of the principal reasons for delaying getting an abortion," said Columbia University reproductive rights scholar Carol Sanger in an interview with Insider. "You have no one to lend it to you."

Reproductive companies are struggling to bring abortion access to Texans

Abortion provider Choix is working to set up telehealth opportunities in states bordering Texas.

"We want people to have as many options as possible for how and when they can get abortion care, especially given how overwhelmed many brick and mortar clinics are that surround Texas," Choix Co-Founder Cindy Adam told Insider.

Abortion-inducing medication is becoming an increasingly common way to end a pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization. But the medication is getting harder to obtain.

In September, Republican Governor Kristi Noem issued an order to restrict access to abortion medication in South Dakota. Under the order, an in-person examination is required before a state-licensed physician can dispense or prescribe an abortion pill to a patient. The medication is also blocked from being delivered or provided in schools and on state property.

In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott is doubling down and making pills harder to obtain. Starting December 2, a separate bill signed just weeks after SB8 went into effect will restrict abortion-inducing medication. Physicians will be allowed to provide abortion pills to people who are seven weeks into a pregnancy, down from 10 weeks.

The law will also prohibit physicians from mailing an abortion pill to Texans.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Understanding fiscal policy: The use of government spending and taxation to manage the economy

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 5:55pm
The Federal Reserve is not involved in determining fiscal policy decisions - that’s done by Congress and the Administration.
  • Fiscal policy describes how a government uses taxation and spending to influence the economy.
  • Fiscal policies can be neutral, expansionary, or contractionary depending on the goal.
  • Changing fiscal policy could affect interest rates, inflation, employment, and your investments.
  • Visit Insider's Investing Reference library for more stories.

Fiscal policy is how a government manages spending and taxation levels in ways intended to influence the economy. If US officials want to stimulate growth, they might increase spending or cut tax rates. Conversely, they might want to slow down an overheating economy with lower spending and higher taxes. In turn, these changes can have an impact on interest rates, employment, trade deficits, and inflation.

Current US fiscal policy has its roots in Keynesian economics - which makes a case for the proactive government response to crises and up-and-down business cycles. Fiscal policy may be intertwined with, but is separate from, monetary policy.

How does fiscal policy work?

Fiscal policies are always present, but changes in them may be driven by a specific situation or a broad agenda.

"You can have specialized fiscal policy, such as the response to COVID, where the federal government gets together and provides relief," says Kevin Flanagan, head of fixed income strategy at WisdomTree.

In responding to COVID, the government's emphasis was on increasing spending through relief programs, including direct stimulus payments and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Specialized fiscal policy responses also occurred during the Great Recession, such as the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The government's increased spending was driven, in part, by a desire to end the recession.

In the news: Changing fiscal policy isn't always easy, as demonstrated in the compromises and arguments over President Biden's infrastructure proposals.

Not all fiscal policy changes are made in response to a crisis. For example, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is an example of an agenda-driven fiscal policy. "One is reactive, and one is more in line with everyday government," explains Flanagan. "They're trying to determine policy going forward."

What are the 3 types of fiscal policy?

Fiscal policy is generally put into one of three categories, depending on its goal:

  • Neutral policy is when the government's fiscal policy isn't intended to influence the economy. Policies may still be enacted, but new expenditures may be completely balanced by increased revenue.
  • Expansionary policy is when the government increases spending or decreases taxes to stimulate growth. Expansionary policy may be an attempt to avoid or end a recession and prevent high unemployment.
  • Contractionary policy is when the government decreases spending or increases taxes to prevent unsustainable growth. Contractionary policy may be put in place to slow inflation, decrease government debt, and try to maintain a healthy unemployment rate.

Officials may take a neutral approach if there's a stable economy that they want to maintain. However, changing business cycles or a crisis may quickly lead to expansionary or contractionary policies.

Who determines fiscal policy in the US?

In the US, the executive and legislative branches have the most direct impact on fiscal policy.

"While the president requests a budget that outlines [their] priorities, Congress ultimately controls the government's purse strings and sets fiscal policy," explains Jason Blackwell, chief investment strategist at The Colony Group.

The judicial branch could also have an influence on fiscal policy if it finds spending or tax proposals are unconstitutional.

Fiscal policy vs. monetary policy

In the US, the Federal Reserve, or Fed, is an independent federal agency that sets the country's monetary policy.

While fiscal policy tends to be targeted, Blackwell says monetary policy is often a blunt tool that can influence consumers' and business' interest rates and borrowing. And while they're different and separate from each other, fiscal and monetary policy work in tandem at times.

Quick tip: Fiscal and monetary policy can have an impact on inflation. In turn, this can affect your purchasing power, a measure of how much you can buy with a unit of currency, such as one dollar.

"For example, in the last two recessions, the Federal Reserve lowered the lending cost for banks to incentivize them to make more loans to businesses, while Congress authorized cash infusions more directly to consumers and businesses," says Blackwell.

However, at other times, the government's fiscal and monetary policies may counteract each other. "If fiscal policy is being viewed as restrictive, perhaps the Fed would want to counter or offset that," says Flanagan.

How can fiscal policy affect investments

Fiscal policies may have direct and indirect impacts on your investments.

Consider, for example, a new tax rate that could leave you with more or less money to invest. And new rules about tax-advantaged accounts could require you to adjust your investment strategy.

For investors, the impact fiscal policy can have on the overall economy, interest rates, specific industries, and individual companies can be quite significant, says Blackwell.

Fiscal policy can also impact the overall economy, interest rates, specific industries, and individual companies. "For investors, the impact can be significant," says Blackwell.

He shares a hypothetical example related to the clean-energy industry to explain: "If the government allocates tax credits and prioritizes spending within the space, it can create risks for traditional energy companies and opportunities for new entrants."

Predicting fiscal policy might not be possible. But being aware of changes and their potential consequences is important.

The financial takeaway

Fiscal policy is the government's approach to spending and taxation. Both reactive and agenda-driven policies could affect your household's financial situation, as well as the overall economy.

"We tend to focus on fiscal policy during times of crisis," says Blackwell. "For example, the automaker bailouts in 2008 or the PPP-loans in 2020. Those are examples of the government targeting spending to specific sectors of the economy to smooth the economic recessions."

However, agenda-driven fiscal policy decisions may have a much longer time horizon. Whether it's a change to the tax code or a new infrastructure plan, the impact of fiscal policy could play out be felt for decades to come.

How to take advantage of low interest rates - the best financial moves for investors and borrowersWhat is hyperinflation? Understanding the rapid increase in the cost of goods and services over timeWhat is Modern Monetary Theory? Understanding the alternative economic theory that's becoming more mainstreamWhat to know about the main causes of inflationRead the original article on Business Insider

Fascinated tourists are coming to Savannah see the backlog of cargo ships, tourism boss says

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 5:41pm
In this June, 19, 2018 photo, several ship to shore cranes stack shipping containers on-board the container ship Maersk Semarang at the Port of Savannah in Savannah, Ga.
  • A Savannah tourism executive believes the backlog of cargo ships has increased tourism.
  • Joseph Marinelli, president of Visit Savannah, said people are fascinated as the ships pass by.
  • Savannah is the country's fourth-largest port and is dealing with packed shipping lanes due to supply-chain issues.

A Savannah tourism executive believes the backlog of cargo ships off the shore is drawing in fascinated tourists to the coastal city in Georgia.

Joseph Marinelli, president of Visit Savannah, told Insider that he's noticed visitors coming to Savannah specifically to see the backlog of cargo ships passing by the city on their way to the port.

"We're seeing visitation numbers grow with people that are interested in seeing, sort of, the parade of ships that are coming in and out of town," he said.

The country's fourth-largest port in Savannah has already seen record number of cargo ships move through its waters in recent months as shipping lanes are snarled across the world, including huge delays in California.

Marinelli said two or three months ago, he wouldn't have noticed any sort of impact that shipping had on the tourism industry.

Now, he said tools like smartphone apps that help fanatics keep an eye on ships' routes are luring in ship-watchers.

"It's almost like having a live IMAX theater right in front of you," Marinelli said. "Because these container ships, some of which are 1,000 feet long, are literally so close that you can almost feel like you can reach out and touch them."

He said that unlike other ports that may be closer or adjacent to the ocean, the Port of Savannah requires cargo ships to traverse the Savannah River, bringing the action closer to shore for passersby.

River traffic hasn't been an issue either lately, Marinelli said, due to close coordination between local river cruises and authorities, including the Georgia Ports Authority, to keep things running smoothly.

Marinelli said it's hard to put a dollar value on the increase in tourism because it's such a new phenomenon, but he's spoken with restaurant, hotel, and store owners who have all noticed an increase in patrons and revenue over the last few months.

Meanwhile, the port is going to go through a $600 million expansion to ease congestion, according to a New York Times report earlier this month.

The expansion will see the port have better accessibility for bigger cargo ships, more storage space for containers, and over a dozen new rail tracks for trains, the report said.

Grace Kay contributed to this report.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The Rule of 72 is a quick and simple formula to estimate when your investments will double

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 5:34pm
The Rule of 72 demonstrates how the magic of compounding helps investments to grow.
  • The Rule of 72 is a mathematical formula that estimates how long it'll take an investment to double in value or to lose half its value.
  • To calculate the Rule of 72, you divide the number 72 by the rate of return of an investment or account.
  • The Rule of 72 can only be used on investments earning compound interest; it's most effective on interest rates between 6% to 10%.
  • Visit Insider's Investing Reference library for more stories.

Learning where and how to invest is intimidating. So intimidating that many people don't make it to the next step of figuring out how to project the growth of their investments - even though that's pretty crucial to your making financial plans and setting goals.

What if you could plug some numbers into a simple formula and find out how long it would take for your investments to double?

That's exactly what the Rule of 72 does. Here's what you need to know about how it works and why it's a key tool to keep in your investing toolbox.

What is the Rule of 72?

The Rule of 72 is a mathematical principle that estimates the time it will take for an investment to double in value. The mention of math might make your jaw clench, but the Rule of 72 is actually a very basic formula that anyone can use.

Simply take the number 72 and divide it by the interest earned on your investments each year to get the number of years it will take for your investments to grow 100%. Or to drop by 50%.

However, you can only apply this rule to compounding growth or decay. In other words, you can only use it for investments that earn compound interest, not simple interest. With simple interest, you only earn interest on the principal amount you invest. Compound interest is "interest earned on interest": It accrues on accumulated interest, in addition to the principal.

Because interest is essentially being added into your principal, and used as the base for fresh interest calculations, compounding makes your investment grow exponentially. Meaning: As interest accrues and the quantity of money increases, the rate of growth becomes faster.

It doesn't have to be investment interest; anything that augments your principal creates "the magic of compounding." For example, if you reinvest the dividends you earn on your investments, your earnings are being compounded. Therefore, the Rule of 72 applies.

On the other hand, if you choose to withdraw your dividends rather than reinvest them, your earnings might not compound, and the Rule of 72 wouldn't work.

How to calculate the Rule of 72

To calculate the Rule of 72, all you have to do is divide the number 72 by the rate of return. You can use the formula below to calculate the doubling time in days, months, or years, depending on how the interest rate is expressed. For example, if you input the annualized interest rate, you'll get the number of years it will take for your investments to double.

You'll notice the formula uses the "approximately equals" symbol (≈) rather than the regular "equals" symbol (=). That's because this formula offers an estimate rather than an exact amount, and it's most accurate when used on investments that earn a typical rate of 6% to 10%.

While usually used to estimate the doubling time on a growing investment, the Rule of 72 can also be used to estimate halving time on something that's depreciating.

For example, you can use the Rule of 72 to estimate how many years it will take for a currency's buying power to be cut in half due to inflation, or how many years it will take for the total value of a universal life insurance policy to decline by 50%. The formula works exactly the same either way - simply plug in the inflation rate instead of the rate of return, and you'll get an estimate for how many years it will take for the initial amount to lose half its value.

Rule of 72 example

Let's say you invest $1,000 at a 9.2% annual rate of return, which is the average stock market return for the last 10 years. To calculate the doubling time using the Rule of 72, you'd input the numbers into the formula as follows:

72 / 9.2 ≈ 7.8

This means that your initial $1,000 investment will be worth $2,000 in about 7.8 years, assuming your earnings are compounding. If you instead invest $10,000, you'll have $20,000 in just under eight years. This also means that $20,000 will double again in another eight years, assuming the same rate of growth - in other words, you'll have $40,000 in less than 16 years.

All of this is also assuming you're not adding to your initial investment over time, which makes the fact that your money is doubled in less than a decade all the more impressive.

Alternatives to the Rule of 72

The number 72 is a good estimator in most situations and, thanks to it being an easily divisible number, it makes for simple math. It's best for interest rates, or rates of return, between 6% to 10%. Most investment accounts, including retirement accounts, brokerage accounts, index funds, and mutual funds fall into this range of return.

But with a different range, you might want to fiddle a bit - same formula, but different numbers to divide by. An easy rule of thumb is to add or subtract "1" from 72 for every three points the interest rate diverges from 8% (the middle of the Rule of 72's ideal range).

At really high interest rates, for example, using the number 78 will give more accurate results. On the other hand, 69 or 70 are more accurate for lower interest rates and interest that compounds daily. Daily compounding is rare in investing and mostly happens with savings products such as high-yield savings accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs).

The financial takeaway

The Rule of 72 offers a quick and easy way for investors to project the growth of their investments. By showing how quickly you can double your money with minimal effort, this rule beautifully demonstrates the magic of compounding for building wealth.

How to invest using dollar-cost averagingStart investing in mutual funds in 4 stepsWhat is ROI? This simple metric can offer greater insight into the profitability of the assets in your portfolioInvesting for income: 7 money-generating assets for your portfolio and how to get startedRead the original article on Business Insider

24 great gifts for the fitness lovers in your life

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 5:22pm

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

Everyone has a fitness goal they're trying to meet, whether it's to build muscle, train to run a marathon, or increase their flexibility. No matter those goals or workout preferences, we've got a gift that'll help them get there.

Maybe they need a new set of resistance bands that'll help boost their workouts, or perhaps gifting them a long-sleeve workout shirt will keep them motivated throughout winter - there are plenty of gift ideas that work within your budget and their fitness level.

Since everyone's fitness experience looks different from the next, we made our best effort to include a wide variety of apparel, gear, and equipment that can accommodate any and all fitness goals. Below are 24 of the best fitness gifts

Here are 24 gift ideas for the fitness enthusiast A resistance band set

TB12 At-Home Looped Band Kit, $95, available at TB12

The TB12 At-Home Looped Band Kit is known for its versatility, which is why Insider Reviews has deemed it the best resistance band set for multiple exercises. With a selection of both long and short looped bands, an included carabiner, and a door anchor, this kit is well-equipped for all the variety that comes with your fitness routine. 

Running gear fit for cold weather

Janji Thermal Zephyr Runner Jacket, from $188

The cold, wet weather of fall and winter doesn't mean running outside is put on the back burner for a few months — it just means being better prepared.

Janji's Thermal Zephyr Runner Jacket is the perfect addition to any runner's cold temperature apparel closet; it's comfortable, lightweight, and comes in a bright, vibrant color that greatly increases visibility. This is the winter running coat they'll wish they always had. 

Training shoes fit for at-home workouts

Under Armour Men's and Women's UA Project Rock 3 Training Shoes, $140, available at Under Armour

These training shoes are an excellent option for at-home workouts, complete with a compression mesh Energy Web that's designed to give back the energy that they'll exert throughout the workout. This pair is also included in the Project Rock collection, so it comes with a stamp of approval from Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson himself.

A new pair of running shoes

On Cloudstratus running shoes, from $169.99

No matter if they're training for a 5k or have their sights set on a full marathon, the Cloudstratus running shoes from On can help them get there. The Cloudstratus features horizontal and vertical cushioning, ample foot support, and a wide-fit design, making it a great shoe for runners of all types.

A grid-textured foam roller

TriggerPoint Foam Roller, $34.95, available at Amazon

The TriggerPoint Foam Roller is an excellent gift for those who'll need to massage out knots or trigger points with several different surfaces during recovery. This foam roller is made of ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), which absorbs impact, is resistant to water and other elements, and is also easy to clean.

An elliptical machine they can use at their desk

Cubii Pro Seated Under-Desk Elliptical, $349, available at Amazon

This little elliptical machine easily tucks under a desk so even the busiest among us can remain active from home. From personal experience, it's really quiet and actually kind of fun. It also syncs with Apple and Android phones, Apple Health, and Fitbit to track ongoing performance.

Grippy socks perfect for pilates or barre

Gaiam Grippy Yoga Socks, from $9.98, available at Amazon

These socks have durable grips along the bottom for stability during pilates or lounging around the apartment. They're especially great for the transition between working from home and working out from home. 

A mini massage gun

Theragun Mini, $199, available at Amazon

For quick pre- and post-workout muscle relief, the Theragun Mini is a handy, easy-to-use option that provides quite the punch in such a little package. This is Theragun's most affordable model, so it's a great starting point for anyone looking for their first massage gun.

Delicious and lean nutrition powder

Huel Black Edition, from $75, available at Huel

If they're not switching up their diet along with their workout regimen, all that cardio and weightlifting might just be going to waste. Encourage them to eat healthier with a single purchase or membership to Huel for delicious powder, which they can add to smoothies, harvest bowls, chia bowls, and more.

A machine-washable yoga mat

Yogi Bare Teddy Yoga Mat, $69.95, available at Amazon

The Teddy Yoga Mat is our favorite washable yoga mat, and the machine-washable aspect is a true game-changer. In addition to easy cleaning, the Teddy is quite grippy, provides a soft surface for landing, and has a natural rubber bottom to avoid mid-workout slips.

A relaxed fit workout shirt

Saxx Aerator Workout Shirt, $50, available at Saxx

The Aerator is built for both high and low-intensity workouts, and its relaxed fit allows for a full range of motion regardless of their fitness routine. Plus, as the cold weather approaches, they can never have too many long sleeve workout shirts.

A colorful water bottle

Purist Maker Vacuum Water Bottle with Element Top, $40, available at REI

This insulated water bottle keeps their drink hot for up to 12 hours and cool for up to 24 hours while they work up a sweat, and the leakproof design means there are no stains or spills in their future. 

Wireless headphones

Jabra Elite Active 75t True Wireless In-Ear Headphones, $179.99, available at Best Buy

This pair of wireless earbuds are noise-canceling, water- and sweatproof, and are able to hold a 28-hour charge. Whether for working out or simply listening to music on the go, they'll appreciate this addition to their day-to-day.

A sweat-wicking headband

Treadbands All Terrain Headband, $17.99, available at Amazon

No one really thinks about fitness headbands — that is, until their hair starts getting into their eyes and mouth as they're doing burpees. This non-slip style from Treadbands is an easy way to combat that annoyance, and it comes in a variety of lovely pastel and neutral colors.

Our best overall biker shorts

Athleta Ultimate Stash Pocket Short, $59, available at Athleta

The versatility of Athleta's Ultimate Stash Pocket bike short is what landed it the best overall slot in our buying guide, and they're just as reliable while spinning or biking as they are while running or training. These shorts are highly comfortable and come with a few thoughtful features that make it one of our go-tos for breaking a sweat.

Versatile workout shorts

Ten Thousand Workout Shorts, from $58, available at Ten Thousand

Ten Thousand describes its workout shorts as "the only training shorts you'll ever need," and we agree. Ten Thousand's fitness gear has been put to the test by various athletes and exercises worldwide, so you can be confident your gift will be durable and long-lasting. 

An upgraded jump rope

Crossrope Get Lean Set, $99, available at Crossrope

The Crossrope Get Lean Set elevates the average jump rope by including weighted ropes and ergonomic handles. Crossrope also has a companion app full of workout guidance, so it's an especially useful gift if they're looking to switch up their workout routine.

A smartwatch

Polar Ignite fitness watch, from $229.95

A fitness watch is an excellent investment they'll appreciate for years, and Polar's Ignite is a great full-featured watch that'll support them however they like to keep active.

It offers heart rate monitoring and integrated GPS, is water-resistant up to 30 meters, and even recommends daily workouts. The fact it's comfortable and lightweight makes it the perfect workout companion, too. 

A health and fitness app subscription

Centr App Subscription, from $10 per month, available at Centr

Centr was designed to be a one-stop-shop health and fitness app that's made for nutrition, training, and overall lifestyle. They'll be able to find meal prep and training materials from real coaches and dieticians right at their fingertips.

And lest we forget, this workout app and fitness plan come courtesy of Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor), so you know it's expert-approved. 

A shaker bottle for easy protein drinks

BlenderBottle Radian Insulated Stainless Steel Shaker Bottle, from $19.98, available at Amazon

If they make a protein shake after working out, they need a shaker bottle like this in their workout kit. The stainless steel whisk is great for mixing smooth drinks, and the copper shade is a style upgrade from the plastic one they've been using for years. 

Their own boxing gloves so they can stop renting sweaty ones at the gym

Sanabul Boxing Gloves, from $21.48, available at Amazon

Sorry, but using boxing gloves that many, many other people have used before isn't hygienic at all. Get your favorite boxer their own pair of gloves and choose from eight different colors for the one that matches their personal style best. If they're looking to track their punches, we also recommend Hykso Wearable Punch Trackers.

A cult-favorite heavy bag

Everlast 40 lb. Heavy Bag, $54.99, available at Dick's Sporting Goods

Everlast has a legacy in the fitness world for a reason, and its Heavy Bag lives up to the hype. The 40 lb. version is fit for lighter, more cardio-intensive workouts.

Additive-free protein powder

Naked Whey Protein Powder, from $21.99, available at Amazon

Insider Reviews chose Naked Whey as the best additive-free protein powder, most notably because whey protein is the only ingredient in the formula. If they're looking for grass-fed, additive-free protein powder, they're likely not going to find anything more "naked" than this.

Exercise resistance bands for arms

P.volve Exercise Bands, $29.99, available at Amazon

These resistance bands are great for at-home or on-the-go toning workouts. They're lightweight so they'll travel well, and because the stretchy bands are attached to fingerless gloves, they won't dig into your skin like with the traditional ones that look more like giant rubber bands.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Deputy US Treasury secretary says Taliban will not have access to Afghan central bank reserves, which are mostly in the US

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 5:21pm
  • The US Treasury is holding firm on its freeze of Afghan central bank reserves, according to Reuters.
  • Since August, the Taliban have tried to access close to $9.5 billion in assets located abroad.
  • Deputy US Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said that sanctions and humanitarian aid would continue.

Wally Adeyemo, the Deputy US Treasury Secretary, said on Tuesday that there is no situation where the Taliban would have access to Afghan central bank reserves, which are largely stored in the US, according to Reuters.

"We believe that it's essential that we maintain our sanctions against the Taliban but at the same time find ways for legitimate humanitarian assistance to get to the Afghan people. That's exactly what we're doing," Adeyemo told the Senate Banking Committee, according to the report.

Reuters reported that the Taliban had asked for the US to allow access to the central bank's $9 billion in assets outside of Afghanistan after the US froze the assets in August, as the Taliban took over the country and now are facing an imploding economic crisis.

The Taliban has been unable to get its hands on the Afghan central bank's almost $10 billion in reserves, Insider previously reported.

"Our goal is to make sure that we are implementing our sanctions regime against the Taliban and the Haqqani network, but at the same time allowing for the permissible flow of humanitarian assistance into the country," Adeyemo said.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Kyrsten Sinema is torpedoing Democrats' plans to roll back the Trump tax law, forcing a last-ditch scramble for alternatives

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 5:20pm
Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.
  • Sinema's opposition to rolling back swaths of the Trump tax law is prompting a scramble for alternatives among Democrats.
  • Other options include stepping up IRS enforcement and tightening international tax rules.
  • Democrats have little room for error and its unclear which tax proposals could get Sinema's support.

Opposition from Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to lifting tax rates on individuals and large businesses is derailing Democrats' plans to roll back President Donald Trump's tax law, setting off a last-ditch effort to seek alternatives that can lock in the centrist Democrat's support.

A Senate Democratic aide familiar with the discussions told Insider that other options were still on the table, including stepping up IRS tax enforcement and tightening international tax rules. The Wall Street Journal first reported the story.

Insider reported last week that Sinema was opposed to bumping up tax rates on large firms and wealthy individuals, dealing a major setback to a centerpiece of the Democratic agenda: rolling back the 2017 GOP tax law.

Democrats argued for years that the law provided outsized financial benefits for the rich and helped accelerate inequality. Sinema's opposition to both individual and corporate rate increases strips over $700 billion in new revenue for their nascent safety net plan.

President Joe Biden initially sought to raise the corporate tax rate to 28% from 21% and lift the top individual income tax rate to 39.6% from 37%. For his part, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, another key vote in the 50-50 Senate, has signaled he'd accept a 25% corporate tax rate.

Still, that leaves the party with few alternatives that can garner support from every Senate Democrat as they try to mold Biden's economic plans into law over staunch Republican opposition. They have three votes to spare in the House and none in the Senate.

Some Democrats are starting to express frustration with the tumultuous negotiations on the safety net bill. "We didn't have a new tax plan every half hour," Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, told reporters on Wednesday. "We laid out a plan that was fully paid for, and we set our priorities."

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, chair of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, has said for weeks that Democrats can draw from an extensive menu of revenue-raisers to pay for their ambitious plans to expand healthcare and education, as well as mitigating the climate emergency.

Wyden's proposals include what he calls a billionaires' income tax, modeled on an earlier proposal he unveiled in 2019 to tax the accumulated wealth of the richest Americans. The plan hasn't been released yet and it's unclear how much revenue it could raise. Other possible alternatives include levies on large firms that issue stock buybacks to shareholders.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The 5 best mattresses for back pain we tested in 2021

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 5:20pm
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

According to the Health Policy Institute, eight percent of all adult Americans suffer from chronic back pain, and four times as many have experienced a recent back pain episode. If you suffer from back pain, keeping your spine properly aligned and supported while sleeping is a must.

While our guide to the best mattresses offers suggestions for all types of sleepers, back-pain sufferers are such a significant proportion of the population that we wanted to dedicate a buying guide to their needs.

Typically, a mattress that feels medium-firm is best if you have back pain. A mattress will feel different depending on what you're used to, so we offer a range of firmness options among the picks in our guide.

For this guide, I tested over 25 mattresses and consulted with three experts: Tamara Huff, MD, a Georgia-based, board-certified orthopedic surgeon and health disparities advocate; Amit Jain, MD, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and chief of minimally invasive spinal surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital; and Craig Iseli, DPT, owner of Oregon-based Limitless Physical Therapy, where I received help managing my back pain.

Here are the best mattresses for back pain of 2021 The best mattress for back pain overall

The Leesa Hybrid Mattress has great edge support and motion isolation. The mix of memory foam and pocket springs leads to an average firmness that makes it an outstanding solution for back pain sufferers of any sleeping style.

  • Best for: All sleeping styles
  • Available sizes: twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king
  • Mattress type: Hybrid; pocket coils and four foam layers
  • Firmness (1 softest to 10 firmest): 5
  • Motion isolation (1 awful to 10 best): 7
  • Heat dissipation (1 traps heat to 10 stays cool): 7
  • Edge support (1 awful to 10 best): 7
  • Trial period/warranty: 100 nights; 10 years
  • Weight/thickness: 115 pounds; 11 inches
  • Shipping and returns: Free shipping, free returns
  • White-glove delivery and mattress removal: Yes, $150
  • Showroom availability: Yes, nationwide

Pros: Great motion dampening and edge support, pocket springs and foam balance heat dissipation and support, the average firmness is ideal for an array of sleepers, 

Cons: Hard to move, heavy

There are several reasons why I made the Leesa Hybrid Mattress our top pick for back pain sufferers. During the year I slept on the mattress, I had the least back pain since my initial injury. This was despite exercising heavily and playing roller derby every week.

The Leesa Hybrid is also great because it has an average firmness that will appeal to the broadest range of sleeping styles and body types. When sleeping on the Leesa, I preferred sleeping on my side, and it shaped to my contours, which kept my spine aligned.

The Leesa Hybrid is made of a combination of CertiPUR-US certified foam and pocket springs. The top layer is a cooling foam. Below that is a contouring memory foam for targeted support and comfort. The next foam layer, the pocket coils, and the base foam layer add durability and support. The cover is made of a soft, cooling material that kept my body cool.

The mattress was heavy and hard to move, especially since I tested the king size. This made for a slower-than-normal setup. I recommend having a friend help you unbox the Leesa Hybrid to avoid aggravating your back. On the plus side, the mattress was virtually odor-free out of the box.

In addition to adding durability to the mattress, the 1,000+ pocket coils offered outstanding edge support, which was helpful when my wife tried to annex my side of the bed. The motion isolation was also excellent as the mattress passed my bowling ball test with flying colors. These results and my subjective experience suggest the Leesa Hybrid is a great solution for couples.

Read our full Leesa Hybrid Mattress review

Best budget mattress for back pain

While not bargain-basement cheap, the couples-friendly Helix Midnight Mattress is one of the most affordable mattresses we tested, and it doesn't compromise on comfort or quality.

  • Best for: Stomach and back sleepers
  • Available sizes: Twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king
  • Mattress type: Hybrid; individually wrapped coils and three foam layers
  • Firmness (1 softest to 10 firmest): 6
  • Motion isolation (1 awful to 10 best): 7
  • Heat dissipation (1 traps heat to 10 stays cool): 3
  • Edge support (1 awful to 10 best): 9
  • Trial period/warranty: 100 nights; 10 years
  • Weight/thickness: 95 pounds; 12 inches
  • Shipping and returns: Free shipping, free returns
  • White-glove delivery and mattress removal: No white-glove delivery due to pandemic
  • Showroom availability: Yes, nationwide

Pros: Exceptional edge support, good motion isolation, easy to maneuver, great for back and stomach sleepers, CertiPUR-US and OEKO-Tex certified

Cons: Poor heat dissipation, strong initial odor, may not be comfortable for side sleepers

The cheapest mattress we considered for this guide, the Bear Original, costs $995, and we recommend it. But even if you're on a budget, we think you should spend $100 more to get the Helix Midnight Mattress, especially if you share a bed.

The Helix Midnight has the medium-firm feel that our experts recommend for back-pain sufferers. As someone who prefers a softer mattress for side sleeping, I gravitated to my stomach while testing the Midnight. That suggests it's better for stomach and back sleepers or heavier individuals. 

While testing the Helix Midnight, I was recovering from a back-pain episode, and I found it did a great job of nurturing the healing process.

The Helix Midnight is made in the US of CertiPUR-US and OEKO-Tex certified materials. The top layer is cushioning memory foam, followed by two layers of supportive foam. The base consists of individually wrapped pocket coils that help with motion isolation, support, and durability. The soft cover is designed for airflow, but I found the Helix was one of the worst at dissipating heat.

Setup was quick and effortless, taking less than five minutes. However, the Helix Midnight had a strong initial odor that took more than a day to dissipate. The mattress is in the middle of the pack weight-wise, but it didn't flop around, making it easy to move. 

This is also an outstanding bed for couples because of its great motion isolation. The Helix Midnight passed my bowling ball test, and I could barely feel it as my second-grader bounded onto the bed. And the edge support may be the best of any mattress I've tested. I didn't sink much when sitting on the side of the bed, and I was on the very edge before I rolled off while lying down. 

Best foam mattress for back pain

If you're a side sleeper who enjoys the feel of memory foam, the Nectar Memory Foam Mattress, with its excellent heat dissipation and long trial period, is your best bet.

  • Best for: Side sleepers
  • Available sizes: Twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king
  • Mattress type: Memory foam; three layers
  • Firmness (1 softest to 10 firmest): 4
  • Motion isolation (1 awful to 10 best): 8
  • Heat dissipation (1 traps heat to 10 stays cool): 7
  • Edge support (1 awful to 10 best): 2
  • Trial period/warranty: 365 nights; forever
  • Weight/thickness: 74 pounds; 11 inches
  • Shipping and returns: Free shipping, free returns
  • White-glove delivery and mattress removal: Yes, for $149
  • Showroom availability: Yes, nationwide

Pros: Great heat dissipation, soft feel perfect for side sleepers, light weight, impressive motion isolation, 365-night sleep trial, forever warranty 

Cons: Sinks on the edges, not good for most stomach and back sleepers or heavier individuals

In addition to performing much better than the other foam mattresses I considered for this guide, the Nectar Memory Foam Mattress is unique because of its 365-night home trial and forever warranty. You can try it for an entire year and return it for a full refund if you don't like it. 

The Nectar mattress will appeal most to side sleepers thanks to its softer-than-average feel. For that reason, I wouldn't recommend it for back-pain sufferers who sleep on their backs or stomachs or who are heavier. As a side sleeper, the mattress did not aggravate my lower back, and I remained free of pain throughout testing. 

The Nectar features a cooling mattress cover made of a Tencel-poly blend. The mattress is composed of three layers of CertiPUR-US certified foams: a top layer of gel memory foam, an adaptive-response transition layer to help relieve pressure points, and a base layer of supportive foam. 

Foam mattresses tend to trap heat, but that wasn't a problem with the Nectar. Even in a hot room, I didn't overheat while lying in one spot. When I got up, the heat dissipated quickly. 

Setting up and moving the mattress around was effortless thanks to its light weight. The Nectar came with two pillows, but I didn't find them particularly comfortable. There was an initial odor from the mattress that disappeared by bedtime. 

Couples will appreciate the excellent motion isolation, which passed my bowling ball test. However, the mattress fell short in the edge support department. The foam sank noticeably on the side whether I was sitting or lying down.

Best adjustable bed for back pain

If you and your partner can't agree on a mattress firmness, the Sleep Number 360 i8 Smart Bed allows you to customize each side to your perfect firmness, and the bed automatically makes adjustments based on your body's position.

  • Best for: All sleeping styles
  • Available sizes: Twin long, full, queen, king, split king, flextop king, California king, split California king, flextop California king
  • Mattress type: Adjustable air
  • Firmness (1 softest to 10 firmest): 20 firmness levels
  • Motion isolation (1 awful to 10 best): 3
  • Heat dissipation (1 traps heat to 10 stays cool): 3
  • Edge support (1 awful to 10 best): 6
  • Trial period/warranty: 100 nights; 15 years
  • Weight/thickness: 80 pounds; 12 inches
  • Shipping and returns: Free shipping but return shipping fees apply
  • White-glove delivery and mattress removal: Free with purchase of mattress and base
  • Showroom availability: Yes, nationwide

Pros: Above average edge support, built-in sleep tracker, 20 firmness options for each side of the bed, adjusts based on sleeping position, white-glove delivery included 

Cons: Sleeps hot, poor motion isolation, tough to move 

What do you do when you and your partner have different comfort preferences? Adjustable air beds offer custom firmness on each side. The best we've tested for back pain is the Sleep Number 360 i8 Smart Bed.

The i8 has 20 firmness options. You can adjust each side of the bed to get the ideal medium-firm feel that experts recommend to reduce back pain. Additionally, there's an "automatic air" function that adjusts the firmness as you shift positions to provide consistent support and pressure relief around your hips and shoulders. I found this feature alleviated my back pain and facilitated undisturbed sleep. 

Another perk that will please back-pain sufferers is the included white-glove delivery. Sleep Number delivery people completed the whole setup and removed the packaging. They will also recycle your old mattress, so you don't need to do any heavy lifting. However, moving the bed on your own requires significant effort since the mattress is attached to the bed frame.

While the i8 has good edge support, its motion isolation is subpar. My wife said the mattress felt almost like a waterbed because it jostled her so much when I flopped down. Still, she likes the Sleep Number enough to use it as her regular bed while I continue to test new mattresses.

Lastly, I was initially unimpressed with the sleep tracker, which Sleep Number hypes as the main selling point of this expensive mattress. However, the accuracy and quality of the SleepIQ app (available for iOS and Android) have improved dramatically over the last six months.

Best mattress for hot sleepers with back pain

If you tend to overheat at night, consider the Bear Hybrid Mattress with its cooling Celliant cover.

  • Best for: Side sleepers and hot sleepers
  • Available sizes: Twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king
  • Mattress type: Hybrid; pocket coils and three foam layers
  • Firmness (1 softest to 10 firmest): 5
  • Motion isolation (1 awful to 10 best): 4
  • Heat dissipation (1 traps heat to 10 stays cool): 9
  • Edge support (1 awful to 10 best): 5
  • Trial period/warranty: 100 nights; 20 years
  • Weight/thickness: 110 pounds; 14 inches
  • Shipping and returns: Free shipping, free returns
  • White-glove delivery and mattress removal: Yes, $100 for white-glove plus $50 for mattress removal
  • Showroom availability: 6 locations

Pros: Stays cool, excellent heat dissipation, great for side sleepers, made of CertiPUR-US and Greenguard Gold certified materials, easy to move

Cons: May not suit stomach or back sleepers or heavy individuals, below-average motion isolation

Bear designs its mattresses for athletes who are looking for a bed that will help them stay cool and recover from grueling workouts. I fancy myself a hot-sleeping athlete and found the Bear Hybrid provided cooling recovery. 

Bear mattresses feature Celliant covers. Celliant is supposed to help with heat dissipation, but I haven't found any scientific studies on mattresses that support this. Yet, in my experience testing mattresses, toppers, and sheets with Celliant, the material does run cooler than non-Celliant options. My objective tests with the Bear Hybrid showed it stayed cool and quickly dissipated heat when I got up from it. 

The Bear Hybrid has an average firmness, which catered to my side-sleeping preference. I was recovering from lower back pain when testing this mattress, and it was just what I needed. There were no follow-up pain episodes, and my back felt strong again after the testing period.

The Bear Hybrid features a combination of coils and CertiPUR-US and Greenguard Gold certified foams. The top foam layer is infused with a cooling gel. Below that is a comfort foam followed by a transition foam for pressure relief. Below the durable coils is a supportive foam base. All of these layers make for a thick, heavy mattress, but setting it up and moving it around was surprisingly easy since it tended not to flop around.

Lastly, the Bear Hybrid was in the middle of the pack in our motion isolation and edge support tests. It failed the bowling ball test, and I could feel movement on the bed while I lay on it, but it wasn't extreme. Lying on the edge, I had to roll quite far before I fell off. However, the edge sank substantially when I sat on it. By those assessments, this is an adequate but not amazing mattress for couples.

What else we tested

I test a new mattress every two weeks. While I've tested dozens of models, I only considered 12 candidates for potential inclusion in this guide. Here are the beds we still recommend but that didn't make the cut.

What else we recommend and why:

Under $1,100

Casper Original Mattress: The medium-firm feel of the Casper Original will appeal to a broad range of back-pain sufferers, especially hot sleepers since it has impressive heat dissipation. It was easy to set up and move around in our tests and features impressive motion isolation. However, the edge support was poor. Read our full review.

Bear Mattress: If you're interested in checking out the cooling properties of Celliant fibers and want a firmer mattress, you might consider the medium-firm Bear Original. It's made of CertiPUR-US and Greenguard Gold certified foams, including a graphite gel memory foam that I found did a great job of cooling. However, it failed my motion isolation tests, and it wasn't comfortable for side sleeping. 

Under $2,000:

Birch Mattress by Helix: This latex hybrid is the most eco-friendly option we considered for this guide, and I love the pressure relief and ease of movement that latex mattresses provide. The medium-firm feel will appeal to back and stomach sleepers. You can also add the plush latex topper for $450 for a softer feel that I preferred when sleeping on my side. This mattress also has impressive motion isolation and edge support, making it ideal for couples. Unfortunately, it wasn't tops in any category, so we didn't include it in our guide.

Puffy Lux Hybrid Mattress: I slept on the Puffy Lux while recovering from a back-pain spell, and I think it did a great job of facilitating my recovery. I also like that this mattress comes with a lifetime warranty, is easy to move around, and has great motion isolation. On the downside, it had a strong initial odor that took days to dissipate, the edge support is poor, and it will be too soft for many back pain sufferers.

Over $2,000

Purple Hybrid Mattress: Purple mattresses are unique because they feature a gel grid layer that immediately conforms to the contours of your body to offer targeted support and comfort. I've tested all of the Purple mattresses, and this is the firmest, yet I still found it comfortable while lying on my side. I was also impressed with the edge support. However, the motion isolation was so-so, and it's a heavy mattress that you won't want to move around once it's set up.

Purple Hybrid Premier 4 Mattress: The Purple 4 is identical to the Purple Hybrid above, except the gel grid layer is 4 inches thick instead of 2. This makes for a softer and heavier mattress. I preferred the softness for my side sleeping, but it's unlikely to appeal to back pain sufferers who sleep on their stomach or back. With its impressive motion isolation and edge support, it will serve couples well.

Casper Wave Hybrid: In general, I don't recommend the Casper Wave Hybrid. The priciest option in Casper's product line is also the worst, in my opinion. But while testing this, I worked out excessively, which usually causes my back pain to flare up. Yet, I felt great each morning waking up on the Wave Hybrid. Other than that, the edge support is awful, it's a pain to move, and the motion isolation is subpar. Read our full review.

Check out our guide to the best mattresses for a complete listing of the mattresses we've tested.

How we test mattresses

All of the mattresses in this guide were tested by me. I put the beds through several objective tests and slept on them for at least 14 nights. Unless otherwise noted, I tried each model's queen size. 

For reference, I mostly sleep on my side, with some stomach and back time. I am 6 feet tall, 215 pounds, and tend to sleep hot. Plus, I have chronic lower back pain. 

When shopping for a mattress for back pain, the most important factors to consider are comfort, motion isolation, and the home trial policy.

Test results for the main attributes we tested:

AttributeLeesa HybridHelix MidnightNectarSleep Number 360 i8 Smart BedBear HybridFirmness (1 softest to 10 firmest)56420 levels5Motion Isolation (1 awful to 10 best)74834Edge Support (1 awful to 10 best)79265Heat Dissipation (1 traps heat to 10 stays cool)73739Trial Period100 nights100 nights365 nights100 nights100 nightsWarranty10 years10 yearsForever15 years20 years

Here are the main attributes we look for and how we test them:

Comfort: Based on my years of experience testing dozens of mattresses, I subjectively assess how supportive the bed feels, how hot it sleeps, the firmness, and how my back feels in the morning. 

Heat dissipation: I rely on objective laser thermometer measurements. I take readings before lying down, immediately after spending at least an hour on the bed, and two minutes after getting up.

Motion isolation: Excellent motion dampening is a must if you are a light sleeper and share the bed with someone who moves around at night. To test motion isolation, I drop a bowling ball from 4 feet above the mattress so it lands 12 inches from a can of soda pop. If the can falls over consistently, the mattress has poor motion isolation. If the can stays upright, the mattress passes the test and has good motion isolation.

via GIPHY

Trial and warranty: The only way to know for sure if a mattress is going to be comfortable for your back is to sleep on it for an extended period. I looked at the trial periods for each mattress and read the fine print of the return policy to see if there are any loopholes or hidden fees. All of the mattresses in our guide have trial periods of 100 nights, except the Nectar, which is 365 nights. A long warranty is also important. Each of our picks has a warranty of at least 10 years.

Edge support: To test edge support, I lie on the edge and slowly roll off. If my body reaches a roughly 45-degree angle to the mattress before I fall off, then it has good edge support. Additionally, I sit on the side and put my socks and shoes on. I note how much the mattress sinks. Significant sinkage is a sign of poor edge support.

Portability: I look at how easy moving and rotating the mattress is, an important task for ensuring your bed lasts. To test portability, I move the mattress several times from room to room and note how much it flops around, if it has handles, and how heavy it feels.

Setup: While I recommend that you get help, I set up each mattress on my own and timed how long it took. I noted unique aspects of the experience that made it harder or easier. I also sniffed for a "new bed smell." Then, when I went to bed at least 10 hours later, I assessed whether or not the odor dissipated. Lastly, I looked for in-home setup availability or white-glove delivery and its cost.

What we look forward to testing

As mentioned above, I test a new mattress every two weeks so that our picks reflect the best options available for back-pain sufferers. Here are some promising candidates that I plan on testing in the near future:

Parachute Eco Comfort Mattress: Parachute makes the top pick in our best mattress topper guide. The Eco Comfort mattress is unique because it doesn't have any foam. It's made of eco-friendly wool, cotton, and tempered steel. The bed has zoned support to keep your back aligned while offering pressure relief at the head and feet. 

Tempur-Pedic Adapt Mattress: The Tempur-Adapt mattress is one of Tempur-Pedic's most popular models. I've tested two other Tempur-Pedic models and appreciate the company's patented memory foam. I'd like to see how this treats my back.

Helix Midnight Luxe: This is a jazzed-up version of our budget pick. Special features include a breathable Tencel cover, zoned lumbar support, and a quilted pillow top. I think this could be stiff competition for our top overall pick.

FAQs about mattresses for back pain What firmness is best for back pain?

Both of the orthopedic doctors we talked to said that medium-firm mattresses are best for back pain. Amit Jain, MD, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and chief of minimally invasive spinal surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, pointed to a 2015 study that also found medium-firm mattresses led to better sleep quality for people with or without back pain.

However, according to Tamara Huff, MD, a Georgia-based board-certified orthopedic surgeon and health disparities advocate, the classification "medium-firm" is hard to pin down since there's no standardized way to assess mattress firmness. "When you look over the studies, no one can agree on what a medium-firm mattress is. So, in general, we just recommend you not go for the firmest mattress," she said.

Huff recommends choosing a mattress that feels medium-firm to you based on what you're used to. If you are used to an incredibly soft mattress, then a mattress that is just slightly softer than average might be your "medium-firm."

Craig Iseli, DPT, owner of Oregon-based Limitless Physical Therapy, urges back pain sufferers to consult with a health care professional for advice on their specific situation. However, he said that if you find bending forward five to 10 times improves your back pain, you may benefit from a softer mattress that lets you flex your spine while sleeping on your back or side.

If bending backward reduces pain, Iseli recommends avoiding sitting when possible and using a firm mattress while sleeping on your stomach or semi-prone (lying half on your side and half on your stomach).

What should people with back pain look for in a mattress?

Recognizing the subjective comfort experience of mattresses, Huff stressed the importance of finding a mattress that comes with a long, risk-free sleep trial. She was a fan of adjustable air beds as well as Tempur-Pedic foam mattresses because of the custom feel both can provide. 

In addition to warning against very soft or very hard mattresses, Jain recommended thicker mattresses and ensuring you purchase the appropriate base for your mattress. Jain also stressed the importance of reading reviews before you buy.

What sleep position is best for back pain sufferers?

"Sleeping on your side with pillows between your knees is very effective for back pain reduction," said Jain. As a side sleeper with back pain, I rely on the Coop Home Goods Memory Foam Body Pillow to help keep my back aligned. It's the top pick in our guide to the best body pillows.

Huff also said that a pillow between the legs is helpful for side sleepers. She added that it can reduce the chance of hip pain. She suggests lying on your stomach to take pressure off the spine as well.

Lastly, Huff emphasized the importance of taking time during your waking hours to improve your back health. "Doing core exercises — not just exercises for your back — and also working on your muscles in what we call the pelvic girdle, around your hip and pelvis, can really help support your back more and help with your overall back pain," Huff said. 

For exercises that can improve your back health, she recommends visiting OrthoInfo.org, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website.

How socially responsible are the mattress manufacturers?

In the interest of helping consumers learn more about the companies their dollars support, I researched the corporate social responsibility (CSR) of the mattress manufacturers found in this guide.

Here's what I found:

  • Bear: Bear uses CertiPUR-US and Greenguard Gold certified foams in its products.
  • Casper: The company uses CertiPUR-US certified foams.
  • Helix: Helix's products are made in the US of CertiPUR-US and OEKO-TEX Standard 100 certified materials.
  • Leesa: The company makes its products in the US, is B Corp certified, uses CertiPUR-US certified foams, and donates one mattress for every 10 it sells.
  • Nectar: The company uses CertiPUR-US certified foams.
  • Puffy: Its products are made in the US of CertiPUR-US certified foams, and it donates mattresses to children's charities, including returned mattresses.
  • Purple: Purple mattresses are made in the US with CertiPUR-US certified foams.
  • Sleep Number: According to CSRHub, Sleep Number is a supporter of sustainable forestry. 
Glossary

CertiPUR-US certified: In this guide, we mention certification credentials from many organizations, but CertiPUR-US is arguably the most well-known. This not-for-profit program assesses foams used in products to ensure they aren't made with harmful substances like ozone depleters, heavy metals, phthalates, hazardous flame retardants, and formaldehyde. To earn certification, a foam must emit less than 0.5 parts per million of volatile organic compounds.

Edge support: This term refers to how supportive a mattress is as you get close to the edge. It's hard to get comfortable on a bed that feels like you might roll off as you get close to the side. Plus, you want to be sure it will keep your spine aligned as you shift in the night. A bed with good edge support is also easier to get out of in the morning. 

Hybrid: Hybrid mattresses are similar to the traditional innerspring mattresses in that they are made up of coils and another material, typically foam or latex. Today's hybrid mattresses tend to have individually wrapped pocket coils rather than interconnected springs. This helps with motion isolation.

Motion isolation: This term refers to how well a bed can dampen vibrations caused by movement on the bed. Motion dampening is important because it facilitates undisturbed sleep as your partner or pet moves around in the bed at night. 

Check out our other bedding and mattress guides Read the original article on Business Insider

The FDA just authorized booster shots of Moderna's and Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccines and is letting users mix and match shots

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 5:19pm
An employee of Japan's Suntory Holdings receives the Moderna coronavirus vaccine for Covid-19.
  • The FDA authorized booster shots of the Moderna and J&J vaccines on Wednesday.
  • The agency also authorized people to get a different vaccine brand as a booster shot.
  • J&J recipients can get a booster after two months. Moderna recipients should wait six months.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized on Wednesday booster shots for Moderna's and Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccines.

The FDA said that it had authorized booster doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for patients aged 65 and older as well as younger people at high risk of severe disease.

For the J&J vaccine, the FDA authorized a booster dose for anyone who has recieved the vaccine.

A third shot of Moderna for at-risk adults

The FDA's decision comes after an advisory panel unanimously voted to recommend the Moderna booster shot on October 14, saying that data shows that the booster shot leads to a strong immune response and similar side effects as the first two doses.

"We remain committed to staying ahead of the virus and following the evolving epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2," Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement after the committee's vote. "We look forward to making our booster available to people in the U.S. to help protect themselves against this ongoing public health emergency."

The booster shot will be half the strength of the first two Moderna vaccines, and should be given at least six months after the second dose of the vaccine.

Moderna is still studying the third booster dose, and the data that it has presented to the FDA is limited.

Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel in his Cambridge, Massachusetts office

The data includes a small sample of 149 volunteers who got the booster shot in a phase 2 trial and had their antibody levels measured and compared to antibody levels after the second dose. The research showed that the antibody levels from the booster shot reached the same level as after the second dose, but not all of the patients saw a 4-fold increase in antibodies, one of the FDA's criteria.

"The data itself is not strong," said FDA committee member Dr. Patrick Moore on October 14. Moore, a microbiology and molecular genetics professor at the University of Pittsburgh said he voted to recommend the vaccine anyway based on a "gut feeling."

The booster shots appear to be just as safe as the initial two doses of the vaccine, with most people experiencing mild to moderate side effects. This is true even though the booster shot dose is half the strength of the original two doses. Both of the original doses were 100 micrograms, while the third shot is 50 micrograms.

The most common booster shot side effects include pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, and muscle pain.

A vial of Johnson & Johnson (Janssen's) Covid-19 vaccine. A second J&J shot for everyone

The FDA also authorized a second dose of the Johnson & Johnson booster shot for everyone who has gotten that vaccine.

Unlike the mRNA-based shots, which are given as two doses, the J&J vaccine was initially authorized as a single-dose shot. Also unlike the mRNA shots, the FDA recommended that all 15 million people in the US who got a J&J shot be eligible for a booster shot, regardless of age or risk of severe disease.

People can get a booster shot as soon as two months after their first J&J vaccine dose.

J&J submitted data to the FDA from a study that included just 17 volunteers who got a second dose after six months. While that data appeared to meet the FDA's goals for what a booster should do, later on the FDA's review stated the results are limited by the small sample size and were also impacted by a subpar lab test J&J used.

J&J also has data from a much larger trial of 16,000 volunteers who got a booster shot after only two months. While this data hasn't been independently verified by FDA scientists, it does show more evidence of the benefit of a booster shot.

"We now have generated evidence that a booster shot further increases protection against COVID-19 and is expected to extend the duration of protection significantly," Dr. Paul Stoffels, J&J's chief scientific officer, said in a September news release.

FDA also endorses mix & match for booster shots

The FDA also authorized a "mix-and-match" approach for Americans seeking booster shots, allowing Americans to receive a different brand of COVID-19 vaccine as a booster than the one they initially received. These vaccines are also called "heterologous" booster shots.

Recent results from a new study found that an mRNA booster shot after the J&J shot might lead to a better immune response compared to a second J&J booster.

This "mix-and-match" trial enrolled 458 people who had been vaccinated with either Pfizer's, Moderna's, or J&J's vaccine, then offered a boost of one of those three brands. J&J recipients saw a significantly larger jump in virus-fighting antibody levels with a Moderna or Pfizer booster compared to a second J&J shot.

"What the study shows is that regardless of what an individual received originally, getting boosted with one of the three vaccines that we evaluated, the one from Moderna, the one from Janssen, the one from Pfizer, led to good antibody responses in each of the groups," lead study author Dr. Robert Atmar from Baylor College of Medicine told Insider at the time.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Expert tips on how to open a wine bottle with a wine opener in 2021

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 5:10pm

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.

  • The easiest way to open a wine bottle is with a tool like a waiter's corkscrew or electric opener.
  • Here are tips for how to open a bottle of wine and what to do if you don't have a corkscrew (hint: you can use a house key, bike pump, or shoe).
  • See more: The best wine openers and corkscrews we tested in 2021
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Corks can be quite stubborn, but opening a bottle of wine shouldn't be too difficult if you have the right tools on hand.

While it's technically possible to remove the cork from a wine bottle without a wine opener, you'll save a lot of time and energy by investing in one, be it a waiter's corkscrew, winged corkscrew, lever corkscrew, or electric opener.

Below are the step-by-step processes for how to use each of these tools to open your bottle of red, white, or rosé, taken from our experience testing the best wine openers of 2021 and expert insights from sommeliers and winemakers.

And if you find yourself in a situation where you can't use any of the recommended tools, we also share some more creative solutions to uncork your wine bottle without a corkscrew. (Though, be advised: your mileage may vary.)

How to open a wine bottle with a waiter's corkscrew

"The classic double-hinged waiter's corkscrew [also known as a wine key] is the gold standard that people should master. It's probably one of the most common types in the wine world," said Peter Mondavi, Jr., co-proprietor of Charles Krug Winery. Other wine experts agree: a waiter's corkscrew is reliable, easy to master, and the most compact option to open a bottle of wine. 

The best waiter's corkscrews are double hinged. They have a foil cutter and handle on one side, a screw in the middle, and two notched pieces on the other side. 

  1. To use it, open up both sides of the opener so it looks like a "T" and insert the screw into the center of the cork. Make sure it's twisted into the cork all the way to the top of the screw. 
  2. Bring the side with the notched pieces down toward the bottle and hook the upper piece on the lip of the bottle. 
  3. This gives you the leverage to bring the cork out by pulling the handle on the other side upwards. 
  4. The cork should now be halfway out. 
  5. Move and hook the bottom piece on the lip of the bottle, and continue pulling the handle to completely remove the cork.

Pro tip: "Though not very graceful, [this method is] functional for a very stubborn cork: Place the bottle on the ground between your feet. Firmly hold the neck of the bottle down and pull straight up on the corkscrew handle. Once the cork is broken loose, you can bring it up to the table to finish the job," said Mondavi, Jr.

Shop the best waiter's corkscrews we tested in 2021:Waiter's Friend Corkscrew (small)Double-Hinged Corkscrew (small) How to open a wine bottle with a wing corkscrew

A winged corkscrew has a wing on each side along with a top handle connected to a screw in the middle. 

  1. To use it, insert the screw into the middle of the cork and twist the handle to push the screw all the way in. Hold the bottom of the corkscrew as you twist the screw in, so your bottle doesn't go flying. 
  2. While you're twisting the screw in, the wings will lift up.
  3. Hold and push down the wings at the same time to remove the cork.

Pro tip: Move slowly when you push the wings down. If you're working with a stubborn cork, you can break your winged corkscrew if you're moving too quickly.

Shop the best winged corkscrews we tested in 2021:Gourmet Winged Corkscrew (small)Good Grips Winged Corkscrew with Removable Foil Cutter (small) How to open a wine bottle with a lever corkscrew

A lever corkscrew has a lever on one side and is a bit clunkier than waiter's keys and winged corkscrews. 

  1. To use it, twist the screw into the middle of the cork.
  2. Squeeze the bottom of the opener and pull the lever upwards to remove the cork.

Pro tip: We don't recommend a lever corkscrew if you like being able to see that the cork has been removed. Its cylindrical design covers the entire bottle opening, so it can be hard to tell at a glance if you've successfully removed the cork. In addition, wine experts generally don't like lever corkscrews because they take up a lot of space and tend to not come with foil cutters. (Our best pick below is an exception and comes with a foil cutter)

Shop the best lever corkscrews we tested in 2021:Vertical Lever Corkscrew (small) How to open a wine bottle with an electric corkscrew

Electric corkscrews make it really easy to remove a cork by doing all the work for you. The downsides are that they need to be charged and take up a lot of space.  

  1. To use it, position it directly over the center of the cork. 
  2. The controls may vary depending on the specific electric opener you get. Generally, there is an up and a down button. 
  3. Press and hold the down button and the opener will insert the screw into the cork and remove the cork. Hold the bottle as the opener operates, so it won't go flying.
  4. Press the up button and it will push the cork off the screw.
Shop the best electric corkscrews we tested in 2021:Electric Wine Opener (small)Cordless Electric Wine Bottle Opener with Foil Cutter (small) How to open a wine bottle with an Ah-So wine opener

Old or vintage corks require extra care and delicate handling. "If you suspect from the start that you are working with a tricky cork, I'd go straight to the Ah-So opener. You may want to keep a decanter close by just in case you encounter a bit of crumbling along the way," said Katie Griesbeck, the vice president of sales and marketing at Cakebread Cellars

  1. To use it, wiggle the longer prong of the opener between the cork and lip of the bottle.
  2. Then wiggle the shorter prong in on the other side.
  3. Twist the handle slowly to remove the cork. 
Shop the best Ah-So wine openers we recommend in 2021:Westmark Steel Two Prong Cork Puller (small) How to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew or wine opener

It's heartbreaking when you want to open a bottle of wine but realize you don't have a corkscrew on you. Here are 6 easy, creative ways to get the cork out with common household items. Warning: things could get messy, and you may lose a bit of wine depending on which method you use.

 With a screw, screwdriver, and hammer
  1. Use the screwdriver to twist a long screw into the cork. Leave about an inch of the screw outside of the cork. 
  2. With the back of the hammer, pull out the screw, and the cork along with it. 
With a house key or serrated knife
  1. Insert the house key or serrated knife into the cork at a 45-degree angle. 
  2. Now twist the house key or knife to remove the cork. A knife may be more comfortable to hold since it has a handle. 
With a wooden spoon (or any long and sturdy object) 
  1. If you don't mind pushing the cork into the bottle, you can use the handle of any long object to push the cork inside. 

Pro tip: This method works best with newer corks that won't crumble once pushed in. If there are any small cork bits floating in your bottle, pour your wine over a mesh strainer to catch the pieces.  

With a bike pump (or any air pump with a needle) 
  1. Insert the needle of the pump all the way through the cork until it reaches the space between the bottom of the cork and the wine. 
  2. Pump the bottle with air to force the cork up and out. 
  3. Only pump until enough of the cork is out for you to pull it with your fingers. You don't want the cork to explode. 
With a lighter
  1. Use the flame of a lighter at the neck of the bottle, where there's an air gap between the bottom of the cork and the wine. 
  2. Rotate the bottle slowly as you heat it so the heat is distributed evenly and you don't shatter the glass. 
  3. Continue heating it until the cork lifts out and you can pull out the rest with your fingers. 
With a flat-soled shoe 
  1. Place the bottom of the bottle in the shoe, where you'd normally put your heel. 
  2. Hold the bottom of the shoe against a wall, with the bottle parallel to the ground. 
  3. Tap the wall with the shoe and bottle together and keep striking until the cork comes out.

Pro tip: The shoe should have a rigid sole, with not too much cushioning.

Read our full guide to how to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew for more detailed information on each of the methods above. Check out our other wine-related buying guides Read the original article on Business Insider

The 6 best toothbrushes for healthy teeth, according to dentists

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 5:01pm
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
  • A good toothbrush is crucial for getting rid of plaque and minimizing cavities and gum disease.
  • When it comes to an electric toothbrush vs. manual, the latter is softer on your gums and more budget friendly.
  • Our top pick, Tom's of Maine Soft Toothbrush, has an excellent angle, a slim handle, and soft but strong bristles.
  • This article was medically reviewed by André V. Ritter, DDS, MBA, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care at the NYU College of Dentistry.

A good toothbrush helps reduce plaque build-up and avoid future problems like cavities and gum disease. While electric toothbrushes do have a slight edge when it comes to cleaning thoroughly, the best manual toothbrush has its own advantages: They're more convenient for travel, easier to find, and cheaper, says New York-based cosmetic dentist Lana Rozenberg, DDS. Plus, some people just don't like the feel of electric toothbrushes.

Small design nuances - like different shaped handles and stiffness of the bristles - among toothbrush brands can help you better access those pesky back teeth that seem to always get cavities or reach below the gum line to clear plaque out.

We talked with five dentists to lay out what features the best toothbrushes have, other FAQs, and the best options the experts recommend using and why.

Here are the best toothbrushes: How I tested

Testing toothbrushes resulted in a seriously minty fresh mouth. These were the features I was looking for in a toothbrush based on our experts' advice and after trying six toothbrushes.

Gentle on teeth: All our experts highlighted rough brushing as a concern for gum health down the road, which can cause issues like gum recession and tooth abrasion. Soft toothbrushes are ideal, especially if you also have sensitive teeth. I analyzed the feel of the bristles and how easy it was to mindlessly start brushing roughly. I found that some were more like a baby's hairbrush and others were more like straw.

Handle comfort: You don't realize how much room a toothbrush's handle takes up in your  mouth until you use a poorly-designed option. The material and shape of the handle matters. I found some materials (wood, metal) that had a bothersome taste. Plastic seemed to be the most inoffensive handle material, with a bit of a curve near the brush itself to reach the back teeth more easily.

Price: If you're opting for a manual toothbrush over electric, you probably aren't looking to spend too much money. And considering dentists recommend replacing your toothbrush head every 3 months, the costs are much lower for a manual. 

Extra features: Some manual toothbrushes came with storage systems, replaceable heads, and tongue-cleaning features. I considered how these might help the cleaning and storage process for manual toothbrushes — or whether they were just a little overboard.

Best manual toothbrush overall

Tom's of Maine Soft Toothbrush has a small brush head, soft bristles, and uniquely curved handle that lets you better access every tooth, all at an affordable price.

Pros: Simple design, sleek, curved top makes for easier access to all teeth, slender handle is comfortable, soft bristles, budget-friendly

Cons: No grippers or other features to help prevent slide if toothbrush is wet, soft bristles may break down more quickly over time

Tom's of Maine toothbrush is simple, sleek, and has all the features dentists recommend with one particular stand-out attribute: a perfectly-curved handle that allows you to reach each tooth more easily. 

During testing, I found having less total material in my mouth while I was trying to maneuver the toothbrush onto my back teeth was surprisingly helpful, and vastly different from bulkier options with cool features like thumb grips.  I don't plan on ever using a "straight" toothbrush again after seeing the capabilities of the arked handle.

Tom's of Maine toothbrush also comes in simple colors and is available for only a few dollars.

Moreover, this toothbrush has extremely soft bristles, which all our dentists say is important to avoid gum damage. The bristles are also arranged in a slender, rather than wide, shape, making it easy to reach tight gaps between teeth and the very back of the mouth.

Lastly, this brush has a smaller head, which Dr. Rozenberg vehemently supports as a larger head leads to less precise brushing, while the smaller sizes encourage people to adjust the bristles to reach individual teeth and carefully brush at the gumline.

Best toothbrush for kids

Nimby Kids Toothbrush has a fatter, easy-to-hold handle; soft, long bristles ideal for gum health; and comes in a four pack for easy replacement.

Pros: Kid-sized handle, comfortable hand grip, soft bristles, pretty colors

Cons: No special features (e.g., characters, accessories) that might attract a younger kid's attention

You might be wondering why your kid would want this plain, pastel-colored toothbrush when you can buy a million different alternatives featuring their favorite character from Sesame Street or Cocomelon. Well, this simple, well-made, and gentle toothbrush has all the features our dentists recommend for preserving your kids' gum health from an early age. 

The bristles are extremely soft, even for kids who are rushing or have a rough hand. Phil Devore, DDS, at Image Dental in Las Vegas told Insider this helps improve gingival health long term. It has two levels of bristles, which is ideal since Dr. Devore adds long bristles can also help sweep under the gumline.

Additionally, the Nimby Kids Toothbrush has a slightly fatter grip than other kid's toothbrushes (like a wider Crayola vs. the thin ones), making it easier to hold and maneuver with little hands.

The four-pack of assorted colors is not only budget-friendly, especially if someone loses one, but allows siblings to pick (err fight?) over the best color.

Best toothbrush for an extra-thorough clean

The Colgate 360 offers a more aggressive cleaning with varying bristles, a tongue scrubber, and grips on the handle so you can clean and polish every corner of your mouth.

Pros: Slatted tongue cleaner on the back, leaves you with the most clean feeling, multi-level bristles, helps polish teeth for whitening

Cons: Bulkier design, bristles are more aggressive and not as soft, only a slight curve to handle shape

A good, basic toothbrush helps reduce plaque build-up, cavities, and gum disease. But your toothbrush can work overtime if you want, doing things like cleaning out all the bad breath-causing bacteria and buffing stains off your teeth.

Dr. Rozenberg highly recommends the Colgate 360 for a deeper, more effective clean, largely thanks to its varying lengths and design of the bristles, which helps to both clean and polish the teeth for a whiter shine.

Additionally, the Colgate 360 focuses on removing bacteria from the entirety of your mouth, not just your teeth. It has a scrubby section on the back of the toothbrush that cleans the inside of your cheeks as you brush your teeth and can also be used on your tongue to nix bad breath.

This is the comfort recliner chair of the toothbrush world, with padding and grippers everywhere, making for an easy to hold product. When I tested this, I felt the company had paid attention to these extra features. However, it was also a bulkier experience than others, which may be a struggle for smaller mouths or hard to reach places.

Best luxe toothbrush

Oral B Clic is less wasteful with replaceable heads, and has a sleek design that includes a magnetic wall-mounting system for a cleaner countertop.

Pros: Sleek design, magnetic wall-mount storage system, deep clean

Cons: Metallic pen-like handle uncomfortable while brushing

Our dental experts are fans of Oral B as a brand, and the Oral B Clic is particularly unique. For starters, it features a metallic handle and a replaceable head that clicks into the base like with an electric toothbrush, making for less waste and a more luxe look. 

What's more, the toothbrush comes with a round, magnetic wall mount to keep your toothbrush off the counter when not in use. The mount is easy to peel and stick and makes for a much cleaner-looking bathroom. I found the mount super convenient — I was able to keep better track of my toothbrush (always a struggle in a house full of kids, it seems) and I felt it was a better, more sanitary drying process. 

Dr. Rozenberg is a big fan of Oral B's "crisscross" bristles, as they are angled to better remove plaque in the gaps between teeth compared to straight bristles. 

The overall cost is comparable to other manual toothbrushes, with a single replacement head running you $5 every three months — but it ends with less waste as you're not tossing out the base.

The only downside I found during testing this fancy toothbrush was that it can feel like you have a pen in your mouth, thanks to the metal handle which clanks against your other teeth if you aren't careful. The handle is also very straight, rather than angled to reach those more difficult spots. 

Best bamboo toothbrush

The Bite Bamboo Toothbrush is 100% plant-based, compostable, and has an interchangeable head.

Pros: Eco-friendly, completely compostable, removable head for travel, strong bristles for a clean feeling

Cons: Easy to overbrush with the stronger bristles, woody taste

If you're looking for a more eco-friendly toothbrush, Bite's Bamboo Toothbrush takes our top spot. 

Made from the sustainable material of Moso Bamboo, this toothbrush is 100% plant-based. It has a detachable head, which makes it easy to pack or travel with. But Bite doesn't actually sell replacement heads (the manufacturing process is too wasteful) so you'll replace the whole toothbrush when the bristles have become worn down. 

However, the entire bamboo brush is compostable — even at home — which is really cool and more sustainable than most options with a replaceable head.

The bristles are soft, as dentists recommend, and made from castor beans. Overall, this bamboo toothbrush is surprisingly affordable, with a two-pack running just $12.

All of this Earth-friendliness comes at a small cost: It does feel like there is a piece of wood in your mouth… because, well, there is. So, if the taste of toothpicks bothers you, you won't like this toothbrush. 

Also, even though bamboo is naturally antimicrobial, it's important to let the toothbrush dry completely with proper airflow so it doesn't get moldy — so storage in a drawer isn't an option.

But if you're looking for a truly eco-friendly toothbrush that also helps remove plaque and care for your gums, the Bite Bamboo Toothbrush is worth every penny.

Best toothbrush for sensitive gums

Nimbus Regular Microfine Xtra Soft is so soft it feels like brushing with a cloud, making it ideal for cleaning sensitive gums and teeth.

Pros: Comfortable hand grip, uber soft bristles, pretty colors

Cons: Ultra-soft bristles break down quicker

The Nimbus Regular Microfine Xtra Soft is one of the softest toothbrushes available, which makes it especially perfect for sensitive gums and teeth. It basically feels like brushing with a cloud. All of our experts are fans of an uber-soft bristle as it minimizes the ability to brush really aggressively, which means you aren't damaging your oral health in the long run.

Dr. Field adds the Nimbus brush specifically is his top choice because of its "unique design that gets into the tooth crevices well."

It's a full-size version of the kid's Nimby we liked so much and, in addition to soft bristles, has the same key stand-out feature: a comfortable, grippy handle making it easy to grasp and use. It is also one of the most wallet-friendly, at around $2 per brush.

I'm curious to see how this will hold up over time. During medical review, Dr. Ritter pointed out that ultra soft bristles break loose their structural integrity quicker, so they need to be replaced every two months versus the more common three.

What to look for in a manual toothbrush

It can be eye-opening to realize how many features a simple manual toothbrush really has. You can always ask your personal dentist which type is best for your specific mouth, but in general, our experts say the most important features are: 

  • Varying heights on the bristles, which helps to sweep under the gumline.
  • A comfortable grip, since this helps you leverage into the back corners of your mouth.
  • A sleek handle design that won't feel bulky in your mouth, for comfort. 
  • A curved handle, between where your hand goes and the head of the toothbrush, which is better angled to reach the back teeth.
  • Gentle and soft bristles, which all our experts recommend as they're gentler on your gum line. This prevents you from damaging your gums or causing a recession through brushing too aggressively.
FAQs What are the benefits of a manual toothbrush?

A manual toothbrush helps reduce plaque build-up and minimize the changes of future problems like cavities and gum disease. That's because the bristles are often long or of varying length so they can clean below your gum line, and the bristles are ideally soft enough to not cause gum recession.

Manual toothbrushes also have the added benefit of being very lightweight and no-fuss, which is great if you travel a lot. And they're a lot cheaper than an electric option.

How often should you replace a manual toothbrush?

You should replace your toothbrush every three to four months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This helps keep the brush bristles stiff and working to remove plaque effectively, and to prevent bacteria from growing on the brush. However, if the bristles are ultra soft like the Nimbus Regular Microfine Xtra Soft, they lose their structural integrity faster and need to be replaced every two months, Dr. Ritter told us during medical review.

In an effort for sustainability, we highly recommend saving old toothbrushes to use to clean small stains or muddy shoes.

Manual vs electric toothbrush: Which is better?

While there is some research that says electric toothbrushes are more effective at removing plaque from your back teeth, all the dentists we interviewed for this piece, as well as those we interviewed for our electric toothbrush guide, say manual toothbrushes are just as good at cleaning your teeth and preventing gum disease as electric.

It largely comes down to personal preference and habits: If you have a hard time brushing for the full suggested two minutes, or you have limited dexterity or mobility issues, an electric toothbrush can help. That being said, if you tend to brush too hard, you should definitely opt for a manual. Brushing aggressively on top of the power of an electric toothbrush can damage your gums and teeth.

Meanwhile, manual toothbrushes are more ideal if you tend to brush really hard, have sensitive teeth, or you want to feel "like you are scrubbing your teeth and cleaning thoroughly," according to Michaela Tozzi, DMD, cosmetic dentist in Henderson, NV. They're also more ideal if you travel a lot and want to keep your toiletry bag light.

Expert sources

Our experts include practicing dentists from around the country, including:

Check out our other oral care guides Read the original article on Business Insider

Rudy Giuliani used a face filter to impersonate Abraham Lincoln and make a debunked claim about Terry McAuliffe

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 4:55pm
Trump attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
  • Former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani tweeted a video featuring an Abraham Lincoln face filter.
  • In his impersonation of Lincoln, Giuliani repeated a debunked claim about Virginia's ex-governor.
  • "End the Clinton sleaze once and for all!" Giuliani said in his rendition of a 19th Century accent.

In a video posted to Twitter on Tuesday, former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani associated himself with a different US president by using a face filter.

The former New York City mayor attempted to impersonate Abraham Lincoln in the video, speaking in what appeared to be his own rendition of a 19th Century American accent. Speaking from his study with the same backdrop he uses for podcasts and other media appearances, Giuliani appeared with an extended top-hat and chin beard superimposed onto his face.

-Rudy W. Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) October 19, 2021

In the video, Giuliani urges Virginia voters to defeat Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat who served as governor from 2014 to 2018, in his renewed gubernatorial bid.

"Virginia, vote against the man who dishonored our past by selling my bedroom hundreds and hundreds of times to scoundrels in a pay-for-play scheme," Giuliani said in his Lincoln accent, referring to a debunked claim that McAuliffe was selling the White House's Lincoln bedroom for access during his time as chairman of the Democratic National Committee during the Clinton administration.

"In my time, we had a name for men who sold bedrooms for one night," Giuliani continued. "In your time, the name is Terry McAuliffe. End the Clinton sleaze once and for all!"

"Seeing another member of the tinfoil hat crew go all in for Glenn Youngkin is entirely unsurprising; he's all in for them!" Manuel Bonder, a spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Virginia, told Insider in a statement. "Donald Trump and his allies are backing Youngkin for one reason: he is completely loyal to them, and they know that if elected, Glenn will do exactly what Trump says. He belongs nowhere near the governorship."

As Insider's John Dorman recently reported, McAuliffe's renewed gubernatorial bid - which comes in a significantly altered statewide electorate than what he was used to in the last decade - has turned into a bellwether for the Democratic Party's chances of hanging onto their Congressional majorities in the 2022 midterms.

As of early Wednesday evening, the McAuliffe had not addressed the Giuliani video on his campaign social media channels.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The one-of-a-kind Wu Tang Clan album made infamous by Martin Shkreli was sold by the government to a crypto collective

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 4:26pm
Wu-Tang Clan perform during their 25th Anniversary Tour at Michigan Lottery Amphitheatre on May 31, 2019.
  • The US government sold Wu-Tang Clan's one-of-a-kind album to a crypto collective called PleasrDAO.
  • The album was sold as part of "pharma bro" Martin Shkreli's monetary judgment.
  • PleasrDAO came into the spotlight previously after purchasing an NFT of the "doge" meme.

Wu-Tang Clan's one-of-a-kind album - once owned by Martin Shkreli - was bought by a crypto collective known as PleasrDAO for $4 million worth of a cryptocurrency, The New York Times first reported Wednesday.

The US government, which obtained the album as part of Shkreli's monetary judgment, sold it over the summer but didn't disclose its buyer, Insider previously reported. PleasrDAO has now come forward about the purchase.

"We bought the unreleased Wu-Tang album with crypto," the company said in a video on its blog.

The two-disk album, titled "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin," was sold in 2015 to Shkreli - the "Pharma Bro" who has since been convicted of securities fraud - for $2 million. There is only one copy in existence after it was recorded over a six-year period.

"This is like the OG NFT," Jamis Johnson, chief pleasing officer at PleasrDaO, said in the company's video. "The original fight against the middlemen who are rent-seeking. Crypto is the same ethos. Wu-Tang Clan was prescient in understanding that conflict."

PleasrDAO received the album on Sept. 10, according to The Times, and it now sits in a vault in New York City. The Times reported that the company paid $4 million in cryptocurrency to an intermediary, who then paid the government about $2 million US dollars.

An NFT of the album was made to represent ownership of the physical copy, The Times said, citing a lawyer who was involved in the transaction. Now, the 74 members of PleasrDAO have collective ownership of that NFT and the album.

PleasrDAO describes itself as a "collective of DeFi leaders, early NFT collectors, and digital artists who have built a formidable yet benevolent reputation for acquiring culturally significant pieces with a charitable twist."

The organization, whose abbreviation stands for "decentralized autonomous organization," came into the spotlight after purchasing a nonfungible token, or NFT, of the legendary "doge" meme, CNBC reported in September.

When first selling the album, Wu-Tang Clan stipulated it could be played for people at public events, but it couldn't be widely distributed until 2103, which is 88 years after it was sold, Stereogum reported.

PleasrDAO told the Times it has plans for the album to "be shared and ideally owned in part by fans and anyone in the world," though it didn't specify how it would do that while following the group's original conditions.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Rep. Jim Jordan says he doesn't know how many times he spoke with Trump on January 6

Wed, 10/20/2021 - 4:24pm
Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH).
  • Rep. Jim Jordan says he doesn't know how many times he spoke with Trump on January 6.
  • "I don't recall the number of times. But it's not about me," he told a House panel on Wednesday.
  • Jordan could become a material witness in the House select committee's investigation of January 6.

Rep. Jim Jordan on Wednesday says he doesn't know how many conversations he had with former President Donald Trump on January 6.

"Of course I talked to the president. I talked to him that day. I've been clear about that. I don't recall the number of times. But it's not about me," the Ohio Republican said during a House panel hearing on a resolution to hold Trump's former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon in criminal contempt for his refusal to comply with a congressional subpoena. The committee voted 9-4 along party lines to advance the resolution.

Jordan, in response to questioning from Rules Committee Chairman Democratic Rep. Jim McGovern, said that he only spoke with Trump after the attack, refuting a Politico report in August that said he spoke with the former president during the siege.

Jordan previously revealed that he talked to Trump at least once on January 6 but refused to offer any details about the conversation, telling Fox News in July: "I never talk about what we talk about."

Trump's interactions on January 6 have emerged as part of the House select committee's probe into what happened that day. The committee has so far issued subpoenas for documents and information from a handful of Trump officials, including Bannon, who has refused to comply.

One of the committee's members, GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, said in July that Jordan could become a material witness as the investigation goes on.

Cheney, a vocal Trump critic, is one of two Republicans on the committee who's also been outspoken against the former president and the January 6 attack.

Most Republicans, including Jordan, have ridiculed the January 6 investigation, with some downplaying the day's violence.

Read the original article on Business Insider


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