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How to return a gift or purchased item on Amazon

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amazon box

  • As Amazon is an online retailer, all returns to the company must be conducted using the post office or shipping companies.
  • Within 30 days of a purchase or receipt of a gift, Amazon will accept returns without hassle; after that period, many items are still eligible for return or replacement if they prove defective.
  • Here's how to return an item to Amazon, whether you bought it, got it as a gift, or received it by mistake.

 

Before we talk about how to return things to Amazon, I feel I should give you a quick heads up: if you return too many things in too short of a time, Amazon may well ban you from shopping with them. It's rare, but it happens, and the usual cause of an Amazon ban is serial purchase returns.

So even though this online retail powerhouse makes it almost painfully easy to click and order this, that, and the other thing (anything, e.g.), you still need to think before you buy. If you thought a good ongoing plan was going to order things, use or wear them once, then send them back, think again.

That said, Amazon makes it painlessly easy to return purchases with which you are legitimately dissatisfied, gifts you don't want or need, or the occasional package that shows up at the wrong address. But a few quick qualifiers!

  1. Only orders fulfilled by Amazon are eligible for all return benefits the company offers — remember that many Amazon products are listed, processed, and sold by third parties.
  2. Only products with free returns explicitly specified enjoy free returns with no questions asked; other orders may be subject to shipping and restocking fees if they are returned simply because you don't want them
  3. Damaged, defective, or inaccurately described products should usually be available for full refunds after return, but within a 30-day time window.
  4. Items must be returned in their original condition, and with all accessories, certificates of authenticity, and other such collateral included.

How to return Amazon purchases

amazon return

Assuming you have purchased an item that is eligible for return to Amazon and you want to send it back, start the return process by signing into your Amazon account. You can navigate directly to the Returns Center, or go to the Amazon homepage.

  1. At the top right corner of the home screen on a computer or when you click the three parallel lines at the top left screen on mobile, hit the "Orders" button.
  2. You will be taken to a screen that displays all of your orders, usually initially showing the past six months worth of products purchased.
  3. On a computer, you will see next to each item a list of options with linked buttons including one reading "Return or replace items." On mobile, you will see this symbol > which you can tap to be brought to a screen with the same options.
  4. After hitting the "Return" button, you will be brought to a screen with all other eligible items (those within the 30-day return window, e.g.). There will also be a tab reading "Why are you returning this" and a dropdown menu, "Choose a response," with options like "No longer needed" and "Missing or broken parts" to name a few.

Note: If you choose an option that puts the onus for return on Amazon, like "Wrong item was sent," your return will be free of charge. If the error was yours, you'll pay return shipping. But be honest — remember the ban thing!

  1. Once you have selected a reason, hit the yellow "Continue" button; you will be brought to a screen offering you the option of an exchange, wherein you can apply the refund to another purchase, or to have the cash refunded directly to you.
  2. Make your choice, then hit the yellow "Continue" button. You will be prompted to print a return label and to choose whether you will drop your re-packaged return at a UPS location or wish to schedule a pickup. Note that UPS pickups are free if the error was Amazon's, but these will have an added cost if the issue was yours.

How to return a gift from Amazon

export

Don't worry, this process is discreet and easy. (As long as your gift giver thought to include a gift receipt, anyway!)

  1. Go to the Amazon Online Returns Center and find the "Return a gift" button near the center of the page.
  2. Enter the "Order number" from your gift receipt (note that if the item was not marked as a gift by the sender, you may be out of luck, but you can reach out to customer service for help).
  3. Select the item or items you wish to return from the gift, then hit "Continue."
  4. Choose the return method you wish to use, UPS pickup, drop off, or Amazon Locker.
  5. Select how you wish to receive the credit for the gift, which you can do in cash directed to a card you have on file or credit to future Amazon purchases.

So is it easy to return an Amazon order? Absolutely. Just don't overdo it.

SEE ALSO: How to start selling items on Amazon — a step-by-step guide

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: How Apple went from a $1 trillion company to losing over 20% of its share price

This $750,000 suburban home is so controversial that the real-estate site censored the listing. Take a look inside the '50 Shades of Maple Glen' home.

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50 shades maple glen pennsylvania mansion sex playroom 40

  • The listing of a $750,000 home in suburban Pennsylvania attracted attention last week on social media when one of its unique features came to light.
  • Its basement had been renovated into a sex playroom, complete with a caged bed, an aerial swing, whips, and other BDSM sexual aids.
  • The home's listing agent, Melissa Leonard of Coldwell Banker Preferred, dubbed the home "50 Shades of Maple Glen," an homage to the popular "50 Shades of Grey" erotic romance novels and films. She told Business Insider she'd never seen anything like the home.
  • The home has stirred up so much controversy in the real-estate community that shortly after it was listed, the listing service took down the verbiage and photos of the room. Leonard said neighbors also asked her to take down the listing.
  • Take a look inside the home and its subterranean sex chamber.

SEE ALSO: This magnificent New York estate is selling for a mere $500,000, and the owner says it's haunted

READ MORE: An extravagant Florida mansion that's modeled after the Palace of Versailles sold at auction for a $115 million price cut — here's a look inside

The home at 1612 Norristown Rd. in Maple Glen, Pennsylvania, looks charming and tame enough.



The house is on a private street, with only a few other homes nearby.



The town of Maple Glen is also relatively small.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

14 Hollywood stars who didn't accept their Oscars or boycotted the ceremony

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marlon brando the godfather

  • The Oscars are the most celebrated awards show in Hollywood.
  • But plenty of actors have rejected their awards or refused to attend the ceremony throughout its 91-year history.

The Oscars are the most celebrated awards show in Hollywood and a star-studded night to celebrate film, even if this year has been met with more controversy and backlash than years prior. The Oscars, voted on by over 9,000 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, have driven the conversation around the movie industry for nine decades. 

READ MORE: OSCARS ON LIFE SUPPORT: Academy insiders describe the problems plaguing Hollywood's biggest night, and how it could rebound

But that doesn’t mean that everyone wants to go, or even be in the running to win one. In the 91-year history of the ceremony, some of Hollywood’s finest — from Marlon Brando to Will Smith — haven’t been there to accept their awards or nominations, and some of those nominated have refused to attend out of protest. 

As the 91st Oscars looms, Business Insider has rounded up 11 actors and creators who didn't accept the Oscars they won, and others who decided not to attend but were nominated. Will more be added to the list this year?

The Oscars air February 24 at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Carrie Wittmer contributed to an earlier version of this post.

SEE ALSO: A new documentary tells the history of the real Green Book, but the director doesn't support the Oscar-nominated movie

Marlon Brando

Knowing he was a shoe-in to win best actor for his role as Vito Corleone in "The Godfather," Brando boycotted the Oscars in 1973. In his place, he had Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather attend. She went onstage to accept his award, and when she read Brando’s speech about the mistreatment of Native Americans in film, she got booed.

 

 

 

 



Roman Polanski

The director didn't attend the 2003 ceremony that awarded him a statue for best director for his work on "The Pianist." But even if he tried, he likely wouldn't have made it, since he is still a fugitive in the US after a conviction for unlawful sex. Harrison Ford accepted the award on his behalf.



Michael Caine

Michael Caine wasn’t around to accept his first Oscar win for best supporting actor in "Hannah and Her Sisters," because he was busy filming "Jaws: The Revenge," a movie with a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Caine learned his lesson, and showed up in 2000 to accept his deserved win for a supporting role in "The Cider House Rules."

 



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

I found a reliable site to buy a bicycle online — my hesitations over quality are gone after putting my bike through its paces on the pothole-riddled streets of NYC

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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.

Brooklyn Bicycle Company 28

  • The Brooklyn Bicycle Company makes high-quality city bikes that they sell through bike shops, and directly to consumers online.
  • I've been riding one of their bikes for the past few weeks, treating it as roughly as I could to test the quality.
  • All in all, I'm impressed with how the bike is holding up, and with how it performs on city streets — especially considering the low price.

This spring, I started riding my bike to work most days. It's something that I've wanted to do for a while, but finally got around to buying a bike last fall (great timing, right?). 

Biking to work has had a ton of benefits, especially for me. The main reason I started was that, well, I hate going to the gym. I like moving around, and getting exercise, but I find doing cardio at the gym about as fun as getting teeth pulled, and I'm not a fan of running. I either need to find a team sport to join — and I often find it hard to commit the regular time to it — or I need to rely on incidental exercise. Biking to work gets me 45 minutes of mild-to-moderate cardio each way, during time I'd otherwise be spending on the subway.

Speaking of the subway, one of the biggest benefits of biking to work means that I don't get stuck dealing with unpredictable and frequent subway delays. Although I do get a bit sweaty biking into the office, it's usually cool enough in the mornings that it isn't too bad. Plus, my subway station gets so hot and humid that I get just as sweaty either way. Ah, summer in the city.

I bought my bike without too much thought, heading into a nearby shop, talking to the sales person, going for a quick test ride, and then riding it home. I didn't really pay attention to the brand, reviews, or anything like that.

However, more and more people have started buying bikes the same way as just about everything else: online.

That's what's helped the Brooklyn Bicycle Company take off. The company has been around since 2011, and since its inception, it's sold bikes through a dual-channel approach: by distributing to shops around the US, where anyone can buy one, and by selling directly to consumers online, then shipping the bike disassembled to a local bike shop, where it's put together before you pick it up.

When Brooklyn Bicycle approached us earlier this year, interested in being featured as an Insider Picks choice, we hesitated. The brand seemed interesting, it offered sharp looking bikes, and the prices were competitive compared with what we found in local bike shops, but still — it's hard to judge quality based on just their company's website.

Brooklyn Bicycle offered us a bike to test out, to see if it held up to our standards, and we decided to take them up on it. I used the Bike Finder tool on the company's site, and came up with a model — the Bedford 3 Speed ($450). I figured out the right size, and instead of shipping it to a third-party store, arranged to pick it up at the company's new Brooklyn showroom so that I could have a look around.

Generally, I prefer sportier bikes to the city-style ones that Brooklyn makes, so it took me a couple of miles to get comfortable — I was used to riding my hybrid. Once I did, I decided that in the interest of testing it well, I was going to have some fun; I decided to ride hard and beat it up. I took every pothole and every bump I could find, rode on roads desperately in need of paving, and left it outside my building in the rain — and there's been plenty of that this July.

After a couple of weeks beating the bike up as best as I could, my hesitations over quality are gone. This bike is top-notch.

Brooklyn bicycle Company Showroom entrance

Aesthetically, it's a great look, with a shiny paint job and stylish vegan leather binding on the handlebars and seat. The steel frame is fairly lightweight — more so than my hybrid bike — but is heavy enough to soften the feeling of bumps. The gears are internal, protecting them from the elements. Ultimately, the bike reminds me of a Citibike — a New York City docked bikeshare — with a diamond frame instead of a walkthrough, a smoother ride, and about 1,000 pounds lighter.

Over the past few weeks, it's held up well, despite my abuse. Based on the reviews I've found, it looks like the bikes hold up for much longer than that — I'm looking forward to finding that out for myself — and it looks like my experience with the Bedford is representative of what other people have found with other models.

With high quality and competitive prices, I'd definitely recommend checking out Brooklyn Bicycle Company if you're in the market. If you're not sure which model you want, just check out the Bike Finder.

Click here to learn more about the Brooklyn Bicycle Company.

SEE ALSO: Preferred vs Reserve: How the Chase Sapphire credit cards stack up

Join the conversation about this story »

A Canadian woman is selling her $1.3 million mansion for $19 in an essay contest, and photos of the interior show just how lucky the winner will be

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canada house

  • Last month, Canadian resident Alla Wagner made headlines when she announced an essay contest with a grand prize of her $1.3 million home.
  • The 3-bedroom house is located in Millarville, Alberta on waterfront property.
  • Inside, the house features an expansive kitchen and wine cellar, along with a stunning master bedroom.

In January, Canadian homeowner Alla Wagner announced a contest after many unsuccessful months of listing her mansion on the market.

Inspired by past contests, Wagner designed her own "Write an Essay, Win a House" competition in which submissions cost $19 and the grand prize is her $1.3 million home. The competition is intended to be both a means of raising money to cover the listing price and of ensuring that the home goes to the right owner.

Read more: A Canadian woman is selling her 3-bedroom, $1.3 million mansion for $19 and an essay, but the contest has a catch

In order for someone to win the house, Wagner will first need to receive 60,000 entries. Submitted essays must answer the question, "Why would moving to this lakefront dream home change your life?"

This luxury home includes large downstairs living spaces and three upstairs bedrooms. The master suite features a walk-in closet, a seating area, and a private bathroom.

Keep reading for a complete tour of the mansion, beginning with the downstairs foyer.

SEE ALSO: An Australian man won an entire island resort with a $49 raffle ticket

NOW READ: A Florida mansion down the street from Al Capone's former home is on the market for $26 million. Here's a look inside the Mediterranean-style property

The mansion is a 3-story, 3-bedroom home located in Alberta, Canada.

Source: Write an Essay, Win a Home



The 3,850-square-foot home is about 40 miles south of Calgary.

Source: Write a Letter, Win a House, BBC



The house sits on waterfront property, surrounded by equally large houses.

Source: Write an Essay, Win a Home



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The best bath towels you can buy

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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.

best bath towels

  • There's nothing quite like a soft, fluffy towel. You’ll look forward to drying off with our top pick, the Fieldcrest Spa Towel. This soft, super-absorbent towel is also a great bargain.

You step out of the shower, and happily reach for your favorite scratchy, thin, unabsorbent, and too-small bath towel: NOT. No one wants to end their clean routine on an unhappy note like that. It’s a pleasure to dry off with a thick, thirsty, soft, and big-enough-to-cover-everywhere-that-counts bath towel.

That’s why we’ve hunted down the best bath towels for your drying pleasure. Whether you like them overly large, made of organic cotton, in a waffle-weave, or just thick, soft, and luxurious; we’ve got your new favorite bath towel in our guide.

Here are the best towels you can buy:

Updated on 02/13/2019 by Malarie Gokey: Added the West Elm towels after testing. Updated prices.

Read on in the slides below to learn why you'll love our picks.

SEE ALSO: The best bathroom cleaning products you can buy

The best towel overall

Why you'll love it: So soft, absorbent, and wallet-friendly, the Fieldcrest Spa Towel makes stepping out of the shower a pleasure.

If you’re looking for a 100% cotton towel that absorbs water without feeling heavy or “soaked” against your skin, has a plush texture, comes in lots of great colors, and holds up well after years of use, you’ve met your match with the Fieldcrest Spa Towel. You get all of that quality at a budget price.

You’ll find three sizes of towel available at Target: bath sheet (measures 65 x 33 inches), bath towel (measures 56 x 30 inches), and hand towel (30 x 16 inches). All sizes are available in a choice of 11 lovely neutral shades, including a deep brown, cream, mint green, and several soft blue shades.

The Fieldcrest towel is a Target exclusive. A similar towel from Fieldcrest (that's currently out of stock) is The Wirecutter’s number-one pick for the bath towel category. In fact, it’s been the review team's top choice for two years in a row. They love its durability, medium-plush thickness, and the way it absorbs water thoroughly yet dries out quickly. The Spa towel we recommend is similar.

Target buyers seem to agree: The Fieldcrest towel has 24 reviews and a nearly five-star rating. Happy buyers rave about the towel’s luxurious feel, plushness, and excellent absorbing capabilities. With so many reviews, however, there are bound to be some negatives. A few buyers complained that the towel didn't absorb water as well as they'd hoped.

Pros: Great price, nice selection of colors, plush and soft, 100% cotton terrycloth

Cons: A few complaints of reduced quality and fading

Buy Fieldcrest Spa Bath Towels at Target for $10+



The best towel that's sheet sized

Why you'll love it: If you like ‘em large, you’ll love the soft and absorbent Utopia Bath Sheet, which measures 35 x 70 inches.

If you like wrapping your bath towel around your entire body, you’ll be able to do so and have towel to spare with the Utopia Bath Sheet. This towel is huge at 35 inches wide by 70 inches long.

But the huge size isn't the only great thing about it. It’s also made from 100% ring spun cotton for super-softness along with excellent durability. The hems are double-stitched, so they won’t unravel or fray, even after many trips through the wash.

A lot of Amazon shoppers are clearly happy when they step out of the bath and into this towel. The Utopia Bath Sheet has more than 3,100 reviews and an average of 4.3 stars.

While some buyers do comment that the towels are not as thick as they expected, most echo the comment of shopper L.Hale, who wrote: “These towels are HUGE! And so fluffy! They shed in the dryer a good bit the first 5 or 6 times you dry them, but after that, they tend to slack off. I bought one just to see how I liked them, then ended up buying 5 more!”

There are plenty of colors to choose from, including pure black, plum, and dark brown, so you can add comfort and style to your bathroom.  

Pros: Huge size, good quality, soft cotton

Cons: Not super-thick

Buy the Utopia Bath Sheet on Amazon for $17.99 to $22.99



The best lightweight towel

Why you'll love it: Crane & Canopy's Fouta Towel is lightweight, highly absorbent, dries quickly, and feels wonderful on your skin.

During those hot, humid months when nothing seems to dry, having a lightweight towel is a must. We tried Crane & Canopy's Yellow Striper Fouta Towel during the stickest summer months, and we loved it.

Not only does the 100% Turkish cotton towel dry quickly, it also feels lightweight and soft on your skin. The light terry cloth interior is highly absorbent and picks up any water or moisture so you dry off quickly. You can machine wash these towels on the gentle cycle, but you should avoid using liquid fabric softner.

On the ends of the towel, there's a cute light fringe that adds some flair to the towel's design. You can get the Fouta towel in a variety of colors, including coral, yellow, and blue. Crane & Canopy has striped and polka dotted patterns for you to choose from, too.

You can get the Fouta towel in a variety of sizes, including washcloth, hand towel, bath towel, and bath sheet. We found the bath towel to be just the right size, but if you like larger towels, the bath sheet is the one for you. Crane & Canopy also sells sets so your entire bathroom can match.

The only real downside to these towels is the price tag of $22 for a bath towel and $34 for a bath sheet. Also, if you want a plush, fluffy towel, these lightweight Turkish cotton ones aren't it, but Crane & Canopy has fluffy towels that are also great. — Malarie Gokey

Pros: Absorbent, dries quickly, lightweight, soft, 100% Turkish cotton, cute colors and patterns

Cons: Pricey

Buy the Fouta Towels from Crane & Canopy for $22 (bath towel) or $34 (bath sheet)



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

I drove a $42,000 Lexus UX hybrid SUV to see if this offbeat, entry-level crossover is worthy of its luxury nameplate. Here's the verdict.

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Lexus UX 250h

  • The 2019 Lexus UX 250h is a new subcompact luxury hybrid.
  • Lexus now offers hybrid versions of three crossovers in different segments, providing alternatives to sedans.
  • The Lexus UX 250h is offbeat, but I liked the small crossover quite a lot. A fuel-economy rating of nearly 40 mpg combined certainly helps.

In the world of departed luxury hybrid oddities, the Lexus CT200h wagonette seemed to have exactly one fan, and that fan was me. Understandable, as the CT200h was a slicked-up version of my own Toyota Prius.

That car is now gone, but Lexus hasn't given up on offering customers a downsized hybrid. Enter the UX 250h, a subcompact premium crossover I recently sampled with an available "F Sport" package. A fully loaded infotainment system and some driver-assist tech helped add over $5,000 to the base price of $36,000.

Toyota's luxury brand now offers hybrid versions of three crossovers: the midsize RX, the compact NX, and the subcompact UX. Each can achieve a combined city-highway fuel-economy rating of at least 30 mpg, with the UX naturally posting the best number, an impressive 39 mpg.

Some quick math of the hybrid proposition

Lexus UX 250h

In each case, the hybrid technology adds about $2,000 to the price tag. So you have to do a little math to determine how long it will take you to make back the money on gas savings.

Let's say we round up to 40 mpg. With a gas tank that holds about 11 gallons, the UX 250h delivers a range of 440 miles on a fill-up. That's 34 trips to the gas station a year, assuming a 15,000-mile total. According to AAA, the average price per gallon in the US right now is $2.30, so you're looking at spending $860 annually (Lexus estimates $1,000), and you don't need to use premium fuel.

The non-hybrid UX has a 12.5-gallon tank and a combined mpg rating of 33 — so about 412 miles on a tank, about three more fill-ups, $1,060 in yearly fuel costs. The difference is $200.

So, yeah, 10 years to make up the additional cost. But — and it's a big but — emissions could be 30% lower for the hybrid, and really more, given that the UX has to burn about two fewer gallons of gas to cover a longer overall distance. (And of course, you could always compare the UX 250h's gas costs with a less fuel-efficient luxury choice and make back your $2,000 faster.)

Lexus UX 250h

Would you pay two grand to lower your carbon footprint and drop an entire month of gas-ups during a year? And don't forget, if you buy the UX 250h new, you don't have to own it for 10 years — but if you keep it for five, then trade it in or sell it, it will remain on the road for at least another 10 years and probably more, given Toyota's reputation for reliability.

Boy! That was a lot of thinking, wasn't it? But such is the world of hybrids. In many ways, their higher costs represent an investment in two things: long-term emissions reductions, and fewer trips to the gas station. The overt what-will-I-get-back economics are more challenging.

I think if you would like to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, buying a hybrid is a good way to go, especially because you're probably going to finance the purchase and can somewhat mitigate the extra cost that way, assuming you have the means (and by "mitigate" I don't mean "pay less" — I mean you'll submerge that extra $2,000 in a five-year loan).

A nicer, beefier, crossover Prius

Lexus UX 250h

All right, back to the car-review portion of the program.

You can think of the Lexus UX 250h as a nicer, beefier, crossover Prius (though the drivetrain technology is different). The Prius is a good car, but Lexus adds the luxury touches that make for a more upscale experience. The brand is also one of the Big Four luxury marques in the US, alongside Mercedes, BMW, and Audi.

In that company, Lexus isn't exactly thrilling, though it does make some snazzy rides, such as the 471-horsepower, V8-engined LC. Rather, Lexus deals in exceptionally quality — its cars aren't supposed to give you any trouble.

Trouble-free carbon-footprint reduction in a sharp, subcompact luxury crossover livery. Sound like what you're in the market for?

Lexus UX 250h

If so, you're going to love the UX 250h. I certainly did. Bottom line: splendid car. I'd take it over the Audi Q3 and the BMW X1. (If the hybrid option were unavailable, I'd think about the UX 200.) I'm not a big fan of the name, but you can't have everything, and Lexus has never really done old-school monikers.

Lexuses are stupid easy to live with. All of them. The whole point of the brand is unconscious luxury, the type that allows you to get on with the rest of your life. Lexus has slightly threatened that legacy of late with some flamboyant exterior styling, notably a controversial "spindle" grille. But under the skin, Lexuses and Lexuses. And to be honest, Toyota and Lexus' more-attention-craving designs have productively ended the era of the Japanese automaker's cars resembling transportation appliances.

Outside, the UX 250h presents a dynamic package: a shapely wedge with expressive contours that with the F Sport setup adds an integrated spoiler to the rear roofline. As wee crossovers go, it looks downright awesome, and my tester popped on a snowy day in a "redline" paint job. A set of 18-inch F Sport wheels added to the effect.

Under the hood, the UX 250h has a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that when yoked to an electric battery mounted over the rear axle serves up 181 total horsepower. That mill, matched to a smooth continuously variable transmission with a sport-manual mode, can propel the crossover from 0 to 60 mph in a respectable if not exhilarating 8 1/2 seconds.

CVTs have their critics, but they do help with the miles per gallon. And the UX 250h is so solidly assembled with pride in Miyawaka, Japan, that when it's time to pass a semi on the highway, the dreaded CVT buzz is quite subdued.

The infotainment system is not a strong point

Lexus UX 250h

The seats lean sporty, so if that mushy Lexus saddlery is what you're expecting, look elsewhere.

On my tester, the fronts were heated and cooled, and the steering wheel, wrapped in perforated leather, was also heated. The rear seats are cozy, so bear in mind if you intend to transport grown-ups.

Cargo capacity is meh, but this is, after all, a subcompact SUV. The fact that a battery lives beneath the cargo area doesn't help.

A genuine weak spot is Lexus's flatly awful infotainment system, which uses an attractive, central landscape 10.3-inch screen, operated with a maddening trackpad plus some knobs and buttons near the shifter, between the front seats. It was the most difficult system to use of any we've tested from luxury brands. Once you learn it's many quirks, however, navigation, Bluetooth pairing, and device integration work as they're supposed to.

Lexus UX 250h

The driving dynamics are middle of the road. An electric-vehicle mode can be activated to creep along on battery power alone. Normal mode is for highway cruising, and eco mode maxes out miles per gallon at the expense of performance. Sport mode transforms the instrument cluster to a red-tinged display and peps up acceleration while tightening the steering. The suspension is firm without being stiff.

And the UX 250h, thanks to the electric motor, can provide all-wheel drive, which I assessed on a snowy, slushy, icy day. I wouldn't say it filled me with confidence. But the vehicle wasn't struggling either.

Lexus UX 250h

My time with this new Lexus hybrid was, for the most part, pleasant.

As with pretty much every Lexus we've tested at Business Insider, the brand's manifold competencies add up subtly. Even if we can isolate some issues, nothing is ever major enough for us to not wholeheartedly recommend the vehicle. "Really good car" is a typical verdict.

The Lexus UX 250h is no exception. And as Lexuses go, it's reasonably priced, even with the hybrid drivetrain. Crossovers are the hottest vehicle segment in the US, so Lexus was wise to bring the UX to market. And if you're shopping for a modest luxury SUV, you'd be wise to check it out.

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NOW WATCH: Lexus just revealed exactly how they made the hoverboard everyone is talking about

These are the most reliable cars for 2019

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Porsche 911

  • The market research company JD Power released on Wednesday its list of the most dependable vehicles from model year 2016.
  • The study measures the number of problems reported during the past year for vehicles from the model year three years prior.
  • Lexus was named the most reliable brand, followed by Porsche and Toyota, while the Porsche 911 was named the most reliable vehicle.

The market research company JD Power released on Wednesday its list of the most dependable vehicles from model year 2016.

The study measures the number of problems reported during the past year for vehicles from the model year three years prior. Overall vehicle dependability increased by 4% from 2018.

Lexus was named the most reliable brand, followed by Porsche and Toyota, while the Porsche 911 was named the most reliable vehicle.

General Motors won the most vehicle segments, with five, followed by Toyota, which won four.

These are the most reliable vehicles from model year 2016, as well as their current MSRPs.

SEE ALSO: These are the 20 most congested cities in the world

Overall: Porsche 911

Current starting MSRP: $91,000 



Small car: Chevrolet Sonic

Current MSRP: $16,295



Compact car: Buick Verano

Current MSRP: Discontinued



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Flights into Dallas' two major airports were halted because of smoke at an air traffic control tower (LUV, AAL)

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Southwest Airlines 737

  • Flights into Dallas' two main airport were halted Wednesday after smoke in an air traffic control tower forced an evacuation. 
  • A ground stop was issued for Dallas Fort Worth International Airport as well as Dallas Love Field, the main hub for Southwest Airlines. 
  • The FAA said in a statement that the region's TRACON radar tower — not the control tower — which affected all flights entering the airspace. 
  • Update: Flights resumed around 2pm local time Wednesday once the ground stop was lifted.

All flights into Dallas' two major airports, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas Love Field, were halted Wednesday afternoon by the Federal Aviation Administration after smoke in an air traffic control tower triggered an evacuation. 

"Air traffic controllers were forced to evacuate from the DFW Terminal Radar Approach Control, which manages airspace across most of North Texas, after a report of smoke in the building, possibly from ongoing construction work," the agency said in a press release. 

The agency continued, explaining that it was the radar operations that were affected, and not the control tower. 

The DFW DPS is responding to the alarm, which was declared shortly before 12:30 p.m. The FAA put a ground stop in place to help manage the volume of traffic in the interim.

To be clear, this is not the control tower (DFW actually has one on each side of the airfield). It’s the big radar room that controls airspace over much of North Texas. All flights coming into – or out of – DFW and Love must pass through the TRACON airspace.

The two control towers at DFW are still staffed and operational. Under our contingency plan, controllers from the radar room are relocating to the control towers at DFW to resume limited service in the affected airspace for both DFW and Dallas Love Field.

In an update at 1:30 pm local time, the FAA said it hoped to have controllers back at their positions in a half hour. 

DFW DPS is clearing the remaining smoke from the building. We hope to have controllers back on position within the next 30 minutes. After that, the ground stop will be gradually lifted as the airspace gets back to full volume.

About one hour into the stoppage, delays were beginning to stack up at both airports. According to FlightAware, inbound flights to DAL were being held at their origin until 2pm local time. DFW, the larger of the two airports, was seeing the same inbound hold, as well as departure delays averaging 41 minutes. 

Just before 2pm local time, the ground stop was lifted for both airports. Lingering delays persisted as the traffic backups were routed into and out of the airports. 

"The controllers are back on position and the airspace is back to full capacity. It will likely take some time to work through the delays," the FAA said at 1:46pm Central. "Please contact the airlines for specific flight information, including the number of delays and cancellations

Southwest confirmed to Business Insider that some flights into DAL had been affected. 

FAA has issued a ground stop for Dallas Love Field (DAL). As a result, some Southwest flights scheduled to arrive and depart DAL have been diverted or cancelled. We encourage Customers to check their flight status on Southwest.com for the most up-to-date information on today’s operations

Benjamin Zhang assisted with reporting. 

SEE ALSO: Assigned seats on Southwest? Here's how a major change would set the company apart from other airlines

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NOW WATCH: The rise and fall of Donald Trump's $365 million airline

Popular mattress startup Casper makes sheets now — and they're actually really impressive

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casper sheets main

  • Casper is known first and foremost for its mattresses, but it has also expanded into making bedding products like sheets and pillows.
  • I tried a selection of their new line and was rewarded with a comfortable sleep experience: The cotton sheets are cool and crisp, the duvet cover is weighty and well-designed, and the pillow is soft yet supportive. 
  • From a mattress-first company, the bedding is impressively good and offered at a reasonable price, too. 

When shopping for bedding, I tend to look for the brands that make it their core business and have been producing it for years — but when I heard about mattress start-up Casper's foray into bedding, I was intrigued. At $129, its queen-sized sheet set sits between the value-focused Brooklinen and $200+ options from Parachute, Boll & Branch, and Snowe, so purely based on price, it seemed to strike a good balance. Since Casper clearly has an understanding of the mattresses people like to sleep on, I hoped that it could also perfect the bedding that goes over that mattress. 

I tried Casper's sheets, duvet cover, and pillow, and after many nights of great sleep, I can now count its bedding products among my favorites. Below, I break down how this mattress-first company won me over with its bedding. 

The sheets

The sheet set comes with one flat sheet, one fitted sheet, and two standard pillowcases (one pillowcase for twin/twin XL sizes). It's available in six cool-toned combinations of white, blue, and slate gray. I opted for the white/slate color because I wanted the clean, neutral look of a hotel room, but not the sterility of an all-white ensemble. 

I encountered no problems changing into these sheets. The thick stretchy elastic on the inside of the fitted sheet is rubberized, letting it grip onto the mattress and leaving little room for the sheets to move around. 

I found that while it was just slightly big, it wasn't enough to bother me and Casper says the extra fabric is to account for the industry-standard two percent shrink factor. If you'd like, you can wash the sheets before your first use. As for the flat sheet, my personal preference is to not sleep with one, but if my experience with the fitted sheet and pillowcases are any indication, the flat sheet should be equally enjoyable to sleep with. 

The sheet set is made from extra-long staple Supima cotton, which represents less than 1% of cotton grown in the world. These long continuous fibers are stronger and softer than the shorter fibers of regular cotton, resulting in longer-lasting, piling-resistant, and comfortable sheets that are certainly worth the investment. Meanwhile, the percale weave — a standard one-yarn-over, one-yarn-under weave — is what gives the sheets their crisp, cool feel. They're perfect for the summer and warmer climates, or if you tend to overheat in your sleep. 

sheet set

The duvet cover

For an additional $90 to $140, you can add a matching duvet cover to your sheet set, and we highly recommend you do so. Insider Picks senior editor Ellen Hoffman, who also tested the sheets and cover set, can't praise it enough for its superior design details that solve for the annoying inconveniences of typical duvet covers. There's no way you'll button up the wrong buttons and have to start all over again because there are no buttons, just a zipper and snaps in the corners. And if your duvet shifts around inside, there are hidden openings that let you readjust the duvet without having to undo the whole cover. 

The cover is not overpoweringly heavy at all but still has that soothing weight you appreciate at the end of the day. It's probably too warm for the summer, but for the remaining chilly nights of the year, it does the job well. 

The pillow 

I sleep on a memory foam pillow that's on the firmer side, so I can usually expect an adjustment period of at least one night whenever I try out new pillows. To my surprise and delight, I settled immediately into Casper's pillow.

pillows

My theory for this seamless transition is the pillow's two-layer construction, which strikes the balance between firmness and softness that most sleepers are looking for. The inner pillow provides a foundation of firm support, while the outer pillow is soft and fluffy.

Filled with polyester microfiber and covered by a 100% cotton percale weave fabric, it adapted to my movements and always stayed cool throughout the night. The pillow is also easy to clean: just unzip the outer pillow, remove the inner pillow, and throw both in the washing machine. 

Whether you own Casper's mattress or not, its bedding is worth trying (especially since it gives you a 100-night trial) and has proven to me that Casper is in the business of giving you the best sleep — through any type of product. 

Shop the standard sheet set ($140/queen) and duvet cover (+$120/queen), and pillow ($75/standard) at Casper here

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A luxury stylist who once dropped $1 million on a single shopping spree reveals the most extreme requests she's fulfilled for her billionaire clients

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nicole pollard bayme

  • Luxury stylist Nicole Pollard Bayme, founder of luxury style firm LALALUXE, spends her days buying for billionaires, sitting in the front row at fashion week, and creative consulting on interior design projects and events.
  • She recently told Business Insider that she once dropped $1 million on a one-day shopping spree with a client.
  • But that's not the only extreme request she's fulfilled — she's done everything from opening a Chanel store on a holiday for royalty to throwing six-figure first birthday parties.

When you're a billionaire, you can spend your money in endless ways — like hiring a personal shopper to help you drop $1 million during a one-day shopping spree.

That's exactly what Nicole Pollard Bayme, founder of luxury style firm LALALUXE, did with a client. They bought "high designer jewelry, crocodile handbags, and rare men's watches, plus plenty of gifts for family and friends," the buyer for billionaires told Business Insider.

But that's nothing for Pollard Bayme, who has been featured in The Hollywood Reporter and Vanity Fair. She spends her days acting as a creative consultant in a number of roles for high-profile clients including international royalty, people on the Forbes top ten list, Fortune 500 CEOs, athletes, and celebrities, she said.

Read more: A luxury travel company says these are the 10 most extravagant requests it's had from its super-rich customers

Based in Los Angeles, LALALUXE offers fashion styling, personal shopping, luxury sourcing, and shopping tours to its clients worldwide. This often brings Pollard Bayme to the front row of fashion shows, from New York Fashion Week to Paris Fashion Week.

"Typically, big spenders sit front row at fashion week and I have been invited to sit front row at major shows from Chloe to The Row to Alexander McQueen, just to name a few," she said.

alexander mcqueen fashion week

LALALUXE also offers jewelry and private concierge services, travel and event planning, wedding styling, and lifestyle management, according to its website.

This journey of discovery has led Pollard Bayme on some wild adventures handling some extreme requests. Here are some of the most extravagant tasks she's pulled off so far:

  • Purchasing an entire runway of clothing in the high six-figures for a single client.
  • Selling Hermés handbags that cost a quarter of a million dollars — "more than a single-family home in some states," Pollard Bayme said.
  • Flying a top designer overnight to visit a client in Paris to design a couture wedding dress. The client also ordered couture designs for her mother, mother-in-law, and bridesmaids. It took four weeks to rush design the couture wedding dress, which involved 100 hours of beadwork, according to Pollard Bayme.
  • Opening a Chanel store on New Year's Day for a queen. "This is very rare for a major brand to reopen on a holiday," Pollard Bayme said, "It involves security and major planning."
  • Creative consulting on superyachts as big as 160 feet, Gulfstream private airplanes, and homes "as big and ornate as top museums." Pollard Bayme liaises between her client and the architect and interior designers. "Everything matters — lighting, texture, personalization, scent," she said.
  • Throwing ultra-luxurious first birthday parties with six-figure budgets.
  • Throwing pre-wedding shopping bashes with private rooftop champagne toasts at the largest boutiques on Rodeo Drive.

chanel store

Some clients who hire Pollard Bayme as their fashion stylist often keep her around to "creative direct their lifestyle," she said. This involves helping them create their own personal brand.

"From airplane interiors to the notecards they send and the scent of their home, we make sure every aspect of their life is styled to represent the best version of themselves," she said. 

SEE ALSO: Forget Louis Vuitton and Hermès — this luxury brand is the status symbol for the world's richest people

DON'T MISS: What a $1 million vacation looks like in Mykonos, Greece, where you'll fly in on a private jet, sleep in an ocean-view villa, and cruise the seas in a yacht

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NOW WATCH: North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un is 35 — here's how he became one of the world's scariest dictators

15 best-selling luxury watches you can get for up to 75% off during Jomashop's Valentine's Day sale

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Jomashop

  • Right now, you can save up to 75% on brand-name watches at Jomashop.
  • Use the promo code VDAYSHIP to get free next-day shipping on orders placed today on February 13 by 4 p.m. EST.
  • The sale includes watches from top brands like Seiko, Tissot, Fossil, Michael Kors, Tag Heuer, and more.

The most common Valentine's Day gifts aren't always the best ones. Flowers will begin to wilt in a few days, you can get chocolate any other day of the year, and oversized teddy bears are great in the moment, but then you have to find a place to keep them after Valentine's Day is over.

If you're looking for a gift that's thoughtful and will have a purpose after February 14, a nice watch is a great choice. Right now, luxury watch site Jomashop is celebrating Valentine's Day with a huge sale with discounts of up to 75%. The sale includes top brands like Seiko, Tissot, Fossil, Michael Kors, Tag Heuer, Movado, and more.

If you order by today, February 13, by 4 p.m. EST, you can get free guaranteed delivery when you use the promo code "VDAYSHIP" at checkout.

To help you shop for a timepiece your significant other will love, we rounded up some of the best-selling watches from 2018. Even if you miss the next-day shipping deadline, any one of these watches is well worth the short wait.

Shop the Jomashop Valentine's Day sale now, or read on to see some of our favorite picks, below: 

If you're considering dropping money on a luxury watch, as with any other major purchase, be sure to compare prices and do some research first. While all of the watches are guaranteed to be 100% authentic, they do not come with a manufacturers warranty. If you have any concerns at all, you can view Jomashop's full warranty policy here.

Men's Seiko Diver's Automatic

$219.99 (Originally $495) [You save $275.01]



Men's Fossil Machine Chronograph

$89 (Originally $155) [You save $66]



Men's Citizen Eco Drive Blue Angels Chronograph

$289.99 (Originally $675) [You save $385.01]



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7 surprising features that can make an apartment a penthouse, even if it's not on the top floor

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luxury apartment

  • Today's "penthouse" is no longer just the traditionally-defined top-floor apartment of a residential building.
  • Today, real estate brokers call apartments penthouses if they possess certain sought-after features that include unique layouts, ample outdoor space, high ceilings, and fantastic views — even if they're not on the top floor.
  • Other surprising features that can snag an apartment penthouse status include additional luxury amenities other units don't have and more square footage than the actual top-floor unit.

Traditionally, a penthouse is known as the top-floor apartment of a residential building. Today, however, there are several surprising features that can make real estate agents call an apartment a penthouse — even if it's not on the top floor.

"... The term penthouse has evolved a little bit from the traditional sense of the top-floor apartment — which is the penthouse — to more of a marketing term in general to help achieve sometimes higher sales figures and a distinction from other units in the building," Steve Gold, a luxury real estate agent at Corcoran and star of Bravo's "Million Dollar Listing New York," previously told Business Insider.

If a unit has more square footage than the top-floor unit, a unique layout, or luxury amenities not found in other units, for example, there's a good chance it'll be dubbed a penthouse if it's toward the top of the building. And sometimes these units are more attractive than the true penthouse.

Read more: A billionaire movie producer is selling a one-bedroom apartment that takes up an entire floor of NYC's Ritz-Carlton for nearly $40 million

"Contrary to popular belief, sometimes the top penthouse isn't the best penthouse in the building," Gold said. "There could be ones in the building with larger terraces or more unobstructed views, depending on the property."

Alex Lavrenov, a broker at Warburg Realty, told Business Insider he thinks the term "penthouse" should only apply to top-floor units. It's an exclusive label comparable to "a Fifth Avenue address," he said.

Here are seven features that can make real estate brokers call an apartment a penthouse, even if it's not on the top floor.

SEE ALSO: Many NYC penthouses aren't selling, so real estate companies are chopping them up into multiple smaller apartments to get them off the market

DON'T MISS: A SoHo triplex penthouse got a $5.5 million price chop, but it could still break the record for the most expensive apartment ever sold in downtown NYC

1. A location on a floor where the building begins to "set back," or begins to have terraces

"So if you have a building that has the shape of a wedding cake, you have many 'penthouse apartments' there, which is great if you're a developer and you have five penthouses versus only one to sell," Gold said.



2. A unique layout from other units in the building

At 432 Park Avenue, New York City's tallest residential building, floors 91 through 96 are all referred to as penthouses because they have different layouts than the rest of the building and some are full floors, a representative for the developer told Business Insider.



3. More square footage than the top-floor penthouse

At the NOMA at 50 W. 30th St., one of Gold's listings at Corcoran, the top-floor unit is called "Penthouse 2," while the unit below was labelled "Penthouse 1" because it actually has more square footage overall and a different layout, as well as ample outdoor space and direct elevator access, Gold said.



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Take a look inside the best hotel in the US, a Hawaiian resort with 7 swimming pools where a villa goes for $18,000 per night

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Hawaii Loa Lanai

  •  Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is one of four Four Seasons hotels on the Hawaiian Islands.
  • The hotel was recently ranked No. 1 on U.S. News & World Report's annual list of top hotels in the United States.
  • Alongside its seven swimming pools and luxury oceanfront villas, the resort is also home to an impressive art collection.

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai in Hawaii is officially the best hotel in America.

That's according to U.S. News & World Report's recently published annual list of top places to stay, which includes premiere hotels in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean.

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is often recognized as a top hotel; it has appeared on Elite Traveler's list of top hotels in the world and Condé Nast's Gold List.

Read more: 24 American hotels every luxury traveler should visit in 2019

The seaside hotel features spectacular ocean view rooms and seven pools, including one filled with tropical fish for snorkeling lessons. In addition, the on-site cultural center offers ukulele lessons and is home to an extensive collection of native history and art.

There are four Four Seasons hotels in Hawaii: Hualalai, Oahu, Maui, and Lanai. At every location, guests can choose from multiple types of villas, suites, and ocean view rooms individual guest rooms.

In the Hualalai location, luxury residencies are also available nearby the resort rooms. Last year, Forbes reported that billionaires were making the move to the property, which is co-owned by Michael Dell and Robert Walton.

Keep reading for an inside look at America's top-ranked hotel.

SEE ALSO: Southwest Airlines is officially testing flights to Hawaii, so you're one step closer to cheap tickets

SEE ALSO: An adults-only island in the Maldives with 15 overwater villas is the best new luxury hotel to visit in 2019 — here's a look inside

Four Seasons Resort Hualalai is located on the Island of Hawai'i, the largest of the eight islands. The resort sits on the Kona-Kohala Coast ...

Source: Google Maps



... and the grounds are located on the historic Kaʻūpūlehu land, once the site of an ancient fishing village.

Source: Google Maps



The resort includes a stretch of private beach and a golf course.

Source: Four Seasons Resort Hualalai



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This healthy snack bar company founded by Kristen Bell and a group of actors has donated over 10 million food packets to malnourished kids

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this bar saves lives

  • This Bar Saves Lives was founded by a group of actors who wanted to fight the preventable but unfortunately common problem of malnutrition around the world. 
  • It donates a nutrient-dense food packet to NGO partners for every one of its non-GMO, gluten-free, and kosher bars sold. 
  • Sales of these healthy and delicious bars have led to more than 10 million nutrition packets donated to children in need. 

In the middle of a busy day, finding a granola bar that your past-self so wisely packed in your desk or bag feels like you've just unearthed gold in California. But there's one granola company that doesn't just want to save you from hunger at work or on the go — it's on a larger mission to save lives. 

This Bar Saves Lives, founded by actors Kristen Bell, Ryan Devlin, Todd Grinnell, and Ravi Patel, was founded in 2013 to help fight the preventable condition of malnutrition. For every bar sold, it donates food aid in the form of nutrition packets to children in Haiti, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Somalia, a few areas most afflicted by malnutrition. 

this bar saves lives 3

Giving back has become integral to the core models of many successful companies today, from socks and glasses to mattresses. Rather than take the backseat, social cause acts as a driver — and a brand differentiator — for these businesses.

The one-for-one give-back approach is typically designed to better suit the recipient's needs. The product you buy won't be the exact one they receive; for example, the socks that Bombas donates to homeless shelters are specifically made with anti-microbial treatments, reinforced seams, and darker colors. 

Similarly, This Bar Saves Lives doesn't donate the same granola bar you're buying and eating. Instead, it gives one packet of Plumpy'nut, a ready-to-eat, nutrient-dense peanut paste made for children six months and older with severe acute malnutrition, to NGO partners like Action Against Hunger and Second Mile Haiti. Since its launch, the company has donated more than 10 million packets.  

this bar saves lives 2

The healthy bars are non-GMO, gluten-free, and kosher, containing a mix of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, crisp rice, and toasted oats. They come in delicious flavors like Wild Blueberry and Pistachio, Madagascar Vanilla Almond and Honey, and Dark Chocolate and Coconut. You can also get variety packs for a sample of the different flavors and to keep your pantry, office desk, and backpack well-stocked. 

All of the bars are less than 200 calories, but will satiate your hunger until your next meal, making it perfect for traveling and afternoon snack time (for both you and your kids). The next time you feel the urge to eat a candy bar, you can reach for the healthier snack alternative of a granola bar

Though there are dozens of different healthy granola bar options to choose from, This Bar Saves Lives is the clear outlier by incorporating a social mission into its business.

As you more carefully consider where you're putting your money for things like clothing and sheets, food is another area to reexamine your shopping habits. A granola bar can seem like a no-brainer snack choice, but buying this one has long-lasting, far-reaching effects for people in need around the world. 

Shop the This Bar Saves Lives 12-Bar Variety Pack for $23.74 at Amazon here

Shop all This Bar Saves Lives granola bars at Amazon here

Shop all This Bar Saves Lives granola bars at Target here

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This new home startup lets you order custom curtains and shades starting at just $65 — here's how it works

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mesken curtains

  • If you want beautiful, high-quality curtains or shades, you've probably considered going custom. Unfortunately, made-to-measure window treatments are usually expensive. 
  • Mesken is a new home startup letting shoppers customize and order their own curtains and shades for a fraction of traditional prices. 
  • Its products are made in Istanbul, known for its rich history of home textile-making, and you can order five swatches for free before making a decision. 
  • The easy-to-navigate site helps you make measurements and guides you through every step of the process. Even if this is the first time you're ordering custom curtains, you'll feel confident about the final product, which is delivered in 10 days or less. 

Bedding, furniture, and kitchenware have all been the subjects of successful direct-to-consumer startup stories in recent years. Once considered overlooked categories in the home goods space, they've found mainstream success among shoppers looking to upgrade their homes for less. 

So at this point, what home goods are truly overlooked? Chances are you haven't thought positively, if at all, about your curtains in a while. 

mesken curtains 2

Window treatments aren't the first home product I want to shop for (even the term "window treatments" inspires little in the way of excitement) but like a beautiful area rug, they make a huge difference for how your space looks and feels. It's too bad that current options fall into two buckets: ready-made curtains and shades that are a struggle to install and never seem to fit correctly, and made-to-measure ones that cost thousands of dollars. 

Mesken is one of the first home startups we're seeing to address this long-ignored problem. It's founded by Alper Bahadir, a former McKinsey consultant who was born in Turkey and wanted to strengthen his connection to Home-with-a-capital-H and your relationship with your own home. 

Read more: 21 helpful products we've bought for our apartments

mesken curtains 4

At Mesken, you can shop custom curtains and shades at prices 50% to 70% less than traditional brands and have them delivered in seven to 10 days. While the company is based in New York City, its manufacturers are located in Istanbul, Turkey and have generations of experience crafting high-quality home textiles. 

Selling exclusively online helps keeps the prices of a traditionally expensive product low. Bahadir says: 

There are certain industries where we've been conditioned to think you can access quality only if you pay a very high price, because everything else around that product or experience is already very expensive. The wedding and home industries are probably the two worst offenders. When you've already spent a fortune buying or remodeling a home, another $20,000 for drapes starts to look normal. I think this has led the industry to be complacent and opportunist. Why bother innovating to make things more affordable if you don't have to?

The innovation at Mesken is this: curtains start at just $65, with the most expensive options, made from linen, starting at $195. Shades start at $80, with the most expensive options starting at $120. You can customize nearly every aspect of these window treatments on Mesken's well-designed site. 

Read more: Meet Clare, the first direct-to-consumer company to disrupt the $155 billion interior paint industry

Screen Shot 2019 02 12 at 4.06.57 PM

Here's how the customization and ordering process works for Mesken's curtains

You can choose from a variety of solid or sheer fabrics, including 100% linen, linen blends, viscose blend, light weight, and thick weave options. Each fabric is available in numerous colors. Some, like the textured, medium-weight Bowery (from $90) are available in more than 30 colors while others have fewer color options. If you want to see and feel the fabrics first, you can order up to five swatches for free. 

Then, choose your hanging style: ring top, rod pocket, grommet, or pleated. The grommet and pleated styles have an additional cost per panel. 

Enter your curtain measurements, or use the site's helpful measurement guide. If you've never ordered your own curtains before or just want to double-check your own measurements, we recommend using the guide. 

Finally, add optional privacy or blackout liners, and adjust the number of panels if necessary. 

Here's how the customization and ordering process works for Mesken's shades

Mesken offers roller, blackout, solar, and zebra shades in a small selection of colors. Likewise, you can order free fabric swatches. 

You're in control of the hanging position, casing, and cord type, and the site will guide you with tips and measurement guides throughout the whole customization process. 

mesken curtains 3

In 10 business days or less, your custom curtains or shades will arrive at your door with the necessary hardware and instructions to install them. They're designed for easy installation, and since they're perfectly cut to your window, you'll never be stuck with curtains that are just an inch too short, long, or wide. 

As a singular concept, finding the right curtains for your home and not overpaying for them seems manageable, but when stacked on top of every other home improvement and decorating task, it's an aspirational feat for an aspirational product.

Mesken goes beyond the aspirational, to the realistic, accessible, and shopper-friendly. 

Shop custom curtains and shades and order five free swatches at Mesken here.

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12 mattress startups that have already launched Presidents' Day sales — including Casper, Leesa, and Helix

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Presidents' Day Mattress Sales

Purchasing a mattress can be a tough process. Doing so while balancing a tight budget can make the process even more difficult.

Luckily, Presidents' Day sales are popping up around the web and mattress companies are no strangers to discounts. Popular brands like Casper, Helix, Leesa, and Purple are offering price cuts that are hard to pass up, along with freebies to seal the deal.

Deals on mattresses are rarely this good, and now might be the last time you see this discounts for a while. We put together a list of some of the biggest bargains and included links to relevant mattress reviews to make your shopping experience easy enough to do in your sleep.

If you want to do a little extra research on the best mattresses out there before you shop, these guides will help you out:

To potentially save more on Presidents' Day, you can visit Business Insider Coupons to find up-to-date promo codes for a range of online stores.

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

Leesa

Shop Leesa's Presidents' Day sale here

You still have time to save 15% off mattresses plus two free pillows during Leesa's early-access Presidents' Day sale. Early-access deals end tomorrow. 

Read more about Leesa from the Insider Picks team:



Casper

Shop Casper's Presidents' Day sale here

Take 10% off your mattress order with the codePRES now through February 18.

Read more about Casper from the Insider Picks team:



Helix

Shop Helix's Presidents' Day sale here

Helix's Presidents' Day sale is full of bargains across the site. Now through February 14, save $2oo when you spend $1750+, $150 when you spend $1250+, and $100 on any mattress purchase with codes "PREZ200", "PREZ150", and "PREZ100"

Read more about Helix from the Insider Picks team:



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A judge nullified Paul Manafort's plea deal with Mueller after ruling that he lied to prosecutors

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Paul Manafort

  • A federal judge ruled that Paul Manafort violated his plea deal with the special counsel Robert Mueller.
  • The judge found that Manafort made materially false statements to prosecutors in three out of five instances outlined by Mueller's office.
  • She also determined that Mueller's office's accusation that Manafort breached his plea agreement was made in good faith.
  • In light of that, the judge nullified Manafort's plea deal with Mueller and released prosecutors from any obligations outlined in the agreement.

US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled Wednesday that Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Donald Trump's campaign, lied to prosecutors in three out of five instances outlined by the special counsel Robert Mueller's office.

Manafort lied after striking a plea deal with Mueller's team last year, following his conviction on several counts of tax and bank fraud.

Jackson's ruling said that Manafort made false statements to prosecutors about:

  • A $125,000 payment made to a firm in 2017 related to a debt that Manafort had incurred.
  • His interactions with the former Russian intelligence operative Konstantin Kilimnik and Kilimnik's role in the alleged conspiracy to obstruct justice by trying to influence the testimony of two witnesses in February.
  • Information that was "pertinent to another Department of Justice investigation."

A late November court filing from Mueller's office accused Manafort of lying to investigators from the special counsel's office and the FBI "on a variety of subject matters" in the two months he was nominally a formal cooperating witness in the Russia probe.

The filing said Manafort "thus relieves the government of any obligations it has under the agreement," since the terms of the plea deal required Manafort to agree not to commit crimes during the course of his cooperation.

Manafort's lawyers, meanwhile, argued that he did not intentionally lie to or mislead prosecutors, but that he may have misstated some details because of gaps in his memory or because some questions from prosecutors were not entirely clear in what they were seeking from him. His lawyers also disputed prosecutors' characterization of information Manafort provided.

In her ruling Thursday, Jackson wrote that Manafort's original plea agreement stated that "the Government shall be required to prove a breach of this Agreement only by good faith."

Manafort signed the agreement and his lawyers also conceded later that Mueller's accusations were made in good faith. In light of that, and following a review of documentary evidence and testimony in legal proceedings, Jackson ruled that Mueller's office's accusation that Manafort breached his plea deal was made in good faith.

"Therefore, the Office of Special Counsel is no longer bound by its obligations under the plea agreement, including its promise to support a reduction of the offense level in the calculation of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines for acceptance of responsibility," Jackson wrote.

The ruling did not make a determination on whether Manafort "will receive credit for his acceptance of responsibility" in connection to federal sentencing guidelines, adding that the court would decide that when Manafort went to his final sentencing hearing.

Manafort has been charged twice in the Mueller probe for offenses relating to his years of work lobbying for a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party in the US.

Manafort was first charged in December 2017 in Washington, DC, on 12 offenses, including money laundering, failing to register as a foreign agent, and obstruction of justice. He and his deputy Rick Gates were charged again in the Eastern District of Virginia on 18 counts of tax fraud, bank fraud, and hiding foreign bank accounts in February 2018.

While Gates immediately chose to take a plea deal and testify against his former mentor, Manafort went to trial. In August, a jury in Arlington, Virginia, convicted him on eight counts of tax and bank fraud, with a mistrial declared on the other 10 counts to which jurors could not come to a consensus.

Manafort was scheduled to go to trial again in September, but instead struck a deal with the special counsel's office to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of obstruction of justice in exchange for his cooperation.

Now that Manafort's plea deal has fallen apart, legal scholars say his best bet at freedom is a presidential pardon.

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Melinda Gates has some great advice on how working parents can reduce stress

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Melinda Gates

  • Melinda Gates is best known as philanthropist running one of the world's largest charitable foundations with her husband, Bill.
  • But she has a number of jobs of other jobs as well, including being a mom to three kids.
  • Although her schedule is often jam-packed she's got a trick for reducing stress that any parent can use. 

Melinda Gates is best known as a philanthropist running one of the world's largest charitable foundations with her husband, Bill. But she has a number of jobs of other jobs as well.

She owns and runs a company called Pivotal Ventures, which invests in and incubates projects that fall outside the foundation’s mandates. These projects be investing in for-profit startups or women-led venture capital funds. Or it may be research and projects that focus on workplace issues.

She travels globally meeting with world leaders, the people benefiting from her investments and speaking on topics from birth control to family leave policies. Her schedule can be so tight, she's sometimes scheduled for back-to-back meetings in 20-minute increments.

Yet, one of her biggest jobs is being the mom to three teenage kids.

And she's got a great piece of advice for working parents: meditate for a few minutes every day, particularly a few minutes before you come home each evening.

"I use Headspace myself, the mediation app. And it's 10 minutes a day," Gates said.

Read: This meditation device changed my life by calming my anxiety and helping me sleep great — even when I travel

If finding 10 minutes seems impossible, she says you can split it up into two five-minute sessions.

"You can fit in one five minute meditation in the morning and one five-minutes in the evening before you come home from work. It will calm you down. Especially when you are having a busy or stressful day at work, it will help you be more receptive to your child when you come home."

Headspace is a popular app that promises to make meditation easy, with guided meditations that focus on things like stress, anxiety, focus, and sleep. Bill Gates uses it too. 

In fact Bill once blogged about how the app turned him from a meditation skeptic to a believer. It was created by Andy Puddicombe a former ordained Buddhist. Bill and Melinda liked his work so much, they called him up and he gave the Gates family some personal mediation lessons.

Headspace costs $13/month or $95 annually. Others of its ilk include Calm and Insight Timer. There's also a brainwave sensing device Muse, which costs about $160-$250, and includes an app as well.

If all of that is too pricey for you, there a plenty of free guided meditations available, like this list from the Chopra Center.

And there's simply setting your timer and doing box breathing: a four-count breath in, pause for 1-2 counts, then a six-count breath exhale. Box breathing has been proven to reduce stress.

Or, you can close your eyes, and with each exhale relax a different part of your body while thinking: "relax my brow, relax my jaw, relax my shoulders" and so on down to your toes.

Gates has found that 10 minutes a day with Headspace makes all the difference in reducing stress, increasing focus and improving sleep. "And the better you sleep the less stressed you are," she says.

SEE ALSO: Bill and Melinda Gates revealed their 9 biggest surprises from 2018 in a letter dedicated to Microsoft's late cofounder

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Some of Trump's top-most advisers have reportedly discussed invoking the 25th Amendment, which lets 14 people remove a sitting president from office. Here's how it works.

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  • The 25th Amendment formally outlines the transition of power if the president is unable or unfit to serve.
  • Section IV allows the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to remove the president from office.
  • Americans have been particularly interested in the amendment since President Donald Trump took office.

Yet another report indicates that President Donald Trump's top-most advisers have discussed using the Constitution to remove him from office.

In September 2018, an anonymous senior official in the Trump administration wrote an op-ed in The New York Times, claiming there's a "quiet resistance" undermining the president.

The official wrote that "there were early whispers within the cabinet of invoking the 25th Amendment."

Later that month, The New York Times, citing anonymous officials who were briefed on the meetings, reported that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein discussed invoking it in conversations with other Justice Department officials after Trump fired James Comey as FBI director in May 2017.

And on Thursday, CBS revealed that former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe told "60 Minutes" that he and other Justice Department officials met to discuss whether they could get a majority of Cabinet members to remove Trump from office after Comey's firing. Trump fired McCabe in March 2018.

Trump himself reportedly didn't know what the 25th Amendment did. When former adviser Steve Bannon told him early in his term that it posed the biggest threat to his presidency, according to Vanity Fair, Trump said, "What's that?"

Read more: A senior member of the Trump administration says they are part of a secret resistance working against the president in the White House

After President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Congress proposed and the states ratified the 25th Amendment in 1967 to formally outline the transition of power. Before that, the vice president didn't officially have the power to take over.

The amendment states that if the president dies, resigns, or is removed from office, the vice president becomes president. If there is a vacancy in the vice presidency for any reason, the president can choose someone to fill it.

And if the president is unable to fulfill his duties — like when President George W. Bush was under general anesthesia for colonoscopies in 2002 and 2007— he can temporarily transfer his powers to the vice president, and get them back when he's done.

But Section IV is what someliberals have been frantically searching for more information on, because it could be a way to legally remove Trump from office.

A legal loophole to legally remove the president

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Under the amendment's fourth stipulation, it would only take 14 people to depose the president — Vice President Mike Pence and 13 of Trump's 24 Cabinet members.

Section IV reads:

"Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President."

John D. Feerick, former dean of Fordham Law School, is one of the chief architects of the 25th Amendment who shepherded it through Congress in the early 1960s.

He told Business Insider in March 2017 that the senators who signed the provision into law specified that declaring the president unfit must rely on "reliable facts regarding the president's physical or mental faculties," not personal prejudice.

"If you read the debates, it's also clear that policy and political differences are not included, unpopularity is not included, poor judgment, incompetence, laziness, or impeachable conduct — none of that, you'll find in the debates in the congressional record, is intended to be covered by Section IV," Feerick said.

Policy and political differences, unpopularity, poor judgment, incompetence, laziness, or impeachable conduct — none of that is intended to be covered by section IV.

Section IV goes on to say that if two-thirds of both houses of Congress don't vote to uphold the decision and keep the vice president in charge within 21 days, then the powers and duties automatically transfer back to the president. So if the president doesn't want to give up his office, Feerick explained, he doesn't have to if Congress agrees he shouldn't.

Akhil Reed Amar, a leading constitutional scholar at Yale University, said in a podcast for the National Constitution Center on the topic that the president's own running mate is the one who triggers a "palace coup," in order to maintain political stability.

"Here's the key point: The vice president is the pivot in the whole process," Amar said. "Unless the vice president puts himself — maybe one day, herself — forward, no one else can really basically, at least within the 25th Amendment framework, proclaim an unwilling president 'disabled.'"

The idea is that the Cabinet and VP are the president's closest advisers, Feerick said, so they would be the ones with the best sense of his mental faculties. They, and Congress, could also consult doctors to evaluate the president's physical and mental health in order to determine if he or she is fit for the job, though they don't have to.

The 25th Amendment is a separate process from impeachment, which allows Congress to remove a sitting president if a majority of the House of Representatives votes that he has committed treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors, and a trial in the Senate convicts him.

In either case, legal scholars argue, the goal is to make the process as objective as possible.

"In a time like this of unusual crisis, one had to count on leaders in the executive branch and Congress to really be patriots, not partisans," Joel K. Goldstein, a constitutional expert at St. Louis University, said at a symposium that Fordham Law School hosted in September.

A renewed interest in the 25th Amendment since Trump took office

25th amendment Google Trends

Americans have been brushing up on their knowledge of the Constitution during Trump's presidency, according to Google Trends data.

The search term "25th Amendment" spiked in popularity after Trump took office, particularly after he signed the controversial travel bans, and after he tweeted an edited video of him body slamming CNN.

The two highest data points for Google searches were after the senior official wrote the anonymous op-ed in The Times, and after former Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee responded to a tweetstorm Trump went on about him in October 2017. "It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care center," Corker tweeted. "Someone obviously missed their shift this morning."

Interest was also rejuvenated amid the release of the explosive book, "Fire and Fury" — whose author, Michael Wolff, said the amendment was brought up "all the time" in the White House.

Feerick, who didn't discuss applying Section IV to Trump, said he hopes this renewed interest in the Constitution will encourage Congress to consider filling some of the legal gaps in the amendment that he and other legal scholars have proposed over the years.

For example, the Constitution doesn't outline what happens if the vice president is unable to serve, and he and other experts agree that the order of succession shouldn't include members of Congress as it does today.

"It's important that people be educated about the Constitution. It's our greatest charter of liberty," Feerick said. "I'm really happy that there's greater education going on — I'm obviously not happy about all the division in the country — but I'm happy that at least there's greater education being provided about the amendment."

SEE ALSO: Here are all the top advisers who have been fired or resigned from the Trump administration so far

DON'T MISS: A senior member of the Trump administration says he is part of a secret resistance working against the president in the White House

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