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The best dog food

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 3:51pm  |  Clusterstock
  • We compared dozens of products to find the best dog food brands and formulas for all life stages.
  • These dog foods have nutritional profiles and ingredients that are appropriate for the unique needs of different dogs, including puppies, senior dogs, and dogs with food sensitivities.
  • Orijen makes the best dog food you can buy with fresh locally sourced ingredients. Every recipe is packed with protein, limited in carbohydrates, and loaded with natural flavor.

Though it may seem like dog food is dog food, not all are created equal. The quality of pet food products varies greatly from one manufacturer to another, and it can be hard to determine what the best dog food is for your furry friend.

While there are many high-quality dog food brands on the market, there are also those that cut corners by bulking up their products with low-quality fillers and artificial additives. These foods are not regulated to the degree that human foods are, so if you want to find a quality product, you'll have to do some digging.

The quality of your dog's diet is directly related to their health, so don't settle for mediocre food, treats, or supplements. All dogs have the same basic nutritional needs, so it's possible to evaluate the quality of one product compared to another in terms of how well each one meets those nutritional needs. In order to make such a comparison, however, you need to have an understanding of your dog's nutritional requirements and some knowledge of how to read a pet food label.

These things can take time and practice but, luckily for you, we've done the research. We have scoured the reviews on sites like Dog Food Advisor and Whole Dog Journal and compared dozens of products to find the top dog food brands in different categories.

Editor's Note: The FDA has released a report naming 16 dog food brands that may be linked to heart disease in dogs. So far, there has not been a recall of dog food from these brands, and the FDA is continuing to investigate. You can read more details in this New York Times report. Several of the brands' grain-free formulas are included in this guide; here's the full list: Acana, Zignature, Taste of the Wild, 4Health, Earthborn Holistic, Blue Buffalo, Nature's Domain, Fromm, Merrick, California Natural, Natural Balance, Orijen, Nature's Variety, NutriSource, Nutro, and Rachael Ray Nutrish.

Here is the best dog food you can buy:

Prices and links are current as of  10/23/2020. Added a slide with products we're considered for an update to this guide in December 2020.

The best dog food overall Orijen's dog food is naturally grain-free and designed to mimic the natural biological diet your dog is evolved to follow. 

Though all dogs have the same basic nutritional requirements, what makes a certain product the best choice for your dog may vary according to their age, activity level, and specific dietary needs. For a brand that offers dog food designed to suit your dog's natural biological needs, our top choice is Orijen. This brand creates pet foods that nourish your dog's body just as nature intended, and it uses only locally sourced fresh and raw meats in an assortment of formulas catered to dogs in all life stages from puppy to senior.

Each of Orijen's dog foods is designed to mirror the type of natural diet your dog should follow based on their wild ancestry. Orijen dog foods are rich in meat and proteins. Each product contains up to 90% meat, which is is more than three times the amount used in conventional dog food. Furthermore, each recipe contains a guaranteed minimum of 38% crude protein by volume.

While a dog's diet should consist primarily of animal products, dogs do have a limited ability to digest plant materials, so digestible grain-free carbohydrates like fresh fruits and vegetables can be a valuable addition. Orijen dog foods contain no more than 20% carbohydrates and only low-glycemic, highly digestible carbs like lentils, pumpkin, leafy greens, and fresh fruits. 

Dog Food Advisor notes that Orijen's dog food is above-average and that none of its foods have been subject to recall. 

Orijen only sells dry dog foods at this time, but it offers an assortment of kibbles and freeze-dried dog foods for puppies, adults, and senior dogs as well as a selection of treats made with 100% fresh meat ingredients.

Pros: Made in the United States and Canada, biologically appropriate diets, high-protein formulas, carbohydrate-limited and low-glycemic, formulated for different life stages, minimum 38% crude protein, traditional kibble and freeze-dried options, all grain-free recipes

Cons: No wet food products currently available, some recipes may contain plant proteins like peas and dried alfalfa, many recipes contain common proteins and other ingredients that may trigger allergies in some dogs (like chicken, beef, and fish)

The best dry dog food Canidae uses premium proteins and digestible carbohydrates in each of its formulas to suit dogs in all life stages and those with unique dietary needs.

If you're looking for a brand of dry dog food that offers a wide selection of high-quality recipes, our top choice is Canidae. An independent and family-owned company, Canidae sources its ingredients from other family-owned businesses throughout the US, and the company produces every one of its nutritionally dense formulas in company-owned-and-operated facilities. This brand offers traditional life stages formulas as well as grain-free and limited-ingredient recipes.

As a whole, the Canidae dog food brand receives excellent reviews from Top Dog Tips and Petsho as a US-based company that offers a variety of formulas for dogs with different nutritional needs. The Life Stages line of products features seven unique recipes made with premium proteins and digestible carbohydrates. In addition to three "all life stages" formulas, there are recipes for senior dogs, puppies, and large-breed dogs.

The Canidae Grain-Free PURE lineup includes nine grain-free formulas made with premium proteins such as duck, wild boar, and fresh lamb. Each of these recipes is made with a limited number of ingredients to reduce the risk for food allergies. There are also three recipes specially formulated for small breed dogs.

Another thing that makes Canidae our top choice for dry dog food is the fact that it has an entirely separate brand that is designed to be affordable. The Under the Sun brand is still made by Canidae with its farm-fresh ingredients, but it is available at a more affordable price point for dog owners on a budget. Under the Sun appears on Dog Food Advisor's list of 4-star brands.

In the company's 20-year history, Canidae has had only had one recall, in 2012, and it was a voluntary recall issued due to a concern for potential salmonella contamination.

Pros: US-based company, independent and family-owned, company-owned manufacturing facilities, fresh regional ingredients, wide variety of high-quality recipes, life stages formulas for puppies through senior dogs, grain-free and limited ingredient formulas for dogs with food allergies, separate brand for dog owners on a budget, recipes for small breed dogs

Cons: Company has had one recall affecting four products, many recipes contain common proteins and other ingredients that may trigger allergies in some dogs (like chicken, rice, and fish)

The best wet dog food Blue Buffalo offers tons of great recipes for both wet and dry dog food, and its formulas are full of natural ingredients.

If you are looking for high-quality wet dog food, we highly recommend the Blue Buffalo dog food brand. Not only is Blue Buffalo one of the top manufacturers of natural dog food in general, but it offers four distinct product lines so you can choose the wet food formula that best suits your dog's needs and preferences. According to Whole Dog Journal, wet dog food may be more expensive than dry food, but tends to contain more meat, is higher in moisture, and is more palatable for some dogs. They also note that it's a great option for filling dog toys like the Kong.

The Blue Buffalo company believes that pets are members of the family and that they should be treated as such. This is why the company uses only the highest-quality natural ingredients in each of its recipes. Blue Buffalo follows a holistic approach to pet nutrition, choosing each of its ingredients carefully to ensure complete and balanced nutrition without the use of any by-products, fillers, or artificial additives. Every recipe goes above and beyond your dog's minimum nutritional requirements.

In addition to being rated among Dog Food Advisor's 5-star wet food brands, Blue Buffalo also landed on Whole Dog Journal's 2019 approved wet dog foods list. In terms of variety, few brands offer as many choices as Blue Buffalo. The Freedom line of grain-free formulas contains ten recipes and the Basics line of limited ingredient formulas contains nine. There are more than thirty recipes in the Wilderness line of meat-rich formulas and forty-five in the Life Protection Formula lineup.

One thing you should be aware of with the Blue Buffalo brand is that it's had several product recalls in its history. This isn't terribly surprising, however, for a brand that was founded more than two decades ago and that manufactures hundreds of products. It is worth noting that, according to Petful, many of the brand's recalls were issued voluntarily as a precautionary measure.

Pros: US-based company, wide variety of product choices, every recipe starts with high-quality animal protein, all-natural ingredients with no artificial additives, recipes designed with a holistic approach to nutrition, every formula contains LifeSource Bits for a boost of nutrition and flavor

Cons: Numerous recalls in brand history, many recipes contain common proteins and other ingredients that may trigger allergies in some dogs (like chicken, rice, and fish), recent changes in recipe may cause digestive upset in some dogs

The best grain-free dog food Taste of the Wild brand makes great grain-free dog food with nutritionally-dense formulas that reduce the risk for food allergies and sensitivities.

Though many dogs can digest whole-grain carbohydrates, grains have the potential to trigger food allergies or sensitivities in some dogs. A grain-free dog food should be made with digestible carbohydrates like legumes, fruits, and vegetables, though the focus should always be on high-quality sources of protein. Taste of the Wild offers nine dry food and five wet food formulas, all of which are protein-rich and grain-free.

Taste of the Wild understands that dogs crave natural flavor, which is why each of its recipes is formulated around real roasted meats like venison, bison, and lamb. Real meat is the first ingredient in every recipe, though most recipes contain multiple sources of animal protein. All of this brand's products are also supplemented with highly digestible carbohydrates for energy and fiber, dried fermentation products for probiotic support, and chelated minerals for maximum nutrient absorption.

Not only does Whole Food Journal name Taste of the Wild on its 2019 list of approved dry dog foods, this brand also receives 4.5 stars from Dog Food Advisor. What really sets this brand apart is its use of novel proteins like bison and venison, which are less likely to trigger food allergies in dogs and are a leaner source of protein than commercially raised meats.

Pros: Each recipe features real roasted meat, highly digestible grain-free carbohydrates, multiple proteins in every formula, supplemented with antioxidants for strong immunity, probiotic supplements for healthy digestion, chelated minerals for maximum absorption

Cons: More limited selection of products than some brands, no formulas for large-breed dogs, recipes may be higher in calories than the typical dog food

The best fresh dog food delivery The Farmer's Dog is a fresh dog food delivery service that provides unprocessed meals customized to your dog's nutritional needs.

The Farmer's Dog has led the pack in fresh dog food delivery for more than five years. Their custom recipes are developed by board-certified veterinary nutritionists and comply with AAFCO standards, meaning they are complete and balanced.

What we love most about The Farmer's Dog is that the fresh food plans are customized to your dog's sex, age, breed, and unique health concerns and preportioned by day according to their caloric needs. There are three protein options (turkey, beef, and pork), which could pose an issue for dogs with food allergies or sensitivities, however.

The food is unprocessed, prepared in USDA-certified kitchens, and cooked within days of shipping. It's delivered frozen every two weeks, but the flat packs fit neatly in most freezers. While it's pricey, with plans starting at $3 per day for smaller dogs and as high as $11 per day for large dogs, the quality of the food is worth it if your budget allows.

Pros: High-quality unprocessed food, customized, prepared in USDA-certified kitchens, recipes developed by board-certified veterinary nutritionists, complies with AAFCO standards, 50% off first two weeks

Cons: Limited protein options, may not be appropriate for dogs with food allergies, must be thawed, food may go bad if not eaten immediately upon serving, expensive

The best raw dog food Primal Freeze-Dried Nuggets dog food tops the charts for quality with the freshest, 100% human-grade ingredients.

Traditional dog foods are cooked at high temperatures in a process that may destroy a significant portion of the original nutritional content of the raw ingredients. Raw dog food is uncooked, which means that your dog gets all of the nutrients he requires without the need for a long list of supplements. Though raw foods need to be kept refrigerated or frozen, no other type of dog food can compare to their quality or nutritional integrity and Primal is our top choice for raw dog food.

Primal offers nine different recipes for raw frozen dog food, each featuring a premium animal protein that is free from antibiotics, steroids, and hormones. Each recipe is made with 100% human-grade ingredients, including certified organic produce. Because the recipes are frozen fresh to retain their nutritional integrity, you won't find a long list of synthetic supplements. This brand also offers freeze-dried formulas using many of the same high-quality ingredients which can be rehydrated to create a nutritious, moisture-rich meal for your dog.

In addition to making it onto Dog Food Advisor's list of 5-star dog foods, Whole Dog Journal named the Primat Pet Foods one of the best freeze-dried raw dog foods in 2018.

Though Primal's raw food is significantly more expensive than most dog foods on the market, it offers a significantly higher degree of quality as well. You can choose from a selection of raw frozen formulas or freeze-dried recipes or use one of the brand's raw frozen mixes to create your own homemade dog food.  

Pros: Made with 100% human-grade ingredients, antibiotic- and steroid-free proteins, certified organic produce and supplements, products retain more of their natural nutritional integrity, assortment of raw frozen and freeze-dried products as well as mixes and supplements

Cons: Raw food must be kept frozen or refrigerated, risk for food-borne illness will improper handling, some dogs don't like the texture of raw food, very expensive compared to traditional kibble, calculations required to determine proper feeding amount

The best affordable dog food Whole Earth Farms pet foods are naturally nutritious and cooked in the US, but they're surprisingly affordable.

When shopping for dog food it is important not to shop by price alone because low-priced dog foods are also typically low in quality. This doesn't mean, however, that affordable brands of high-quality dog food aren't out there. Whole Earth Farms, for example, offers quality nutrition at a more affordable price point than most comparable pet food brands. Even so, this brand appears on Dog Food Advisor's list of 4-star dog foods, so you know it must be good.

The Whole Earth Farms brand is manufactured by the Merrick Pet Care Company, a company that receives Dog Food Advisor's 4-star rating. Whole Earth Farms pet foods are made in the US with fresh, natural ingredients to support your dog's digestion while also boosting their energy levels and improving the health of their skin and coat. Each recipe starts with a quality animal protein and is supplemented with digestible carbohydrates, probiotics, and chelated minerals for maximum nutrient absorption.

Not only is this brand affordable, but it doesn't use any corn, wheat, or soy in its products, and all recipes are free from by-products and artificial additives. 

In terms of their product offerings, this brand sells eleven dry food recipes and fifteen canned foods. Whole Earth Farms offers an assortment of original and grain-free products, including formulas developed for specific life stages and breed sizes so you can choose the product that best suits your dog.

Pros: Ideal combination of quality and affordability, no low-quality fillers or by-products, no artificial additives, made in the USA, designed to support healthy digestion, made with high-quality animal proteins, formulas for different life stages and breed sizes, wide variety of dry foods and wet foods

Cons: Some recipes could be higher in animal protein, many recipes contain common proteins and other ingredients that may trigger allergies in some dogs (like chicken, rice, and fish)

The best dog food for puppies Taste of the Wild Puppy Food is loaded with animal proteins and free from gluten, grains, and artificial additives, making it ideal for puppies.

Choosing the right dog food for your puppy is extremely important because it will impact their growth and development during the first year of his life. Puppies require a higher concentration of protein than adult dogs with healthy fats for energy as well as essential vitamins and minerals. In addition to meeting your puppy's nutritional needs, a high-quality puppy food should be easily digestible, and it should come in small, bite-size kibbles.

Our top pick for the best dog food for puppies is Taste of the Wild High Prairie Puppy Food. Made with a variety of novel animal proteins like buffalo and roasted venison, this puppy food comes with a low risk for triggering food allergies.

It features grain-free, digestible carbohydrates like sweet potato with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to provide sources for essential vitamins and minerals. With several fish ingredients, this recipe has an irresistible flavor and provides plenty of healthy fats to support your puppy's skin and coat health.

Taste of the Wild Grain-Free Puppy Food gets a 4-star rating from Dog Food Advisor and receives approval from Whole Dog Journal. Not only does fish provide puppies with healthy protein and an irresistible flavor, but the healthy fats keep their coat shiny as well.

Pros: Made with novel protein sources, includes fresh meat and meat meals, grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables for nutrients, dried fermentation products for probiotic support, supplemented with DHA for brain development, chelated minerals for maximum absorption

Cons: Somewhat pricey compared to other brands, only two puppy formulas to choose from, includes some plant-based protein

The best dog food for senior dogs Loaded with high-quality animal proteins, digestible whole grains, and joint-supporting nutrients, Wellness Complete Health Senior Dog Food is just what your old pup needs.

As your dog gets older, he'll start to slow down. Because senior dogs are less active, they require fewer calories than younger dogs, but they still need a blend of protein and healthy fats in their diet. Joint-supporting nutrients like glucosamine and chondroitin become particularly important for dogs in their old age and increased fiber levels will help support gastrointestinal health. Our top pick for the best dog food for senior dogs is Wellness Complete Health Senior Dog Food.

Available in original and small-breed formulas, Wellness Complete Health Senior Dog Food features high-quality proteins, whole grains, and fresh fruits and vegetables to deliver complete and balanced nutrition optimized for senior dogs.

This formula contains fresh deboned chicken as well as concentrated chicken meal, both of which are natural sources of the joint-supporting nutrients glucosamine and chondroitin. The recipe is also supplemented with chelated minerals for optimal nutrient absorption and probiotics for healthy digestion.

Wellness Complete Health formulas landed on Whole Dog Journal's 2019 approved dry dog foods list. Labrador Training HQ likes that the recipe is free from corn, wheat, soy, meat by-products, and artificial additives to ensure healthy nutrition and easy digestion.

Pros: Made with fresh chicken and chicken meal, includes whole grains for digestibility, fresh fruits and veggies for natural sources of vitamins and minerals, supplemented with chelated minerals and probiotics, free from meat by-products and artificial additives, added sources of glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support, supports healthy skin and coat

Cons: May trigger allergies in dogs sensitive to grains, some dogs are allergic to chicken, some dogs developed gas or upset stomach

The best dog food for small toy breeds Merrick Lil' Plates Grain-Free Dog Food is great for toy and small breeds because it comes in seven grain-free formulas that are made with high-quality proteins, digestible carbohydrates, and healthy supplements.

Many dog owners make the mistake of thinking that small-breed dogs need fewer calories than large breeds when, in fact, the opposite is true. Small-breed dogs have very fast metabolisms so, while they may need a lower number of total calories, they actually require a higher concentration of calories per pound of bodyweight.

Small-breed dog food formulas are rich in protein with higher levels of fat to meet a smaller dog's high-energy needs. Our top pick for the best small/toy breed dog food is Merrick Lil' Plates Grain-Free Dog Food.

While you might think that wet food is easier for a small dog to eat, most veterinarians agree that dry food is better. Eating kibble helps prevent plaque buildup, reducing the risk for dental disease, which is a common problem in small and toy breeds. Not only is Merrick Lil' Plates Grain-Free Dog Food ideally sized for smaller dogs and designed to promote dental health, but it comes in seven different recipes.

This Merrick dog food uses high-quality, animal-based proteins like chicken, salmon, lamb, and beef with grain-free carbohydrates like sweet potato for fiber. Fresh fruits and vegetables provide natural sources for key nutrients while supplements like probiotics support healthy and regular digestion. Kibbles are properly sized for small mouths, and they have a satisfying crunch that helps keep your dog's teeth clean.

Top Dog Tips approves of the high protein content as well as the quality of the ingredients. The writer also notes that Merrick dog food is produced in organically-certified kitchens located in the USA. 

Pros: Available in seven flavors (two with raw bites), high-quality animal proteins as the first ingredient, gluten-free and grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables for natural sources of vitamins and minerals, supplemented with chelated minerals and probiotics, small kibble size, made in the USA with USA-sourced ingredients, no artificial additives or fillers, crunchy to clean teeth

Cons: Some dogs developed digestive upset, high protein content not recommended for dogs with liver or kidney issues, somewhat pricey compared to other brands

The best dog food for large breeds Blue Buffalo Life Protection Large Breed Dog Food comes in three flavors, all of which contain high concentrations of protein to keep big dogs happy.

Large-breed dogs need an average of 20 to 30 calories per pound of body weight to meet their energy requirements without gaining weight. When choosing a large-breed dog food formula, it is important to make sure you meet your dog's need for protein without going overboard on fat — too much fat typically means too many calories.

Large-breed dogs also require a careful blend of calcium and phosphorus to prevent orthopedic disease and glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support. Our top pick for the best dog food for large and giant breeds is Blue Buffalo Life Protection Large Breed Dog Food.

Available in three meat-rich flavors, Blue Buffalo Life Protection Large Breed Dog Food is designed specifically to meet the nutritional needs of larger dogs. Each recipe is made with high-quality animal protein as the first ingredient with whole grains, fresh fruits, and veggies for nutritional support.

There are no meat by-products or artificial additives, plus each formula is supplemented with Blue Buffalo's exclusive LifeSource Bits. LifeSource Bits contain a proprietary blend of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to ensure complete and balanced nutrition.

Pros: Fresh meat is the first ingredient, three meat-rich flavors to choose from, whole grains for digestibility and nutrition, fresh fruits and vegetables for natural sources of key nutrients, LifeSource Bits supplement for nutritional balance, chelated minerals and probiotics, no artificial additives

Cons: Some dogs are sensitive to grain ingredients, somewhat pricey compared to other brands, kibbles may be too small for some dogs

What we're looking forward to

We are currently testing dog foods for an update to this guide, including the following:

Check out our other buying guides for the best dog gear and supplies The best dog treats

Whether you are looking for a bite-sized indulgence or a healthy treat for training your dog, our top picks for dog treats will please your pup. These are the best dog treats you can buy.

The best nail clippers for dogs

Nail clippers for dogs come in several different forms. Some are better for small dogs while others work for larger breeds. Because there are so many options to choose from, we did the research to find the best nail clippers you can buy.

The best flea prevention and treatment for dogs

There are many flea control and protection products that are specifically designed to protect your dog against these pests. We've done the research to bring you our top picks for the best flea treatments for dogs that do not require a prescription.

The best dog dewormers

Dewormers for dogs come in several forms including tablets, granules, powders, and liquids, so talk to your veterinarian about the option that is best for your dog. Once you know what kind of dewormer you need, take a look at our top picks for the best non-prescription dewormer for dogs.

The best dog shampoos

Dog shampoos are formulated to be gentle on your dog's sensitive skin, and they are generally free from harsh chemicals and fragrances. There is an array of options out there, but some dog shampoos are simply better than others.

The best medicated dog shampoos

here are countless over-the-counter (OTC) medicated dog shampoos on the market, but we've done the research to determine the best nonprescription medicated shampoos for dogs.

The best dog harnesses

The best harness for your dog is the one that makes walks and other adventures easy while keeping them comfortable, secure, and pain-free. We've narrowed down a crowded field of more than two dozen options to find the six best harnesses for dogs of different sizes, needs, and abilities.

The best no-pull dog harnesses

While there are plenty of science-based techniques to teach a dog to walk on a loose leash, sometimes the best solution to a dog that pulls is a no-pull harness that will do the bulk of the work for you. A good no-pull harness can make walks more enjoyable without causing your dog discomfort or pain.

The best dog collars

The best dog collars are durable, comfortable for everyday wear, and won't lose their looks over time. We spoke to veterinarians to find out what kinds of collars are best for dogs and tested and researched popular brands.

The best puppy gear to make your new dog feel at home

Bringing a new puppy home is an important moment, so make it memorable and stock up on the right gear before it arrives. From a training collar to a bed and chew toy, here are the best items to buy to welcome your new dog.

The best puppy potty-training gear

A few key supplies will make a world of difference in getting your puppy quickly potty-trained.  In this buying guide to puppy potty-training gear, a certified professional dog trainer breaks down the crates, barriers, pet stain removers, indoor toilets, and treats that I've found most successful over the years.

The best muzzles

Dog muzzles serve a variety of purposes, from preventing biting during training and grooming to discouraging your dog from scavenging on walks. After consulting experts and doing extensive research, we narrowed down the best muzzles for different types of dogs and their needs. 

The best snow jackets for dogs

Whether your dog has short or long fur, a slender or thick build, a warm, water-resistant dog coat is a winter necessity to keep them comfortable and protected during daily walks and outdoor play. These are the best snow jackets for dogs you can buy.

The best raincoats for dogs

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Read the original article on Business Insider

The best bed sheets

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 3:50pm  |  Clusterstock

Even if you have the perfect mattress, it can be hard to fully enjoy your time in bed without a comfortable set of sheets. 

The type of feel you want — airy, silky, cozy — is personal, but no matter your preference, you'll always want to keep fiber quality and durability in mind while shopping for sheets. 

Though bedding brands are often quick to show off high thread counts, the type of fiber and weave are also important because they help determine the sheet's texture, breathability, and durability. Percale and sateen, for example, are both made of cotton but have different weave structures, resulting in different feels.

"When finding sheets that will last and provide comfort and a relaxing night's sleep, take a look at the material first and thread count second," said Ave Bradley, senior vice president of design and creative director at Kimpton Hotels. Kimpton uses 200-300 thread count cotton sheets from Frette in its rooms. 

Dennis Chan, director of retail product at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, said his team looks at the fabric drape (the way the fabric hangs), hand feel, and construction of weave when sourcing bedding for hotels worldwide. Four Seasons produces its own line of bedding, featuring 350-thread count sateen weave cotton sheets. 

For more on thread count, materials and fiber types, and fabric care, including input from a textiles scientist, see our FAQs section

Top hotel brands like Four Seasons and Kimpton outfit their rooms in 100% long-staple cotton sheets because they're soft, breathable, and durable, resulting in luxurious sleep experiences that guests often rave about. Long-staple cotton has longer fibers, so it's stronger and softer than shorter-staple cotton, which is why we also generally recommend 100% long-staple cotton and several of our best picks reflect this. However, we've also included options like flannel and linen, which hold heat differently and may be more appropriate for specific seasons or those who tend to sleep cold or hot. 

To test the best sheets, we washed and dried each set according to its respective instructions at least three times, looked at how each set fit on a 10-inch-thick mattress, and slept on each set to note texture, overall comfort, breathability, and coolness. For more on how we tested, see our methodology.

Here are the best sheets for your bed:

Prices and details are accurate as of 10/23/20. We've overhauled this guide by re-testing previous picks to see if they still stack up, trying new sheets, and speaking to experts about the bedding space. We're continuing to wash and sleep on the following sheets, while testing new brands for consideration.

The best sheets overall The L.L.Bean percale sheets feel amazing on your skin — simultaneously light, crisp, and soft — and prove that quality materials are more important than thread count.

Of all the percale cotton sheets I tested, L.L.Bean's set stood out for its ultra softness and comfort. It's our overall best pick because it boasts a bit of everything that most shoppers are looking for: lightweight, breathable, and cool fabric; crisp yet soft feel; and strong construction that can reliably stand up to multiple washes. 

The sheets are made from pima cotton, which is a high-quality, extra long-staple cotton. Karen Leonas, who holds a doctorate in textile chemistry and is a professor of textile sciences at the Wilson College of Textiles, NC State University told us extra long-staple cotton is even stronger and more resistant to abrasion than long-staple cotton. That's likely why the L.L.Bean sheets are extra soft and durable, even though the 280-thread count is on the lower end of the spectrum. They also had a great feel even after four washes and experienced no loose threads or shrinkage through the 5-week testing period.

The fitted sheet fit generally well and never slipped off, but there was a little excess (it fits up to 15-inch mattresses) on my IKEA Haugesund mattress. I loved that the long and short sides were labeled, a thoughtful touch that always sped up the annoying task of putting on my sheets. (When you're constantly trying and washing different sheets, you notice and appreciate these things.) 

The sheets are available in a handful of light colors and they have hemstitched detailing (decorative threading at the edges). If you prefer a simple look that fits into pretty much any room style, the L.L.Bean sheets won't disappoint. If you like fun prints and patterns, try Brooklinen's sheets. They came in a close second to L.L.Bean for comfort and durability and are also reasonably priced.  

There's nothing gimmicky or "special" about these L.L.Bean sheets and that's what makes them so great. They're simply well-made, extremely comfortable, and dependable — the best you could want out of something you're sleeping on every night. 

Pros: High-quality construction, very soft and comfortable, fitted sheet is labeled, accessible price

Cons: Lack of prints and patterns, fitted sheet may be loose on thinner mattresses

The best flannel sheets for winter It's hard to imagine snuggling in anything but Pinzon's thick flannel sheets on a cold winter night. They'll keep you warm and cozy without causing you to overheat.

Imagine you're nestled in a cabin in the woods, far, far away from the people and bustle of regular life. There's a fire crackling nearby and you have a book in one hand and a mug of tea in the other. That's what it feels like sleeping in these flannel sheets, even if the reality is that you're laying your head to rest in a modern city high-rise. 

There's no better fabric than flannel to bundle your body in during fall and winter (and even beyond, if you don't sleep hot). Pinzon's flannel is thick, soft, and cozy from the very first use and the comforting feeling only gets better over time. They're velvety and a little fuzzy, but were never itchy and uncomfortable. Though the sheets are very warm, they never felt stifling or unbreathable, despite the fact that I sometimes sleep warm. However, if you regularly sleep hot, the flannel sheets may be too stifling.

These sheets make it dangerously tempting to take midday naps curled up like a cat or to sleep in every day as if it were a Sunday free of commitments and appointments. I consistently felt like I slept better and deeper because of how warm and comfortable these sheets are. Fortunately, there's been no shrinkage or pilling to get in the way of that comfort.

Still, there are a few small inconveniences. Out of the package, they have a slight chemical odor, so you'll need to wash them before the first use. Also, be prepared to empty out a thick layer of fuzz from your dryer lint trap. If you have thicker or high-loft pillows, the pillowcases may be a tight fit. I used them on my Casper and Leesa pillows (both moderately-sized pillows), and the pillowcases were a bit difficult to pull on.

Pros: Plush and cozy feel, heavyweight, breathable, affordable 

Cons: Lots of dryer lint, only available in solid colors, may be too warm for hot sleepers

The best cooling sheets for summer The cool, airy, and beautiful linen sheets from MagicLinen will be your summer favorite, or if you regularly sleep hot, a durable yearlong standby.

Linen is a contentious textile. It wrinkles very easily, feels a bit rough, and is notoriously expensive. On the other hand, some prefer the casual, lived-in look, and it does get softer with time and use. Most importantly, because it's made from hollow flax fibers, which absorb moisture and quickly pass air through, linen is breathable and stays dry even on the warmest, stuffiest nights. 

MagicLinen sheets are the best linen sheets I've tried because they strike the right balance of comfort, coolness, durability, and price. They have the signature grainy texture of linen, but they also feel somewhat soft thanks to a stone washing process. I noticed they gradually felt even softer after multiple washes. Though they won't be winning the title of softest sheets, they're still very comfortable and enjoyable to sleep in since they remain cool and dry all night long. 

I personally loved the wrinkled look, especially combined with the soothing Sage Green color. Other eye-catching colors you can choose include a dusky rose and bright moss yellow. The color and overall construction have held up well so far, and the fabric continues to feel both substantial and lightweight. 

Expect some shedding in the first few washes — it's a natural part of the process but a little annoying to pick off your bed if you notice the bits of fabric. Depending on your mattress size, you may have some sizing issues and have to tuck extra fabric under your bed. I tested the deep size (18"D) because the standard size (10"D) would've been too tight, but I wish there was a size in between the two extremes. The standard pillowcases were the right size for my Casper and Leesa pillows but often slipped off because they have an open end instead of an envelope pocket. 

Read our full MagicLinen review The best hotel sheets When you don't want to spend hundreds of dollars a night to sleep at a luxury hotel, H by Frette's smooth and luxurious sateen sheets will take you there instead.

Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, and Kimpton hotels worldwide turn to this iconic name for their bedding needs. We're talking about none other than Italian luxury brand Frette, once the official maker of linens for the Italian royal family. 

Sleeping in Frette's soft and smooth sateen sheets, you'll certainly feel like royalty. H by Frette is Frette's consumer line of linens and whisks you away into the sumptuous hotel bed of your dreams. But rather than paying for just a single night in a high-end hotel, you're dropping $300 for years of hotel luxury in your own room. 

The sheets are, of course, only available in white, and you can get them in sateen or percale depending on your preference. The resulting bed looks simple, clean, and fresh, and while housekeeping staff isn't included with your purchase, you'll probably feel motivated anyways to maintain the signature hotel style yourself because of how sleek and composed the all-white look is.

Frette uses 100% extra long-staple cotton, so even though the set doesn't have the extraordinarily high thread count (300) you might expect from hotel sheets, it feels very soft. Extra long-staple cotton is also very durable — important for hotels where housekeeping teams are washing each room's sheets constantly, and important for you as a consumer if you want to be sure your investment goes a long way. 

Sateen sheets can be too warm for me sometimes, but Frette's felt perfect and cooler than other sateen sets I've tried. The sheets have a subtle gloss and a silky feel and they remain comfortable after every wash. 

You'll find less expensive and equally comfortable sheets in the rest of this guide, but if you specifically want the sheets used in and approved by hundreds of hotels, then you'll be very happy with Frette's. 

Pro tip: "When recreating this [hotel] experience at home, think about using high lofting pillows, quality sheets and a plush duvet with duvet cover for the ultimate luxury experience," says Chan. 

Pros: Luxury hotel-approved, quality materials, washes well, brand has long manufacturing history

Cons: Only available in white

The best sheets on a budget Threshold's sheets are popular among Target shoppers because they're comfortable, thoughtfully designed, and best of all, affordable.

It's the price tag that'll catch your eye first, then the great fit and soft feel that'll sell you completely on these budget-friendly sheets from Target brand Threshold. Of all the sets I tested, Threshold's fitted sheet was the easiest to put on and fit my mattress the best, despite being designed for mattresses up to 18-inch deep. The extra stretch in the corners of the sheet made a big difference and helped the sheet cling to my mattress without showing excess material on top. It also has a top and bottom label to speed up the fitting process. 

Once on, the sateen sheets are smooth and silky. They're made from 100% cotton and have a 400-thread count, which is on the higher end of all the sets I tried. I noticed after some use, however, that they seem to trap body oils more readily and feel greasier than other sets, making them less pleasant to sleep on. I wondered if this was because Target uses a short-staple cotton, or if they applied some kind of treatment over the sheets to give them their "performance" qualities (wrinkle-resistant, bleach friendly), but the brand didn't respond to my requests for additional clarification. The problem does seem to go away if I wash the sheets more often.

Either way, I had a comfortable experience overall; they just weren't the best of all the sheets I tried. And though they're touted as "performance sheets," most notably as being wrinkle-free, they certainly wrinkle. The best way you can get rid of the wrinkles, as with all cotton sheets, is to iron them. 

Be warned — the sheets have a strong sour and chemical smell when you first take them out of their packaging. The smell lingers even after the sheets are aired out for a couple of days, so you'll definitely want to wash them first.

If you're on a budget, a college student, or a frequent host looking to outfit a guest bed, these sheets are a smart decision. We're continuing to test and wash them to look for any durability issues, but so far we haven't run into any. 

Pros: Affordable, great fit 

Cons: May trap body oils more, smell terrible out of the package

Our methodology

Here's how we tested the sheets over a period of five weeks. Knowing that this is a fairly short amount of time, we'll continue to follow these steps in the upcoming weeks and note any changes.

  1. Washed and dried each set according to its respective instructions at least three times. Usually, we washed the sheets in a cold cycle with gentle detergent and dried them on a low tumble cycle. 
  2. Put the fitted sheet on a 10-inch-thick mattress and noted slipping, sliding, post-wash shrinkage, and stretchiness of elastic. 
  3. Slept on each set for at least three nights and noted texture, overall comfort, breathability, and coolness.
Other sheets we recommend

Brooklinen: As I mentioned earlier, it was a tight race between Brooklinen and L.L.Bean. We still highly recommend Brooklinen because the brand offers incredible value for long-lasting, comfortable, and beautiful sheets. But the set we tested (Brooklinen's most popular) may be too warm for some people because of the sateen weave, which is why we ultimately picked L.L.Bean's cooler percale. Read our full review of Brooklinen sheets here.

Boll & Branch: Boll & Branch uses cotton that's both GOTS- and Fair Trade-certified, so if you live an organic lifestyle, or are trying to incorporate more organic products into your cart, you'll love these ethically and sustainably made sheets. The sheets are comfortable and durable but keep in mind that the manufacturing process and certifications do come at a cost. Read our full review of Boll & Branch sheets here.

What else we considered

Crane & Canopy: We enjoyed sleeping in these extra long-staple cotton sateen sheets and also loved the embroidery of this set in particular. In the end, Brooklinen and L.L.Bean still top it when it comes to value. 

Serena & Lily: The home brand has many pretty and composed sheet options, like this Classic Ring Sheet Set, which has a percale weave and a 310-thread count. The feel is indeed crisp and cool, but it's a bit pricey for what you get and our other sheet picks offer better value. We also noticed after the first wash that there were already some loose threads on the pillowcases. 

Italic: Long-staple cotton percale sheets made by the same manufacturer of Frette, Four Seasons, and St. Regis sheets for $75? The Slumber Cotton set is definitely enticing for this reason, and it's comfortable to sleep in. However, Italic has a $100/year membership model, so buying this set only makes sense if you plan on purchasing other goods from the site. We recommend first browsing the rest of the online shop to see if you're interested in the other home products, clothing, and accessories. Otherwise, you'll be paying $175, which isn't any more competitive than our picks above. 

Ettitude: Ettitude's claim to fame is using bamboo lyocell for its sheets. They're made from 100% organic bamboo with a water-efficient manufacturing process and the result is uniquely soft, silky, and cool. However, we noticed they're more delicate than other fabrics and the sheets showed more pilling and abrasion after we washed them.

What we look forward to testing

West Elm: West Elm's Fair Trade-certified linen sheets are popular among linen lovers. They come in around the same price as MagicLinen's and are also available in many beautiful colors, so we'll mainly be comparing their comfort and durability. 

Kassatex: These long-staple cotton, 300-thread count sateen sheets seem promising, especially considering a Queen set is only $100. We look forward to putting these inexpensive sheets through all our tests to see how they stand up over time and how they compare to our current picks. 

Riley: Riley's percale sheets are mentioned frequently in other sheet guides, and they're a favorite of our senior home and kitchen editor. Though percale tends to be crisp, we've heard Riley sheets also manage to feel incredibly soft. They appeared in a previous version of this guide, but we now want to put them through the same standards as the other sheets.

Sheets FAQs Does thread count matter?

Yes, to a certain extent. However, don't use it as your sole determining factor because its definition can be manipulated, and after a certain number, the difference in feel and durability is negligible. 

Thread count is the number of yarns per inch, horizontally and vertically. Leonas tells us that a ply yarn (two single yarns twisted together) has traditionally been considered one yarn, but in recent years, some brands have been using total ply yarn count as the thread count, resulting in an artificially high number. 

Remember that thread count only applies to cotton sheets and single yarn weaves. All of our best cotton sheets fall in the 300-500 range, and you likely won't need anything beyond that.

Types of sheets

The quality and type of material do matter. Below, we define, compare, and contrast different materials, fabrics, and terms you'll often run into while shopping for sheets. 

Drape: The fluidity or rigidity of a fabric. A fabric with high or fluid drape, such as silk, is flowy and clings more to the object. A fabric with low drape is stiffer and holds its shape more. 

Long-staple cotton: Cotton with longer-staple fibers that result in smoother and stronger yarn. This is compared to short-staple cotton, which has fiber ends that stick out and cause the sheets to be rougher and less abrasion-resistant. Brands will generally call out when they use long-staple cotton; otherwise, you can probably assume it's short-staple. Leonas says the industry definition of long-staple cotton is a fiber length of 1.15-1.22 inches.

Egyptian cotton: Cotton grown in Egypt. It's often assumed that Egyptian cotton is long-staple, but it could also be lower-quality, short-staple cotton that just happens to be from Egypt, so be careful of this labeling, and look specifically for "long-staple cotton." 

Pima cotton: Also known by its trademark name, Supima cotton. Extra long-staple cotton that is grown only in the US and has a fiber length of at least 1.5 inches. Extra long-staple cotton is even smoother, more flexible, and more resistant to pilling than long-staple cotton.

Percale: A type of cotton weave where one thread is woven another thread into a tight, grid pattern. It has a matte, crisp feel. It's airy and more breathable. 

Sateen: A type of cotton weave where three or four threads are woven over one thread into a looser grid pattern. It has a smooth, silky feel and a slight sheen to it. Compared to percale, it's less breathable and may not be suitable for sleepers who run hot. According to Leonas, sateen has a tendency to snag more easily and also show dirt more readily, due to its unique "float" weave. If you enjoy the feel and look of sateen, keep in mind that sheets made using this weave require a little more care and maintenance. 

Polyester: A type of synthetic fiber that may be blended with cotton or used to make microfiber. It's less breathable and traps moisture more easily, and it may not be suitable for people with sensitive skin. 

Microfiber: A type of synthetic material made with very fine polyester fibers. It's very soft and drapeable, but doesn't breathe well. 

Lyocell: Also known as tencel. A type of fiber made from wood (often eucalyptus) pulp. It's soft, silky, and breathable. 

Linen: A type of fiber made from flax plants. It's slightly rigid, with a rougher texture, and it feels cool and breathable. It wrinkles easily. 

Flannel: A type of fabric made with thickly woven wool or cotton. It's brushed to give it a slight soft and fuzzy texture, and it feels warm.

Sheet safety and standards

You may notice that some of our best picks have a Standard 100 by Oeko Tex certification. This label means the final sheet product has been independently tested for more than 100 harmful chemical substances and is safe for human use. While it's not the only certification out there, it's widely used and known in the textiles industry. Our experts say you should look for the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification for basic safety, but if you also care about manufacturing, look for STeP by Oeko Tex. It checks for environmentally friendly, socially responsible, and safe practices all along the production process.

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is another certification, used specifically for organic textiles. GOTS-certified sheets contain at least 95% certified organic fibers and meet environmental and social standards at every stage of processing and manufacturing.

Taking care of your sheets

According to various bedding brands, you should wash your sheets every 1-2 weeks, and alternate sets to preserve their quality. We recommend following the specific care instructions that come with the sheet set you buy. Based on our experience, brands generally advise washing the sheets in a cold or warm cycle with gentle detergent, then drying in a low tumble cycle. Hot water can make colors bleed, cause shrinkage, and weaken fibers. Drying at a high heat can also weaken fibers and cause pilling.

How to prevent wrinkles

For all its great properties, cotton naturally wrinkles, and that's thanks to its molecular structure. Leonas explained to us that wrinkles basically happen when hydrogen bonds form as your sheets bump around in the dryer. "The only way to get rid of those bonds is to flip some water on it, or apply high heat. That's why we use a lot of steam when we press things," she says. 

If you want to get rid of wrinkles, the best way is to iron them before fitting them onto your bed, or removing them from your dryer a little before the cycle ends and fitting them onto your bed while slightly damp.

Check out our other great bedding guides The best mattressesThe best mattresses for side sleepersThe best duvet coversThe best pillowsThe best pillowcases Read the original article on Business Insider

Trump said he would release his tax returns when the 'auditors finish.' He's been saying this since 2016.

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 3:39pm  |  Clusterstock
President Donald Trump at Thursday's presidential debate.
  • At Thursday night's debate, President Donald Trump once again did not clarify specifically when he would release his tax returns and did not commit to doing so before the November election.
  • When the moderator asked him for a specific deadline, he said he would release them "as soon as the auditors finish."
  • Four years ago during the 2016 election, Trump also said he would release his tax returns "as soon as the audit is finished."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Donald Trump once again did not commit to a specific date before the election to release his tax returns, saying they are still "under audit."

At the presidential debate on Thursday night, former Vice President Joe Biden pressed Trump to release his tax returns. Trump did not commit to releasing them and instead responded: "First of all, I called my accountants under audit. I'm going to release them as soon as we can."

Moderator Kristen Welker gave him another chance to say when he would release his tax returns and she specifically asked for a deadline. He once again wouldn't commit to a specific date.

"As soon as the auditors finish," Trump said.

A New York Times investigation published last month found Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017. At a September press conference, Trump also responded to questions about his taxes by saying they are "under audit" and called the report "fake news" without providing evidence to the contrary.

Although he has said he's paid "millions of dollars in taxes," the president has never released documentation to show it, breaking a norm that dates back to the 1970s.

Biden released his 2019 tax returns ahead of the first presidential debate, which showed he and his wife paid nearly $300,000 in federal income taxes last year.

2016 all over again Then-Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks during the third and final debate with Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas on October 19, 2016.

During the 2016 election, Trump became the first major presidential nominee in 40 years to refuse to disclose his tax returns, per the Washington Post.

In addition to commenting that not paying taxes "makes me smart," Trump also declined to commit to a definitive date on when he would release his tax returns because he was under audit then.

"I'm under a routine audit, and as soon as the audit is finished, it'll be released," Trump said during a presidential debate against former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Instead of disclosing his tax returns or committing to a specific date of when he would do so, Trump responded by criticizing his opponent. Trump said he would disclose his taxes if Clinton released emails deleted from a private server she used while she was the US secretary of state.

Similarly at last night's debate, instead of committing to disclosing his tax returns, Trump repeatedly claimed Biden was involved in his son's business dealings, although there is no evidence this is the case, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Every non-voter has a story. 2 of the 100 million tell us why they're skipping the polls.

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 3:37pm  |  Clusterstock
  • Nearly 100 million eligible voters did not cast a ballot in the 2016 presidential election.
  • The United States is preparing for what may be the highest recorded voter turnout rate in over a century, but some people are still opting out.
  • Insider spoke to two eligible voters who are choosing not to vote in 2020 to learn more about their decision.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As he sits at his computer and takes off in his flight simulator, Sam Corman isn't concerned about the outcome of the US presidential election. Corman's already made his decision: He'll be one of the millions of non-voters in what may be the election with the highest recorded voter turnout rate in over a century.

In 2016, about 100 million eligible voters never cast a ballot, according to the Knight Foundation. That election was no anomaly — in every presidential election since 1912, at least 35% of eligible voters abstained from casting a ballot.

Corman was first eligible to vote in the 2016 presidential election. The 23-year-old from Connecticut told Insider he previously refrained from voting because he didn't think his vote mattered. Connecticut is a solidly blue state, and he felt his vote would not have an impact.

Corman ardently reads both Fox News and the New York Times, publications he says represent "both sides" — he feels this allows him to get the full story of American politics. But after seeing the bigger picture, he said, Corman has no desire to vote in this election.

What's holding Corman back in 2020 is the quality of the candidates. He told Insider that he would be much more likely to vote if Democrats and Republicans were better represented on Election Day.

"I don't believe that either candidate is good or will be a good president," Corman said. "We've seen one, and the other I just don't believe it is a good alternative, so I don't think that my vote should go to either one."

To him, neither candidate has justifiably answered for multiple allegations of sexual assault in their pasts.

"There are countless sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump, and there are multiple against Biden," Corman said. He just doesn't understand why that doesn't perturb his more liberal friends.

"By voting for someone who has those allegations, you're completely undermining your entire belief system," he said. "That's my opinion."

Corman isn't alone in his feelings about the two major presidential candidates. Insider found that 21% of self-identified non-voters in its surveys choose not to vote because they are dissatisfied with Biden and Trump.

For some non-voters, the problem goes beyond the candidates; they believe the entire election system is broken.

Despite voting in previous elections, Vanessa is abstaining in 2020. The 31-year-old told Insider following the first presidential debate that she feels "like America is the laughing stock of the world right now."

Instead of focusing on the problems at hand, she said, "all politicians are focused on is bashing each other."

Vanessa grew up in a home in southwestern Ohio, where politics were often discussed at the dinner table. Surrounded by Republican family and friends, she fell in line and voted similarly. She told Insider that she still leans Republican, but doesn't believe her singular vote makes enough of a difference.

Ohio is home to one of the most competitive races in the entire election. With less than two weeks until Election Day, Trump is leading Biden in an average of polls in the state by just 1%, according to FiveThirtyEight. Estimates from RealClearPolitics show Biden trailing by an even slimmer margin: 0.6 points. Even so, Vanessa has no desire to cast a ballot.

What's stopping her from voting is not a specific qualm about the candidate's pasts or verbal miscues, but about politicians themselves. Ultimately, she told Insider that they simply do not care about their campaign promises.

"At the end of the day," she said, "the politicians are going to do exactly what they want to do." 

With less than two weeks to go, over 50 million ballots have been cast around the US. Texas, a state that could decide the presidency on Election Night, has already cast 71% of its total vote count from 2016 — it's one of many states seeing record turnouts around the country. 

Even with a high turnout, there will still always be millions of non-voters that cannot be swayed by a different candidate. Insider found that 11% of non-voters in its surveys do so out of systemic problems, disagreements with the process, or contention that their vote is ineffective.

Vanessa told Insider that "there are millions of people in America who vote," and that she believes her one vote means nothing. That sentiment continues to echo among a large swath of non-voters in the US. 

"I don't really feel that my vote matters," she said. "I just, I see no point in it."

More on non-voters:

Insider poll: More than 20% of Asian Americans say they do not plan on voting in the 2020 election

Insider poll: People without a college degree are much more likely than others to say they don't intend to vote this year

Unemployed Americans are more likely to not vote, a new Insider poll finds

America's 1.3 million Jehovah's Witnesses will be sitting out the election

Expanded Coverage Module: insider-voter-guideRead the original article on Business Insider

What is the Roth IRA 5-year rule? Important guidelines for withdrawing IRA earnings

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 3:32pm  |  Clusterstock
Younger investors can be heavily penalized for Roth IRA withdrawals if they don't abide by the 5-year rule.
  • The Roth IRA 5-year rule refers to a waiting period imposed on certain types of account withdrawals.
  • The 5-year rule applies in three instances: withdrawing account earnings, converting a traditional IRA to a Roth, and inheriting a Roth IRA.
  • Unless you qualify for an exception, you're liable for income taxes and penalties if you violate the 5-year rule.
  • Visit Insider's Investing reference library for more stories.

Roth IRAs offer significant tax breaks: The money grows tax-free within the account, and you don't owe income taxes when you take it out. But, as with most tax-advantaged vehicles, there are strings attached. 

In the case of Roths, it's called the 5-year rule, and it applies to account withdrawals, or distributions as the IRS calls them. If you want to keep your distributions free and clear of taxes and tax penalties, you need to understand its ins and outs. 

Technically speaking, three different 5-year rules apply to Roth IRAs. Here's what you need to know about each.

1. The 5-year rule for withdrawing earnings

First, a quick Roth refresher. Roth IRAs are individual retirement accounts that you fund with after-tax dollars. That means you don't get a tax deduction for contributions when you make them, but then you don't incur taxes on distributions when you take them (the opposite of the way traditional IRAs work).

At least, that's the general rule. But a key thing you need to know about withdrawing money from a Roth IRA is that there's a difference between taking out contributions you made to the account and taking out the account earnings — that is, any interest, capital gains, or other income generated by your investments.

You can withdraw sums equal to your contributions from a Roth IRA any time, tax- and penalty-free. But earnings are more complicated. 

The 5-year rule imposes a waiting period on them. It states the Roth IRA has to be at least five years old before you can withdraw any of its earnings. Even then, you may have to pay taxes and/or penalties (generally 10% of the distributed sum) depending on your age and how long you've held the account.

Roth IRA withdrawals if you're under 59½ 

Since the IRS wants you to save Roth IRA funds for your retirement, it frowns on you withdrawing them too early. It defines "too early" as age 59½. In general, if you're younger than that, you will have to pay income taxes and the 10% early withdrawal penalty on any earnings you pull out of the account.

However, there are exceptions. They include:

  • You use the money (up to $10,000) to buy your first home
  • You use the money to pay for education expenses
  • You use the money to pay for expenses relating to a birth or adoption
  • You become disabled or pass away
  • You use the money to pay for unreimbursed medical expenses/health insurance premiums while unemployed
  • You take distributions in substantially equal periodic payments

Let's say you do meet one of these exceptions. Here's where the 5-year rule really comes into play. 

  • If you're under age 59½ and you've had your Roth IRA open less than five years, you avoid that 10% penalty. You still owe income taxes in the earnings, though. 
  • If you're under age 59½ and have had the account for five years or more, you avoid paying both taxes and penalties.
Roth IRA withdrawals if you're 59½ or older

If you've passed the magic age of 59½, things loosen up considerably. But not completely.

If you have had your Roth IRA for more than five years, you can withdraw earnings from your account for any reason without paying taxes or penalties. 

If you've had the account for less than five years, the earnings portion of the withdrawal is taxable, but you don't have to pay penalties.

2. The 5-year rule for converting a Traditional IRA to a Roth IRA

The second 5-year rule applies only to funds that are part of a Roth conversion. A Roth conversion is when you roll over money from a Traditional IRA into a Roth IRA. You must pay income taxes on the rolled-over, or "converted," amount in the year you do the Roth conversion. That's why people usually only do a Roth conversion if:

  • They believe their tax bracket will be higher in retirement. Paying taxes on the conversion at their current tax rate is preferable to paying a higher rate later.
  • Their income is lower than usual this year. If their taxable income is lower than normal this year, they can convert some funds into a Roth with a lower tax impact.

The 5-year rule on Roth conversions requires you to wait five years before withdrawing any converted balances — contributions or earnings — regardless of your age. If you take money out before the five years is up, you'll have to pay a 10% penalty when you file your tax return. 

One bright spot: The clock starts ticking on the first day of the year you do the conversion, no matter what date the conversion actually happened. For example, you could execute the conversion on Dec. 15, 2020, and the five years would be up on Jan. 1, 2025. 

3. The 5-year rule for inherited Roth IRAs

The final 5-year rule applies to inherited Roth IRAs. Roth IRA beneficiaries can withdraw contributions from an inherited Roth account at any time (in fact, they're required to). But to withdraw earnings tax-free, the account must have been open for at least five years when the original account-holder died.

If the account hasn't been open that long, there are a few options:

  • Disclaim the inherited assets. You can choose not to accept the funds if you don't need the money or don't want to deal with the tax consequences.
  • Withdraw the money in a lump sum. You'll have to pay taxes on the earnings portion of the account all at once, but this might be better if you're in a low bracket now.
  • Withdraw funds annually based on your life expectancy. This option is only available to surviving spouses, minor children of the account holder, disabled or chronically ill people, and beneficiaries who are less than 10 years younger than the deceased (for example, a sibling). The beneficiary's life expectancy is based on the IRS Single Life Expectancy Table.
  • Roll the inherited funds into your own Roth IRA or a new Roth IRA account. This option is only available to surviving spouses.
  • Delay withdrawals. You can leave the money in the account until the 5-year mark has passed. The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act mandates that, for most beneficiaries, inherited IRAs must be emptied within a decade. The beneficiary owes a 50% penalty on any assets left in the account at the end of the 10th year.
The financial takeaway

Roth IRAs can be an excellent source of tax-free income, but it's important to understand the nuances of the withdrawal rules — particularly the 5-year rule — in all its permutations. Flouting the rule can be costly, especially if you're under 59½. So plan carefully — otherwise, you can wind up owing avoidable taxes and penalties. 

Related Coverage in Investing:How to invest in a Roth IRA for retirement and other financial goalsAn IRA is one of the best ways to save money for retirement. Here's exactly how to open one.What is a rollover IRA? How to transfer funds from your 401(k) to an IRA and avoid taxesThe rule of 55 lets you tap into your 401(k) early without paying a penalty, but only if you meet the age requirement and other termsA self-directed IRA gives you control over a greater choice of investment options, but it also means more responsibility and risksRead the original article on Business Insider

iOS 14 allows you to create folders for iPhone voice memos to keep all of your recordings organized – here's how to do it

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 3:30pm  |  Clusterstock
iOS 14 lets you organize your voice memos into different folders.
  • You can create folders for your iPhone voice memos, starting with iOS 14, to organize your recordings if you have many stored on your device.
  • To create folders, use the "New Folder" icon on the new Voice Memos home page.  
  • New recordings are stored in the current folder when you start recording, but you can also move recordings into folders using a swipe gesture or the "Edit" button at the top of the screen. 
  • Visit Business Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

The iPhone's Voice Memos app is a handy tool for easily dictating memos and even capturing interviews and conversations. Until recently, though, there was no way to organize your library of memos. But, starting with iOS 14, you can now create personal folders for voice memos. 

How to create folders for iPhone voice memos

1. Open the Voice Memos app on your iPhone.

2. If the app opens to the All Recordings page, with a list of all your memos, tap the arrow at the top left of the page. This will take you to the new home page which displays your folders – currently, it will only show one folder: "All Recordings."

3. Tap the "New Folder" icon at the lower right corner. In the pop-up window, give the folder a name and tap "Save."

You can create new folders using the icon at the bottom right of the screen.

You've now created an empty folder in the My Folders section of the page, into which you can move existing recordings or make new ones.

How to record new iPhone voice memos in a specific folder

Voice memos are automatically stored in whatever folder is open when you tap the Record button.

If you are on the All Recordings page when you start a recording, you'll find the completed recording in the All Recordings folder, which always shows all your voice memos regardless of whether you've organized it into a different folder. 

If you open one of the personal folders and tap "Record," the memo will be automatically stored in that folder. 

How to put iPhone voice memos in folders

You can move memos one at a time or in a group to a personal folder. 

To move a single memo from the All Recordings folder:

1. Open the Voice Memos app and go to the All Recordings page, if you're not already there.

2. Find the recording you want to move and swipe it to the left only until you see the swipe options appear. Don't swipe all the way, or it'll go to the trash. 

3. Tap the blue folder icon.

Use the swipe options to move a recording to a specific folder.

4. In the "Select a Folder" pop-up, tap the folder you want to move the recording to.

To move a group of memos from the All Recordings folder:

1. Open the Voice Memos app and go to the All Recordings page, if you're not already there.

2. Tap "Edit" at the top right of the page.

3. Tap each memo you want to move.

Select the memos you want to move and then use the "Move" button at the bottom left of the screen.

4. Tap "Move" in the lower left corner of the screen.

5. In the "Select a Folder" pop-up, tap the folder you want to move the recording to.

Related coverage from Tech Reference:Read the original article on Business Insider

What would happen if you rode a roller coaster as tall as the Burj Khalifa

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 3:30pm  |  Clusterstock
  • Kingda Ka is the tallest roller coaster in the world. At 139 meters, it's nearly the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
  • But what if someone built a roller coaster as tall as the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world? 
  • Although the engineering would be possible, it wouldn't be safe to ride because intense wind resistance, flying pieces of debris, and bird strikes could injure or even kill riders.
  • Plus, the high g-forces could cause people to blackout as blood moves away from their heads and towards the rest of their bodies.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: This is Kingda Ka, the tallest roller coaster in the world. At 139 meters, it's nearly the height of the Great Pyramid of Giza. But what if we built a roller coaster even taller? What if there was a coaster that went as high as the tallest building on Earth, the Burj Khalifa? Well, it's a good thing we don't, because strapping in to a ride like that might be the last thing you ever did.

The true limit of a roller coaster's height has less to do with engineering and more to do with the limits of the human body, because the higher the roller coaster, the faster you'll drop under gravity. And on our 800-meter-tall mega-coaster, riders would hit the blistering top speed of 370 kilometers per hour. Going this fast, the wind alone would cause serious damage. For comparison, Here's what a wind tunnel does to a human face.

Matt Calabrese: Your skin would pull back at the cheeks. Your eyes would be seeing a lot of damage if there was debris in the air or anything like that. And your ears would probably start popping, which wouldn't be fun.

Narrator: Some of this is already a problem for Formula Rossa, the fastest roller coaster in the world. It reaches a top speed of 240 kilometers per hour, and anyone who rides it has to wear goggles to protect their eyes, because at those speeds, dust and debris in the air turn into tiny missiles. Speaking of missiles, dust and debris wouldn't be the only problem.

Calabrese: The main thing I'd be worried about is if you had a bird strike.

Narrator: Yes, a bird strike. It's rare, but it can happen. 

Matus: And I was like, oh my God, oh my God.

Narrator: At lower speeds, it could leave you with a bad bruise or a painful welt, like with the Kingda Ka rider. But at 370 kilometers per hour, you and the unfortunate bird would likely die from the collision. Now, you could just wear a motorcycle helmet and protective clothing before strapping in, but there's another problem that no amount of protective gear could fix: g-force.

It's the force that makes you feel heavier than normal, like when you're riding through a coaster loop. Normally, you experience 1 g-force, but when you rapidly accelerate, like when you're going through a coaster loop, the g-force ramps up, which causes blood to rush away from your head and often makes riders feel light-headed. For this reason, most roller coasters don't subject you to more than 5 g's, tops. But we're not talking about your typical coaster. If you enter a loop on the Khalifa coaster at more than 300 kilometers per hour...

Calabrese: Blood will start to move away from your head and to the rest of your body, and that means you'll start to gray out and then possibly black out, and that's not good.

Narrator: So what can engineers do to protect riders as they continue to build taller, faster coasters? The boring option is to slow down the ride by adding brakes along the first drop. But there's a better, more exciting way around the problem: loops. Really big loops.

Calabrese: All we have to do is manipulate the curvature to maintain the g-forces that we want. So instead of a tight loop that you would see on a low-speed roller coaster, you'd need big, swooping loops and large radius curvature to make sure that you're not generating huge amounts of g-force at that speed. As you go through the roller coaster and you lose speed due to air resistance and drag in the wheels, your speed drops, and your curvature will get tighter.

Narrator: That's why many roller coasters start with one big loop, followed by a series of faster, lighter ones. So in theory, our Khalifa coaster is rideable, as long as we add big enough loops and hand out protective eye gear. That said, we'll probably never see a roller coaster get much taller than they are today, because nowadays there are cheaper and more efficient ways to thrill and terrify riders.

For example, hydraulic or magnetic launching systems accelerate riders to extreme speeds, without needing to build an expensive, giant drop. So perhaps the only reason to ever build something like a Khalifa coaster would be for the view.

Calabrese: I love roller coasters with beautiful views. And it adds so much to the experience, having a view on the way up. So any beautiful location, love to see a roller coaster in order to get a different perspective on those views.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This video was originally published in July 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

US stocks waver as investors mull dwindling chances for near-term stimulus

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 3:14pm  |  Clusterstock
  • US stocks wavered on Friday as new commentary from the White House cut into hopes for preelection stimulus.
  • While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi indicated a bill could still be approved before Election Day, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that "significant differences" remained between each side's respective proposals.
  • The tepid session led the S&P 500 to post its first weekly loss in four weeks.
  • Oil sank after Libya announced it would lift production. West Texas Intermediate crude sank as much as 2.6% to $39.57 per barrel.
  • Watch major indexes update live here.

US equities fluctuated to close out a tepid week as investors digested the latest updates to plodding stimulus deliberations.

Commentary from White House officials and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi drove indexes to waver between daily losses and gains. Pelosi told MSNBC on Friday stimulus could still be passed before Election Day "if the president wants to" and that the two parties were still writing up a compromise. But President Donald Trump told reporters he didn't want a relief measure to bail out Democratic-leaning states, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said "significant differences" remained between each side's respective proposals.

"We've offered compromises. The speaker on a number of issues is still dug in. If she wants to compromise, there will be a deal," Mnuchin said. 

Here's where US indexes stood at the 4 p.m. ET market close on Friday:

Read more: Strategists at JPMorgan's $1.9 trillion asset management arm share 5 investing tips for navigating the fast-approaching election — including the sectors poised to profit from every possible outcome

Even if Democrats and the White House reach an agreement, Senate Republicans are set to ignore the bill on grounds that it costs too much. Democrats blocked Republicans' $500 billion "skinny" bill on Wednesday, leaving both sides at a stalemate for passing new relief.

Some Wall Street strategists have pushed their stimulus forecasts past the election and see a possible Democratic sweep yielding an even larger relief bill in early 2021. The presidential election's outcome is "the biggest variable" for stimulus moving forward, Goldman Sachs said earlier in the week, adding that talks would continue since "neither side benefits from ending them."

The choppy session led the S&P 500 to post a weekly loss for the first time in four weeks. Energy and tech stocks dragged the most on the index. Communications and real-estate names outperformed.

Thursday night's presidential debate was decidedly less market-moving than the first, with Trump taking a less-combative approach toward former Vice President Joe Biden. The two discussed a variety of topics, including the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare, and race relations, but futures barely moved throughout the hour-and-a-half event.

IHS Markit's gauge of US business activity accelerated in October to 55.5 from 53.4, according to a Friday release. The reading marks the fastest pace of growth since February 2019 and bolsters arguments that the nation's economic recovery is faring well despite the stimulus holdup. Readings above 50 indicate growth, while those below the threshold point to sector contraction.

"On the downside, the employment indexes for both the manufacturing and services surveys weakened between September and October," the JPMorgan economist Daniel Silver said. "But in more positive news, the expectation measures picked up, including a jump in expectations for activity for the services PMI."

Read more: Market wizard Jim Rogers started trading with $600 and now has a reported net worth of $300 million. He shares the 8 trading rules that ensured his success.

Gilead shares leaped after its remdesivir compound became the first drug authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to treat COVID-19.

Intel sank after weakness in its server business soured otherwise positive earnings results. The company forecast the decline to last through the fourth quarter but still raised its full-year guidance. Bank of America analysts downgraded the chipmaker to "underperform" and lowered their price target to $45, implying a 17% dive from Thursday's close.

Bitcoin slowed its roll after rallying to its highest point since June 2019 on Thursday. The cryptocurrency's 14-day Relative Strength Index leaped above 80, signaling the token is overbought after rallying 10% into Friday.

Spot gold fell slightly to $1,894.48 per ounce at intraday lows before rising back above its $1,900 support. The US dollar dipped against peers and Treasury yields fell.

Oil sank after Libya announced it would boost production. West Texas Intermediate crude slid as much as 2.6% to $39.57 per barrel. Brent crude, oil's international benchmark, fell 2.3% to $41.50 per barrel at intraday lows.

Now read more markets coverage from Markets Insider and Business Insider:

Famed investor Mike Novogratz says 'liquidity tsunami' from stimulus will drive investors to buy any dips from Biden's tax plan

Billionaire investor Paul Tudor Jones calls bitcoin 'the best inflation trade' as the token surges above $13,000

Big investors pay thousands of dollars for Danielle DiMartino Booth's research. The former Fed advisor explains how the central bank has distorted markets — and shares 2 areas where analytical traders can still find returns.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A 24-year-old engineer created a website that tells you if your McDonald's has a working ice-cream machine

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 3:08pm  |  Clusterstock
  • 'McBroken' aims to fix a common problem for McDonald's customers: arriving to find the ice-cream machine is broken.
  • The website works in real time to tell users if an ice cream machine is up and running or not.
  • McDonalds seems to be on board with the site, with the fast-food giant's VP tweeting, "Only a true @McDonalds fan would go to these lengths to help customers get our delicious ice cream."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

There are many things that are synonymous with McDonald's, but a broken ice-cream machine is often near the top of the list. 

Seeking a solution, a software engineer set out to save customers from disappointment in their pursuit of a cold treat from the fast-food chain.

McBroken, a website created by 24-year-old Rashiq Zahid, according to The Verge, aims to tell potential customers in real time if an ice-cream machine is working at a particular McDonald's or not. Each location is indicated with a colored dot. Locations with a green dot should have ice cream, while red-dot locations are reported to have an out-of-order machine.

In order to figure out if a location needs a red or green dot, Zahid created a bot that tries to order a McSundae every 30 minutes— if the bot succeeds, the website will say the machine is working. 

The inspiration came from a fruitless trip Zahid took to a Berlin McDonald's earlier this year, where he was unable to get a McFlurry, because there was no way to tell if the ice-cream machine was up and running. 

"I was like, there must be something that can be done about this," Zahid said in an interview with The Verge.

The most likely reason the soft-serve machine is often down is due to the heat cleaning cycle the machines must go through every night in order to prevent bacteria growth. Before the cleaning process even begins, the McDonald's machine has to be disassembled through an 11-step process, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Read more: McDonald's franchisees are taking matters into their own hands to fix the chain's notoriously broken soft-serve machines

Within 20 minutes of its launch, McBroken had over 10,000 visitors, leading the site to crash, Zahid said. The software engineer said he intended for the project to be a joke, so he was surprised by the instant interest.

While Zahid lives in Germany, he knew the next place for the website to lauch was the US, "which is basically the capital of McDonalds'." Now, Americans can browse McBroken as well.

McDonalds seems to be on board with the site, with the fast food giant's VP tweeting; "Only a true @McDonalds fan would go to these lengths to help customers get our delicious ice cream."

Zahid isn't the first person to attempt to fix this issue. In 2017, Raina McLeod created Ice Check, an app that relied on users to update the app and say if an ice cream machine was "on" or "off."

McDonald's franchise owners are also making moves to combat the frequent issue. On October 8, a McDonald's franchisee owner and leader for the National Supply Leadership Council (NSLC) equipment team announced an initiative focusing specifically on shake machine reliability.

You can take the McBroken website for a spin by clicking here.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A reader asked Scott Galloway if he should put his career on hold to care for his terminally ill father. Here's how he responded.

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 3:00pm  |  Clusterstock
Caring for a sick parent is something that no one teaches you how to do.
  • Scott Galloway is a bestselling author and professor of marketing at NYU Stern.
  • The following is his recent blog post and video, republished with permission. It originally ran on his blog, "No Mercy / No Malice."
  • A reader wrote to Galloway and asked for his advice on whether he should pause his career to help care for his father, who's been diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer.
  • From his own experience caring for his mother for seven months after her cancer diagnosis, Galloway says he learned that who's around you at the end of your life is important.
  • It's key to set boundaries with your sick relative — you still have to have your own life and space. When spending time together, watch your loved one's favorite movies, music, or TV shows and show them old pictures.
  • At the end of life, Galloway says parents want to know two things: that they are loved, and that they've raised you to be OK once they've passed.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As we can't look away from the Mayor of America's one-man luge, and the head-on collision of multitasking and Zoom, we risk losing sight of the profound: Americans are dying from the novel coronavirus at a greater velocity than any crisis in our nation's history. 

Childhood, education, failure, success, and relationships shape us. But I'd posit that what defines us is life and death — bringing a child into the world and losing someone you love. Not the moment of birth or death, but the proximate before and after. More people are losing more people than at any point in our history. 

In the past week, I've received five emails (usually on LinkedIn for some reason) from people seeking guidance on how to provide a sick parent a good death. Below is a similar email I received two years ago on the topic, and my response. It's never felt more relevant than it does today. The logistics of taking care of loved ones during COVID-19 may look different, but the groundwork is the same.

Hi Professor Galloway,

I am reaching out because I trust your opinion and would love your advice. I am 26 and have been building a career in digital marketing at a consumer products company.

In January my dad was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer, and I have made the decision to move back home to be with him and my mom. I have been planning on continuing to work... but have this nagging feeling that it's not worth it, and the extra money is not as valuable as full days with my family during this time. Still I am worried that halting my learning right now will hinder my career in the long run.

I wish my dad was able to help me answer this question with a clear head and from an unbiased place. I would love your opinion on this as a second-best option!

Dear X,

I'm sorry about your dad. I have no real credentials nor empirical data around providing comfort to sick parents. What I can tell you is what I did when my mom was sick and what I learned. It's key to point out, however, that I was in a different stage in my career. I was 39 and had established some professional stature and economic security, which in your twenties you likely don't have. These are very personal decisions. A lot of it boils down to your relationship with your parents, logistics, and resources. So, with that, some learnings:

My mom was diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer and was given three months to live. She asked me if I could help her die at home, and I agreed. I moved in with her so we could spend time together and make her exit more dignified. She passed seven months later at home.

Scott Galloway

Learning: Where you die, and who is around you at the end is a strong signal of your success or failure in life. I believe it doesn't matter how nice your home is; if at your exit you're surrounded by strangers under bright lights, it's a disappointment. Granted this isn't an option for many people, but if you die at home, surrounded by people who love you, you are a success. It's a sign that you forged meaningful relationships and that you were generous with people. 

Learning: Give care to the caregivers. My mom's four sisters and best friend each spent three to four weeks living with us helping to care for her. This was key, as there were things I couldn't help with. One way I was able to add value was to help make their stay more enjoyable. One of my aunts loved to talk; I do not. I speak for a living, and when I'm home I want to hear my kids' and my wife's voices, but I don't say much. But with her, we'd stay up late and talk for hours, about nothing.

Another aunt likes to drink and gamble. I'd take her to a bad casino in Summerlin, Nevada, give her $100, and sit with her at a $.25 roulette table as she drank White Russians. She'd get drunk and start flirting. She once took a guy's cowboy hat off, placed it over his crotch, and screamed, "The cowboy's a goner!" I don't even know what that means. Several times I wanted to shoot myself in the face. But my roulette-playing, White Russian-drinking aunt was showering my mom every morning, and I loved her for it.

My mom's best friend, Karsen, was a raging alcoholic. She was also addicted to painkillers — three years later she was one of the 46,000 people who die from opioids each year. Karsen just wanted someone to drink with after my mom was asleep. Take your mom to the movies, go out for lunch, and take walks together. She has a tough road ahead of her being the primary caregiver for your dad.

Learning: Boundaries. Your dad's remaining days on this planet are important, and so are yours. You need to have your own life/space. I left every Thursday, and went to New York City or Miami to keep friendships and work somewhat alive. Economic security is key, and for that at your age you need to establish professional momentum. I'd speculate your dad would appreciate you adapting your life, but not transforming it or putting your career on hold. You will likely have kids of your own, and your parents' grandkids will also need a dad who can provide for them and feels relevant professionally. Only you can decide what this balance is.

People often outlive their prognoses. My mom was given three months, and lived another four. Unfortunately, one Sunday I flew back, and she had passed 30 minutes earlier. I wish I'd been there, but I wouldn't change the approach. Had I not had some semblance of a life, I would have been less pleasant to be around (and I'm not that pleasant to begin with). On one of those weekends I met someone who, two years later, I had a son with, and then another. Had I not attended to my own life/needs/happiness, my mom likely wouldn't have grandkids. She'd be pleased to know I have a son who looks like her, and whose middle name is hers, Sylvia.

Learning: Shared media. My mom and I both love TV, and we watched a ton of it together. It was awesome. Frasier, Jeopardy, Everybody Loves Raymond, Friends. What's the media your dad enjoys? If it's books, read to him; music, listen together. Watch his favorite movies.

Learning: Relive his life. Looking at pictures and asking my mom to share stories from her childhood and adulthood was rewarding for us and gave her a chance to live her life again. Facilitate this as much as possible.

Learning: Nothing unsaid. Impossible to say "I love you," or how much you admire your father, too much. Impossible. I used to sit next to my mom on the couch, hold her hand, weep, and tell her how sad I was she was sick.

Learning: People will surprise/disappoint you. My mom had several close friends who never visited or even called much. It was as if they were worried they might catch her cancer. I don't think these were bad people, they just dealt with it differently. Conversely, her last boss, a successful guy 20 years younger than her, with his own family, would get on a plane every four weeks, come sit by my mom's side (where she would vomit into a plastic container every 15 minutes), and would talk to her for an hour before heading back to the airport.

Learning: It's the illness speaking. My mom was remarkably good-spirited through the process. However, it's not uncommon for people to be unreasonable, even mean toward the end. It's the illness speaking. To the extent you can, ignore it.

What I know

As the father of two, I can somewhat relate to your dad. I think about the end a lot, so I can make better choices today. At the end, I believe parents want two things:

  • To know their family loves them immensely.
  • To recognize that their love and parenting gave their children the skills and confidence to add value and live rewarding lives.

Your message and LinkedIn profile confirm your father has achieved both these things. It must be a huge source of comfort for him to have such an impressive son.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Costco is selling at-home COVID-19 tests for $130

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 2:51pm  |  Clusterstock
Costco is now selling COVID-19 tests.

Costco is selling COVID-19 tests that you can take in the comfort of your home. 

The retailer is selling at-home tests that allow customers to test for the coronavirus via saliva samples, instead of inserting swabs into their noses for samples. The COVID-19 saliva PCR test kit costs $130 on Costco is charging an extra $10 for the same kit with video observation and assistance.

According to test maker P23, the tests are 98% sensitive and 99% specific. (Sensitivity is the probability that the test will produce a true positive response, while specificity is the probability that the test will produce a true negative.)

Read more: There are 11 coronavirus tests you can use from home. Here's how they work and where to order one.

To take the test, users collect a sample of their saliva by spitting into a tube. These tubes of saliva are sent to a testing center in a return-shipping box, which is included as part of the kit. According to Costco, the tests' results are then available online or via app within 24 to 48 hours.

The test's official name is the P23 Labs TaqPath SARS-CoV-2 Assay. Costco's version of the test is administered by the digital-health group Azova. 

"P23's test uses parts from Thermo Fisher Scientific and works with collection kits made by testing companies Everlywell and OraSure Technologies, according to the FDA and a P23 spokesperson," Business Insider's Blake Dodge reported. "Samples are tested in its lab in Little Rock, Arkansas."

Dodge reported that just a handful of the hundreds of tests for the novel coronavirus have received emergency authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration to be shipped to people's houses. The P23 test, sold at Costco, is one of the few to make the cut.

Companies have been battling to develop inexpensive and speedy tests that people can administer at home. Experts say that frequent testing can help identify asymptomatic people before they expose others to the coronavirus. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Insider Retail: Malls seek solutions for salvation, luxury goods are booming in China, and retail employees push back against being forced to return to corporate offices

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 2:46pm  |  Clusterstock
It was a big week for plant-based foods.

Why hello there, happy Friday. 

For those of you who don't know me, my name is Bethany Biron, and I'm happy to announce I will be joining my colleague Shoshy Ciment to help deliver Insider Retail — our weekly round-up of everything you need to know about the world of restaurants and retail — to your inboxes. 

So without further ado, I present this week in the wild and wonderful world of retail. (And if you haven't already subscribed, click here to get insights from myself and Shoshy in your inbox every Friday.)

Here's what you need to know:

Long-floundering malls are grasping for ways to reinvent After being closed for several weeks due to the coronavirus outbreak, Chandler Fashion Center Mall welcomes back patrons Sunday, May 17, 2020, in Chandler, Ariz.

It's no secret that malls have had a spectacularly bad year — er, make that decade — thanks to the pandemic and the ongoing retail apocalypse. Now, the CEO of one of the largest mall operators, said the only way they can survive is by diversifying their tenant base — but not before calling malls "a lazy a-- business." 

Lou Conforti, the CEO of mall operator Washington Prime Group, spoke with Business Insider's Madeline Stone about the future of the American mall. By the way, 'mall' is a word he prefers not to use because of its "negative connotation." Instead, he likes to use "retail venue." 

The solution? According to Conforti, it's finding innovative ways to use the space, like converting sections into fulfillment centers, socially distanced exercise classes, or drive-in movie theaters. 

"This has been a very passive industry," Conforti said. "We were rent collectors versus problem solvers or curators." 

Luxury goods are booming in China, but Europe is struggling to keep up A company logo is pictured outside a Gucci store in Vienna

While luxury sales may have plummeted globally during the pandemic, sales of high-end goods in China are on the rise.

According to a recent poll conducted by UBS Evidence Lab, 3 in 10 Chinese consumers spent more than usual on luxury goods between January and July, despite luxury sales falling internationally by 30% during the same period. 

However, this growth "comes at a cost to sectors abroad," writes Business Insider's Grace Dean. Due to international travel restrictions, most of these purchases have happened closer to home, straining business in Europe, where a significant percentage of luxury brands are based.

Prior to the pandemic, Chinese consumers — the world's largest luxury goods buyers — typically made 75% of their high-end purchases abroad. Now, only 9% of respondents to the UBS poll said they plan to buy high-end goods elsewhere, including the US. 

Frightened retail employees push back against being forced to return to corporate offices 

After the fraught reopening of the L'Oreal USA office earlier this year, another major retailer is facing criticism for mandating that employees return back to the workplace. 

G-III Apparel Group has been requiring employees to return to work, despite concerns over health and safety. The company licenses and in some cases owns brands such as Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Guess, and DKNY. 

Employees at the company's New York office told Shoshy Ciment they were told failure to comply would lead to retaliatory action. And consecutive "unexcused absences" from the office would lead to the equivalent of a "voluntary resignation."

"I don't really understand why [we're] sitting at our desks," one G-III employee said. "Is it just so we can look at each other?"

We want to hear more about how your company is handling its return to the office. Tell us more here

What else is new? 


Read the original article on Business Insider

Former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann's friendly relationship with Jared Kushner reportedly led to meeting Trump and a White House visit

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 2:41pm  |  Clusterstock
Former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann.
  • Former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann's friendly relationship with Jared Kushner led him to visit the White House, and eventually led him to meet President Donald Trump in 2018.
  • The relationship is chronicled in the new book "Billion Dollar Loser," which follows the rise and fall of Neumann and WeWork. 
  • According the book, Neumann and Kushner met as young real estate moguls in New York City. After Trump's victory in 2016, Neumann quietly visited Kushner at the White House and opted not to speak out about Trump's travel ban. 
  • Neumann also started taking on some of Trump's characteristics, adopting the term "fake news" and holding rally-like company meetings. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Former WeWork CEO Adam Neumann's friendly relationship with Jared Kushner led him to visit the White House, and eventually led him to meet President Donald Trump in 2018.

That's according to the new book "Billion Dollar Loser" by Reeves Wiedeman, which chronicles WeWork's rapid rise and the scandals and other problems that have befallen Neumann and the company in the last year. 

Wiedeman reported on the relationship between Neumann and Kushner, who met as two aspiring real estate moguls in New York City and bonded over their shared religious faith. WeWork leased space in multiple Kushner-owned buildings in New York, and Neumann and his wife, Rebekah, were friendly enough with Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, to have dinner at a New York City restaurant following Trump's victory in 2016, Wiedeman reported. 

Read more: 20% of WeWork's New York space is sitting empty. Here's a look at key vacancies the city's biggest office tenant is trying to fill.

In 2017, Neumann was invited to the White House, an invitation WeWork's public affairs team urged him to turn down. At the same time, the Trump administration had just announced its travel ban, and WeWork insiders pushed Neumann to take a stand against the decision, particularly since he was an immigrant himself. But according to Wiedeman, Neumann decided to quietly visit the White House anyway and to not speak publicly about the travel ban so that WeWork wouldn't feel pressured to take a stand on future issues. 

Following Trump's victory, WeWork employees started noticing Neumann adopting some of the president's behavior, Wiedeman reported. Similarly to Trump rallies, WeWork executives would hype up the crowd at company events before Neumann took the stage. And much like Trump, Neumann reportedly started using the term "fake news" when people were critical of WeWork, according to Wiedeman.

In August 2018, Neumann's connection to Trump came full circle when they met in person: the Neumanns, Kushner, and Ivanka Trump were having dinner at the Trump golf course in New Jersey when the president stopped by their table, Wiedeman reported. 

A spokesperson for Neumann did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment. 

Neumann was CEO of WeWork from the company's launch in 2010 until late 2019, when he stepped down from the role and from the company's board of directors as part of a buyout deal with SoftBank. Neumann's departure came after WeWork was rocked by controversy following the filing of its paperwork for an initial public offering — the filing revealed staggering losses topping $1.6 billion.

Read more: WeWork nabbed a fresh $1.1 billion in financing from SoftBank as the coworking giant's membership dropped

The revelations led WeWork to put its IPO on hold, close its educational arm, WeGrow, and attempt to sell some of the businesses it had previously acquired. 

Soon after, the spotlight fell on Neumann, who was revealed to be entangled in a web loans and conflicts of interest, including family involvement in WeWork's business. An exposé by The Wall Street Journal reported that Neumann had created a hard-partying culture within WeWork, including drugs and drinking, and that he and his wife, Rebekah, who was also involved in WeWork, were known for their cutthroat management styles. 

Since last year, WeWork has hired a new CEO, taken on a fresh round of financing from SoftBank, and says it expects to be profitable in 2021. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Significantly reduced room rates lured me to the Ace Hotel New Orleans — while many amenities are still closed, I was impressed by their new COVID protocols and the facilities that were open

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 2:41pm  |  Clusterstock

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The rooftop is available via pre-booked, two-hour time slots. I practically had it to myself during my stay.

Pre-pandemic, the Ace Hotel New Orleans was a thriving social hub for visitors and locals alike. On any given night, a young and hip crowd could be found drinking mint juleps in the off-lobby cocktail bar and watching local bands of all stripes perform in the on-site music venue.

The hotel is one of the more popular stays of the new generation of 'boutique' properties in the city's Central Business District, its room offerings typically bolstered in regular times by its rooftop pool, craft cocktail-lead bar, serviceable restaurant Josephine Estelle, and the aforementioned live music venue, Three Keys.

Though the Ace has re-opened with new COVID-19 protocols in place and reduced occupancy, many of its signature draws, including the bar and Three Keys, are sadly still closed. As such, the hotel has had to adapt and pivot, and is now relying more heavily on its trendy design aesthetic, excellent location close to the French Quarter, and discounted room rates to lure travelers back. So far, it appears to be working. 

As a relatively small national chain that enjoys a reputation for its minimalist-chic presentation and casual ambiance, there's an experiential consistency that young, out-of-town travelers are drawn to. While there are many great hotel options to choose from in New Orleans, the Ace Hotel New Orleans offers a reassuringly familiar experience to its sister hotels in other major cities, and has been able to rely on that brand recognition as recovery begins. It also operates a sibling property nearby in New Orleans, Maison de la Luz, which I previously reviewed. 

However, it was the reduced room rates that persuaded me to book a stay here. I booked an entry-level room, which the hotel website calls a Medium, but is less confusingly described as a standard King room on booking sites, for the competitive price of $117 before taxes and fees. Pre-COVID, standard rooms often went for $175 and could run as much as $250 per night during particularly busy times, making this a serious deal despite some of the hotel's amenities not currently being operational.

Plus, the rooftop pool was still open, as was dinner service at the restaurant, and the hotel's corporate website talked up its COVID-19 protocols, reassuring me on the safety front.

Overall, I had an excellent experience, despite some noise issues, and would highly suggest considering this hotel for a stay in New Orleans. If you're looking to discover our other top picks in the city, be sure to read our guide to the best hotels in New Orleans, too.  

Keep reading to see why I was so impressed by the Ace Hotel New Orleans. The Ace Hotel New Orleans enjoys a prime location in the Central Business District within walking distance to the French Quarter.

The Ace Hotel New Orleans has, in common with most hotel conversions in the Central Business District, a fairly low-key exterior. It blends in with its surroundings even more so now during stage three reopening since the valets and lobby staff that usually buzz around the entrance are absent.

That familiar Ace style of curated bohemia was readily apparent as I entered the small lobby, which was decorated in a whimsical mix of Art Deco, Beaux Arts, and thrift-store chic. The space was noticeably more compact than usual, a phalanx of tables set up in front of the front desk to provide a physical barrier instead of the more common clear plastic shields that many hotels are employing. 

I didn't mind waiting a few minutes to check-in in the thrift-store chic lobby.

The person behind the front desk was masked, but was just covering for the actual receptionist, and so I had to hang back for a few minutes before checking in. It's one of the understandable eventualities when you're working with a skeleton staff, and there was a sizeable, empty, and comfortable lounge/bar room right off the lobby, so it wasn't such an inconvenience. 

I was an hour early, but the front desk assistant checked me in and did a good job of explaining the various new COVID protocols, some of which — like booking slots of time for the rooftop pool — were quite involved. But I was allocated my entry-level Medium Room on the second floor soon enough. 

While the on-site bar and music venue were closed, the Stumptown coffee shop was open.

It was also explained to me that the main bar and music venue Three Keys were both closed, but the adjacent coffee shop (Stumptown) was open and the restaurant, Josephine Estelle, was operating a limited dinner service and in-room dining was available for breakfast.

The overall check-in experience was friendly, informative, and reassuring. 

All room categories at the Ace Hotel have a trendy, but minimalist decor aesthetic.

I booked an entry-level room that third-party booking sites call a Standard King Room, but that the hotel itself calls a Medium room. My Medium was located on the second floor of six. 

The hotel has its COVID-19 policies and protocols readily available on their website and it did feel as though the property was living up to them in general. All guest rooms are kept empty for at least 24 hours between check-outs, so there was a freshness to my room when I walked in. There was also an envelope laid out with a mask and a hygienic wipe.

All of the room categories share the hotel's aesthetic, branding being high up on the list of Ace's priorities. Traditionalists may find them somewhat on the stark side, but minimalists will be much more at home.

The standard of decor and the overall space, especially given the 12-foot ceilings and 300- square-foot floor area, represented excellent value at just $117 per night. The windows let in a good amount of natural light and were dressed with charming window boxes with pleasing greenery to frame the view of the street outside. 

The bohemian aesthetics and colorful touches added a level of character that isn't found in the international chains that make up the hotel's peers in the CBD and made it feel homier. 

A whimsically painted wardrobe mixed with a full-size forest green Smeg refrigerator, a Tivoli DAB radio, and a hand-crafted matelassé quilt created exclusively for this hotel.

The desk included a handy New Orleans survival guide.

There was also a small work desk in the room that came with its own almanac and a New Orleans 'survival guide' to help tourists out.

Some of the amenities (in-room snacks, mainly), had been stripped out, although the minibar, pads and paper, and bathrobe were present. 

The super-comfy, hooded, Wings and Horns-branded bathrobes are always a welcome part to staying at an Ace property. However, mine was not wrapped or marked in any way to indicate it was recently laundered, though it did look and feel clean to me.

My bed was very comfortable, but there was a good amount of noise at night.

The room was topped off with the chain's signature high-end hypoallergenic bed. Sleeping in the King Bed was very comfortable and the bedding and linens were high quality.

However, I did experience some noise issues, perhaps due to the location of my specific room. The streetcar passing by was evocative during the day, but it was quite intrusive as it continued once an hour over the course of the night. I could also hear machinery running quite clearly, perhaps the elevators or a generator. If you are a light sleeper, I'd advise earplugs for your visit or requesting a room on a higher floor. 

The bathroom was stocked with a mix of Pearl soaps and Rudy's Hair and Body products.

The bathroom was elevated with classy gray tiling, and the shower pressure and deep bath were both impressive. I particularly liked the intelligent design of the shower controls being set away from the flow of the showerhead so I could properly adjust the temperature before getting wet.

The towels kept up the high-end feel of the room offerings, and a mix of single-use Pearl soaps and Rudy's Hair and Body products were available. 

I only stayed for one night, but for longer stays, housekeeping is available on request and all employees are required to wear masks.  

Double rooms have a similar price to Medium rooms but include two beds, making them an even better value for two people.

There are three other room categories available, listed on the hotel website as 'Double', 'Large', and 'Suite.' The Double Rooms are similar to the Medium rooms but have a 350-square-foot area and two beds, with a nightly rate that's broadly the same as a Medium. Large rooms up the area to 400 square feet and have a nightly rate starting at around $134, or $170 for a corner version that gives guests two windowed walls and an additional 50 square feet. 

Some rooms, designated as Patio rooms, also come with a private patio complete with a small table and chairs for enjoying time outdoors. These rooms typically start at about $180 per night.

I have not stayed in any suites at this hotel, but they start at 500 square feet and come with added touches such as designer leather chairs, record players with in-room vinyl selections, and acoustic guitars. The smaller suites start at around $579 per night.

My Medium/Standard King felt like a good-value, entry-level room, especially since it shared many of the high-end amenities that grace the bigger rooms, such as the Smeg fridge and designer bathrobes. While it was more than enough space for me, couples or those looking for roomier stays might find the Large rooms worth the extra money.

Compare room types and prices for the Ace Hotel New Orleans The rooftop is available via pre-booked, two-hour time slots. I practically had it to myself during my stay.

The Ace is locally popular for its outdoor rooftop pool and bar, and in regular times, it's quite the hot ticket, particularly on weekends. This situation had predictably changed, though the hotel was at least attempting to let guests experience as much as they could as safely as possible.

In addition to the bar and music venue, the exercise room was also closed while I was there.

The rooftop pool was available through a booking system, with guests allowed to pre-book a two-hour slot with capacity limits to ensure social distancing measures. Times were available from Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and from Friday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. It was a little chilly to swim when I visited, but I worked up on the patio for a while, and it was perfectly pleasant.

I was one of only a few guests on the property as far as I could see, and so booking a slot was very easy and there was plenty of space for safe social distancing. 

The hotel's on-site restaurant is open but with reduced hours and limited seating.

The on-site dining situation is similarly a compromise. The hotel's signature restaurant is Josephine Estelle, which ostensibly offers a good selection of modern Italian dishes and again, is popular with locals as well as guests. Due to restrictions, the restaurant was only open starting at 5 p.m., as opposed to its usual all-day service. 

I stopped by for a post-dinner cocktail and a couple of parties were seated. The servers and bartenders were all masked and a good level of hygiene was seemingly being observed. The menu appeared to be its regular mix of pasta, meatballs, and Italian-tinged entrees. The hotel also has a sister seafood restaurant just a block down the street, Seaworthy, which is open daily from 4 p.m. 

I've enjoyed the on-site breakfast service before, so I was disappointed not to be able to eat in the dining room the next morning. Instead, I was told that in-room dining was available, and I called the extension given to order a breakfast sandwich and a coffee. I was informed that there would be a 20% gratuity added and a $4 delivery charge, which I agreed to. I did later realize that it was delivered and made by Stumptown, the on-site coffee shop, and if this had been explained earlier, I would probably have just gone down and bought these items without the extra charges.

With all the on-site amenities that were open, I observed signage encouraging social distancing and hand sanitizer stations throughout the property. Social distancing appeared to be enforced throughout the hotel, backed up by a regular cleaning schedule that I saw being practiced in all public areas. 

As noted, the hotel is located in the CBD, though it's just a few minutes' walk to the historic French Quarter. Guests can easily walk to most of the city's downtown attractions and nightlife options, and the streetcar stops right outside the hotel for journeys Uptown. This is convenient during the day, but as I found out, it can be a noisy downside at night. 

There's some greenery to enjoy nearby too. Lafayette Square is a 2.5-acre park sometimes used for concerts and outdoor performances. Canal Place shopping mall and Harrah's Casino are also very short walks.

The National World War II Museum is another of the city's biggest attractions, and that is located just four blocks away. All in all, the hotel enjoys a central location that still allows guests to have a few blocks' buffer from the French Quarter, creating a more secluded retreat to return to after a busy day downtown.

Check flight prices to New Orleans on Expedia

The Ace Hotel New Orleans receives a rating of 4 out of 5 on Trip Advisor and is ranked number 79 out of 177 hotels in New Orleans with just under 600 reviews. Guests praise the vintage style and the rooftop space, as well as the cleanliness of the rooms. 

After a recent public relations crisis outlining a toxic work environment, the hotel has made high-level changes and the staff are particularly held up as helpful, one reviewer relaying a typical summary: "The staff is amazing and helpful. We stayed for a whole week and became close friends with them."

That said, some guests do find the vintage and minimalist aesthetic a little challenging, and equate that with a lack of cleanliness. While this was not my experience, it's a common enough comment.

Read reviews, compare prices, and book the Ace Hotel New Orleans on TripAdvisor

Who stays here: The Ace brand definitely has its loyal followers, many of them Instagram-happy millennials who enjoy the vintage look and quirky design flourishes. With COVID protocols in place, it's also a perfectly good hotel for anyone with hygiene concerns, based on my experience.

We like: The albeit limited opening of Josephine Estelle, which at least gives guests an option for dining. 

We love (don't miss this feature!): The rooftop pool and overall patio space is lovely, especially when you can have it almost to yourself during the week. 

We think you should know: There are some noise issues on the lower floors, with the streetcar running all night and some internal machinery audible.

We'd do this differently next time: Walk down and get breakfast in the Stumptown coffee shop instead of ordering in-room dining to avoid the extra fees.

A full list of the COVID-19 protocols for Ace Hotels can be found online here:

In summary: 

  • The hotel is implementing deep cleaning and sanitation of public spaces on an hourly schedule.
  • All staff and guests must wear face coverings in public areas — they have some available if you forgot yours.
  • Each of the team members undergoes a temperature check before each shift.
  • They posted social distancing guidelines throughout the hotel that we ask both staff and guests to follow.
  • Touchless hand sanitizers and wipes are available throughout the hotel.
  • Complimentary health and safety kits are available at check-in.
  • Guest rooms are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized and then sealed for your safety for a minimum of 24 hours prior to the next guest arrival to allow for proper deep cleaning.
  • The hotel is limiting the number of reservations and safely distancing occupied rooms.
  • Contactless menus are available.
  • Room service and deliveries are contactless.
  • The staff has been trained on standards, procedures and best practices for cleanliness and health.
  • Some amenities may not be available in accordance with local ordinances, but if they are, social distancing and sanitization measures apply.

I was generally impressed with the levels of care and hygiene in the hotel. Staff members were all masked and I felt as though Ace had made adequate provisions to put guests at ease. 

My midweek booking in an entry-level Medium room felt like excellent value at $117 given that pre-COVID prices for standard rooms ran closer to $150-$180 per night. The Ace has a minimalist Bohemian vibe that won't suit everyone's tastes, but it still feels high-end thanks to name-brand appliances and amenities in every room.

With the hotel less crowded, the public amenities were a pleasure to use, particularly the rooftop pool and patio, which are generally teeming with guests. Even though breakfast and lunch options were limited, it was apparent that the hotel was aiming to strike a balance of convenience and safety, and that was reassuring. The sacrifices for the lower room rates are, of course, that the usual menu of live entertainment and a buzzing cocktail and bar scene are absent. 

The skeleton staff were amiable, polite, and informative, and while some traditionalists may not take to the informality that the Ace promotes, younger guests will likely find it refreshing.  

If booking again, I would certainly ask for a higher floor due to ambient noise, but overall, I would repeat my stay.

It's a more memorable experience than many of the surrounding CBD hotels offer, and room rates right now are as good a deal as any I've seen in the city. 

Book a room at the Ace Hotel New Orleans starting at $117 per night Read the original article on Business Insider

Investing legend Byron Wien says the stock market will respond favorably to Joe Biden's climate and foreign relations policies

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 2:40pm  |  Clusterstock
  • Investing legend Byron Wien told CNBC on Friday that the stock market will respond positively to Joe Biden's policies on climate change and inequality. 
  • Wien also said Biden's top priorities — getting COVID-19 under control and creating jobs — will be good for stocks. Biden's tax policy that may harm stocks will be secondary to these two priorities, he said. 
  • "We're not going back into a bear market. We're not going back into a recession. I think growth is going to be gradual and I think equity returns are going to be modest, and I don't think inflation and interest rates are going to rise much," Wien added.

Wall Street veteran Byron Wien told CNBC on Friday that the stock market could react positively to a Joe Biden victory. 

"I think Biden will deal more effectively with inequality, with climate change, and I think those are positives for the market," said the vice chairman of Blackstone's Private Wealth Solutions group.

"I think that Biden has a better chance of bringing the country together. I think Biden will reestablish more constructive relationships with our foreign allies," he added. 

While some investors are concerned that Biden's tax policies may hurt stocks in the long term, Wien said the Democratic presidential nominee's initial priorities to create jobs and control the virus will boost the market. 

"I think the top two priorities for Biden are going to be getting the virus under control and creating jobs," said the investor. "I think raising taxes and other things that might be less favorable for the market are probably going to be secondary to those two objectives. So if we get those two objectives first, that could be good for the market."

Read more: Strategists at JPMorgan's $1.9 trillion asset management arm share 5 investing tips for navigating the fast-approaching election — including the sectors poised to profit from every possible outcome

Wien added that he is impressed with how quickly the economy is recovering. However, he said the US will face a period of higher unemployment, and certain businesses that were crushed by the coronavirus may never reopen. Growth will be "gradual," and investors should brace for more modest stock gains in the future, said Wien. 

"We're not going back into a bear market. We're not going back into a recession. I think growth is going to be gradual and I think equity returns are going to be modest, and I don't think inflation and interest rates are going to rise much," he said. "And at these interest rates, the market can withstand a pretty high multiple, and so I think the outlook is favorable but expectations should be modest."

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Apple's iPhone 12 Pro is the new iPhone to get if you want an excellent camera without a gigantic screen

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 2:27pm  |  Clusterstock

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Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky The iPhone 12 Pro
  • Apple's iPhone 12 Pro has more to offer than the iPhone 12 when it comes to photography, thanks to its zoom lens and LiDAR sensor.
  • The LiDAR sensor is completely new to the iPhone and enables the iPhone 12 Pro to take portrait shots even in the dark.
  • Overall, the iPhone 12 Pro is the right choice for photographers that want more flexibility when shooting and editing but prefer a phone that's cheaper and smaller than the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Apple introduced four new iPhones on October 13 — the iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max — meaning there's more choice than ever if you're in the market for a new iPhone.

At the core of Apple's lineup are the $800 iPhone 12 and $1,000 iPhone 12 Pro. Like last year's iPhone 11 Pro, the iPhone 12 Pro offers more advanced camera features than the standard model. These include an additional zoom lens that gives the iPhone 12 Pro a triple-lens camera system compared to the iPhone 12's dual camera.

But, perhaps the biggest differentiator between the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 is its new LiDAR sensor, which enables Apple's pro-level iPhone to take better photos in the dark and offer faster performance when running augmented reality apps. 

Across the entire iPhone lineup, Apple has added 5G support, a refreshed design, more durable screens, faster processors, and cameras that can take clearer low-light photos across all lense types — including the selfie camera. It's these features and a few others  — like a larger screen — that also differentiate the iPhone 12 Pro from its predecessor.

All told, the iPhone 12 Pro is the best choice in Apple's lineup for those who prioritize photography above all else in a smartphone, but don't want a phone that's as large (or as expensive) as the Pro Max. Here's your answer to whether the iPhone 12 Pro is the right iPhone for you.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro specifications
  • Display: 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR OLED display (2,532 x 1,170 resolution)
  • Processor: A14 Bionic
  • Cameras: 12-megapixel triple camera with wide-angle, ultra wide-angle, and telephoto lenses
  • Selfie camera: 12-megapixel
  • Estimated battery life: Up to 17 hours
  • Storage: 128GB, 256GB, or 512GB
  • Biometric authentication: Face ID
  • Network support: 5G (sub-6GHz and mmWave)
  • Durability: IP68 water resistance (depth of 6 meters for up to 30 minutes); Display with ceramic shield coating for 4x drop resistance
Design and display

The iPhone is getting the biggest design overhaul it's seen in years with the iPhone 12 lineup. Marking a departure from Apple's design language over the last several years, the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro have flat metal edges that echo the design we've seen in vintage models like the iPhone 5S and earlier. Every new iPhone also has Apple's new ceramic shield coating, which the company says should make it four times as drop resistant as its predecessors. 

The Pro model retains the textured matte finish Apple introduced with the iPhone 11 Pro last year and shiny stainless steel edges, which gives it a more premium feel that distinguishes it from the standard iPhone 12. The regular model has a glass back and aluminum edges by comparison.

Apple has also improved on the Pro's design this year by giving it a bigger screen without making the overall device much larger. It's done this by reducing the already slim black borders that frame the device's screen to make more room for the display. 

Both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro have Super Retina XDR OLED displays that offer sharp detail and vibrant colors. But, colors don't always look quite as vibrant on Apple's iPhones as they do on Samsung's Galaxy S20 Ultra, which has a 3,200 x 1,400 AMOLED screen.

If you're planning to upgrade from an older iPhone that has an LCD display, you'll especially notice the boost in quality on the new iPhones when watching dark scenes in TV shows or movies. That's because LCD displays can't reach a true black tone like OLED screens can through what's known as local dimming, which is why they usually offer better contrast.

The iPhone 12 Pro has the same screen as the standard iPhone 12; they're both the same size, the same resolution, and made from OLED display panels. That's great news for iPhone fans that want a slightly larger screen with better contrast without splurging on the Pro. But, it also means there's less that separates the standard Pro from the iPhone 12.

The new design certainly feels like an improvement, but Apple's new iPhones — including the Pros — are missing a few features I've really come to appreciate on Android devices. None of Apple's new iPhones have an always-on display for showing the time and other information even when the screen is asleep, for example.

And, they all lack fingerprint sensors too, which feels inconvenient considering Face ID isn't meant to work when your face is partially obstructed by a mask. 


If you're thinking about choosing the iPhone 12 Pro over the standard iPhone 12, the camera should be your biggest consideration.

Of course, there are other differences between the two devices as well, such as their storage options, the colors they come in, and their finishes. But, the camera is the biggest extra perk you get from splurging on the Pro.

The iPhone 12 Pro has a 12-megapixel triple-lens camera that consists of a wide-angle lens, an ultra-wide-angle lens, and a telephoto lens. The regular iPhone 12, comparatively, has a dual camera with a wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle lens. The super-sized 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max, which launches next month, comes with a similar camera setup but offers a higher-quality zoom lens.

Here's a look at how that telephoto lens works in action. In the photos of the street sign below, you'll notice that the iPhone 12 Pro is capable of zooming in much more closely, enabling you to get a closer look at the text on the sign. It's not very sharp, but it's a much closer perspective.

The iPhone 12 Pro has a 4x optical zoom range and a 10x digital zoom range, while the iPhone 12 has a 2x optical zoom and a 5x digital zoom.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro

Apple iPhone 12

However, the Galaxy S20 Ultra offers a much closer and crisper zoom than the iPhone. Samsung's top-of-the-line phone, which similarly has a camera with three lenses and a depth sensor, can zoom up to 100x and also offers a 10x hybrid digital and optical zoom. 

To be sure, the 100x zoom is almost unusable because it's often too blurry and much too difficult to focus. But, when zooming at a much lower range, the S20 Ultra can procure some pretty impressive zoom shots. 

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

Unlike the iPhone 12, the iPhone 12 Pro also has a LiDAR scanner that helps it detect depth by measuring how far it takes for light to reflect back from an object.

This sensor enables it to take portrait mode-style photos with a blurred background effect even in Night Mode — a feat that the regular iPhone 12 can't pull off. Apple says this LiDAR scanner should also help the iPhone 12 Pro focus faster in the dark, although I don't notice too much of a difference between the two phones in this regard.

The iPhone 12 Pro's portrait mode can take surprisingly bright and sharp photos in the dark that you would otherwise need a flash to capture on the iPhone 12. The photos below were taken on a rooftop with very little light at almost 11 p.m.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro (portrait mode in Night Mode without flash)

Apple iPhone 12 (portrait mode with flash)

It's also capable of taking a much brighter portrait in the dark compared to the Galaxy S20 Ultra. The photos below were taken in a dark room with all of the lights off and the window shade pulled down.

Apple iPhone 12 Pro

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

Professional photographers will also likely be excited about Apple ProRAW, another capability exclusive to the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max launching later this year. This feature makes it possible for photographers to edit granular details like color, detail, and dynamic range while still allowing the iPhone to apply Apple's computational photography. All new iPhones can also shoot Dolby Vision video, although the Pro phones can do so at a higher frame rate than the regular 12.

Overall, the iPhone 12 Pro's zoom lens and LiDAR give it more flexibility when it comes to shooting in different modes and environments compared to the standard iPhone 12. It's especially well-equipped for taking photos in the dark, but Samsung has the upper hand when it comes to zoomed shots in daylight. 

For a closer look at how the iPhone 12's general camera performance, check out our iPhone 12 review.


Apple CEO Tim Cook has vocal about the potential he sees in augmented reality for years, and now the company has finally released its first iPhone with AR hardware built-in. The iPhone 12 Pro's LiDAR sensor, which stands for Light Detection and Ranging, gives the iPhone better spatial awareness since it can measure depth — making it more adept at placing objects accurately in your virtual surroundings when running AR apps.

I noticed this most when using digital measurement apps like Apple's Measure app, which as its name implies is a digital tape measure. The iPhone 12 Pro was dramatically faster than the iPhone 12 when it came to finding and measuring surfaces. Using the iPhone 12 Pro, all I had to do was point my iPhone at a nearby table or chair and the marker would fixate on the surface immediately. The iPhone 12, however, was much slower to pinpoint surfaces around the home.

This discrepancy is less noticeable in storytelling apps like the My Very Hungry Caterpillar AR app, which is based on the famous children's book by Eric Carle. But, I could see the LiDAR sensor being useful if you regularly need to take measurements for either your job or a hobby.

Even so, AR performance isn't a main selling point just yet. Although AR apps do open up some interesting new use cases for smartphones, there hasn't really been a breakout hit in the category since Pokémon Go launched in 2016. For now, the biggest benefit you'll likely notice from using LiDAR is its ability to enable portrait mode photos at night.


Major carriers in the United States like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T have launched nationwide 5G networks, but don't expect a massive bump in speed right away.

The most common form of 5G that you're likely to experience when unboxing a new iPhone 12 isn't all that much faster than 4G LTE at the moment. Super-fast millimeter wave networks are still only found in small corners of the country in specific outdoor zones.

In my experience, the speeds I experienced on Verizon's nationwide non-millimeter wave network were only incrementally faster than 4G LTE. That falls in line with comments made by Verizon Communications CEO Hans Vestberg earlier this year, who said at a conference earlier this year that customers will likely only see a small upgrade at first.

On an iPhone 12 connected to Verizon's 5G network, I achieved an average download speed of 109.3 megabits per second (Mbps) and average upload speeds of 34.4 Mbps on the iPhone 12 when testing my connection using the app

An iPhone 11 Pro running on Verizon's 4G LTE network saw an average download speed of 106.4 Mbps and average upload speed of 21.4 Mbps during the same test. 

MagSafe accessories and battery life

Another standout feature coming to the iPhone 12 lineup is compatibility with Apple's new MagSafe accessories, which as the name implies uses a magnetic system to snap on to the back of your iPhone seamlessly.

Among the first accessories Apple is launching are a wireless iPhone charger, a wireless charger meant to charge your iPhone and Apple Watch at the same time, and a wallet that sticks to the back of your iPhone.

The MagSafe wireless charger for the iPhone feels like an enlarged Apple Watch charger for your phone. When attaching it, your phone will make a sound to confirm its charging and display a graphic showing your battery level just like on the Apple Watch.

Third-party accessory makers will be able to create MagSafe add-ons as well, so it'll be interesting to see what types of new accessories are designed for the iPhone moving forward.

The iPhone 12 Pro can last for a full day on a single charge, living up to Apple's claims of 17-hour battery life. After almost 16 hours of use, the iPhone 12 Pro had 13% of its battery left. I'm usually able to get a little more than a day's worth of use out of high-end smartphones, but I was also using more battery-intensive AR apps during the course of my testing. 

The bottom line

When it comes to Apple's new smartphone line, the iPhone 12 is the best choice for photographers that rely heavily on their phones for shooting and editing but still want a relatively compact phone. Unless you're using your phone for some serious photography — more than just casually taking photos of pets, vacations, and food — you'll get by just fine with the iPhone 12.

If you fit this description and are currently using an iPhone X or earlier "Plus" iPhone, it's worth considering the upgrade. Owners of older iPhones will likely notice and appreciate the jump to a faster processor and longer battery life — in addition to the other improvements the new iPhone has to offer — more than those using a more recent model. An upgrade is usually only worth it if you're looking for more than just new photography features, which on their own don't typically justify spending a purchase that costs hundreds of dollars. 

But, don't consider upgrading to the new iPhone just for 5G — at least not yet. Today's widely deployed networks are roughly on par with 4G LTE, so there's no rush to upgrade to a 5G device. That said, if you're already planning to upgrade for other reasons, buying a 5G phone ensures that it'll still be relevant for years to come when 5G networks are likely to be much improved.

Pros: Excellent camera especially in low-light; Elegant new design that's easier to hold; LiDAR enables portrait mode photos even in the dark; 5G will keep the iPhone 12 Pro relevant for years to come

Cons: Zoom isn't as crisp as Samsung's; Widely-deployed 5G networks aren't much faster than 4G LTE; No fingerprint sensor; No always-on display

Read the original article on Business Insider

33 unique and interesting gifts you didn't know you could find on Amazon

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 2:19pm  |  Clusterstock

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A set of notepads for the list maker.

From laptops and fresh groceries to a pair of socks — or even a car — it seems like you can find pretty much anything on Amazon. The sheer breadth of products is one of the many benefits of shopping with the e-commerce giant, but it can also become one of the frustrations. With so many options to choose from, you can end up spending far too much time scanning the site for what you want, or in a shopping black hole for something you definitely didn't need in the first place. 

In a sea of choices that nearly everyone has access to, you might not think of Amazon as a spot to find truly unique gifts. But if you're willing to do some digging (that's what we're here for), you can find some pretty cool things. Amazon handmade offers locally made and artisan products from small businesses around the country and Amazon has even curated gift lists and ideas catered to different hobbies, styles, and more. 

If you want to get straight to the point, keep scrolling. We skimmed through the site and found lots of unique products that will make great gifts this season.

The top 5 best unique Amazon gifts:
  1. A cute bunny-shaped speaker ($24.99)
  2. A Homesick candle that smells like their favorite place ($29.95)
  3. A gift set of at-home spa products ($29)
  4. A set of flavorful honey ($49.99)
  5. A charging hub that'll charge their iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods all at once ($24.99)
See more unique gifts from Amazon: A trio of flavorful honey Bushwick Kitchen Bees Knees Honey Sampler Gift Set, $49.99

If they can't bear the thought of a meal without something sweet, upgrade their condiments with this set of funky flavored honey from Bushwick Kitchen. 

A portable printer that lets them print instantly HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer (2nd edition), $79.99

Nowadays, most of our photos live on our smartphones and social media apps, but many of us still love getting to look through or hang up printed pictures. This portable printer lets them do that super easily and with no wires so they can print pictures in a snap.

A cute reusable bag Baggu Standard Reusable Shopping Bag (3-pack), $36

Whether it's used to carry their groceries or random knickknacks, everyone needs a good reusable bag. We love the original Baggu. It can hold up to 50 pounds of stuff, but can also be folded down to fit in your pocket. It also comes in tons of fun colors and patterns.

Buildable magnets that will keep adults entertained Speks Magnetic Toy, $27.95

The fidget spinner had its moment, and now it's Speks' turn. This set of over 500 magnets can be mashed, rolled, and molded into different shapes. It's a productivity toy that even adults will love to play with. You'll find a set on nearly every one of our desks at Insider Reviews.

A leather wallet and notebook combo Coal Creek Leather Field Notes Cover, $49

This leather Field Notes cover is completely handmade in the United States. With card slots and a memo book included, it's a great gift for someone who's about to embark on a new adventure, or anyone who loves to travel.

A diffuser disguised as a houseplant Round A'round Cactus Room Scents, $32

A cactus is a fun way to add some color to your desk or countertop, but if you're not ready to be a plant parent, go for this instead. It's actually a diffuser — it'll fill your room with a nice floral scent — but it looks like a cute potted plant. 

A stocking stuffer for hot sauce lovers Tabasco Hot Sauce Keychain, $11.88

They'll never have to endure a flavorless meal again. This mini bottle of Tabasco sauce comes with a keychain for spice that goes wherever they do. 

A gift set made for an at-home spa day The Little Flower Soap Co. Spa Gift Set, $29

A soap, lip balm, bath salts, and two body balms that relieve muscle tension are all they need for a relaxing holiday weekend. Anyone will appreciate these pampering products. 

A set of modern, geometric coasters Hexa Drink Coaster Set (set of 6), $19

While coasters are a pretty basic household accessory, there are plenty of ways to make them more fun — like this unique set that is made with geometric designs. While the tops are colorful, the sides are a clear acrylic which creates a prism-like effect when sunlight passes through. 

A retro rice cooker Dash Mini Rice Cooker, $26.35

This little gadget not only cooks rice but can make stew, oatmeal, soup, pasta, veggies and more. The style and colorful enamel coating add a retro look to their kitchen.

A cute and practical phone holder Dinosaur Silicone Phone Holder, $9.99

This endearing little dino isn't just a piece of decor, it can actually can hold their phone. It comes in over ten colors, so you can find one in their favorite color.

A charging stand for all of their devices elago Charging Hub, $24.99

This gift is a no-brainer for loyal Apple users. Instead of dealing with a tangle of chords from charging all of their products, they can streamline with this singular hub, which has a designated spot for their iPhone, Airpods, and Apple Watch. 

A hydrating face cream that the French swear by Embryolisse Lait Cream Fluide, $40

French pharmacies are known for their readily-available, high-quality skincare products. Gifting your buddy a ticket to Paris may be out of the budget, but you can still snag them some of these cult-favorite products, like this seriously hydrating face cream.

A little fan to deal with their unpredictable office temperatures Fred & Friends Little Big USB Fan, $20

Office dwellers know how unpredictable temperatures can get. To save them when their office (or home office) transitions from an icebox to a desert, gift them this little portable fan. It's small, mobile, and plugs into any USB for a quick, cold breeze. 

A mini teepee-style tent to pamper their pet Norgail Pet Teepee, $46.99

They love their furry friend more than anything, so get them a gift that shows you know that. This dog bed is one of the cutest we've seen, and we're sure their precious pet will enjoy having their very own fort. 

A bunny-shaped speaker with good sound AEO Bunny Bluetooth Speaker, $24.99

This compact Bluetooth speaker may not be the best around, but it's surely the cutest. Shaped like a little bunny with floppy ears, you get your music and a fun piece of decor too. 

A punny apron that reminds them of their favorite show GOT "Dinner is Coming" Apron, $25

If you're looking for the right gift for that special person who loves "Game of Thrones," is always cooking, and has a great sense of humor — we think we've found it. 

A bright and colorful hamper Pehr Designs Pom Pom Hamper, $63.89

No one wants to see a giant pile of dirty laundry on the floor. Help them conceal their mess with this hamper, which is actually nice to look at and adds a pop of color to their room. 

Relaxing and detoxifying bath salts Herbivore Botanicals Dead Sea Bath Salts, $18

Everyone deserves some relaxation, which is why these calming bath salts make such a great gift. Inside there's vanilla, ylang ylang essential oil, and Himalayan pink salt crystals, which together help soothe the body. 

A candle that smells just like home Homesick Scented Candle, $29.95

One of our editors recently asserted that "candles are the most classic gift of all time." We have to agree, and while there are many to choose from, we love the sentimentality and customization Homesick candles offers. They have candles made to smell like each of the 50 states, many cities, and even experiences like watching Friday night football or taking a road trip. No matter where they call home, one of these candles is sure to bring them a rush of nostalgia.  

An insulated pint glass that keeps your brew cool BruMate HOPSULATOR, $24.99

If they like their beverages ice-cold, they'll appreciate this thoughtful bottle holder. It can hold 12 oz. cans, 16-ounce cans, or be used as a pint glass holding 16 fluid ounces, so it's really a three-in-one gadget. When they need a break from beer, this is perfect for keeping their water bottles chilled too. 

A creative journal that’ll help them get some sleep "The Nocturnal Journal" by Lee Crutchley, $16

A great night's sleep is essential to our well-being, but getting those eight hours each night can be easier said than done. If you know any night owls who need to catch up on their sleep, this journal will make a great gift. It's full of prompts, illustrations, and questions to put their minds at ease when they're up in the wee hours of the night.

A pack of sticky notes to keep them on track Knock Knock "To Accomplish" Sticky Notes, from $12.55

For the friend who likes to keep it really organized, help them stay on track with this thoughtful set of sticky notes. With categories like "To Ponder," "To Remember," and "To Buy," they can keep track of everything they need to accomplish in the near future. 

The cutest hot chocolate mugs Ceramic Marshmallow Hot Chocolate Mugs, $29

Imagine the warm and fuzzy feeling that you get sipping on a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows. These mugs embody that and all other kinds of cozy feels. 

A phone case for Disney lovers OtterBox Symmetry Series Disney Classic Case (iPhone 7/ 8), from $25.38

There are plenty of Mickey-themed gifts for the Disney lover in your life. We love this phone case because it not only has a cute design but the signature durability of OtterBox, too.

A set of Moscow Mule mugs to add to their bar cart Moscow Mule Copper Mugs (set of 4), $39.97

Whether they use them to drink the namesake cocktail or not, these copper mugs make drinking any beverage more fun. 

A breakfast station with everything they need to make the most important meal of the day Nostalgia Breakfast Station, $79.99

If a classic American breakfast sounds like their perfect morning, give them this clever kitchen gadget that can do it all — crunchy toast, crispy fried eggs, and a hot cup of coffee. 

A fruity hand cream that’ll look great on their counter TonyMoly Peach Hand Cream, $12

This rich hand cream is made with shea butter and peach extract to moisturize seriously dry skin. We love the refreshing, light peach scent and the adorable container, which looks just like a peach. 

The perfect socks for pizza lovers Pizza Socks Box (4 pairs), $25.99

From pizza ovens to pizza apparel, there's no shortage of gifts catered to pizza lovers out there. We're partial to these socks for their packaging, which is made to look like an actual pizza in an actual pizza box. 

Simple illustrated prints to hang around the house Dream Big Printables Botanical Prints (set of 4), $19.97

Finding unique home decor that's also affordable can be a tough feat, but these artistic prints check off all the boxes. The illustrations of plants make a great addition to their kitchen, or even their bedroom if they want to show off their green thumb.

Reusable lunch bags that they’ll actually want to use Diweiya Reusable Snack Bags, $10.99

Plastic bags are an unnecessary expense when you could just have reusable ones. Their environmentally-conscious and frugal sides will thank you for these sandwich and snack bags, which are dishwasher safe and BPA free. They'll save a ton of money and plastic waste by using these, plus the colorful patterns are much more fun than clear plastic. 

A travel pillow that actually works Trtl Travel Pillow, $29.99

We've sung the praises of the Trtl Pillow before — it's an essential for any traveler. The cozy and supportive neck pillow is a great gift for any frequent travelers or anyone who's about to head out on a trip. 

A cutting board of their favorite place Totally Bamboo State Cutting Board, $29.99

Entertainers and those with state pride will love this cutting board. You can find a board shaped like any of the 50 states or Puerto Rico, each laser engraved with important landmarks, cities, and sights. It's a fun, personal gift that they're sure to love. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

New weapons the US is selling Taiwan can reach mainland China, but they're 'just a deterrent'

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 2:10pm  |  Clusterstock
Crew members load an AGM-84K SLAM-ER missile on a P-8A Poseidon, April 4, 2014.
  • The $1.8 billion package includes the first meaningful offensive systems sold to Taiwan since US switched recognition to Beijing in 1979, one observer said.
  • But Taiwan is still seen as being on the defensive against the threat posed by China's growing military.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The offensive weapons that the United States has offered to Taiwan are capable of hitting mainland Chinese coastal areas, in the first such sales in more than four decades, to help arm the self-ruled island for any counterattack required against Beijing.

Military experts said the latest US arms sales were intended to enable Taipei to counter the increasingly modernised firepower of Beijing, which considers Taiwan its territory and has vowed to take the island under its control by force if needed.

The latest batch of proposed arms sales — the eighth to be approved during Donald Trump's presidency — was welcomed by Taipei on Thursday in the face of growing military intimidation from Beijing, which responded by criticising the US for selling arms to Taiwan.

'Breakthrough for Taiwan' A rocket leaves the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System during a test at Yakima Training Center in Washington state, April 28, 2020.

The US$1.8 billion package includes 135 AGM-84H cruise missiles with a striking range of more than 270km (168 miles) and 11 truck-based rocket launchers along with 64 tactical missiles that can hit targets 300km (186 miles) away.

Also covered are six MS-110 Recce external sensor pods which would greatly increase the air surveillance capability of the island's forces.

"This is a breakthrough in US arms sales for Taiwan," said Mei Fu-hsing, director of the Taiwan Security Analysis Centre, a private think tank in New York, referring to the departure from the US' traditional policy of selling merely defensive weapons to the island.

"Many people in Taiwan could find the US sale of the truck-based High Mobility Artillery Rocket System along with the Army Tactical Missile System rather impressive — the missile has a warhead of 500 pounds [227kg] and a range of 300km," he said.

Another highlight of the sale was the AGM-84H cruise missiles, which not only have a relatively long range but are capable of accurately hitting targets from land and sea, Mei said.

'Primarily for deterrence'

Taiwan air force ground crew run to a US-made F-16V fighter for an emergency takeoff during an exercise in southern Taiwan, January 15, 2020.

Alexander Huang Chieh-cheng, a professor of international studies and strategic relations at Tamkang University in Taiwan, said Taiwan would be the first US security partner to carry AGM-84H cruise missiles using F-16V fighter jets.

He said the three weapon systems were the first meaningful "offensive" systems provided to Taiwan since the US switched formal diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979.

However, he added: "These systems have the range to be projected to targets along the Chinese coastal area and can perform counter-strike missions, but with limited numbers and complex targeting requirements, they are primarily for deterrence purposes."

Chieh Chung, a national security researcher at the National Policy Foundation, a think tank affiliated with Taiwan opposition party the Kuomintang, said both missiles could reach mainland Chinese coastal areas.

"They can be launched from Taiwan proper to the coastal areas of the mainland," Chieh said, adding that, regardless of whether the weapons are offensive, the mainland People's Liberation Army's (PLA's) ever-growing power meant Taiwan was always in a defensive position.

He said the US provided such weapons to Taiwan as a specific response to the PLA.

"The PLA is tipped to increase its amphibious and landing capability between 2025 and 2035, which would threaten Taiwan," Chieh said. "By offering those weapons, they could help increase Taiwanese [capability in terms of] striking distance and hitting moving targets during PLA landing attacks."

A more entrenched Beijing? Aging anti-landing barricades on a beach facing China on the Taiwanese island of Little Kinmen, only a few miles from China, April 20, 2018.

Huang said the sales showed "increasing US concerns over military imbalance across the Taiwan Strait."

But Zhou Chenming, a Beijing military expert, said the weapons involved would not fundamentally change the power balance, although they could make reconciliation between Beijing and Taipei a more remote prospect.

On Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian lashed out at Washington for "seriously violating the one-China principle and the three communiqués" that underline American relations with the mainland.

"This not only utterly damages the national interest of China, but also sends a wrong signal for Taiwan's separatists, which the Chinese side resolutely opposes," he said.

Taiwan's defence minister Yen De-fa said the island had no intention of starting an arms race with the mainland.

Ji Ye, an associate professor of Taiwan studies at Xiamen University in mainland China, said the Chinese government would view the US as the biggest obstacle to uniting Taiwan with the mainland.

"China's future Taiwan policies could become more rigid than before," he said, adding that the arms sale would push more people to support military means to capture the island.

Additional reporting by Kristin Huang.

Read the original article on Business Insider

US Navy F/A-18s would 'destroy' China's J-15 carrier fighters in air-to-air combat today, but the future could be a different story

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 2:01pm  |  Clusterstock
F/A-18E Super Hornets.
  • China's carrier-based J-15 fighter jets have some advantages over the US Navy's F/A-18s in air-to-air combat, but the limitations of China's existing carriers negate them.
  • "If you're talking about the J-15 going up against the F/A-18 at sea, then the F/A-18 is going to destroy the J-15," a defense expert told Insider.
  • But the new carrier that China is building could give the J-15 the opportunity to leverage its advantages, making it more of a threat for US Navy fighters.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The Chinese navy's Shenyang J-15 fighters do not stand much of a chance against the US Navy's F/A-18s today, but that may not always be the case, especially as China builds a better aircraft carrier, experts told Insider.

China has the world's largest navy, according to the Pentagon's latest assessment, and it continues to grow. In recent years, the country has managed to field two aircraft carriers, the Liaoning and the Shandong, both of which carry complements of Shenyang J-15 "Flying Shark" fighter jets.

The Soviet-style carriers have air wings consisting of 20 to 30 J-15 fighter aircraft.

China says the J-15 is comparable to the US Navy's F/A-18, in some cases even possessing advantages over the Navy's primary carrier-based strike fighter. The J-15 is capable, but if the Chinese carrier fighter went head-to-head with an F/A-18, it would likely get slaughtered, experts said.

J-15 fighter jets are seen on the flight deck of the Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning.

Shenyang Aircraft Corp.'s J-15 is based on an incomplete prototype of the Russian Sukhoi Su-33 carrier-based air-superiority fighter that China acquired from Ukraine and then reverse engineered. As such, it has not always been the most reliable of aircraft.

It also has underpowered engines, but that is not to say it is without positive attributes.

Compared with the US F/A-18s, both the Hornet and newer Super Hornet, the J-15 is a heavier aircraft able to carry more weapons and fuel, and it can fly higher and faster.

"In air-to-air combat, those can be really important factors," Timothy Heath, a Rand Corp. senior defense researcher, told Insider.

The problem is that the J-15 is unable to leverage a lot of its advantages because of the limitations of China's current aircraft carriers.

The Liaoning, the Chinese sister ship of Russia's Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier, is "not very impressive," China experts have told Insider. The ship was originally an unfinished hull of a Soviet heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser that China obtained from Ukraine and refitted. The Liaoning was commissioned into the People's Liberation Army Navy in 2012.

China then built the Shandong, the country's first homegrown aircraft carrier. Though the Shandong, which was commissioned in December, is an improvement over its predecessor, the design is similar to the Liaoning. Both carriers use ski-jump-assisted short-take-off launch systems rather than catapults.

The Liaoning, China's first aircraft carrier.

"With a ski-slope configuration, weight becomes your enemy, and the J-15, as a heavy airplane, starts to be the victim of its own design," Heath said.

The J-15 is the heaviest carrier-based fighter in service, and because the fighter jet has to launch under its own power, it can take off with only a fraction of the weapons and fuel it was built to carry, reducing its range and overall combat capability.

The US Navy's F/A-18s, on the other hand, can take off from the carrier with a full load of fuel and weaponry because all US carriers have catapult-assisted takeoff.

Then, there's the avionics. "The US aircraft has a superior radar," Heath said. "That's a huge advantage being able to shoot from a very long range because you can see the enemy first. That gives the F/A-18 a big advantage, even over a more nimble and faster aircraft.

"If you're talking about the J-15 going up against the F/A-18 at sea, then the F/A-18 is going to destroy the J-15."

The end result would be the same if US and Chinese aircraft carriers each launched their respective carrier air wings at one another in carrier-to-carrier combat.

US carriers have an air wing roughly twice the size, and they can put that larger combat force of fixed-wing aircraft in the air faster, thanks to the four onboard catapults.

Heath said, "It would probably be a slaughter if there was an air-to-air battle between aircraft launched from the Liaoning and a Nimitz-class carrier."

Two US Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. China is upping its game

"The pace of technological change within China versus the pace of technological change in America ... is one thing that has alarmed a lot of defense watchers," retired Cmdr. Guy Snodgrass, a former naval aviator, told Insider.

"They are able to see a shortfall in their military capability, identify how they want to approach it, and then rapidly develop and then test and subsequently field" new systems, he said.

China is building a new type of aircraft carrier, possibly the country's first modern flattop, that could allow the J-15 to achieve its full potential.

The Pentagon reported that China's new carrier "will be larger and fitted with a catapult launch system," a design that "will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early-warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations and thus extend the reach and effectiveness of its carrier based strike aircraft."

Shenyang J-15 "Flying Shark" fighter jets aboard the Liaoning.

With a carrier like that, "you're starting to talk about a potential competitor for a Nimitz," Heath said, adding that the "catapults would allow the J-15's advantages to come into play."

"Things look promising for the Chinese," he said. "They seem to be rolling out better avionics, better air-to-air missiles. They've got some pretty good missiles that can really cause trouble for US aircraft."

"You can imagine a Chinese carrier with more advanced J-15 variants with more sophisticated avionics, high-quality missiles, maybe 10, 11, 12 missiles loaded on each aircraft, plenty of fuel, good range, good performance," Heath said. "You could see that at that point the US with its F/A-18s might face a real challenge."

The USS Nimitz was commissioned in 1975 and is the first of 10 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in that class. The Navy is building a new class of carriers, starting with USS Gerald R. Ford, that feature advanced systems like electromagnetic catapults designed to increase the rate at which the ship can launch planes. The Navy plans to build at least five Ford-class flattops.

The US Navy is also working to deploy F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters on its carriers, but these stealth aircraft are not really built for dogfighting.

"The US is really banking on the sensor battle, this idea that the US can see first and shoot first to compensate for general limitations on speed and maneuver and weapons load," Heath said.

For years, there have been rumors that the Chinese are developing a next-generation carrier fighter. For now, China's carrier-based fighter is the J-15, and it's unclear how that aircraft would do against the fifth-generation F-35.

Snodgrass told Insider the J-15 "could be a very good dogfighter," assuming the pilot was well-trained, but a big advantage for the US Navy is that its pilots have more experience.

The former Navy pilot and TOPGUN instructor said that when he fought against Air Force pilots in F-22 Raptors in an F/A-18, he would usually win because he had a lot of experience dogfighting.

"The F-22 pilot was in a better plane but didn't have as much experience," he said. "We're really good at what we do, and we have a lot of practice doing it."

He said US naval aviators assigned to squadrons in the Indo-Pacific had been increasingly attending TOPGUN training.

Snodgrass said that if US and Chinese carrier-based fighters were to battle at sea, experience would likely tip the scales in favor of the US, even if China could leverage the J-15s strengths.

"We're really good at what we do, and we have a lot of practice doing it," he said.

But there are always other factors in combat that could change the outcome. Fighters could, for example, face a storm of surface-to-air missiles from carrier escort ships. Snodgrass added, "It's all theoretical until the shooting starts."

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AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson get FDA green light to resume coronavirus vaccine trials in the US after participants got sick

Fri, 10/23/2020 - 1:56pm  |  Clusterstock
Capped vials are being pictured during filling and packaging tests for the large-scale production and supply of the University of Oxfords COVID-19 vaccine candidate, AZD1222
  • Two major coronavirus vaccine trials — one by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, the other by Johnson & Johnson — will resume coronavirus vaccine trials in the US, the companies announced Friday
  • AstraZeneca's late-stage trial had paused September 6 after the company reported "suspected serious adverse reaction" in a UK-based participant. 
  • Johnson & Johnson halted trials on October 12 after a participant developed an unexplained illness. 
  • The UK resumed clinical trials for AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford vaccines in September, and in Japan earlier this month. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Two major coronavirus vaccines will resume late-stage trials in the US

The Food and Drug Administration has allowed a COVID-19 a vaccine trial commissioned by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, as well as a trial by Johnson & Johnson, to resume within the US both companies announced Friday.

The AstraZeneca vaccine trial was halted on September 6 after the company reported "suspected serious adverse reaction" in a UK-based participant, STAT reported. The company said in a release that it's "not unusual" for participants to become sick in a large-scale vaccine trial. 

Johnson & Johnson temporarily halted vaccine studies on October 12 after a participant experienced an unexplained illness. The Washington Post reported that a man who received the Johnson & Johnson drug suffered a stroke that may have been caused from infection.

The FDA plans to require AstraZeneca researchers to tell participants of the suspected adverse reaction, and monitor them for "neurological events," the Wall Street Journal reported. 

Read more: The doctors and scientists who will evaluate every coronavirus vaccine met for the first time this week. Here are the 5 most important takeaways from their landmark meeting.

The UK resumed clinical trials for AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford vaccines in September, and in Japan, trials resumed earlier this month. 

There are currently 193 research efforts to develop a vaccine, The World Health Organization has reported, and the head of the United States' vaccine effort recently told Business Insider's Andrew Dunn he expects Americans to receive shots in mid-2021.

Earlier this week, the FDA approved antiviral drug remdesivir to treat coronavirus patients after some studies found it helps hospitalized patients with more moderate forms of COVID-19 recover more quickly. It was the first coronavirus treatment to gain FDA approval. But even with the use of remdesivir, experts say vaccines are more important for stopping the spread of COVID-19. 

The FDA did not immediately respond to Business Insider's requests for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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