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The latest news from Life

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    • I've found that Airbnb combines the negative aspects of being at home with none of the amenities of a hotel. 
    • Comparing check-in processes and other aspects, here are seven reasons why I'd rather stay at a hotel than an Airbnb.


    Airbnb was founded to allow homeowners and tenants to make extra money by renting a room or a whole apartment when they were away.

    Ideally, travelers could find a place to stay for a fraction of the price of even a cheap hotel.

    It seemed like a good idea, but, like so many tech startups, the online rental platform has had unintended negative consequences.

    On that note, here are seven reasons why I'd choose a hotel over Airbnb any day:

    SEE ALSO: I've been using the personal-finance app Digit for nearly 3 years, and it's helped me save $20,000

    1. Hotels have an easier check-in

    To check into a hotel, you just walk into the lobby any time of the day or night.

    I've found that checking into an Airbnb is more like a treasure hunt. You likely won't know the address until a couple of days before your stay. And you'll have to be in detailed communication with the room's host to figure out the variables of your check-in situation, which can lead to directions that involve lock boxes and combinations.

    Personally, this is not what I want to deal with when I'm exhausted and jet lagged.

    2. With a hotel, what you see is what you get

    With Airbnb, the photos for a room could look great online but appear completely different in person. The space may not be as advertised or the neighborhood could be a nightmare.

    My last Airbnb stay, at a small apartment in Chicago, was advertised as work-friendly, but there was no desk and the only table was outside, on the balcony. The kitchen was so narrow that the fridge door couldn't completely open. The furniture looked like it had come from the dumpster behind a Goodwill. And the air conditioner sounded like a freight train. A hotel – any hotel – would have been better.

    3. Hotels won't cancel on you with short notice

    Airbnb penalizes hosts who cancel reservations, but it happens, and it can ruin your vacation. One traveler reported to Consumer Affairs that he was stranded in Shinjuku, Japan, when his host cancelled without notice, and his story is just one of many.

    In addition, the platform's cancellation policies for guests aren't particularly flexible. That's why I prefer a hotel: the hotel won't cancel on me, and I can change my reservation on short notice.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    • Returns for most items purchased on Amazon aren't free.
    • Amazon will deduct the price of shipping if customers use the provided shipping label. Otherwise, customers can ship items back on their own dime.
    • Amazon will foot the bill only if the cause for return is its own fault, like if an item was broken during its shipment.
    • All items purchased using Alexa come with free returns, however.

    Sure, you can return the items you bought to Amazon. But it'll cost ya.

    Returns for most items purchased on Amazon aren't free, contrary to what some shoppers believe. As customers go through the returns process on Amazon's website, the company clearly explains that it will deduct the price of shipping if customers use the provided shipping label.

    Alternatively, customers can ship items back to Amazon on their own dime.

    Either way, discretionary returns for most items are not free. Amazon will foot the bill only if the cause for return is its own fault, like if an item was broken during shipment — and not if a customer has simply changed their mind.

    As for how much Amazon will charge to return the item, the page for returns on Amazon explains it like this:

    "The return shipping estimates are based on standard shipping costs. When the return is not the result of our error, estimated return shipping costs will be shown in this summary as charges or deductions from your refund."

    Items can be grouped together in shipments as appropriate, even if they were not purchased together.

    "Alexa, give me free returns"

    There is a way to get out of paying for shipping, however. Amazon offers free returns in some categories, such as clothing, jewelry, and accessories nearly across the board.

    But Amazon also offers free returns for all items ordered through its Alexa voice-shopping platform. According to the Amazon help page, the return shipping charge will be levied as normal, but it will be refunded within seven days of the refund for the return.

    That makes sense, as it removes a worry for customers that they might accidentally order something while using the platform and not realize it until it arrives.

    Voice shopping has been growing, but at a slower pace than predicted. Amazon said voice shopping with Alexa tripled over the holiday season when compared with last year, however. 

    So, if you're ordering something that you think you might want to return, make sure you ask Alexa for it in order to qualify for a free return.

    Read more: Traditional retailers have a key advantage over Amazon in the race to make online returns better

    Returns are a weaker area for Amazon, as most customers would rather just return the item to a store, according to a survey by UPS, putting it at a disadvantage to incumbents with thousands or hundreds of big-box stores.

    It's likely Amazon realizes this limitation. It's investing heavily in other ways to make returns cheaper for them and easier for consumers, including returning them to Amazon pickup locations or some Kohl's department-store locations through an expanding partnership. These two drop-off options are always free.

    SEE ALSO: Amazon reveals the top-selling items of the season as it announces record-breaking holiday sales

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Almost 80% of the textbook industry is dominated by 5 publishing companies that make books so expensive most students skip buying them

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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.

    Adidas phone cases

    Although Adidas is a true sportswear company at heart, the brand has been able to successfully thrive in the worlds of lifestyle and fashion in a way that very few others have — and its Adidas Originals line is a major reason why.

    While Adidas Originals packs a huge catalog of modern and classic footwear and apparel, the company has been steadily expanding into other lifestyle accessories. After releasing a collection of watches earlier this year, the Adidas is now making a quintessential accessory for most people— iPhone cases.

    The collection includes a variety of cases for iPhones 8, X/XS, XR, and XS Max, all featuring the Adidas Originals' distinct styling. With cases inspired by the classic Samba and Gazelle sneakers to minimalistic clear cases, the collection has something for everyone's style. Each case features a slim, yet durable design that will protect your phone without the extra bulk.

    Affordably priced at $25 to $40, the Adidas Originals case collection is an easy way to incorporate Three Stripes flare into your style beyond sneakers and apparel.

    Shop all iPhone cases at Adidas here>>

    Shop Adidas iPhone X/XS cases on Amazon here>>

    Shop Adidas iPhone XS Max cases on Amazon here>>

    Check out some of our favorite designs, below:

    An Adidas Samba-themed case

    Adidas Samba Molded Case for iPhone XS Max, available on Amazon, $40

    A pink fabric case

    Adidas Fabric Snap Case for iPhone 8, available at Adidas, $30

    A black and gold-accented snakeskin case

    Adidas Snake Molded Case for iPhone XR, $40

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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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.


    • Whether it’s to assemble overly complicated Ikea furniture, make repairs to your home, or perform basic maintenance on your vehicle, a good tool set is a must for just about everybody.
    • One of the most popular tool makers on Amazon is Crescent, a member of the Apex Tool Group, which manages dozens of brands sold throughout the world.
    • I liked the Crescent 170-Piece Tool Set because the tools are durable, the socket set made many jobs easy, and it features a heavy-duty plastic case that keeps items in their place
    • Though the Crescent CTK170CMP2 Mechanics Tool Set is more expensive than many of the basic tool sets out there (currently $78.25 on Amazon), it has a lot more applications than other sets and is backed by a lifetime warranty.

    Years ago, when moving to a new home, I had to take apart and reassemble a bed frame. The task required unscrewing eight nuts from eight long bolts. I had a wrench, pliers, and very little room to work with. We got the laborious job done, but it probably would have gone much faster if I’d gone to a hardware store and purchased a socket set. I share this story because having the right tools for the job saves time and makes the experience much more pleasant. Plus, it may inspire you to get more projects done.

    The Crescent 170-Piece Mechanics Tool Set (model # CTK170CMP2) would have come in handy all those years ago. My new home is a fixer-upper, and Apex Tool Group sent me a set to test out as I got settled. Here's what I thought.

    My first experiences with the Crescent Tool Set

    Out of the box, the set weighs about 20 pounds, and all of the tools are stored in a rugged plastic case that can stand upright or lay on its side. The set comes with:

    • 67 sockets: ¼”, 3/8”, ½” 6-point and 3/8” 12-point
    • 40 driver bits: hex, Torx, slotted, and Phillips
    • 24 Hex keys
    • 12 combination wrenches
    • 3 quick-release ratchets: ¼”, 3/8”, and ½” drives
    • 4 ratchet extensions
    • 1 3/8” female x ¼” male adapter
    • An 8” adjustable wrench
    • 8” long-nose cutting pliers
    • 10” tongue and groove pliers
    • 2 slotted magnetic screwdrivers
    • 2 Phillips magnetic screwdrivers
    • A magnetic bit driver

    If you’re keeping score at home, you may notice that this doesn’t add up to 170 pieces. More on that later. For now, I’ll just say not all of the pieces are tools.

    Many of the tools are covered by a limited lifetime warranty. The only parts not covered are the carrying case, accessory bits, and consumable products.

    How the Crescent Tool Set performed

    I have used this tool set for about four months. In that time, we moved into an old house that was in the middle of being renovated. We did some of the work on our own, but mostly, I used the tool set to assemble and install a variety of different items as we tried to make the house a home. It was easy to grab the case, open it up, and access to just about anything I would need to complete my project. I love the ratchets and sockets included in the kit. It made several jobs go a lot faster, and the extensions helped reach tight spots.

    I never knew when a particular driver bit might come in handy. For instance, I was installing a doorbell that was supposed to come with a T5 Torx (six-pointed star shape) screwdriver. Well, it didn’t. Fortunately, the Crescent Tool Set had a T5 driver bit.

    Many of the products you order online that require assembly come with junky little tools that are a pain to use. With this set, it was glad I could toss the crap tool aside and get the job done faster and better with higher quality tools.

    The Crescent Tool Set has a 4.5-star customer rating on Amazon. There are some complaints of rusty tools, but that has not been my experience. After four months of use, they show very little wear. I recommend taking good care of your tools and storing them properly to avoid corrosion.

    Some concerns about the tool set

    Unfortunately, the set does not include everything you will need to perform basic home repairs. For instance, there isn’t a hammer, level, tape measure, or a utility knife. These are easy enough to find on their own, but it would be nice to have an all-inclusive tool kit that you can grab without needing extra items.

    Be wary of any tool set that advertises how many “pieces” it has. For example, the Crescent says there are 170 pieces in the set, but 131 of those pieces are driver bits, sockets, or hex keys. 11 more of the pieces aren’t even tools. Included in the 170 number are the holders for the bits and hex keys, the case itself, and the clasps on the case. I haven't used every tool in the set, and I’m not sure if I ever will, but despite the number padding, it’s nice to have non-standard bits and sockets around if the situation arises.

    I would have appreciated a magnetic socket bit or any other tool that would allow me to use the driver bits with the ratchets more easily. There were several occasions when this would have come in handy. And, when I tried to use a bit with a socket, the bit would keep falling out.

    I had a hard time taking some of the tools out and putting them back in. But, overall, I appreciated that the tools stayed put in the case.

    Lastly, I found how the case opens and closes to be mildly annoying. The top clasps are not easy to access because of the handle. You have to reach behind the top to unclasp it. Then, when you want to close the case, you must make sure to close the right side first, or it won’t clasp.

    Bottom line

    A good tool set is a must for anyone. It makes completing projects much easier and more enjoyable. And, while the Crescent Mechanics Tool Set doesn’t have everything you will need, it does have plenty of useful options for an array of applications. Plus, it is backed by a lifetime warranty. I strongly recommend this set for beginners tasked with household repairs, installations, assemblies, and maintenance.

    Buy the Crescent Mechanics Tool Set (170 Piece) on Amazon for $78.25

    SEE ALSO: This $250 home security system has made living in a high-crime area less stressful for my family

    DON'T MISS: The best snow blowers you can buy

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    donald trump

    • President Donald Trump pushed the US government into a partial shutdown over his demands for border-wall funding.
    • Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested some alternative uses for Trump's demands for $5.7 billion toward the wall.
    • INSIDER polled people on alternative uses of the $5.7 billion in border wall funding, and most preferred other ideas, including infrastructure improvements, covering a half-million Americans' healthcare expenses, and expanded pre-K education.
    • The only group that supported the wall was conservatives, while border money came in last for moderates and liberals.

    As the partial government shutdown drags on into its sixth day, President Donald Trump has remained steadfast in his demands that $5 billion for a wall along the US-Mexico border be included in any package to funding and reopening the government.

    "Have the Democrats finally realized that we desperately need Border Security and a Wall on the Southern Border," Trump tweeted Thursday. "Need to stop Drugs, Human Trafficking, Gang Members & Criminals from coming into our Country."

    But according to an INSIDER poll, most Americans would prefer to put the $5 billion Trump is demanding toward other policy goals.

    At the start of the government shutdown, Representative-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lamented House Republicans inclusion of $5.7 billion in border-wall money in their doomed funding package.

    "And just like that, GOP discovers $5.7 billion for a wall. $5.7 billion," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. "What if we instead added $5.7B in teacher pay? Or replacing water pipes? Or college tuition/prescription refill subsidies? Or green jobs? But notice how no one’s asking the GOP how they’re paying for it."

    Read more:The government shutdown is now in day 6 — here's how long previous government shutdowns have lasted

    In response to Ocasio-Cortez's tweet, Washington Post writer Jeff Stein suggested a few alternatives for the $5.7 billion in funding, including funding pre-kindergarten education for every child in the US or covering the healthcare expenses for hundreds of thousands of Americans over the course of the year.

    INSIDER polled these alternatives against funding for the wall and found that the wall was not a particularly popular option.

    Conducted as a SurveyMonkey Audience poll with 1,025 respondents that ran December 21-22, INSIDER asked respondents, "What is the best use of $5.7 billion in federal funding?" and offered four options:

    • "build a portion of a wall along the US-Mexico border"
    • "fund pre-kindergarten programs for every child in the US for a year"
    • "pay the healthcare expenses for roughly 530,000 Americans for a year"
    • "fund infrastructure improvements"

    The figures were based on Stein's estimates for the utility of $5.7 billion in different areas of administration and calculations based on the most healthcare spending data.

    Only 19% of respondents thought the wall was the best use of that funding.

    The best-polling use of funds was paying healthcare expenses for a half-million people, backed by 36% of respondents.

    A further 30% thought infrastructure would most benefit from the funding, while 15% would fund pre-K programs.

    Only respondents who identified as conservative thought the wall was an important priority.

    • Of those who identified as moderately or very conservative, about 53% wanted the wall, with 22% preferring infrastructure improvements and 16% preferring healthcare.
    • Of those who only slightly leaned liberal or conservative or didn't identify with either political ideology, they vastly preferred healthcare (39%) and infrastructure (32%), then pre-K (16%) and only then the wall (13%).
    • Of those who identified as moderately or very liberal, only 2% want to fund the wall, with 49% preferring that spending go to healthcare, 34% on infrastructure and 14% on pre-K.

    Overall, 24% of respondents identified as very or moderately conservative, 28% very or moderately liberal, and 36% as neither or slightly liberal or conservative.

    It illustrates a key divide on the shutdown: According to this survey, only the core supporters who comprise Trump's base want the funding for the wall, while the rest of respondents were uninterested in allocating nearly $6 billion to the border partition.

    The finding also seems to match up with a previous INSIDER poll, conducted before the start of the shutdown, that found 60% of those surveyed wouldn't tolerate a shutdown over the wall. Other pollsters found similar results.

    SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn't try to weight its sample based on race or income. Total 1,025 completed respondents December 21-22, margin of error plus or minus 3.12 percentage points with 95% confidence level.

    SEE ALSO: Here's everything you need to know about the current government shutdown

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Meet the woman behind Trump's $20 million merch empire

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    utility worker

    • CenturyLink customers across the nation are experiencing phone-signal and internet outages.
    • The website downdetector.com, which detects technology outages in real time, reported that customers have been impacted in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Denver; Seattle; Boise, Idaho; Dallas; Los Angeles; Chicago; Phoenix; and parts of Montana.
    • Some local news stations are reporting that 911 services have been impacted in parts of Arizona, Minnesota, and Missouri.
    • CenturyLink provides internet, phone, television, and home-security services to customers across 37 states.

    CenturyLink said it was close to fixing an internet and phone service outage that affected customers nationwide on Thursday.

    "CenturyLink engineers and technicians have identified a network element that was impacting customer services and are addressing the issue in order to fully restore services," CenturyLink spokesman Mark Molzen said in an email statement to Business Insider on Friday morning. "We estimate that services will be fully restored within four hours. We apologize for any inconvenience this caused our customers."

    The website downdetector.com, which detects technology outages in real time, reported that customers have been impacted in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Denver; Seattle; Boise, Idaho; Dallas; Los Angeles; Chicago; Phoenix; and parts of Montana.

    "Our network is experiencing a disruption affecting customer services," the company tweeted earlier on Thursday afternoon. "We understand some customers are currently unable to generate tickets through the CTL help portal. We know how important services are to our customers and are working to restore services as quickly as possible."

    The local ABC News affiliate KNXV-TV in Arizona reported that the outage impacted the Cochise County Sheriff's Office, which had to reroute 911 and administrative calls to the Douglas Police Department. KOMO-TV in Seattle reported that parts of Missouri and Minnesota also experienced 911 service disruptions, and, in Idaho, some government agencies were impacted.

    The issue began early Thursday morning for some customers. On downdetector.com, some customers commented that their internet service was intermittent, while others complained about the lack of communication about the outage and how long it would last. Customers also vented their frustration on Twitter with the hashtag "#CenturyLinkDown."

    CenturyLink provides internet, phone, television, and home-security services to customers across 37 states. When contacted by Business Insider, a CenturyLink representative said they are working to restore service.

    SEE ALSO: Instagram accidentally released an update that removed scrolling and replaced it with a horizontal feed. And people were furious.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: These are the top 7 smartphones of 2018

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    Michael Cohen

    • Investigators have reportedly learned that a cell phone traced to Michael Cohen sent cell signals in Prague in late summer 2016.
    • The revelation raises fresh questions about a key allegation about Cohen in the Steele dossier.
    • The document said Cohen and Kremlin representatives held "clandestine meeting/s" in Prague in August 2016 to discuss how to limit the discovery of the close "liaison" between the Trump campaign and Russia.
    • Previous media reports have indicated that investigators have additional evidence corroborating the dossier's claim.
    • Cohen, who is cooperating with Mueller, denied the dossier's allegation on Thursday.

    Investigators have learned that a cell phone traced back to Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's longtime former lawyer and fixer, sent signals that ricocheted off cell towers in the Prague area in late summer 2016, McClatchy reported, citing four people with knowledge of the matter.

    During that same period — around late August or early September 2016 — the outlet said an Eastern European intelligence agency picked up surveillance of a conversation among Russians, one of whom remarked that Cohen was in Prague.

    Details of Cohen's possible trip to Prague first emerged publicly in a dossier, which alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, compiled by the former British spy Christopher Steele.

    The document cited a "Kremlin insider" as saying there were "clandestine meeting/s between Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's lawyer Michael COHEN and Kremlin representatives in August 2016."

    "The Kremlin insider clearly indicated to his/her friend that the reported contact/s took place in Prague, Czech Republic," it said.

    The document further alleged Cohen met with individuals linked to the Russian government, including Konstantin Kosachev, a member of Russia's parliament, and Oleg Solodukhin, who works with the Russian Center for Science and Culture.

    It also said Cohen, Kosachev, and others, including Romanian hackers, discussed "how deniable cash payments were to be made to hackers in Europe who had worked under Kremlin direction against the [Hillary] Clinton campaign," and ways to "sweep it all under the carpet and make sure no connection could be fully established or proven."

    The dossier further alleged that Cohen and one or more Kremlin officials huddled in or around Prague to plot ways to limit the discovery of the close "liaison" between the Trump campaign and Russia.

    Earlier this year, McClatchy reported that the alleged trip was a subject of focus for lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee. Their interest in Cohen's whereabouts in 2016 was said to be fueled by what they considered to be weak documentation Cohen provided to show them where he was — New York and Los Angeles — at the time of the alleged Prague visit.

    After he was widely criticized last year for tweeting out a photo of his passport cover as proof that he didn't visit Prague in 2016, Cohen showed the inside of the document to BuzzFeed News. According to the outlet, Cohen's passport did not contain a stamp for the Czech Republic.

    However, investigators working for the special counsel Robert Mueller have reportedly obtained evidence that Cohen first flew to Germany in late August or early September 2016, and then traveled to the Czech Republic through another means of transportation.

    Were that the case, Cohen may not have needed a passport because both Germany and the Czech Republic lie within the Schengen Area, which encompasses 26 European countries and functions as a single jurisdiction for international travel.

    Read more:Washington is buzzing about a mysterious grand-jury fight between Mueller's office and an unknown witness

    Cohen disputes the explosive allegation

    Michael Cohen and Donald Trump

    Mueller and the Senate Intelligence Committee are said to be using the Steele dossier as a "roadmap" as they investigate Russia's interference in the 2016 election.

    Trump has called the dossier a "pile of garbage," and Cohen has also publicly disputed the document's allegation about his alleged Prague trip.

    "I hear #Prague #CzechRepublic is beautiful in the summertime," Cohen tweeted Thursday, shortly after McClatchy's report was published. "I wouldn’t know as I have never been. #Mueller knows everything!"

    Cohen pleaded guilty in November to one count of lying to Congress about his involvement in the Trump Organization's push to build a Trump Tower in Moscow at the height of the election.

    He has been cooperating with Mueller since August, shortly before he pleaded guilty in a separate Manhattan US attorney's office investigation into his and Trump's business dealings before the election.

    The significance of the dossier's allegation about Cohen stems from the fact that the time frame of Cohen's alleged trip came after a series of damaging revelations about members of the Trump campaign during summer 2016. The dossier said the purpose of Cohen's trip was to mitigate the resulting fallout from those events.

    Carter Page's Moscow trip

    Carter Page

    Carter Page, who served as a foreign-policy adviser to the Trump campaign, traveled to Moscow in early July 2016. The dossier alleged Page met with top Russian officials on the trip who raised the possibility of offering Page a 19% stake in the state-owned company Rosneft in exchange for the US lifting sanctions on Russia if Trump became president.

    It also alleged that a former Russian security official, Igor Diveykin, informed Page that the Kremlin had a dossier of kompromat on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton that it wanted to give to the Trump campaign.

    Page has slammed the document as "fake news" and often calls it the "dodgy dossier." However, he testified to the House Intelligence Committee last year that he had several contacts with Russia-linked individuals, at times with the Trump campaign's knowledge.

    WikiLeaks' email dump

    FILE PHOTO: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange makes a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy, in central London, Britain February 5, 2016. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

    On July 22, 2016, the radical pro-transparency group WikiLeaks, which has been described by CIA director Mike Pompeo as a "non-state hostile intelligence service," published the first batch of hacked Democratic National Committee emails. The US intelligence community concluded that the emails were stolen by hackers aligned with Russian interests, and that WikiLeaks was used as a tool of the Russian government.

    Trump has repeatedly praised WikiLeaks and the email dumps. Five days after the first batch of emails was published, Trump publicly called for Russia to find the thousands of emails Clinton deleted from her server.

    "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," Trump said at the time.

    Paul Manafort's resignation

    Paul Manafort

    Meanwhile, on July 19, 2016, The New York Times reported on financial records Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort had filed in Cyprus that showed he was $17 million in debt to pro-Russian interests when he joined the campaign in March.

    Shell companies connected to Manafort during his time working for Ukraine's pro-Russia Party of Regions had bought the debt, the report said.

    The following month, it emerged that the Party of Regions had earmarked $12.7 million in undisclosed cash payments for Manafort in return for his work with the party from 2007 to 2012.

    Three days later, on August 19, Manafort resigned from the campaign.

    The dossier said Cohen's visit to Prague was made to "clean up the mess" resulting from the revelations about Page's Moscow trip and Manafort's Russia ties.

    If Russia investigators do have evidence connecting Cohen to the alleged trip, it would raise a new set of questions about whether, and to what extent, Trump and other campaign associates had knowledge of the event.

    SEE ALSO: Washington is buzzing about a mysterious grand-jury fight between Mueller's office and an unknown witness

    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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    bondi xmas

    • Temperature records have been smashed as a Christmas heat wave has the southeastern corner of Australia in a stranglehold.
    • The hottest place in the country, Marble Bar in the Pilbara of Western Australia hit an all-time heat record of 120 degrees Fahreneit (49 degrees Celsius) on Thursday.
    • December and Christmas are only the beginning of the summer season in Australia. It starts getting noticeably toastier around January and February.

    SYDNEY, Australia — After firestorms in Victoria killed 173 people in 2009, Australian fire authorities decided it would be best to add a new category to the ubiquitous fire ratings signs that pop up every few miles on rural highways.

    When a heat wave sweeps out of the central deserts to smother the heavily populated coastal regions — like what the region has seen this Christmas — officials at the Rural Fire Service bump the measurement up to the new, final notch.


    That's what the weather is in Australia this week. It's not hot, really hot, or even extremely hot. It's catastrophic.

    Australian temperature records have been smashed as a Christmas heat wave has the southeastern corner of the country in a stranglehold.

    In fact, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, this is a December like no other.

    Down in the state of South Australia, temperatures in some country towns have nudged nearly 116 degrees Fahrenheit (47 degrees Celsius).

    Adelaide city, the capital of South Australia, was breezing through a comparatively relaxed 107 degrees Fahrenheit (41.6 degrees Celsius) at lunchtime on Friday, while down in Port Augusta, things got a little uncomfortable at nearly 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius), according to the Adelaide Advertiser.

    The state ambulance service is urging people to drink lots of water and check on the elderly, sick, and very young to make sure they're cool and comfortable.

    They'll be doing a lot of that in sunny Oodnadatta over the next few days, with the Bureau of Meteorology is expecting temperatures to plateau at an unforgiving 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius) on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before pulling back a degree or two on Monday.

    Hayley Nunn, from the Pink Roadhouse in Oodnadatta, described the weather as "bloody horrible," according to the ABC.

    Around the country there are outright fire bans and blanket health warnings as people flock to the beach.

    According to Reuters, the heat wave emanating out of the central northwest has now spread into the heavily populated southeastern cities — Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide — where December monthly average temperatures are up to 16 degrees Celsius higher than usual.

    “We’re going to see December records tumbling,” Diana Eadie, a meteorologist at the BOM told Reuters on Friday.

    “We’re definitely not out of it yet, in fact I would say it’s going to be peaking over more populated areas this weekend.”

    Australia beach

    Sandals and pavement could melt

    There are a few telltale signs when a certain temperature is achieved here in Sydney. For example, if the windows are left open to catch a whiff of breeze, there is often a sudden and unpleasant mass migration of flies and mossies to the cool of the kitchen.

    Sandals and pavement could melt.

    Beer warms with a distributing and preternatural speed. The Christmas tree dies, and maybe the fridge, too.

    And if you reckon all of that sounds subpar, when talking about heatwaves in this region, there's always someone, somewhere who is worse off. In this case, it's those who live in Marble Bar in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

    The mercury climbed above 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49.3 degrees Celsius), an all-time high.

    But if you're freezing in Fargo, spare a thought for the Aussies because December is just the kick-off of summer. January is when the kid gloves come off. And then, of course, things get serious in February.

    But a better snapshot of what Christmas looks like in the southern hemisphere comes courtesy of a 2017 tally from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which suggested that, on average, every household — roughly 24 million of them — spends more than $90 ($AU130) per year on fresh fish and seafood, and almost $30 per year on Christmas decorations.

    About $150 is spent on ice cream, and $600 on beer.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Swearing has more benefits than you may think — from improving your workouts to bonding with your coworkers

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    best no show socks

    • If you want to keep your feet comfortable, protected against blisters, and with added support, you need great socks.
    • If you want to do all that without your socks ruining an outfit, you need great no-show socks.
    • The Feetures! High Performance Ultra Light No Show Tab Socks are the best no-show socks you can buy, thanks to their fine fabric blend and bands of Lycra for compression and support.

    I lived in Los Angeles for 12 years, and during that time, no-show socks played a relatively minor role in my life. From mid-March through November, I wore sandals most of the time, and then during the LA "winter" I wore shoes with long socks under jeans. And usually a T-shirt — LA winters aren't all that intense, see?

    Now that I live in the Mid-Atlantic region of the East Coast, no-show socks have become much more of a thing in my life, and for multiple reasons. One is rain. When it's raining, sandals are a bad choice. But when it's raining and it's 90 degrees out, no way am I donning long pants with longs socks, and of course, I'll not be caught dead with long socks sticking up out of my shoes.

    Another reason is the fact that there are actual seasons here during which daily temperatures can change dramatically. While I might start a fall day wearing long pants and a jacket, I may have switched to shorts and a long sleeve shirt by early afternoon. And, thus, to no-show socks again.

    While it might seem funny to devote so much thought to choosing socks that, by their very nature, won't even be seen by anyone, when your shoddy pair of no-shows slips off your foot and balls up in your shoe, or when it turns out that your socks are very much showing, you'll wish you had invested just a bit more time into choosing the right pair.

    Also, you'll be amazed what a difference a great sock can make in offering support during running, hikes, or long walks. I know I was, at any rate, when I first started wearing great socks, many of which you would never even know I had on.

    Here are the best no-show socks you can buy:

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

    The best no-show socks overall

    Why you'll love them: Your feet will enjoy superb support thanks to the Lycra power bands stitched into every Feetures! Ultra Light No Show Tab Socks.

    Just to clear the air here, I own five or six pairs of Feetures! socks at present, and yes, my opinion about them is probably biased. But I've developed that bias based solely on the fact that the company makes superlative socks. The High Performance Ultra Light No Show Tab Socks are one of the most comfortable, supportive, and high-performing socks I've ever worn, and that goes for no-shows, crew socks, hiking socks, and on and on.

    First, let's talk about support. These socks are made out of a high-density knit blend of polyester, nylon, and spandex, so they are snug and resilient, conforming well to your feet with zero stretching out even during hours of use. A "power band" of added Lycra around the center of the sock offers excellent arch support and compression.

    Now for temperature regulation. Not only do the primarily polyester Feetures! No Show Tab Socks wick away plenty of sweat, but two large mesh panels along the top of each sock allows for excellent breathability and release of heat.

    These socks were designed for performance, and I do wear Feetures! socks while running at times, but I wear them more often just because they're comfortable.

    With nearly 200 reviews posted on Amazon at the time of this writing, customers have given these socks a collective 4.4-star rating. One lady reported her "feet feeling energized after a four mile run" in Feetures! No Show Tab Socks, while another customer reported the socks keeping his feet "dry" and without "any rubbing at all" during training for a marathon.

    Pros: Excellent support, great breathability, durable construction

    Cons: Slightly pricey per pair

    Buy a pair of Feetures! High Performance Ultra Light No Show Tab Socks on Amazon for $13

    The best no-show socks for men's dress shoes

    Why you'll love them: With a pair of Thirty48 No Show Loafer Socks tucked under your loafers, boat shoes, or stylish sneakers, your feet will stay cool and dry whether you're sailing the high seas or swapping ideas at a lunchtime meeting.

    Certain types of shoes are tricky. Loafers, slip-ons, moccasins, and a few other types of men's shoes really only look good when worn without socks, and that's true whether you're wearing shorts or long pants. While some boat shoes or slip-on sneakers might feel fine without socks, others feel clammy or poke your feet or cause rubbing and blisters with any extended wear.

    Enter the Thirty48 No Show Loafer Socks. These extra low-riding now show socks come in a variety of colors that blend into most dressier shoes and that won't draw attention when worn with sneakers if anyone sees them at all.

    The Thirty48 No Show Loafer Socks have a very low rise at the back of the foot, just covering your heel and eliminating a common hotspot for blisters. They stay in place thanks to a silicone grip stitched into the sock at the heel, so even if you're quite active while wearing them, they rarely slip off and bunch up.

    On those hot days, these thin, minimalist socks help keep your feet cool thanks to patented CoolPlus fabric design that uses a capillary system to draw moisture and heat away from your feet.

    More than 1,500 people have left reviews and ratings for the Thirty48 No Show Loafer Socks, and they enjoy a fine 4.5-star rating overall. A gentleman Daniel speaks for many when he says these socks "fit well, the rubber heel ensures the sock stays on the foot, and the different colors are [well] matched to all [his] shoes."

    A writer from The Gear Hunt praised the Thirty48 No Show Loafer Sock's "moisture wicking" properties and appreciated that the sock "stays on your feet."

    Pros: Very low profile, silicone band holds sock in place, available in several muted colors

    Cons: Elastic wring around collar too tight for some feet

    Buy a six-pack of Thirty48 No Show Loafer Socks on Amazon for $20

    The best no-show socks for women's dress shoes

    Why you'll love it: The Eedor Thin Casual Boat Line Sock won't stick up above even a low-cut flat thanks to the low-rise back, which just covers the heel.

    Many women's shoes have a low cut to begin with, so many otherwise no-show socks will very much show when worn with flats, pumps, and other types of shoe. With a pair of Eedor Thin Casual Boat Line Socks on your feet, you can enjoy the blister protection afforded by socks without the faux pas of visible socks.

    While quite low cut, these socks stay in place thanks to a band of silicone affixed to the rear of the sock. The rest of your foot will be kept comfortable thanks to the snug feel created by an 80% cotton, 20% spandex fabric blend. That blend can keep your foot feeling clean and dry under most normal circumstances, but do note that if your feet sweat heavily or get wet due to rain or a puddle, these socks won't dry out any time soon — cotton holds water much more readily than synthetic fibers.

    The Eedor Thin Casual Boat Line Socks come in four different colors that are generally neutral and will blend in with the look of many shoes, further enhancing the no show of it all. Also, you can get eight pairs for well under 20 bucks, which is a fine deal indeed.

    With more than 3,000 reviews posted on Amazon, the Eedor Thin Casual Boat Line Socks enjoy a commendable 4.5-star rating. One customer loved that the are "very comfortable" and "stay in place all day." Another lady called them "perfect [for when you] don't want the look of socks creeping out of your shoes but you want your foot covered."

    Do note that many women reported the sizing running too small, so buy accordingly.

    Pros: Great low price, good color variety, stay in place reliably

    Cons: Sizing runs small

    Buy an eight-pack of Eedor Thin Casual Boat Line Socks on Amazon for $17

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    best dewormers for dogs

    • The best dewormer for dogs should treat all four of the most common intestinal parasites in dogs, and it should be easy to administer.
    • Guaranteed to treat multiple species of hookworm, roundworm, tapeworm, and whipworm, Excel Safe-Guard 4 Canine Dewormer is our top pick for the best dog dewormer overall.

    Worms. The word alone is enough to make any dog owner squirm but, unfortunately, these intestinal parasites are extremely common in dogs of all ages. There are four different types of worms that commonly affect dogs and puppies: roundworms, hookworms, tapeworms, and whipworms. Puppies are also prone to an intestinal parasite known as coccidia, but most adult dogs develop an immunity to these parasites.

    Some of the most common symptoms of worms in dogs including persistent scratching, bloated belly, increased appetite, unexplained weight loss, weakness, and bloody stool or diarrhea. In most cases, a physical exam and stool sample are enough to diagnose your dog with worms and treatment is made easy with over-the-counter dewormers for dogs.

    When choosing a dewormer for dogs, you need to know what type of worms your dog has. You can purchase a dewormer for specific types of worms, or you can choose a broad-spectrum product. Dewormers for dogs come in several forms including tablets, granules, powders, and liquids, so talk to your veterinarian about the option that is best for your dog. Once you know what kind of dewormer you need, take a look at our top picks for the best dewormer for dogs.

    Here are the best dog dewormers you can buy:

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

    The best dog dewormer overall

    Why you'll love it: Excel Safe-Guard 4 Canine Dewormer provides broad-spectrum protection against all four types of intestinal parasites commonly seen in dogs for up to six months at a time.

    If you're looking for a quick and effective solution to intestinal parasites, a broad-spectrum dewormer may be the way to go. These dewormers contain active ingredients proven to kill all four types of worms, including multiple species, and generally come in an easy-to-administer form. For efficacy, convenience, and affordability, Excel Safe-Guard 4 Canine Dewormer is our top pick for the best dewormer for dogs overall.

    Made with the active ingredient fenbendazole, Excel Dewormer is proven to kill all four types of intestinal parasites frequently seen in dogs. This dewormer protects against two species each of roundworm and hookworm as well as the most common species of tapeworm and whipworm.

    It comes in an easy-to-administer granule formulation which can be sprinkled on or mixed into your dog's food and is safe for puppies and dogs that are six weeks or older.

    My Pet Needs That likes the easy-to-administer formulation and the fact that it provides up to six months of protection against four types of intestinal parasite. K9 of Mine also gives this product its top rating, noting that the active ingredient fenbendazole is well-studied and widely regarded as safe.

    Generally recognized as the safest and most effective dewormer for dogs, Excel Safe-Guard 4 Canine Dewormer has more than 1,800 reviews on Amazon with a solid 4.1-star rating. Dog owners love the easy-to-dose granule formulation, though there are some comments that large breeds may require two packages to meet the dosing recommendation.

    Pros: Kills all four common types of worm, easy-to-mix granule formulation, safe and effective, protects for up to six months, protects against two species of roundworm and hookworm

    Cons: Large dogs may require more than one package, only protects against one species of tapeworm and whipworm, not for puppies under 6 weeks of age

    Buy Safe-Guard 4 Canine Dewormer on Amazon for $4 to $11

    The best liquid dewormer for dogs

    Why you'll love it: Made with pyrantel pamoate as the powerful active ingredient, Nemex 2 Liquid Dewormer is a safe and effective treatment for hookworms and roundworms in puppies and dogs as young as two weeks of age.

    Many dogs dislike taking tablets and even powdered dewormers can be difficult to disguise in your dog's food. If you're looking for an easy alternative, a liquid dewormer might be a good option. Nemex 2 Liquid Dewormer for Dogs is our top pick because it is FDA-approved and easy to administer.

    Nemex 2 Liquid Dewormer for Dogs comes in a 2-ounce bottle for less than $20, which makes it a cost-effective solution. Though it only treats roundworms and hookworms, the active ingredient pyrantel pamoate is highly effective and widely recognized as safe for puppies and dogs as young as two weeks of age. Simply administer one teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight, adding the product to your dog's food or feeding it directly by mouth.

    Top Dog Tips names Nemex 2 Liquid Dewormer for Dogs the best liquid dog dewormer, commenting on the fact that it is easy to administer for puppies as young as two weeks old. Crittersitca includes this dewormer in their list of the six best dog dewormers, noting that it is FDA-approved and safe for use in puppies as well as female dogs that are pregnant. They also comment that it is a great option for dogs that don't like tablets.

    Not only does this Nemex 2 Liquid Dewormer for Dogs receive great reviews from pet experts, but it has been given an Amazon's Choice award and carries a 4.5-star rating with more than 260 reviews. The main downside that dog owners mention is the fact that it only treats roundworms and hookworms.

    Pros: Highly palatable, liquid formulation is easy to administer, safe for puppies as young as two weeks, FDA-approved, safe for pregnant females, good for dogs that don't like tablets

    Cons: Only treats roundworms and hookworms, large dogs may require a higher dosage

    Buy Nemex 2 Liquid Dewormer for Dogs on Amazon for $17 (originally $24.99)

    The best dewormer for puppies

    Why you'll love it: Made with three powerful active ingredients, Bayer Quad Dewormer Chewable Tablets are a broad-spectrum dewormer safe for puppies and small dogs weighing at least two pounds.

    You may be surprised to learn that most puppies are born with worms. Fortunately, they are generally easy to treat, and the problem should be resolved within a few months. Puppies should be treated with a dewormer at 2, 4, 6, 8, and 12 weeks of age, followed by additional treatments as needed. Our top pick for the best dewormer for puppies is Bayer Quad Dewormer Chewable Tablets.

    Specifically designed for puppies and small dogs two pounds or more, Bayer Quad Dewormer Chewable Tablets are a powerful dewormer. It features three active ingredients — praziquantel, pyrantel pamoate, and febantel — to protect against all four types of worms commonly seen in dogs. A single dose is enough to kill common worms and it comes in a highly palatable beef-flavored tablet.

    Heavy includes this Bayer Dewormer in its list of the top 10 dog dewormer medications, commenting on the easy dosage and the fact that it treats all four types of worms. Dog Bark Stop also reviews this product favorably, commenting that it is a highly effective formula and reasonably priced.

    Not only do the Bayer Quad Dewormer Chewable Tablets feature a 4.3-star rating on Amazon, but it has more than 175 reviews. Dog owners love how easy and effective it is, though there are comments that heavy infestations may require multiple treatments.

    Pros: Three powerful active ingredients, broad-spectrum dewormer, kills all four types of intestinal parasites, safe for puppies two pounds and over, palatable beef flavor

    Cons: Heavy infestations may require multiple treatments, dosing instructions may be a little unclear, some dogs dislike taking tablets

    Buy Bayer Quad Dewormer Chewable Tablets for Puppies and Small Dogs on Amazon for $19.99

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    Wawa Buc-ee's

    • Wawa is a beloved regional convenience-store chain, which immediately won our love and appreciation after we visited the first time. 
    • While we once believed Wawa to be the best road trip pit stop imaginable, Texans told us that there was one chain that could one-up Wawa: Buc-ee's.
    • We visited Buc-ee's and compared the two — and were forced to admit that the Texas chain beats out Wawa in every way. 

    In Pennsylvania, travelers worship at the altar of Wawa. 

    The chain of convenience stores has a near-mythical quality, with locals magnetically drawn to the promise of cheap gas, coffee, and an incredible array of delicious sandwiches.

    We visited the chain in 2017, eager to see what all the fuss is about. We left as Wawa converts, spreading the good word on the chain's superiority to its dreaded rival, Sheetz. 

    However, on a recent road trip, we heard murmurs that there may be another convenience-store chain that could measure up to the wonder of Wawa. Buc-ee's, Texans said, was a highway pit stop unlike any other in the world — including Wawa. 

    "Better than Wawa?" we scoffed. "Impossible." 

    Yet we couldn't shake the vision of a Southern answer to Wawa's glory. So, we stopped by the chain to see how Buc-ee's measured up. 

    Here's who comes out on top in a cutthroat battle of two of the most iconic regional pit stop chains in the US. 

    SEE ALSO: We visited convenience-store rivals Wawa and Sheetz to see which does it better — and the winner is clear

    We visited a Wawa in South Philipsburg, New Jersey, off Route 22 in early 2017. The gas pumps are plentiful and bustling with activity, but we were more interested in what was inside.

    Wawa, with more than 720 locations in six states on the East Coast, is renowned for its high-quality yet inexpensive food. Walking inside, we found the vibe to be clean and professional, yet unassuming. Muted yellows and browns were the key colors, leading to a relaxed but often bland visual landscape.

    It took us a few minutes to even comprehend the array of food options available at Wawa. The well-stocked prepackaged section was ambitious and diverse in scope. Even packaged food appeared to be fresh — not as though it has been abandoned on the shelf for untold lengths.

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    cheryl eisen


    Cheryl Eisen is unapologetically not a morning person.

    In sharp contrast to the many executives who wake up at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m, Eisen starts her day slowly, waking up at 9 a.m. and enjoying a "caffeine cocktail" of Poland Spring water, espresso, Truvia, and Lactaid milk.

    "In all honesty, it takes until noon for my brain to fully wake up," she told Business Insider.

    Eisen, 50, is the CEO of Interior Marketing Group, or IMG, a New York City-based company of nearly 80 employees that does interior design, staging, and marketing for luxury homes that start at $5 million. Eisen has done the interior design for apartments in buildings belonging to Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, an Airbnb rented by Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West, and homes for Bethenny Frankel, Swedish real estate broker Fredrik Eklund, and Chrissy Teigen and John Legend. IMG also does projects in Miami, Los Angeles, Connecticut, and the Hamptons.

    Eisen said IMG's designs tend to be neutral and classic. They layer with textures rather than color, sticking with neutral tones that let the focus stay on the selling pieces of the home, whether that's high ceilings or jaw-dropping views. One of her favorite parts of the job is the big reveal when the client finally gets to see the finished space.

    "People cry," she said. "And I get it, because once you see something that you've been working on for months, you see it come to life and it can be overwhelming because a home is a very personal thing."

    Here's a peek into a typical day in her life, from her morning "caffeine cocktail" to rearranging furniture and choosing drapes for multimillion-dollar New York City penthouses.

    SEE ALSO: A day in the life of a Deutsche Bank managing director, who wakes up at 5:00 a.m., spends 10 days of the month traveling, and works out twice a day even while on business trips

    DON'T MISS: Luxury apartment buildings are offering more outrageous amenities than ever to attract tenants, from rooftop gyms and dog spas to outdoor movie theaters

    Cheryl Eisen is the CEO of Interior Marketing Group, which does interior design, staging, and marketing for luxury homes primarily in New York City, but also in Miami, Los Angeles, Connecticut, and the Hamptons.

    Instagram Embed:
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    Eisen says she is "unapologetically" not a morning person. She starts her day at 9:00 a.m. with a "caffeine cocktail," which she describes as "a carefully crafted combination of espresso, Poland Spring and Truvia: 3 parts Poland Spring, 2 parts espresso, a ton of Truvia, and Lactaid milk."

    By 10:00 a.m., she's out the door, drinking her coffee and answering emails in the car, which she calls her "mobile office." Eisen employs a full-time driver.

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    Dubai Burj Al Arab Most Luxurious Hotel (11 of 74)

    • One of the most decorated luxury hotels in the world, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai has frequently been called "the world's first seven-star hotel" and "the most luxurious hotel in the world" by travel writers and critics.
    • I recently visited the hotel on a trip to Dubai to try out the Burj Al Arab's flagship restaurant, Al Mahara, a seafood restaurant helmed by Michelin-starred British chef Nathan Outlaw.
    • Like the gold-and-marble covered hotel it is housed in, Al Mahara can be an over-the-top experience with extravagances like caviar and truffles finding their way into numerous dishes and checks that can easily top $400 or more for two people.
    • While the restaurant is no doubt delicious with fresh ingredients and a few inspired dishes, truthfully, I've had much better meals, with tasting menus, for less. At times, it feels like you are paying for the gold-covered locale. 
    If you've ever wondered what it's like to eat where the big shots do, Al Mahara might seem like a good place to start.

    Located in the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, a hotel frequently called "the most luxurious in the world" by travel writers and critics, Al Mahara is the hotel's flagship restaurant.

    Since 2016, Al Mahara has been helmed by Michelin-starred British Chef Nathan Outlaw. In addition to his restaurant at the Burj, Outlaw has four other highly regarded restaurants in the United Kingdom and has appeared on cooking shows.

    His main restaurant, Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, has two Michelin stars and is considered one of the best restaurants in the world.

    On a recent trip to Dubai, I had plans to stay at the Burj Al Arab. Having never eaten at a Nathan Outlaw joint, I knew that I'd have to make a trip to Al Mahara.

    While Outlaw is known for a pared-back approach, Al Mahara appears to have a slightly more maximalist take on seafood. Head chef Pete Biggs, an Outlaw veteran, rises to the golden aura of the Burj.

    Keep reading to see what it was like:

    SEE ALSO: I didn't think the $1 billion hotel considered 'the most luxurious in the world' could possibly live up to the hype. I was very wrong.

    DON'T MISS: I stayed at Robert De Niro's ridiculously swanky new hotel in Ibiza — and it makes you feel like a celebrity, if you can afford it

    Shaped like the sail of an Arabian dhow ship and built for $1 billion, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai has frequently been called "the world's first seven-star hotel" and "the most luxurious hotel in the world" by travel writers and critics.

    In November, I visited the hotel for a night and decided to try out all that the luxurious place had to offer. And there's nothing rich people like to spend money more than food. This is what the atrium of the Burj looks like. Yes, it's all real gold.

    I had a dinner reservation at the Burj's flagship restaurant, Al Mahara. To get to the restaurant, you take this turquoise-and-gold elevator that looks like an Hermès enameled bangle. Every room in the hotel looks like a finely crafted piece of jewelry.

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    Hotel TwentySeven amsterdam

    A hotel has the possibility to make or break your vacation — but, if it's one of the best boutique hotels in the world, chances are you'll be in very, very good hands.

    In 2018's Boutique Hotel Awards, fourteen hotels around the world took home top honors in a range of categories.

    The hotels were judged on "all aspects of the guest experience covering six categories: dining and entertainment, design, facilities, location and, most importantly, staff service and overall emotional impact," according to the news release.

    A hotel in Bali was named the best overall boutique hotel, while hotels in Portugal, South Africa, Greece, New Zealand, and other countries also won top spots. Categories include World's Best Beach or Coastal Hotel, Best Honeymoon Hideaway, Most Stunning Views, and more.

    Here are the top boutique hotels in the world, from a beachside retreat in the Maldives to a wellness resort in Austria.

    SEE ALSO: Disappointing photos show what 9 top luxury destinations look like in real life

    DON'T MISS: Inside the world's largest underwater restaurant, which has a 36-foot window that looks right out into the seabed so guests can watch marine life swim by as they eat

    World's Best Beach or Coastal Hotel: Reethi Faru Resort

    Location: Filaidhoo, Maldives
    Rates starting at: $171

    World's Best City Explorer: Corpo Santo Lisbon Historical Hotel

    Location: Lisbon, Portugal
    Rates starting at: $133

    World's Best Classic Elegance Hotel: Relais & Chateaux Hotel Heritage

    Location: Bruges, Belgium
    Rates starting at: $222

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    iStock 628506584

    • Boutique workout classes are expensive and can be pretty intimidating.
    • The fitness app Aaptiv helped me get access to the audio of thousands of workout classes led by certified professional trainers without having to go to classes in person.
    • For only $10 a month, I've refreshed my workout routine, gotten the hang of HIIT, and go to the gym more frequently. Best of all, it feels less like I'm swinging at a target in the dark now.

    I used to hate workout classes. They seemed to always be filled with people who had been emailed the moves to memorize three weeks prior and had then waited to enroll until they already had six-pack abs. But, I wanted to learn how to do each exercise — yoga, spinning, etc. — so even with those hangups, I’d go and pay the exorbitant fees, and then feel subsequently lackluster and unconvinced. I wasn’t driven by competition with the other people there, and I didn’t feel motivated by the military-grade attention given to me by the instructor as the “new kid in class.”

    All in all, awesome for other people, not for me.

    Like I said, though, I wanted to learn how to exercise in a way that wasn’t strictly a survival skill. Running had gotten a little boring, and I wanted to develop some new skills. In some cases you really need in-person instruction to make sure you’re doing it right (in which case, hello ClassPass), but most of the activities I wanted to explore didn’t necessarily require that.

    Luckily for me, my older sister recommended downloading Aaptiv, or at least trying a week-long trial "just to see for [myself]." Apparently, it had turned her into a regular runner (and, as her sister, I can tell you from the ages 5 and up for the last 20-odd years she has not been a self-described “runner”).

    And I’m really, really glad I listened to her.

    Aaptiv is the top audio fitness app on iTunes, and it’s incredibly convenient. You get unlimited access to audio-based fitness classes led by certified professional trainers (that have pretty great playlists). There are more than 2,500 possible workouts, and they come in categories like running, elliptical, race training, rowing, strength training, stretching, yoga and more. There are 30 new classes added each week, so you can regularly refresh your routine.

    At least for a semi-introvert like me, it’s been a godsend.

    I always wanted to become more purposeful with how I worked out, but up until now I (like many people, I’d wager) was content to just zone in on areas, or focus on running as a kind of “all-over” workout that required little diagnosing. I didn’t want to spare the money to keep going to classes I didn’t enjoy enough or hire a personal trainer. And in terms of devoting the time to researching a plan for myself, it can be time consuming and irritating judging which information online — especially in “fitness communities” — comes from research you can fact check.

    Having certified personal trainers design workout classes I a) don’t have to create myself, b) go to in person, and c) get yelled at directly by them in a mirrored-room fogged with the sweat of tens of other people is kind of the greatest thing to ever happen to my heretofore stale workout routine.

    Plus, when I use a class on Aaptiv, I typically stick around for the whole thing, just like I would if I went to a SoulCycle class in person. When I go on my own, I typically leave when I “feel done”. This way, I’ve actually been working out less but feeling better about it, because I’m working out in a smarter way.

    Instead of swinging in the dark in what feels like the right direction, I feel clearer and more confident about what I'm doing.

    Having a plan I trust without having to do the legwork takes the pressure off of my workouts, and that means that I go to the gym more often. It’s easier to drop in, sweat it out, and then head home. It’s cathartic, and it’s working well.

    And in terms of expense, it’s only $10 a month for unlimited access. I wish I could employ the equivalent of “rent control” on an app. ClassPass is still a great option if you want in-person instruction, are motivated by classmates, or want to experience a wide variety of classes in your city for a low admission cost — but, at least in New York, it’s $45 a month for 3 classes. For 10 classes, it’s $135 per month.

    In a world where boutique classes can go for $30 a session, Aaptiv is an incredible deal.  

    If you're looking for an inexpensive — and totally intimidation-free — way to get into better, smarter fitness (or just stick to your New Year’s resolution to work out more), I highly recommend downloading Aaptiv. I've always loved spending time in the gym, but it’s never felt more productive than now.

    Download Aaptiv to start your free trial (after trial $10/month for unlimited access)

    SEE ALSO: A personal trainer shares 5 at-home workout tools you should own

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    the walton family walmart

    • The Walmart heirs' combined worth is more than $158 billion.
    • They grant money and resources to support education, environmental efforts, and their home community through the Walton Family Foundation.
    • In public, the Waltons live pretty modest lifestyles despite their wealth. Here's how they spend their fortune.

    The combined wealth of the Walmart heirs — which includes Rob, Jim, and Alice, as well as John's wife, Christy, and their son Lukas — is more than $150 billion, according to Bloomberg

    While some work in the family business — whether that's serving on the company board or working to manage the family's wealth — others chose to pursue areas of personal passion.

    Sam Walton, the original man behind the company that now encompasses both Walmart and Sam's Club, set his family up for financial success when he divided the ownership before he died.

    He wasn't a man of flashy luxury, but you can see how his children are living a slightly more lavish life now. 

    SEE ALSO: Walmart is eliminating the most dreaded part of holiday shopping

    Sam Walton opened the first Walmart store in Arkansas in 1962.

    He married Helen Robson on Valentine's Day in 1942, and together they had four children: Rob, John, Jim, and Alice.

    By the time Sam died in 1992, he had set up the company ownership in a way that minimized the estate taxes anyone on the receiving end of his will had to pay.

    Source: Fortune

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    barack obama

    • Former President Barack Obama just shared his favorite songs of 2018.
    • His 22 picks include some of his past favorites including Brandi Carlile, Chance The Rapper, and Kendrick Lamar.

    Former President Barack Obama just shared his favorite songs list of 2018.

    His 22 picks include some of his past favorites including Brandi Carlile, Chance The Rapper, and Kendrick Lamar, plus an entire album by the late jazz singer Nancy Wilson, who died in December.

    See which of the year's songs from across Obama's eclectic music taste made the list.

    SEE ALSO: Barack and Michelle Obama top Gallup's list of most-admired men and women in the world, trouncing the Trumps

    DON'T MISS: Here are 18 times Obama got unapologetically political in 2018

    "Apes**t" by The Carters

    Youtube Embed:
    Width: 560px
    Height: 315px


    "Bad Bad News" by Leon Bridges

    Youtube Embed:
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    Height: 315px


    "Could've Been" by H.E.R. (feat. Bryson Tiller)

    Youtube Embed:
    Width: 560px
    Height: 315px


    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Philippe Kjellgren

    Every globetrotter has a bucket list of must-travel destinations — but sometimes the hotel is the draw in and of itself.

    Philippe Kjellgren, the founder of PK's List, knows this more than most.

    Originally the founder of luxury hotel website Kiwi Collection, Swedish-born Kjellgren has written seven travel/hotel books, runs a travel advisory service for high-profile clients, as well as a newly-launched hotel app— and he's currently on an 800 day trip around the world to visit over 1,000 of the world’s best hotels across all seven continents.

    He was flying from Tokyo to Sydney when he spoke to Business Insider, and says that he has so far visited "most of Africa, all of Asia" and is "now heading [to] the Pacific, then the Americas after that."

    The goal? To visit the best hotels on the planet in person so that users of his app know every one has been personally vetted by him.

    "I decided to travel for 800 days non-stop, for two and a half years, and I'm on day 400-and-something," he told Business Insider, adding that he's already been to most of the hotels in the past, but "had to go back and prove I've been there."

    "I'm travelling the world visiting the hotels, proving it through social media, then adding them to the app," he said.

    The app — which costs $99 per year — allows users to search for anywhere in the world and see which hotels Kjellgren personally recommends within their budget.

    "You can press call or email and contact them directly," he said, adding that it's "all my research in your pocket."

    Kjellgren said he grew up travelling, and had been to about 100 countries by the age of 25. Now, he says he's personally stayed in about 2,000 hotels in 139 countries.

    After constantly being asked for advice, he decided to start a bespoke travel advisory service after leaving Kiwi Collection — where he is still a shareholder — a few years ago, and now caters to three tiers of business. The top tier is invitation-only for "ultra-high net worths" including royals, according to Kjellgren, who says they pay him a retainer to help with travel advice and work his connections and access.

    He has a team in London and people "scattered all over the world" — and claims to have personal relationships with "about 3,000 general managers in about 130 countries."

    Still, he says he's "not the type of person who only stays in super high-end hotels" — although he says "not every hotel is great."

    We asked Kjellgren for his pick of the absolute best hotels on the planet that everyone should visit in their lifetime.

    Scroll down to see his bucket list selection, ranked in ascending order by the starting cost per night.

    Ice Hôtel, Sweden — from £124 per room, per night.

    This is "the original Icehotel, located in Jukkasjärvi, Sweden — 200 km north of the Arctic Circle," according to Kjellgren. "This is a world famous hotel and an art exhibition made of ice and snow."

    Taj Lake Palace, India — from £214 per room, per night.

    "Voted the most romantic in the world, it’s the only hotel that’s on the lake and became world renowned when the James Bond film ‘Octopussy’ was filmed at it."

    Dolder Grand, Switzerland — from £313 per room, per night.

    "History and design perfectly merged in one, this very classic hotel [took] four years of renovation under the direction of famed British architect Lord Norman Foster," Kjellgren said.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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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.

    Wayfair patio furniture

    • Wayfair has a massive end-of-year clearance sale that includes up to 80% off across furniture and home decor categories.
    • These major discounts end January 5 at 9 a.m. ET.

    You would think that digital wish-lists and uninhibited communication across continents would mean that everyone walks away from the holidays with everything they wanted, but that never seems to be the case. Wayfair is here to help those people who left their Christmas family gathering with a little extra room in their stocking (or their living room) by rolling out their gigantic end-of-year clearance sale. 

    Deals span pretty much every category, from furniture to wall decor. Plus, if you spend more than $49, you unlock free shipping, making it even easier to add to your holiday bounty without an additional hit to your wallet. 

    Whether you are hoping to find a rug that really ties the room together, add a soft set of bedding to your collection, or find the perfect piece of patio furniture, the sale has something for you.

    Shop the Wayfair end-of-year clearance sale now.

    If you don't have time to go through the whole site, here are 18 of our favorite products included in the sale:

    Kaia Tufted Cocktail Ottoman

    Willa Arlo Interiors Kaia Tufted Cocktail Ottoman, $195.59, from Wayfair [You save $931.86]


    Andover Mills Erich Cozy Shag Rug

    Andover Mills Erich Cozy Navy Shag Rug, $76.28, from Wayfair [You save $173.71]

    Andover Mills Marjorie Panel Bed

    Andover Mills Marjorie Panel Bed, $238.32, from Wayfair [You save 277.88]

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    donald trump

    • In tweets on Friday morning, President Donald Trump warned of a new migrant caravan forming in Honduras and vowed to close the US-Mexico border and withhold aid to Central American governments.
    • But the new caravan isn't heading to the US, according to immigration advocates and news reports.
    • The caravan is estimated to have roughly 15,000 members, most of whom are traveling to Mexico's southern states to find work.
    • Mexico's president has promised to grant work visas to Central American migrants.

    President Donald Trump on Friday threatened to close the US-Mexico border and cut off aid to Central American countries, citing a new caravan forming in Honduras — that reportedly isn't even heading to the US.

    "Either we build (finish) the Wall or we close the Border," Trump tweeted. "Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador are doing nothing for the United States but taking our money. Word is that a new Caravan is forming in Honduras and they are doing nothing about it."

    He continued: "We will be cutting off all aid to these 3 countries - taking advantage of U.S. for years!"

    Trump was most likely referring to reports of a caravan of roughly 15,000 migrants set to travel north from Honduras in mid-January, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

    Read more: As the government shutdown over Trump's border wall rages, a journey along the entire 1,933-mile US-Mexico border shows the monumental task of securing it

    migrant caravan

    But organizers and Spanish-language news outlets have said the caravan is planning to stay in southern Mexico, in the states of Chiapas and Oaxaca.

    "We assume that this caravan ... will pick up more people in El Salvador and Guatemala," Irma Garrido, a representative for the immigration advocacy group Reactiva Tijuana Foundation, told Mexico News Daily this week. "But their aim is to arrive in Chiapas and request work there."

    The new Mexican president, Andres Manuel López Obrador, has promised to grant work visas to Central American migrants fleeing Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador— known as the Northern Triangle — because of poverty and violence.

    The previous caravans are still stuck south of the US border

    caravan migrants TIJUANA

    The reports of a new caravan come as thousands of migrants from caravans that reached the US-Mexico border in the fall remain in Tijuana, Mexico.

    The Trump administration has adopted a practice at the nearby ports of entry called "metering," permitting only small numbers of migrants to enter at a time to request asylum — and leaving a massive backlog of migrants waiting on the southern side of the border.

    Facing monthslong delays and an overwhelmed shelter network in Tijuana, some of the migrants have crossed the border into the US illegally, opted to remain in Mexico and work, or even returned home.

    Read more: The migrant mom pictured fleeing with her kids from tear gas at the US border has finally set foot on American soil

    caravan migrants cross border illegally

    Garrido told Mexico News Daily that members of the new caravan in Honduras had heard rumors of "strong xenophobia" near Tijuana due to the previous caravans, suggesting it influenced their decision to remain in southern Mexico.

    But Garrido added that some members could continue north to the US regardless.

    Already, conservative media has begun to seize on news of the new caravan to drum up support for Trump's immigration agenda.

    "Report today that another, far larger, caravan assembling in Honduras of as many as 15,000 people," the Fox News host Laura Ingraham tweeted. "About 1,000 illegals released every week. Will Pelosi & Schumer do nothing? McConnell? Hello?"

    The US government entered a partial shutdown last week after Trump demanded that Congress pass a spending bill that includes billions of dollars to fund a wall along the border.

    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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