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The latest news from Life

older | 1 | .... | 1635 | 1636 | (Page 1637) | 1638 | 1639 | .... | 1689 | newer

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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.

    43817670_329329744493508_5555364449992472184_n

    This year, celebrations erupted all over the world as Mickey and Minnie Mouse turned 90. Collaborations have been popping up left and right, with everyone from luxury watch brands to streetwear sneaker companies dropping Mickey- and Minnie-inspired styles for adults. 

    This has been great and very expensive news for classic Disney fans like myself. I grew up near Disney World, so my love of Mickey runs deep — and after putting together this list, my pockets run shallow. 

    If you're looking to gift a grownup who loves all things classic Disney but isn't interested in looking like they're 10 years old, you've definitely come to the right place. I handpicked some of the best Mickey- and Minnie-themed gifts out there for adults, plus a few old-school Disney options I just couldn't leave behind.

    Who else but a huge Disney fan could do justice to a roundup like this? 

    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

    DON'T MISS: 25 creative and unexpected gifts for 'Star Wars' fans of all ages

    A Mickey Mouse watch they'll actually want to look at to tell the time

    Nixon Mickey Watch, available at Nordstrom, $175

    Nixon's unisex Mickey watch is the perfect everyday accessory for a Disney fan — and not just one they'll want to wear once on a trip to the park.

    If you're willing to spend more, Shinola also makes a great Mickey watch for a cool $850.



    A bold graphic Mickey half-zip

    Mickey Mouse Half-Zip, available at Frank And Oak, $99.50

    Half-zips have quickly become the silhouette of the season, but you don't have to go to Patagonia to get in on the trend. Frank And Oak makes a bold graphic Mickey half-zip sweater that instantly catches the eye with its all-over patterning and bright mango color.



    A pair of fun graphic sneakers

    Vans Mickey Authentic Sneakers, available at Zappos, $64.95

    Vans put out a collection of sneakers and shirts featuring iconic images of Mickey and Minnie through the years —including some wackier '80s-inspired styles— but this simple pair seems to be the real crowd pleaser.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    47301766_10155635622816901_7208430053112152064_o

    • Minted, an online stationery marketplace that features independent artists across the globe, offers customized postage stamps for as little as 35 cents per stamp.
    • You can customize them with personal photographs or designs for everything from Save the Date envelopes to year-round stationery to holiday greeting cards.
    • Altogether, it's a unique and pretty cheap way to make the few times of the year we use snail mail feel more personal.

    For the few times a year that we use snail mail, it pays to go all-out — if only to hear from your mom, grandma, or uncle how much your card meant to them this year.

    To make the process a bit more personal, you may want to use Minted. It's an online marketplace employs hundreds of independent artists across the globe, crowdsourcing art and graphic design through monthly design challenges. As a shopper, you get unique artwork at not much more — and sometimes less — than you'd pay elsewhere, while also supporting small businesses and artists around the world. You'll find mostly stationery, wall art, and decor here.

    One of the best hidden gems on Minted is their custom-made postage stamps for as little as 35 cents per stamp. That means you can get a sheet of 20 for about $24 total. Instead of going to buy a pack from the post office to lose in your kitchen's miscellaneous drawer, you can make your own custom ones that have some personal connection and importance. If you're looking for the most cohesive mailing possible, you can even order matching stationery and envelopes from the "same suite" by scrolling down — a feature especially useful for mass sends like the holidays or wedding invitations and "Thank You" cards.

    The best part of Minted's custom postage stamps is that you can use personal photographs that you upload right onto the site, whether you choose to feature your new dog, child, or fiancé

    Screen Shot 2018 12 10 at 4.58.06 PM

    There are custom options for your Save the Date, holiday greeting card, or year-round missives that range from your family name in your choice of colors to something more abstract and unique. You can filter options by category (baby and kids, holiday, stationery and occasions, and wedding) as well as color options and pricing. You can get them in three postage weights: one oz (50 cents), square or two oz (71 cents) or postcard (35 cents). 

    It's a nice way to make those few snail mail occasions — often the most personal and formal of times — feel even more special. If you're going to go to the trouble of buying an envelope and ordering cards, it's not too much of a stretch to go the extra mile for postage that feels like you. It also doesn't hurt that you can order them online. 

    Make your own custom postage stamps here for as little as 35 cents per stamp on Minted >>

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    Donald Trump Mitch McConnell Wilbur Ross Senate lawmakers

    • A bipartisan group of 44 former US senators put together a letter to the current US Senate, saying the nation is "at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake."
    • The senators addressed the letter to their colleagues and warned of an imminent and troubling intersection of national and international challenges, spurred in part by President Donald Trump's turbulent first years in office.
    • They say that the Senate must stand up and help the nation face the tough times ahead. 

    A bipartisan group of former senators wrote an open letter in The Washington Post calling for the current Senate to be "steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy."

    "As former members of the US Senate, Democrats and Republicans, it is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security," they wrote.

    Published on Monday night, the op-ed reads like the former lawmakers are sounding the alarm to the upper house of the US's bicameral legislature — a call that was spurred in part by President Donald Trump's turbulent first years in office.

    "At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy," the letter reads. "Today is once again such a time."

    The letter was published as the cloud of the Russia investigation, led by the special counsel Robert Mueller, hangs over Washington, and Democrats are on the cusp of assuming control of the House giving them more power to investigate the Trump administration.

    Just last week, Mueller released documents — including two sentencing memos, and a document about a breach of a plea agreement — related to three key figures in the Russia investigation, former longtime lawyer for Trump, Michael Cohen, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, respectively.

    "The likely convergence of these two events will occur at a time when simmering regional conflicts and global power confrontations continue to threaten our security, economy and geopolitical stability," the former senators wrote.

    The country must "engage at every level with strategic precision," relying as it must on an uncertain executive, and in once resilient national institutions that have never looked as shaky as they do today. 

    The former senators include 32 Democrats, 10 Republicans, and two Independents.

    In the face of partisan politics, amplified by an ongoing investigation, and tensions abroad, the senators sought to remind their sitting colleagues that they took an oath to defend the Constitution.

    "Regardless of party affiliation, ideological leanings or geography, as former members of this great body, we urge current and future senators to be steadfast and zealous guardians of our democracy by ensuring that partisanship or self-interest not replace national interest," they concluded.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Anthony Scaramucci claims Trump isn't a nationalist: 'He likes saying that because it irks these intellectual elitists'


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    Trump Xi

    • China is set to consider cutting its tariffs on US cars and trucks, according to a new report.
    • Doing so would lower the tariffs on US autos to 15% from the 40% level set in July.
    • The move would fulfill a promise made by President Donald Trump the day after meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
    • The tariff reduction would be significant, as the US sent $10.5 billion worth of new and used cars to China in 2017.

    The Chinese government is set to consider a reduction of tariffs on US cars and trucks according to a new report, in a move that could help deescalate trade tensions between the US and China.

    Bloomberg reported Tuesday that a proposal to cut China's tariffs on US autos from the current 40% to the 15% paid by other nations was submitted to China's cabinet and could be reviewed in the next few days.

    While no final decision has been made, according to the report, the move would fulfill a promise touted by President Donald Trump in the days following his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit.

    "China has agreed to reduce and remove tariffs on cars coming into China from the US. Currently the tariff is 40%," Trump tweeted on December 2, the day after a dinner with Xi in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

    The tweet was met with confusion as neither the US nor the Chinese included the auto tariff cut in their post-dinner statements on the agreements the two leaders reached.

    Over the following few days, Trump advisers began to backtrack on the president's promise, saying that no deal had been formally reached to bring down the auto tariffs.

    Read more:Trump is losing the trade war with China based on his favorite report card, and it's probably going to keep getting worse»

    But it appears that Beijing is trying to appease Trump by dropping the tariffs, an important move as $10.5 billion worth of new and used cars were shipped from the US to China in 2017. According to China's Passenger Car Association, 10% of the country's total 2017 car imports were from the US.

    Automakers with major US operations also reported disruptions due to the tariff increase. For instance, Ford saw sales in China dive after the tariffs were increased in July. Additionally, China-bound shipments of BMW models made in South Carolina also tanked.

    Read more:We just got a new sign that the pain from Trump's trade war is getting worse, and it's spreading to even more businesses like restaurants»

    Reducing the tariffs would also give Trump a major win in the trade negotiations, which could help bolster the president's argument for the tough tactics used against China.

    Despite the Trump team's insistence that the goal was to get auto tariffs down to 0%, Beijing would be unable to do so just for the US as World Trade Organization rules would require it to lower the tariff for all nations to zero. Fifteen percent is China's "most favored nations" level currently paid by all other nations when shipping to China.

    Following the news, shares of US automakers ticked higher in premarket trading. Both GM and Ford were up just over 2% as of 8:00 a.m. ET.

    SEE ALSO: US companies forked over a record amount in tariffs in October — $6.2 billion! — because of Trump's trade war

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Anthony Scaramucci claims Trump isn't a nationalist: 'He likes saying that because it irks these intellectual elitists'


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    TRV   Main & Villa One Infinity Pools Evening

    • The Resort Villa in Thailand offers guests private access to a 150,0000-square-foot property that includes seven villas and a full-time staff of 60 people. 
    • The resort was recently dubbed "the world's best private villa" by the Boutique Hotel Awards.
    • The property is two hours outside of Bangkok— the biggest international tourist destination in the world — and prides itself on its privacy.

    The world's best private villa is an unlikely destination: It's a two-hour drive from the world's biggest international tourist destination.

    But you wouldn't guess it from the looks of things inside The Resort Villa, where privacy is key. Seven villas, four bars, and nine dining areas are spread out across 150,000 square feet of property.

    The resort beat out other five other candidates in the Maldives, Spain, South Africa, Fiji, and St. Barthelemy, respectively, to win the award. It also unseats Over Yonder Cay in the Bahamas and Coco Prive in the Maldives, which jointly won the award in 2017.

    Read more: The top 14 boutique hotels in the world

    Thailand has long been a tourist hotspot, largely in thanks to its stunning beaches. In fact, Bangkok, the capital of Thailand, was recognized as the most popular city in the world for international tourists for three years in a row. And, earlier this year, the iconic Thai bay featured in the movie "The Beach" was permanently closed due to long-term damage caused by tourists.

    The Resort Villa, however, is located in the non-commercial area of Rayong and prides itself in offering respite from highly tourist-trafficked areas.

    Keep reading for a tour of the property:

    SEE ALSO: A luxury resort in the middle of the jungle in Bali was voted as having the world's 'most stunning views' and the view from the pool shows why

    READ MORE: A 7-bedroom Swiss cabin has been named the world's best ski chalet for 2 years in a row — and an inside tour quickly proves why

    The Private Villa is located in Rayong, Thailand, on the Gulf of Thailand. It's about a two-hour drive from the closest airport in Bangkok.

    Source: Google Maps



    The 150,000-square-foot property has seven private villas and can host up to 14 people at once.

    Source: The Resort Villa



    It's a mere five-minute walk from the beach ...

    Source: The Resort Villa



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    US Border Patrol Mexico

    • Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has given $13.6 million to the private firm Accenture to hire thousands more Border Patrol agents.
    • Just two agents have been hired so far, according to a watchdog report.
    • The Office of the Inspector General said the company is "nowhere near" its goal of hiring 7,500 people in the next five years, as the firm had laid out in its $297 million contract.
    • The report said CBP "risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars."
    • CBP disputed the conclusion but agreed to investigate whether Accenture should reimburse the money.

    The Trump administration paid $13.6 million this year to a private company that increased Border Patrol staffing by just two agents, according to a new federal watchdog report.

    Customs and Border Protection (CBP) hired Accenture to hire and recruit 7,500 agents within the next five years. But just 10 months into the contract, only two accepted job offers have been processed, according to the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General.

    Accenture, a global management consulting company headquartered in Ireland, was awarded a $297 million contract to achieve the hiring goal.

    Read more: ICE has arrested 170 parents and potential caretakers trying to get their undocumented kids out of government custody

    But the report said $13.6 million has been spent in the last 10 months, and CBP "risks wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on a hastily approved contract that is not meeting its proposed performance expectations."

    The inspector general called for "immediate" action to rectify "serious performance issues," accused the company of relying on CBP resources instead of its own, and said Accenture is "nowhere near satisfying" its mandated goal.

    A failed hiring spree

    border patrol officer

    President Donald Trump has sought since his first week in office to dramatically ramp up hiring within his administration's two key immigration-enforcement agencies: Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

    A January 2017 executive order even called on Border Patrol and ICE to immediately hire an additional 5,000 and 10,000 agents, respectively.

    The Accenture contract was meant to help meet this mandate.

    Experts and former agency officials met Trump's order with skepticism; Border Patrol jobs are notoriously difficult to staff because of the rigorous demands of the job and the remote locations of many positions. Beyond that, turnover is high within the agency, and previous hiring sprees have had disastrous results.

    Border patrol agent chase

    In 2006, the last time CBP implemented a large-scale hiring spree, there was a 44% uptick in employee arrests on suspicion of misconduct, corruption, taking bribes, or smuggling drugs or people.

    In response to the watchdog report, CBP officials disagreed with the inspector general's conclusion and said Accenture set up a new hiring process and funneled "thousands" of applicants into the pipeline for consideration.

    CBP ultimately agreed to the four recommendations in the report, including that the CBP commissioner should assess Accenture's performance in line with the contract and "determine whether Accenture should reimburse DHS for services not provided."

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Anthony Scaramucci claims Trump isn't a nationalist: 'He likes saying that because it irks these intellectual elitists'


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    echo dot holiday amazon deal

    Not everyone on your gifting list this year wants or needs an expensive gift, but you'd probably still like to find them something thoughtful regardless. For that tall order, I've rounded up 29 of the best finds on Amazon below — with all the perks of easy, fast shipping and saved payment information.

    These are unique but affordable gifts for the slew of people in your life not waiting for the keys to a new Tesla. They're thoughtful, useful, and may even make life in 2019 easier for your giftee. 

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

    A vacuum insulated stainless steel water bottle people swear by

    Hydro Flask 32-Ounce Wide Mouth Bottle, $39.95

    These cult-favorite, vacuum insulated stainless steel water bottles work really well. It'll keep hot drinks hot for up to six hours, and cold drinks cold up to twenty-four hours. 



    A powerful external battery

    Portable 6000 mAh Charger, $29.99

    It's not groundbreaking to give someone a portable charger, but they'll find themselves grateful for it more times than they can count. It's perfect for traveling, commuting, and insurance for long days away from home and on the go. We rated this model by Jackery the best portable charger iPhone users can buy. It reportedly charges iPhones twice as fast as the original iPhone charger.



    A media streamer that can turn a basic TV into a smart one

    Fire TV Stick 4K, Alexa-Enabled Voice Remote, $34.99 (originally $49.99)

    The all-new Fire TV Stick has a new Wi-Fi antenna design optimized for 4K Ultra-HD streaming and more storage for apps and games. Essentially, though, it's still your standard media streaming stick, and can convert a basic TV into a smart one that can stream Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu and more. It's Alexa-enabled, too, so you can control it by voice — turning the volume up on your sound bar and dimming the lights simultaneously. 



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    A1dHgvi4TYL._SL1500_ 1

    • Some of the best parts of shopping on Amazon are the wide selections and low costs, but those things can also make it difficult to root out what's really worth spending your money on.
    • My favorite way to make sense of what's great on Amazon is by getting recommendations from friends and coworkers.
    • I asked my Business Insider colleagues about the best things they've bought on Amazon for under $25 and unearthed some interesting finds.

    Amazon, land of 1 million things you need and 5 million options for each of them, has quickly become the one-stop shop for an insane amount of online purchases. For me, that's because they have a wide selection, carry most of the brands I want, list them at near the lowest or the lowest prices I've seen in price comparison research (with shipping in mind), and, last but absolutely not least, because I'm a Prime member and the internet has made me a glutton for instant gratification — something that two-day (or two-hour) shipping panders well to.

    Some of the best parts of shopping on Amazon are the wide selections and low costs, but those things can also make it difficult to root out what's really worth spending your money on before you've stretched your checkbook too thin. It can also be hard to tell which affordable options are similar (or better) in performance to their higher-priced competitors to save you some money. The huge selection and low costs can be a great advantage if you have the inside scoop needed to navigate them confidently — if not, it can be a huge drain on time scrolling through reviews and trying to parse out who means what they're saying.

    My favorite way to make sense of what's great on Amazon is by getting recommendations from friends. As a result, I decided to ask my colleagues at Business Insider about the best things they've bought on Amazon for under $25 — in the hopes of finding some new things to try without wasting time or money discovering them. Hopefully, they're as helpful to you as they were to me. 

    Below are the 32 best things we've bought on Amazon that cost us less than $25:

    DON'T MISS: The best college supplies and dorm room essentials

    A pair of $10 anti-glare, blue-light-blocking computer glasses.

    Eyekepper Vintage UV Protection Glasses with Anti-Reflective Coating, $10

    "This is the best thing I've ever purchased on Amazon! They are blue-light-blocking, anti-glare glasses, which are super helpful for looking at a computer/phone screen all day long. I don't normally wear glasses, but I wanted to try them out before buying a pair from Felix Gray or Eyebuydirect.com. These are so cute and they actually work... plus they are $8.99! Can't beat it." — Madison Conley

    "These are by far the cheapest blue-light-blocking glasses that I've found, and they work really well. I was having headaches nearly every day of my last semester of college from working full-time and taking night classes — both of which relied heavily upon screens. These were truly lifesavers, and I've rarely gotten so much use out of $9. I've written a review of them before, and I'm wearing them now." — Mara Leighton



    An easy-to-use, versatile cast iron skillet.

    T-fal E83407 Pre-Seasoned Nonstick Durable 10.5 inch Cast Iron Skillet, $11.66

    "Can't say enough great things about this cast iron skillet. It heats evenly and consistently on the stove top, and has zero issues with tossing it directly in the oven or broiler. I use it for roasted chicken, bacon, roasted potatoes, frittatas, eggs, steak, and sauteing veggies. It's also super easy to clean, which is something that scares people away from cooking with cast iron. It's also on Prime." — Stephanie Asymkos



    A natural clay mask that has a cult-following.

    Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay with 100% Natural Calcium Bentonite Clay, $10.95

    "This mask, as seen on INSIDER. It transformed my skin and is probably my most recommended product. The best part? It's $9!" — Chelsey Hoffman



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    under norway

    • Norway will be home to Europe's first and the world's largest underwater restaurant when it opens in April 2019.
    • Fittingly called "Under," the restaurant has three-foot-thick walls and is designed to withstand harsh weather and rough seas.
    • The 110-foot long structure resembles a giant concrete tube that's half-submerged in the water.
    • The restaurant will seat up to 100 guests, who can watch sea life go by through a 36 x 13-foot panoramic window as they eat.

     

    Europe's first underwater restaurant — and the world's largest— is set to open in Norway in April 2019.

    Designed by Snøhetta, "Under" sits half-submerged into the sea and has three-foot thick walls designed to withstand the area's rugged seas.

    Guests at Under can gaze at marine life through a 36 x 13-foot panoramic window in the dining room, which will seat between 80 and 100 people. Muted lighting will be installed on the seabed so that guests can see the marine life in any weather conditions.

    According to Arne Marthinsen, the project manager for SubMar Group, which is responsible for the project's marine operations, Under is unique among other underwater structures.

    "What makes it so complicated and unique, is the fact that it isn't going to be a simple, concrete storage tank, but rather an amazing, unique experience for people due to the location, the architecture, the interior, the underwater view and of course the delicious cuisine," Marthinsen said in a news release.

    Under will, of course, serve seafood. Danish chef Nicolai Ellitsgaard Pedersen will create locally sourced dishes that include cod, lobster, mussels, and truffle kelp, which is a local type of seaweed that apparently tastes like truffles.

    Here's a peek at Under.

    SEE ALSO: This futuristic hotel is going to be built at the base of a glacier in remote, northern Norway — and it looks like it's straight out of a sci-fi movie

    DON'T MISS: This cruise ship is full of apartments that were designed to look like luxury condos in NYC and London — and wealthy people are dishing out up to $36 million for them

    Under will be Europe's first — and the world's largest — underwater restaurant when it opens in April 2019. The building will also function as a marine research center.

    Source: Visit Norway



    It's located at the southernmost tip of Norway, in the coastal village of Båly, in the Lindesnes region.

    Source: Google Maps



    The 100-foot long structure resembles a concrete tube that sits half-in and half-out of the sea. It rests on the seabed about 16.5 feet below the surface.

    Source: Under



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Best closet organizer

    • Proper drawer and closet organization can make the difference between a calm, enjoyable morning routine and a frenzied mess to find the right clothes and accessories before you rush out the door wearing less than your best outfit.
    • Our top pick for drawer organization are the low cost, easily customized Soydnee Foldable Cloth Bins, while our favorite closet organizer is the refined and stylish John Louis Home Deep Simplicity Closet Organizer.

    In my college years, my system of clothes organization was a well-oiled machine. Clean clothing went from the laundromat into a pile on one side of my tiny bedroom in a four-story walkup in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood. From the clean pile, I would dress myself for the day, and then at day's end, my clothing went into the dirty pile. Once the dirty pile was towering and the clean nearly depleted, it was back to coin operated washers and dryers across the street.

    Once married and settled into a new home with my wife, the system evolved. Now, suddenly, I was using drawers and hangers and all manner of newfangled hardware to keep my clothing organized. Much to my surprise, I actually found closet and drawer organization a relief, not a burden.

    When you know exactly where each type of clothing belongs, the process of choosing an outfit is quicker and easier. And while dumping clean clothes on the floor may be easier than putting each article away in its place, clothing tends to stay more crisp and clean looking when folded or hung than lying in a mound of fabric, I've noticed.

    Whether you are looking to start a closet and drawer organization system from scratch or you just need a bit of assistance straightening out your accessories or underwear, we've got you covered. Our guide features a range of hardware ideal for all sorts of garments and for all sorts of closets and dressers, too. We have included options from up and down the price spectrum as well as those that are ideal for permanent installation in your home or for temporary use in an apartment or dorm.

    The only thing you'll need to worry about when it comes to drawer and closet organization is actually sticking to the system you create.

    Here are the best organizers you can buy:

    Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.

    The best closet organizer overall

    Why you'll love it: The John Louis Home Deep Simplicity Closet Organizer looks like a custom built unit, but it arrives mostly constructed and requires little assembly.

    At around $300, the John Louis Home Deep Simplicity Closet Organizer isn't what you would call cheap, but compared to a custom closet organization system build, it's a veritable steal. Especially because this handsome solid wood system has the look of a custom-built closet organizer.

    The unit has a 12-inch shelf depth and creates an overall 20 feet of shelf space, while it’s hanging bars create as much as 10 feet of hanging storage space. The system can be altered to fit a closet measuring six, eight, or 10 feet in overall width.

    The John Louis Home Deep Simplicity Closet Organizer comes in two finish options: a warm honey maple or a classed red mahogany. It features an angled shelf ideal for shoes and two adjustable shelves that can be raised or lowered to best accommodate folded clothes, bins, blankets, and more. Every time you look into your closet, you'll love the organization offered by this hardware as well as the handsome look of the organizer itself.

    Amazon shoppers have given the John Louis Home Deep Simplicity Closet Organizer an overall averaged rating of 4.3 stars, with a reviewer named Tina calling it "beautiful" and "super easy to install," adding that the unit was "worth every penny."

    Just be careful during the install and as you hang clothes or take them off hangers, as the rather soft wood dents and scratches easily.

    Pros: Handsome and stylish design, easy customization, good price for the quality

    Cons: Wood dents and scratches easily

    Buy the John Louis Home Deep Simplicity Closet Organizer on Amazon for $340



    The best drawer organizer overall

    Why you'll love it: The Sodynee Foldable Cloth Drawer Bins can be used for T-shirts, ties, underwear, and more, and the six-bin system is yours for less than $15.

    Unless every item of clothing you wear is the exact same size, then you need storage bins of varied sizes to help you properly organize your drawers. The Sodynee Foldable Cloth Drawer Bins set comes with two bins each in three different sizes, the largest of which are ideal for shirts, the smallest of which are good for socks or ties, while the medium bins will accommodate scarves, underwear, and more.

    While many drawer organizing systems are designed to fit into a single drawer, I like the idea of splitting up the bins in this set. You could use each of the larger bins, which measure 11 inches by 11 inches, to divide different drawers in half, and then use the mid-sized bins, measuring 11 inches by 5 inches, to create varied storage areas in other drawers.

    Anyone shopping for drawer organizers will like the fact that the Sodynee Foldable Cloth Drawer Bins cost less than 15 bucks.

    With more than 200 reviews posted on Amazon, the Sodynee Foldable Cloth Drawer Bins enjoy a 4.4-star average rating. A reviewer named Alise called them "incredible quality for the price," while another owner said these bins are ideal for "keeping everything well organized."

    Do note that a few shoppers complained of a chemical odor when the bins were new, so plan to allow some time for them to air out before use.

    Pros: Easily customizable, great low price, bins collapse for easy storage

    Cons: Unpleasant odor when new

    Buy a set of Sodynee Foldable Cloth Drawer Bins on Amazon for $14



    The best basic closet organizer

    Why you'll love it: The Simple Houseware Freestanding Garment Organizer sets up in a matter of minutes with no tools or drilling needed.

    If you want to enjoy better closet organization but you don't want to spend much cash, consider the Simple Houseware Freestanding Garment Organizer.

    If you want decent clothing organization in a location where you can't install hardware permanently, such as in an apartment or dorm, then definitely look at the Simple Houseware Freestanding Garment Organizer, because this unit sets up and breaks down in mere minutes, requires no use of tools in its build, and does not need to be affixed to the walls either.

    The freestanding Simple Houseware Freestanding Garment Organizer might not be all that stylish, but it provides ample space for the clothes that keep you looking that way. It has four square shaped wire shelves and a large rectangular shelf on top and two rows of bars that create plenty of space for hanging shirts, slacks, coats, and more. At less than $43, it's hard to beat the price here.

    Dozens of Amazon shoppers have reviewed the Simple Houseware Freestanding Garment Organizer and at the time of this writing, it has a solid 4.10-star overall rating. A reviewer named Natasha calls it "very sturdy and easy to put together" while a man named Michael said it has "plenty of hanging space, plenty of shelf space," and seconded the sentiments about easy installation.

    Just don't load the shelves with too much weight, because they may well buckle under the pressure, according to a few other owners.

    Pros: Quick and easy assembly, low price point, perfect for temporary use

    Cons: Shelves can't support much weight

    Buy the Simple Houseware Freestanding Garment Organizer on Amazon for $47



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Wallet

    What makes you enjoy a glass of champagne, a fresh oyster, or the tasting menu at a luxury restaurant? While taste and personal preference play a part, they might not tell the whole story.

    There's something else that gives you pleasure the price.

    It's tough news for our wallets, but studies show that we tend to value expensive items over their cheaper counterparts. It's known as the "marketing placebo effect." And it doesn't just apply to things you buy for yourself, but also to things you may purchase for others — making the holidays an even more expensive time of year. 

    We wanted to unpack this effect to find out how and why your brain “tricks” you into liking expensive items — so you can use this knowledge to spend more mindfully while still indulging in the things that make you happy.

    In 2017, researchers conducted a study to find out how much consumers' enjoyment of wine was influenced by its cost. Study participants were asked to sample wine while hooked up to an MRI scanner; they all tasted the same wine, but were given different information about its price.

    The subjects thought the wine they were told was more expensive tasted better than the cheaper one — a result that was backed up by the MRI results. Brain activity measured by the MRI scanner showed that the part of the brain associated with reward and motivation, which directly affect the taste experience, showed increased activity with higher prices.

    Our enjoyment of pricier products also comes down to our perception of risk, said Victor Ricciardi, professor of finance at Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland,  and co-editor of the books Investor Behavior and Financial Behavior. If we spend more on a bottle of wine, we see it as a less risky "investment" because we associate higher price with higher quality.

    People are "more likely to pay more for something if they perceive a lower-priced product as giving lower satisfaction and a higher risk," he said. 

    This risk aversion can apply to purchases large or small. "For example, when someone's buying a more expensive house... they're more likely to see that experience as having a better outcome," Ricciardi said. "If I spend more money on this item, I'm less likely to have a regret."

    We decided to test the theory by holding a wine tasting at the Business Insider office. Here's what happened.

    We bought two $14 bottles of wine, covered the labels, and assigned a different "price" to each. Then we invited our first round of tasters to sample them both.

    Wine tasting, BI photo, Hollis Johnson

    Our tasters far preferred the bottle that they thought cost $29 over the one that cost $12.

    Wine tasting, BI Photo, Hollis Johnson

    "The $12 bottle lacks body, depth, complexity. It's like juice," said lead video producer Jason Sanchez.


    After the first round of tastings, we switched the prices. Again, the more expensive wine was more popular.

    Wine Tasting, Hollis Johnson, BI Photo

    "It's smooth! Not dry," said senior talent consultant Anum Khan (l). "Light and smooth," said Ali Fetzer (r), talent associate.

    In the end, almost 80% of our tasters preferred the more expensive wine no matter which bottle they were tasting.

    Wine Tasting, Hollis Johnson, BI Photo

    But Ricciardi doesn't believe this means you should force yourself to stop spending on more expensive products if they give you pleasure. Just do so in moderation.

    "If you really have an enjoyment of buying wine, keep it in the context of an overall budget," he said. Set a budget with a reasonable spending level treating yourself to that special bottle of wine or dinner at a favorite restaurant once a month, for example. That way you'll still be treating yourself but not overspending, he said.

    So whether you're buying a bottle for yourself or to bring to that holiday party, remember what's behind your impulse to reach for the most expensive brand. If you can strike a balance between indulging and spending mindfully, you'll have a little more room in your budget each month to save toward your financial goals.

    Put your savings to work and earn a 2.15% interest rate and 0.60% Annual Percentage Yield when you open an eligible Citi® Savings Account with qualifying activities. Member FDIC. LEARN MORE.

    This post is sponsored by Citi.

     

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    Instagram's walkie-talkie feature

    • Instagram rolled out a new walkie-talkie feature globally this week.
    • It's as easy as most other voice-messaging features popular on WhatsApp and Telegram. 
    • You can record for up to one minute and the messages don't automatically disappear after a set period of time, like Instagram Stories do.

    Instagram launched a new direct messaging walkie-talkie feature globally Monday, meaning you can now send personalized love ballads to your favorite celebrity (looking at you, Drake).

    The voice messages, which you can send to your friends or anyone with open DMs on Instagram, can be recorded for up to one minute and are stored permanently in both one-on-one or group direct messages. Unlike Instagram Stories, they won't automatically disappear after a set period of time. The move comes just six months after the social media company released its video-calling feature, which competes against similar offerings from Snapchat and Facebook Messenger.

    Instagram's new walkie-talkie feature is basically as intuitive as most of the other voice-messaging features from popular messaging apps like WhatsApp, Telegram, Zello. Here's how to use it: 

    Open up Instagram and go into direct messages. Select the person you want to voice message, and at the bottom there will be an icon of what looks like a 1960s microphone. 

    Instagram walkie-talkie feature

    Hold down the icon to record a message. You can also swipe up to the lock symbol to record without needing to hold down the button, or swipe left to cancel. Releasing the icon automatically sends your voice message, though you can swipe to the left to send the recording to trash if you stutter — so be ready.

    Instagram walkie-talkie feature 

    And there you have it. Just keep in mind that the message — whether it be a happy birthday rendition to a friend or a voice message sent to your ex — will forever live on in the app. You can delete the record of it from your phone, but there's no way to retrieve an already-sent voice message once it's delivered. 

    Instagram walkie-talkie feature

    You can also use the feature by simply tapping on the messaging icon, holding it to your ear, and once you hear a beep, recording your message. Once you are done, hit the arrow or send button. 

    Voice messages can be heard either on the phone's main speaker or through your phone's earpiece.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Why it's so difficult to land a spacecraft on Mars


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    Diplo & Shaquille O'Neal

    • Shaquille O'Neal spoke to Business Insider about renting out the Atlanta Braves' baseball stadium for a Super Bowl event he's throwing called "Shaq's Fun House."
    • O'Neal also discussed his experience in music and DJ-ing, and his career after retiring from the NBA.

     

    In March, NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal hosted a lineup of musicians, carnival acts, and food vendors at a private Miami Music Week event he called "Shaq's Fun House."

    "Shaq's Fun House" will return in February as a public event to coincide with the 53rd Super Bowl in Atlanta. O'Neal has rented out the concourse of the Atlanta Braves' SunTrust Park stadium for the event and enlisted performers like Migos, Tiesto, Diplo, T-Pain, and Cirque Du Soleil, along with a list of food vendors including STK and Waffle House. 

    O'Neal and the event's partners, Medium Rare founders Joe Silberzweig and Adam Richman, spoke with Business Insider about putting on "Shaq's Fun House," which they're billing as "part music festival, part carnival, part circus." 

    Shaq also touched on his history of DJ-ing and rapping, his retirement from the NBA, and his contentious working relationship with NBA analyst Charles Barkley. 

    Tickets for "Shaq's Fun House" are on sale now. 

    This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

    John Lynch: Your team has billed this event as "part music festival, part carnival, part circus," each of which could be a good time on its own. But why combine those three into one event?

    Shaquille O'Neal: Because it's never been done before. Two things that bring people together are sports and music, and I've dominated both. And everyone knows that the Shaq brand is all about fun. I've been to a lot of Super Bowl parties, and, you know, they're all the same. I wanted this one to be different because I live in Atlanta. Atlanta's my town, and the first one I did in Miami was epic. Diplo, Aoki ... Gronk when he jumped on my back and almost broke my back. We want to recreate that fun here. So I'm renting out the Battery, which is SunTrust Park, the Atlanta Braves' stadium, and we're just going to have a great time. Again, it's going to be food by STK, Waffle House. Cirque Du Soleil's Mystére is going to be there. 

    It's just something that really hasn't been done before. With me, when Joe and Adam were talking about it, they just asked, "Well, what are the things you like to do?" I was like, "I like to eat. I love to go to a circus. When I'm in Vegas, I love to go to Cirque Du Soleil shows." And they were like, "That's it! That's it! That's what we're going to do." So the first one we created last year, and like I said earlier, it was epic.

    Lynch: In March, you had this at Miami's Music Week. This time, you're coinciding it with the Super Bowl. Why the Super Bowl as an event, instead of having it at a larger music festival or something along those lines?

    O'Neal: Well, the Super Bowl, it's always going to bring in a hundred million people. Everyone likes to party, and you just have to present people with the best party. Before I met Adam and Joe, when I was a NBA player, I held the title of the best party-thrower in the world. I once rented out the Miami Zoo, the whole zoo, and brought it to my house in Miami. And it was epic. I did a "Scarface" party in Miami. Al Pacino wasn't there, but his best friend was there. And the whole cast of "Scarface" was there. I've been doing parties since 1992, and now I'm just back. Now, I'm doing it bigger, and I'm doing it funner.

    SFH SB Final Flyer

    Joe Silberzweig: Just to chime in, you know, Shaquille's brand is larger-than-life and over-the-top, and there's nothing bigger than the biggest sports and entertainment weekend of the year, which is the Super Bowl. And it's so fitting for his brand and how we approach the "Fun House" concept. Really that's what makes this event so unique is it's Shaquille's DNA in every vertical. Adam and I work with him to bring his vision to life, whether that be on the music side, with Migos, Tiesto, and Diplo, artists that he loves, or on the food and beverage side, working with STK and Waffle House. Picking out carnival rides, whatever it may be. It's really all his magic touch. And that's what brings the event together so well.

    Adam Richman: To add to that, we saw such a big market opportunity around the Super Bowl. There's been tons of parties around the Super Bowl. Maxim, Playboy. These events have existed 10, 15 years. We feel it's really stale and boring, and the question was, how do we do something different? How does Shaquille really bring his party magic to the Super Bowl and do something that's never been done before? And we're really bringing the fun back. That's the attitude here. It's not a concert. You said it before: there's three things going on here. It's a music festival, it's a circus, it's a carnival. We don't just want to be one of those things, we want to be all three and really do something different, not just one of these boring concerts that everyone has "been there done that" a hundred times.

    Lynch: Although it is a solid lineup, music-wise. You've got Migos performing, and a lot of people were wanting to see them perform at the halftime show. It's in Atlanta this year, they're from Atlanta. Shaq, do you think the NFL missed an opportunity there, though you guys are sort of taking advantage of it?

    O'Neal: I definitely think that they should have had Migos. Atlanta has been dominating the hip-hop scene for many years. They should have had like a 15-minute segment of all Atlanta hot-shots, to at least come and do one song. But yes, I definitely think that's a missed opportunity. Migos is the hottest thing around right now. It's a missed opportunity. But when they miss, Shaq will get the rebound, baby.

    SHAQ at Tomorrowland

    Lynch: [Laughs] You're also DJ-ing at this event. I was wondering, what draws you to that as a form of creative expression? What do you like about DJ-ing?

    O'Neal: I've been doing it since high school and college, '89. I actually DJ-ed in college to get extra money to buy food and all that. When I got to the NBA, I got away from it and started rapping, but the last ten years I've been doing parties, and I've been doing corporate events. It's just fun. Like I said, music and sports really brings people together. Listen, when you're at a party and you play a song that everybody loves, it brings people together. I have a playlist for when I do my corporate work that's called "White Boy Classics." They love it. [Sings emphatically] "Shot through the heart, and you're to blame / Darling you give love..." Man, they just go crazy. You should see Adam and Joe dancing on tables. 

    Lynch: [Laughs] You know, kids these days might not know that you've got a platinum-certified rap album, with '93's "Shaq Diesel." How does your music from the '90s hold up to you? Do you ever go back and listen to it?

    O'Neal: I go back and listen to it. Lyrics-wise, it still holds up. And again, whenever I do business, I'm big on the team concept. I realized I probably couldn't do that by myself, so I went out and said, "Let me get Notorious B.I.G. Let me call Jay-Z and Nas, B-Real and Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, DJ Quik, Eric Sermon and Redman. Let me give these guys a call and see if they would do it." And the funny thing about all of them is that, when I first made the call, everybody was like, "Oh, you're a basketball player," but then soon as I got in the studio and showed them, they were like, "Man, let's do it. Let's do it." And it was fun.

    Lynch: You retired from the NBA in 2011, but you haven't retired in any other sense of the word since then. You've stayed busy with commercials, commentary — all that you're doing. Do you ever envision what your real retirement will look like or plan that out?

    O'Neal: My real retirement will be when I run for sheriff in 2024 and win, and I call all my partners and say, "You know what, it's been real, but now I have another duty to do. Protect the communities and keep people safe. Don't call me every again. I love you. Bye."

    shaq

    Lynch: Do you think 2011 was the right time to get out of the league, in retrospect?

    O'Neal: That year, I was obviously very old. Older. And you know, I didn't feel right as an entertainer scoring eight or nine points. That's not the Shaq that people know and love. When I got my career-ending injury, for some people it would have been, "Oh, I'm not done. I'll rehab and come back." For me it was, "Thank you very much. Now it's time to do something else." We expect fans to pay all this money for us to go out and perform, but if you're going to pay all this money, I'm going to give you a great show. That's what I always wanted to do. So my last year, in Boston, when I was averaging eight, nine points, I didn't feel like The Shaq at all. So, when I got my career-ending injury, I was happy.

    Lynch: If your prime were today, do you think you'd evolve your game at all to fit the small ball, stretch-fives of today's league?

    O'Neal: If my prime were today, I wouldn't need to evolve. They would need to evolve around me. You've got big guys shooting jumpers, that's just telling me one thing: that you don't like the contact. If you don't like the contact, and I'm the contact-bringer, you're already out your game. And then people always say, "Well, you have to defend." If you shoot 10 threes, you're not Steph Curry. See what I'm saying? If you shoot 10, it might be a game where you hit seven out of 10, but you're not going to do that on a consistent basis. And if you're bumping with me, then if you shoot, your arms and legs are going to be tired, and that's going to bring your percentage down even more. And people say, "Oh, you'd step out." I'm not stepping out of nothing. I'm staying in the paint. I'm averaging 50. I'm going to make all these big guys cry, and complain, and quit, like I did when I played before, and I'd average 45 without free throws today. These soft, cupcake puppies in the league they got now.

    Lynch: One last thing, you know, a lot of us have to deal with difficult coworkers. But you've got a uniquely difficult coworker in Charles Barkley, who you've had a contentious relationship with. Are you tired of him at all, or how are you putting up with him?

    O'Neal: Like I always tell people when it pertains to the Kobe relationship or the Charles Barkley relationship, the key word is "respect." You could say what you want to say. I can say what I want to say, but you better respect me, and I'm sure you feel the same way. So as long as you have respect, the team will always thrive. Once you have disrespect, the team will no longer thrive. Everyone knows Charles is opinionated. I'm opinionated, but we respect each other and love each other. I consider him more of an annoying big brother, and we have that dynamic that works really good for us.

    Lynch: Are there any two teams that you'd like to see in the Super Bowl, since you've got this event coincided with it? 

    O'Neal: Oh, I'd like to see my Cowboys there. How about Patriots and the Cowboys? I love Tom Brady. Yeah. That'd be a good one. 

    SEE ALSO: T-Pain brings you inside startups on his new TV show, from weed-infused wine to an all-in-one instrument for musicians

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The inside story behind the Marvel movie you were never supposed to see


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

    Since you don't have all day to scour the web for noteworthy sales and discounts, we rounded up the best bargains for you to shop in one convenient place.

    4659801cv17d

    1. Save $300 on a professional KitchenAid Stand Mixer at Best Buy

    Best Buy is having 20 Days of Doorbusters with sales on great items every day. Today, one of the best deals you can get is on a KitchenAid Professional 500 Series Stand Mixer. The one-quart bowl and multi-attachment hub allows home chefs to create restaurant-quality cuisine. Originally priced at $499.99, you can save $300 on it right now.

    KitchenAid Professional 500 Series Stand Mixer, $199.99 (Originally $499.99) [You save $300]

    REI

    2. Save up to 50% off outdoor gear and apparel at REI

    REI is the one-stop shop for all outdoor camping and hiking gear, and right now is the best time to save big. Now through December 16, you can save up to 50% on select clearance items. The sale includes products from top brands like Patagonia, The North Face, Columbia, Smartwool, and more. 

    Shop the REI Holiday sale now.

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    3. Save big on toys and video games at Target

    Toys are on every kid's holiday wish list — and Target has a huge selection at great prices. Right now, you can save $10 when you spend $50 or $25 when you spend $100. You can also get a free $10 gift card when you spend $50 on LEGOs and a free $50 gift card when you buy two video games. 

    Shop the Target sale now

    East Dane

    4. Save an extra 30% on sale styles at East Dane

    East Dane is an online destination for designer brands for men. Today only, you can save an extra 40% on already discounted sale styles by using the promo code "JOY18" at checkout. In total, you can save up to 65% on brands like Stüssy, Ralph Lauren, KENZO, A.P.C., Ferragamo, and many other high-end menswear brands. On top of great deals, you can use to Amazon Prime account for additional perks like free shipping. Learn more here.

    Shop the East Dane sale now.

    Shopbop

    5. Save an extra 30% on sale styles at Shopbop

    As the sister site to East Dane, Shopbop offers a huge selection of designer apparel, shoes, bags, and accessories for women at great prices. With the same sale running today only, you can save 30% on already discounted sale styles with the promo code "JOY18" at checkout. In total, you can save up to 75%. Learn more about getting free shipping with your Amazon Prime account.

    Shop the Shopbop sale now.

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    6. Save 50% on the Instant Pot Ultra 3-Quart 10-in-1 Cooker on Amazon

    The Instant Pot developed a cult following on the Internet because of its versatility and easy-to-use functions. The 10-in-1 cooker can be used as a standard slow cooker, pressure cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, warmer, and sautée pan, cake maker, egg cooker, and sterilizer. As the smallest version, the three-quart Instant Pot is perfect for cooking for couples or small families, or using in kitchens with limited counter space.

    Instant Pot Ultra 3 Quart 10-in-1 Cooker, $59.95 (Originally $119.95)[You save $60]

    Timberland

    7. Save 25% on footwear and apparel at Timberland

    As a tried-and-true American company, Timberland is one of the most popular boot makers around. Its line of products also extends into apparel, with everything from heavy winter outwear and sweaters. Today only, you can save 25% on boots and apparel by using the promo code "SURPRISE25" at checkout. Whether you're looking for a special release like the Midnight Countdown Collection or a classic pair of hikers, you'll find it on sale.

    Shop the Timberland sale now

    Tommy John

    8. Save 20% when you spend $100 at Tommy John

    If you're familiar with the headache that comes along with inferior undershirts, modern underwear startup Tommy John is the answer to your woes. The brand has a wide range of super comfortable underwear, undershirts, socks, dress shirts, and loungewear for men and women — and right now, you can save 20% on all orders of $100 more. 

    Shop the Tommy John sale now

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    9. Save 40% sitewide at Levi's

    When it comes to denim, Levi's is one of the most popular and deeply rooted companies in American culture. Now through December 11, you can save 40% sitewide by using the promo code "GREEN40" at checkout. You'll find selections for men, women, and children.

    Shop the Levi's Green Monday sale now.

    Bear Mattress

    10. Save up to $200 on a Bear Hybrid Mattress

    Bear revolutionized the way we sleep by creating a mattress that supports every body type and sleeping style. Today, you can save $100 on orders over $500 with promo code "HOL100" or save $200 on orders over $1,200 with promo code "HOL200" at checkout. Plus, you can save 20% on select accessories, like sheets, pillows, and mattress protectors.

    Shop the Bear Hybrid Mattress in Queen, King, and California King sizes now.

    Join the conversation about this story »


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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.

    vrai & oro $110

    If there's any time to treat your loved one to a beautiful and long-lasting piece of fine jewelry, it's the holidays. True fine jewelry made with materials like pure or 14-karat gold (not just gold vermeil, which is gold plated over sterling silver) costs a lot precisely because of its material composition and careful craftsmanship, so it's wise to budget accordingly. 

    Don't stress too much, though. You don't have to spend more than $500 for a durable and pretty bracelet, necklace, pair of earrings, or ring this holiday season. She'll want to wear any of the following pieces every day of the new year. 

    These 25 thoughtfully designed pieces of fine jewelry are sure to impress her — and they all cost $500 or less. 

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

    Mini Gold Letter Charm Pendant

    AUrate Mini Gold Letter Charm Pendant, $300, available at AUrate

    Available in 18k rose, white, and yellow gold 

    You can't go wrong with a subtle personal letter charm necklace. It's wearable at two lengths — collarbone and chest. 



    Duo Ring

    Mejuri Duo Ring, $299, available at Mejuri

    One smooth and one twisted, the complementary rings in this two-in-one piece are forever linked together. 



    Charming Hoops

    Ariel Gordon Charming Hoops, $192.50, available at Ariel Gordon

    These playful hoops, also available in star, heart, smiley face, and rainbow styles, really live up to their name. 



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    luxury home house mansion

    • Luxury developers are building expansive and extravagant underground spaces in multimillion-dollar homes. 
    • This is often a way to get around strict zoning laws in Los Angeles meant to limit the construction of large mansions.
    • These lavish lower levels include luxurious spas, sports facilities, "living" plant walls, wine cellars, art galleries, and in one case, even a ballroom.

     

    Developers are taking luxury homes in an unexpected direction: Underground.

    Rochelle Maize, a Los Angeles luxury real estate agent, said she's seeing more and more "extravagant basements" or lower levels being built into homes.

    "While this square footage isn't considered as valuable as above grade, it still allows for a higher selling price and return on investment," Maize told Business Insider.

    But these spaces are nothing like the dingy, unfinished space you might picture when you think of a typical basement. 

    "The other big trend that I am seeing in the basement level build-outs is interesting details that are being installed by landscape architects," Maize said. "They are creating gorgeous 'living-walls' on the concrete wall areas below ground. This is actually making them more inviting than some of the above-ground areas!"

    Some of these lavish subterranean spaces include spas, wine cellars, art galleries, tennis courts, and other sports facilities.

    Read more: Super rich people are paying up to $500,000 for luxe panic rooms, and as gun violence picks up, they're more popular than ever

    In Los Angeles, these spaces are often a way for developers to get around "red tape" that restricts the size of new construction single family homes, known as anti-mansionization laws, Maize said.

    Hacienda de la Paz, a 51,000-square-foot home in Los Angeles county, was built to be mostly underground in order to comply with such zoning requirements, according to the Los Angeles Times. Only one of its floors is above ground, and the other five levels are underground and include a 10,000-square-foot Turkish spa, a 15,000-square-foot tennis court, a ballroom, a yoga room, and a wine cellar.

    Just Sold at $22.4 million - Hacienda de la Paz (1 Buggy Whip Dr.) - Represented buyer and seller.

    A post shared by Jason Oppenheim (@jasonoppenheim) on Oct 31, 2018 at 7:19pm PDT on

    It sold at auction in October for $22.4 million, the Times reported.

    Then there's the most expensive home for sale in San Francisco, an ultra-modern complex listed for $45 million, which has a two-story underground art gallery, as Business Insider's Lina Batarags previously reported.

    These over-the-top basements are not just a West Coast trend. Jeffrey Collé, a custom home builder in the wealthy Hamptons community of New York, told the New York Times about a house he built with a 5,000-square-foot underground space that included a bedroom, a wine cellar, a home theater, a gym, a sauna, and a steam room.

    "You don’t have a feeling like you're underground," Collé told the Times. "These are open, airy spaces."

    The super-wealthy of London have also been building downwards, Business Insider previously reported, sometimes adding up to five levels underground in some of the city's most sought-after neighborhoods.

    SEE ALSO: Here's what the most expensive house for sale in every US state looks like

    DON'T MISS: This $245 million Los Angeles mansion is the most expensive home for sale in the US — and it costs 960 times more than a typical US home

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The Pilgrims actually stopped at Plymouth Rock because they were running out of beer


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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.

    knock knock $13

    From laptops and fresh groceries to a pair of socks— or even a literal 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. 

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

    A fruit bowl that adds some design flair to their kitchen

    Alessi “Mediterraneo” Fruit Bowl, $99.99

    This steel fruit bowl is far from ordinary. The spindly, plant-like stems curve upward to hold food, but also add a very interesting aesthetic to any countertop. 

     



    A trio of handmade spicy sauces

    Bushwick Kitchen Threes Knees Spicy Trio, $39.99

    If they can't bear the thought of a meal without hot sauce, upgrade their spicy condiments with this set from Bushwick Kitchen. With a spicy honey, spicy maple syrup, and a gochujang-sriracha blend, they'll have lots of new spicy flavors to test and love. 



    Buildable magnets that will keep adults entertained

    Speks Magnetic Toy, $27.95

    The fidget spinner had it's 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.



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    Service dog on plane

    • Delta Air Lines announced on Monday that certain emotional-support and service animals have been barred from flying on board its airline.
    • Emotional-support animals have been barred on flights lasting longer than eight hours.
    • In addition, all emotional-support and service animals that are under four months of age have been banned on all flights regardless of duration.
    • The new policy goes into effect on December 18.

    Delta Air Lines announced on Monday that certain emotional-support and service animals have been barred from flying on board its airline.

    The Atlanta-based company will update its support- and service-animal policy later this month to include a ban on emotional-support animals or ESAs on flights lasting longer than eight hours.

    In addition, the new policy includes a ban on all emotional-support and service animals less than four months of age regardless of flight duration.

    "We will continue to review and enhance our policies and procedures as health and safety are core values at Delta," John Laughter, Delta's senior vice president for corporate safety, security, and compliance, said in a statement.

    "These updates support Delta's commitment to safety and also protect the rights of customers with documented needs — such as veterans with disabilities — to travel with trained service and support animals."

    Read more: Emotional-support animals are becoming a big problem on planes, and airlines want them to go away

    Delta says the policy change is in response to an 84% increase since 2016 in incidents involving emotional-support and service animals, including incidents of animals urinating, defecating, and biting passengers or crew members — and one in which a passenger was mauled by an emotional-support dog.

    The airline's new rules go into effect for tickets purchased on or after December 18. But passengers who purchased tickets ahead of the 18th and have already requested to travel with a service or support animal will be allowed to go ahead with their flight. Exceptions to the new rules will end on February 1.

    For airlines and many of its customers, ESAs are becoming increasingly problematic. This is especially true in instances where unscrupulous passengers use fraudulent documentation to game the system, thereby allowing their pets to fly free.

    According to Airlines For America, a trade group that represents major US airlines including American, United, JetBlue, Southwest, and Alaska, the number of emotional-support animals traveling aboard commercial flights jumped 74%, from 481,000 in 2016 to 751,000 in 2017.

    Earlier this year, Delta instituted stricter documentation requirements for service and emotional-support animals. The airline also limited the types of animals allowed to be categorized as support or service animals.

    SEE ALSO: The nastiest feud in the airline industry is back

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    NOW WATCH: Craig Jackson of Barrett-Jackson Auction Company has one of the world's most expensive private garages — take a look inside


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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.

    fossil smartwatch

    From the first smartphone I owned, I've always been an Android user. Much to the chagrin of nearly all my friends and peers, I really do like the operating system and my Samsung phone. However, I do have to admit the world of tech accessories is made for iPhone users and the number and variety of options are tipped in their favor. 

    If you have an Android phone user in your life who you generally regard with suspicion and is already causing you a lot of stress in the gift-hunting search, fear not — and just be glad they don't have a Windows phone. We're here to help you find some cool Android accessories they'll appreciate. Some are specially optimized for Android devices, while others are just great accessory gifts for all types of phones. 

    These 25 phone accessories and compatible gadgets prove gifting an Android user isn't actually as difficult as you think. 

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

    DON'T MISS: 25 creative and unexpected gifts for 'Star Wars' fans of all ages

    A camera lens kit for enthusiastic phone photographers

    Xenvo Camera Lens Kit Pro, $29.99, available at Amazon

    Take breathtaking landscape photos and detailed close-ups with the 140-degree, wide-angle lens and the 10x macro lens in this kit. Simply clip it to the phone and align it with its camera to start snapping high-quality pictures. 



    Comfortable, high-quality wireless earbuds

    Master & Dynamic MW07 True Wireless In-Ear Headphones, $299.98, available at Best Buy

    These true wireless earbuds topped even the Apple Airpods in our guide, a testament to their beautiful design and excellent sound quality. Since it's more expensive than most models, it makes sense to splurge for them during the holidays. 

     

     

     

     



    A flexible car mount

    iOttie Easy One Touch Qi Wireless Fast Charge Car Mount, $49.94, available at Amazon

    This accessory pulls double duty by charging their phone while holding it securely on their dash. The telescopic arm extends up to eight inches and pivots on a wide arc for easy readability and access. 



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    erin brockovich reverse osmosis.JPG

    • Erin Brockovich is a former legal clerk and clean-water advocate who was made famous by Julia Roberts' Oscar-winning portrayal of her in the 2000 film that shares her name.
    • Brockovich helped citizens of Hinkley, California fight California Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) after unsafe levels of the carcinogen Chromium 6 were found in their water. 
    • Brockovich told Business Insider that she's "funny" about her own drinking water.
    • She offered a few tips for how to determine if your tap water is safe to drink and what to do when it's not.

    If tap water looks like the color of "light pee," Erin Brockovich refuses to drink it. 

    The self-billed "water gal" made a name for herself fighting California Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) in 1996, when Chromium-6 leeched into tap water in the Mojave Desert. The legal case ended with a $333 million settlement.

    At low-level concentrations, the cancer-causing chemical can turn clear water yellow, and when it's really bad, a water source contaminated with 'Chrome-6' can flow purple

    But even when tap water is perfectly clear, Brockovich admits she's still "funny about water," and rarely, if ever, drinks straight from a tap. 

    "I don't want to drink chlorine. I don't want to drink ammonia. None of us do," Brockovich told Business Insider. "I feel safe enough and know enough about my tap water that I shower and bathe, but I don't know. I don't like how it tastes, smells."

    She said this worry comes from what she sees as an unspoken "emerging crisis" the US: more unsafe drinking water is flowing out of our taps, and our system is unprepared to deal with the problem.

    These days, Chromium 6 (now sometimes called "Erin Brockovich chemical") is not her main concern.

    "Right now, the largest emerging contaminant in the nation in water is PFOA — Perfluorooctanoic acid," Brockovich said.

    PFOA is a manufactured chemical that may be best known as Teflon, the non-stick substance that lets you easily slide scrambled eggs out of a pan. It's part of a broad class of thousands of man-made chemicals called PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances), that can be stain-proof, water-proof, and fire-proof.

    Read More: Dangerous 'forever chemicals' have been found in US drinking water at alarmingly high rates — here's what to know about PFAS

    Unfortunately, the same qualities that make PFAS good at suppressing fires, keeping pants stain-free, and repelling rain means they don't break down in the environment. Instead, the artificial chemicals remain intact in water and air for thousands of years.

    They can also easily build up in the human body as they move from the water we drink into our bloodstream. Experts agree that every person has at least some PFAS in their system. Excessive exposure to the chemicals can be linked to health problems including low birth rates, liver damage, high cholesterol, chronic kidney disease, asthma, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), immunization resistance in children, early menopause, and colon ulcers.

    "I think we’re pretty convinced that these chemicals are immune toxicants that we should be concerned about," Linda Birnbaum, a microbiologist who directs the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences at the National Institutes of Health, said last month. 

    Why 'forever chemicals' like PFOAs are in the water

    teflon pan

    PFAS chemicals were darlings of chemical-industry leaders like 3M and DuPont for much of the 20th century following their discovery in the 1930s. PFAS were championed for their ability to fight grease (Teflon) and repel water (GoreTex and Scotchguard), They were also used to make a firefighting foam used at military bases around the country.

    But waste dumped from chemical manufacturing plants can contaminate groundwater with PFAS chemicals, and they can also seep into lakes and other freshwater sources after firefighting foam gets used. PFAS are extremely persistent, so if they leech out of household products like cooking pans or if  people unwittingly drink or inhale them, the chemicals bio-accumulate in our bodies. Then they're pretty much with us for life.

    Researchers from Harvard estimated in 2016 that at least 6 million Americans — nearly 2% of the population — were drinking water with PFAS levels higher than what the EPA recommends. EPA testing done between 2013 and 2015 found significant amounts of PFAS in public water supplies in 33 US states

    Eight big chemical companies in the US (including DuPont and 3M) voluntarily phased out the chemicals in their products and replaced them with new ones by 2015. But those replacements are largely still unregulated by the EPA, and little is known about what they might do to us.

    "We've got about 80,000-plus chemicals that just go onto the market and, 'oh, we'll find out later down the road how that turns out for us,'" Brockovich said. "PFOA is a perfect example of this." 

    Meanwhile, PFAS chemicals are still found in many other products, like stain-resistant carpets and fabrics, food packaging, raincoats, and even some cosmetics. Though the concentrations of PFAS we're exposed to through these sources is tiny, scientists like Birnbaum are increasingly concerned that even household dust may have elevated concentrations of the chemicals. 

    How to ensure your water is safe to drink

    flint michigan bottled water

    The first thing you can do if you're worried about the quality of your tap water is read your local water report. The Environmental Protection Agency makes an annual drinking-water report available online, and there's also an independent tap-water database from the Environmental Working Group

    There are also a few ways to get rid of PFAS chemicals in your water. Experts like Birnbaum generally agree that reverse osmosis is one of the best techniques — that's what Brockovich opts for. She has even agreed to endorse a filtering product for the first time ever: the AquaTru home water filter.

    Using the reverse-osmosis filter is "the most certain way to clean your water," Brockovich said.

    AquaTru works a lot like a filtered water pitcher. You place it on the counter, plug it in, and fill the purifier with water from the tap. Then it takes about 15 minutes for the tank to clean a gallon of water before it's ready to drink.

    At around $470 (not including replacement filters), AquaTru is more expensive than a reverse-osmosis system you might buy at the hardware store, but most other filters require under-the-counter installation.

    Brockovich said that when she's away from home, she opts for bottled water (though she tries to buy water in glass bottles, since plastic can leech chemicals). She doesn't like the pollution bottled water creates, but Brockovich said she feels safer drinking water that has probably been filtered more thoroughly than the stuff that comes out of the tap.

    That's not true everywhere, though. Some states, like New Jersey, Vermont, and Connecticut, have adopted more stringent PFAS regulations than the EPA has. 

    Plus, bottled water is often just treated tap water, and the products are generally less regulated than what comes out of the tap. As the Centers for Disease Control points out, "there are no requirements that bottled water quality data be reported to any federal agency or to the public."

    Most bottled water sold in the US today is run through a filtration system before it gets packaged. Some labels even include the words "reverse osmosis." But the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lets companies use the label "purified water" on water that's been treated in several different ways, so it's not always clear how it's been filtered.  

    Brockovich also suggests people do their own visual inspection of tap and bottled water, and trust their instincts.

    "You're not going to convince me when I'm looking at yellow water, green-yellow, brown water, water that looks like diarrhea, that it's going to be safe to drink," she said. "I let consumers know, use your own common sense ... if it looks funny or smells funny, don't drink it."

    The EPA can't say for sure if your water is safe to drink

    pfas epa contaminated drinking water

    Although the EPA monitors our tap water, the agency admits it's a tricky job. 

    "The EPA and public may not know if water arriving at taps meets national drinking water standards," the agency wrote in a May 2018 report.

    So an EPA stamp of approval does not always mean everything's alright in your home.

    Water-quality data for cities and towns around the country is required to be reported every year, and it's available on the EPA's website. But it's easier to find water-quality reports for a big municipality like New York than it is to retrieve information on smaller towns like South Bossier Parish, Louisiana. Health department officials there recently found deadly brain-eating amoebas in the water system. 

    There are also many chemicals that the EPA doesn't test for. Unlike the FDA, which scrutinizes drugs and medical devices for years before they enter the consumer market, there's no preemptive EPA approval process for chemicals. 

    Aging infrastructure is also to blame for water contamination. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave the US' tap-water systems a D grade on its 2017 report card. 

    The EPA estimates that over $743 billion is needed for improvements to the country's decaying water infrastructure.

    But Brockovich isn't holding out hope that'll happen anytime soon.

    In fact, the Trump Administration is set to do the opposite. Trump's EPA is set to propose a rollback on Tuesday that would undo decades-old protections for wetlands and streams that help maintain the quality of our water supply. This is in addition to the administration's previous proposal to cut regulations on how dirt can be dumped into US waters, which was part of a failed infrastructure package that didn't make it to a vote in the House.

    "Superman's not coming," Brockovich said. "You need to inform yourself, educate yourself, be aware, use common sense."

    SEE ALSO: The record-breaking year of deadly fires in California was stoked by distinctly devilish winds — here's how they work

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    NOW WATCH: Erin Brockovich reveals how she protects herself against contaminated water in America and abroad


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