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The latest news from Life

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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

    nike gift card

    Gift cards are an ideal gift in a lot of ways. For instance, you get to give them exactly what they want — in the color, style, and exact model that they want it — without polling their closest friends, family, and private online wish lists. They also typically don't expire.

    Below, you'll find 30 of the best ones to give. If you want more options, there are also lots of restaurant gift cards on Amazon and plenty of other brands here. Otherwise, you might opt for stores like Best Buy with free in-store pick-up. 

    Below, you'll find 30 of the best gift cards to give this year:

    Looking for more gift ideas? Check out all of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides for 2018 here.


    Buy a Brooklinen gift card

    Brooklinen makes the best high-end sheets at the best price on the internet. Have a gift card delivered digitally, or in a gift card box. You can find a full review of Brooklinen's sheets here.


    Buy an Amazon gift card

    An Amazon gift card is a more polite version of giving them cash — with it, they can buy pretty much anything they've had on their wish list — whether it's new and exciting tech or completely utilitarian home basics. You can also buy it in a gift card box.


    Buy a Spotify gift card on Amazon or Best Buy

    They probably already have a Spotify account, but that doesn't mean they won't appreciate not having to pay for it for a while. A Spotify gift card lets you fund the next few months of something they love and use multiple times per day. 

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Google Pixel 3

    • Apple's iPhone has topped the smartphone market of late, earning the most revenue of any smartphone in the first half of 2018, according to Strategy Analytics.
    • iPhones run Apple's iOS software, which some tech reviewers find to be a more secure operating system than Google Pixel's Android software.
    • But Android tends to beat iOS in reviews on customization, app selection, and cloud integration.
    • After five years with an iPhone, I decided to put Android to the test and buy the Google Pixel. A year later, I wish I hadn't switched.

    Every time my brother downloaded a new song or app, it would appear on my iPhone. And every time we got an iOS update, I would start to receive his text messages. We tried everything, but the glitch wouldn't go away.

    At the same time, I had been hearing praise for the Google Pixel's professional-grade camera. Many tech reviewers had also praised Android's superiority over iOS for qualities like customization, cloud services, and app selection.

    Sure, the iPhone X had been the most popular smartphone in the world in the first quarter of 2018, but popular didn't necessarily mean better, right?

    So after five years with an iPhone, I decided to give the Google Pixel a go.

    User experience

    If you choose not to customize your Pixel, you'll notice its user experience is nearly identical to the iPhone's. Both smartphones sport a grid layout with rounded icons in bright colors. Getting used to the new system took no longer than getting used to the dashboard and brakes of a new car.

    Where the Pixel in particular and Androids in general excel is in their vast capacity for customization.

    Android's software is built on an open-source platform, which gives developers the ability to create apps that can do more. The potential for customization is basically limitless.

    In theory, this is awesome. Tired of opening the calculator when you meant to open the clock? Download a new family of icons. Play around with the widgets so they're always where you want them. Explore hundreds of themes on Google Play. If you're feeling cheeky, you could even give your Pixel an Apple interface.

    Read more: I've used Apple computers my entire life. Here's why I'm never buying one again.

    In reality, however, the only thing I've bothered to change is my wallpaper. Turns out that just because you can download a third-party app to customize your phone doesn't mean you want to. Storage is limited, and not all third-party apps are trustworthy. And to be honest, many themes, such as 3D Ice Wolf and Pink Paris, look gaudy and bring back bad MySpace memories.

    Privacy and security

    Google Pixel 3

    While I never got a virus scare with iOS, using Android reminds me of surfing the web in the early 2000s. I've frequently had to exit out of apps like a maniac as pop-ups flooded my screen.

    More than 80% of hackers target Android users, while less than 4% target iOS users, as reported in Nokia's Mobile Threat Intelligence Report. Compared with iOS, Android's open-source platform is reportedly easier to hack.

    Security and privacy go hand in hand, especially when you consider how much sensitive data we make available on your phone, sometimes unintentionally.

    If I had fully understood Google's approach to protecting user privacy, I probably would have never switched.

    This hit home for me earlier this year when an Ars Technica report revealed that Facebook had been collecting texting data and call history from users through its Messenger app. Though users technically opt in, the specifics of what Facebook was allowed to collect was hidden in the fine print. This breach of privacy affected only Android users.

    Apple distances itself from user information through its "Differential Privacy" policy. According to the policy, the company can add "statistical noise" to any data it collects so personal information can't be traced back to the individual user.

    Read more:7 things you can hire a hacker to do and how much it will (generally) cost

    Google also uses a form of differential privacy, but with a "heavy-duty" approach to data collection that has drawn criticism in opinion articles such as one in Fortune from the University of Pennsylvania communications professor Joseph Turow.

    Though Google claims this data collection improves the Pixel's user experience, I've found the personalized suggestions and reminders more creepy than helpful.


    If you switch to the Google Pixel, expect to lose some of the amenities that come standard on most phones.

    What I missed most was the ability to copy and paste from a text message. Google recently resolved this issue, but at the time it was a huge pain, especially when people sent addresses. You really get used to the ability to simply click an address and have it come up in your maps app.

    I also missed being able to set my music to a sleep timer without having to install a new app. Even my Samsung Juke had that feature, and it was as wide as my thumb.

    Hypothetically, you could find many of these functionalities on the Google Play store. But the effort of finding something and vetting its quality never seems worth it.

    Ultimately, I wish I hadn't switched. I'm not a coder. I'm not a big gamer. I'm not even that inclined to change my font or background. For this reason, the freedom to customize simply doesn't outweigh the issues I've outlined. While the experience hasn't been bad enough to get me rummaging around for my old Juke, I definitely won't go for a Pixel the next time I'm in the market for a phone.

    SEE ALSO: 8 things you loved as a kid that don’t exist anymore

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Review: Google Pixel 3 and 3 XL are the best smartphones you can buy right now

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    WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 28: Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) speaks to the press after receiving a briefing from U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on developments in Saudi Arabia on Capitol Hill on November 28, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

    • CIA Director Gina Haspel briefed a small group of senators on the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
    • Senators left the meeting satisfied with what intelligence officials told them, but furious with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
    • Most senators were not allowed to attend the briefing, which made them angry with the process.

    WASHINGTON — A group of senators received a briefing from CIA Director Gina Haspel on Tuesday after a bipartisan coalition advanced a rebuke of President Donald Trump's support for the Saudi-Arabian-led military campaign in Yemen last week. 

    Upon exiting the closed briefing, senators appeared more furious than they were just one week ago, signaling that US-Saudi relations within the Senate are at an all-time low.

    Read more: Senate rebukes Trump for his poor handling of Saudi Arabia and Khashoggi killing, as 18 senators flip to support War Powers Resolution

    Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, who chairs the powerful Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, added that while he did not listen to the audio recording of Khashoggi's killing, there is "zero question" that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directed the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

    "The royal family inside the country looks to what the president says and so do people in the region," Corker told reporters. "And therefore I think it would appear to them and to people in the region that just based on what has been said, that someone like MBS can murder people and have immunity."

    But Corker noted the difficult path for the working group looking to push back on the White House's response to Khashoggi's murder as well as the human rights issues with the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.

    "I think temperatures are up by all involved would be my guess," he said. "So figuring out something that can pass overwhelmingly still is going to be difficult because some people want to tie the Yemen piece in to the Khashoggi piece and so that makes it more complicated."

    Not all senators were allowed into the briefing, frustrating critics of Saudi Arabia

    The Haspel briefing came just one week after Defense Sec. Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with all senators on the situation with Saudi Arabia. Only a handful of committee heads and members of leadership were permitted in the briefing. Most senators were not allowed to hear from Haspel and even found out about the briefing's existence through reporters in the media.

    But many members were distraught that Haspel and other representatives from the intelligence community did not make themselves available. The lack of access even prompted Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to vote to advance the War Powers Resolution out of spite.

    Graham attended the briefing on Tuesday, after which he said he cannot support arm sales to the Saudis as long as bin Salman is in charge. 

    "Saudi Arabia is a strategic ally and the relationship is worth saving, but not at all costs," Graham said. "We'll do more damage to our standing in the world and our national security by ignoring MBS than dealing with him. MBS, the crown prince, is a wrecking ball. I think he's complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi in the highest level possible."

    Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has been one of the Republicans leading the charge against the effort to stop arm sales to Saudi Arabia, cast the exclusion as unfair and part of the "deep state" to withhold information from senators.

    When asked why he was blaming outside forces for not providing a briefing to the full Senate, Paul dismissed the notion that the White House was a primary culprit, noting his opposition to the way the intelligence community compartmentalizes information given to members of Congress.

    "It has nothing to do with Trump. Not everything’s about Trump," Paul said. "There are eight people in Congress who get briefings on intelligence. That is not democracy. That is not democratic representation, nor is it democratic oversight."

    Still, Democrats are likely to hold firm on their position from last week, which included several members flipping their position from a similar vote last March.

    "I’ll simply say that I am now more convinced than I was before — and I was pretty convinced — that in fact the United States must have a strong response to both the war in Yemen as well as the killing of a United States permanent resident and journalist in Jamal Khashoggi," said New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. "And only a strong response by the United States will send a clear and unequivocal message that such actions are not acceptable in the world’s stage."

    But the several Republicans who backed the War Powers Resolution might need more to secure their commitment to the plan. It is still unclear what that kind of response would include.

    "How to deal with that without harming our own national interests is the challenge that we have," Corker said.

    SEE ALSO: From Queen Elizabeth to the former head of the Soviet Union, here are 7 moving tributes to the life of George HW Bush

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Megyn Kelly in 2017: 'I regret a lot' of the controversial stuff I've said on live television

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    sfl amazon prime free two hour delivery miami baltimore 20150319

    Amazon is huge. So huge, in fact, that approximately 64% of American households had a Prime membership in 2017. 

    And yet for how pervasive Amazon is, few of that 64% percent would likely say they actively work to get the most out of their membership — or know how.

    We come for the low prices, easy layout, and ultra-convenient deliveries, and we leave money and benefits on the table by being blissfully ignorant of the untapped channels. But whether you're paying for Prime already or you shop infrequently, there are plenty of hacks that can help you get the most out of something pretty much ubiquitous for most American households — and if you can save yourself more money, why wouldn't you?

    Below are 20 ways to become an Amazon power user:

    SEE ALSO: 26 things under $20 we can't live without

    Shop between November 1 and December 31 to double or triple your return window.

    Check out Amazon's holiday return policies

    You usually have 30 days to return most Amazon-fulfilled products, but during the holidays, items shipped by Amazon between November 1 and December 31 can be returned until January 31— so you can shop for holiday gifts as early as you want, or return or exchange those you don't want to keep. 

    Sign up for Prime Student if you have access to an ".edu" email.

    Sign up for the six-month Amazon Prime Student trial

    If you have access to an ".edu" email address you can sign up for Amazon Prime Student. You get a six-month trial of Prime Student and then pay 50% less than other Prime users ($6.49/month) for nearly all of the same perks after the trial ends. It lasts for four years — or until your listed graduation date, whichever comes first.

    You'll also get access to special offers, which are deals and discounts Amazon partners offer student members specifically.

    Prime members earn 2% rewards every time they reload their Gift Card Balance.

    Set up 2% rewards

    Prime members earn 2% rewards every time they reload their gift card balance with the debit card they designated as their Prime Reload card (something you'll be prompted to do when signing up). Just set up 2% rewards and then reload your gift card balance using your rewards payment method. Your 2% rewards will be added to your gift card balance at the same time you reload.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Steve Stivers

    • The National Republican Congressional Committee says it was hit with a "cyber intrusion" during the 2018 midterm campaign, Politico first reported Tuesday.
    • A Committee spokesman confirmed the NRCC was the victim of a cyberattack and had both launched an internal probe into the hack as well as notifying the FBI.
    • Officials added that while sensitive emails and internal information was compromised, the hackers did not access donor information.

     The National Republican Congressional Committee says it was hit with a "cyber intrusion" during the 2018 midterm campaign and the breach has been reported to the FBI, Politico first reported Tuesday.

    "The NRCC can confirm that it was the victim of a cyber intrusion by an unknown entity," Committee spokesman Ian Prior said Tuesday.

    "The cybersecurity of the Committee's data is paramount, and upon learning of the intrusion, the NRCC immediately launched an internal investigation and notified the FBI, which is now investigating the matter," he added.

    CNN reported that emails and communications of 4 high-level NRCC officials had been "surveilled for months." While the hack was reportedly discovered by a private cybersecurity firm in April, the most senior House Republican officials including Speaker Paul Ryan and majority leader Kevin McCarthy were not aware until Politico inquired 

    Some NRCC staffers told Politico they believed the culprit of the hack was a foreign agent. Officials added that while sensitive emails and internal information was compromised, the hackers did not access donor information.

    The FBI did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Read more: Facebook announced it got hacked and 50 million accounts were compromised. Here's how to tell if you were affected.

    In March, NRCC Chairman Steve Stivers said the committee has hired multiple cybersecurity staffers to work with its candidates and promised to do more. Rep. Tom Emmers of Minnesota has been elected to chair the NRCC for the upcoming election cycle. 

    Cybersecurity has become a pressing issue for political campaigns and organizations in recent years. In July, the special counsel Robert Mueller's office indicted 12 Russian security officers for spring and summer 2016 hacks of the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. 

    While the NRCC and DCCC have spent much of the past two years negotiating an agreement not to cite material obtained via malicious hacking in campaign ads in the 2018 midterms, those talks fell apart months before the November elections, CNN reported. 

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The true story behind the name 'Black Friday' is much darker than you may have thought

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    Alaska Airlines Boeing 737

    • Alaska Airlines launched a two-day fare sale on Tuesday with one-way tickets available for as little as $39.
    • Standout deals include $39 one-way flights between Los Angeles and Las Vegas. Flights between LA and San Francisco can be had for $49 one way.
    • All sale tickets must be purchased by 11:59 pm PST on Wednesday, December 5, for travel between January 8 and March 6, 2019.

    Alaska Airlines launched a two-day fare sale on Tuesday with one-way tickets available for as little as $39.

    The Seattle-based carrier will make discount tickets available in both its traditional "Main" fare economy cabin as well as in its newly launched "Saver" fare option, which is a less restrictive form of the basic-economy product offered by American, Delta, and United.

    Even though the sale is nationwide, some of the best deals to be had are out of Los Angeles. For example, Saver-fare one-way flights to Las Vegas and San Jose, California, are available for just $39, while traditional Main fare tickets are available for $69. A flight from LA to San Francisco is only slightly more expensive at $49 for the Saver fare and $79 for the Main fare.

    Alaska Airlines Saver fareThere are some conditions that go along with these discounted prices. All sale tickets must be purchased by 11:59 p.m. PST on Wednesday, December 5, for travel between January 8 and March 6, 2019. There are also blackout dates between February 14 and February 25.

    In addition, tickets must be purchased 21 days ahead of travel.

    Read more: The amazing history of the Boeing 737, the best-selling airliner of all time.

    Alaska's Saver fare and other basic economy tickets are discount fare classes within an airline's economy cabin. As a result, the in-flight service and experience will be the same for Saver fare as it will be for someone who purchased a pricier Main-fare ticket. This means passengers who go the Saver route will sit in the same seats and enjoy the same in-flight perks and amenities as everyone else in coach.

    Saver-fare tickets are not changeable or cancelable, and they will not be eligible for upgrades. Those traveling on Saver-fare tickets will also board last. And while you will be able to preselect your seat, it will have to be at the back of the plane. 

    SEE ALSO: Take a look inside the $218 million Boeing Dreamliner private jet the new president of Mexico is selling because it's 'too lavish'

    FOLLOW US: On Facebook for more car and transportation content!

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Why you shouldn't be afraid to fly, according to a pilot with over 20 years of experience

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    barbara corcoran

    • Barbara Corcoran says she loves business partnerships between people with different skill sets.
    • When she's trying to figure out if a partnership will work on "Shark Tank," Corcoran simply asks contestants, "What do you do?"
    • She said her most successful investments on "Shark Tank" support teams with opposite yet complementary talents.

    Barbara Corcoran is known for her extroverted persona and sometimes edgy advice, but one of her most successful business partnerships was with a particularly quiet woman named Esther Kaplan.

    "She's the most conservative person you ever want to meet," Corcoran said at IGNITION, Business Insider's media and technology event. "You almost couldn't even hear her talk. That’s how quiet she was in her manner and the way she demonstrated herself."

    But Corcoran quickly saw that Kaplan had just about everything Corcoran needed as she built her own business.

    "I was able to recognize she was my opposite," Corcoran added. "She was great at file systems, personnel systems, computers, finance, legal. Everything that I sucked at. And I was great at marketing, recruiting, brainstorming, PR, the bullcrap area of business. And she hated it. So, we were perfect partners."

    Read more:'What the hell were we thinking?' Startup founders who landed a $55,000 deal on 'Shark Tank' nearly missed their big break

    Opposites attract, and in Corcoran's case, they helped make for excellent business partnerships. Corcoran has taken that lesson from her real-estate mogul days as the founder of The Corcoran Group — which she sold in 2001 for $66 million — to her present role as a judge on reality-TV show "Shark Tank."

    To figure out if potential investors have that ideal mix of talents, Corcoran simply asks, "What do you do?"

    When she asks that deceptively simple question, Corcoran is trying to figure out whether the contestants contribute different yet complementary talents to the business.

    "You can start to size up as to whether they're compatible partners with opposite skill sets," Corcoran said at IGNITION.

    Ultimately, as she's said previously, Corcoran explained that her most successful Shark Tank investments have been partnerships — like Cousins Maine Lobster, in which Corcoran invested $15,000 in 2012. Today, the food-truck business has restaurants and locales nationwide.

    "It's almost like two for the price of one," Corcoran said at IGNITION. "I'm paying the same money, getting the same stock, but I'm getting two great entrepreneurs instead of one. My odds of winning are much better."

    SEE ALSO: 'Shark Tank' star Barbara Corcoran reveals how getting dumped for her secretary and sending 1 gutsy email helped turn her into a business mogul

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The true story behind the name 'Black Friday' is much darker than you may have thought

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    2018 NY Motorcycle Show

    • The 2018 Progressive International New York motorcycle show pulled into the Big Apple this past weekend.
    • I dropped by before the show opened to the public and took in the sights.
    • Once again, heritage styling was a big story, but the growth of Royal Enfield, a motorcycle company big in India, was also notable.

    The New York motorcycle show is one of my favorite events of the year.

    The 2018 installment didn't disappoint. The floor at the Javits Center on Manhattan's West Side was crammed with all manner of two-wheeled delights (as well as some three- and four-wheeled attractions).

    All the major players were represented. We had big ole hogs from Harley-Davidson, cool flat-track racers from Indian, style machines from Triumph, Ducati, and Aprilia, and some flash new bikes from Royal Enfield, the freshest brand to hit the US market.

    Suzuki, Yamaha, Honda, and Kawasaki also showcased their wide range of bikes, ATVs, and of course, JetSkis. 

    I also sampled helmets, riding gear, and even tires!

    Let's have a look. 

    FOLLOW US: On Facebook for more car and transportation content!

    Progressive, the big insurer, is the longtime sponsor of the New York motorcycle show, which pulls in to the Javits Center every year.

    It is a sea of two-wheelers, from all the major manufacturers.

    Let's have a look around!

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Gifts for host

    The holidays are in full swing, which means you probably already have too ugly Christmas sweater parties and family gatherings to think about. While you're busy shopping for holiday gifts, you may want to consider getting something for all the hosts that'll be making you feel welcome in their homes this season. 

    At a bare minimum, a host gift is a small but generous way to say "Thank you for having me." At its full potential, it's a way to make someone feel valued and recognized for all the time and effort they've spent to give you a wonderful and warm place to be. These host gifts are ones they'll remember and enjoy even after the party is over — once they're over the stress of cleanup (for which your voluntary help is probably the best host gift of all).

    Looking for more gift ideas? Check out all of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides for 2018 here.

    SEE ALSO: All of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides, in one place

    SEE ALSO: 15 thoughtful gifts for book lovers to satisfy the bookworm on your list

    A trio of chai tea that made it onto Oprah's Favorite Things list

    Vahdam Chai Tea Trio, available on Amazon, $29.99

    This tea trio made Oprah's Favorite Things list for 2018, so if it's good enough for her, it's good enough for your host. We've actually tried some of Vahdam's teas and were particularly impressed by its beautiful packaging.

    A wine tote and a nice bottle to go with it

    Draper James X Crate & Barrel Cheers Wine Tote, available at Crate & Barrel or Draper James, $20

    Wine is a classic host gift, but sometimes it doesn't quite feel like enough. But wrap a bottle in this sweet tote from Reese Witherspoon's brand Draper James and Crate & Barrel and you've got a perfectly complete gift for your party host. 

    And if you're looking for an easy way to order wine online for the holidays, we've got you covered with this list.

    A never-fail candle from one of our favorite new startups

    Gilded Holiday Candles, available at Otherland, from $38

    Otherland's candles offer the most beautiful unboxing and gifting experience. They're both a joy to give and a joy to get. You can choose candles from the newest limited-edition collection called Gilded Holiday, or go for the company's five base candles that are carried year-round.

    Read our full review of Otherland candles here.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    William Mckinley

    • President Donald Trump called himself a "Tariff Man" on Twitter.
    • The name is derived from former President William McKinley's statement in the 1896 presidential election that he was a "a tariff man standing on a tariff platform," according to Trump adviser Peter Navarro.
    • McKinley's conception of tariffs may be a bit outdated, though.

    President Donald Trump sent Twitter alight on Tuesday by referring to himself as a "Tariff Man," drawing superhero comparisons and helping to raise concerns about the preliminary US-China trade agreement.

    But the origin of the name is not the pages of a comic book. Rather, one of Trump's top trade advisers said it was an homage to late 19th century president.

    Peter Navarro, Trump's hawkish trade adviser, said the tweet was a reference to Republican President William McKinley. Here's the history lesson via Navarro's interview on Fox Business:

    "Let me give you a little background on that because that's an homage to one of President Trump's favorite presidents, William McKinley. When McKinley was running in 1896 on a platform of prosperity, protection, and patriotism, he said he is 'a tariff man standing on a tariff platform.' What McKinley did when he got elected [was] put in strong tariffs and a realigned the currency. It actually not only set off tremendous catalytic growth, but also helped realign the Republican Party."

    McKinley was known during his time in Congress for the eponymous McKinley tariff that was passed in 1890. It raised tariffs by as much as 50% on various products. The Ohioan later ran for president during the 1896 election on a pro-tariff platform.

    Read more:Trump calls himself 'Tariff Man' during raging tweetstorm on China trade war, and the stock market tanks»

    Similar to Trump's desire to boost domestic businesses, McKinley argued that the tariffs would help to protect US companies and lead to greater economic prosperity.

    But the historical comparisons virtually end there. For one, tariffs were the primary source of federal revenue at the time since there was no income tax, making them much more important for government functions.

    Additionally, supply chains are much more complex in the present day. Instead of producing goods from start to finish in a factory, parts are taken from all over the world. Now, tariffs are more likely to end up harming US businesses that rely on those parts.

    And the McKinley tariff ignores more recent examples of tariffs causing economic damage. From the disastrous Smoot-Hawley tariffs during the Great Depression to George W. Bush's failed steel tariffs in 2002, tariffs in the 20th and 21st centuries have generally been a net economic negative for the US.

    SEE ALSO: Trump's newest pick to lead the trade fight against China reportedly took the Chinese by surprise and could be bad news for a deal

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Megyn Kelly in 2017: 'I regret a lot' of the controversial stuff I've said on live television

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    thinkgeek gifts 4

    Many of us grew up on and continue to be enraptured by fantasy worlds. Inhabited by memorable characters and rife with action around every corner, they may have been born on the screen, but they certainly haven't stayed there — just look at all the apparel, games, and even full-fledged conventions and theme parks that they've inspired. 

    ThinkGeek believes there's no shame in embracing your chosen geekdom, whether you prefer to escape to faraway galaxies or imagine the unexplored possibilities of Earth.

    It's the perfect place to find a gift for anyone who appreciates cult favorites across TV, movies, books, video games, and other geeky interests. The cool and unique gifts from ThinkGeek are inspired by popular franchises like "Game of Thrones," "Harry Potter," "Star Wars," "Star Trek,", Marvel, Pokemon, Super Mario, and many, many more. 

    If you know your recipient loves a specific series or world, you can shop the category directly. The following are our favorite gift picks across a variety of our favorite shows, films, and video games, from ThinkGeek. 

    Shop all gifts from ThinkGeek here

    Looking for more gift ideas? Check out all of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides for 2018 here.

    A cute BB-8 car charger that also moves and makes sounds

    Star Wars BB-8 USB Car Charger, $29.99, available at ThinkGeek

    A "Twin Peaks"-inspired pie plate that you should fill with a handmade cherry pie

    Twin Peaks Ceramic Pie Plate, $24.99, available at ThinkGeek

    Embroidered patches to remind them of their inner kid

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Roger Stone

    • Roger Stone, a key figure in the Russia probe, is invoking his Fifth Amendment right and declining to provide documents requested of him by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
    • In a letter to ranking Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Stone's attorney, Grant Smith, called the requests "far too over-broad, far too overreaching," and "far too wide-ranging" for Stone's compliance. 
    • Feinstein originally requested documents that contain Stone's communications with WikiLeaks and Trump campaign officials back in November 2017.

    Roger Stone, the former adviser to President Donald Trump, is invoking his Fifth Amendment right and declining to provide documents requested of him by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

    In a letter to the committee publicly released by ranking Democratic member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Stone's lawyer, Grant Smith, said Stone "respectfully declines to produce any documents and declines the invitation for an interview." The letter cited the Fifth Amendment's protection against self-incrimination. 

    Smith called Feinstein's requests "far too over-broad, far too overreaching," and "far too wide-ranging in their all-embracing list of persons to whom the request could relate with whom Mr. Stone has spoken over the past three years." 

    Stone has become a central figure in the special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign collaborated with Moscow to tilt the race in Trump's favor. The special counsel has called at least seven of his associates to testify before the grand jury convened to hear testimony in the probe.

    Stone's involvement in the Russia probe revolves around whether he knew about WikiLeaks' plans to release of emails from the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's campaign that were allegedly hacked by Russian security officers to sow discord in the 2016 election. 

    Read more:Top Trump campaign officials and right-wing media allies were convinced Roger Stone was much closer to WikiLeaks than he's let on

    In the letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Smith also called for the transcript of Stone's September 2017 closed-door testimony before the House Select Committee on Intelligence to be made public.  

    Feinstein originally requested documents that contain Stone's communications with WikiLeaks and Trump campaign officials in November 2017

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Fender American Performer

    • Fender has substantially updated its American Performer lineup, formerly known as American Special.
    • The new line is the entry point to Fender made-in-USA instruments and now includes basses in addition to guitars.
    • The American Performer line was developed with significant input from performing artists.

    A Fender guitar can be obtained for a very reasonable price, but for many players, it's the American-made instruments that are the beginning of their serious journey into the 72-year-old brand. 

    That journey used to commence with the American Special lineup, but now Fender has updated that offering for the first time in a decade and rechristened it "American Performer" to highlight a combination of value and excellence intended to appeal to gigging musicians. 

    Fender American Performer

    "The American Performer Series blends traditional Fender design with new elements for modern tone and performance," Fender said in a statement. "Together, the updates deliver sonic versatility, tonal flexibility and ease of use for performers, helping them create the perfect sound for every musical genre."

    Fender upped its game for the new instruments.

    "We put a lot more into these than in prior iterations," Justin Norvell, executive vice-president of product, said.

    As with any update to Fender's iconic designs, there were challenges. "A Stratocaster from ten paces looks like a Stratocaster," Norvell said.

    Input from performing artists was imperative, and Fender spent two years both refining stalwarts such as the Stratocaster and Telecaster while refining the Jazzmaster and the Mustang and introducing a Jazz, Precision, and Mustang bass. What Norvell described as "quirks" were addressed, such as the Mustang's notorious tremolo arm.

    Plenty of input from performers

    The range of advice that Fender received was thanks to location: with an office in Hollywood, near numerous recording studios, the company could rely on a steady stream of musicians providing opinions. According to Norvell, their preferences in Fender instruments ranged from "super modern to super vintage."

    Pickups were of particular interest. New "Yosemite" units are intended to combine muscle and finesse in a single instrument. A double-tap humbucking pickup enables a player to switch between the single-coil cut that Fenders are known for, yet also access humbucking beef, without have to compromise volume.

    Tuners also got an update, with a modest, vintage look, but more precise and stable tuning.

    Fender American Performer

    Overall, the revamped American Performer range seeks to continue Fender's process of improving its classics for musicians who aren't as indebted to styles of the past and might want to treat the six-string (as well as the bass) as a sort of synthesizer, creating sonic textures through the use of effects pedals and a wide variety of amplifiers (both of which Fender also makes).

    When it came to personal favorites from the new range, Norvell highlighted the Stratocaster HSS, which replaces the traditional single-coil bridge pickup with a humbucking unit, solving the problem of Stratocaster players avoiding the bridge and favoring the guitars legendary neck pickup. The new Performer Strat HSS is about $1,000.

    He also enthused over the Jazzmaster, a  guitar that was a failure for Fender when introduced decades ago, but a massive success much later when cheap axes were taken up by punk-rock musicians in the 1980s. A new trem system borrowed from the Strat provides a simpler way to whammy. The new Jazzmaster is priced at about $1,200.

    SEE ALSO: Fender has discovered that guitars aren't just for rock stars anymore — and they could help your mind stay young as you age

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: This man's life changed forever when a stranger gave him a guitar 15 years ago — now he's trying to find him

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    A great pair of boots is an absolute must for the fall and winter, and Nordstrom has a wonderful selection for men and women.

    While you could shop their new arrivals, Nordstrom's sale section is full of hidden gems. There, you can find deeply discounted styles, ranging from classic Chelsea boots to chukkas to snow boots, from top brands like UGG, Timberland, Hunter, Cole Haan, FRYE, and more.

    To help you sort through all the options, we rounded up 30 boots for men and women that you can buy on sale right now at Nordstrom. If you're also looking for great deals on clothes, accessories, and even home goods, check out the rest of Nordstrom's sale section.

    Shop men's boots at Nordstrom here >>

    Shop women's boots at Nordstrom here >>

    SEE ALSO: All of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides, in one place

    Men's J&M 1850 Karnes Brogue Cap Toe Boot

    J&M 1850 Karnes Brogue Cap Toe Boot, $136.90 (Originally $229) [You save $92.10]

    Men's UGG Dalvin Zip Boot with Genuine Shearling

    UGG Dalvin Zip Boot with Genuine Shearling, $129.90 (Originally $260) [You save $130.10]

    Men's Cole Haan Tyler Chukka Boot

    Cole Haan Tyler Chukka Boot, available in two colors, $149.90 (Originally $250) [You save $100.10]

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Rapper Meek Mill.

    • Rapper Meek Mill and billionaire entrepreneur Michael Rubin explained how their friendship has transformed into a partnership to fight for criminal justice reform at Business Insider's annual IGNITION conference on Tuesday. 
    • Mill was incarcerated again last year, against the recommendation of the prosecutor and his probation office, last year — prompting a movement to free him and a plan to launch a group that will push for systemic reform. 
    • The new organization hopes to move one million people out of prison and probation, and advocate for better prison rehabilitation programs and more just probation policies, bail systems, and sentencing laws.

    Rapper Meek Mill and billionaire entrepreneur Michael Rubin explained how their friendship has transformed into a partnership to fight for criminal justice reform, during a discussion at Business Insider's annual IGNITION conference on Tuesday. 

    After Mill was imprisoned again last year, the two men, who've been friends for years, decided to launch a new organization, the details of which will be rolled out in the coming weeks, that will push to reform the laws that govern sentencing, probation, bail, and other aspects of the criminal justice system.

    "In my neighborhood, people die seven days a week," Mill told INSIDER Global Editor-in-Chief Nich Carlson of the North Philadelphia community he was raised in, adding that his father was murdered when he was a kid, as were many of the friends he grew up with. "Just stepping out of the house, you're stepping into a drug-infested environment."

    Mill was arrested in 2007 and served eight months in county prison beginning in 2009, after which he was put on probation for five years. Last year, Mill was sentenced to two to four years in prison after being involved in a fight in an airport (Mill says he was breaking up the altercation) and popping wheelies on a dirt bike in New York City, both of which violated the strict terms of his probation. While the two charges were dropped and the prosecutor and probation officer recommended no prison time, Mill ultimately served five more months in prison.  

    The judge, who has handled Mill's cases since 2007, even denied the rapper bail, calling him a danger to public safety and a flight risk. 

    Mill and Rubin, who co-owns the Philadelphia NBA team the 76ers, said the two used to argue over whether they were raised and live in "two Americas."

    "I used to say, 'you live in a great country, don't give me that BS,'" Rubin said, but explained that his eyes were opened to racial bias in the justice system when his friend was sent to prison again, even after the charges against him were dropped. 

    "Up until I saw this, I would have believed that 99.9% of arrests were accurate, I would have believed that the legal system worked the right way 99.9% of the scenarios," Rubin added. "I saw a guy who I knew was a great human being ... and now I'm watching this guy go to prison for two to four years because he popped a wheelie and he broke up a fight?" 

    Mill's imprisonment prompted a movement to help free him led by fellow rappers and a host of racial justice and reform advocates. He was released last April. 

    The multi-platinum hip-hop artist recently wrote an op-ed for The New York Times in which he argued that the criminal justice system was designed to subjugate people of color, particularly black men, who are incarcerated much higher rates and with more severe punishments than their white counterparts. 

    "The plantation and the prison are actually no different. The past is the present," Mill says in a video shot for Times piece. "It ain't no coincidence, this was the plan since abolition, to keep us subjugated by creating this system." 

    The reform organization, which has six other co-founders, will seek to move one million people out of prison and probation, and advocate for better prison rehabilitation programs and more just probation policies, bail systems, and sentencing laws.

    "It's fundamentally broken laws that don't make sense that are very old and antiquated," Rubin said.

    Mill hopes the taxpayer dollars saved through the reduction of the prison population will be used for services and counseling to help formerly incarcerated people become employed, reintegrate into society, and receive mental healthcare. 

    SEE ALSO: Chris Hayes says Kamala Harris is 'underpriced' for 2020 and no candidate is too far-left to be president

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Fox News' Harris Faulkner is the only black woman in cable news with a daily show: 'It's a tremendous amount of responsibility'

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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

    Etsy pillows

    When picking out a gift for someone you care about, there are plenty of things to consider, but one of the most important is that it's unique. There's nothing worse than spending time thoughtfully picking out a gift just to find out that your recipient has already received it — or already owns it. If you find it hard to avoid generic gifts, you might just be looking in the wrong places. 

    Etsy is an online marketplace where all types of vendors from all over the world can set up online shops to sell their handmade and vintage goods. You can find literally any item imaginable on the site, from beautiful handmade jewelry, to artisanal chocolates and even hand-knit dog sweaters.

    Given the breadth of items, you can be sure you'll find a gift on Etsy that is one-of-a-kind. We checked out the site and found some pretty unique gifts that cater to all different tastes, hobbies, budgets, and personalities. Keep reading for 50 unique gifts you can find on Etsy.

    A caddy that brings their favorite activities to bath time

    TimberGroveStudios Bathtub Caddy, from $34.95

    A customized map of their favorite place

    Mapologist Personalized Map Print, from $27

    A revitalizing body polish

    Birchrose and Co Ginger +Citrus Lavender Body Polish, $22

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Airbus A321 JetBlue sustainable jet fuel blend

    • US travel and credit card review website The Points Guy held their inaugural TPG Awards on Tuesday at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York.
    • Award winners were selected for excellence in the airline industry, hospitality, and credit cards. 
    • JetBlue won for the best domestic economy and best premium cabin while Qatar Airways and Emirates won for best international business and best international first class respectively. 
    • Winning airlines were selected by the website's editorial staff based on a score-based review process. 

    US travel and credit card website The Points Guys held their inaugural TPG Awards on Tuesday. The gala, which was hosted by website-founder Brian Kelly at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York, saw the world of airlines converge with those of credit cards and hospitality. 

    JetBlue and its Airbus A321 Transcon service won big. The New York-based airline took home both the award for Best Domestic Economy Class and Best Premium Cabin. 

    The Qatar Airways Q Suite won for Best International Business Class while Emirates's A380 service won for Best International First Class. 

    Read more: Take a look inside the $218 million Boeing Dreamliner private jet the new president of Mexico is selling because it's 'too lavish.'

    The TPG airline award winners were selected by the website's editorial staff who narrowed the field down to a handful of finalists. The staff then reviewed each of the finalists on a score-based template. 

    The TPG Awards for best credit cards and hospitality loyalty programs were selected by the website's readers in two round of voting. The first round of voting narrowed down the finalists, while the second round selected the winners. According to The Points Guy, thousands of readers participated in the voting process.

    Delta Air Lines SkyMiles nabbed the Readers' Choice award for best US Airline Loyalty program. Marriot/SPG/Ritz-Carlton was crowned Best Hotel Loyalty Program. 

    SEE ALSO: Alaska Airlines is selling $39 one-way tickets for only 2 days

    FOLLOW US: On Facebook for more car and transportation content!

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    • Jobs and recruiting site Glassdoor has announced its annual list of The 100 Best Places to Work in 2019, based on employee reviews and ratings.
    • Of the top 100 large companies, 29 were tech companies.
    • Below, we've compiled Glassdoor's 2019 list of The Best Places to Work in tech.

    Thinking about leaving your tech job, but getting lost in a sea of job postings? 

    On Tuesday, the jobs and recruiting site Glassdoor revealed its annual list, The 100 Best Places to Work in 2019, which could help those looking to narrow their job search. The ranking was decided based on employee reviews and ratings on Glassdoor, and of the 100 best-reviewed companies to work at, 29 were tech companies.

    Some are household names, like Facebook — which was #1 on the 2018 list but dropped several spots following a scandal-filled year. Others companies that made the cut are lesser known but are still providing exceptional experiences for their employees. 

    Here is Glassdoor's 2019 list of the best places to work in tech:

    29. World Wide Technology

    Overall ranking: #99 

    Company rating: 4.2 

    What it does: Technology consulting 

    What employees say: "Bar none, THE BEST place I have ever worked." — World Wide Technology Senior Consultant (Denver, Colorado)


    28. Expedia Group

    Overall ranking: #92

    Company rating: 4.2

    What it does: Travel technology 

    What employees say: "Expedia is the best place to work. I have been here for 11 months and enjoying every single day. The culture is upbeat, leadership is transparent, clear on direction, very well organized process oriented company. Awesome work life balance." Expedia Software Engineering Manager (Chicago, Illinois)

    27. HP Inc.

    Overall ranking: #87

    Company rating: 4.2

    What it does: Maker of laptops, PC desktops, printers, and more. 

    What employees say: "HP's global footprint makes it unique in allowing you to have a BIG impact. Senior leaders are quality execs who've proven their mettle. Lots of opportunity to contribute given the size of the businesses." — Anonymous HP Employee 

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    happy people in coffee shop

    • If you're looking for a new job, you might want to check out companies where employees are happier than the norm. 
    • Glassdoor has released its annual ranking of the best places to work, which takes into account its database of 45 million company reviews provided by anonymous current and former workers
    • Tech companies dominated the listing, but plenty of firms in healthcare, consulting, manufacturing, and food got kudos for their excellent workplace cultures


    The average American spends some 90,000 hours at work during their lifetime, but 80% are outright dissatisfied with their work

    For that overwhelming majority, the secret to job satisfaction might just be a new company. Glassdoor, a job site with 45 million company reviews, has just released its annual Employees’ Choice Awards for the Best Places to Work. 

    The rankings are compiled from anonymous employee feedback that former or current workers can provide right on Glassdoor. To compile the listing, Glassdoor scans their massive database of company reviews.

    Workers writing a company review are asked to assess the pros and cons of working at the company, growth opportunities, compensation and benefits, culture and values, senior management, work/life balance, if they would recommend the workplace to a friend, and the company's six-month business outlook. 

    Those reviews are compiled in Glassdoor's awards algorithm, which also assesses the quality of reviews represented in its ranking. 

    Then, companies receive a score on a scale of one to five — five being the highest. The scores have been rounded to the nearest tenth in our article, while Glassdoor ranked the companies by looking at their score rounded to the thousandth. The employers on this list scored between 4.2 and 4.6 on Glassdoor; the average company rating is 3.4.

    Many of these companies in the list of large US workplaces (having more than 1,000 employees) are Bay Area tech firms. Of the 100 workplaces, 23 have headquarters in San Francisco, and 29 are in tech. 

    That's because tech firms are facing a major labor shortage and are keen to woo employees with excellent work cultures, Glassdoor chief economist Dr. Andrew Chamberlain told Business Insider.

    Read more: The 50 best places to work in 2018, according to employees

    But you don't have to be a techie to enjoy the benefits of an excellent workplace, which often includes mission-driven company cultures, smart coworkers, transparent senior leadership, great compensation and benefits, and work-life balance. 

    "To work at a company that treats you ethically and gives you good pay and benefits, you don't necessarily have to be in tech," Chamberlain said. "There's something for everybody."

    What's more, you don't even need to be in an office job or to have a college degree to work at a company that will treat you right. In-N-Out Burger, Trader Joe's, lululemon, and other employers powered by associates all topped the list, as well as healthcare providers that are largely staffed by nursing assistants and similar roles. 

    Here is a countdown of the best 50 workplaces, along with their headquarters location, a description of the company from Glassdoor, and a quote from a current or former employee. You can see all 100 companies on Glassdoor.

    SEE ALSO: Google cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are worth more than $100 billion — see how they spend it, from trapeze lessons to a 600-foot 'air yacht'

    DON'T MISS: 16 things you should never wear to work — even if you work in a business casual environment

    50. Crowe

    Score: 4.3 

    Headquarters location: Chicago

    Crowe is an accounting, technology, and consulting firm.

    "Very flexible work environment, with the ability to work remotely as needed. The company also strives to push career advancement of every employee." Crowe audit business analyst

    49. Johnson & Johnson

    Score: 4.3 

    Headquarters location: New Brunswick, New Jersey

    Johnson & Johnson is a biotech and pharmaceuticals company. 

    "Great people, great culture, and the company really cares about their employees. Really good work life balance and flexibility to work remote."Johnson & Johnson manager 

    48. SpaceX

    Score: 4.3 

    Headquarters location: Hawthorne, California

    SpaceX is an aerospace company dedicated to making human life on Mars possible. 

    "SpaceX believes in its employees and its missions so much, that they invest in you and you invest in the company. All our employees are owners of the company."SpaceX employee 

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    amazon prime worth it

    • Prime members love Amazon's free two-day shipping policy, which is undeniably convenient. 
    • However, it might be worth skipping "Two-Day Shipping" and choosing "No-Rush Shipping" instead because you'll earn instant discounts or future rewards offers. 
    • These rewards offers, exclusive to Prime members, can be redeemed for a variety of goods and services. 
    • If you want to save in the long run and don't mind waiting just a little longer for your order, go for the No-Rush Shipping option. 

    When practically anything you need can be sent to you within a couple hours to a couple days, it's hard not to take advantage of it.

    For emergency situations, fast shipping policies definitely come in handy, but sometimes I really don't need my order right away. Of course it's satisfying to get it quickly, but at the end of the day, I can survive without it. 

    If you're a Prime member and willing to exercise some extra patience, Amazon will reward you accordingly.

    At checkout, there's a shipping option called "Free No-Rush Shipping." When you choose this option, you'll receive your order within six business days — and either earn rewards on future purchases or receive discounts immediately. 

    prime no rush shipping

    All customers are eligible to receive discounts, but only Prime members can receive reward offers, which can be redeemed on millions of items across Amazon.

    These rewards are made available after your No-Rush order ships, apply only to the type of items indicated in the offer at checkout, and do have an expiration date. You'll be able to shop Prime Pantry essentials, the Kindle Store, Prime Video, and more with the rewards you earn. All your available rewards can be viewed in your account. 

    Most of us live for instant gratification, but in this case, holding out for an extra few days has some worthy long-term benefits. The next time you're shopping on Amazon and realize you don't need your order immediately, choose the free No-Rush Shipping option to start earning rewards and discounts. 

    Start your 30-day free trial of Prime here to receive No-Rush Shipping rewards offers

    Shop everything at Amazon here

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