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The FTC Is Cracking Down On Rogue Timeshares For A Reason

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Oceanside Condo Palm BeachThe Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently announced a huge crackdown of the type of travel and timeshare resale scams I wrote about in December, when they showed up for the first time in the Top 10 Consumer Complaints report by the Consumer Federation of America and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators.

(That survey lumped these schemes together with grievances about retirement communities and assisted-living facilities under the heading of “Real Estate,” which came in at No. 9.)

In today's dragnet, the FTC — along with law enforcement agencies in 28 states and 10 countries — announced 191 actions to stop fraudulent operations hawking timeshare property resale services and travel prizes. More than 184 individuals face criminal prosecution.

Victims, many of them elderly or in financial distress, were defrauded out of more than $14 million, according to Wilfredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

"Con artists take advantage of timeshare owners who have been in tough financial straits and are desperate to sell their timeshares," Charles A. Harwood, Acting Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said at a Miami press conference. "They persuade owners to pay fat up-front fees by saying they have someone ready to buy the property, but that's a lie."
 
Timeshare gripes were the fastest-growing category of complaints last year, according to consumer protection investigators around the country. And, as Next Avenue explained in “Shaky Finances of Continuing Care Retirement Communities,” the financial health of some retirement communities has raised cause for concern.
 
Causes of the Complaints

What’s behind the rash of complaints about retirement and vacation properties?

(MORE: What Is an Assisted Living Facility?)

Consumer advocates cite two primary reasons:
 
The tough economy. Everyone is more conscious about the value of money these days. Folks get angry when pressured into purchasing a timeshare they can’t afford. They don't like feeling duped by flimflam artists, and resent unkept promises after buying into a retirement community or assisted-living facility.
 
America’s aging population. More and more boomers are hitting their 50s and 60s, making them ripe targets for relocation scams.
 
Here's the lowdown on each category — and advice that can help you avoid problems, or deal with them:

Timeshares
 
There has been a rising tide of complaints from prospective timeshare buyers and current owners alike.
 
In 2011, the office of Louisiana’s Attorney General was besieged by complaints against Festiva, a North Carolina-based timeshare company operating out of New Orleans. “Consumers were offered ‘prizes’ such as a big-screen television or a cruise if they attended a Festiva sales presentation," says a new report. "Once there, they were forced to listen to a six-hour sales pitch. Some never received their ‘prizes,’ others complained that the free cruises ended up costing hundreds of dollars in fees.”

Another troubling snag: Many owners who no longer use their units can’t get out of paying annual maintenance fees because management companies don't honor their contracts. The cost can total thousands of dollars a year.
 
Consumer groups also report an uptick in disturbing complaints from timeshare owners who have been scammed while trying to sell their units by hiring resale companies (the firms who sold the units aren't responsible for reselling them).
 
Companies that promise to “resell” timeshares demand upfront fees of $2,500 or more — and often disappear with the money, watchdogs say. Worse still, after an owner has paid one unscrupulous “reseller,” another scammer calls. This newcomer positions itself as a “resale recovery services” firm and promises to get back the money the consumer paid to the first company — for a $1,000 fee. After the aggrieved owners send payment, “that's the last that consumers ever hear from them,” the new report says. 

Consumer agencies offer these tips to anyone who wants to purchase or sell timeshares:
 
When considering a purchase, don’t let yourself be pressured. "Never pay for a promise and get everything in writing first," said Harwood.

If a sales rep insists you buy immediately, walk away. Read the timeshare contract closely to see if the maintenance costs will be reasonable for your expected use, and study the rules for selling the unit.
 
If you own a timeshare you no longer want, contact your timeshare management company about your options, consult a real estate agent — or both. Avoid timeshare resale companies that take upfront fees regardless of whether they find a buyer for you. And don’t throw good money after bad by paying a second company to recover cash you’ve lost to a reseller.

(MORE: Sandwich Generation: Time to Downsize?)

Lynn Hanes, an investigator at the Bucks County (Pennsylvania) Office of Consumer Protection/Weights and Measures, suggests asking your timeshare management firm whether you can donate the unit back to the company to stop the annual maintenance fees if you can't find a buyer. “I’ve had consumers call me back to say this offer worked,” she notes.
 
Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities
 
Regulators say a growing number of people are also having a hard time getting money back from retirement communities and assisted-living facilities.
 
Initially, unit owners are told that they or their estate will be entitled to a chunk of the large entrance fee when they move out or die. But they later discover that the return process doesn’t work so neatly — and they can’t get a refund after all.
 
For example, one Pennsylvania woman was assured she’d receive 85 percent of her assisted living facility’s $17‚000 entrance fee if she moved out. A year after she decided to leave, however, the woman still hadn’t received the money.
 
“She was told she wouldn’t get a refund until someone else took her unit,” the report says, and because the community had raised the entrance fee to $399,500, few people were interested in moving in. (The Bucks County Consumer Protection office ultimately negotiated with the retirement community, and the woman received a $168,654 refund.)
 
In other cases, Hanes notes, refunds are delayed because retirement communities designate recently vacated units as “sales models.” As a result, the units are unavailable to new tenants, effectively holding up refunds to the people who’ve moved out.
 
“I consider withholding money for an excessive amount of time a form of elder abuse,” Hanes says.  
 
If you're buying into a retirement community or an assisted-living facility, consumer advocates urge you to:
 
Read the contract carefully. Hanes say you should never sign an agreement to move in until you (or your financial adviser) thoroughly review the contract.
 
Look closely at the entry-fee rules. Make sure the contract states that you will receive a partial refund within a year after moving out, and beware of clauses saying that there must be a new occupant in place before you get any money back. No deadline (indicating the length of time before the company must give you a refund) in the contract? Just ask, Hanes advises. “If management says no, perhaps you should consider another place.”
 
Contact your local or state consumer protection agency if you have a complaint about a timeshare, retirement community or assisted-living facility. The more complaints regulators receive, the more apt they are to try to get help for scammed consumers.

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7 Sites That Will Help You Save Big On Medical Bills

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doctors obama

Need a CBC blood test? You might pay $16 at one New York lab – or $117 at another. How about an echocardiogram with Doppler? It may run you $250, or over $2000, depending on where you go.

One of the biggest frustrations about our current healthcare system is that there is little transparency. Insurance is partly to blame, since insured patients usually just focus on their deductibles and co-pays. But millions of consumers remain uninsured or have high deductibles, and even consumers with good health insurance may wind up paying hefty out-of-pocket medical bills. Consumers with good insurance may also find lower prescription drug pricesby shopping around and paying cash.

By collecting and crunching data that is becoming more widely available, healthcare-focused websites aim to make it easier for patients to research healthcare costs, and save money as a result. Here are seven sites you should know about.

To Save on Medical Procedures

ClearHealthCosts.com– This startup uses crowdsourcing along with old-fashioned research to compile actual data on how much certain healthcare procedures cost, and when available, how much insurers are paying. Search for the procedure you need and see price information from a variety of providers. Currently, information is available for New York, New Jersey, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

HealthCareBlueBook– Type a procedure into this search engine and you’ll get an estimate of what that procedure should cost. It doesn’t list specific provider’s prices, but instead lists what that service should cost. If you are willing to pay cash upfront for medical services, though, you can try to use these prices to negotiate.

HealthInReach – Browse the extensive database for the cost for procedures, then book online at the quoted rate. The site promises substantial savings for bypassing the insurance middleman. Services available for a quote appeared largely to include dental services and cosmetic procedures, however. This site does require a free membership and you will be asked to provide personal medical information, but you can still search if you bypass that page.

NewChoiceHealth – You’ll have to sign up for a free membership to use this site. By entering your ZIP code, you’ll automatically see a range of prices for procedures in your area. If you want to get a specific quote, you’ll have to fill out a quote request so providers can essentially “bid” on your business. You can also include your insurance information. You aren’t locked into the services for which you receive quotes.

OutofPocket.com – This site aggregates information from other public and government sites, as well as user-submitted price data. It can be time consuming, as results come largely in the form of links to other sites. However, it can provide a starting point when researching costs for specific procedures.

[Related Article: The Ultimate Guide to Solving Your Medical Bill Problems]

To Find Cheaper Prescription Medications

GoodRX– Here you can compare what local pharmacies charge for a particular medication. For example, a search for Imitrex statdose 6 mg. (a popular medication for migraines) in my ZIP code in Florida found prices ranging from $141.91 to $322, both after a coupon provided on the site. It is easy to use, fast and appears to be comprehensive.

NeedyMeds – Find detailed information about programs that offer free and low-cost prescription drugs to those who can’t afford them. You can search for brand name and generic drugs, as well as search “diagnostic base assistance” programs that may help with expenses, including drugs, insurance co-pays, office visits, transportation, nutrition, medical supplies, etc. There is also a discount prescription drug card available on the site. This site appears be very robust, offering a great deal of information for those may who need it most.

There are additional state and federal government websites that provide detailed healthcare cost information; however, many are not particularly user friendly at this point. If you have health insurance, your insurer may also offer a free tool for estimating your cost for specific procedures.

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The Inventor Of The Cronut Shows Us How To Make His Insanely Popular Pastry

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New Yorkers are going absolutely berserk over the cronut.

If you haven't heard of it, the cronut is a hybrid croissant-doughnut pastry from Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo. The $5-a-pop treat regularly sells out within just a half-hour of the bakery's opening.

Cronut imitators have already popped up all over the country, and there's even a growing black market on Craigslist for these tasty sweets. 

With demand so high for cronuts right now, pastry chef Dominique Ansel was kind enough to take some time out of his hectic schedule and show us how he makes his popular pastry:

 

 

Produced by William Wei

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These Are The Actual Greenest Cities In America

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"Top city" lists can be pretty subjective, and none more so than "greenest" city lists

These tend to measure things like number of green-oriented events or "percentage of people who think and act in an eco-conscious way."  

But new data from National Renewable Energy Laboratory give us some hard facts showing the actual greenest cities in America, as represented by the percentage of customers voluntarily buying into their local utility's green power program.

Here's the list (by utility):

 

Customer Participation Rate
(as of December 2012)
Rank Utility Customer Participation Rate
1 City of Palo Alto (Calif.) 18.2%
2 Portland General Electric (Ore.) 12.4%
3 Madison Gas & Electric Co. (Wisc.) 9.4%
4 Sacramento (Calif.) Municipal Utility District 9.2%
5 City of Naperville (Ill.) 7.6%
6 Pacific Power (regional, Ore.) 7.6%
7 Silicon Valley Power (regional, Calif.) 6.9%
8 River Falls Municipal Utilities (Wisc.) 6.1%
9 Stoughton Utilities (Wisc.) 5.1%
10 Cuba City Light & Water (Wisc.) 5.0%

Interesting to note the low percentages here.

Some might also wonder why there are so many small-ish Wisconsin towns on here (we did). So we called up Mike Noreen, the conservation and efficiency coordinator for River Falls, Wisc., (#8 on the list) to ask why.

He told us that the high customer participation rates in the state are thanks in part to a company called WPPI Energy, which sells renewable power sourced mainly from wind farms in Iowa at bulk rates. The company has gotten strong buy-in from residents in River Falls and the other two towns that round out the list.

In the case of River Falls, Noreen said, Mayor Dan Toland asked the town of 15,000 to get on board, with the municipality reciprocating by converting many of its facilities to renewables.  

Noreen also said the town is about to construct a new solar array to power its baseball field, another demonstration of its commitment to renewable resources. 

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35 Mouthwatering Pictures Of Street Food From Around The World

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Nasi Kapau

From New York to Bangkok, it seems that every culture in the world has its own comforting and nostalgic street food.

This week, foodies and chefs from around the world are gathering in Singapore for the World Street Food Congress, a 10-day extravaganza that brings together the best street food from around the world.

The Jamboree, which lasts until Sunday, offers the best street foods from around the globe. You'll find everything from crispy fish tacos from Mexico to fragrant laksa (fish soup) from Malaysia.

From Portland we have a deep fried soft shell crab burger on a toasted bun with tomato and spicy mayo.



Mexico brings us a crispy fish taco. The fish is tilapia, battered and fried, topped with chipotle mayonnaise and red cabbage.



Here's a plate of Nasi Manado. Manado is a city in Indonesia, and a style of cooking. The rice (nasi) is surrounded by a skewer of pork and other incredibly spicy foods.



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For $180,000, Make Your Porsche Cayman Even Sexier

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The Cayman is the sleeper Porsche: The midengined sports car is less expensive than the 911, yet offers terrific handling and is a ton of fun to drive.

Now, Italian design firm Studiotorino is offering an even cooler version of the little Porsche, named the Fuoriserie MONCENSIO, for €135,000 ($178,483.50).

That price does not cover the cost of the Cayman itself, which starts at $53,550. It does cover the the cost of giving the car to a "unique and special body," which includes a carbon fiber front and rear bumpers, sidewalls, and air intakes.

Studiotorino also adds an aluminum exhaust tip on the mufflers, and removes the rear side windows. The body is then hand painted in one of seven "exclusive colors."

So if you're looking to make your affordable Cayman into something much more expensive, sign up now: Studiotornio is making only 20 units of the Fuoriserie MONCENSIO, plus one prototype, starting in November.

Here's what it will look like:

Fuoriserie MONCENISIO porshce cayman transformed


Fuoriserie MONCENISIO porshce cayman transformed


Fuoriserie MONCENISIO porshce cayman transformed


Fuoriserie MONCENISIO porshce cayman transformed

And here's the most recent Porsche Cayman:

2013 porsche cayman los angeles auto show coolest cars

SEE ALSO: The 50 Sexiest Cars Of The Past 100 Years

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I Was Awestruck By The Classic Cars On Display At An Exclusive Show In Italy [PICTURES]

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ville d'este carEditor's note: Daniel Stocker is a car nut who loves taking photos. He shared some photos and memories from his trip to this year's Villa d'Este Concorso d'Eleganza with Business Insider. You can see more of his work here.

This year I attended the Villa d'Este Concorso d'Eleganza, an exclusive auto show on the shores of Italy's Lake Como, for the third time.

The first day of the Concorso takes place in the gardens of the beautiful Villa d'Este Hotel, and is open only to press and invited guests. On the second day, the cars are moved to Villa Erba, a nearby park, so they can be presented to the public. The extensive parkway is by no means inferior in beauty to the smaller one at the Villa d'Este. 

In addition to the show, RM Auctions held an auction at Villa Erba, and made a few wealthy car collectors and investors very happy.

But it's not just the cars that make this event so beautiful and unique: It's a mixture of the scenery, the sounds of yesteryear's finest racecars, and the scent of 1930s Rolls-Royce leather upholsteries.

Aston Martin is one of two manufacturers to celebrate a significant birthday this year, so it came as no surprise that they brought along their very own centennial birthday present: the CC100 Speedster. Based on the V12 Vantage and inspired by the 1959 DBR1, the CC100 features some design cues we might soon encounter in Aston Martin production cars. The multi-layered grill already found its way onto the front of the new V12 Vantage S.



A whole class was dedicated to Aston Martins of yesteryear, with this DB4 GT Zagato from 1961 being one of the most exquisite ones. Only 19 Zagatos were ever built, and this is one of the two “Lightweights” that were raced in Le Mans.



While Lamborghini is celebrating its 50th birthday by introducing ridiculous concepts such as the Veneno and the Egoista, the Concorso's tribute was a little more tasteful. This 350 GTV prototype, for example, marked the beginning of Ferruccio's production car adventures.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Prince Alwaleed Is Suing Forbes For Its Reports About The Size Of His Fortune

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Prince AlwaleedSaudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is suing business magazine Forbes over claims it underestimated his fortune by $9.6bn (£6.1bn).

Prince Alwaleed, owner of London’s Savoy hotel, said in March that he would sever ties with the publication after its annual rich list valued him at $20bn, not enough to place him in the coveted top 10.

Despite being pronounced the richest man in the Arab world, Prince Alwaleed accused Forbes of "intentional biases and inconsistencies" and insisted his real value was nearly $30bn.

He has now filed a defamation claim in London’s High Court against Forbes‘s publisher, its editor, Randall Lane, and two of its journalists. Forbes said it stood by its story.

Forbes said that its estimate was based on its belief that the true value of Prince Alwaleed’s investment company, Kingdom Holding, is much lower than its share price suggests.

The 58-year-old grandson of the founder of Saudi Arabia owns 95pc of Kingdom with the remaining 5pc floated on the Saudi Tadawul exchange. Its market capitalisation comes to $19.9bn, but Forbes used its own valuation of $10.6bn.

Forbes said it was concerned that for several years Kingdom’s share price had risen sharply over the period when it collected its valuation data.

It quoted an unnamed analyst who claimed that the Tadawul “is incredibly easy to manipulate”, and added that Kingdom is a particularly easy target because it only has a small free float.

Forbes also quoted a former Kingdom executive who said that making plays on the exchange is “the national sport” because “there are no casinos. It’s the gambling site of the Saudis”.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph in March, Prince Alwaleed said Forbes was "accusing me of market manipulation”.

“This is all wrong and a false statement. We will fight it all the way against Forbes.”

He stressed that it isn’t his position on the list that angers him, but rather the way it has been calculated.

“I am not pursuing it because of my wealth, but because they are accusing Saudi Arabia of being manipulated because we have no casinos. This is unacceptable,” he said.

Prince Alwaleed made his money by investing in global brands at a time when their share prices were depressed. Along the way he has built up significant stakes in trophy assets such as Apple, Citigroup, Disney and the Savoy Hotel in London. His portfolio spans the globe and he likes people to know it.

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RANKED: The 11 Best Donuts In America

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Hibiscus donut at dough in brooklyn

It's National Donut Day, and what better way to celebrate than with a definitive ranking of America's best morning pastries?

We couldn't personally taste donuts from every beloved pastry shop in the country, so we scoured blogs and online reviews to come up with 20 bakeries known for their rave-worthy donuts.

The we ranked the donuts based on availability, originality, and price, in addition to how they tasted.

Keep reading to see the definitive list for the 11 best donuts across the nation. Did we miss your favorite? Let us know in the comments.

#11 The Foie Gras Doughnut at Do or Dine in Brooklyn, NY makes the list for originality alone. But its $11 price tag is really a drag.

Originality: 10
Taste: 8
Price: 1
Availability: 5
TOTAL: 24

Availability was based on store hours and how quickly the establishment sold out of donuts. Originality reflected how common the customers' favorite flavor was at other donut shops, and price took into account both the actual price as well as if the store was cash only.



#10 Diners rave about the Chocolate Glazed donuts at Do-Rite Donuts in Chicago, IL. Though not the most original flavor, the extra dollop of chocolate is always welcome.

Originality: 2
Taste: 10
Price: 7
Availability: 6
TOTAL: 25

Availability was based on store hours and how quickly the establishment sold out of donuts. Originality reflected how common the customers' favorite flavor was at other donut shops, and price took into account both the actual price as well as if the store was cash only.



#9 Though this picture doesn't do it justice, everyone loves the classic Tres Leche donut at the Doughnut Plant in New York, NY. It tastes just like a slice of "three milks" cake.

Originality: 4
Taste: 9
Price: 7
Availability: 8
TOTAL: 28

Availability was based on store hours and how quickly the establishment sold out of donuts. Originality reflected how common the customers' favorite flavor was at other donut shops, and price took into account both the actual price as well as if the store was cash only.



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Entrepreneur Helps Set Off Food Truck Golden Age In Atlanta

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Atlanta food truck park

Just a few years ago, Howard Hsu's barbecue truck, Sweet Auburn Barbecue, was one of the only food trucks in the city. Today it is joined by a park full of other "food on wheels" units, plus many more outside the premises.

As the city's first permanent food truck site, the Atlanta Food Truck Park and Market attracts an average of 1,000 people daily; but last year the bustling space was nothing more than an abandoned lot.

It was last April that Hsu began looking for property where he could station Sweet Auburn Barbecue, because, while he enjoyed being able to roam the city and meet customers in different locations, he says he was tired of constantly moving.

"Having a mobile food truck was very rewarding and fun," Hsu tells us. "However, it was stressful because you would go to certain events where there would be no business."

IMG_4190While looking for a place that would provide his business more consistency, Hsu came across a vacant three-acre plot of land — a former hotel site — in an area west of Atlanta on Howell Mill Road.

He quickly realized that the space was large enough to accommodate a number of trucks and decided that if he was having problems finding a parking spot for his mobile business, maybe other food truck owners were, too.

Although the park can only host 15 trucks at one time, food trucks from all over the city apply to the space. The city has also recently eased its once-stringent zoning restrictions, which prevented mobile trucks from operating in multiple locations. This has resulted in a significant growth in the number of operating food trucks and there are around 80 licensed trucks today compared to 20 at last year's food park opening.

"[The park] has brought a lot of young entrepreneurs who are on the fence about starting their own business," Hsu tells us. "They are more willing to pull the trigger when they see there is a location they can conduct business." 

atlanta food parkAside from creating a space accessibly to those craving street food, the Atlanta Food Truck Park and Market also contributes to jobs created in the area and has the potential to have a significant economic impact on the city's long-term development.

The space currently hosts attractions, such as live music, car shows, and special themed events like SurfFest, a recent festival that featured local instrumental bands. On certain days, there are close to 5,000 people visiting the park.

Hsu tells us that he hopes to eventually turn some of the green space into a venue for concerts, movie screenings, and playgrounds. If all goes well, it could potentially become a tourist destination and citywide attraction for residents.

"There are [visitors] of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. Depending on the time of day, you'll see a different crowd of people."

Despite the park's first-year success, there are still challenges for food truck owners. While some of the city's legal restrictions on food trucks were eased in late 2011, applying for a permit in Atlanta is still a rigorous process. Food trucks must have separate business and vendor's permits, plus a health license for each location they serve at.

aft2Although the park's site is properly zoned, it was closed for several weeks last year because of permit issues for some of the individual trucks.

Despite the challenges, Hsu says that it has been rewarding for him "to help young entrepreneurs start-up their businesses and create their livelihoods."

"[The park] has created small business opportunities in Atlanta while transforming what was once a vacant space into a destination, attraction, and place for commerce."

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These 'Breast Milk'-Flavored Lollipops Are Really Taking Off

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lollyphile breast milk lollipop

An Austin,Texas-based lollipop company has unveiled a new candy flavor this week that's garnering a lot of media attention — Breast Milk.

Jason Darling, the company owner, says on the Lollyphile website that the idea came from all of his friends having babies and noticing that breast milk was the only thing that seemed to calm a fussy child:

"What slowly dawned on me was that my friends were actually producing milk so delicious it could turn a screaming, furious child into a docile, contented one. I knew I had to capture that flavor," Darling writes.

The lollipops don't use actual breast milk, since the milk couldn't hold up to the candy-making process and it would take way too much breast milk per batch, Darling told ABC News.

Instead, the sweets made to taste like breast milk with sugar, corn syrup, and other natural flavors. "It all kind of tastes sort of like almond milk, but sweeter," Darling told the LA Times.

A pack of four lollipops, which are vegan, will cost you $10. You can get a dozen for $24, and a case of 36 for $58.

According to Darling, the bizarre lollipops are already selling "really, really well," alongside the other unconventional flavors Lollyphile offers such as White Russian, Sriracha, Lavender, Wasabi-Ginger, and Absinthe.

SEE ALSO: Take A Look At The World's Strangest Desserts

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A Plaza Hotel Penthouse Hit The Market For $59 Million — More Than Twice What The Owner Paid For It A Year Ago

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One of London's most famous real estate developers has listed his triplex penthouse in New York's Plaza Hotel for $59 million, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Christian Candy — who last year paid $25.9 million for the unit — is flipping the pad for more than double the price after redecorating it with his own design company Candy & Candy, according to WSJ.

The home, which is located on the 19th, 20th, and 21st floors of the iconic hotel, is listed with Brown Harris Stevens realtor Kyle Blackmon. It has uninterrupted views of Central Park and New York's skyline.

With over 6,000 square feet of space and a 230-square-foot balcony that looks out over Central Park, the penthouse is quite extravagant.

If the penthouse sells at its astronomical asking price, it would be a record for the Plaza Hotel, according to WSJ, surpassing the previous record purchase of $48 million for two adjacent condos in 2011.

Candy is best known as the developer of London's One Hyde Park, the world's most expensive apartment building.

See a few interior pictures of the stunning listing below.

$59 Million Plaza penthouse triplex candy

 

$59 Million Plaza penthouse triplex candy

 

attached image

 

$59 Million Plaza penthouse triplex candy

SEE ALSO: This Monaco Penthouse Concept Could Hit The Market For $280 Million

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The 5 Best Outdoor Restaurants In Washington, D.C.

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Cafe Dupont at The Dupont Circle Hotel2Summer fever is in full swing and we’ll do just about anything to enjoy a little sun during our lunch break or a boozy weekend brunch.

Over the past couple of weeks, we shared our top al fresco hotel restaurant picks in New York City and Los Angeles, and this week we’re spilling our inside scoop on the best outdoor dining spots in the nation’s capital.

So come with some SPF and an empty stomach — these D.C. restaurants in the sun are sure to satisfy!

Cafe Du Parc at The Willard Intercontinental

Cafe Du Parc, at The Willard Intercontinental, located just a short walk from the White House, is popular among tourists, locals, and business people in town with clients.

Serving three meals a day, as well as cocktails and light bites in between, the restaurant offers French-inspired dishes such as French onion soup and wild mushroom tarts.



Bourbon Steak at the Four Seasons Washington D.C.

Celebrity chef Michael Mina’s carnivore-friendly restaurant has a great location in the elegant Four Seasons in Georgetown.

Diners can opt for entrees complete with well-suited sides, or choose from an extensive offering of a la carte meats, such as New York strip, aged Porterhouse, or filet mignon.

During the summertime, the restaurant’s quiet courtyard opens up with comfy patio furniture.



Poste Moderne Brasserie at Hotel Monaco Washington D.C.

Not only can you sit outside at Poste Moderne in Hotel Monaco, but while sitting outside at the large communal table, you can probably see some of what you’ll be eating; the restaurant grows many ingredients, such as kale, kiwi, and cantaloupe, in its own garden.

Offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Poste Moderne includes a rotation of specials for every weekday — we recommend the bouillabaisse on Tuesdays.



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5 Money Moves Everyone Should Make By Age 30

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girl working thinking reading

Millennials, the current generation of 20-somethings perhaps best known for their tech-savvy ways, are growing up. The oldest members of the group are now turning 30, which means they increasingly have adult money issues on their minds. The need for long-term savings accounts, retirement funds, debt payments, mortgage payments, and family-related costs are among the responsibilities weighing them down.

The good news is that the financial services industry wants to help. Eager for younger customers’ business, they have been busy analyzing millennials’ financial challenges and trying to figure out how they can best reach out to them. As a result, a handful of financial services companies recently released money tips for millennials. Here are five of the best ones:

Save like it’s 2009. Savings rates tend to go up during recessions, which is why personal savings rates shot up in 2009. The fear of financial instability appears to motivate people to squirrel more money into the safety of bank accounts rather than squander it on new shoes or a new smartphone. Millennials could use some of that motivation, since many have yet to start padding their bank accounts or saving for retirement.

A recent Wells Fargo Retirement Survey found that 2 in 3 millennials consider themselves “savers,” with men more likely than women to do so. Still, just over half of the group says they haven’t started saving yet — but plan to by age 30. The reason for that lack of saving? Most respondents said they simply didn’t have enough money.

Those who had found a way to start saving tended to have some help from their employers; most of those saving for retirement are using employer-sponsored plans, the survey found. Around half of those saving are putting away between 1 and 5 percent of their income, 31 percent are saving between 6 and 10 percent, and 14 percent are saving more than 10 percent. (Financial advisers generally recommend saving between 10 and 20 percent of your income over your working years, with the goal of replacing 80 percent of your income during retirement.)

[Read: A Financial Checklist for 30-Somethings]

Karen Wimbish, director of Retail Retirement at Wells Fargo, urges millennials to get started with saving as soon as possible in order to benefit from compounding interest. Having more money in the bank, she says, can also provide a confidence boost when it comes to achieving long-term goals.

Get over your fear of the market. Given that millennials came of age in the era of Bernie Madoff and the subprime mortgage crisis, it’s no surprise that more than half profess a lack of confidence in the market, according to the Wells Fargo survey. Women are particularly wary, with two-thirds saying they are not confident in the market. The problem with this distrust of the market is that millennials could lose out on the chance to benefit from its long-term growth. After all, millennials saving for retirement have decades to ride out any bumps.

Confront loan stress. Student loans are a huge source of worry for millennials. Most respondents cited it as their biggest financial concern in the Wells Fargo survey. The survey also found that millennials were about twice as likely as boomers to feel overwhelmed by their debt (42 percent versus 22 percent).

[Read: How Gen Y Is Overcoming the Economic Blues]

Chat about money on dates. Okay, maybe not the first date, but USAA financial planners suggest talking about money, and credit histories in particular, with long-term mates. USAA put out a release urging millennials to ask their partners how much debt they have, as well as get an overview of assets, before exchanging vows. The reason? A bad credit score can derail post-marriage plans, from buying a house to purchasing a new car.

Get a job, not a degree. Obtaining advanced degrees can make sense in a lot of situations, but USAA financial planners also warn against using school as a second-best option when the job market doesn’t work out. Returning to school often means building up more debt, and if the degree isn’t directly related to your future career, it might not pay off in the long run.

[See: 50 Smart Money Moves]

If you’re a millennial (or the parent of one), don’t let all these financial burdens get you down too much. Millennials might have a lot on their financial plates, but they also have a lot of financial potential.

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Duke Grad Student Secretly Lived In A Van To Escape Loan Debt [PHOTOS]

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SDC10234.JPGBy the time Ken Ilgunas was wrapping up his last year of undergraduate studies at the University of Buffalo in 2005, he was had no idea what kind of debt hole he'd dug himself into. 

He had majored in the least marketable fields of study possible –– English and History –– and had zero job prospects after getting turned down for no fewer than 25 paid internships. 

"That was a wake-up call," he told Business Insider. "I had this huge $32,000 student debt and at the time I was pushing carts at Home Depot, making $8 an hour. I was just getting kind of frantic." 

Back then, student loans had yet to become the front page news they are today. Ilgunas could have simply deferred his loans or declared forbearance. He also could have asked his parents (who were more than willing to help) for a leg up. He could have thrown up his hands and gone to grad school until the job market bounced back. 

Instead, he moved to Alaska and spent two years paying back every dime. And when he enrolled at Duke University for graduate school later, he lived out of his van to be sure he wouldn't have to take out loans again.

"I had no idea what I was getting into at the time. I didn't even know what interest was when I was 17," he said. "I just think that's awfully indicative of the incredibly poor personal finance education young people have at that time in their lives." 

In his book, "Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom," Ken chronicles his journey out of debt. 

He was kind enough to share his story with us this week. 

He knew exactly where to go for work. Ken had spent a couple months working at a remote Alaskan truck stop the summer before graduating. So he called up his old contacts and landed a job there as a local tour guide, cook, and basically whatever the locals needed.



"The day after I graduated, I was on a flight to Alaska and pretty much started work right away," he said. "As ignorant as I was, I did know that if I didn't deal with my loans, I'd have to deal with accumulated interest or delinquency or default. I wanted to pay it off as fast as humanly possible."



It was a brilliant move for a 20-something needing to pay down debt in a hurry. "It's 250 miles from the nearest store, room and board were included, and there wasn't any cell service," he said. "You can amaze yourself with how much you can save when you reduce your cost of living. Almost every dollar I made went toward my student loans."



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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The Outrageous Cost Of Living In Norway's Capital City

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Oslo Norway

Oslo, the capital of Norway, is the new most expensive city in the world for expatriates.

The city topped a new list of pricey cities from ECA International, a global management consulting firm that calculates the cost of living based on prices of various day-to-day goods and services.

Prices for common goods in Oslo like a cup of coffee or a quick lunch are significantly higher than they are in New York, a city not exactly known for bargains.

However, New Yorkers still pay way more than Oslo residents when it comes to real estate with almost double the monthly rent.

In Oslo, a can of soda would cost you $3.43. In New York, it costs $1.64.

Source: ECA International



A man's suit would set you back $855 in Oslo. In New York, a man's suit costs $687.

Source: ECA International



Buying a video game in Oslo costs $87, while in NYC it's closer to $60.

Source: ECA International



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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These Tubular '80s Workout GIFs Will Inspire You To Get In Shape For Summer

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If we learned anything from Prancercising— the bizarre horse-inspired exercise that went viral last week — it's that you don't have to look cool to feel the burn.

And no one knew that better than '80s fitness instructors. With big hair, tight spandex, and some crazy moves, they really took working out to an uncomfortable place.

Thankfully, YouTube has done its part to keep these videos alive for future generations.

So we decided to put together a rundown of the best '80s fitness moves to get you in shape and toned for the summer months ahead.

If one of these GIFs doesn't load, click here to refresh the page.

First, let's warm up. Really extend those arms.

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Now work those triceps! You WISH you looked this good.

Fitness Work out 80s exercise gif

Flailing like a beached whale will work those obliques.

Fitness Work out 80s exercise gif

And while you're down there, let's do the Jane Fonda.

Fitness Work out 80s exercise gif

Not masculine enough for you? Maybe try what these two studs are doing:

Fitness Work out 80s exercise gif

Now let's work that boogie body! (This entire video is worth watching, by the way.)

Fitness Work out 80s exercise gif

Get your heart racing with some tubular cardio.

Fitness Work out 80s exercise gif

Don't forget to exercise your facial muscles!

Fitness Work out 80s exercise gif

And, of course, no one knows how to get in shape quite like Richard Simmons.

Fitness Work out 80s exercise gif

Great job! Now show off those muscles — you've earned it.

Fitness Work out 80s exercise gif

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I Married A Debt-Ridden Drug Addict And It Nearly Ruined Me

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upset guy work sadI met Steven* when I was 19.

It was the summer after my first year of college, and he was one of several guys renting the house my parents owned next door to ours.

We spent about two weeks making eyes at each other before he finally introduced himself.

Steven was four years older than me and had been married once before.

At first, my parents were a bit skeptical of him, but soon even they were charmed. He was funny and fun and very, very likable.

That summer we fell in love was one of the happiest times of my life. We went camping, cooked dinners, took trips to the beach and spent most nights lying in his backyard in a hammock, watching fireflies and listening to the crickets.

We decided to get married just a year later. The lease was about to end on the apartment I was renting near my college, and I wanted to live with Steven, but not before we were married. So, in 2006, he proposed, and two and a half months later—at age 20—I was his wife.

Seeing Steven Clearly

Two months after we were married, Steven called me at my work in the warrant division of the sheriff’s office and said he’d been fired from his job managing an auto parts store in town. He said he’d been accused of stealing. I, of course, freaked out.

The retainer fee for a lawyer was $2,000, and if the case actually went to trial, it would cost an additional $6,000. Since we didn’t have that much money, we decided Steven should take the plea deal. He plead guilty, and, in exchange, had to pay back the amount for the stolen parts (about $2,000) and serve two months of home detention.

I believed he was innocent, and I defended him until I was blue in the face. I waited to see how he would make the situation right, but he didn’t seem to do much of anything at all, or couldn’t. I wasn’t sure. Since he didn’t have a job anymore—and we didn’t have much in savings—my parents paid some of the amount Steven owed to his employer, and then we paid the rest back in payments. The whole ordeal was awful and humiliating.

That was the first early glimpse I had that Steven wasn’t the man I thought I had married.

RELATED: 6 Ways to Combine Finances With Your Partner

Before we got married, I knew Steven didn’t have a lot of money, but I didn’t know the extent of the situation. There had been hints—while we were dating, he was happy to let me pay for him, but I didn’t how significant it was. I started working at an ice cream store when I was 15, and since then I’ve never liked having other people pay for me. It was just easier for me to pay, and he never resisted.

After we bought a house (the mortgage was in my name because Steven’s creditwas terrible), collection agencies started calling our home. I would hand him the phone, and he would just hang up.

He always refused to sit down and have a conversation about money with me, but between the bill collectors calling me, the list of his debts I was given when applying for a car loan at the bank and the seizing of our tax refund to pay his delinquent loans, I pieced together that he had about $16,000 in student loans, one credit card he’d maxed out, another card with a balance of about $900, and extensive unpaid medical bills. Since his student loans were in default, I got them rehabilitated and began paying off all of his debts.

RELATED: 8 Financial Red Flags in a Relationship

At the time, I thought since we were married, my money was our money. It didn’t matter whose name was on the card because we would pay it off together.

But now I can see that there was something more going on: I was becoming afraid of Steven. He’d changed so much, so quickly. Now he would fly into rages while taking drugs he told me were for an old football injury. After less than a year of marriage, my new husband seemed like a stranger to me.

When Trying Wasn’t Enough

I felt so conflicted because while I didn’t want to be with him, I didn’t want to be divorced either. I am religious, and the thought of being in my twenties and divorced seemed awful.

But about six months after we were married, I realized that the stealing, lying and money problems weren’t isolated events—they were the pattern of Steven’s life. I started daydreaming about what my life could be like without him. But, even so, I couldn’t stop worrying about how he would fare without me.

I had so much shame about the state of our marriage, and I felt like a failure. Though Steven refused to go with me, I started seeing a marriage counselor. She told me that he was a drug addict, that he was using me to support his habits. I didn’t want to believe her: I knew that he did have pain … he just wasn’t dealing with it like he should have been. I also believed—and I still do—that at first we truly loved each other, and I didn’t want to throw the relationship away if it could be saved. I kept trying and trying to fix it, until I was completely drained.

RELATED: How to Stop Being the Family ATM

Even though I was still broke, I finally felt in control, and I knew that if I stuck to the plan I would be OK.

In early December 2009, I sat down with Steven and told him I couldn’t be married like that anymore. My counselor had advised me for some time to stop paying his bills, and I was finally going to pull the plug.

“I’m at the end of my rope,” I told him. “You have to be a husband. You have to careif I like this or not!” He pretty much stopped talking to me that day, and I moved in with my parents in February 2010.

By September 2011, after just five years of marriage, our divorce was final.

How I Rebuilt My Finances and My Life

My parents raised three of us on very little money, so I was raised to be mindful about what I spent. But in the months before Steven and I split up, most of my bills were delinquent, my credit cards were past due, my mortgage was behind, debt collectors were calling me all day, and I was constantly having to choose between the water and electricity, groceries and gasoline. In short, I didn’t recognize my life.

I was still working at the sheriff’s office, but I’d quit school 30 hours short of earning my bachelors degree in criminal justice, because I was just so spent—financially and emotionally—that I couldn’t handle both school and work.

About a month after we separated, Steven moved out of the house, and I moved back in. The electricity and gas had both been disconnected, and he’d taken the bed with him, so I was sleeping in a chair next to a space heater. Yet I realized then that my life and my money were my own again—and I could finally breathe and start to rebuild. I started by selling or throwing away almost everything we had left in the house. I had to start fresh. I also took on as much overtime as I could to earn extra money.

I started reading books by the financial expert Dave Ramsey and would listen to how other people got out of debt on his radio show. Steven and I had racked up $10,000 on one of my credit cards while we were married, and my minimum monthly payment was $600. So I called the company and they put me on a repayment plan, which brought my payments down to about $200, freeing up a lot of money for me to pay back other debts and restore the utilities.

RELATED: The 50/20/30 Rule: Your Ultimate Budget Guideline

I made an Excel spreadsheet, and in my discretionary spending column (I categorized my house and utilities payments separately), I budgeted $35 per week for gasoline, $40 for groceries and $40 for little expenses like clothes, laundry detergent, parking tickets and renting movies. These are limits I still abide by today. I got rid of any extra expenses, and I canceled my cable, phone and internet services. Even though I was still broke, I finally felt in control, and I knew that if I stuck to the plan, I would be OK.

Where I Am Today

I’ve been able to pay off three credit cards, my car and $1,300 in state taxes. I still have $1,200 in credit card debt to go, plus about $43,000 in student loans, which I’ll be paying over the next ten years on an income-based repayment plan until the balance is forgiven due to my work in public service. I also went back to school to finish my degree in criminal justice and should be done next May.

Once I had some money saved, I opened three online savings accounts: an emergency fund, my “sinking stability” fund for things like car repairs and house repairs, and a vacation fund.

Every two weeks, I have $200 of my $923 paycheck automatically transferred into savings, and I live on the rest. I have about $3,000 in savings so far. Next, I want to refinance my house and start saving aggressively for retirement.

RELATED: The Secret of Retirement Savings: You Can’t Make Up for Lost Time

I’ve been seeing my new boyfriend for about a year and a half, and he’s honest, kind and even-tempered. He works really hard holding two part-time jobs while trying to build a career in video production, and he’s responsible with his money.

We discuss our future, our priorities and how we’ll combine our homes and finances when that day comes. We talk all the time about strategies for saving money. I’m definitely being much more cautious this time around.

I still live in the house Steven and I shared, and I see him around town, but we haven’t really spoken. It’s a struggle to remember that I did all I could for him and our relationship and that my only obligation is to myself now. But at age 27, it feels good to have control of my life again.

* Due to the sensitive nature of this topic, all names have been changed.

Love reading other people’s financial tales? Check out more great LearnVest-exclusive personal stories.

SEE ALSO: I Married An Embezzler And Paid The Ultimate Price

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Incredible Viral Video Of Soldier Singing Rihanna's 'Stay' In Afghanistan

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paul ieti

Only one day after a U.S. Army soldier uploaded a video of himself singing in Afghanistan, it's gone viral.

Private First Class Paul Ieti, from American Samoa, posted the video to his personal Facebook page Thursday of him singing the Rihanna song "Stay".

He's currently serving in Afghanistan with the 3rd Infantry Division out of Fort Stewart, Ga.

Laura Ferreiro of Yahoo Music writes:

The video is incredibly simple – it features the soldier wearing fatigues sitting on a table eating cereal before he launches into an emotional rendition of the tune from Rihanna's latest album, Unapologetic.

He starts out by saying, "Shout out to Rihanna. I love you."

At last check on Facebook alone, the video had more than 30,000 likes and 9,000 shares — probably because his cover is rather incredible. Not surprisingly, this isn't the only song from Ieti. He also has a YouTube page showcasing many other impressive covers he's done.

Shortly after he realized how popular his video had become, Ieti wrote on Facebook, "Wow, just wow ... I'm blown away ... thanks for the love world."

Now watch the video:

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Iran's Posh Drinkers Now Favor A Cheap, Home-Brewed Alcohol

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Arak alcoholTHE middle-class northern suburbs of Tehran are the wet part of Iran. In no other place in the Islamic Republic are piety and conservatism less evident and alcohol consumption more so. But a run on the rial throughout 2012, set off largely by international sanctions on Iran's banking and oil, has made imported alcohol too expensive even for the better-off. Absolut Vodka, long a favourite tipple, now changes hands for three times more than it did before the currency began to slide at the start of last year.

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