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The best online deals happening now, including the last day to shop an early Valentine's Day flower sale

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Best Online Sales Deals

We rounded up the best sales and deals happening online today, including savings at United by Blue and Frank and Oak.

Deals in this story are subject to change throughout the day. The prices listed reflect the deal at the time of publication. For even more deals and savings across the web, check out Business Insider Coupons.

The best deals available right now

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The best on-going sales and exclusive discounts happening right now

Get up to 60% off from United by Blue
united by blue women's bison puffer snap

Shop the United by Blue End of Season Sale now.

United by Blue is holding a huge sale with up to 60% off sitewide and an extra 50% off sale items with promo code BYEWINTER. Not only does the brand make apparel you can feel good about wearing, but it's also some of the softest and warmest stuff we've worn. We've tried and reviewed the Responsible Flannels and Bison Puffers, and found them to be worth the hype. Sales, especially with discounts this good, are few and far between, so don't miss out on these deals.

Get an extra 20% off everything from Frank and Oak
frank and oak style plan subscription

Shop the Frank and Oak Flash Sale now.

Use promo code FLASH20 to get an extra 20% off everything from Frank and Oak, an apparel retailer with a style subscription box. We loved the company's Style Plan subscription and enjoyed the experience, despite the hefty price tag. Even if you're less inclined to subscribe for stylist-curated fashion, the sale applies to individual pieces as well; you can feel good buying from Frank and Oak knowing that oftentimes, sustainable materials are used for construction. 

Get up to $375 off mattresses from Leesa
leesa bed

Shop the Leesa Annual Winter Sale now.

Leesa is offering shoppers up to $375 off mattresses and up to $877 off bundles during its Annual Winter Sale going on now. We've tested and loved most of Leesa's lineup of mattresses. The Hybrid is evenour top pick for best hybrid mattress, with its cooling top and responsive springs. Sales from the start-up aren't exactly rare, but right now is still a good chance to save a big chunk of change on a sleep game-changer.

Get an extra 20% off sale styles from Timex
timex men's watch

Shop the Timex Sale now.

Right now you can get up to 50% off sale styles from Timex with promo code EXTRA20. Sales from the brand are pretty uncommon and with some styles cut down to half price, it's worth looking into if you need a new watch. Affordable and durable, we've chosen Timex designs as picks in our guides to the best men's field watches and the best men's watches under $100.

Get 15% off home goods orders of $100 or more from Verishop
ferm living clio muses vase verishop

Shop the Verishop home refresh sale now.

Right now, you can get 15% off a purchase of $100 or more on home items from Verishop, a convenient alternative to Amazon (with better curation). Use promo code MODHOME at checkout to see the discount. The minimum purchase requirement may seem like a high threshold, but most things from the retailer are pricey, so it's an easy total to hit. 

Save on Deluxe-size bouquets from The Bouqs Company
best valentines day flowers the bouqs company

Shop the Early Valentine's Day Sale from The Bouqs Company now.

Our pick for the best overall online flower delivery service, The Bouqs Company offers a ton of different bouqs sourced from eco-friendly farmers. Right now, you can get a deluxe-sized bouq for the price of an original-sized one with promo code 2XBLOOMS. Sales from the service are rare and this one ends January 21, so don't miss out on a chance to order your flowers for Valentine's Day early.

Get up to 40% off Valentine's flowers from 1-800-Flowers
valentines day 1 800 flowers banner

Shop the 1-800-Flowers Valentine's Day sale now.

Just over a month is left before the big day, but it's never too early to plan ahead for Valentine's Day, especially with deals this good. Right now, flowers and gifts including bouquets, plushes, gift baskets, and more are up to 40% off, no code necessary. The retailer is one of our favorite online flower delivery services, especially for last-minute shoppers.

Get up to 50% off at Lo & Sons
lo and sons catalina deluxe weekender bag

Shop the Lo & Sons Winter Sale now.

Thoughtfully designed and durably constructed, bags from Lo & Sons are popular for a reason. Right now, select bags are up to 50% off, including the Catalina and the O.G. that we cover in our review. Even if travel isn't in your plans for 2021, this sale is so good it may be worth investing in a bag that you'll love using. 

Get up to 60% off at Naadam
Naadam women's cashmere sweater

Shop the world's fairest end of season sale at Naadam now.

If you won't settle for anything less than cashmere, Naadam is the brand for you. It's a brand we love not only for its cozy cashmere sweaters but also for its sustainability and ethical practices. Right now, Naadam is offering up to 60% off sweaters for men and women. If you want to learn more about the startup before you shop, check out our Naadam review or our guide to the best places to shop for women's cashmere

Get 10% off sitewide from Nest Bedding
nest bedding easy breather pillow

Shop the Nest Bedding New Year Sale now.

For the whole month of January, Nest Bedding is offering shoppers 10% off sitewide. Furniture, bedding, and much more is on sale from the brand, making now a great chance to upgrade your sleeping situation. We've reviewed a ton of Nest Bedding products, with some even making it as picks in our guides to the best latex pillows and foam mattresses

Get up to 60% off from Casper
casper playful pillows bedspread

Shop the Last Call Sale at Casper now.

If you've ever shopped online for bedding and mattresses, Casper needs no introduction. Right now, the mattress start-up is offering up to 60% off select bedding and mattresses, including 60% off the Airy Linen Quilt and 30% off the Casper Hybrid. To figure out which one is best for you, check out our reviews of the 5 most popular Casper mattresses.

Get men's outerwear from JACHS NY for $29
JACHS NY outerwear blowout sale red and gray puffer

Shop the Outerwear Blowout Sale now.

Winter has only just begun and JACHS NY is offering a big sale to keep you warm. Right now, you can get select men's outerwear — including sherpa jackets and puffer vests — for only $29 apiece with promo code OT29. It's not the first sale we've seen from JACHS NY, but it's one of the deepest discounts for sure, with some items up to 85% off. If you're not in the market for a new jacket, the rest of the site is also 70% off with promo code NEWYEAR

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Liz Cheney could face a mutiny within Congress and in her home state of Wyoming

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Liz Cheney
Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., speaks during a news conference with other House Republican leadership in Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020
  • House GOP caucus chair Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) could be facing a mutiny within her party.
  • Cheney roiled members of her caucus when she voted to impeach Trump. 
  • She's set to face at least one primary challenger.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

House Republican Conference chairwoman Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the third-highest ranking Republican in the House, could be facing a career-threatening mutiny both within her own caucus and in her home state.

Cheney was the most powerful of the 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for inciting an insurrection on the US Capitol on January 6. The action triggered an immense backlash to her leadership and rising profile within the GOP. 

The congresswoman not only voted to impeach Trump but announced she would do so in a scathing statement the day before the vote, giving members of her caucus cover to vote to impeach as well. 

Read more: Democrats have these 7 last-minute Trump administration regulations in their sights to overturn now that they control the Senate

Cheney told Politico the day of the impeachment vote that she's "not going anywhere." But the outlet reported on Thursday that at least 107 House Republicans, over half of the 211-member caucus, now support replacing Cheney as House caucus chair. 

Politico reported that conservative New York Republicans Rep. Elise Stefanik and Rep. Lee Zeldin, both of whom played leading roles in defending Trump during his first impeachment trial, had expressed interest in running to replace her.  

But Cheney still has many high-profile defenders, and it's unlikely for her to be ousted altogether. As Politico explained on Friday: "The process of booting her at the start of her leadership term is actually somewhat complicated and a pretty high bar: two-thirds of the House GOP needs to agree to even take a vote on a resolution calling for her to step aside."

McCarthy, Scalise, Cheney
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., center, flanked by GOP Conference chair Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., left, and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., right, speaks to reporters following their leadership elections for the 117th Congress, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020.

Trump's hold over the GOP could haunt Cheney's political prospects

Cheney is already facing a challenge on the home front. The local Republican party in Carbon County, Wyoming, unanimously voted to censure Cheney for her impeachment vote. And State Senator Anthony Bouchard has filed paperwork and announced a campaign challenge to Cheney in the 2022 Republican primary for her at-large House seat. 

Cheney emerged from a crowded open primary for the seat in 2016, and easily won all subsequent primary and general elections, slightly underperforming Trump at the top of the ticket in 2016 and 2020. 

Twenty-two months out from the November 2022 midterm elections, it's unclear how much traction her primary challenger will gain, and whether Cheney's stand against Trump could end up costing her her congressional seat.

But her vote to impeach and the fact that Democrats will likely continue to cite her own words to prosecute the case against Trump certainly jeopardizes her career prospects as a leader of the GOP.

Read more: How to get a job working for a member of Congress

This isn't the first time Cheney had clashed with Trump or the caucus she leads over her breaking with the president. 

Cheney had been on the receiving end of criticism from Trump over her hawkish stances on military and defense issues (Cheney had a career at the State Department under the Bush administration before running for Congress).

On the fateful morning of the January 6 insurrection, Trump took a shot at Cheney when speaking to the pro-Trump "Save America" rally crowd. 

"And we got to get rid of the weak congresspeople, the ones that aren't any good, the Liz Cheneys of the world, we got to get rid of them. We got to get rid of them. She never wants a soldier brought home. I've brought a lot of our soldiers home," Trump said.

Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan
Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, left, and Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, right, have been vocally critical of Cheney

Cheney has clashed with her caucus before 

Back in July, Politico reported that at the first in-person Republican caucus meeting to take place in months, several of the most conservative members of the house, including Reps. Jim Jordan and Matt Gaetz, unloaded on Cheney for grievances ranging from her endorsement of a primary challenger to Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky to her public support of Dr. Anthony Fauci.

"Liz Cheney is only upset because I have been actively getting our great and beautiful Country out of the ridiculous and costly Endless Wars. I am also making our so-called allies pay tens of billions of dollars in delinquent military costs. They must, at least, treat us fairly!!!," Trump tweeted from his non-suspended Twitter account on July 20.

Read more: How the Senate could vote to bar Trump from ever holding federal office again and kill any chances of a 2024 run now that the House has impeached him

And both the congresswoman and her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, took stands against Trump's efforts to subvert the election results in his last days in office, a notable crack in the GOP façade. 

The elder Cheney organized a joint op-ed in the Washington Post signed by all 10 living former defense secretaries stating that the period for disputing election results had ended and reiterating that the military has no role to play in resolving election disputes or in the transfer of power. 

"The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the electoral college votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived," the op-ed said.

 

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The Dept. of Transportation will prioritize climate change in support of Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, Buttigieg tells Congress

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Buttigieg Biden
Pete Buttigieg and Joe Biden shake hands after the Ohio Democratic presidential debate in October 2019.
  • Transportation Secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg told Congress this week that the US Department of Transportation would prioritize climate change in support of President Joe Biden's $2 trillion infrastructure plan.
  • Biden's infrastructure plan will add jobs to the economy while working to combat the climate crisis.
  • Buttigieg said that funding for the plan depends on how the economy recovers from COVID-19, making the timeline for implementation uncertain.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Transportation Secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing on Thursday that he will prioritize climate change as part of the Department of Transportation's support for President Joe Biden's infrastructure plans.

Biden has proposed a $2 trillion investment in infrastructure, according to his website, with the intent to create "the jobs we need to build a modern, sustainable infrastructure now and deliver an equitable clean energy future."

This investment includes funding toward the auto industry, transit, the energy sector, buildings, housing, and environmental justice, and will work to ensure the investments create millions of jobs that expand the middle class. Buttigieg said in his confirmation hearing that Biden's actions on climate change will add more jobs while addressing the global crisis.

"When the books are written about our careers, one of the main things we'll be judged on is whether we did enough to stop the destruction of life and property due to climate change," Buttigieg said.

Autonomous vehicles are an area Buttigieg noted he will work to advance, which would benefit both the climate and the economy by reducing both fuel costs and carbon emissions.

The number of unemployed Americans has spiked during the pandemic, so Biden's goal of adding climate-related jobs to the labor market will not only address the climate crisis, but will hopefully stimulate economic growth and recovery.

When asked by Republican lawmakers how the federal government would pay for Biden's costly infrastructure package, Buttigieg said it would be reliant on how the economy recovers from COVID-19, including how effective Biden's executive actions are in addressing the pandemic and providing financial relief. 

 

 

Read the original article on Business Insider

33 incredibly useful products we swear by - from a $7 laptop stand to Starbucks instant coffee

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When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

citrus press
Pictured: The Cucisina Citrus Press, $8 on Amazon.

  • Insider Reviews tests a lot of products each year, so when something stands out, we take note. 
  • There's nothing we love more than a random product that turns out to be incredibly practical
  • From a lemon juicer to a utility cart, these are the most useful products we've tried so far. 

The Insider Reviews team has tested out a lot of products over the past few years. There are plenty of items that stand out for being innovative, practical, comfortable, and adding value to our lives in a plethora of other ways. Then, there are the products that are so useful we cannot imagine what we'd do without them.

These items, whether we've purchased them ourselves or tested them out for work, have become mainstays in our lives, helping us to solve even the most mundane of life's inconveniences. From big-ticket items like a $200 robot vacuum to small ones like a $10 nylon bag, these are the most useful products we have tried or bought, and know we will continue using for years to come. 

Check out our list of the 33 most useful products we've discovered, below:

A robovac that vacuums your home even when you really don't want to
eufy

Eufy Boost IQ RoboVac 11S, $239.00, available at Walmart

I've saved probably five hours a week worth of cleaning time because of this vacuum. All I have to do is set it on an automatic timer to run its course every day, and it travels around my apartment, clearing molding between rooms with ease. This one isn't advanced enough to track its route so sometimes it'll go over the same spots, but the ones with all those special features tend to cost a lot more than this one (which is pretty reasonable in my opinion). In addition to scheduling cleanings, you can also use the remote control to clean a specific area by directing the vacuum's route yourself. It's slim enough to make it under dressers and couches with low clearance, and strong enough to suck up all the cat hair and litter in my apartment. — Sally Kaplan

A headband that makes falling asleep to music easy
AcousticSheep SleepPhones Wireless | Bluetooth Headphones for Sleep

AcousticSheep SleepPhones Bluetooth Headphones, $99.95, available at Amazon

I like to fall asleep to music, but it's a notoriously difficult task to find headphones that are comfortable (ie. slim enough) to sleep on top of at night without waking up with a sore neck. These AcousticSheep headphones look a bit like a science experiment, but they're the best ones I've found yet: comfortable, loud (but not loud enough to disturb others), and a battery life that lasts all night. You can listen to soothing sounds from an app or your favorite Spotify playlist via Bluetooth. — Mara Leighton

A button-up duvet cover that is convenient and comfortable
casper

Cool Supima Duvet Cover, $180, available at Casper

I can't praise Casper's duvet cover 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 adjust the duvet without having to undo the whole cover. — Ellen Hoffman

A well-designed set of pillowcases
brooklinen

Luxe Pillowcases, $41.40 for set of two, available at Brooklinen

My favorite bedding brand Brooklinen recently updated the design of its pillowcases to include envelope closures, which means there are no open ends, and there's never any annoying pillow spillage. It's small, clever improvements like this that keep me coming back to the brand time and again for new sheets, comforters, bath towels, and even scented candles. — Ellen Hoffman

A set of packing cubes that are great organizers and space savers
eagle creek

Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cube Set, $33.99 (two-pack), available at Moosejaw

If you're planning on traveling anytime soon, do yourself a favor and pick up some of these packing cubes before you go. These water-resistant, nylon bags help you keep clothing organized so you won't waste time digging through your suitcase searching for what you need. Most importantly, they are great space-savers thanks to compression zippers that help you squeeze a lot of clothing into your small luggage.— Remi Rosmarin

An easy, affordable device that centralizes your favorite streaming platforms
firestick

Fire TV Stick, $37.99, available at Best Buy

Life in my apartment would be much less interesting without our Fire TV Stick, which makes it easy to browse and watch almost any show or movie we feel like. Since each of my roommates subscribes to a different streaming service (Hulu, Netflix, Prime, etc.), we can combine them all into one central hub and never miss out on the latest film or episode. The menus are easy to navigate, it's Alexa-compatible, and the Fire TV app lets you control everything from your phone when you can't find the remote. The stick is compact and portable, and you can bring it with you when you travel as long as your hotel room has a TV and WiFi. — Connie Chen

A small, but very useful citrus press
citrus press
Pictured: The Cucisina Citrus Press, $8 on Amazon.

Cucisina Citrus Press, $7.98, available at Amazon

BergHOFF Manual Lemon Squeezer, $12.99, available at Target

If your cooking calls for a lot of juiced lemons or limes, or you just make a lot of guacamole, you need this $8 tool in your life. It's a serious game changer. Lemon seeds falling into your food will be a thing of the past. — Ellen Hoffman

A pair of wireless headphones that stay put while you run
jaybird

Jaybird RUN True Wireless In-Ear Headphones, $99.99, available at Amazon and Best Buy

I spent a long time looking for wireless earbuds that both felt secure and were loud enough to drown out the monotony of pounding feet on a treadmill, and these are the best I've ever come across. They fit the bill perfectly, and they're tiny enough to fit in my jacket pocket or purse even in their charging case. They never fall out – or feel like they could – and they've got a great battery life: 12 hours on a full charge, and only five minutes in the charging case equaling one hour of playtime. They're also dirt-, sweat-, and water-resistant. Thanks to their convenience, I've even started using them on my commute or as a space-friendly travel alternative to bulky headphones for short trips. If I lost them, I'd easily fork over $150 to replace them. — Mara Leighton

A stylish reusable bag that is an eco-friendly alternative to plastic
baby baggu $8

Standard BAGGU Reusable Bag, $12, available at BAGGU

Nothing fancy here — it's a nylon bag, but a sturdy, stylish, and versatile one at that. I carry one with me to lug heavy groceries (which I inevitably overbuy at the market every time) and to pack random knickknacks when I travel. Coming from a state where plastic bags are banned, I'm used to carrying reusable bags. They're so much better for the environment, and they're light and won't weigh you down. BAGGU's even folds down to a 5" x 5" square. — Connie Chen

An adhesive that gives you get the best grip on your tech
popsocket

PopSocket Collapsible Grip & Stand, $15, available at PopSockets

PopSocket grips are honestly one of the greatest inventions known to humankind. They make holding your tech a heck of a lot easier, especially when commuting. I avoided using them for a long time because I'm a contrarian and I hate giving in to popular trends, which was honestly no excuse. They are incredibly useful, and now I have one on every device including my phone, tablet, and Kindle. I even use the one on my phone to neatly wrap and store my headphones sometimes. — Sally Kaplan

I don't do trendy things as a rule, either, so I'm relieved I got my PopSocket before it was cool. I can't imagine using my phone without one now. The PopSocket grips aren't just cute and fun to look at, they're incredibly practical. They make holding and navigating your phone one-handed a breeze, and PopSockets double as a stand when you want to watch a video on your phone. — Malarie Gokey

A well-thought-out dish rack that will motivate you to wash your dishes
dishrack

Farberware 3-Piece Dish Rack Set, $13.59, available at Kohl's

A large dish rack may not seem like a worthwhile investment, but believe me, it is. I bought Farberware's dish rack last summer, and it's changed my kitchen cleaning game. The rack has three holders for utensils, three spots on the side to dry glasses, and enough room in its main section to dry a sink-load of dishes. The rack itself is slightly slanted, so water can drain from your dishes directly into the sink. I realized that I wasn't doing my dishes as often as I should have because the idea of doing it in several loads was annoying. Now that I don't have that problem, the only thing I see when I look into the sink is the drain. — Brandt Ranj

A great water bottle for keeping beverages ice-cold on the go
hydroflask

40 oz. Wide-Mouth Vacuum Water Bottle (available in 11 colors), $29.93, available at REI

After using the Hydro Flask Rocks Cup and True Pint Glass for my hot and cold drinks at work, I wanted to get something that I could use when I'm not in the office. I went with the 40 oz. Wide-Mouth Vacuum Water Bottle and I've used it just about every day since purchasing it. Originally, I thought I'd only carry it to the gym since it holds enough water to get me through my workouts, but I've started to carry it with me whenever I know I'll be away from home for a while. Compared to normal water bottles, the Hydro Flask keeps my water cold for a much longer time. If I fill it with water and ice cubes in the morning, the ice cubes are usually still in there by the end of the day — even if it's very hot outside. — Amir Ismael

Quick-drying, lightweight towels that are great for humid weather
fouta

Fouta Towels, starting at $4, available at Crane & Canopy

One of the worst things about humid, hot weather is that nothing dries — least of all the towels you have to use to dry off from multiple cold showers each day. I was lucky enough to get Crane & Canopy's lightweight Fouta Turkish cotton towels just in time for a heat wave, and I love them. They dry super quickly, they don't feel heavy on your body when it's hot, and they're really cute in your bathroom. —Malarie Gokey

A set of giant, cozy shower towels
llbean towels

Egyptian Cotton Towels, $24.95, available at L.L.Bean

I am not super tall (quite the opposite), but get cold very easily, which means that the moment I get out of the shower, I'm freezing. These bath sheets are huge (40 x 60), soft, dense, and warm me right up. I also like that they're not so plush that they don't dry easily or anything like that. You can also have them monogrammed for $8.— Grace High 

A book membership service that will satisfy avid readers
scribd

Scribd membership, $9.99 a month, available at Scribd

Scribd is a reading app that gives subscribers unlimited access to hundreds of thousands of audiobooks, e-books, magazines, sheet music, and more for $9 per month. You can download titles for offline reading and add highlights and notes. In my experience, it's the best and broadest collection of titles for less than I pay for coffee in a week. It helps me read more, and it's about the only subscription I've been loyal to for a year and remained totally content with. — Mara Leighton

A super-convenient utensil holder
OXO holder

OXO Good Grips Rotating Utensil Holder, $19.99, available at Bed Bath & Beyond

As an avid home chef I've accumulated way too many tools and utensils to fit in my kitchen drawers. I bought OXO's rotating utensil holder earlier this year, and never looked back. The holder is partitioned into three sections, so you can easily organize your tools based on which ones you use for certain types of cooking. And as silly as it may seem, the fact that this holder rotates makes it easy to get quick access to every tool you have stored inside. — Brandt Ranj

Hydrocolloid patches that help pesky pimples disappear
mightypatch

Mighty Patch Hydrocolloid Acne Absorbing Spot Dots, $13, available at Kohl's

These Mighty Patch stickers are the most effective acne weapon I've ever found, and both myself and fellow Insider Reviews reporter Connie Chen have sung their praises many times. Stick the spot dot over a blemish at night when one crops up, and you'll find that it is either gone or vastly diminished in severity and inflammation the next morning. The Hydrocolloid – originally used for treating wounds – draws impurities out from pores without harsh chemicals or drying products, and the sticker cover protects blemishes from your wandering hands as well as dirt, dust, and germs so it can recover quickly and effectively. If you ever get a blemish and want the power to gently solve it overnight, you should try these.  — Mara Leighton

Sunscreen that won't ruin your makeup or make you feel greasy during the middle of the day
supergoop! mist

Supergoop! Setting Mist with SPF 50, $21, available at Sephora

I don't love applying sunscreen, but I know I need it, so I do each morning. Even as an avid SPF-user, unless I'm lounging on the beach or doing some other outdoor activities in the sun, I'm usually not applying as frequently as I should. This setting mist delivers SPF 50 with an easy-to-apply spritz. It won't ruin your makeup, make your hands greasy, or add an unwanted white cast to your skin, but it will protect your skin and give your skin a nice refresh in the meantime. — Remi Rosmarin

A customizable, Alexa-enabled lighting system
phillipshue

Philips Hue White Ambiance Smart Bulb Starter Kit,  $134.81, available at Home Depot

My apartment is small and it operates with master switches — meaning one switch controls every outlet in a given room. Since most of my outlets are covered by furniture, I got the Philips Hue smart bulbs (after hearing so many positive recommendations from colleagues) so I could control the lights by my Amazon Echo or Hue app on my phone, and wake up to a warm glow on dark and dismal winter mornings. I've said it before, but the Philips Hue smart bulbs have surprised my by being one of the best and most convenient home upgrades I've ever made — not to mention fantastic for creating the ideal atmosphere (these have 50,000 shades of white light for you to play with, from night light to "energize").— Mara Leighton

An all-natural sunscreen that is better for your body and the environment
rawelements

Raw Elements Face and Body Natural Sunscreen, $18.95, available at REI

Chemical-based sunscreen is really noxious stuff, and as someone who spends a lot of time outdoors, the last thing I want to do is poison the very reefs which both dazzle and feed me. Oxybenzone, one of the primary ingredients in chemical-based sunscreens, is a chemical that we know almost nothing about, other than it kills corals.

The other side of the coin is that natural, mineral-based sunscreens are predominantly made with thick, gloppy zinc that leaves us looking like The Friendly Ghost. Raw Elements' Face and Body is among the best solutions I've tried, and if you make sure to apply it well ahead of your day outside, it will soak in very well, and stay there better than most chemical-based alternatives. Their plastic-free tins are also a nice touch, and I reuse them for just about anything and everything. — Owen Burke

Boxes that help easily organize a big shoe collection
shoebox

Men's Drop-Front Shoe Box, $10.99 each or $53.94 for a six-pack, available at The Container Store

The Container Store's Drop-Front Shoe Boxes are easily the best investment I've made in keeping my large (and growing) shoe collection organized. Stacking regular shoe boxes turns out to be a total mess when you want a pair from the bottom, but with these clever shoe boxes, that's not a problem. They're designed to stack as high as you'd like and since you can open them from the front, you'll never have to unstack boxes to get a pair of shoes out. You can read my full review here. — Amir Ismael

A backpack cooler that you can take anywhere
yeti

Hopper Backflip 24, $299.99, available at YETI

This cooler has become one of my best friends this year. It's so compact and well-sealed that I can take it just about anywhere, and transporting food and drink — be it on the train, to the park or beach for a picnic, or anywhere, really — has become much less of a chore. Backpack coolers have been a big hit recently, and I'm also a big fan of the IceMule BOSS for bigger, longer trips, the YETI BackFlip has been my all-around favorite this year. Oh, and it also holds ice for a really long time. — Owen Burke

A dry bag that keeps your belongings easily accessible and dry
sidekick

Sidekick Dry, $49.99, available at YETI

The Sidekick Dry has to be one of my favorite innovations from YETI yet. If there's one issue I've had with every dry bag I've owned, it's been opening and closing it, especially with wet or dirty hands in the outdoors. Dry bags require about three or four even rolls at the top in order to seal properly, and if you find yourself needing to get in and out of them repeatedly, they become a real pain. The Sidekick Dry eliminates that conundrum as much as anything could. A sturdy Velcro tab and a zip-lock-like magnetic seal accommodate even the most debilitated, preoccupied hands, and I've been able to pull out all sorts of essentials in a heartbeat thanks to it. — Owen Burke

A small hand steamer and iron that perks up your clothes in a pinch
steamer

Rowenta Hand-Held Steamer and Iron, $19.99, available at Bed Bath & Beyond

This hybrid iron and steamer has taken the place of two devices for me. Though it's not ideal for ironing large pieces of clothing or linen sheets, it's perfect for steaming out wrinkles on most things in my closet and crisping up collars and sleeves. — Sally Kaplan

A drain protector that catches all hairs that cross its path
tubshroom

TubShroom Drain Protector, $12.95, available at Walmart

Much to my partner's chagrin, my hair is constantly clogging the shower drain. So on a whim, I bought the internet famous TubShroom (it has nearly 15,000 reviews on Amazon and a 4.2-star rating) to mitigate the problem. And it's not a gimmick. It works like a charm, it's easy to clean, and best of all, it's only $13. — Ellen Hoffman

A deceivingly comfortable pair of chinos
bonobos

Men's Tech Chinos, $138, available at Bonobos 

I wear pants a lot and this is my absolute favorite pair. They are not cheap at $138 per pair and they seem to be immune to Bonobos' sales, but I still love them anyway. In November of 2017 I called them "the perfect pair of pants" and I stand by that. I bought two more pairs this year. They look professional but feel like casual pants so I even find myself wearing them on weekends. These pants are water and stain resistant, stretch, fit great and once you buy a pair you'll see what I'm talking about. We've featured them in a few other stories, one of which you can read here, if you need further convincing. — Breton Fischetti

A pair of glasses that protect your eyes from the harsh blue light of computers, phones, and other tech
zenni

ZENNI Blue Light Glasses, starting at $16.95, available at ZENNI

These under-$20 blue light reflecting glasses were among the most life-changing accessories I've acquired this year. I only wish I'd gotten them sooner. I've always noticed that my eyes were exhausted by the end of a day's worth of glaring at a computer screen, but I never really thought to do anything about it. I've tried a few different pairs, but ZENNI's have been my favorite, far and away. I don't feel like I have to go find some sort of dark chamber in which to regather my vision after a day in the office.  — Owen Burke

The only backpack you need for everyday use
peakdesign

EveryDay Backpack 2oL, $259.95, available at Peak Design

Peak's 20L EveryDay Backpack is basically the perfect backpack for, well, every day. It doubles as a camera bag, but works for just about everything else, too. Movable, adjustable shelves let you reconfigure the bag on the fly, and comfortable, well-designed padding and straps make it easy to carry even when it's full.  It's become my go-to commute bag, as well as my camera day bag for when I'm traveling. You can read my full review here. — David Slotnick

Instant coffee that works when you need a good brew in a pinch
starbucks instant coffee

Starbucks Via Medium Roast Colombia Instant Coffee, 8-count, $6.49, available at Target

When I'm out and about and can't rely on the freshly-brewed coffee of either the Insider office or at home, I love the Starbucks VIA Columbia as a great backup. All I have to do is mix this instant-coffee packet into a cup of hot water, and it mixes to the perfect strength and texture. — Shalom Goodman

A laptop stand that relaxes your posture
braeda laptop support black from Ikea

BRÄDA Laptop support, $6.99, available at Ikea

My posture gets worse and worse, especially when my job requires me to be posted over my computer all day. This Ikea laptop stand angles my laptop during meetings and forces me to acknowledge my slumped position. — Jacqueline Saguin

A multi-purpose cart that stores extra objects
raskog utility cart black from Ikea

RASKOG utility cart, $29.99, available at Ikea

It's so great I bought two. I keep one in my room as a makeshift bar cart and bookshelf. Each shelf is roomy and gives a lot of space to both store and display items. I typically throw necessities on the top like keys and purses so I can grab them as I'm heading out the door. The other cart is nestled in my bathroom because I ran out of cabinet room. It makes my overflowing skincare stock easy to reach, which helps me get ready faster in the morning. — Jacqueline Saguin

A wooden organizer that hides your cords
Cable Management Box, 2 Pack in use image

Cable management boxes, $40.99, available at Amazon

Since I've been working entirely from home, my kitchen table area turned into a mess of laptop, phone, and tablet charging cords. I hated the tangled eyesore it created. These cable management boxes were such a simple but revolutionary solution. Now all my cords are tucked neatly out of sight, but my kitchen table can still act as a functional work space. Plus, it comes with zip ties, cord keepers, and more so you can actually keep the cords rolled up and tidy within the box. I like the look of the wood-print top, but they also come in plain black and white.  — Hannah Freedman, associate travel editor

A handheld milk frother that whisks your drink in seconds
 Aerolatte Milk Foamer From Amazon

Aerolatte Milk Frother, $19.99, available on Amazon

I'm obsessed with this little milk frother. It's so much easier to clean than the fancier (and much more expensive) versions and it makes my morning coffee taste so much better! Plus, it's just fun to use. I'll forever be grateful to the friend who recommended it to me. — Ashley Phillips, style and beauty editor

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SCOTT GALLOWAY: The most striking thing about President Biden's inauguration was its normalcy

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joe biden executive orders
President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of executive orders at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
  • Scott Galloway is a bestselling author and professor of marketing at NYU Stern.
  • The following is a recent blog post, republished with permission, that originally ran on his blog, "No Mercy / No Malice."
  • In it, Galloway says President Biden's inauguration marks the return of serious people doing serious work towards a common goal of bettering America.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The most striking thing about this abnormal inauguration? The normalcy. 

The normalcy of a president speaking calmly. Speaking of unity and of a nation coming together. A president who is credible when he says it. 

The normalcy of a previous, if not the prior, Republican president, saying to the incoming Democrat, "Mr. President, I'm pulling for your success. Your success is our country's success and God bless you."

The incoming president taking his oath to protect the Constitution on a Bible that has been in his family since 1893. Not using a borrowed book for a photo opportunity amidst clouds of tear gas.

46 knows loss and knows grief, and will draw on those experiences to preside over a nation that is losing 4,000 souls a day to a pandemic. It's the exact right time for Biden to be president, with his ability to console, to grieve, and to unify. 

Biden did just this even before becoming president: At the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, he honored the 400,000 Americans who have already died during the pandemic. 

His predecessor's last act was to pump his fist in defiance, brag about his "accomplishments," and fly away just after dawn to a blaring "My Way." 

Read more: Here's what the Biden administration must do to quickly - and easily - win over the crypto community and take advantage of big economic potential

The damage of social media and Fox News propaganda remains: 73% of Republicans still believe the 2020 election was marred by widespread voter fraud. The hate machines whir on.

As Yale Professor Tim Snyder put it, Trump was "a president who doesn't believe in choosing presidents." This week the nation chose a president whose theme was "unity," not "carnage," and who promised that if we come together as a nation, "I guarantee you, we will not fail."

The market mirrored the incoming president's optimism: The S&P 500 registered the best Inauguration Day return since Reagan's second term. 

And so we saw the return of serious people doing serious work. At her first press conference, Jen Psaki said that while we "will disagree… we have a common goal, which is sharing accurate information with the American people." On Inauguration Day four years ago, Melissa McCarthy's double raised his voice in an attempt to gaslight the nation about crowd size. 

The day was moving and sincere. I couldn't shake the shock of normalcy. To have once again a figure in power who speaks in a decent, dignified, unifying manner. 

A president who had the confidence and humility to cede the stage. For surely he knew the highlight would not be his inspiring words at all, but the words and presence of a 22-year-old poet, Amanda Gorman, who set the nation on a new and welcome course:

And yet the dawn is ours

before we knew it

Somehow we do it

Somehow we've weathered and witnessed

a nation that isn't broken

but simply unfinished 

...

The new dawn blooms as we free it

For there is always light,

if only we're brave enough to see it

If only we're brave enough to be it     

This was an emotional day, and it felt as if the nation collectively exhaled.

I'm an atheist... but God bless America, the 46th President, and Amanda Gorman. Oh, and this guy.  

Life is so rich,

Scott

PS: Sign up is open for my next Strategy Sprint. In this two-week intensive course, we'll go deep on topics that make today's corporate giants successful, and turn those insights into actions you can apply to your own career and business. The Sprint runs March 2 - 16. Sign up now.

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The top 9 movies on Netflix this week, from 'Outside the Wire' to 'The Secret Life of Pets 2'

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Outside the Wire Jonathan Prime Netflix
"Outside the Wire"
  • "Outside the Wire" was Netflix's biggest movie this week.
  • Streaming search engine Reelgood keeps track of Netflix's daily top 10 lists and provides Insider with a rundown of the week's most popular movies on Netflix every Friday.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Anthony Mackie's new Netflix original movie, "Outside the Wire," was the streamer's  most popular movie this week. And Robert Rodriguez's "We Can Be Heroes," which topped the list last week, is still holding steady at No. 2.

Every week, the streaming search engine Reelgood compiles for Insider a list of which movies have been most prominent on Netflix's daily top-10 lists that week. On Reelgood, users can browse Netflix's entire movie library and sort by IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes ratings.

Below are Netflix's 9 most popular movies of the week in the US:

9. "The Secret Life of Pets 2" (2019)
The Secret Life of Pets 2
Directed by Chris Renaud.

Description: "On a farm outside New York, Max aims to boost his confidence while in the city, Snowball attempts to rescue a tiger cub and Gidget pretends to be a cat."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 61%

What critics said: "It's never a great sign when the biggest laughs a movie gets are during the end credits." — New York Post

8. "Homefront" (2013)
homefront

Description: "When an ex-DEA agent is widowed, he moves with his young daughter to a small town, but his quiet life is shattered by a meth-making drug trafficker."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 43%

What critics said: "A maniacally muddled and maudlin thriller, co-written and produced by Sly Stallone." — London Evening Standard

7. "Crack, Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy" (2021, Netflix original)
Crack, Cocaine, Corruption & Conspiracy

Description: "A cheap, powerful drug emerges during a recession, igniting a moral panic fueled by racism. Explore the complex history of crack in the 1980s."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 67%

What critics said: "The movie takes us back and also forward, into the sadder and wiser present day, when we can now see how crack changed the culture." — Variety

6. "Good Burger" (1997)
kel good burger

Description: "Working at a neighborhood fast-food joint, two teens try to save the restaurant when a giant burger franchise fires up the competition."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 32%

What critics said: "If you like your burger well-done, you're in for a disappointment." — New York Daily News

5. "Pinkfong & Baby Shark's Space Adventure" (2019)
Pinkfong & Baby Shark's Space Adventure

Description: "Joined by new friends from other planets, Pinkfong and Baby Shark explore outer space and search for missing star pieces to return home."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: N/A

What critics said: N/A

4. "Penguins of Madagascar" (2014)
penguins madagascar

Description: "Elite penguin spies Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private join forces with the suave agents of the North Wind to defeat power-mad genius Octavius Brine."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 73%

What critics said: "These penguins really are cute, the animation is consistently appealing, and the movie is obviously bound for megamoolah at the box office." — Wall Street Journal

3. "The Vanished" (2020)
the vanished movie

Description: "When their daughter disappears during a family vacation, two terrified parents launch their own investigation that soon exposes local secrets."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 15%

What critics said: "The Vanished does its best to entertain, yet with two central protagonists who ultimately are more like villains, the movie never really works." — CBR

2. "We Can Be Heroes" (2020, Netflix original)
we can be heroes

Description: "When alien invaders capture Earth's superheroes, their kids must learn to work together to save their parents — and the planet." 

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 73%

What critics said: "We Can Be Heroes is a cheerful and colorful take on the superhero genre with a powerful message about empowering younger generations to take the reins and do better than their parents." — IGN

1. "Outside the Wire" (2021, Netflix original)
outside the wire

Description: "In the near future, a drone pilot sent into a war zone finds himself paired with a top-secret android officer on a mission to stop a nuclear attack."

Rotten Tomatoes critic score: 37%

What critics said: "Despite strong lead performances and some intriguing themes, this rarely rises above being a serviceable action thriller." — Empire

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Hundreds of Maersk shipping containers fell into the Pacific Ocean when the vessel hit rough weather

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Maersk ship
  • 750 shipping containers aboard a Maersk cargo ship tumbled into the Pacific Ocean in heavy seas.
  • Maersk Essen, which has the capacity for over 13,000 containers, was en route from China to California.
  • Maersk is setting up a customer communication plan to reach out to customers who lost their goods.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Hundreds of containers aboard a Maersk cargo ship fell into the Pacific Ocean when the vessel hit bad weather, the company said Friday.

Maersk Essen, which has the capacity for over 13,000 containers,  dropped 750 boxes on January 16 while en route from Xiamen, China, to Los Angeles, California, the company said. 

"All crew members are safe and a detailed cargo assessment is ongoing while the vessel continues on her journey," Maersk said in an emailed statement. "This is a very serious situation which will be investigated promptly and thoroughly."

Read More: Maersk's new 'beyond-the-port' logistics venture put it in direct competition with customers like UPS and DHL - and its business is booming

The US Coast Guard, the ship's flag state, and relevant authorities have been notified and a customer communications plan and claims process has been prepared for impacted customers, it said.

The containers were carrying millions of dollars' worth of goods, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Maersk vessel is set to call at APM Terminals Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico, on January 29 for cargo survey, port operations, and initial repair, according to the Danish company's statement.

Read More: World's largest shipping company says demand will decline for rest of 2020

An average of 1,382 containers went overboard at sea each year between 2008 and 2019, according to the World Shipping Council estimates, a trade group representing the international liner shipping companies. 

Maersk, the largest container-shipping company with a fleet of 712 vessels, saw a soaring market capitalization in 2020 thanks to consumer spending amid the pandemic that increased global shipping-freight rates.

Maersk's newly developed ability to tap into logistics markets also accelerated that growth, the result of a yearslong plan to revive the company's fortunes by offering cargo owners an expanded variety of "beyond-the-port" customs and hinterland supply-chain services.

 Underlying profits through the first nine months of last year tripled to $1.59 million despite revenues contracting marginally, while the Copenhagen, Denmark-listed group's share price was up 50% at the end of 2020 compared with a year earlier.

Read More: The world's biggest shipping company posted a shock 25% rise in profits as global demand starts to recover amid the pandemic

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Microsoft has patented a chatbot that could imitate a deceased loved one, celebrity, or fictional character

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A woman walks past a Microsoft Store on 5th avenue.
  • Microsoft has been granted a patent for a chatbot that can take on the personality of real people.
  • The chatbot would be created through content readily available on social media.
  • Microsoft's General Manager of AI Programs says he is unaware of any plans to build the chatbot.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Microsoft has been issued a sci-fi-sounding patent for a chatbot that could take on another person's personality and likeness.

According to documents from the US Patent and Trademark Office, the chatbot would be created through information that could easily be gathered on social media - images, voice data, behavioral information, social media posts, and text messages. It could even take on a physical presence, the documents show, which include plans for two and three dimensional recreations of people gathered through photos and videos of the individual.

While Microsoft's patent does not specifically say that the product would be used to bring deceased people back to life digitally, the plan does use dead loved ones as an example of how the chatbot could be implemented to recreate and imitate individuals from the real world.

"The specific person may correspond to a past or present entity (or a version thereof), such as a friend, a relative, an acquaintance, a celebrity, a fictional character, a historical figure, a random entity, etc," the patent reads.

Read more: Marketers are in high demand at tech companies - here's what companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Airbnb pay employees, from product marketers to operations analysts

After the news of Microsoft's patent hit social media, users compared it to an episode from "Black Mirror," called "Be Right Back," which follows a character bringing a loved one back from the dead after a car crash using technology similar to that described in the patent. Like most Black Mirror episodes the story takes a dark path when the character realizes the AI representation does not truly bring her deceased loved one back to her.

The patent was filed in 2017, but approved in December. Tim O'Brien, General Manager of AI Programs at Microsoft responded to some of the concerned tweets about the patent online, saying he's looking into the patent, though he's not aware of any plans to actually build or ship it.

 

The use of another person's likeness or personality could also cause some interesting legal battles if implemented. In most states in the US, an individual can be sued for using another person's likeness, name, or personal attributes for an "exploitative purpose" without permission from the individual, according to the Digital Media Law Project.

Even the use of a deceased individuals likeness could cause legal troubles. 23 states in the US recognize postmortem rights, which allow a deceased person anywhere from 10 to 100 years of protection from unauthorized use of their identity - including name, voice, image, and likeness - from being used for profit. 

See also: Facebook, Microsoft, Google and Amazon are snapping up experts in the Rust programming language months after Mozilla laid them off

It is not uncommon for a person's likeness to be used without their consent, for example an individual can be legally photographed in public without their consent. Similarly, many celebrities in Hollywood have continued to be represented in media without their consent even after death, with celebrities like Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley continuing to generate millions decades after their deaths.

In 2019, one production company brought James Dean back digitally, using existing footage and photos to recreate the actor through CGI for the war film, "Finding Jack."

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How to make a Wi-Fi password to protect your internet, or change your existing password

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setting up wifi router at home internet
Once you set up a new internet router, it's important to change the default password.
  • To make a new Wi-Fi password for your internet router, you'll need to access the router's settings page using a web browser.
  • Every router is different, but the steps to make a Wi-Fi password are similar across devices.
  • The information you'll need to open your router's settings may be written on the router, or in the instruction manual that came with it.
  • Visit Business Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

It's not often that you need to set up a new internet router. And anyone who's done it - or had to call their ISP to do it for them - knows that it can be an annoying process. Once you've set it up, you probably just want to kick back and put on YouTube.

Unfortunately, before you relax, there's one last step: Setting a new Wi-Fi password.

Your Wi-Fi password is the single best defense against people stealing your Wi-Fi and hogging your bandwidth. Keeping the default password makes it easy for people to get in. And making a new password - or changing your existing Wi-Fi password - isn't difficult. 

Note that every router is different. This means that the exact process to make a Wi-Fi password will differ for each user. But most routers work in a generally similar way, so here's a step-by-step guide to help take you through your router's settings.

How to make a Wi-Fi password for your router

Once your router is out of the box, plugged in, and connected to your internet source, you're about ready to go. Grab the instructions that came with your router and keep them handy for future steps.

If you didn't buy your router, but instead got it from your ISP, the information you need might be written on the router. Check for a sticker or piece of paper with numbers and codes.

Here are the basic steps:

1. To find your router's settings, you'll need its IP address.

 

You can usually find the IP address in the instruction manual or printed on the router. You can also look up your specific router model online - there's a good chance that you'll be able to find the default IP on the manufacturer's website.

2. Grab your computer or phone and open a web browser. Type the IP address into your browser like you would any other website, and go to it.

3. You'll likely be presented with a page showing your router's basic information, along with a link to log into it. Click that login link.

4. Every router comes with a default username ("admin" is most common) and sometimes a password like "1234" or "admin." You should be able to find this information on the manufacturer's website, or in the manual. Sometimes, the password and username will be printed on a label stuck to the router itself. That will be enough to access the settings page.

change_wi fi_password_2
Once you type the address into a web browser, you'll need to log in.

5. Every dashboard is different, but look for a "Settings" or "Wireless Network" tab or menu.

change_wi fi_password_3
Find the tab for "Settings" or "Wireless."

6. To change your password, you may need to enter the Wi-Fi network's default name (also called an "SSID") and password (or "key"), and then your new name and password. Some routers only require you to type in a new password in the password box, as seen below.

Like other passwords, you should make it personalized and hard to guess. If you're given the option to pick between "WPA" types, pick either "WPA2" or "WPA2-PSK" - these are the strongest forms of internet security available. If asked about encryption, pick "AES." You can likely keep everything else the same.

change_wi fi_password_4
Change your password here.

7. Your router will briefly reset, and then you should be good to go. Any device that was already connected will be kicked off - you'll need to enter the new password on each of then.

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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Biden just signed an executive order to expand food stamps and send stimulus checks to people who haven't already received one

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joe biden executive orders
President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of executive orders at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.
  • Biden's third wave of executive actions will provide aid to Americans struggling financially.
  • Addressing the hunger crisis, increasing SNAP benefits, and ensuring quick delivery of stimulus payments are core components of Biden's relief plan.
  • Biden also plans on encouraging government agencies to raise the minimum hourly wage to $15.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Joe Biden signed an executive action on Friday to address the financial struggles facing millions of Americans as the pandemic continues.

"We need more action and we need to move fast," Biden said during a signing ceremony on Friday.

While Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus package is centered on providing aid, executives orders will allow for immediate action without having to wait for congressional approval, Insider previously reported. The move underscores the Biden administration's intent to move rapidly to address the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

The Biden administration is also kick-starting relief talks with Congress this weekend, attempting to garner bipartisan support for a large rescue package that's already running into strong Republican opposition.

Here's a detailed breakdown of what the executive action includes and how it will provide economic relief for businesses, families, and individuals:

Address the growing hunger crisis facing children and adults in America

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, one in seven households in the country is struggling to obtain the food they need. Biden is calling on Congress to extend the 15% Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit increase and invest $3 billion to help women, infants, and children get the food they require.

Increase access to nutritious foods for children missing meals during school closures

The Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer connects low-income families with children with the equivalent amount of money spent on school meals. Biden is asking the Department of Agriculture to increase the benefits by about 15% to accurately reflect the cost of missed meals during the pandemic.

Allow larger emergency SNAP allotments for lowest-income households

Congress has previously authorized emergency SNAP benefits, but those benefits have not been made available to the lowest-income households in the country. The USDA will consider extending those benefits to the households that need them the most, increasing benefit access to an additional 12 million people.

Update the true cost of a healthy diet

The USDA's Thrifty Food Plan, which determines SNAP benefits, is not up to date with the economic realities households face when attempting to buy healthy food, so the benefits fall short of what a healthy diet truly costs. Biden will request that the USDA review the Thrifty Food Plan to better reflect the modern cost of a healthy diet.

Ensure efficient delivery of direct stimulus payments

With many Americans experiencing challenges receiving the first round of direct payments - 8 million eligible households never received the checks - Biden plans to provide equitable delivery of his proposed $1,400 stimulus checks by asking the Treasury Department to improve delivery of the payments. This can be done through a series of measures, including establishing online tools for claiming payments, working to make sure everyone can access the payments, and analyzing unserved households for additional outreach efforts.

Guarantee safety and economic coverage for working families

Forty-three percent of American households in a Gallup poll reported having at least one member of a family with a preexisting condition, which makes going into work a significant health risk. Biden will ask the Department of Labor to clarify that workers have a federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that could jeopardize their health, and that if they choose to do so, they will still qualify for unemployment insurance.

Help families, workers, and small businesses access relief quickly through coordinated benefit-delivery teams

While many government programs have provided support for families struggling financially, many people and small businesses have encountered difficulty in navigating relief services, leaving many benefits unclaimed. As a result, Biden plans on establishing benefit-delivery teams and a coordination structure across federal and state programs to provide greater ease in accessing urgent relief.

Protect and empower federal workers and contractors

Biden will direct his administration on Friday to begin the work that will allow him to issue an executive order in his first 100 days to require federal contractors to pay workers a $15 minimum wage, along with providing emergency paid leave to workers.

To further protect federal employees, Biden will sign an executive order that:

  • Restores collective bargaining powers and worker protections.
  • Eliminates Schedule F, which threatens critical protections of career employees and allows for civil-service positions for political appointees.
  • Promotes a $15 minimum wage for all federal workers.
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How to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment

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Vaccine
  • As coronavirus vaccines are rolled out across the United States, regulations and procedures for getting the shots might be confusing to some.
  • Each state comes with its own set of guidelines for who gets the vaccine and when. 
  • To get information about your state's vaccination process, Check your city or county's health department website or call your local COVID-19 hotline. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As of January 22, 17 million people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in the United States, with close to 38 million doses distributed across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The first wave of vaccinations was fairly simple and limited to frontline healthcare workers.

But now the rollout is expanding, and the remaining 310 million Americans awaiting their turn may wonder when they can get that all-important first dose. 

Read more: US states where it's easiest, and most difficult, to get a coronavirus shot

Here is a guide to finding your state's guidelines and signing up for the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Check with your state's Department of Health website for registration sites and eligibility status 

Not only does each state have different guidelines for distributing the vaccine, it varies from city to city and county to county, too. So it's important to find your particular state's rules. 

Most cities and counties have COVID-19 vaccine information on the website for the local department of health. This website can give you information about what documents to bring to get vaccinated and where you can get vaccinated. 

Some cities and counties will have official forms patients can fill out to see if you are eligible and indicate interest in getting the vaccine. Others, like New York City, allow you to make online appointments to get vaccinated at different vaccination locations. 

Some cities and counties, such as Los Angeles and New Orleans, will have a list of hospitals and vaccination facilities in the area where patients can make an appointment. 

Some states have COVID-19 vaccine hotlines to help you register 

States may have an additional COVID-19 hotline to call with questions about the vaccine, like who is eligible, where to sign up, and where to get your shots.

Mississippi allows residents to schedule their vaccination appointments over the phone by calling (877) 978-6453. 

Read More: What the COVID-19 vaccine could mean for the future of travel

Some states, including Maryland and Massachusetts, allow residents to sign up for text notifications about the vaccine to ping them when different priority groups start getting vaccinated. 

If you are eligible, look for medical non-profits in the area which have sign up sheets for the vaccine 

If you determined you are eligible using your state's guidelines, your local health department website may direct you to a non-profit medical initiative like The Black Doctors Consortium in Philadelphia and Community of Hope in Washington D.C. to make an appointment to get vaccinated

You can find these non-profits by checking the list of COVID-19 vaccination sites on your local department of health's website. 

It's important to note these guidelines are rapidly changing as more doses of the vaccine are distributed, so remember to continue checking with your local health authorities for updates. 

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Super Bowl LV will have 22,000 fans in attendance, including 7,500 healthcare workers who will go for free

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NFL logo
The NFL is inviting thousands of healthcare workers to attend the big game free of charge.
  • 22,000 fans will be allowed to attend Super Bowl LV next month. 
  • The NFL is inviting 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers to come for free, which will count toward the 22,000 limit.
  • The big game will take place in Tampa, Florida on February 7. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The football season is coming to an end next month, and despite the looming threat of COVID-19, at least some fans will be there in person to see it. 

The National Football League will allow 22,000 people to attend Super Bowl LV, league commissioner Roger Goodell announced in a Friday press release. 

Included in that number are 7,500 vaccinated healthcare workers who will be invited by the NFL to attend the game free of charge, according to the release. Most of the healthcare workers will come from Tampa and elsewhere in Central Florida, and all 32 NFL teams will choose vaccinated workers from their communities as well. 

The NFL said it made the decision to limit capacity and invite people who have already been inoculated with guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control, the Florida Department of Health, and local healthcare facilities. Protocols in place to stem the spread of COVID-19 include mandatory mask-wearing and physical distancing, controlled entry and exit points, and "touchless in-stadium experiences at concessions, restrooms, and security checkpoints."

Read more: New York is unveiling mobile sports betting legislation that could be a gold rush for media companies. But big questions remain about the plans.

Goodell said the NFL has planned to honor healthcare workers throughout the game's CBS broadcast and in the stadium. 

"These dedicated health care workers continue to put their own lives at risk to serve others, and we owe them our ongoing gratitude," Goodell said. "We hope in a small way that this initiative will inspire our country and recognize these true American heroes. This is also an opportunity to promote the importance of vaccination and appropriate health practices, including wearing masks in public settings."

Tampa's Raymond James Stadium, where Super Bowl LV will take place on Feb. 7, can accommodate 65,000 to 75,000 people, according to its website

Thousands of free tickets plus significantly reduced stadium capacity means Super Bowl ticket revenues will be severely diminished in 2021 as compared to years past. But the NFL still stands to make billions by licensing the broadcasting rights out to a network - this year, it's CBS.

The league also takes in money through high-dollar sponsorship deals with companies like Visa, Anheuser-Busch InBev, and Lowe's.

Depending on the results of the conference finals this Sunday, the big game will feature the Green Bay Packers or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers facing off against the Buffalo Bills or the Kansas City Chiefs. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

A Texas doctor has been charged with stealing 9 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine 'for friends and family'

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Glasgow Vaccine
The COVID-19 vaccine.
  • A Texas doctor was fired and charged after being accused of stealing a vial of the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The District Attorney said the vial contained nine doses of the vaccine.
  • Gokal's attorney told CNN that the vile was due to expire and would have gone to waste.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

A Texas doctor faces charges alleging that he stole nine doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from his place of work.

Dr. Hasan Gokal stole the single vial on December 29 while working at the county vaccination site in Humble, Texas, according to the Harris County prosecutor's office.

Hasan was fired, and then charged criminally, after he told a fellow public health employee who reported it to his supervisors, according to the prosecutor's office.

"He abused his position to place his friends and family in line in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there," District Attorney Kim Ogg said in a statement. "What he did was illegal and he'll be held accountable under the law."

The local department of health said, though the prosecutor's office, that mishandling the vaccine could result in a loss of government funding to the county.

Read More: What to expect after a COVID-19 vaccine, from how long side effects last to when protection kicks in

"Gokal disregarded county protocols in place to ensure vaccine is not wasted but administered to vulnerable populations and front-line workers on a waiting list," the statement from the office said.

Gokal's attorney Paul Doyle told CNN that his client only took doses that were due to expire and would have wrongly gone unused.

Doyle told CNN his client was "a dedicated public servant who ensured that COVID-19 vaccine dosages that would have otherwise expired went into the arms of people who met the criteria for receiving it."

"Harris County would have preferred Dr. Gokal let the vaccines go to waste and are attempting to disparage this man's reputation in the process to support this policy," the statement from Doyle went on.

If convicted of the alleged theft, a misdemeanor, Gokal faces up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Lawyers representing the Capitol insurrectionists are building a damning case against Trump

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Trump
President Donald Trump speaks at the "Stop The Steal" rally on January 6.
  • Attorneys representing people arrested in connection with the Capitol riot are focusing on Trump.
  • They're blaming him for inciting the deadly siege with his spread of disinformation about the election.
  • The allegations bolster House Democrats' impeachment case against Trump and expose him to more legal risk.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The rioters were adamant when they stormed the US Capitol: Joe Biden and the Democrats had stolen the 2020 election from Donald Trump. Congress wasn't doing anything to stop it, so it was up to patriotic Americans like themselves to save the country.

Now many of the insurrectionists, facing a multitude of federal charges and lacking the protection of a presidential pardon, are changing their tune and laying the blame for their actions squarely at the former president's feet. It's an inconvenient development for Trump, who is not only staring down a looming Senate impeachment trial but also may face criminal liability for his actions.

"Let's roll the tape," said Al Watkins, the defense attorney representing one of the defendants, Jacob Chansley. Chansley is more widely known as the "QAnon Shaman" and made headlines for roaming the halls of Congress while wearing a fur hat, carrying a spear, and covered in face paint. He was later arrested and charged with multiple felony counts, including unlawfully entering the Capitol and engaging in disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

"Let's roll the months of lies and misrepresentations and horrific innuendo and hyperbolic speech by our president designed to inflame, enrage, motivate," Watkins told KSDK, a local NBC affiliate in Missouri.

Read more: How the Senate could vote to bar Trump from ever holding federal office again and kill any chances of a 2024 run now that the House has impeached him

Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the Justice Department, didn't mince words when addressing the allegation.

"This goes directly to Trump's impeachment trial" and any criminal case he could face, Cramer said. "His words and actions for months directly led to an armed and deadly insurrection at the Capitol. He can't argue that nobody took him seriously or that his words didn't provoke violence."

A lawyer representing Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

'Wouldn't have been there if it wasn't for the president'

Watkins also alluded to Trump's repeated assertion at a rally preceding the siege that he would join his supporters as they marched to the Capitol that day (which he didn't do).

"What's really curious is the reality that our president, as a matter of public record, invited these individuals, as president, to walk down to the Capitol with him," Watkins told KSDK, adding that his client "regrets very very much having not just been duped by the president, but ... allowed that duping to put him in a position to make decisions he should not have made."

"You'll never take back our country with weakness," Trump told his fanatics at the January 6 rally, which took place as Congress was convening to finalize Biden's victory. "You have to show strength, and you have to be strong. We're going to have to fight much harder. After this, we're going to walk down, and I'll be there with you. We're going to walk down - we're going to walk down."

At the end of the 70-minute speech that was riddled with grievances and falsehoods about the election, Trump said: "If you don't fight like hell, you're not going to have a country anymore."

And then he unleashed the mob.

Read more: Trump's incitement of the deadly US Capitol riot adds to an already massive tsunami of legal peril he's facing upon leaving the White House. Here's what awaits him.

One woman who was arrested and charged after she was accused of participating in the riot told a reporter that she and her friends traveled to Washington, DC, from Texas specifically because the president "asked us to go."

"He said, 'Be there,'" Jennifer Ryan told a local news outlet in Texas. "So I went and I answered the call of my president."

Days after the failed coup, the House of Representatives charged Trump with "incitement of insurrection." The single article of impeachment accused Trump of having "repeatedly issued false statements asserting that the Presidential election results were the product of widespread fraud and should not be accepted by the American people or certified by State of Federal officials."

It also accused him of having "willfully made statements that, in context, encouraged - and foreseeably resulted in - lawless action at the Capitol."

donald trump riots capitol hill protest demonstration congress
Trump supporters occupy the Capitol and the inauguration stands on January 6.

Lori Ulrich, the defense attorney representing 22-year-old Riley Williams, struck a similar chord in a court appearance Thursday.

Williams was arrested and charged with entering a restricted building, disorderly conduct, theft of government property, and obstruction. She has also been accused of helping steal a laptop from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office during the siege, and a person who claimed to be her former romantic partner told the FBI she "intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia's foreign intelligence service," court filings said.

At Thursday's federal court hearing, Ulrich acknowledged that Williams had participated in the insurrection but said, "It is regrettable that Ms. Williams took the president's bait and went inside the Capitol." She added that the charges against her client were "overstated."

Enrique Latoison, a lawyer representing another man charged in connection with the siege, told The New York Times his client wouldn't have been at the Capitol at all if not for the president's words.

The Justice Department's statement of facts accompanying its criminal complaint against Latoison's client Robert Sanford also indicated that he believed he was acting on the president's orders. In addition to participating in the siege itself, Sanford is accused of "hurling" a fire extinguisher at a group of police officers and injuring three of them.

"The group had gone to the White House and listened to President Donald J. Trump's speech and then had followed the President's instructions and gone to the Capitol," the document said.

'Hard for him to argue that nobody would listen to his words and riot'

The multitude of court filings stemming from the insurrection and recent allegations from the defendants' lawyers will likely play a pivotal role in Trump's upcoming impeachment trial in the Senate. The House will transmit the article of impeachment to the Senate on Monday, and according to the Constitution, the upper chamber must begin its impeachment trial by 1 p.m. the day after the article is submitted.

But for Trump, an impeachment trial is the least of his worries. Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate - 51 votes, including that of the vice president - and it's highly unlikely that enough Republicans will break ranks to reach the two-thirds majority that's required to convict and remove a president from office and bar him from ever holding public office again.

Trump's bigger concern may lie in whether he'll face criminal prosecution over his actions.

"The fact that the rioters are saying all they did was follow the urging of POTUS goes to whether or not Trump's words incited a riot," Cramer said, though he added the defense likely wouldn't help the rioters in their cases. "Hard for him to argue that nobody would listen to his words and riot."

Michael Sherwin, the acting US attorney in Washington, DC, said earlier this month that federal prosecutors weren't ruling out anything or anyone as they investigated the deadly riot - and that includes the now former president.

When asked if prosecutors would examine statements Trump made at the rally before the siege, Sherwin replied, "Yes, we are looking at all actors here, not only the people that went into the building, but ... were there others that maybe assisted or facilitated or played some ancillary role in this."

Read the original article on Business Insider

US military needs 'humility, a willingness to learn' to protect the country, Biden's top defense official says

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Lloyd Austin
Secretary of Defense nominee Lloyd Austin, a recently retired Army general, listens during his conformation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Capitol Hill, January 19, 2021, in Washington.
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a statement to the entire US military outlining the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and reviewing the traits required to build an effective fighting force.
  • In a departure from the Trump administration's talking points, Austin stressed the value of humility and "a willingness to learn."
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a statement to the entire US military outlining the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and reviewing the traits required to build an effective fighting force. 

In a stark departure from the Trump administration's talking points, Austin, who was just confirmed by the US Senate on Friday, stressed the value of humility and "a willingness to learn."

"None of us succeeds at this business alone," Austin said in his letter. "Defending the country requires teamwork and cooperation. It requires a certain humility, a willingness to learn, and absolute respect for one another. I know you share my devotion to these qualities."

Austin also stated that the COVID-19 pandemic was a top priority of his in the near future, and that the military would continue to play a role in controlling the pandemic. 

"Right now, of course, doing my job also means helping our country get control of the pandemic, which has killed more than 400,000 Americans," he said in the letter. "You have already come to the aid of our Nation's health care professionals. You can expect that mission to continue."

"To that end, we will also do everything we can to vaccinate and care for our workforce and to look for meaningful ways to alleviate the pressure this pandemic has exerted on you and your families," he added.

Austin was confirmed by the Senate in a 93-2 vote, allowing the retired four-star US Army general to serve with approval from Congress. Unlike some of his predecessors, Austin's nomination required a congressional waiver. Austin's immediate predecessor, Christopher Miller, served as the defense secretary in an acting capacity, allowing then-President Donald Trump to avoid going through Congress after firing a confirmed secretary in his administration's final months.

The National Security Act of 1947  requires a defense secretary pick to be out of uniform for at least seven years, to which Austin fell short three years. Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also required a waiver, who had only been out of the Marine Corps for three years before being tapped to lead the military.

Austin, who served in the military for over four decades, ended his message to the troops by saying he was "proud to be back on your team."

Read the original article on Business Insider

S&P 500 falls for the first time this week as US stocks edge lower

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Stock trader
Peter Tuchman, right, works among fellow traders at a post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, March 4, 2020.
  • US equities fell on Friday after closing at all-time highs and the S&P 500 fell for the first time this week.
  • GameStop finished a chaotic week in the market after retail investors thwarted short-sellers and volatility prompted a trading halt.
  • Watch major indexes update live here.

US equities fell on Friday after closing at all-time highs, as investors weighed the outlook for Biden's nearly $2 trillion stimulus bill and grew concerned amid reports the new coronavirus strain may be deadlier. The S&P 500 fell for the first time this week. 

There is some evidence the new variant of the coronavirus first identified in the UK may be up to 30% more deadly than previous variants, the UK government has said.

A key gauge of US business activity swung higher this month as strong demand lifted manufacturers and service businesses alike. IHS Markit's composite output index climbed to 58 from 55.3 in an early January reading, hitting its highest level in two months.

Credit- and debit-card spending accelerated through the first two weeks of January as stimulus passed by President Donald Trump bolstered households' balance sheets. Card spending climbed 6% from the year-ago period over the week that ended January 16, Bank of America said in a Thursday note, citing aggregated card data.

Here's where US indexes stood at the 4 p.m. ET close on Friday:

Read more: GOLDMAN SACHS: Buy these 26 renewable-energy stocks best-positioned to benefit from increased spending as governments aim for net-zero emissions

GameStop surged as much as 78% on Friday as investors looking to thwart short-sellers piled further into the stock and triggered a trading halt.

Shares of GameStop have staged a gravity-defying rally in recent weeks, with shares up as much as 307% year-to-date based on Friday's intra-day high.

Short-seller Andrew Left of Citron Research tweeted that he is ending his bearish commentary on GameStop after he said an "angry mob" of investors harassed him and his family over the past 48 hours.

Canada-based Horizons ETF Management announced Friday that it filed its final prospectus to launch the Horizons Psychedelic Stock Index ETF (PSYK). It will be the first-ever psychedelics ETF and begins trading on the Canadian NEO exchange next Wednesday.

Bitcoin recovered to $33,817 Friday afternoon after tumbling to around $28,000 in the early morning hours. Comments from Janet Yellen and a report of a 'double spend' gave bitcoin investors a tumultuous week

Gold fell 0.61%, to $1,854.60 per ounce. The dollar weakened against a basket of Group-of-20 currencies and Treasury yields fell slightly.

Oil prices fell but remained above the $50 support level. West Texas Intermediate crude dropped as much as 1.86%, to $52.14 per barrel. Brent crude, oil's international standard, declined 1.52%, to $55.25 per barrel.

Now read more markets coverage from Markets Insider and Business Insider:

From stimulus checks to larger food stamps, here's everything that's in Biden's 3rd wave of executive actions

Microsoft's president defends its controversial PAC to employees in a leaked recording

Elon Musk says he'll throw $100 million into carbon capture tech. VCs including Vinod Khosla told us these 4 startups are leading the way.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Palantir surges 25% to all-time highs, up 251% since IPO

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Palantir HQ.
Palantir HQ.

Palantir stock surged as much as 25% on Friday to all-time highs of over $32 per share.

The jump continues the big data company's breakneck post-IPO run that has seen shares skyrocket some 251%.

Though there was no clear catalyst for the move, there were some possible drivers on Friday.

First, Palantir announced Lauren Friedman Stat has been appointed to the Board of Directors as well as the Audit Committee of the Board.

Stat's 15 years of experience at Accenture, where she served as a senior advisor to Fortune 100 companies, among other roles, will bring significant experience and industry connections to the board.

Read more: GOLDMAN SACHS: These 22 stocks still haven't recovered to pre-pandemic levels - and are set to explode amid higher earnings in 2021 as the economy recovers

Secondly, the company announced it will be holding an inaugural Demo Day on January 26.

At the event, Palantir plans on showing off the latest developments in its software platforms, Foundry and Gotham, to the public for the first time.

The company will also demo its continuous delivery and infrastructure platform-Apollo-which has been an increasingly valuable piece of software for the company to ensure Foundry and Gotham can be used by customers in any environment.

Additionally, Palantir plans to announce and demonstrate new software and platform features, including software-defined data integration, low-code or no-Code environments, archetypes, and an AI-enabled mission command that will support US armed forces and allied nations in the planning and execution of missions. 

Read more: A portfolio manager who has invested in SPACs since 2007 recounts their evolution from 'financial backwater' then to 'feeding frenzy' today - and shares how to identify attractive ones, including 3 on his radar

The big day for Palantir comes just three days after the Denver, Colorado-based big data company announced a deal with California's electric utility PG&E to help improve grid safety in the state.

Palantir's event announcement and recent deals speak to heady growth in product offerings at the company.

Now investors are hoping that will translate into revenues. Analysts are forecasting sales growth of around 32% next year to $1.41 billion from $1.07 billion in 2020. 

Still, other analysts are wary of the name as the company's valuation has risen dramatically, trading at around 48x sales.

The sizeable valuation of Palantir has led short-sellers to come running. Citron Research initiated a short position back in late November, calling the company "a full casino" in a tweet.

The stock traded at $32.55 on Friday at 3:54 pm EST, giving the company a $56.7 billion market cap. Palantir boasts two "buy" ratings, three "neutral" ratings, and three "sell" ratings from analysts.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Privacy-focused Facebook competitor MeWe says it's gained more than 2 million users in the past week

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MeWe promo video
A still from a MeWe advertisement
  • MeWe gained 2.5 million new users in the last week, the company told Insider. 
  • The social media platform is known for its "privacy bill of rights."
  • Alt-right groups have cropped up on the site as they leave Facebook, Twitter, and other networks. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

MeWe, a social media app that bills itself as a secure and private alternative to Facebook, has gained 2.5 million new users in the last week, the company said, as fringe groups search for new platforms with less oversight. 

After the November 2020 election, MeWe made headlines for hosting Stop the Steal, QAnon, and other alt-right groups that were kicked off mainstream platforms.  When asked about moderation in an AP interview earlier this week, Weinstein declined to disclose the size of MeWe's content moderation team. In an email, a company spokesperson said the site's policies prohibit "inciting violence, hate, harassment, bullying, illegal activity," and other similar actions. 

As former President Donald Trump and supporters spread baseless claims of election fraud, eventually culminating in a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol,  Facebook's data privacy protections and social media policies at large have come under tighter scrutiny.

Earlier in January, the Facebook-owned messaging app WhatsApp updated its privacy policy to share more data with Facebook. Insider reported that, after the change to WhatsApp's terms of service, the encrypted messaging app Signal saw downloads increase 4,200%. 

Founded by Mark Weinstein, MeWe was launched in 2016 and bills itself as focused on privacy and data ownership. All users agree to a "privacy bill of rights," and branding for the company is centered around security. 

MeWe's frequently asked question page assures users: "MeWe does not spy on your private posts, we think the way those other companies do things like that is creepy." In addition, MeWe says that members own their own data.

The app itself, available on the Apple App Store and Google Play, features a newsfeed, private text and video chats, groups, and a Close Friends setting. As of Wednesday, MeWe reported 16 million users. For context, Facebook reported 1.82 billion daily active users in September 2020. 

USA Today first reported on MeWe's newfound popularity. 

David Westreich, a spokesperson for MeWe, said "our membership spikes frequently - as people worldwide seek a social network that respects them as customers to serve and delight, not data to share, target, or sell." The recent membership spike took the app as high as number 2 in the Google Play Store rankings on Friday. 

Crunchbase data shows $14.5 million in funding for MeWe across five seed funding rounds in its lifetime. A press release from 2018 attributes all of MeWe's funding up to that point to capital from "high net worth investors."

More recently, it appears that the company has benefited from governmental coronavirus relief: ProPublica reported that Sgrouples Inc., MeWe's parent company, received a PPP loan between $150,000 and $300,000 in April 2020.  

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best putters for golfers

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  • Having the right putter in your bag can help dramatically improve your overall golf game and improve your putting accuracy.
  • The best putters provide a high level of feedback that allow you to feel out and correct any mistakes in your form and technique.
  • Our top pick, the Titleist Scotty Cameron Select Newport 3, offers a customizable weight and feel, is forgiving on mis-hits, and has a milled face that delivers true ball roll. 
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Golf can be a highly frustrating sport as nearly every aspect of the game affords a wide range of potential outcomes, both good and terrible. A poor drive off the tee can make your golf ball disappear, while any number of slices and draws on the fairway may lead to hazards like sand, water, or knee-high grass.

Then there's the green. This small patch of well-manicured grass is the last hurdle you need to clear to move onto the next hole - so long as you're able to reliably putt. Though plenty of this comes down to skill, some of it concerns the type of putter you choose to keep in your bag. What seems simple enough in design can actually have a dramatic impact on your game. 

To help take the guesswork out of which putter fits your game best, we've compiled the following guide of the best currently available. Our picks feature noticeable brands like Titleist but also smaller companies like Odyssey and Pinemeadow. At the end of this guide, we've also included some tips on how to shop for a putter, as well as some insight into the different putter types and what features to keep in mind.

Here are the best putters:

Best putter overall
Titleist scotty cameron putter

The Titleist Scotty Cameron Select Newport 3 putter delivers a classic look golfers love and also offers the latest materials and technologies.

Pros: Forgiving on mis-hits, removable weights in the heel and toe for customizing the putter's feel, milled face of the putter gives you a true ball roll, new left-handed version will be available

Cons: Takes practice to dial in the desired distance consistently, top of putter may reflect sun's glare, very expensive

The Titleist Scotty Cameron Select Newport 3 putter delivers the latest materials and technology you'd expect in a high-end putter, yet it all fits into a sharp-looking design that resembles classic putters.

At the bottom of the putter, you'll find two round weights that you can swap out to give the putter a different feel. These weights, which range from 10 grams to 20 grams apiece, allow you to control the heel/toe weight of the putter. This putter provides a great toe flow in the stroke because the shaft is connected to the putter's heel with a 3/4-inch offset.

The head of the Select Newport 3 consists of stainless steel, while the putter face is made from milled aluminum. The face's material helps to give you a higher level of feedback in the putting stroke than most metal faces.

Best mallet-style putter
Odyssey O Works putter

If you struggle to properly align your putts, the Odyssey O-Works Red 2-Ball putter gives you a visual clue with circles that look like golf balls printed on the mallet head.

Pros: Favorable design, marked improvement over past versions, red color gives you a clear contrast with the two white circles, the design is extremely forgiving of mis-hits

Cons: Expensive putter, some people find the red color and the two white circles on top of the blade distracting

Golfers aren't shy about providing opinions on putter designs. But when it comes to the 2-ball design of the Odyssey O-Works Red 2-Ball putter, those opinions increase quite a bit.

Some people don't like the look of the 2-ball putter design, which features two white circles about the size of golf balls directly in the center of the putter face. Other people like the way the two white circles help them visualize the path the putter should follow, moving those white circles through the white golf ball during the putting stroke.

Those who like the design and find it easier to use swear by it. The latest version of the Odyssey 2-ball putter is a high-level performer that will be a popular choice among those who like a mallet-style putter.

One of the biggest improvements in this new version of the Odyssey O-Works is the micro hinge face insert, which consists of stainless steel and delivers a high level of topspin on your putting strokes, even when you have a mis-hit. The insert also should deliver a bit more distance than you may have received in the past.

Best budget putter
Pinemeadow Golf PGX

The Pinemeadow Golf PGX putter gives you a heavy mallet-style style putter for a great price.

Pros: Great price point for a mallet style putter, extra weight gives the PGX a high-quality feel, white color of the putter head contrasts nicely with the alignment lines, no concerns with sun glare on putter head

Cons: Longevity of this putter is questionable, doesn't contain high-end materials found in more expensive putters that help with feel and vibration reduction

For some people, gaining confidence in a putter requires spending $100 or more. Oddly enough, you could hand them an inexpensive putter and it's as if their confidence disappears.

But if you are more worried about what a putter does versus what it costs, the Pinemeadow Golf PGX putter features a heavy mallet-style putter that should give you confidence. It delivers some of the same looks and putting feel that you'd find with a putter that costs two or three times more.

Certainly, the PGX doesn't have some of the high-end materials in the faceplate and in the insert behind the putter face that you'll find in the high-quality putters elsewhere on our list. But for beginners still learning how to develop a feel for putting, this one is a nice introductory putter.

You can get the PGX in both left- and right-handed versions, as well as in both men's and women's versions.

The Pinemeadow Golf PGX is a heavy putter, weighing in at 380 grams, so it will give you a solid ball strike. You can also get the women's Pinemeadow Golf PGX Putter for $40.

How to shop for a putter

Shape and weight balance play a key role in the design of modern putters and some putter designs aim to compensate for oddities in your putting stroke.

Different shapes of putters can also help people gain more confidence in their stroke. On the other hand, some may find certain shapes distracting to the eye. It's important to try to match the type of putter you're using to your natural putting stroke path and to your personal preference on putter head shape.

Here are the different putter styles to keep in mind while shopping:

Blade: This style of putter has been around for more than a century. It has a rectangular-ish shape. The shaft extends from the heel of the putter, while the toe of the putter can have some an upward angle or curve to it. Its design works well for a golfer with a straight putting swing path. 

Heel/Toe: A heel/toe style putter, which has extra weight at either end of the rectangular putter, is an evolution of the blade-style putter. The weight distribution should help you to keep the putter online better. With a heel/toe putter, you may have the ability to remove or add weight to the putter as well. This allows a golfer to adjust the weight of the heel/toe putter to match multiple types of swing paths.

Mallet: The mallet putter uses a deep shape in the back of the putter. This design creates a lower center of gravity which reduces spin when you have an off-center ball strike. Many different shapes of mallet putters are available, including those with a rounded back or a squarish look.

Key features to keep in mind

Although all putters have a flat area that makes contact with the ball when putting, they use different materials to generate feel when putting. When putting on especially fast greens, for example, you may want a softer material in the putter face.

However, the best advice is to take some time to figure out which type of material gives you the best feel when putting, as each golfer can have different needs.

Metal Face: The face of the putter may consist of almost any type of metal, including steel, bronze, aluminum, or titanium. A metal face will deliver a solid feel of contract. Some metal faces include a milled (or rough or grooved) surface, designed to help eliminate skidding and deliver the proper topspin on the ball.

Insert Face: An insert face consists of softer materials than metal. Through the insert, manufacturers can redistribute the weight across the face of the putter to help you keep the swing path on-center. An insert face should give you a softer feel in the ball-strike than you'll have with a metal face.

Combination Face: Some putters have an insert inside the putter, providing the benefits of that softer material, while also including a metal face that covers the softer insert. Some golfers prefer the feel of this type of putter.

Check out more Insider Reviews golf guides
golf bag

 

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How to make a Telegram account and start using the popular group chatting app

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Telegram logo
Telegram is a free, messaging app that's seen a recent boom in popularity.
  • To make a Telegram account, you need a working phone number and the mobile app downloaded on your iPhone or Android device.
  • You can't make a Telegram account through the desktop app, but you can sign into the app using your mobile account.
  • When you sign up for Telegram, you'll have to give the app your phone number to send you a text message.
  • Visit Business Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

The cross-platform chat app Telegram has seen a surge in popularity amid concerns over data sharing on its Facebook-owned competitor WhatsApp. And while Telegram isn't entirely secure, many users trust it over other similar apps.

You can easily create a Telegram account for free; all you need is an Android or iOS device with a working phone number to get started.

 

Once registered, you'll also be able to log into Telegram's web and desktop apps, where you can send and receive messages from your browser, desktop, laptop, or tablet. You won't need to provide any additional info when logging into those apps, but you should still have your phone handy. 

Here's how to make a Telegram account on your mobile device, and log into the Telegram desktop or browser-based web app.  

How to make a Telegram account on the mobile app

1. Download the Telegram app from the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.

2. Launch the Telegram app and tap "Start Messaging." 

3. Enter your phone number, including the country code. On an iPhone, tap "Next," and on an Android, tap the blue arrow to continue. 

Telegram Account 1
There are slight differences between the Telegram iOS and Android apps.

4. Telegram will send you a text message to verify the phone number belongs to you. Check your messages, then copy and enter the code into the app and tap "Next" or the blue arrow.

Telegram Account 2
If you don't enter the code within three minutes, Telegram will call you with the code instead.

5. Fill out your first name, last name, and add a profile picture if you'd like. You don't have to enter your real name, or give a real picture of yourself. Tap "Next" or the blue arrow when you're done.

Telegram Account 3
You'll need to enter a name, but a profile photo is optional.

After you sign up, Telegram will ask for permission to access your contacts and call log, and make and receive calls using your phone. You can give or restrict these permissions however you like.

How to log into the Telegram desktop or web app

1. Open the browser of your choice and go to desktop.telegram.org to download the desktop app for your operating system.

Telegram Account 4
You can download the desktop app on Mac and PC.

2. Launch the Telegram desktop app, then select "Start Messaging."

3. A QR code will become visible on the screen. To activate it, open the Telegram app on your phone and go to "Settings," then tap "Devices."

Telegram Account 5
Scan the QR code to connect your mobile Telegram app to the desktop app.

4. Tap "Scan QR Code" and hold the camera up to the QR code in the desktop app.

5. After scanning the code, you'll be logged into your account. You can now begin chatting in Telegram on the desktop app.

If you'd rather not use the app, you can also go to web.telegram.org for an entirely browser-based experience. To log in here, enter the phone number connected to your account, then enter the code that's sent to your phone. You'll be immediately logged into your Telegram account.

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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Underwear startup Tommy John makes ultra-comfortable bras - here's what we thought of each style

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tommy john bras 5

  • A comfortable bra is something you can never own too many of.
  • Tommy John, the popular underwear brand, makes some of our favorite bras ($48-$72).
  • They're soft, supportive, and currently available in two fabrics and four silhouettes.

There was once a time when I was positively itching to release myself from the shackles of my bra by the time I got home. I don't have that problem anymore, thanks to bras from new brands like ThirdLove, Lively, and True&Co. I don't even mind wearing my bra the whole day. 

I believe you can't have too much of a good thing, at least in the case of a comfortable bra. That's why you should be excited by the newest bra launch by undergarments brand Tommy John.

As product testers and reviewers, there are brands we like, and then there are brands we revere; Tommy John certainly belongs to the latter. The new bra collection is the final nail in the trophy case of Tommy John's greatest hits, which include boxers, underwear, and loungewear. 

tommy john bras 6

The bra collection currently consists of two types of fabric (Cool Cotton and Second Skin) and these four silhouettes:

It took two years to develop, during which time the team considered important features like support, fit, breathability, and flexibility, and how they would come together in one all-around comfortable bra. 

The Cool Cotton Lightly Lined Wireless Bra, for example, has a perforated cup lining to keep you sweat free on the muggiest days. Meanwhile, the Second Skin version has one single, seamless back band, rather than a hook closure, a design that works better with the silky nature of the fabric. 

If you don't need as much support but still want to cover up, Tommy John also makes bralettes - casual but no less functional undergarments. You can refer to the diagram below to decide which style is best for you. 

Screen Shot 2019 09 12 at 4.48.44 PM

The bras aren't excessively expensive ($48-$72), at least not when you compare them to a single piece of the brand's underwear, which can cost up to $28 a pair. We would recommend pairing your chosen bra with a matching (or not) piece of underwear if you can, because Tommy John's underwear is truly the best you can buy right now

In terms of style, the bras are simple. Nowadays, however, comfort - usually driven by simple, pared-down design - is the new sexy, and the Tommy Johns and ThirdLoves of the world are overshadowing traditional brands like Victoria's Secret as a result. 

We tested four of the bras and you can find our detailed thoughts on each below. The bottom line is that they live up to their claims of comfort, albeit with a couple minor fit concerns. 

Shop all bras at Tommy John here.

Read our reviews of Tommy John's bras, below:

Second Skin Lightly Lined Wireless Bra
tommy john bras

Second Skin Lightly Lined Wireless Bra, $68, available in seven colors

I was excited to meet the bra envisioned by the same minds behind the most comfortable underwear in my closet, and — for the most part — the bra lived up to high expectations. 

The Second Skin Bralette, like the Second Skin underwear, is next-level soft, cool, and comfortable for a full day of wear. While I typically avoid bralettes as a 32DD, this gave me ample support thanks to substantial materials, adjustable straps, and the overall combined strength of an unbroken system (sort of like a sling) that results from a wide, non-clasped band in the back.

However, that latter bit also happens to be my singular complaint. As a 32DD with a relatively narrow band size and a comparatively larger chest, getting this on without a clasp was not enjoyable. For a few seconds, it felt like squeezing into a plastic straw. But, given all the other pros, that certainly isn't a deal breaker. Maybe just skip it if you're a similar size and doing eight backstage changes per night. — Mara Leighton, senior reporter

Cool Cotton Lightly Lined Wireless Bra
tommy john bras 2

Cool Cotton Lightly Lined Wireless Bra, $68, available in six colors

I was a bit nervous to try this bra, as I've never had success with wireless bras. But I had a great experience with the Cool Cotton Lightly Lined Wireless. It feels super light, and offers excellent support; I even prefer it to some of my underwire bras. As a 34DD who often finds straps and bands to be uncomfortably tight, these were no trouble to get into, and fit perfectly on the first try. I also enjoy the underwear, which is an excellent fit (I'm comfortable wearing it with spandex and tight dresses), and made of unbelievably soft material. — Monica Chin, former senior tech reporter 

I have two distinct temperatures: freezing cold and overheating, which is why I was excited to try this ultra-breathable bra that claimed to keep me perspiration-free. I wore this bra on a warmer day while running errands and was so happy because this bra wasn't drenched in sweat at the end of the day.  

However, I was expecting the bra to be lightly padded, but the padding was thicker than every other bra I own. I chose my size in this bra based off of the company's size guide and actually wound up sizing down from my typical size, 32C, so I was even more confused as to why the padding was so thick. I loved how this bra was soft and kept me cool, and if it wasn't quite as thick, it could have been comfortable enough to wear often. — Ciannah Gin, former editorial fellow 

Second Skin Scoop Bralette
tommy john bras 3

Second Skin Scoop Bralette, $48, available in four colors

I pretty much live in bralettes during the weekend — especially after trying Tommy John's, I can't imagine going back to bras. The Scoop Bralette is comfortable for many reasons. Individually, they seem like small details, but they all add up to an undergarment that's the whole package. The Second Skin fabric, my favorite of the brand's, is buttery soft, smooth, and stretchy. There are no itchy, annoying tags. The pads are removable. And there's a "Power Mesh" that supports my chest without squishing it. — Connie Chen, senior reporter 

Second Skin Triangle Bralette
tommy john bras 4

Second Skin Triangle Bralette, $58, available in five colors

I'm a big fan of Tommy John underwear. My underwear drawer is almost exclusively filled with Cool Cotton Briefs ($22), so I was excited when the team found out the company was launching women's bras. I decided to try the Second Skin Triangle Bralette as a replacement for the sports bras I normally wear when I'm home; the first time I tried it on I didn't love it, but once I removed the pads (I hate really any amount of padding in bras) everything changed. The bralette is soft and stretchy with adjustable straps and offers comparable support to the sports bras I typically gravitate to for at-home comfort. The small size fits my 34C bust perfectly. — Ellen Hoffman, excutive editor

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The best rice cookers

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If rice is a staple in your diet, a rice cooker is a convenient appliance to own. As someone who frequently makes sushi, I know firsthand that cooking rice perfectly is an art form. You need to carefully choose your rice, rinse it multiple times, and ensure an airtight seal as it simmers. While world-class sushi restaurants use a pot on a stove to cook their rice, your typical home chef just needs an easy way to cook well-textured rice. This is where rice cookers reign supreme.

With most rice cookers, you just measure out the rice, pour in water to the appropriate line, press a couple of buttons, and wait for the machine to let you know your rice is ready. Basically, you can set it and forget it. Even if you are a seasoned pro when it comes to cooking rice on the stove, a rice cooker is indispensable when you want to free up burners or if you simply don't have access to a stovetop.

The rice cookers included in our guide are durable, have intuitive functions, and can be used for several varieties of rice. If you're not sure where to begin your search, jump to the bottom of this guide for helpful info on what to look for when buying a rice cooker.

Here are the best rice cookers

The best overall
best rice cooker

If you are looking for a cooker that produces delicious results no matter what type of rice you put in, the Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker is the best.

Pros: Adjusts to the type of rice, uses "fuzzy logic," produces tender rice, small footprint

Cons: Somewhat slower than other options

What sets the Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker apart is its use of "fuzzy logic." Basically, a microcomputer adjusts the cooking time and temperature to adapt to the rice, whether it's brown, sweet, white, or porridge. At the bottom of the inner body of the cooker, there is a thermal sensor that keeps tabs on the rice and reports back to the microcomputer, which makes the appropriate adjustments.

The nonstick internal cooking pan features handy lines indicating how much water to add for each type of rice. Both the cooking pan and inner lid can be removed for easy cleaning, though they are not dishwasher-safe.

Other features include a large LCD screen, programmable delay timer for having your rice ready when you get home from work, handle and retractable cord for easy transport, reheating cycle, and an extended keep warm mode. There are two sizes: 5.5-cup and 10-cup. Both come with a one-year warranty.

Senior guides editor Les Shu grew up in a household where rice was served nearly every night. His family has relied on Zojirushi cookers because they consistently make perfect rice and rice porridge. The 5.5-cup model is actually the model his parents now use after downsizing from a larger cooker. 

Senior reporter Connie Chen has also used Zojirushi cookers in her family home for many years and loves their reliability, compact size, and ease of use.

The best on a budget
oster rice cooker

The Oster 6-Cup Rice Cooker is affordable, doesn't take up much space, and has a detached glass lid that is easy to clean.

Pros: Inexpensive, glass lid, great for white, sushi, and sticky rice

Cons: No timer, actually only produces about four standard cups of cooked rice

The Oster 6-Cup Rice Cooker is the only option with a tempered glass lid. The compact size of the appliance allows for faster cooking, and the lid lets you monitor the progress of your rice. The "6-cup" size mentioned in the name of this appliance does not refer to a standard US cup but rather the slightly smaller cup that comes with most rice cookers.

There is only one button so the Oster rice cooker couldn't be easier to use. Yet, there is no timer or alarm that lets you know when the rice is ready. Instead, you might be able to hear the audible click that occurs when the device switches from Cook to Keep Warm mode. You'll also see an indicator light switch modes as well. Both the inner pot and lid are removable for hand washing. Oster backs this product with a one-year limited warranty.

Expert testers have found the Oster to clean up effortlessly and the rice quality to be terrific, particularly white rice and sushi rice. Brown rice, however, can be somewhat dry.

This cooker doesn't take up much space and is ideal for one- or two-person households.

The best multipurpose rice cooker
best rice cooker aroma housewares

The Aroma Housewares Digital Rice Cooker is an affordable appliance for cooking 20 cups of rice as well as steaming vegetables and slow cooking.

Pros: Large capacity, several uses, including steaming vegetables

Cons: The attached lid can be difficult to clean

The Aroma Housewares Digital Rice Cooker is unique in that it can steam vegetables and meat while rice cooks. There are easy-to-program controls for slow cooking, flash rice (speeds up the cooking time for grains that usually take longer), steaming, brown rice, and white rice.

It also has a keep warm function and a 15-hour delay timer, which is useful for when you want your rice and vegetables to be ready when you get home from work.

The Aroma rice cooker yields 20 cups of cooked rice and comes with a serving spatula, rice measuring cup, and steam tray. The inner cooking pot features measurement lines that make it easy to determine how much water to add. And, the pot is removable for cleaning.

Thanks to its Saute-Then-Simmer function, the cooker is great for any recipe that first requires sauteing your ingredients. You can save time and space by switching directly to the simmer step to make dishes like risotto or chili. 

The best for GABA rice
best rice cooker 3

If you are looking for an affordable fuzzy logic cooker that can help you enjoy the health benefits of GABA rice, the Cuckoo Electric Heating Rice Cooker is an excellent solution.

Pros: Uses fuzzy logic, keeps rice warm without drying out for 24-plus hours, has GABA rice cooking function

Cons: Only available in pink

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) rice is becoming increasingly popular as we learn more about its many health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and improving brain function. Enter the Cuckoo Electric Heating Rice Cooker, which has six cooking settings, including a GABA function, turbo cook, keep warm, and timer.

The Cuckoo rice cooker produces up to 12 cups of cooked rice. The inner pot has a non-stick surface and is removable for easy cleaning, though it's not dishwasher safe. The company offers a one-year warranty on parts and labor.

Impressively, it can keep your rice warm for an entire day, so you'll have fresh rice whenever you want it. 

What to consider when buying a rice cooker

Based on our research and survey of home cooks, here's what to look for when shopping for a rice cooker.

Basic or advanced

We find that rice cookers typically come in two forms: basic models with a heating element at the bottom and simple, one-touch operation, and more advanced variants that utilize a computer that better regulates the cooking process. Regardless, both automate the rice-cooking process.

If you're looking to cook rice quickly with no-fuss, a basic rice cooker should suffice. However, it won't cook rice evenly (in our experience you'll need to adjust the rice-water ratio to find the sweet spot), the rice tends to crisp at the bottom of the bowl, and it loses heat during the post-cooking/warming stage. When shopping, you may also find basic rice cookers that incorporate a sealed lid and heating elements all-around the unit to ensure more even cooking, such as this option from Zojirushi.

For those who must have perfectly cooked rice or like to prepare different varieties of rice, you may want to look at more advanced cookers that utilize a microcomputer, typically labeled as "fuzzy logic." The most popular brands include Panasonic, Zojirushi, Tiger, and Cuckoo. With smart technology, these high-tech rice cookers ensure even cooking by better regulating water, pressure, and steam. They have dedicated settings for rice type, as well as oatmeal and porridge. Some even chime when the rice is ready to eat and are better at keeping rice warm. However, they aren't fast as the computer requires time to make adjustments, and some people may find the operation to be cumbersome. Still, we find that these advanced rice cookers consistently churn out the best-cooked rice.

Capacity

Household rice cookers come in various sizes — as small as 3 cups, and up to 10 cups. (There are commercial-grade rice cookers that hold up to 45 cups if you're feeding an army). Note that a cup is a lot of rice after it has been cooked, so a 3-cup cooker could suffice for a small family. Ultimately, choosing the right capacity will depend on your household size and eating habits, as well as budget and kitchen counter space. 

Multicookers

Nearly all multicookers (or electric pressure cookers), such as those from Instant Pot, offer a rice function. In somes ways, a multicooker is really just a souped-up rice cooker: there's a heating element at the bottom, and it uses steam to cook the rice. However, multicookers are sealed and also utilize pressure cooking, which speeds up the process. But like a basic rice cooker, you'll need to be mindful of the water-rice ratio, as well as the pressure setting. Check out our guide for the best multicookers.

Accessories

The most basic rice cooker should include a lid, metal bowl (preferably nonstick), measuring cup, and either a spoon or spatula, which are all you really need. As you move up in price, you may get accessories like vegetable steaming trays, a holder for the spoon or spatula, and nonstick bowls made from high-quality materials.

Budget

A basic, 3-cup rice cooker can be had for around $15. Of course, the price climbs when you up the capacity and features. We find that you shouldn't have to spend more than $30 for a basic rice cooker. If you want a "fuzzy logic" rice cooker, expect to pay at least $120 and as much as $300 or more.

Measuring cup size

It's also worth noting that the measuring cups that come with rice cookers typically are smaller than a standard eight-ounce cup. Instead, they are about six ounces in volume. This is important to keep in mind when measuring out rice as you put it in your cooker. If you use a standard cup, you are likely to end up with tough, undercooked rice.

More great kitchen appliance guides
cuisinart toaster oven
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The best kids' lunch boxes of 2021

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  • Although school may look different this year, a lunch box is still essential for on-the-go learning.
  • Our picks give you the best lunch boxes for kids ranging in age from preschool to college and everything in between.

Heading back to school this spring looks different everywhere, which means some products on your back-to-school shopping list may be omitted.  For the most part, however, a good-quality, well-designed lunch box is a lifetime staple. It's perfect for packing lunches for all school years. And, even if in-person learning is on a halt this season, these portable picks we rounded up are still practical  - from snacking on a sandwich at a local library to bringing homework to a park nearby. 

Of course, be sure to take safety measures by following CDC Coronavirus guidelines (especially guidelines for school settings. You can even browse the reported cases within your county (or your school's county) with the CDC COVID-19 data tracker.

And, while staying safe is first priority, putting together a nutritious and well-balanced lunch is another healthy practice to adopt. Jennifer Hyland, RD, a pediatric dietitian at Cleveland Clinic, shared lunch meal prep ideas for school goers of all ages and how to include younger children in packing their plate, too.

For information on how to find meals for kids when schools are closed, visit the USDA's website on disaster assistance.

To hold a school lunch, drinks (and also snacks  -  let's not forget snacks), our top lunch box picks are designed to fit everything you need, easy to transport, and prevent leaks. We put 12 lunch boxes through rigorous testing, which included drop tests, "smush" tests, leak tests, and more.

Here are the best kids' lunch boxes:

The best for preschool
bentgo kids lunch box

The Bentgo Kids Lunch Box comes in a variety of colors and designs, has multiple compartments for different foods, and didn't pop open in our drop test. 

Pros: Multiple color options, leak- and drop-proof design, dishwasher- and microwave-safe, stayed closed in our drop test

Cons: Small compartments might be too small for kids with big appetites

Bentgo offers bento boxes in different sizes, but one of its most popular boxes is the smaller Bentgo Kids Lunch Box. The box has four main compartments and one smaller compartment that's perfect for dips and sauces.

This is the only box on our list that didn't fit a full sandwich. We were able to get half a sandwich in the biggest compartment. For most preschoolers, this isn't a problem. The bento tray can be removed from the box itself, and the tray is dishwasher- and microwave-safe. 

The outer box has rubber edges and a drop-proof design, which is perfect for younger kids. In our drop test, the Bentgo box stayed shut — something that can't be said for many of the other boxes we tested. It was also one of the few bento-style boxes that my two-year-old was able to open herself. 

Unlike many other bento boxes, the compartments in this box are leak-proof, making it much more convenient to pack any food without worrying about it ruining the other foods in the box. In our water test, water did not leak out of individual compartments. It took an ice cube 2.5 hours to melt in our temperature test. 

This is a smaller lunchbox, with just the right amount of space to pack a filling meal for a preschooler, but it will be too small for older kids. We also tried the similar Bentgo Fresh, which is bigger for older kids.

The best for elementary school
wildkin lunch boxes

The Wildkin Lunch Box comes in more than 30 unique prints, and it has a simple design that's user-friendly for elementary school students.

Pros: Over 30 prints, simple design, inexpensive, held shape in smush test

Cons: Personalization not available

Sometimes, simple is best, and that's certainly the case with the classic design of the Wildkin Lunch Box. It has one main rectangular compartment, an internal mesh pocket, and an external zipper pocket. The top carry handle is the right size for little hands.

Elementary school kids will love that there are several designs and colors available. From pink glitter to construction vehicles, there is a Wildkin Lunch Box to match every style. The material inside the lunch box can be wiped down and the seams are covered with the same slick material for easy cleaning. 

The Wildkin Lunch Box is also the cheapest option on our list, making it great for families on a budget. It's a good size for elementary school, and if you need to stretch your money, it could easily work for preschool through middle school. The bag easily fit our full meal with room to add a water bottle. 

This lunch box fared well in our smush test. It has the thickest insulation of any bag-style lunch box we tested, which helped it hold its shape when we piled books on top of it. That thick insulation kept the ice cube from melting for two hours in our temperature control test. 

The main drawback of this bag is that it can't be personalized, which is something many elementary school students enjoy.

The best for middle school
Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie Dual Lunch Boxes

The Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie Dual Lunch Box is spacious, has multiple carry options, and offers fun prints and personalization.  

Pros: Multiple print options, holds temperature well, very spacious

Cons: No 'bells and whistles' (simply a standard lunch box)

The Pottery Barn Kids Dual Lunch Box comes in many different print options and can be personalized. Middle school can be a time of great self-expression and independence, which is why a bag with so many options will work for a wide range of middle schoolers. Kids can carry it with a handle, a longer shoulder strap, or they can hook it onto the Pottery Barn Kids Mackenzie Backpack

The dual lunch box is a bigger bag, suitable for kids who need a lot of food as they experience rapid growth during their middle school years. We packed a full lunch in this bag and still had plenty of room to add a water bottle and some snacks to eat during after-school practice. 

In our temperature-control test, an ice cube took 2.5 hours to melt in this bag, which was longer than most. It held up well in our smush test as well; the bag held its shape and didn't smush food when we piled books on top. 

The interior of the bag is lined with food-safe vinyl that's easy to wipe down. The vinyl even covers the interior seams. 

This is a relatively pricey bag, especially when you consider that it's only a bag. If you want reusable food containers or bento-style boxes to go in the bag, you'll need to purchase those separately.

The best for high school
planetbox

The PlanetBox bento-style boxes are made of stainless steel, feature unique designs with interchangeable magnets, and they didn't pop open in our drop tests. 

Pros: Stainless steel, stayed closed in drop test, can add personality with magnets or leave plain

Cons: Rover might not be big enough for larger appetites, expensive

We recommend PlanetBox's stainless steel bento-style boxes, which come in two sizes: Rover and Launch. I tested the smaller of the two: the Rover Box. I was able to fit a full lunch, but I had to squeeze the sandwich a bit. The Launch Box is best for bigger appetites. The Rover has five smaller compartments while the Launch has three larger compartments. 

Usually, by high school, kids ditch the cute lunch boxes in favor of simplicity, but they don't want to completely give up their individuality. This is one of the reasons PlanetBox is our top pick for high school. Each box is plain stainless steel, but kids can choose unique magnets at no additional charge to add some personality. 

The box itself is not leak-proof; water dripped right out in our test. You can buy leak-proof containers designed to fit into the compartments of the box. In our drop test, some of the magnets fell off, but the box did not pop open. In our temperature control test, ice took 2 hours and 45 minutes to melt, second only to PackIt, which has built-in ice packs. 

I highly recommend pairing the Rover or Launch box with a carry bag. It includes internal elastic straps and pockets, as well as an external water bottle pouch and snack pocket. The bags come in many colors and patterns, some of which might even match school colors, like red, red and blue, purple, or green and yellow. Cleaning is easy: take off the magnets and pop the box into the dishwasher. It's also easy to wipe the bag interior.  

PlanetBox isn't cheap, especially when you add on the carry bag and leak-proof containers. However, with such a durable stainless-steel design, this box can transition into college or serve as a solid hand-me-down. You can even purchase new magnets for less than $5 if you pass the box off to someone else.

The best for college
lunchbots

The LunchBots Large Trio Stainless-Steel Lunch Container has a professional design and is big enough for college students to pack a whole meal or a full day of snacks. 

Pros: Transfers well to professional life, durable stainless steel, fits plenty of food for a full meal or a whole day of snacks

Cons: Compartments aren't leak-proof

A lot of people don't think about lunch boxes when they're headed off to college. Most college freshmen are focused on the all-you-can-eat dining commons for their meals, but you shouldn't underestimate how much a lunch box will come in handy in college. Meal plan points run out, sometimes there isn't time to go to the dining hall between classes, and when students move off campus, they usually don't have a meal plan.  

We love the LunchBots Large Trio Stainless Steel for college because it's simple, durable, and versatile. The lid didn't budge in our drop tests. The plain design won't have college students feeling like a middle-schooler toting around a lunch their mommy made, and it transfers well to professional life. It can also be used to carry just a few snacks for a long day on campus. 

It's a stainless-steel bento box that's ideal for a large main dish and two sides. The main compartment is large enough to fit a sandwich and then some. If you're lucky enough to have a dishwasher in your apartment, it is dishwasher safe.

In our water test, water didn't leak out of the box as it did with the PlanetBox, but it also didn't stay contained in each compartment. Don't plan on packing runny or watery food without an upgrade to a bundle with silicone leak-proof containers.  

You might want to buy a bag as well, especially if you need to add an ice pack or if you won't be able to get back to your dorm or apartment all day. The box fits neatly in the bottom of the bag, and the top leaves plenty of room to add extra food. Like PlanetBox, LunchBots can get pricey with all the add-ons.

You can also read our full review of LunchBots here.

What else we considered
omie box
  • Yumbox: Yumbox was my front-runner, and I really wanted to name it best for preschool … until it popped open in my drop test. My favorite thing about this bento box is that each section is labeled with a different food group. As a parent, I know how much easier this makes lunch prep. Unfortunately, that doesn't matter if your preschooler drops it and their lunch scatters across the floor.  
  • OmieBox: This box holds the right amount of food for younger kids, and it even has a built-in compartment for hot foods. It has a handle on the box, making it easy for kids to carry without a bag. Unfortunately, this one also popped open in our drop test.  
  • PackIt: This bag has built-in ice packs, so you can fold it up, pop it in the freezer overnight, and it's ready to keep lunch cold all day. What I didn't love is that it tends to stay in its folded freezer position even when you unfold it. Freezing it overnight also makes it impossible to pack lunches at night, unless you buy two that you switch out. 
  • Skip Hop Zoo: The Zoo bag has friendly animal designs for young kids, and this bag is very inexpensive. However, the structure is flimsy, and it didn't hold up well in our smush test.  
  • Sistema Klip-It Lunch Cube-To-Go: This is an inexpensive bento-style box that has three large main compartments. The large square shape doesn't fit well in many standard lunch bags, and it's awkward to carry without a bag.
Our testing methodology

We considered the following qualities and conducted the following tests with each lunch box: 

Durability

As a former high school teacher, I've seen how students treat their school supplies, and it isn't pretty. A lunch box should be able to stand up to getting tossed in lockers, stuffed in backpacks, and dropped in the hallway. We conducted the following tests for durability:

  • Bento-style: We dropped lunch boxes from desk height and threw them against a wall. 
  • Bags: We piled books on top of each bag to see if the lunch got smushed.

Capacity and containment

You may be surprised how much variation there is in the amount of food lunch boxes can hold and how well they hold the food. When determining our picks, we packed an average-sized lunch in each box. 

  • With the exception of our pre-school pick, each lunch box in our guide fits the following meal: 1 sandwich, ½ cup strawberries, ½ cup carrots, some ranch dip, a string cheese, and a piece of chocolate. 
  • We tested how well each bento-style box contained liquids by putting water in a section of the box then threw the box around. 

Appearance

This can make all the difference. Younger kids might be more likely to eat their lunch if it's in a cool container with their favorite character, and older kids wouldn't be caught dead with a juvenile lunch box. 

Temperature control

Keeping food at the proper temperature is important for your kid's lunch to taste good and for it to remain safe. 

To test this, we put an ice cube in each box and monitored how long it took to melt. Without adding any ice packs or other temperature control items, the ice remained solid for at least two hours in each box.

How to pack a school lunch
pack lunch

According to Jennifer Hyland, RD, lunches should include a variety of nutrients to get kids through the day. Hyland recommends getting kids involved in packing lunches, as well as everything you need to know to pack a wholesome school lunch.

Remember that a school lunch needs to get your child through their day, so it's a good idea to pack a little more than what you think they'll eat in each main food group. Hyland provided some ideas for what to pack in each category: 

  • Grains: whole wheat bread, whole-grain crackers, popcorn, wheat wrap, tortilla chips, cooked sweet potato, brown rice, or quinoa
  • Proteins: lean deli meat (turkey, chicken, ham), hard-boiled eggs, packets of tuna, nuts/nut butter, beans/chickpeas
  • Fruits: apples, pears, mixed berries, oranges, etc
  • Vegetables: carrots, cucumbers, celery, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, snap peas, salad, cooked veggies leftover from dinner
  • Dairy: string cheese, yogurt (try greek), cottage cheese, low-fat white milk, milk alternatives like soy milk or almond milk

Don't forget to pack a drink, too! Avoid packing sugary drinks like juice or soda. Hyland recommends water, white milk, or naturally flavored sparkling waters.

Here are a few other tips to make packing school lunch a breeze: 

  • Follow your child's cues and communicate. For example, if your child never eats oranges at school but always does at home, ask why. Maybe he or she struggles with the peel or the temperature is too hot or cold.
  • Prepare some mixed dishes at the beginning of the week. "Try a cold pasta salad with meats, cheese, cut up veggies and Italian dressing; or a Mexican quinoa salad with black beans, corn, bell peppers, tomatoes, and a cilantro vinaigrette," Hyland recommends. "These can help cover the grain and protein section of lunch and then all you need to do is add a few sides!" 
  • Involve your kids. When they help pack their lunch, they take more ownership and are more likely to enjoy and eat their food. "Set up a lunch packing station where you have options from each of the food groups," she said. "Then they can pick something from each group and mix and match to create their own lunch.

Don't forget about temperature control. Try an insulated Thermos container or OmieBox for hot foods. For cold foods, try a PackIt freezable lunch bag or use two ice packs.

Check out other back-to-school guides
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Republicans are arguing that Biden violates his call for unity unless he pushes policies they like

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Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks as Vice President Kamala Harris looks on during an event on economic crisis in the State Dining Room of the White House January 22, 2021 in Washington, DC.
  • Bringing a sense of unity to US politics was a central theme of President Joe Biden's inaugural address. 
  • Now that he's working to implement his campaign promises, the GOP says Biden is undermining that call. 
  • Critics say the GOP is misconstruing what Biden meant by "unity," and asking the president to abandon his agenda.  
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

After four years of lining up behind one of the most divisive presidents in US history, Republicans in Congress and their allies are accusing President Joe Biden of undermining his calls for unity by not pushing for policies they find palatable. 

"A radical leftist agenda in a divided country will not help unify our country, it will only confirm 75 million Americans biggest fears about the new administration," Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida tweeted on Friday, inaccurately rounding up the number of votes Trump received in 2020. 

"Biden had a good message of unity," Alyssa Farah, who was the Trump administration's last White House communications director, said in a tweet on Thursday. "But the policies so far are aimed at only half the country, those who supported him, with no sign of outreach to those who did not."

Farah did not mention that Biden defeated former President Donald Trump by more than seven million votes (roughly 81.2 million votes to 74.2 million) and won the support of a majority of US voters (roughly 51%). Despite the fact he won more votes than any presidential candidate in US history, Republicans have effectively been calling on Biden to abandon his campaign promises. 

Read more: Joe Biden is hiring about 4,000 political staffers to work in his administration. Here's how 3 experts say you can boost your chances of getting one of those jobs.

GOP Sen. Tom Cotton in a tweet decried Biden's push for unity as a "lie" because the president's potential pick to spearhead Iran policy is a former Obama administration national security official, Rob Malley, who isn't hawkish enough for the Arkansas Republican's tastes. 

Indeed, just weeks after Trump provoked a violent insurrection at the US Capitol, which was in many was brought on by Republicans enabling the former president's baseless claims of mass voter fraud, the GOP is defining "unity" in the Biden era as the president only pursuing an agenda that is agreeable to both parties. 

'No, that's not how we do this'

After broadly endorsing Trump's anti-democratic effort to overturn the election, Republicans are generally putting the onus of unifying the country entirely on Biden. Critics say the GOP is being disingenuous, and skirting accountability over the Capitol riot earlier this month. 

"If they'll work with him, he will work with them," John D. Podesta, who was White House chief of staff under the Clinton administration and counselor to President Barack Obama, told the New York Times. "But it doesn't mean throw out your core program. And if he says, 'I think you went too far in cutting taxes on the wealthy,' and they say, 'Well, that means you're not serious about unity,' that's just a joke."

"The offense by the Republicans is to go out and say 'well we're gonna do unity, but we're gonna do unity on our terms. And anything that's not, well that ain't unity,'" former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said on MSNBC Thursday. "What Joe Biden has to do now is go, 'no, that's not how we do this'"

"There is a difference between Biden calling for unity as an opening theme and instantly conceding to Senate Republicans who have shown zero evidence of being willing to make a deal," Julian Zelizer, a Princeton University historian, tweeted on Thursday.

"The burden is on [Sen. Mitch McConnell], particularly after a GOP incited insurrection," Zelizer added. 

Biden: 'Disagreement must not lead to disunion'

Unity was a central theme of Biden's inaugural address, during which the president contended that political agreement is not a prerequisite to civility. 

"We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature," Biden said. 

"For without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury, no progress, only exhausting outrage, no nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge. And unity is the path forward," Biden said. "Hear me clearly: Disagreement must not lead to disunion."

Based on Biden's framing, unity does not necessitate being on the same page on major issues at all times, but it does require a basic consensus to keep the peace even when people don't see eye-to-eye. 

"Politics need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn't have to be a cause for total war," Biden said. 

joe biden inauguration
President Joe Biden delivers his inaugural address.

A Morning Consult poll released on Thursday found a strong majority of voters (74%) approved of Biden's call in his inaugural address for an end to political division in the US, including 51% of Republicans. The poll also found that a majority of voters (74%), including 61% of Republicans, agreed it's more important for the US to have a leader that unites the country than one who represents their prefered policy positions and values. 

But in pledging to bring back a sense of unity to the US, the president was always going to have his work cut out for him - especially with millions of Americans doubting his mandate to lead. Recent polling has suggested that most GOP voters do not view Biden as the legitimate winner of the 2020 election. Biden also has to contend with growing divisions within the Democratic party, as progressives continue to clash with moderates on array of topics. 

Biden's ability to implement his early agenda will depend on his ability to overcome the convoluted array of political forces vying to pull him in diverging directions. 

With that said, Biden is seemingly aware that the path ahead will not be easy, and that establishing any sense of unity could prove elusive. 

"I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new," Biden said. "Victory is never assured." 

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Sony's PlayStation 5 is setting the bar for gaming in 2021, but the system will need more exclusives to truly prove its value

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PlayStation 5 PS5 Desk Shot
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Sony released the PlayStation 5, the successor to the most popular video game console in the world, on November 12. The PS5 launched with two versions: a $500 standard model, and a $400 all-digital edition with no disc drive.

The PlayStation 5 has enjoyed the most successful console launch in US history, based on data from the NPD Group. The PS5 recorded the highest sales revenue and most individual console sales for any video game console at launch, setting a record previously held by the PlayStation 4.

Sony said it sold more PlayStation 5 consoles in the first 12 hours of preorders than it sold PS4 consoles in 12 weeks, reflecting just how popular the PlayStation brand has become. The PS5 remains in high demand with online retailers selling out within minutes of restocking.

As the successor to the PS4, the PS5 will likely become the standard by which we judge what "next-gen" gaming is.

The PlayStation 5 hardware brings immediate benefits, like a lightning fast solid state drive (SSD), support for USB-C, up to a 120Hz refresh rate, and ray traced lightning effects, but the average gamer may not recognize these leaps in technology right away.

After spending more than two months with the PS5, we've updated our initial review to cover all aspects of the console and explain just how much of an improvement the next-gen system provides over the PS4. 

Updated on 1/22/2021 by Kevin Webb: This review has been revised with new impressions following the launch of the PS5. Added a new section with details on the PS5's media performance.

PlayStation 5 specifications

PlayStation 5 PS5 Render
  • Dimensions: 15.45 (W) x 10 (D) x 3.62 (H) inches (stand adds about .5 inches, reaching 16 inches when vertical)
  • Weight: 10 lbs
  • Disc drive: 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray drive (standard edition only)
  • Internal storage: 825GB M.2 drive
  • HDMI Out: 4K resolution at 120Hz with HDMI 2.1; future support planned for 8K TVs, variable refresh rate and AMD FreeSync
  • Ports: 1x USB-C, 3x USB 3.1, 1x Ethernet
  • CPU: AMD Ryzen Zen 2, 8 cores, 16 threads at 3.5 GHz
  • GPU: AMD Radeon RDNA 2 at 2.23 GHz, 10.3 TFlops
  • Memory: GDDR6 16GB, 44GB/s bandwidth

Design

PlayStation 5 PS5 console close up

The PlayStation 5's stark black and white design immediately feels distinct from the solid color PlayStation and Xbox consoles gamers have come to expect from prior generations. The PS5's size sets it apart too - in vertical mode it's one of the biggest home consoles ever released, towering at 16 inches tall.

You can set up the PlayStation 5 horizontally, but you'll still need to sit it on the stand to make sure it's properly positioned due to the slight sloping on the PS5's outer shell. The PS5 should fit most TV consoles and entertainment system shelves without issue in horizontal mode, but if you plan to keep the console on your desk or use it with a wall mounted setup, you may need to find a long term storage solution.

Despite its size, the PlayStation 5 does feel like an expertly crafted piece of hardware. Small details demonstrate Sony's attention to care, like the PlayStation logo etched into a corner of the PS5's shell, and a set of PlayStation button icons that signal where to place the stand. Longtime PlayStation 4 owners can rejoice knowing that the PS5's fans are whisper quiet, thanks to the shell case providing plenty of airflow.

The USB-C port feels like an important addition too, as it could allow for faster external devices, like hard drives, or an updated PlayStation VR headset.

Graphics

Spider-Man: Miles Morales PS5 PlayStation 5 sony
"Spider-Man: Miles Morales" is easily one of the best looking video games ever made.

Visuals are usually the hallmark of next-generation consoles, and the PlayStation 5 does not disappoint. The PS5 is built to run most games at 4K resolution; that's four times the rendering size the standard PS4 is capable of. The PlayStation 4 Pro is capable of running games at 4K too, but it can't match the PlayStation 5's 120Hz refresh rate, or the PS5's processing power when it comes to enhanced visual features like ray tracing.

"Spider-Man: Miles Morales" is one of the most gorgeous games I've ever played; the PS5 does an amazing job capturing all of Spider-Man's dynamic motion without sacrificing the crisp detail of his New York City surroundings. Miles' electric powers do a wonderful job demonstrating the advanced ray tracing effects the PS5 is capable of. While "Miles Morales" can be played on PS4, it will have a slower frame rate, less detailed character models and environments, and no ray tracing.

The PS5's graphics potential is so high that many gamers won't have a new enough TV to make use of every feature. The PlayStation 5's high dynamic range (HDR) color will only activate on supported TVs, and the PS5's highest refresh rate (120Hz) is only possible on HDMI 2.1 capable displays.

Sony has promised future support for up to 8K resolution, which will of course also require an 8K TV, and no games currently offer that level of quality. Similarly, Sony has said PlayStation 5 will eventually support variable refresh rate (VRR) and AMD FreeSync, like Microsoft's Xbox consoles, but the PS5 isn't able to activate those features just yet.

The M.2 solid state drive

PlayStation 5 DualSense gamepad (logos)
A close-up of the PS5's DualSense controller reveals tons of tiny PlayStation button icons.

The biggest upgrade Sony built into the PlayStation 5 is an 825GB M.2 solid state drive, which improves data transfer speeds by roughly 100 times compared to the PlayStation 4. That might sound like a made up number, but the M.2 drive really makes that much of a difference, cutting minute-long loads to just a few seconds in-game, and hour-long downloads to a fraction of the time.

It might not sound as cool, but the drive replacement is a bigger game changer than the PS5's support for 8K playback, ray tracing, or 120Hz refresh rate. The upgrade in drive will completely change your gaming experience, as lulls in the action are cut down by lightning fast loads, and time-wasting updates complete in a matter of seconds instead of wasting your precious gaming time.

Sony says you'll be able to upgrade the M.2 drive in the future, but for now it's so advanced that none of the other M.2 drives on the market can run fast enough to work with the PS5.

Performance

Astros Playroom PS5

As someone who got a full five years of service out of my PS4, the PlayStation 5 does offer a major leap in quality - games I played on the PS4 earlier this year, like "Final Fantasy VII Remake," look noticeably sharper and run significantly faster on PS5.

Revisiting Manhattan in "Spider-Man: Miles Morales" helps demonstrate how much faster the loading times are - fast travel sequences and most loading screens take just moments in comparison to "Spider-Man" on PS4. The updated hard drive even lets Spider-Man swing through the city at faster speeds due to faster loading environments. Sony used a tech demo of "Spider-Man" to demonstrate the power of the PS5 drive to shareholders back in 2019.

Thanks to the improved CPU and M.2 drive, basic actions on the PlayStation 5 are much more responsive in general - swapping between games, installing updates, and transferring files feel like much easier tasks when compared to the PS4's fairly dated interface, even though many of the menu options are the same.

Interface

PlayStation 5 PS5 Interface

The PlayStation 5 home screen is noticeably different from the PS4, with the XMB menu using significantly smaller icons with larger graphics to fill the screen. Navigation moves at lightning speed compared to the PS4, with the controller's PlayStation button calling up a quick menu for common options.

Notably, games and media have been separated into different pages on the PS5 home screen; the PlayStation 4 lacked a clear visual distinction between games and media apps. PS5 continues to support most major streaming platforms, though the HBO Max app does not appear to be available yet.

When called up, the PlayStation menu will also show a set of activity cards for games you're currently playing. Activity cards will point you to specific activities, track your progress, deliver news, and show you recently taken screenshots. The card icons are a bit large for my liking and I'd like an option to turn them off, but they never feel like an obstacle.

Sony has provided an option to let you transfer data from your PlayStation 4 directly to your PlayStation 5, but unfortunately not all save data will transfer between the PS4 and PS5 version of a game. You'll have to check on a game by game basis, but hopefully Sony helps simplify that process in the future.

Games

Demon Souls PlayStation 5 PS5 Demon Souls
As of now, "Demon's Souls" is one of the only true PS5 exclusives.

Console launches are usually marked by a handful of exclusive games that are only playable on the new hardware, but Sony is shaking up the formula a bit for the PlayStation 5. Two of the three games Sony is releasing alongside the PS5, "Spider-Man: Miles Morales" and "Sackboy: A Big Adventure," will also be playable on PlayStation 4, though players can expect slightly worse graphics and much longer load times.

So far, only "Demon's Souls" can be called a true PlayStation 5 exclusive, as it won't be available on PS4, PC, or Xbox. Another 2021 release from Sony, "Horizon Forbidden West," has been promised to PS4 owners too.

Sony's exclusives help give PlayStation its identity as the home for premium console games, and Sony is betting that the PlayStation 5 provides a big enough leap in performance to get dedicated PS4 owners to invest in premium hardware for the best possible experience. 

Sony exclusives, like "Demon's Souls," showcase the PlayStation 5's power, while cross-platform releases, like "Spider-Man: Miles Morales," demonstrate the difference in quality between the PS4 and PS5.

To help sweeten the deal, PS5 owners who subscribe to Sony's PlayStation Plus online service will automatically get access to more than a dozen hit PS4 games to play on their new console.

The PS Plus Collection features Sony exclusives, like "God of War," "The Last of Us Remastered," and "Bloodborne," as well as third party releases, like "Batman: Arkham Knight" and "Resident Evil 7." Some of the choices may not be exciting if you spent a lot of time playing PS4, but gamers who are picking up their first PlayStation will be more than satisfied with this basic collection.

There are a few more exclusive PS5 titles set for release in 2021, but few of them have revealed enough details to warrant spending $500 on a new console.

Controller

PS5 DualSense PlayStation 5 Controller Sony

The new DualSense controller is one of Sony's biggest selling points for the PlayStation 5 hardware. DualSense features adaptive trigger technology that allows developers to control the amount of tension players feel when they press the rear buttons, and haptic feedback that enables a wide range of rumble effects within the controller. These features are meant to create an immersive experience where players can accurately feel the kickback when they pull a gun trigger, or sense the tension of a bow as they aim.

The DualSense has a built-in microphone and a 3.5mm headphone jack, making it easier to play games online and use the PS5's 3D audio features without a dedicated gaming headset.

All of the DualSense's features are put to fantastic use in "Astro's Playroom," a short game that comes pre-installed on the PlayStation 5. However, the other games I played definitely didn't emphasize the DualSense features as much, so I'm curious how often other developers will spend the extra time to make use of them.

Beyond DualSense's special features, it adopts the popular USB-C charging port and eliminates the color light bar from the PlayStation 4's DualShock controller. Instead, the touch pad in the center of the DualSense controller is surrounded by a more subtle light that changes color. Finally, the controller's rechargeable battery lasts for about 15 hours of playtime in my experience.

The DualSense controller certainly outperforms the standard Xbox controller thanks to its rechargeable battery, built-in microphone, and haptic feedback features.

Media playback

PlayStation 5 Ps5 Media

With its Blu-ray drive, large app library, and USB slots for file transfers, the PlayStation 5 is a capable home entertainment hub. The PS5 is HDMI-CEC capable, so hooking it up to popular smart TV brands like Samsung and LG will allow you to control the console with your TV remote, including stop and play functions during movies. To enable this feature on PS5, you'll need to make sure that "HDMI Device Link" is activated in the settings.

In terms of quality, the PlayStation 5 can display 4K UHD Blu-ray discs with HDR10 color and bitstream surround sound, but more specialized formats like Dolby Vision and HDR10+ aren't supported on PS5. It's possible that this could change in the future with a software update though. While DVD movies are supported by the PS5's disc drive, 3D Blu-ray movies won't output properly and CDs won't work either.

Common streaming apps, like Netflix, work as expected on the PS5, though the interface moves a bit faster than the average smart TV or streaming stick. Sony no longer sells digital movies and shows through PlayStation Store on PS5, but you can access your digital collection from popular platforms like Vudu and Amazon Prime Video.

Unlike Microsoft's Xbox, the PlayStation 5 doesn't automatically activate HDCP when watching copyrighted content, but that's only an issue if you frequently use an external capture card to record your gameplay.

Should you buy it?

PlayStation 5 PS5 Box

For now, the PlayStation 5 is probably best suited for gamers who use their console on a daily basis and absolutely need the very best in performance. Most upcoming PS5 games will also work on PS4, and many gamers don't have the hardware needed to make use of the PS5's 4K and 120Hz output.

That said, those who do buy a PS5 early in its release can look forward to some awesome launch titles in "Miles Morales" and "Demon's Souls," and the upgrade in graphics and loading performance will still make old PS4 games feel new until more titles are next-gen ready.

PlayStation 5 stock remains sold out at many retailers, but stores have been adding inventory on a rolling basis. Check out our PlayStation 5 buying guide for more retailer options and restock alerts. 

Which model should you get?

Most early adopters should probably opt for the standard PlayStation 5 ($500), since you'll need the Blu-ray drive to play any physical PlayStation 4 games you have in your collection.

If you're not interested in 4K Blu-ray playback and you're coming to the PS5 without a collection of PS4 discs, then the all-digital console ($400) should be fine since new PS5 games on disc need to be installed anyway.

The bottom Line

The PlayStation 5 fulfills Sony's promise of a next-generation console with a flashy, powerful machine that will rely on big exclusives to prove its worth. Sony exclusives, like "God of War," "Spider-Man," and "The Last of Us," made the PlayStation 4 a destination for premium gaming, and I look forward to more games, like "Demon's Souls," that demonstrate why gamers should invest in a PlayStation 5.

Overall, the PlayStation 5 represents a welcome evolution in the PlayStation experience and a major upgrade in performance, but the lack of impressive new games reflects just how hard it is to show off innovation as the console industry advances.

Pros: Cutting edge power and performance, state-of-the-art M.2 drive, big library of classic and upcoming PlayStation exclusives

Cons: Console is large, somewhat odd visually, few exclusives to upgrade for if you already have PS4, highest quality features require latest TV hardware, transferring data/games from PS4 should be easier

Playstation 5 (Standard)

Playstation 5 (All-Digital)

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'Why isn't my Apple Watch pairing?': 5 ways to fix your Apple Watch and iPhone when they aren't connecting

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  • If your Apple Watch isn't pairing with your iPhone, there are a number of ways you can fix the connection. 
  • First, make sure both devices have Wi-Fi and Bluetooth enabled and are in range of each other. 
  • Then, try restarting your Apple Watch and iPhone, as well as resetting your iPhone's network settings. 
  • If all else fails, you can fully reset your Apple Watch, wiping your data and almost certainly allowing you to pair your iPhone again — just make sure you backup your watch before doing this. 
  • Visit Business Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

An Apple Watch that isn't paired to an iPhone is greatly diminished in its capacities. 

If your smartwatch is not pairing with your smartphone, you'll want to connect it as soon as possible.

Why your Apple Watch isn't pairing with your iPhone, and how to fix it
Screen_Shot_2019 10 31_at_12_20_00_PM
If the watch is not paired to your phone, it will display a red iPhone image at the top left of its screen.

The good news is that — in most cases — Apple Watch pairing issues can be fixed in a matter of minutes.

Here are the best ways to address the connectivity failure between your two devices, from the simplest to most complex methods. 

Move your phone closer to your watch
apple watch iphone
If your iPhone isn't close to your Apple Watch, the devices may have difficulty connecting.

There's a chance your phone is simply too far away from your Apple Watch, or that it's in a bag or drawer that is blocking clear signal. 

Because the watch and phone pair via Bluetooth, proximity is key. So get them closer together and see if that alleviates the issue.

Check the settings on your phone and watch
apple watch
Open Settings on your Apple Watch and make sure Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are turned on.

If your phone has its Bluetooth turned off — or if either of the devices are in Airplane Mode — they won't be able to pair up. Make sure all settings are set properly to facilitate the connection.

Turn your devices off and on again
ggggggg
First turn your phone on and off, and if that fixes the issue, no need to restart the Apple Watch.

To turn off your iPhone, hold down the side lock button until the "slide to power off" toggle appears, then slide it to power the phone off. Hold the side button again to turn the phone back on. 

You can shut down your Apple Watch by holding down the side button (not the crown) and then swiping to power off. Press and hold the side button again to turn the watch back on.

Reset your iPhone's network settings
step4
Try resetting your network settings.

To reset your iPhone's network settings, open the Settings app, then scroll to General. 

In General, find Reset, then hit Reset Network Settings and enter your password to confirm the move. Now try to re-pair the watch.

Reset your Apple Watch
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Make sure you backup your Apple Watch before resetting it.

Still having issues? Then it's time to reset that watch. This fix should resolve the pairing issue, but it will wipe saved data off the watch, so you should back it up before doing so. 

In the watch's Settings app, choose General, then Reset, and then hit Erase All Content and Settings.

Then in the Watch app on your iPhone, tap My Watch, and tap the information button beside the watch and choose Unpair Apple Watch.

Now everything should be just like new, and you'll be able to pair your Apple Watch and iPhone. 

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says some lawmakers 'don't yet feel safe around other members of Congress' after one tried bringing a gun to the House floor

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) arrives for a hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on August 24, 2020
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) arrives for a hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on August 24, 2020
  • Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she's concerned about her safety in light of reports that Congress members have brought guns to the Capitol.
  • The New York progressive told CNN's Chris Cuomo on Thursday evening that "a very considerable amount" of lawmakers "still don't yet feel safe."
  • Security concerns have been top of mind for many lawmakers after the Capitol breach.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she's worried about her safety in the aftermath of the Capitol riot, and in light of news that some Congress members appear inclined to bring firearms to work. 

The New York progressive told CNN's Chris Cuomo on Thursday evening that "a very considerable amount" of lawmakers "still don't yet feel safe around other members of Congress."

Ocasio-Cortez raised the issue of security concerns after Cuomo questioned why she had skipped President Joe Biden's inauguration earlier this week. She instead spent the evening supporting a local union strike in New York.

"You really think that colleagues of yours in Congress may do you dirty?" Cuomo asked. 

"One just tried to bring a gun on the floor of the House," Ocasio-Cortez replied, a reference to Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland, who reportedly attempted to carry a concealed firearm to the House floor on Thursday evening. Harris' office did not immediately return Insider's request for comment. The Washington Post reported that Capitol Police has said it will investigate the matter.

"The moment you bring a gun onto the House floor, in violation of rules, you put everyone around you in danger," Ocasio-Cortez said. "It is irresponsible. It is reckless."

"It is absolutely outrageous that we even have to have this conversation," she added.

Congress members are prohibited from carrying firearms onto the House and Senate floors, but they are allowed to have guns in their offices and carry them on Capitol grounds. Open carry is illegal in Washington, DC, and gun owners must register their firearms with the DC police and obtain a permit should they choose to carry concealed firearms.

Security concerns have been on the minds of many lawmakers following the Capitol siege earlier this month, which forced Congress to go into lockdown and evacuate. The House tightened its safety protocols and installed a metal detector in front of the House floor, but some Republicans have scoffed at the measures or disrgarded them altogether.

Besides Harris' reported incident on Thursday, other lawmakers have signaled a willingness to carry guns in the Capitol. Freshman Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado, a staunch gun-rights supporter, has previously indicated that she wants to carry her Glock handgun to work with her.

Another freshman Congress member, GOP Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, claimed that he had a gun on him during the Capitol siege. "Fortunately, I was armed, so we would have been able to protect ourselves," he told local newspaper Smoky Mountain News. 

Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia released an ad when she was a candidate that showed her holding an assault rifle next to photos of Ocasio-Cortez and fellow "Squad" members Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Facebook took the ad down.

"GOP lawmakers campaigned with images of them cocking guns next to photos of myself," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted Friday. "Now they are trying to violate DC law and House rules to sneak guns onto the House floor two weeks after a white supremacist insurrection that killed 5 people. Why?"

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How to watch the NFL without signing up for a traditional cable subscription

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NFL How to stream games online 4x3

  • The 2020-21 NFL season is just one round away from the Super Bowl, with the AFC and NFC Championships set for Sunday.
  • Broadcast rights for the season are spread across several networks, including ESPN, NBC, Fox, CBS, and the NFL Network.
  • HD antennas and streaming services all offer select NFL games without the need for a cable subscription.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Whether you're interested in watching Tom Brady whip the pigskin in his new Florida digs, checking out how professional football looks in Las Vegas, or you happen to be a fool like me still holding out hopes that the Detroit Lions can win a Super Bowl (cue the uproarious and hurtful laughter), you can use at least one of the methods outlined below to watch the 2020 NFL season.

With that said, the right NFL streaming option for you will vary depending on your fandom priorities. Basically, the games are spread across five primary networks: ESPN, NBC, Fox, CBS, and the NFL Network. Your location also determines which games get aired on your local stations. Additionally, you can stream all your local in-market games on your mobile device for free using the Yahoo Sports app or the NFL app.

To help ensure you get access to all the games you'd like to watch, we've broken down the ins and outs of watching the NFL without a cable subscription.

Updated on 1/22/2021 by Danny Bakst: Added details about the AFC and NFC Championship games.

How to watch NFL games without cable

You can access many of these channels without a cable subscription via several streaming services, like Hulu + Live TV, Sling TV, FuboTV, YouTube TV, CBS All Access, and NFL Sunday Ticket. Additionally, some services offer NFL RedZone as an add-on for fans who want to watch all the best action from across the league simultaneously rather than sit through one game. If you want to watch games on your local stations without cable, you can also opt for an HDTV antenna.

The 2020-21 NFL season began on September 10 with a Thursday night game between the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs on NBC. Subsequent games are being spread across different channels, and there are several options available to stream each network.

Sunday afternoon games with an NFC home team are being aired on Fox, and Sunday afternoon games with an AFC home team are shown on CBS. Meanwhile, Sunday Night Football airs on NBC, and regular Thursday Night Football is broadcast on NFL Network all season long. Thursday Night Football will also be shown on Fox and streamed via Amazon Prime or Twitch starting week five through the end of the season. Finally, Monday Night Football is on ESPN. 

Depending on the service, you can stream through smart TVs, game consoles, and streaming devices, like Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV. Some platforms can also be streamed on-the-go via smartphones, laptops, and tablets. 

How to watch the NFL Conference Championship games

After an exciting two rounds of the NFL playoffs, only four teams remain. Unlike last season's postseason darling Tennessee Titans, there aren't many major surprises in this year's Conference Championship games.

While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are technically the fifth seed in the NFC, it's no shock that Tom Brady has reached another shot at the Super Bowl. Otherwise, the playoffs went as expected with both first seed teams advancing as well as the 12-3 Buffalo Bills. Both Conference Championship games will be played on January 24.

Here's how you can watch each matchup:

Here's a full roundup of all the services you can use to stream NFL games without cable.

HDTV Antenna
one by one antenna

You can purchase an antenna, like this 1 By One model, to add to your TV for about $24, giving you access to local channels within a certain distance. 

What you get:

Hooking up an HD antenna to your TV gives you access to local over-the-air (OTA) signals in your location. This means that you will be able to access the local affiliates of major broadcast networks, like Fox, CBS, and NBC.

This lets you watch all the regional games broadcast from wherever you're located. You also get the Sunday Night Football matchup that airs on NBC. Because it's only a one-time payment, this is a great option if you're solely interested in watching the team in your area. However, you will not get access to any out-of-market games or games that air on ESPN or the NFL Network.

Sling TV
How Much is Sling TV 4x3

If you're looking for a live TV streaming service to watch football, Sling TV is a great budget option that gives you most of the channels you need at a cheaper price than Hulu or FuboTV.

There are three different plans, depending on what channels you prioritize. Sling Orange and Sling Blue each cost $30 per month, while the combined Sling Orange + Blue plan costs $45 per month. Additionally, you can purchase the Sports Extra package to add NFL RedZone to your plan for $10 per month.

What you get:

Sling Orange has ESPN, while Sling Blue has Fox and NBC in select markets as well as the NFL network. CBS is not currently offered by Sling. While there is a Sports Extra package, it does not include any channels that air live NFL games. 

Your best bet to get access to the most NFL games via Sling is to sign up for the Sling Orange + Blue plan and cash in on Sling's current promotional offer of a free antenna for local channels. The free antenna requires that you prepay for two months of the Sling service. Plus, if you want RedZone you can add the Sports Extra package to the Orange + Blue Plan for a total of $60 per month.

If you don't want it all, you can just sign up for Sling Blue to gain access to Sunday afternoon games on Fox and Sunday Night Football games on NBC, or just Sling Orange to gain access to Monday Night games on ESPN, in addition to the local offerings included with the antenna. As with all streaming services, game availability is subject to blackouts.

With Sling's channel listings, add-ons, and the fact that they provide a free antenna, you can gain access to all local channels, the NFL Network, ESPN, and NFL RedZone, making it one of the most cost-effective ways to watch the NFL without cable. 

Hulu with Live TV
Hulu Basic vs Hulu Premium 4x3

In addition to all of its other offerings, Hulu + Live TV has nearly everything you need to stream NFL games for $54.99 per month. However, like Sling TV, there's no option to add the NFL Network or NFL RedZone as a channel, which could be a deal-breaker if you're hoping to watch and monitor action across the league.

What you get: 

Like an HD antenna, Hulu + Live TV gets you access to all the local affiliates of the major broadcasts, meaning Fox, CBS, and NBC. These will show the games that are within your regional broadcast map with the exception of any blackouts. In addition, you also get ESPN, which gives you access to all Monday Night Football games, and some of the best NFL coverage and analysis on TV. 

While you don't get access to watch out-of-network games from across the country like you do with NFL RedZone or NFL Sunday Ticket, this is a comprehensive way to tune into most locally and nationally televised games. Hulu does not offer a way to watch the first three regular Thursday Night Football games, however, since those will be aired on NFL Network. 

FuboTV
FuboTV

At $64.99 per month for the Family Plan, FuboTV is one of the most comprehensive yet expensive live streaming options for NFL football. You can also spend an extra $10.99 per month to add the Sports Plus with NFL RedZone package or sign up for the Ultra Plan, which includes NFL Redzone and several other extra channels, for $84.99 per month.

What you get:

In terms of NFL games, the Family Plan includes access to local CBS, NBC, and Fox stations (regional availability and blackout restrictions apply). FuboTV's Family Plan also grants you access to ESPN to watch Monday Night Football, and NFL Network to stream Thursday Night Football all season long. 

YouTube TV
YouTubeTV NFL Network

With a base price of $64.99 per month, YouTube TV is another service that offers access to most NFL games. Additionally, the service just announced an agreement with the NFL to offer NFL Redzone as an add-on included in their Sports Plus package for an additional $10.99 per month. 

What you get:

Like other services at this price range, YouTube TV offers access to all the local channels you need to watch NFL games, including CBS, Fox, and NBC. YouTube TV also offers ESPN and NFL Network in their base package, so you'll be able to watch all Monday Night Football and Thursday Night Football games. And with the news of the new Sports Plus package, you can also watch NFL Redzone for an additional $10.99 per month.

NFL Sunday Ticket
NFL logo

NFL Sunday Ticket used to only be available with a cable subscription, but NFL fans in non-DirecTV markets anywhere in the country can now gain access to every Sunday afternoon game.

There are two separate plans available: The NFL Sunday Ticket To Go plan costs $73.49 per month for four months, which is $293.96 total. There is also the NFL Sunday Ticket Max plan for $99 per month for four months, adding up to $396 total.

What you get:

Both plans give you access to all out-of-market Sunday afternoon games. This means that you do not get access to Thursday, Sunday, or Monday night games. You also won't be able to stream locally televised games with only an NFL Sunday Ticket subscription. However, this is the only way for people hoping to watch full live games of their favorite teams out of market. A fun feature included in both plans is that you can watch four games at once on your screen.

In addition to the normal features, NFL Sunday Ticket Max adds in NFL RedZone and the DirecTV Fantasy Zone, which is a new channel solely dedicated watching games through the lens of fantasy football. 

CBS All Access
CBS All Access NFL

If you're just interested in watching locally televised AFC home games, then a CBS All Access subscription could be all you need. The service lets you stream live CBS television, as well as a growing library of on-demand shows and exclusive titles. CBS All Access is available for $5.99 a month with commercials or $9.99 a month with ad-free streaming. With that said, all live broadcasts, including NFL games, still feature commercials with the ad-free plan.

What you get:

CBS All Access offers live streaming for every NFL game that airs on the regular CBS channel in your local market. However, since CBS All Access only offers CBS content you won't be able to watch any games that air on other networks or any out of market matches. You can see a full schedule of NFL games set to air on CBS here.

Amazon Prime Video
Amazon NFL football

Though yon won't get local channels, NFL Network, or in-depth analysis, Amazon Prime Video members can watch select Thursday Night Football games with their subscription for no additional cost. A standalone Amazon Prime Video membership costs $8.99 a month, and the service is included as part of an Amazon Prime subscription for $119 per year.

What you get:

Amazon Prime Video will stream 11 Thursday Night Football games staring the week of October 8. These game will also be broadcast on NFL Network and Fox. Since Amazon won't be streaming any additional games, Prime Video on its own is really only suitable for very casual football fans who just want to stream a few games this season. 

Yahoo Sports app and NFL app
Yahoo Sports app NFL

If you're only interested in watching in-market games without cable or an antenna, then you can stream live local and primetime games on a mobile device using the Yahoo Sports or NFL app. Both options are free and each app is available on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. 

What you get:

These apps provide live streaming for regular season local and primetime games, playoffs, and the Super Bowl. With that said, you can only watch the games on a mobile device. You'll also need to ensure that your location services are activated on your phone or tablet.

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Workers who leave unsafe jobs during the pandemic could still receive unemployment benefits under a new Biden proposal

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unemployment k shaped recovery
  • The Biden administration wants to ensure that workers can refuse jobs that are unsafe due to the pandemic and still be eligible for unemployment.
  • In the executive orders released Friday, Biden lays out a plan for emergency economic relief.  
  • The Trump administration had previously left this provision up to individual states.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

President Joe Biden on Friday announced plans to protect workers who refuse unsafe working conditions during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing them to receive unemployment benefits should they leave their jobs.

The move is part of the Biden administration's executive order detailing an "all-of-government effort to provide equitable emergency economic relief."  The move lays out a plan for Biden to ask the Department of Labor "to consider clarifying that workers have a federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that will jeopardize their health and if they do so, they will still qualify for unemployment insurance."

Under current law, workers who voluntarily leave their jobs are generally unable to receive unemployment benefits. 

About 16 million people are currently receiving some type of unemployment benefit nearly a year after the outbreak of the pandemic. 

Read more: Here's how Biden will demolish Trump's legacy

If the Department of Labor issues this clarification, it will set a federal standard for a scenario that has been unevenly enforced throughout the pandemic. The Trump administration did not specify whether unemployed people can refuse a job with unsafe conditions and still qualify for unemployment, instead leaving the decision to state governments. Enacting Biden's order would clarify this gray area at the federal level. 

The new president has inherited a historically bleak labor landscape. Insider reported Thursday that in the week before Biden's inauguration, 900,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits. The number was a slight dip from the week prior. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, in its most recent summary of employment and unemployment, found a November 2020 unemployment rate of 6.7 percent -3.2 points higher than in November 2019. 

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How to connect your Mac computer to a TV, and use a TV as a mirrored screen or second monitor

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  • If you want to use your Mac computer with a much larger screen, you can connect your Mac to a TV with a cable — or wirelessly, if you have a smart TV. 
  • Televisions can be used as second (or even third) monitor for a Mac, to help with your work, or with gaming.
  • Connecting a Mac to a TV also allows you to enjoy movies, shows, and other media on a much larger scale.
  • Visit Business Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

These days, as more and more people are watching their movies and TV shows via a streaming service, the line between computer and television is growing ever more blurred. But even if you're watching a show via Netflix, chances are your big flat screen TV is going to offer a better viewing experience than the computer you use to go online.

Connecting a Mac to a television allows you access to the world wide web on a much larger screen. Using a TV with a Mac can also give you a second monitor, making work or gaming more productive and enjoyable. And in many cases, you can even connect two external monitors or TVs at once. 

To check your Mac's compatibility with external video hardware, click the Apple logo at the top left of the screen, then hit "About this Mac." In the popup, hit "Support," then click "Specifications" on the next window. A webpage will open that has info about your Mac's external video capabilities; just scroll down until you see "Video Support" and read the info below it.

Note, however, that TVs don't always make great second monitors, as dedicated computer monitors, which are designed to be viewed up close, usually have much better resolution than a TV.

How to connect a Mac to a TV with a cable

If you have an older Macbook with a Thunderbolt or HDMI output, you can hardwire your Mac to most recent TVs - just note you may need a cable that converts to HDMI if using the Thunderbolt port.

Connect the computer's output to a video input on the TV, then on your Mac, hit the Apple logo, then "System Preferences," then click "Displays." On the next window, make sure "Default for display" is selected, as this will almost always be the best choice.

Screen Shot 2019 07 08 at 10.32.59 AM
Selecting "Default for display" will let your Mac automatically find and select the best settings for your monitor.

Most HDTVs can also play audio from a Mac via HDMI cable, so next click the Apple logo, "System Preferences," then hit "Sound" and select the connected TV. (Older computers and/or TVs may require connecting the two devices via the Mac's headset jack to an audio input using a second cable.)

How to wirelessly connect a Mac to a smart TV

Newer Macs and Apple TVs make screen mirroring amazingly easy.

 

Just turn on the TV and Apple TV, then on the Mac, go through the Apple logo, then "System Preferences," then click "Displays" and select the TV from the "AirPlay Display" taskbar.

To mirror a Mac to other smart TVs without Apple TV, you will need to get a mirroring app designed to work with that TV brand. For Samsung TVs, get the Samsung SmartThing app from the App Store. For a Sony TV, get the AirBeamTV app. A quick Google search can help you find the right app for mirroring your Mac to just about any smart TV.

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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The best keyboard shortcuts for text formatting on your Mac or PC

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hands typing on laptop keyboard
You can use these keyboard shortcuts on your Mac or PC to quickly format text.
  • Keyboard shortcuts for text formatting involve holding down two or three keys at a time to alter the appearance of text. 
  • Common commands like bolding, underlining, or italicizing text are similar on Windows and Mac operating systems.
  • Some keyboard shortcuts are exclusive to specific operating systems.
  • Visit Business Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

Keyboard shortcuts can be helpful in accomplishing a variety of tasks more quickly, and there are a handful of commands specifically for text formatting. These commands involve holding down two or three keys at once, and they differ slightly depending on what operating system you're using. 

Some common commands, like bolding, underlining, or italicizing text, are essentially the same (just swap out the Control key for Windows with the Command key on Mac), while other commands are exclusive to specific operating systems.

Below, we've rounded up text formatting shortcuts for Windows and Mac. You can use these commands on text in any program, such as Microsoft Word, Google Docs, email, etc. 

Windows keyboard shortcuts for text formatting

  • Bold text: Ctrl + B
  • Underline text: Ctrl + U
  • Italicize text: Ctrl + i
  • Turn highlighted text into all capital or all lowercase letters: Ctrl + Shift + A
  • Add superscript: Ctrl + Shift + =
  • Add subscript: Ctrl + =
  • Make highlighted text larger or smaller: Ctrl + Shift + >, Ctrl + Shift + < or Ctrl + [, Ctrl + ]
  • Turn highlighted text into a bulleted or numbered list: Ctrl + Shift + L
  • Insert line break: Ctrl + Enter

Mac keyboard shortcuts for text formatting

  • Bold text: Command + B
  • Underline text: Command + U
  • Italicize text: Command + i
  • Add superscript: Ctrl + Shift + Command + +
  • Add subscript: Ctrl + Command + -
  • Make highlighted text larger or smaller: Command + Shift + > or Command + Shift + < 
  • Insert line break: Command + Return
Product Card (small)Product Card (small)

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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Presidents' Day 2021 sales: The best early deals on everything from mattresses to TVs

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Purple mattress hybrid premiere

A three-day weekend might be its best selling point, but Presidents' Day has more going for it than that - like a slew of online sales, for instance.

This year, Presidents' Day lands on February 15, a day after Valentine's Day. While we're still a few weeks away from the holiday, several retailers have already announced their sales, including Leesa and Purple.

Historically, Presidents' Day is one of the best times of year to buy a mattress, but shoppers can also expect big discounts on home goods, kitchen gear, and more. Not all of the deals are worth the hype, but worry not: We've highlighted the best sales going on right now, plus we've also answered frequently asked questions regarding the holiday.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Current sales you can shop in the lead-up to Presidents' Day

It's very likely that Presidents' Day sales will trump the ones we're seeing now for mattresses and big home purchases (like appliances.) If it's not urgent, we recommend holding out until the big day - but if time is of the essence, here are some of the best sales you can shop right now. We'll update this list as more surface.

  • Amerisleep: Get 30% off any mattress through January 24.
  • Bear: Get up to 20% off plus 2 free Cloud Pillows.
  • Birch: Get $200 off your mattress purchase with 2 free Eco-Rest Pillows.
  • Casper: Get up to $865 off mattresses and up to 60% off bedding and more.
  • Haven: Get 30% off sitewide during the Haven New Year Sale.
  • Helix: Get $200 off and 2 free Dream Pillows.
  • Leesa: Get up $375 off mattresses and up to $877 off bundles during the Annual Winter Sale through March 6.
  • Nectar: Get a free mattress protector, sheet set, and premium pillows with any mattress purchase through January 24.
  • Purple: Get free sheets and a pillow with select mattress purchases.
  • Saatva: Get $200 off any purchase of $1,000.
  • Sleep Number: Save on mattresses with new deals added regularly.
  • Sur la Table: Get 20% off your order with promo code TART through January 27.
  • Tempur-Pedic: Get $300 in free accessories with the purchase of a mattress and foundation when you use promo code 300FREE.
  • Tuft & Needle: Save up to $150 on a new mattress through January 25.

What is Presidents' Day?

Presidents' Day is a US holiday commemorating presidents of past and present. It takes place in February to lump together two major presidential birthdays: George Washington's, on February 22, and Abraham Lincoln's, on February 12. 

When is Presidents' Day 2021?

Presidents Day this year takes place on Monday, February 15, the day after Valentine's Day.

What sales can I expect during Presidents' Day?

Though you can probably expect to see sales from a handful of home goods, style, and beauty online retailers, mattresses are the hottest deal you can expect. Presidents' Day is usually among the best times to buy bedding and mattresses from both large retailers, like Sleep Number, Tempur-Pedic, and Amerisleep, and startups, like Casper, Leesa, and Tuft & Needle.

What should I buy on Presidents' Day?

Mattresses will be at some of their best prices of the year, making Presidents' Day a good time to buy. Popular startups like Casper and Leesa often see huge discounts during the holiday, with up to 30% off foam, spring, and hybrid mattresses. Kitchen appliances also tend to see some decent drops to commemorate the day. 

If you're looking to make a big furniture or appliance purchase for your home, waiting until February 15 may save you some money.

When do the Presidents' Day sales end?

More often than not, Presidents' Day sales last at least the full 3-day weekend. In some cases, the sales will last from the day of through the end of the following week, but it varies by retailer. 

How does Presidents' Day stack up against other major deal holidays?

In terms of mattresses and bedding, Presidents' Day is as good as, if not better than, shopping during the holiday season. However, when it comes to other categories like home goods, kitchen, and style, Prime Day, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday will likely have better discounts - but those are months away from now. 

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The 25+ best Valentine's Day deals of 2021 you can shop now, including early discounts on flowers and candy

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the bouqs company dachschund bouquet

Valentine's Day dates may look a little different this year with most of us staying indoors, but nothing's stopping you from treating your significant other (or yourself) with thoughtful gifts - especially when they're discounted. With the holiday a few short weeks away, now is the time to start shopping to make sure your order arrives in time, and many retailers are offering sales to make buying a little easier.

For shopping inspiration, we've got guides to help you find the best gift. From personalized photo books to a Snoop Dogg cookbook, you're sure to find something at the right price (and affection level) for your valentine.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Best Valentine's Day sales you can shop now

When it comes to gifts, timing is key. Many retailers are already offering discounts so you can order your presents in advance. We rounded up the best sales happening now, and we'll update this list as more surface.

  • 1-800-Flowers: Get 25% off your order (and have it arrive between February 8 and 11) with promo code DLVRCUPID.
  • Adam & Eve: Get up to 70% off during the Season of Love sale.
  • Artifact Uprising: Get 20% off frames with promo code WALLWORTHY through January 21.
  • Babeland: Get 20% off a single item on orders $75+.
  • Ban.do: Buy one, get one 50% off all graphic tees and sweatshirts with promo code TWOTOPS.
  • Barnes and Noble: Get 50% off select books including hardcovers, teens, and young adult books.
  • Bath and Body Works: Save on lotion, hand sanitizer, fragrances, and more during the Winter Sale.
  • ColourPop: Get 25% off sitewide through January 25.
  • Dermstore: Get an extra 10% off sale items with promo code EXTRA10.
  • Dormify: Get up to 70% off bedding, wall art, and more.
  • Ellaparadis: Get up to 60% off with promo code LOVE
  • Etsy: Save on unique presents from small businesses.
  • Florists' Transworld Delivery Flower Service: Get 10% off sitewide.
  • Greentree Home Candle: Get 10% off your order with promo code LOVE20.
  • Happy Socks: Get 40% off during the Fresh Start sale.
  • Harry and David: Get 10% off orders of $49 or more with promo code PANTRY10.
  • Jo Malone: Get a free Honeysuckle and Davana Cologne with your order when you use promo code HONEY.
  • Maelove: Get 10% off 2 items or 20% off 3 items with promo code TEN.
  • Net-a-Porter: Get 15% off select items thorugh January 31.
  • Philosophy: Get a free 10-piece skincare set with orders of $65 or more when you use promo code WINTER.
  • Pottery Barn: Get 20% off bedding and bath.
  • Stuart Weitzman: Get up to 60% off through January 24.
  • Sugarfina: Get up to 70% off select sweets. 
  • Sur la Table: Get 20% off your order with promo code TART.
  • Timex: Get an extra 20% off sale style for up to a total 50% off with promo code EXTRA20.
  • Ulta: Get 50% off daily beauty must-haves through January 23.
  • Verishop: Get 15% off orders of $100 or more full-price home items with promo code MODHOME.

When is Valentine's Day?

This year, Valentine's Day falls on Sunday, February 14. Coincidentally, Presidents' Day, another deal-filled holiday, takes place the day after.

What sales can I expect in the lead-up to Valentine's Day?

Historically, flower delivery, luxury chocolates, sex toys, small home goods, and much more drop to low prices in the work-up to the big day. Oftentimes, startups that we don't typically see sales from year-round (like The Bouqs Company) offer short-lived sales, just for the occasion.

What should I buy for Valentine's Day?

The Valentine's Day deals usually weeks before the holiday, rather than on the day of; it's usually best to buy online gifts in advance if you'd like them to arrive in time, after all. If you have a loved one you're treating this February 14 (or you'd like to treat yourself), flowers, chocolates, sex toys, and other self-care products are likely to be dropping to all-time lows between now and then. 

How does Valentine's Day compare to other holidays in terms of deals?

If you're shopping for any of the products listed above, Valentine's Day is as good of an occasion to shop as any. Chances are, you won't find any extraordinary deals on tools, tech, or smart home gear like you would during Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but if you know what to look for, you can still save a ton of money.

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The best cabin rentals near Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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best cabin rentals gatlinburg pigeon forge

Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge are the gateways to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a stunning area straddling North Carolina and Tennessee defined by picturesque views, fresh mountain air, and winding hiking trails. The rugged beauty of the mountain and river landscapes makes for an enchanting getaway, particularly amidst the pandemic as socially distant getaways and outdoor activities continue to reign supreme. 

Beyond the national park, there are plenty of unique draws to keep visitors busy. If you're hoping to fulfill your spelunking fantasies (or maybe realize ones you didn't know you had) you can take a boat ride tour of The Lost Sea, which is America's largest underground lake. 

If handcrafted goods are more your speed, the eight-mile loop that constitutes the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community is a must-stop where you'll find works made by the organization's independent artisans, including pottery, paintings, and sculptures. Not to mention the iconic Dollywood theme park, which is set to reopen this year on March 13.

While there are hotels in the area, these mountain towns are particularly known for their cozy cabin rentals, many of which boast alluring amenities from hot tubs with views to movie rooms. Plus, private cabins are a particularly appealing option right since experts and the CDC note that vacation rentals are a safer option than hotels.

However, it's important to note that COVID-19 continues to spread across the US and there's no guarantee of safety when it comes to travel right now. We always recommend following guidelines from the CDC, practicing social distancing, washing hands frequently, and wearing a mask in public spaces. Additionally, take extra precautions if you plan to travel to or from a hot spot area, and read up on local and state guidelines.

With that said, if you're planning a vacation to explore the Great Smoky Mountains, these cabins make for a comfy and entertaining place to decompress after a day out exploring.

We've selected some of the best cabin rentals in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge based on the following criteria:

    1. All listings are for entire cabins, per current expert recommendations.
    2. Every listing is highly rated with a 4.8 rating or higher.
    3. All Airbnb listings participate in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean Program, while listings from other sites have reviews noting the cabin's cleanliness.
    4. We've made sure to keep affordability in mind, but included a range of starting prices from $120 to $393 per night.
    5. All cabins have unique and exceptional amenities and design features that make them standout stays.

Here are the best cabin rentals in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, sorted from price low to high.

A light-filled studio cabin, $120
GATLINBURG studio cabin basking in natural light Airbnb

Book this studio cabin starting at $120 per night on Airbnb

This studio cabin is ideal for couples and solo travelers. Tall ceilings and an abundance of large windows allow for plenty of natural light, helping the cabin feel spacious and airy despite its small size. A jacuzzi and corner fireplace ensure a cozy stay, while accents like a vintage trunk and bright flowers add character. 

A back porch with a hot tub, rocking chairs, and a grill, offers an array of opportunities for enjoying the fresh air. It's also an Airbnb Plus listing, meaning it's a vetted property recognized for outstanding quality, design, upkeep, and overall character. A standalone cabin located on a resort, guests have easy access to activities from horseback riding to whitewater rafting.  

This cabin has open availability starting in March.

Rating: 4.90

COVID-19 cleaning procedure: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

A romantic cabin to fulfill your kitschy daydreams, $144
GATLINBURG romantic cabin to fulfill your kitsch daydreams Airbnb

Book this romantic cabin starting at $144 per night on Airbnb

For those who appreciate a good kitsch moment, this cabin isn't pulling any punches when it comes to creating a romantic atmosphere. A heart-shaped jacuzzi is the star of the home's design. The jacuzzi faces a small fireplace and is surrounded by tiered candles, a lantern, and houseplants, offering the ultimate calming ambiance while you soak.

Of course, you probably aren't visiting the Great Smoky Mountains just to decompress in a heart-shaped jacuzzi. Enjoy the surrounding scenery from an abundance of outdoor seating options, including adorable rocking chairs with little bear cutouts in the backrests. There's also an air hockey table, board games, and plenty of nearby hiking trails to keep you entertained. 

This cabin has limited availability over the next few months, but opens up in April.

Rating: 4.98

COVID-19 cleaning procedure: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

A two-story cabin with spacious porch, $146
GATLINBURG two story cabin with an awesome outdoor hangout space Airbnb

Book this two-story cabin with spacious porch starting at $146 per night on Airbnb

When you arrive at this two-story cabin, you'll be greeted by bear decals adorning the siding in true homage to the Smoky Mountains' ecosystem. Continuing the theme of embracing its location, one of this home's most notable features is the spacious and well-curated outdoor hangout space. The multi-level patio setup is akin to an entire living room and includes cushioned seating, curtains, a fireplace, and a hot tub. 

The indoor living space is just as decked out, boasting a fireplace, record player, and vintage arcade game systems like a pinball machine, multicade, and classic Nintendo mini. With a steam shower and whirlpool tub, this cabin is also ideal for anyone who is looking to stay somewhere with spa-inspired amenities. 

This cabin has plenty of availability starting in March.

Rating: 4.98

COVID-19 cleaning procedure: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

An expansive cabin designed to entertain, $210
GATLINBURG expansive cabin designed to entertain starting Vrbo

Book this expansive cabin starting at $210 per night on Vrbo

Grand yet homey, this cabin is the epitome of mountain glamour. The epic game room makes it a great rental for families or groups of friends. The room harbors numerous game tables from pool to shuffleboard to foosball, in addition to a substantial collection of board games. Just outside the game room is a covered upper deck where you can take in stunning mountain views while warming up by the fire pit.

The lower deck is also covered and boasts its own coveted amenities, including a hot tub, grill, and complete outdoor dining area. If you prefer to enjoy your meals inside, the indoor dining room is a spacious knockout, well-designed with an antler chandelier, exposed beams, and nature-inspired artwork.

The organic vibe that defines the kitchen reverberates through the rest of the home via accents like a coffee table that resembles a tree stump and antler lamps that match the kitchen's chandelier. 

This popular cabin is mostly booked over the next few months but opens up from May onward.

Rating: 5

COVID-19 cleaning procedure: Not specified, but the hot tub is cleaned in between stays and multiple reviews note the cabin's cleanliness. 

A two-story cabin with a heated indoor pool, $237
GATLINBURG two story cabin with a heated indoor pool Vrbo

Book this cabin with a heated indoor pool starting at $237 per night on Vrbo

Indoor pools are already a luxe amenity, but this cabin takes blissful relaxation to the next level by including a waterfall feature and lounge chairs. The luxury doesn't end there — the pool area also includes a smart projector so you can watch your favorite movies from the water, as well as a garage door you can easily open to create the ultimate indoor/outdoor setup. 

For some post-swim entertainment, there's an indoor basketball shooting game a few steps away from the pool and a Golden Tee 2019 game up in the living area. You can also opt to warm up in front of the living room's fireplace, or unwind on the balcony nestled among the surrounding trees. The cabin's decor includes subtle nods to the Smoky Mountains' landscape, from depictions of babbling streams to black bear details. 

This cabin has scattered dates open over the next few months with more dates opening in April.

Rating: 4.9

COVID-19 cleaning procedure: This home is cleaned with disinfectant and follows industry health association SafeStay (AHLA - USA). The rental also guarantees that check-ins and check-outs are complete without person-to-person contact and all towels and bedding are washed in hot water at a minimum temperature of 60ºC/140ºF.

A classic A-frame cabin with glamour, $250
GATLINBURG A frame cabin imbued with poetic glamour Vrbo

Book this A-frame cabin starting at $250 per night on Vrbo

There's a romantic literary ambiance to this A-frame cabin — and it's not just because of the ampersand pillow crowning the King-sized bed. With a gothic color palette, spiral staircase, and bed canopy, this cabin could easily be the setting for a modern fairytale. The freestanding soaking tub, complete with a bath tray and surrounded by an abundance of houseplants, further adds to the lofted bedroom's ethereal aesthetic. 

Tucked into the mountains, this cabin offers incredible privacy. Head out to the balcony and relax in the hot tub or take a seat on the porch and relish the peaceful setting. While staying here, you will also have access to nearby tennis courts, walking trails, and a scenic stream.

This cabin has open availability starting in March.

Rating: 4.8

COVID-19 cleaning procedure: Not specified, but multiple reviews note the cabin's cleanliness.

A spacious cabin great for families, $264
GATLINBURG spacious cabin perfect for family bonding Vrbo

Book this spacious family cabin starting at $264 per night on Vrbo

This roomy abode can accommodate up to 12 guests, making it the ideal space for family bonding and larger pod stays. King rooms come with private bathrooms, and the master bedroom includes a jacuzzi tub. Kids will love the bunk beds tucked into a cozy alcove in the game room, which also includes an old school multicade and a collection of board games. 

The kitchen's open layout and luxurious inclusion of a fireplace make it easy to spend quality family time bonding over meals. You can also enjoy time outside taking in sweeping views of Mt. LeConte thanks to the array of seating and outdoor dining spaces on the private deck. 

This cabin has open availability throughout February and beyond.

Rating: 4.9

COVID-19 cleaning procedure: Not specified, but multiple reviews note the cabin's cleanliness. 

An eclectic but chic cabin, $287
GATLINBURG buoyant and flawlessly eclectic cabin Airbnb

Book this eclectic cabin starting at $287 per night on Airbnb

Expertly mixing vintage and modern design concepts, this home has a quirky but chic aesthetic. Soaring ceilings, a floating staircase, and the pastel blue and white color palette keep this home from feeling stuffy, while fun touches like a vintage phone, an old-fashioned stove, and a barrel accent table make it unique. The lighting fixtures alone are something to be lauded, from exposed bulbs to atom-like sconces in the living room to mason jar hanging lights above the kitchen island. 

As inviting as the interiors may be, you'll surely want to step outside onto the deck, where you can enjoy views of Mt. Leconte and soak in a hot tub under string lights and stars.

This cabin has plenty of open availability starting in February.

Rating: 4.92

COVID-19 cleaning procedure: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

A sprawling cabin with playful touches, $306
GATLINBURG sprawling cabin with playful touches Airbnb

Book this sprawling cabin starting at $306 a night on Airbnb

This cabin is cheerfully bright, with colorful accents throughout floor-to-ceiling windows that allow sunlight to blanket the home. There's an undeniable playfulness to the setup, from the swing chair and tic-tac-toe board adorning the living area to the pool table and vintage arcade games downstairs. There's even a home theater room complete with a huge projector screen and made extra cozy by beanbag chairs and a sectional couch.

If you're someone who enjoys an impeccable view, the private deck and outdoor hot tub looking out at the Smoky's are prepared to help you with your scenic endeavors.

This cabin has open availability starting in March.

Rating: 5.0

COVID-19 cleaning procedure: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

A rustic-chic cabin with a home theater
GATLINBURG modern rustic cabin with a home theater Airbnb

Book this rustic-chic cabin starting at $393 per night on Airbnb

This cabin's contemporary interiors may stray from the traditional cabin decor, but its backdrop of verdant trees and mountain ranges, as well as the home's half-log, half-stone exterior still give it a classic feel. A large deck makes enjoying time outdoors easy and comes furnished with a picnic table, a swinging bench, a hot tub, and plenty of rocking chairs.

This capacious cabin includes playful and fun accents from the bear statues outside to the sink and table with a barrel base inside. There's also a game room with a pool table, foosball table and several arcade games. But it's the home's show-stopping theater that's the real star. It comes equipped with tiered recliners and movie posters to create an authentic viewing experience. 

This cabin has limited availability over the next few months but is wide open starting in April.

Rating: 4.99

COVID-19 cleaning procedure: This home participates in Airbnb's Enhanced Clean program, meaning the host is committed to a rigorous cleaning protocol developed with leading health and hospitality experts.

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A psychologist explains how Trader Joe's gets you to spend more money

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  • Trader Joe's has a cult-like following, thanks to the way the company seems to make grocery shopping easier. 
  • Data science professionals have ranked Trader Joe's number one in customer preference for two years running.
  • In 2017, Trader Joe's made $13.3 billion, yet the brand has no online store, no loyalty programs, and no sales.
  • When you break it down to square footage, Trader Joe's is actually selling more than double its competitors like Whole Foods.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: Okay, so imagine yourself at the grocery store. You're hungry but you don't really feel like cooking. I guess pasta's pretty easy. Suddenly you're faced with this. That's so many choices. Do you go for the classic tomato basil? How 'bout creamy alfredo? But what exactly is the difference between these two or these three? Wait. Why is this so hard?

Trader Joe's is the surfy, laid back grocery chain know for it's cheap prices and floral print clad staff. Data science professionals have ranked it number one in customer preference for two years running. The brand has held off on going high tech. They keep it simple with no online store, no loyalty programs, and no sales. When you break it down to square footage, Trader Joe's is actually selling more than double its competitors like Whole Foods. But how much money you spend at Trade Joe's ultimately comes down to what you are choosing to buy. But what about Trader Joe's makes it so easy to choose?

Barry Schwartz: I spent, I've spent the last 25 years studying how people make decisions.

Narrator: That's Barry Schwartz, a psychologist, a professor, and a Trader Joe's enthusiast himself.

Schwartz: I think Trader Joe's is the best example of how the world should be constructed.

Narrator: Whoa, take it easy there Barry. Barry coined the term the paradox of choice and quite literally wrote the book on it and it basically describes how you would think that the more--

Schwartz: Choice we have, the better off we are. That turns out empirically not to be true. When you give people too many options, they get paralyzed instead of liberated.

Narrator: The store has always focused on a unique selection of products rather than a large amount of them. I wanted to find out if there was choice-limiting going on at Trader Joe's. So I went to my local market to count some things. I counted 144 pasta sauces, 44 olive oils, and 172 cereals. That's a lot of choices. So then I went to Trader Joe's. And they had an approachable 14 pasta sauces to choose from. Same goes for olive oils, canned beans, and cereals. At Trader Joe's, there's simply less to choose from. So then I asked Barry if he thought Trader Joe's perhaps had inklings of the paradox of choice in mind when designing their shopping experience.

Schwartz: I think it's completely inadvertence.

Narrator: Well then what exactly would explain why Trader Joe's practices a scaled down approach to shopping?

Schwartz: They probably did it as a way of controlling costs. Managing inventory, you know, simplifying the supply chain. And somebody thought that if you offered other kinds of value, people would be willing to forgo options. You can't have everything but anything we've got is worth having and we make your life simpler.

Narrator: In fact, when you look at Trader Joe's humble beginnings, the original Joe, Joe Coulombe, founded the business on quality over quantity. Trader Joe's made $13.3 billion in 2017 a number that's likely going up. The core of any business is the customer service which Trader Joe's excels at. The employees, or crew members as they're called, are all extremely attentive and helpful. In short, they're there to make your life easier.

This ideology is embodied in their food as well specifically their frozen food. And Americans have always had a certain affection for a heat-and-serve mentality. Frozen dinners are easy, fast, and little mess. However, about half the time, the frozen section aisle remains pretty empty.

According to Phil Lempert, a supermarket analyst, this is due to the frosty barrier of the freezer section. Opening that icy cold door likely means you've already committed to purchasing something which doesn't tend to lead to much product discovery. Compare that to Trader Joe's open freezer bins and you can start to see the difference. There's no glass door and the low level of freezers bring shoppers physically closer to the products. It allows the freedom to check out the packaging more leisurely and without the blast of cold air.

So tons of effort being put forward to get customers to the product, the products themselves have to be good, right? Trader Joe's products are marketed as healthy and the products aren't the same old things we usually see in grocery stores. No Lay's, no Heinz and it's mostly Trader Joe's own private label. They buy straight from the supplier which ultimately cuts costs and leads to cheaper products on the shelves.

The products themselves are colorful, quirky, and have a consistent branding. To find out a little bit more about the effects of good branding, I called Denise Lee Yohn who is a brand building expert. And I wanted to know more about what goes into the packaging design.

Denise Lee Yohn: Okay, so it's usually kind of hand-drawn or it's not looking like it's computer generated, right? There are usually caricatures and then there's some descriptive copy. And all of that I think helps the person, the shopper, kind of see how this product fits into their need. There's an element of discovery, like finding a new product you didn't know existing.

Narrator: In an interview, the former head of packaging design at Trader Joe's said that the hand-drawn aesthetic invokes feelings of the human touch and artisanal quality. It can be easy to opt for takeout when thinking about stepping into the grocery store after a long day. But the subtle combination of tactics employed by Trader Joe's makes shopping a legitimately enjoyable experience. It gets you excited about something uniquely human, cooking and eating your food.

EDITOR'S NOTE:  This video was originally published in February 2020.

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The National Guard is reportedly planning to ask troops to remain deployed at the Capitol until mid-March

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National Guard
The National Guard is ramping up its presence in Washington, DC, ahead of President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration following the Capitol siege on January 6.
  • The National Guard is planning to ask up to 7,000 troops deployed to Capitol Hill to volunteer to stay until March 12, according to Military.com.
  • "We are not going to make anybody stay," spokesperson Nahaku McFadden reportedly said.
  • Of the roughly 25,000 troops initially deployed to the Capitol for security on Inauguration Day, 15,000 of them are expected to return back to their respective states this week.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The National Guard is planning to ask up to 7,000 troops deployed to Capitol Hill to volunteer to stay until March 12, according to Military.com.

An official reportedly said the plan was still being finalized, and that Guardsmembers would not be required to remain deployed over its 31-day activation.

"We are not going to make anybody stay," spokesperson Nahaku McFadden told Military.com.

Of the roughly 25,000 troops initially deployed to the Capitol for security on Inauguration Day, 15,000 of them are expected to return to their respective states this week. Guardsmembers from all of the US states and territories like Puerto Rico were activated to support President Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday.

Despite the deadly violence on Capitol Hill by right-wing extremists on January 6, the inauguration that followed was without major incident, according to Guard officials.

Some lawmakers have called for the troops to return back to their states and that their presence at the Capitol was no longer necessary. Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a US Army veteran, advised that the optics of thousands of the uniformed service members at the Capitol was unflattering.

"It's time to send home the troops," Cotton said during a Fox News interview. "The National Guard rushed to the scene ... and we saw over 25,000 National Guard there for the last two weeks to help protect the Capitol during the inauguration."

"The inauguration is over," Cotton added. "We don't want to turn our Capitol into an armed fortress. It's time for these National Guard troopers to go home to their families, and to their jobs, and to their communities."

Cotton also said that if there was a "credible threat" against the Capitol, local law enforcement and federal agencies could respond to the crisis, rather than relying on the Guard.

The presence of uniformed troops has brought increased scrutiny on the Guard leadership and Capitol Hill security in the wake of the Capitol Hill siege. Images circulating online revealed that dozens of troops were forced to take their close-quarter breaks on the ground of a parking lot, prompting lawmakers from both parties to demand better conditions for the service members. Hundreds of troops deployed to the Capitol have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 or are now in quarantine. 

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The best headphone deals - save $50 on Apple's AirPods Pro with noise cancellation

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When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

airpods pro
  • Good-quality headphones can be expensive, but they often go on sale.
  • We've rounded up the best headphone deals for January 2021.
  • Right now, the Apple AirPods Pro are on sale for $200 - that's $50 off their full price.

A great pair of headphones can change the way you listen to music. Sure, the random earbuds that you have in your bottom drawer may do the job just fine for some, but if you want to hear nuanced details, well-rounded bass, or a sparkling high-end, you'll need something a little more versatile.

If you are in the market for a new pair of headphones, it's worth figuring out exactly what kind of headphones you want. The first step is to determine whether you want in-ear headphones, on-ear headphones, or over-ear headphones.

In-ear headphones are more portable than any other headphones, while over-ear headphones are the most comfortable and deep-sounding. On-ear headphones are often considered a good compromise between the two. If you hate wires, you could also get true wireless in-ear headphones, like AirPods, which cut the cables completely. 

It's also worth looking into a few headphone brands. If you're an audiophile who wants the best-sounding headphones, companies like Sennheiser, Klipsch, and Shure are worth considering. If you want incredible noise-cancelling headphones or those that work great for day-to-day use, consider those from Sony or Bose. And, if you want plenty of bass and tight integration with your Apple products, look into headphones from Beats or Apple itself.

Once you've determined the type of headphones you want, you'll want to figure out what your budget is. These days, you can get solid headphones for under $100, but as with anything, you get what you pay for - and the more you're willing to spend, the better headphones you'll be able to get. 

Of course, you don't necessarily have to spend as much as you normally would if you can find a great deal. And that's exactly why we put together this guide for the best headphone deals that you can take advantage of right now.

Here are the best headphone deals in January 2021

Product Card (small, Preferred: Walmart)Product Card (small, Preferred: Amazon)Product Card (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Product Card (small, Preferred: Amazon)
Over-ear headphone deals
The best over ear headphone deals

Over-ear headphones may not be the most portable headphones out there, but they generally sound a whole lot better than in-ear headphones, thanks to their larger drivers. They also boast long battery lives and plenty of padding for a comfortable fit. Some models even include smart features — like integration with your digital assistant, noise cancellation, and more.

Product Card (small, Preferred: Amazon)Product Card (medium)Product Card (medium)Product Card (medium) On-ear headphone deals
Beats Solo 3 headphones

On-ear headphones are a good compromise between portability and sound-quality. Sure, you won't be able to fit them in your pocket, but they're light-weight enough to easily carry around in a bag or backpack without noticing much of a difference. Unlike over-ear headphones, on-ear headphones rest on your outer ear, but good ones don't do so uncomfortably.

Product Card (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Product Card (medium, Preferred: Best Buy) In-ear headphone deals
powerbeats earphones

Looking for something portable that you can easily put into your pocket? In-ear headphones are the way to go. We have technically split the in-ear headphones into two categories — so if you're looking for modern true wireless headphones, skip ahead to the next section. 

The deals below are for wired in-ear headphones, which connect through a cable to your listening device, and wireless in-ear headphones which connect via Bluetooth to your listening device. Unlike true wireless headphones, however, regular wireless in-ear headphones still feature wires to connect each earbud together.

Product Card (small, Preferred: Amazon)Product Card (medium, Preferred: Amazon) True wireless in-ear headphone deals
Apple Airpods

Perhaps you want to avoid wires all together with a pair of true wireless headphones. These headphones feature separate earbuds that connect wirelessly to each other and to your listening device. A good example of true wireless headphones are Apple's AirPods Pro — which are on sale right now for $200. 

Product Card (small, Preferred: Walmart)Product Card (small, Preferred: Amazon)Product Card (small, Preferred: Amazon)Product Card (medium, Preferred: Amazon)Product Card (medium, Preferred: Best Buy)Product Card (medium, Preferred: Best Buy)Product Card (medium) For more headphone recommendations, check out our various headphone buying guides:
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The best packing cubes

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Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky
  • Packing cubes keep your belongings organized and help make the most of space in your suitcase.
  • The best cubes are from eBags Hyperlite thanks to their material, shape, durability, and versatility.
  • Read more: The best carry-on luggage

It's happened to the best of us: You decide to unzip your suitcase to get one thing and suddenly, your suitcase has erupted and all your belongings are in an unkempt pile on the floor. This is why packing cubes are handy and functional.

Although some might argue that packing cubes add unnecessary weight to a suitcase, as a former travel editor and current freelancer who travels full-time, I've found keeping my clothes in packing cubes helps me stay organized and easily find what I need, right when I need it.

Packing cubes serve numerous functions, including separating your underwear from your socks, compressing those bulky items to give you more packing space, and keeping formal wear safe. And, when you arrive at your new destination, moving the cubes from your suitcase to the drawer makes unpacking a breeze. 

For this guide, I tested 18 different packing cubes to find the best. For more detailed info on the testing process, as well as what to consider when buying packing cubes, jump to the bottom of this guide

Here are the best packing cubes:

The best packing cubes overall
eBags Hyperlite

The pop-up design of the eBags Hyperlite Packing Cubes means these lightweight packing cubes fit nicely in any suitcase and are easy to fill.

Pros: Spring-loaded design helps cubes hold their shape, material is very lightweight, zippers are easy to grip

Cons: Cubes are mostly opaque and can be hard to see into

Maybe I'm a bit of a perfectionist, but I like my packing cubes to be, well, cubical. As simple as it may sound, what set these packing cubes apart was that they stayed cube-shaped even when I filled them to max capacity. And while many other cubes I tested that also held their shape did so by using heavier materials, these are made of a lightweight nylon material, which totals just 10.2 ounces for the whole set.

When I used these cubes to fill up my suitcase on a recent trip, I didn't have to worry about missing out on any extra space in the corners, because these cubes sat perfectly flat on the bottom of my luggage.

Additionally, many sets come with just two or three cubes, but the eBags set comes with five. That variety allows for more customized packing options, whether you use the whole matching set for a checked-bag trip or chose a few key cubes for a shorter, carry-on only trip. I found the small cubes are perfect for socks and underwear, while the slim cubes are great for lining up your T-shirts and tank tops. I liked using the big bags for formal shirts, pants, dresses, and skirts.

An additional feature that made these stand out was the spring-loaded frame, which means you won't have to fiddle around with the material to start packing. The frame also adds to the durability of the bags and the zippers provide a solid and easy grip.

The mesh top across the cubes also allows for air-flow, but the all-black material does make it a bit difficult to see what's inside. 

The best budget packing cubes
LOJEL Packing Cube

You might be able to find cheaper cubes on the market, but for a set of six, LOJEL Packing Cubes deliver quality and quantity at the right price. 

Pros: Great price for a full set of quality cubes, solid mix of variety in size and cube type, very durable with reinforced seams and quality mesh material

Cons: Material is a bit heavier, zippers can be difficult to hold on to when the bag is full

The six-piece set from LOJEL comes with two sets of large, medium, and small bags in both mesh and opaque styles. The variety offers a lot of opportunities for customization because you can use the mesh cubes for clothes that might need to breathe more and the opaque cubes for formal wear you want to safeguard against stains.

While many sets come with just two or three packing cubes, the fact that you get six cubes in a range of styles and sizes makes this set an excellent value when you break it down to cost per cube. 

The cubes are made of a light, but sturdy material and the seams are reinforced to prevent tearing. They are easy to pack and hold their shape well when both full and empty. The mesh material is also strong and durable. 

However, the zippers are small and a little awkward to hold — and that's coming from someone with small hands.

Editor's note: When the eBags 5-piece set is at full price, these are a solid lower cost option. However, because the eBags are currently on sale for 20%, we recommend buying that set as the better value right now. 

The best lightweight packing cubes
Eagle Creek Specter Packing Cube

The ghostly-thin material of the ultra-lightweight Eagle Creek Specter Packing Cube Set won't add pesky extra weight to your luggage.

Pros: Ultra-lightweight, quality material, easy-grip zippers

Cons: Can be difficult to pack clothes into the flimsy material

Of all the lightweight packing cubes I tested, nothing was lighter than the translucent material of Eagle Creek's Specter Packing Cubes. The set comes with three cubes of different sizes that collectively weigh less than 2.2 ounces. If you're a chronic over-packing or worried about cubes adding extra weight to your luggage, the scale will hardly register these barely-there packing cubes made of silnylon ripstop fabric, which is both water- and stain-resistant.

The set comes with a large, medium, and small bag, which have a capacity of 16.7 liters all together. Each bag is labeled with a large L, M, and S to indicate the size, which in my opinion is an unnecessary feature.

However, I did like that the fabric is see-through so you can easily distinguish what's in each one. Additionally, the bungee-style zippers are easy to grip. There was a little give when I pulled on the seams, but they still held up well and the wraparound construction of the cube also minimized potential weak points. 

While the cubes don't hold their shape when completely filled to the brim, they stay square enough that fitting them together in a suitcase isn't an issue. 

The best packing cubes with compression
Eagle Creek Pack It Original Compression Cube

The sturdy cubes in the Eagle Creek Pack-It Original Compression Cube Set compress while maintaining their shape for easy packing and extra space-saving.

Pros: Hold shape when compressed, compress even bulky sweaters easily, mesh top allows air in, durable fabric

Cons: Only comes in a set of two, not lightweight

Most compression cubes use a double zipper to help squeeze down clothes to their smallest possible volume so you can enjoy some extra space in your suitcase. However, in many of the cubes I tested, compression also meant the cubes became less cube-like. Since the zippers compress from the outside in, most compression cubes end up looking like bloated cuboids and when trying to fit these in your luggage, you end up with an awkward amount of space at the corners instead of something more modular. 

However, Eagle Creek's compression cubes held their shape the best out of all the compression cubes I tested and, most importantly, were powerful enough to compress even my largest and wooliest cardigan into a solid brick. 

The mesh top allows breathability and the micro-weave material is incredibly sturdy. Unfortunately, it's only available in a set of two — one medium and one small size cube — which have a combined capacity of 11.7 liters. While these packing cubes will come in handy for sweaters and other bulky items, you'll probably need another set of cubes for the rest of your clothes.

The best high-end packing cubes
Zero Haliburton Packing System

With structured sides, leather handles, and an embossed logo, the Zero Haliburton Packing System is built for the sophisticated traveler.

Pros: Stylish without compromising on function, made from extremely durable nylon, leather, and mesh material

Cons: Heavier material may weigh down luggage, the capacity is limited compared to other cubes on the market

There are a surprising amount of fancy packing cubes out there that run the gamut from patent leather to designer prints, but if you're looking for the set that's most worth spending extra on, consider the Zero Haliburton Packing System

This set comes with large, medium, and small cases that feature semi-structured sides and are made with a combination of nylon and breathable mesh. The embossed leather logo is mostly for show, but the leather handles on the largest case are incredibly useful for effortlessly maneuvering your cube from the suitcase to the hotel room drawer. 

Made from quality materials, the cubes hold their shape perfectly, but they are rather heavy and the capacity is somewhat limited. However, they will fit tidily in luggage and if you do wind up needing to impress someone, the leather touches and businesslike blue and black color combination will do the job.

The best durable packing cubes
Monos Compressible Packing Cube

For packing cubes that are ready for the long-haul and will endure the test of time, Monos Compressible Packing Cubes are made with premium-quality materials.

Pros: High-quality and long-lasting material used in every part of the design, compress clothes without losing rectangular shape, stand upright when empty for easy packing

Cons: The heavy material adds some extra weight to your suitcase

These compression cubes work very well, compressing down to 60 percent of their previous size. But the real strength of the six-piece set of Compressible Packing Cubes from Monos is in their construction. Made with premium nylon twill and TPU-reinforced mesh, you can instantly feel the difference in the quality of these packing cubes and the extra hem reinforcement on the seams is an added bonus that ensures they'll last through numerous trips without tearing.

In addition to the high-quality material, these compression cubes hold their shape well when fully compressed and are quite stylish. Plus, the interior fabric is made with an anti-microbial material that will work with the ventilation of the mesh top to keep your clothes fresh.

However, they are heavier than some other options and may add some extra weight to your luggage.

What else we considered
AmazonBasics Travel Organizer

In addition to the six we recommend, we also tested other packing cubes. While these products are good options, they didn't make our final cut for a variety of reasons.

  • TRIPPED Travel Gear ($38): I loved their graphic designs and the variety that comes with this six-piece set. While our other picks edged these out, they are still a solid option.
  • Suited Nomad Compression Packing Cube Set ($33): These compression cubes work nicely if you don't overfill them and the four-piece set includes a bonus clear toiletry bag.
  • AmazonBasics Travel Organizer ($24): Amazon's four-piece packing cube set is one of the most affordable out there, but while the nylon material is sturdy enough, they're heavier and the cubes don't offer much capacity.
  • Away's Insider Packing Cubes ($45): The Away brand is famous for stylish carry-on luggage. Their set of four nylon and mesh packing cubes are lightweight and sturdy but do not hold their shape as well as some of the other cubes I tested.
  • Bagail Packing Cube Set ($25): This is a great price for a set of six cubes and the mesh design is cool, but it doesn't have the benefit of either compression or being lightweight.
  • Cal Pak Oh Joy! Packing Cubes ($58): I loved the beautiful pattern and the high-quality feel of these five cubes, but they are some of the heavier cubes I tested and are a better fit for long-term storage rather than travel.
  • Leatherology Travel Organizers ($125): One of the most expensive sets of packing cubes I tested, these leather cubes are made with high-quality materials, but don't hold much compared with other options.
  • Six Moon Designs Multi-Sized Pack Pod Set ($30): While not quite as light and spacious as our lightweight winner, this three-piece set is still extremely lightweight and a great choice for backpackers.
  • Travelpro Essentials Packing Cubes ($70): This set of three opaque cubes are designed with a small strip of mesh, which allows for some airflow, but the higher price point didn't seem worth it.
How we tested

For this guide, I narrowed down the field based on research, user reviews, and my own experience with packing cubes. I then tested 18 different sets of packing cubes, which I received from each brand for review purposes.

I looked for durability, breathability, packability, and style. I filled each cube to capacity, checking to see which held its shape the best and put the zippers and seams through rigorous stress testing. I also considered how it looked, the quality of the material, and any unique innovations that took my packing experience to the next level.

What to consider when buying packing cubes
  • Material: Good packing cubes should be made out of a type of nylon, which is a material that is flexible, durable, water-resistant, and thin. Ripstop nylon is a kind of reinforced nylon that is even stronger. This material usually has a cross-hatch pattern.
  • Mesh vs opaque: Mesh packing cubes are preferable to allow air to flow through the cube, which can keep bad smells from marinating. However, your clothes could get wet or stained if something spills in your bags. Opaque bags might hold onto bad smells longer, but they're better for protecting your clothes.
  • Weight: If the weight of your luggage is a concern, avoid using compression cubes which are made from heavier materials. Not to mention, if you have more space in your suitcase, it's easier to overpack. A good set of lightweight cubes should be made of a thin material that doesn't weigh more than a few ounces.
See more great travel buying guides
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The best bread machines in 2021

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  • If you enjoy freshly baked bread but don't have the time or baking skills to make it entirely from scratch, a bread machine or bread maker is a valuable kitchen tool.
  • Most basic bread maker recipes require about 10 minutes of prep work, and you're rewarded with a fresh loaf three to four hours later.  
  • After testing nine bread machines, the Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus is our top pick for most home bakers thanks to its reliability and versatility. 
  • It kneads thoroughly, bakes evenly, features customizable settings, and, unlike many bread makers we tested, turns out loaves that are about the same size as what you'd find at the grocery store.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

 

While I like the concept of making bread entirely from scratch, the lag time between realizing that warm carbs are what's missing in my life and actually holding a freshly-baked brioche can be significant. Many recipes involving yeast require kneading, refrigerating, or babysitting, making spur-of-the-moment bread out of the question. That is, unless, you have a bread machine. 

Most bread machines require about 10 minutes of prep time, which is mostly spent measuring ingredients and putting them into a pan. After that's done, you pick a setting, turn on the machine, and three or four hours later you (ideally) have a warm, golden-brown loaf. But with so many bread machines on the market, how do you choose the right one? 

"At a minimum, I'd want a machine with a standard cycle, a whole grain or whole wheat cycle (if you enjoy whole-grain bread) and a dough cycle, which simply mixes and kneads the dough, then keeps it warm as it rises," said P.J. Hamel, senior digital content editor for King Arthur Flour and author of the James Beard Award-winning cookbook "The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion." "After that, you can make pizza crust, cinnamon buns, or any number of yummy treats."

That's why I put each bread machine in this guide through a series of tests to see how they handled basic white bread, wheat bread with mix-ins (in this case, sunflower seeds and flax seeds), and gluten-free bread. I also assessed the ease of use, setting options, baking times, noise levels, and special features like pre-programming. You can read a more in-depth explanation of my testing methods here, and a few tips for getting the most out of your bread machine here.

The best bread machines of 2021

The best overall
Zojirushi bread maker

This bread machine kneads thoroughly, bakes evenly, and, unlike many of its competitors, turns out standard-sized loaves. 

Pros: Produces standard-sized loaves that rise evenly and are a consistent color, a wide variety of settings, ability to customize your own settings, pre-programmable, 1-year warranty
Cons: Expensive, takes up a lot of counter space

The Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus is my top pick for home bakers, thanks to its stellar reliability, variety of settings, and standard-sized bread loaves (a rarity among bread machines). After putting nine different machines through three rounds of tests (or two, for machines without gluten-free settings), I found that this was the only one to turn out perfectly domed, uniformly browned, consistently fluffy bread with evenly distributed mix-ins every time. To check for consistency, I made two more loaves of white bread after those initial tests, and both were slam dunks. 

It was also one of the few bread machines to pass the gluten-free test with flying colors, producing bread that was similar in color, size, and texture to your standard white loaf. For her own experiment, the Bread Machine Diva blog's Marsha Perry — who name-checked the Virtuoso Plus when I asked her for a bread machine recommendation — made one gluten-free loaf using the "Gluten-Free" setting and another using its regular "White" setting, and said the first loaf was markedly better. 

Speaking of settings, there are 14, including Multigrain, Sourdough Starter, Cake, and Vegan, in addition to standbys like Whole Wheat, and Rapid. The Virtuoso Plus also allows you to program three of your own bread cycles, which is an especially helpful feature for those who have moved beyond the machine's guidebook recipes. Interestingly, Hamel of King Arthur Flour uses her Zojirushi's "Jam" cycle to make risotto — a technique that I'm curious to try.

The Virtuoso Plus can be pre-programmed 13 hours in advance (a feature that worked perfectly and allowed me to wake up to the smell of fresh bread during testing), and the machine's 5-minute power backup means you won't automatically lose your bread-in-progress if the power flickers, as Hamel noted.

The Virtuoso Plus also stops kneading when you open the lid, which is useful if you want to add mix-ins to your bread. And if you need to measure those mix-ins, the machine comes with four nested measuring cups, one liquid measuring cup, and a double-ended measuring spoon — add-ons that are unnecessary (I used my own measuring cups and spoons), but appreciated. 

This machine makes two-pound 9-by-5 loaves that are, as I mentioned, about the size and shape of sandwich bread you'd find at the grocery store. Timing-wise, the white and wheat loaves of bread took about 3.5 hours to bake, while the gluten-free loaf was done in 2.5 hours. The clock displays the time your bread will be done, rather than the hours left, which I found helpful when planning my day. 

All of this being said, the Zojirushi is on the expensive side, so if you're just trying out bread-making before you fully commit to the hobby, I'd recommend the budget pick, below. It's also probably not the best choice if you have limited counter space, given its 9 by 18 by 3-inch dimensions; the other machines in this guide are more compact.

The best on a budget
Oster bread machine

The Oster Expressbake is a solid starter machine that mixes, kneads, and bakes evenly, and with 13 settings, it's notably more versatile than competitors within its price range. 

Pros: produces bread with an even rise, makes three loaf sizes, affordable, compact, fast baking time, variety of settings, window, pre-programmable, 1-year warranty
Cons: Somewhat noisy, loaf size isn't quite standard, slightly thicker crusts than our top pick

The Oster Express Bake's name refers to the fact that it can turn out a two-pound loaf of bread in less than an hour on its Express Bake setting (for comparison, our top pick's "Rapid" cycle takes about 2.5 hours). While the results are certainly better than your standard grocery store loaf, I found that bread baked on this machine's namesake setting turned out denser and shorter than loaves made on its Basic cycle (a near-universal bread machine problem, according to experts we spoke to). 

But most people don't choose a bread machine based on its ability to bake two loaves of bread in the time it takes to watch an episode of "The Bachelorette," and Express Bake results aside, the Oster's white, wheat, and gluten-free loaves of bread were the best — by which I mean, golden brown and evenly risen with a fine crumb, a smooth, domed top, and evenly distributed mix-ins — out of the five machines in its price bracket that we tested. The only flaws that placed its loaves under the Zojirushi's in testing were their unconventional shape (shorter in length and taller in height, with bread slices whose tops stick out slightly from your average toaster) and thicker crusts.

The Oster was also a bit more finicky in terms of exact measurements; when I relied on measuring cups instead of a kitchen scale, my loaves turned out flatter on top — a problem I didn't have with our top pick. And while this machine's gluten-free bread was solid, it was a bit less soft than the Zojirushi's. 

I also tested the Express Bake's predecessor and found that loaves baked in the original turned out slightly darker on the sides and paler on top. Oster has improved its popular model in other areas: the latest iteration has 13 settings instead of 12, the new one being a much-requested gluten-free cycle. The brand also swapped the Express Bake's Bagel Dough setting for Pasta, which isn't necessarily an improvement but does seem more practical, given the complicated process of making bagels from scratch.

Like the Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus, the Oster Express Bake comes with a liquid measuring cup and a double-sided measuring spoon (but no set of nested dry measuring cups). At 14 by 12 by 13, it's less bulky than our top pick, although perhaps not ideal if kitchen space is tight (if compactness is a priority, check out the Zojirushi Maestro, below). It can be pre-programmed 13 hours ahead and will beep instantly after finishing its bread cycle before switching to the warm mode for 60 minutes, then beeping again and automatically shutting off.

The best compact bread machine
Zojirushi Maestro

This bread machine is specifically calibrated to bake excellent one-pound loaves of bread, making it a solid choice for one or two-person households. 

Pros: Produces an even bake, perfect for small households, variety of settings, ability to customize cycles, pre-programmable, compact, 1-year warranty
Cons: Loaves are oddly-shaped, bread can be difficult to remove from pan

Since I'm typically baking for one or two people — and as the novel coronavirus continues, sharing baked goods with neighbors and friends has become more difficult — most standard two-pound loaves of bread go stale before I can finish them. (In other words, I've made a lot of croutons lately.) Typically, bread machines offer 1.5-pound loaves as their smallest option, and those that do begin at one pound aren't necessarily calibrated to excel at loaves that small. When I tried making a one-pound loaf in Cuisinart's Compact Automatic Breadmaker, for example, the results were dense, with a thicker crust than I would have liked. 

Zojirushi's Maestro, however, is designed with small households in mind, and during my tests, it consistently turned out solid one-pound loaves that ticked every box on my bread checklist: golden-brown color, domed top, fine crumb, evenly risen, and evenly-distributed mix-ins. That being said, the Maestro's pan is aligned vertically, meaning its loaves are oddly-shaped — even cube-like – and the bread is a bit more difficult to pry from inside. 

Like its bigger cousin the Virtuoso, the Maestro features 14 settings with the option to customize three of your own. I appreciate the fact that Zojirushi didn't scale down its flagship breadmaker's features just to make smaller loaves; the Maestro can also be pre-programmed in advance and includes a 5-minute power backup (as mentioned in our Virtuoso review, this can really save your loaf in the event your power flickers). 

The Maestro measures 14 by 9 by 13, and its narrow dimensions make it easy to store in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen. It's also the only bread machine I tested that features a convenient top handle, making it easy to transport. Its interior top handle, however, isn't as solidly constructed; I yanked it off the first time I pulled the pan from the machine (although it popped back in easily).

What else we recommend
What else we recommend Bread Makers

Breville Custom Loaf ($299.95): This was a close second to the Zojirushi, but my first attempt at white bread came out slightly darker at the sides than on top, and the gluten-free bread wasn't quite as fluffy as our top pick's. The Breville Custom Loaf has 13 automatic settings, nine customizable settings, and two features we didn't find in any other machine: a paddle that collapses after kneading, so there's no paddle-sized hole when you pull the baked bread from the pan; and a fruit and nut dispenser that will automatically add any mix-ins at the appropriate time in the bread cycle. I'd recommend this machine for confident bakers who are interested in programming their own bread cycles to match go-to recipes.

Cru X GG Bred ($169.95): A collaboration between Cru and Ghetto Gastro, a collective of chefs who use food to empower communities and advance social justice, the Bred was definitely the boldest, sleekest, and most compact out of all the machines we tested. And, with 15 settings, it was also one of the most versatile. Since the bread it produced was on par with the significantly cheaper Oster Express Bake, it didn't make the cut, but perhaps you're willing to pay a little extra for an appliance that's attractive enough to leave out on the counter.

What else we tested
What else we tested bread machine

I tested four bread machines that underperformed in certain areas. Here are machines I tested that didn't make the final cut. 

Oster Express Bake (older model, $68.55): While the previous iteration of the Oster Express Bake is still available online, we found that the newer version performs better in terms of producing evenly-baked bread. And, importantly, the latest Express Bake includes a gluten-free setting – a feature commenters on retail sites had been asking for. 

Cuisinart Convection Breadmaker ($127.65): With 16 settings, this is one of the most versatile machines I tested. However, while my white and wheat loaves were top-notch, both of my attempts at gluten-free bread resulted in collapsed domes. 

Cuisinart Compact Automatic Breadmaker ($87.97): Again, my gluten-free bread didn't rise as I had hoped, and the machine's white and wheat loaves of bread weren't quite as professional-looking as those from the latest version of the Oster Express Bake. 

Hamilton Beach Artisan Dough and Bread Maker ($89.99): The white and wheat came out slightly underbaked in the middle, while the gluten-free bread was somewhat dense compared to the ones our top three picks made.

Methodology
best bread machines

Before I began testing, I spoke to Marsha Perry, the writer behind the popular Bread Machine Diva blog, and P.J. Hamel, senior digital content editor for King Arthur Flour and author of the James Beard Award-winning cookbook "The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion." Both have decades of experience testing and adapting bread machine recipes and providing their respective readers with bread machine tips. 

On their recommendation, I followed the recipes featured in each bread machine's guidebook, since they're calibrated to accommodate unique temperatures, mixing speeds, proofing techniques, and baking times. In future testing rounds, I plan to see how each machine fares using a universal bread machine recipe. I baked, at most, two loaves of bread per day in each machine, waiting several hours between baking sessions to allow the breadmakers to cool completely.

Here are the criteria I looked for during each test:

Bread quality: A bread machine has one job — to make good bread. I tested how each one handled basic white bread, wheat bread with mix-ins (in this case, a combination of sunflower seeds and flax seeds, to see how the machines dispersed mix-ins of different sizes), and, for the machines with a gluten-free setting, gluten-free bread. I used the same ingredients throughout testing, all of which are basic ingredients you'd find at any grocery store.

I dialed the crust setting to "Medium" on each breadmaker. White bread was baked on the "White" setting (sometimes labeled as "Basic," depending on the machine), wheat bread was baked on the "Whole Wheat" setting, and gluten-free bread was baked on the "Gluten-Free" setting.

Each loaf of bread was then examined for consistency of texture, a golden color throughout, and an even rise; points were docked if the domed top fell. I cut several slices of bread from each loaf to look for air pockets and under or over-baked spots. 

Size: Most bread machines take up a lot of counter space, so while it wasn't a deciding factor, extra consideration was given to more compact options.

Capacity: While every bread machine I tested — aside from the Zojirushi Maestro — was built with a two-pound loaf in mind (aka the size you'd find in a grocery store), I made note of the models that had the ability to bake loaves in three or four different sizes; one pound was the smallest I saw, and 2.5 pounds was the largest. 

Noise: Extra noisy machines were dinged, as were ones that "hopped" across the counter during the kneading cycle. The top three picks above all operated at a low hum, and were, as far as I could tell, motionless.

Unique features: I noted setting options (some machines had special cycles for things like jam, yogurt, and pasta dough), especially fast baking times, and special features like pre-programming or auto-dispensers for mix-ins. 

Getting the most out of your bread machine
best bread machine

Don't throw out the manual

Most breadmakers come with a few recipes, and they're often tucked away in the back of a guidebook. These are crucial since they're calibrated to work well with that particular machine's features and specifications. "Once you've made some of those and understand how the machine works — how much flour it can handle, how long each rise cycle and bake cycle are — you can start to adapt any of your own favorite yeast bread recipes to bake in the machine," P.J. Hamel, senior digital content editor for King Arthur Flour, said. 

Have fun with the dough cycle

By taking care of the mixing and kneading, it allows you to start a little closer to the finish line if you're making other yeast-based baked goods. The Bread Machine Diva's Marsha Perry recommends it for pizzas and dinner rolls.

Experiment with settings

But master the basics first. "If your machine is programmable — that is, you can program in your own mixing kneading, rising, and baking times — you're golden," Hamel said. "Your machine is then simply a mini oven, ready to bake macaroni and cheese, apple crisp, bread pudding, cheesecake — even soup, stew, or lasagna! Once you get to know your machine, and if it has that 'homemade menu' capability — it becomes so much more than a machine that bakes bread."

Use good ingredients

"Cheap ingredients yield a crummy (rather than crumb-y) final product. Flour and yeast quality are super-important," said Hamel. "You don't have to use bread flour in your bread machine, so long as you use flour with a protein content higher than 11.5% or so." All of my bread were made with King Arthur bread flour and gluten-free flour (both of which I purchased before reaching out to PJ) and Whole Foods 365 whole wheat flour.

Invest in a kitchen scale

Bread machine baking is all about precision, and measuring your ingredients by weight will clear up any confusion as to whether or not that tightly-packed cup of flour is more like a cup and a half.

FAQs

Is bread from a bread machine different from oven-baked bread?

Yes. In terms of appearance, most loaves made in a bread machine will have a hole in the bottom where the mixing paddle was. Taste-wise, bread machine bread is pretty universally light and fluffy. 

"You won't be making crusty artisan bread in your bread machine (though you can certainly make the dough for them on the machine's dough cycle)," Hamel said. "Bread machine bread may taste a bit yeasty, but beyond that, it's up to you to add flavor with spices, herbs, dried fruit, and nuts. Most bread machines won't deliver loaves with the rich, nuanced flavor of an artisan loaf, since that flavor comes from a series of long rises, some of which may be in the refrigerator. Bread machines simply don't have that capability."

How long does homemade bread last? 

If kept at room temperature, homemade bread will be noticeably stale by day three. If you're pretty sure you're not going to finish an entire loaf in that amount of time, you can always wrap a portion tightly in plastic wrap and put it in the freezer. 

How do I store homemade bread? 

If you're storing homemade bread for a day or two, plastic or foil will help lock in moisture. Since direct sunlight can cause bread to overheat, it's best stored in a cool, dry place like a bread box or cupboard. 

Any tips for keeping homemade bread fresh?

There is one slicing technique that can help extend the life of your bread. As Hamel wrote on the King Arthur blog, "If you start slicing at one end, you'll always be dealing with an open-end 'leaking' moisture. But if you slice the loaf in half down the middle, cut a slice from one of the halves, then press the two halves back together before wrapping, no open surface will be exposed — which means less chance of moisture evaporating."

Check out our other great guides for home cooks
The Best KitchenAid Stand Mixers
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How to change the ear tips on your AirPods Pro and figure out which size fits best

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airpods earbuds with phone at home listening to music
Swapping out your AirPods Pro's ear tips can improve their comfort and sound quality.
  • You can change the ear tips on your AirPod Pro earbuds to clean or replace them.
  • Every set of AirPods Pro comes with three sets of ear tips, each one a different size.
  • Taking the Ear Tip Fit Test on your iPhone can help determine which ear tip size is best for you.
  • Visit Business Insider's Tech Reference library for more stories.

Rubber-tipped earbuds have been around for years. In most cases, however, they all come in a single size - and if that size doesn't fit your ears, you're out of luck.

Apple developed a solution with AirPods Pro. Each pair of AirPods Pro comes with three different sets of rubber ear tips, each one a different size. This means that you can adjust them to better fit your individual ear shape. You can even take a free test to see which size suits you best.

However, it's not entirely obvious how you remove the tips when you want to change them out. Luckily, it's not as hard as it seems.

Here's how to change the ear tips on your AirPods when you want to change or clean them.

How to change your AirPod Pro ear tips

It shouldn't take much effort to remove the tips on your AirPods. You should always remove them if you're going to clean the tips or the earbuds themselves.

1. To remove your AirPods Pro's ear tips, pinch your fingers on either side of the rubber insert firmly. 

2. As you pinch, pull the tip straight away from the AirPod until it clicks off. This will take some force, but don't worry, it won't break them. If you're concerned about ripping the rubber, invert the tip (as shown below) before you begin. 

How to change AirPod Pro Tips   1
To remove AirPods Pro tips, pinch on either side of the rubber insert and pull straight out until it pops off.

3. Choose a new pair of ear tips from the box - Small, Medium, or Large. 

  • The tips that come attached to your AirPod Pro earbuds when you first open the box are the Medium size. If you find that they frequently fall out of your ears, try going down a size - if they hurt or irritate your ears, try going up. 
  • A simple side-by-side comparison should tell you which tips are the Large and which are the Small, but if you ever mix them up, the associated letter is printed on the inside of each tip, near the base.

4. To attach the new pair of tips, line up the oval on the edge of the tip with the oval on the AirPod's speaker, and gently press the tip in until it clicks into place.

How to clean airpods 3
To reattach tips, line up the ovals properly and click it into place.

How to use the AirPod Ear Tip Fit Test to find the best ear tips

It can be difficult to determine which ear tips are right for you. If the feel alone isn't enough for you to make a decision, you can try the Ear Tip Fit Test. To run the test, your iPhone needs to be running iOS 13.2 or later.

1. Put your AirPod Pros in your ears and open the Settings app on your device.

2. Tap "Bluetooth," which should appear high up on the Settings menu.

How_to_change_AirPod_Pro_Tips_ _3
In the Settings menu, tap "Bluetooth."

3. Find your AirPods Pro on the list of Bluetooth devices and tap the "i" info icon to the right.

How_to_change_AirPod_Pro_Tips_ _4
Tap the info icon next to the name of your AirPods.

4. On the AirPod Settings page, scroll down and tap "Ear Tip Fit Test."

How_to_change_AirPod_Pro_Tips_ _5
Tap "Ear Tip Fit Test."

5. Tap "Continue," then tap the "Play" button when you're ready to begin the test. Your phone will play a few seconds of music through the AirPods to determine the quality of the seal between a given headphone and your ear.

If it determines that the seal is tight and allows for adequate noise cancellation, then the image of the AirPod on your screen will say "Good Seal" in green underneath. If not, it will turn yellow instead, and read "Adjust or Try a Different Ear Tip."

How to change AirPod Pro Tips   6
If you'd like to conduct the test again, tap the blue "Play" button.

Note that it's possible to get "Good Seal" results from all of the ear tips, regardless of which one is the most comfortable. The test is a good indicator of whether a given tip doesn't fit in your ear at all, but if it determines that any of the three form a good enough seal, you'll have to make your judgement based solely on comfort.

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Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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Prisoners are 5 times more likely to get COVID-19 than the overall population. A 69-year old prisoner is trying to change that one livestream at a time.

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  • The COVID-19 pandemic is tearing through US prisons, with inmates 5.5 times more likely to catch the disease than the overall population.
  • One prisoner under home confinement, 69-year-old Rufus Rochelle, is calling for the release of prisoners in daily Facebook Live streams.
  • Correctional facilities are desperately lacking PPE and other health resources, and can hardly enforce social distancing measures.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

On the evening that Rufus Rochelle saw the future, he was watching the news in a crowded room. 

It was the common area inside the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Sumter County, Florida. Rochelle was there on a 40-year drug sentence. 

Rochelle, 69, is a trim man who dresses neatly. At Coleman, he was called "the Gentleman," not so much for the formality it conferred but for the meaning it conveyed. There was a gentleness to him, a warm smile that came easily.

Rochelle had been busted in the late 1980s for selling drugs, and his decades-long sentence shaped, but didn't devour him. Instead, he wrote articles condemning mass incarceration and mentored younger prisoners.

"I understood the world far better," he said. "I became more aware."

Rochelle's fellow inmates were keeping the TV on almost nonstop as news about the coronavirus rolled in. It was March, and the men were watching COVID-19 decimate a Washington state nursing home, a "congregate setting," as public health experts would come to call it. Rochelle shifted away from the TV. 

"You're watching the expression on guys' faces," he said. "You're thinking, 'Man, if this thing hits inside of this place, a lot of us are not going to make it out of here." 

Rochelle was one of 2.3 million people locked up amid the looming threat of COVID-19. The country's prisons and jails, notorious for overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, were now being named COVID hotspots.

But, as an inmate, Rochelle was easy to ignore. His life was in jeopardy, and there was little he could do about it. He had already served 32 years, and he couldn't escape the thought that paying an additional debt - paying with his life - felt unjust and terrifying. 

He needed to get out, and he believed that thousands more did, too. They could die if they weren't heard.

Both infection and fear are spreading in US prisons.

Covid In Prison   Final cut_Adam V1_CUT 13.00_00_47_06.Still005
Rufus Rochelle, a prisoner under home confinement, livestreams daily calls to improve pandemic safety measures in prisons.

In July, Rochelle's gut feeling was confirmed.

The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that prisoners were infected by the coronavirus at a rate more than five times higher than the general population. The virus was spreading more than twice as fast behind bars because many inmates lived in close confinement with limited medical care and PPE. 250,000 of them were considered aging at 55 or older. Chronic illness plagued 40% of the population, with people of color overrepresented.

The same communities locked up in greater numbers were also the ones suffering most from COVID-19. 

The JAMA research warned that prison outbreaks were "unlikely to be contained without implementation of more effective infection control."

The infection control inside the Coleman Federal Correctional Institution in the early spring looked spotty to Rochelle. He found sanitizer hard to come by. Guards gave him a mask every two weeks. His daily concerns over factors he couldn't control, like Coleman's ventilation system, gave way to nightly fears that kept him up.

"You don't ever know when you go to sleep at night whether you're going to be sick with the virus the following day," he said.

A key strategy to end COVID behind bars has drawn controversy.

In early fall, Columbia University professor Bruce Western found himself convincing legislators of a different path to infection control: pruning the vast prison population, potentially by the hundreds of thousands. The "decarceration effort" Western described to Congress was the official recommendation by him and his colleagues at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Letting out as many people as possible allowed for physical distancing inside prisons and jails. It could tamp down cases and deaths. 

Western had plenty of backup. The New England Journal of Medicine insisted releases had to be "scaled up and sustained."

The Lancet wrote that "decarceration is urgently needed, particularly during a persisting and prejudicial pandemic."

The experts also pointed out that while the virus attacked prisoners, it refused to live like them. COVID-19 was free to come and go.

"We have to understand that these institutions are embedded in communities," Western said. "The idea that we can wall off and segregate our way out of social problems - the pandemic has revealed that as a fiction." 

Local jails were fast becoming "veritable volcanoes for the spread of the virus" into their surrounding towns and cities, according to an ACLU study.  With 10 million jail admissions every year - one every three seconds - the virus was continually carried in and out by those arrested and released.

Likewise, the nearly 420,000 correction workers traveling to and from their jobs every day could unwittingly become vectors. The ACLU report estimated that nearly 100,000 could die of COVID-19, both in and out of prisons and jails, unless drastic cuts were made to the inmate population. 

In late March, former Attorney General William Barr wrote a memo urging federal prisons to transfer medically at-risk and nonviolent inmates out of prisons and into home confinement.

"Given the surge in positive cases," the Federal Bureau of Prisons said on its website, every effort would be made to prioritize Barr's directive. As of today, 7,787 inmates are finishing their sentences at home, but that number isn't high enough, many public health experts and advocates continue to argue. More federal and state prisoners must get out.

"People are going to die," said Udi Ofer, director of the ACLU's Justice Division. "They are going to die inside prisons and jails, and these infections are going to spread to the rest of the United States, and they already have."

For inmates and prison workers alike, it's a race against time.

prison inmates
Inmates at San Quentin State Prison in California.

Cynthia Carter-Young felt like her brother was almost in the clear. 

Leonard Carter had been locked up for 25 years, but he'd been granted parole in January and would be getting out in May.

Still, his sister couldn't shake the fear she felt over his profile and his circumstances - Leonard was a 60-year-old Black man with a history of emphysema hospitalizations, and the guards around him were getting sick.

"He said, 'I really hope I don't get it because we're not out there," she remembered. "I hope [the guards] don't bring it in.'"

In mid-April, the prison phoned Carter-Young during a Zoom church service. Leonard had COVID. 

By the time Cynthia connected with a nurse on his hospital floor, her brother couldn't talk to her. He was on full oxygen already.

"I said, 'I want y'all to do everything possible,'" she told the nurse. "I want him to have every fighting chance."

Cynthia was planning to cook him oxtails on his first night home and introduce him to his teenage grandson.

He died in the hospital on April 14, still in custody, a month and a half before he would have gone free.

But it's not just inmates who are dying - corrections workers haven't been spared from the virus, either.

"We've lost members, and maybe unnecessarily," said Tammy Sawchuk, executive vice president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association. 

The Marshall Project, a criminal justice advocacy organization tracking COVID-19 infections in prisons and jails, reported 94,002 infections and 162 deaths of corrections staff at the time of this publication. 

Meanwhile, corrections workers from Arizona to Georgia, Illinois to California and Connecticut, have raised safety concerns. 

An OSHA complaint filed in April listed ventilation problems at a Federal prison in Tallahassee, Florida. A letter to correctional officials in March described thermometers in Chicago's Cook County jail "designed to measure the temperature of a room or wall, not the body temperature of a human."

Rochelle made it home, but he wasn't free.

Covid In Prison   Final cut_Adam V1_CUT 13.00_01_56_03.Still009

In late April, Rochelle got fitted with an electronic ankle monitor and briefed on a new set of rules. He was going home but remaining in custody, and if he wanted to stay on home confinement and steer clear of Coleman, he'd have to keep the ankle monitor charged and submit to constant monitoring.

And so Rochelle's new life began at his sister's house in Gainesville, Florida. His days were bracketed by accountability calls to a halfway house. His nights were spent sleeping while tethered to the nearest electrical outlet, his ankle monitor charging away.

"Yes, I feel safer," he conceded one recent Sunday afternoon. He was sitting on a sofa in a place that was a home, but also now his cell. "I am still in prison. Let's not get that mistaken."

Rochelle discovered something about himself during this home confinement: He remained preoccupied by thoughts of COVID-19 in prison. He couldn't stop thinking about the friends he left in Coleman.

"Many nights I wonder, is that person still surviving?" he asked. He prayed often, ruminating on why his friends had to stay trapped inside with a virus that could kill them. "They didn't deserve a death sentence," he said. "They weren't sentenced to die."

And so, free to do almost nothing but think, he decided to keep doing that - only out loud and online. Rochelle taught himself to use Facebook Live.

"I'm steady growing and learning," he said. "You never have learned too much."

He started broadcasting in the evening, when he knew people were home from work. He often dressed in a hat and tie and began with a chipper greeting: "Hello, hello, hello! This is Rufus Rochelle!"

Quickly though, he shifted his tone, and the delivery changed. It was as if he was back in that common room in Coleman, watching the news, feeling the threat.

"You got thousands of them that's languishing behind bars," he thundered into two camera phones, one in each hand, one night in September.

"As long as you keep them locked up behind bars, the odds are against them. Give them clemencies. Commute their sentences. Allow them to go home."

Public health experts could testify before Congress and TV news reporters could show ravaged nursing homes. Rochelle would head to Facebook every night. He would grab two cell phones and yell into their cameras. If 2.3 million people were locked up and unable to speak, he would do it for them. 

"There's a need for my voice," he said, "There's a need for helping others, those ones I'm leaving behind. That way they don't die behind bars. I am a voice that's an awakening."

Prisoner releases encounter resistance from many corners.

Covid In Prison   Final cut_Adam V1_CUT 13.00_02_09_23.Still012

As Rufus and the public health experts have campaigned for large scale releases, lawyers have filed petitions and writs to get people out.

People like Taiwu Jenkins, who is serving 40 years for assault in a New York State prison. Jenkins has already done half his time. He has chronic asthma so he's high risk, but in July, a judge refused to let him out, writing that his "right to be protected from the virus had to be weighed" against the rights of his victim, his "victim's family, and members of the public" to be safe from him. 

So Jenkins remained in prison, fearing for his safety, especially when the guards came around.

"When no one's looking, they take their masks off," he said, "They cough around us and they touch all the same things we touch, and that's how you're passing it around in the jail." 

"Another round [of infections], and I could lose my life here. That's my biggest fear: losing my life to COVID-19, not coming back to my family."

But families of victims have reservations about prisoner releases. 

"Releasing some people is good, it makes sense," said Richard Pompelio, a victims' rights advocate. But, Pompelio worried about honoring one group's needs at the expense of another's. Open up the prison gates, in other words, and some will feel tremendous relief; others will cower. 

"The person on the victim's side of that equation - it just dominates their mind, almost every second, and it's fear. It's living in fear," he said. 

Some in law enforcement have maintained that the post-release infrastructure can't absorb hundreds of thousands of prisoner releases, all at once. 

"The system is already overburdened," said Larry Cosme, the national president of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. "Now, you want to reintegrate these individuals back into society - try to find them a job, try to find them housing, try to provide them appropriate medical help. You're placing a burden on the officers, and you're placing a burden on the inmate. It's a catastrophe."

Lawmakers have pushed back, too. In New Jersey, Republican state Assemblyman Jon Bramnick voted against his state's recent inmate release measure.

"When you're releasing thousands of inmates," he said, "clearly lots of information is needed. Have they notified people in [the] community? I haven't seen that." 

In New York, Democratic state Assemblyman David Weprin said lawmakers were left to balance public health and public safety. 

"The story is we're trying to protect the public," he said.

Rufus Rochelle got a surprising call from prison.

Covid In Prison   Final cut_Adam V1_CUT 13.00_01_36_12.Still008

In November, Rufus Rochelle got some good news.

His brother, 58-year-old Richard Williams, was getting out of prison. Williams had been serving two life sentences for selling drugs, but a judge ruled that he had served long enough for a nonviolent crime. Moreover, Williams was wheelchair bound, diabetic, morbidly obese with high blood pressure and other chronic illnesses. The judge wrote that he wouldn't ignore Williams' poor health right now, not with the pandemic raging.

Like Rochelle, Williams was locked up at Coleman and so the family went back to pick him up one windy morning, arriving in time to see correction officers push Williams' wheelchair out into the parking lot. He was free, after 29 years and 11 months. 

William's sister, Cheryl, bent down to hug her brother. The two of them stayed there, his head tucked inside her.

"Y'all just don't know," Williams said, quietly. "This day..." 

They would all be living together now: Cheryl, Rufus, and Richard. Rufus under electronic monitoring. Williams reporting to a parole officer for the next 10 years. Cheryl, 67, caring for her two aging brothers.

Before leaving the Coleman parking lot, Rufus looked around, took in the moment. 

"I know when he's out of here, I'm free now," he said, looking at Richard.

Back at the Gainesville house, the brothers sat together in the living room. 

"I ain't been on this sofa in a long time," Richard said, as he tried to remember the way the room looked decades ago, the last time he saw it.

The memory of prison was much fresher. Just hours ago, he had been living in one cell, the size of a small bathroom. There was a hard bed. He was wedged in with another prisoner he barely knew. 

"For the past several months, since March, we basically lived in one room. As quick as you can come out," he said, you were sent back in. "If your mind ain't strong enough, you're not going to make it out of there."

This was prison, under COVID conditions. Education and support programs had been paused in lock up's across the country. Guards kept prisoners in their cells almost continuously to guarantee physical distancing. 

"We do 35 days locked down," Richard said. "That means: you're not allowed to leave 24 hours a day. You take a shower three times a week. You don't come out. Sometimes we go months without a phone call or an email. That's your life."

Evening arrived, and Rochelle took his place on the lawn for his nightly Facebook live broadcast. He wore a plaid shirt, tucked in. A cap shielded his eyes from the glare of the setting sun. He clasped a cell phone in each hand and aimed their cameras toward himself. "Hello, hello, hello," he began. "This is Rufus Rochelle." 

The rectangle of his phone occasionally caught the sinking sun. The trees darkened. A cat slunk by. A few yards away, just inside the house, his brother was getting ready to fall asleep in his home, for the first time in nearly 30 years. Richard told Rufus that the men in prison knew of his Facebook Live advocacy, and it gave them hope.

"If guys like my brother aren't out here on the front lines - just like they're on the front lines for COVID," he paused and thought about it. "You better know he's battling a killer."

Out in the yard, Rochelle stared into both cameras and made a promise: "We're the ones not going to let your sons and daughters die behind bars based on COVID-19," he said, his voice gaining volume and intensity. "We are on a mission." 

Days later, Richard Williams' legs swelled and fatigue settled over him. Cheryl decided he needed the hospital.

"They saved his life," Rochelle said. It wasn't COVID-19, but complications stemming from a misdiagnosis and incorrect medication prescribed during his prison sentence. Williams stayed in the hospital for a week and half.

"They took 30-something liters of fluids from his body," Rochelle said. 

And what if his brother had still been in prison? What if that judge hadn't let him out? 

Rochelle didn't hesitate. "He probably wouldn't have made it."

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Over 2.7 million people have enrolled in this free online course that teaches you how to learn better

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E learning Generic Thumbnails Textbooks and Laptop 4x3

If you want to learn how to bake bread, code, or start a degree in public health you can do it online. 

And with the right process, you can master any topic. In fact, one of the most popular courses of all-time on e-learning Coursera's website doesn't involve art or data science: it's about how to learn.

Learning How to Learn has had 2.7 million enrollments, according to the company. It gives students of all ages and educational backgrounds a foundational knowledge of how our brains store information and the related practical tools that help us get the most out of learning - whether through time management techniques or test-taking strategies. 

The course's instructors are Dr. Barbara Oakley, a Professor of Engineering, Industrial & Systems Engineering at Oakland University, and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski, the computational neurobiology director at The Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Altogether, the course takes about 15 hours to complete, though there's also bonus material. In exchange for about four short weeks of classes, you'll gain new insight and tools that can help you complete your degree, make a major career move, or simply enjoy learning for the sake of learning.

Time is the most valuable commodity we have, and if you maximize your learning approach, you can grow faster, feel more comfortable jumping into new topics, or even revisit subjects that gave you trouble in the past only to find them clearer than ever now.

Learning How to Learn can be taken independently, but there's also a companion course, Mindshift, that focuses on learning in careers.

learning how to learn coursera
The online classes use video, exercises, and bonus materials to teach.

How the class is structured

Coursera courses have recorded video lectures and accompanying readings, practice exercises, and short quizzes. This particular course is broken down into four weeks:

  • What is Learning? 
  • Chunking
  • Procrastination and Memory
  • Renaissance Learning and Unlocking Your Potential

Each section is about four hours, so the full course takes about 15 hours to complete in its entirety. There aren't any set deadlines, though, so you can go at your own pace. 

You can also join discussion forums - general discussions, study groups, FAQs, and forums focusing on each of the four weekly lessons in particular - if you want a deeper learning experience. There are also optional readings and videos included in weekly lessons - such as a post from a fellow student on how anxiety, depression, and PTSD may factor into learning

Unsurprisingly, Learning How to Learn is structured in a way that embodies the very efficient learning techniques it teaches you. For example, you'll see chunking - or, "compact packages of information that your mind can easily access" in the section that teaches chunking, where students learn what a chunk is and how to form one through accompanying exercises. 

Learning How to Learn also has subtitles available in a dozen languages - Chinese, Hebrew, Dutch, Polish, Vietnamese, and others - as well as versions offered completely in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Chinese.

learning how to learn coursera
You take quizzes as you complete the course.

What to expect

The course follows both a conceptual and actionable structure. Students gain a broad knowledge in the science of learning, such as the relationship between procrastination, memory, and sleep. They also get practical advice for learning information efficiently, like the Pomodoro Technique; counter-intuitive test-taking tips; and how to avoid procrastination without exerting tons of willpower.

Cost

The course is free to audit (and you'll have access to all the course materials), but you can pay $49 to earn a certificate of completion to add to your CV or resume or share on LinkedIn. Financial aid for the certificate is also available.

You can find answers to common FAQs about Coursera here.

Read the original article on Business Insider

All the Marvel movies and shows you can stream on Disney Plus - from 'Iron Man' to 'WandaVision'

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Marvel Disney Plus 4x3

One of the biggest draws of Disney Plus is the massive collection of Marvel movies and TV shows available for streaming, ranging from classic '80s cartoons to the latest entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

After a full year without a new Marvel movie in theaters, Disney Plus will debut four new MCU original series in 2021. "WandaVision" premiered on January 15 and will be followed by "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" on March 19. "Loki" will debut in May, followed by "Ms. Marvel" in late 2021. An animated series titled "What If...?" is also scheduled for summer 2021.

Those exclusive shows will join the dozens of Marvel movies already on Disney Plus, including most of Fox's "X-Men" and "Fantastic Four" films. Disney plans to release "Black Widow" and "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings" in theaters during summer 2021, but you can expect to see them on Disney Plus later in the year.

Disney detailed all the upcoming Marvel movies and shows during its Investor Day 2020 presentation in December. In the year since its launch, Disney Plus has amassed more than 86 million subscribers, exceeding Disney's expectations and analyst projections. Successful original shows, like "The Mandalorian," have helped Disney Plus surge in popularity, and the latest additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe are certain to bring in even more viewers.

Updated on 1/22/2021 by Kevin Webb. We've updated this article to mention new Marvel titles that have premiered on Disney Plus.

What is Disney Plus and how much does it cost?

Disney Plus is Disney's ad-free streaming service with tons of movies and TV shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star WarsNational Geographic, and 20th Century Fox.

A monthly subscription costs $6.99 a month, and an annual subscription costs $69.99 a year. There's also a $12.99 bundle with ESPN+ and Hulu.

What Marvel movies and shows can I watch?

Disney Plus is home to nearly every Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movie released so far. With that said, certain titles, like "Spider-Man: Homecoming," aren't included since they were produced by a different studio.

Beyond the studio's movie lineup, new spin-off series focused on various Marvel characters will be available on Disney Plus as well. The first new Marvel show, "WandaVision," premiered on January 15.

Are 'X-Men' and 'Fantastic Four' films available on Disney Plus?

Though Disney Plus initially launched in the US without any of 20th Century Fox's Marvel movies, the service now includes select "X-Men" and "Fantastic Four" titles from Fox.

20th Century Fox produced several Marvel films featuring the X-Men, Fantastic Four, Daredevil, and Deadpool characters before the studio was acquired by Disney in 2019. It's possible that additional Fox movies from these franchises will be added to Disney Plus in the future. With that said, any R-rated films, like "Logan" and "Deadpool," are unlikely to ever be included.

What order should I watch the Marvel films in?

Though different Marvel Studios movies take place at different points in the MCU's timeline, the best order to watch the movies in is the same order that they were originally released in theaters. The filmmakers designed the overarching storyline to be best viewed this way. 

A breakdown of the Marvel movie release timeline can be found below, along with a full rundown of every Marvel film and show available on Disney Plus:

Marvel Cinematic Universe movies
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Below is a complete list of MCU movies in the order they were originally released. This is the order that we recommend watching the films in.

Due to existing licensing agreements, some Marvel movies are not yet available on Disney Plus, and certain films are not expected to arrive on the service at all. We've denoted the missing titles in bold, along with details on when/if they are coming to Disney Plus.

All of the other movies listed below are available to stream right now on Disney Plus.

  • "Iron Man" (2008)
  • "The Incredible Hulk" (2008) - not planned for Disney Plus
  • "Iron Man 2" (2010) 
  • "Thor" (2011)
  • "Captain America: The First Avenger" (2011)
  • "The Avengers" (2012)
  • "Iron Man 3" (2013)
  • "Thor: The Dark World" (2013)
  • "Captain America: The Winter Soldier" (2014)
  • "Guardians of the Galaxy" (2014)
  • "Avengers: Age of Ultron" (2015)
  • "Ant-Man" (2015)
  • "Captain America: Civil War" (2016)
  • "Doctor Strange" (2016)
  • "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" (2017)
  • "Spider-Man: Homecoming" (2017) - not planned for Disney Plus
  • "Thor: Ragnarok" (2017)
  • "Black Panther" (2018)
  • "Avengers: Infinity War" (2018)
  • "Ant-Man and the Wasp" (2018)
  • "Captain Marvel" (2019)
  • "Avengers: Endgame" (2019)
  • "Spider-Man: Far from Home" (2019) - not planned for Disney Plus
20th Century Fox Marvel movies
X Men Fox

In addition to MCU movies, Disney Plus also includes a few Marvel movies from 20th Century Fox. Here are the Marvel movies from Fox that are available on Disney Plus in the US:

  • "X-Men" (2000) 
  • "X2: X-Men United" (2003)
  • "Fantastic Four" (2005)
  • "The Wolverine" (2013)
  • "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (2014)
  • "Fantastic Four" (2015)
  • "X-Men: Apocalypse" (2016)

Here's a full list of Marvel movies from 20th Century Fox that are still missing from Disney Plus in the US:

  • "Daredevil" (2003)
  • "Elektra" (2005)
  • "X-Men: The Last Stand" (2006)
  • "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" (2007)
  • "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" (2009)
  • "X-Men: First Class" (2011)
  • "Deadpool" (2016)
  • "Logan" (2017)
  • "Deadpool 2" (2018)
  • "Dark Phoenix" (2019)
  • "The New Mutants" (2020)
'WandaVision' - Available now

"WandaVision" features Wanda Maximoff aka Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) post "Avengers: Endgame." The two characters find themselves living a seemingly perfect suburban life, but soon begin to question the reality of their idyllic world. 

Characters like Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) from "Ant-Man and the Wasp" and Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings) from "Thor: The Dark World" will also make appearances in the show.

'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier'- March 19, 2021

"The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" will be the second MCU show to hit Disney Plus next year.

The new series reportedly takes place after the conclusion of "Avengers: Endgame," in which Captain America gave his shield to Sam Wilson, aka Falcon (Anthony Mackie). The Falcon's partner is Bucky Barnes, a rehabilitated assassin once known as the Winter Solider. 

Though originally scheduled to premiere in August 2020, the series was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Details about the plot are slim so far, but based on the heroes' roles in the "Captain America" films, we can expect plenty of action.

'Loki' - May 2021

Spoiler alert: Loki and all his mischief are coming back.

This is excellent news for those who have been mourning Loki's death in "Avengers: Endgame." Tom Hiddleston returns as the Nordic trickster, most likely due to the tesseract that enables him to travel through space and time. 

'What If?' - Summer 2021

"What If?" is an animated series based in the Marvel Universe with the premise that changing one small thing in the narrative of the superheroes could change the course of the character and the world.

Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), Josh Brolin (Thanos), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), and many more lend their voices to the series. 

'Ms. Marvel' - Late 2021

"Ms. Marvel" is a live-action show following the origin of Muslim superhero Kamala Khan, who first appeared in Marvel comics in 2013. Kamala is an Avengers super-fan and eventually finds herself struggling to control her own superpowers while balancing her teen life in Jersey City.

Kamala also stars in the "Marvel's Avengers" game released in September 2020, and the animated movie "Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors" on Disney Plus.

'Hawkeye' - TBA
hawkeye imdb

In the "Hawkeye" original series, Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) will mentor and pass the mantle to another young sharpshooter, Kate Bishop. Actress Hailee Steinfeld, who voiced Gwen Stacy in "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," will play Kate.

'She-Hulk' - TBA
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"She-Hulk" will focus on Jennifer Walters, a lawyer who happens to be the cousin of the Hulk, aka Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). In the comics, Walters becomes She-Hulk after receiving a blood transfusion from Banner. However, the She-Hulk is in much greater control of her personality when she transforms.

Marvel producer Kevin Feige says the new show will be a 30-minute legal comedy, drawing comparisons to the "She-Hulk" comics written by long-time "Spider-Man" author Dan Slott and Charles Soule. In those books, She-Hulk worked as a defense attorney in cases involving superpowered people.

Tatiana Maslany has been cast to play the title role. Maslany is best known for starring in the sci-fi series "Orphan Black."

'Moon Knight' - TBA
moon knight imdb

"Moon Knight" is one of the upcoming Marvel projects we know the least about, though it's been rumored that "Star Wars" star Oscar Isaac will play cloaked avenger Mark Specter.

The "Moon Knight" mythos is more complex than most Marvel heroes, with the character's mental health  and connection to reality frequently coming into question. We'll have to wait and see which version of the character will be coming to the MCU.

'Armor Wars' - TBA
armor wars disney plus

"Don Cheadle" will return to his role as James Rhodes, aka War Machine, in "Armor Wars." Borrowing its name from a major comic book event, "Armor Wars" explores what happens when Tony Stark is no longer able to protect the weapons he created from those who would use them to do harm.

'Secret Invasion' - TBA
secret invasion marvel disney plus

"Secret Invasion" is a major Marvel comics event that saw multiple heroes replaced by alien impersonators called Skulls. The Marvel Cinematic Universe introduced the Skrulls in "Captain Marvel" in 2019, but the MCU version of "Secret Invasion" is sure to include a much different set of characters.

Samuel Jackson will appear as Nick Fury for the first time in an MCU show, while Ben Mendelsohn will appear as his Talos character from "Captain Marvel" and "Spider-Man: Far From Home."

'Ironheart' - TBA
Iron Heart MCU Disney Plus

"Ironheart" will star Dominique Thorne as young inventor Riri Williams, who creates a dynamic suit of armor inspired by Tony Stark's Iron Man.

In the comics, Riri has fought alongside the Avengers and is a member of the teenage superhero team Champions, with Miles Morales and Kamala Khan.

'The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special' - Holiday 2022
Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

The cast of "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" is filming a holiday special on the set of the upcoming movie. The film isn't due out until 2023, but the holiday special is due out in fall 2022.

James Gunn, writer and director for all three "Guardians" films so far, will also be in charge of the holiday special.

'I Am Groot' - TBA
I Am Groot

"I Am Groot" will be a collection of animated shorts featuring the fan-favorite character from "Guardians of the Galaxy." It's not clear how long or how frequent the shorts will be, but they're said to star Baby Groot and several new characters.

'Marvel Hero Project' - now available
disney+ marvel hero project

One of the reality programs on Disney Plus is "Marvel Hero Project," which highlights extraordinary kids who have helped their community.

In each episode, the heroic kids get surprised with the honor of being drawn as superheroes in their very own Marvel comic. The comics will then be available via Marvel Unlimited and the Marvel Digital Comic Store for free.

Marvel TV shows - currently available
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  • "Spider-Woman" (1979)
  • "Spider-Man" (1981)
  • "Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends" (1981)
  • "X-Men: The Series" (1992)
  • "Iron Man" (1994)
  • "Fantastic Four" (1994)
  • "Spider-Man"(1994)
  • "The Incredible Hulk" (1996)
  • "The Silver Surfer" (1998)
  • "Avengers: United They Stand" (1999)
  • "Spider-Man Unlimited" (1999)
  • "X-Men: Evolution" (2000)
  • "Fantastic Four: World's Greatest Heroes" (2006)
  • "Iron Man: Armored Adventures" (2008)
  • "Wolverine and the X-Men" (2009)
  • "The Super Hero Squad" (2009)
  • "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" (2010)
  • "Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man" (2012)
  • "Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H." (2013)
  • "Avengers Assemble" (2013)
  • "Agent Carter" (2015)
  • "Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy" (2015)
  • "Spider-Man (2017)
  • "Inhumans" (2017)
  • "Runaways" (2017)
  • "Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors" (2018)
  • "Marvel 616"
Read everything else you should know about Disney Plus here:
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What is OTC? A beginner's guide to over-the-counter markets, and the risks and rewards of investing outside the major stock exchanges

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OTC or over-the-counter trading offers opportunities, like buying a young company of great potential for a low price. But it's also subject to major risks, like lack of regulations and difficulty of getting information.
  • OTC (over-the-counter) refers to buying and selling securities outside of an official stock exchange.
  • OTC investments can include penny stocks, bonds, derivatives, ADRs, and currencies.
  • OTC trading can be profitable, but is highly risky — shares are thinly traded and volatile.
  • Visit Business Insider's Investing Reference library for more stories.

OTC (over the counter) is the stock market version of "for sale by owner."

It's a process by which stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments are traded directly between two parties instead of on a public stock market, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or Nasdaq

Investing in OTC securities has advantages, such as getting in on the ground floor of a winning stock. "With OTC, you have access to high-growth emerging companies, including startups," says Michael Bertov, author of The Evergreen Startup

And you get more bang for the investment buck too since prices are typically lower for OTC investments than for their public exchange counterparts.

Still, there are a lot of risks associated with OTC trading as well, from lack of regulation to volatile price swings.

Let's look at the ins and outs of investing OTC.

What does OTC mean?

OTC markets are electronic networks that allow two parties to trade with each other using a dealer-broker as a middleman. They are known as dealer networks or markets. In contrast, stock exchanges are auction markets. A price for a stock is posted (the "ask"), and then investors make offers for it, bidding against each other. 

Companies that trade OTC are considered public but unlisted. This means their stock can be openly bought and sold, but that the stock is not listed on a major exchange such as the NYSE or NASDAQ. So these equities are subject to the rules and requirements that these exchanges impose on their listed companies. No governing institution is watching them, in other words.

 That said, there are still federal regulatory hoops to jump through. Many OTC stocks are subject to at least some oversight by the SEC. In fact, SEC regulations were updated in September 2020 to enhance disclosure and investor protections by ensuring that broker-dealers do not publish price quotes for a security when current information about that security is not publicly available.

Also, OTC trading is usually done through a licensed broker-dealer. Broker-dealers are regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

What kinds of investments trade OTC?

Many OTC securities include stocks issued by small companies that don't qualify to be listed on major exchanges because they don't trade enough shares or their shares don't sell above a minimum price. Often referred to as penny stocks, they trade for less than $5 per share. 

Other OTC companies are larger, but can't afford (or don't want to pay) the listing fees the major exchanges charge. NASDAQ, for example, charges companies up to $163,000 to be listed, assuming they qualify.

Most bonds trade over-the-counter after their initial offering. OTC markets are a better fit for bonds than stock exchanges due to the large size of trades, number of bonds traded, and the infrequent trading of bonds.

Besides stocks and bonds, investments that trade OTC often include:

  • Derivatives, private contracts between two parties, typically arranged by a broker. These can be options, forwards, futures, or other agreements whose value is based on that of an underlying asset, like a stock.
  • American Depositary Receipts (ADRs), sometimes called ADSs, or bank certificates that represent a specified number of shares of a foreign stock. 
  • Foreign currencies. About $5 trillion worth in different nations' money trades on what's called the Forex, an over-the-counter currency exchange.
  • Cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin and ethereum. 

What are the major OTC markets?

There are two primary over-the-counter (OTC) networks, OTC Markets Group and Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB). As an investor, you have access to either or both of these markets depending on your broker.

OTC Markets Group

The majority of OTC trades take place on the OTC Markets Group, a private company. OTC Markets lists over-the-counter equities at three tiers, depending on their size, share price, and the amount of financial reporting and disclosure they do. 

OTCQX is the highest tier - these are firms with audited financials that could trade on regular exchanges. The next, OTCQB, is for early-stage or growth companies; they must have a minimum bid price of $0.01.

The lowest tier is the most notorious: the Pink Market or "Pink Sheets." These include foreign companies, penny stocks, shell companies, and other firms that choose not to disclose financial information. 

Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board

The Over-the-Counter Bulletin Board (OTCBB) is hosted by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a non-governmental regulatory body. The OTCBB is a place for FINRA member broker-dealers to make offers to buy and sell equity of companies that report to the SEC, but are not listed on the major stock exchanges. 

Grey Market 

Only broker-dealers can trade on the OTC Markets Group and the OTCBB. The Grey Market, sometimes called Other OTC, is a catch-all category for any security that is considered over-the-counter but not quoted by broker-dealers due to a lack of investor interest, lack of financial information, or lack of regulatory compliance. 

Is it safe to buy OTC stocks?

OTC trading has had a shady reputation. Partly that's because of the basic way it operates. In contrast to the total transparency of the stock exchanges, where prices are displayed for all to see, OTC is a buyer and seller secretly negotiating a price. The seller might offer the stock to one buyer for one price and to another buyer for another.

Small wonder that OTC markets have been the site of scams and criminal activities. Dealing in penny stocks opens the door to illegal pump and dump schemes in which someone promotes (pumps) a stock, then sells (dumps) the stock after you and other investors buy, raising the price of the stock.

Bonus scams are also a major risk according to OTC Forex trader Frano Grgić, who notes the presence of unscrupulous "brokerages that want to lure beginners into trading by offering them large bonuses on their deposit." Unfortunately, Grgić says, "when it comes time to withdraw funds, the money is gone."

For regular investors, the only safe way to buy (or sell) OTC stocks is through a reputable broker-dealer using one of the two major online platforms, OTC Markets or OTCBB. They actually operate like "discount" stock exchanges, imposing some rules and oversight and, in OTC Markets' case, classifying stocks into tiers. 

Even then, consider the tier you plan to use and, of course, the reputation of the broker-dealer who will negotiate your trades.

Risks of OTC trading

Fraudulent activities aside, there are other risks associated with OTC trading.

  • Lack of price transparency. As noted above, theoretically a seller could be charging a buyer one amount for a security, and naming another price to another.
  • Low liquidity. Many OTC stocks are thinly traded, meaning there isn't much demand. That can make them hard to sell when you want to.
  • High volatility. Lower trading volume also leads to sharp price swings.
  • Lack of oversight. OTC trading has less regulation than major exchanges'.

Benefits of OTC trading

Despite the drawbacks, OTC trading has its upsides too.

  • The stars of tomorrow. Many big-name stocks started small, trading OTC. "Imagine buying shares of Twitter or Facebook in 2007," says Michael Bertov
  • Low transaction costs. Fees are lower on the OTC market compared to major exchanges, says Jon Ovadia, OTC trader and founder of the OVEX cryptocurrency exchange platform.
  • Lower share prices mean your money goes farther and buys more of an OTC investment than an exchange-listed one.
  • "Private and personalized service," as Ovadia puts it - you're dealing not in a huge, anonymous market space, but in a more intimate one, with an individual broker-dealer and the seller.

The financial takeaway

OTC trading is not for everyone. In fact, the SEC does issue this dire warning: "Academic studies find that OTC stocks tend to be highly illiquid; are frequent targets of alleged market manipulation; generate negative and volatile investment returns on average, and rarely grow into a large company or transition to listing on a stock exchange."

If your investment strategy is ultra-conservative or if you are a relative novice, most experts suggest you stay away or at the very least, confine your trading to the OTCQX tier on OTC Markets Group. 

On the other hand, "If you are able to be patient and disciplined, and are open to learning something new," you may want to try OTC, says Grgić. He cautions, however, "If you do not have money to invest which you can lose," don't try it.

Related Coverage in Investing:

Margin trading means buying stocks with borrowed funds - it's riskier than paying cash, but the returns can be greater

Trading and investing are two approaches to playing the stock market that bring their own benefits and risks

Alternative investments are exotic assets that can diversify your portfolio - here are the five major kinds and everything you should know about them

Impact investing finances companies that aim to do good in the world - here's how it works and how to get involved

A guide to stock market indexes: What they measure and how they can guide your investing

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ESPN+: All your questions answered about ESPN's streaming service

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What is ESPN+ 4x3

Streaming has largely overtaken cable and satellite as the preferred method to watch movies and TV shows at your leisure. Low price points and the ability to watch on the go are primary reasons for the migration, but one sector has largely resisted any such paradigm shift - professional sports.

If you're a sports fan, you might be shelling out for traditional cable just to watch your favorite team. Hefty deals between sports leagues and TV networks have prevented services like Netflix from streaming games, but ESPN now has a low-cost service that should satiate many sports fans' appetites. 

Updated on 1/22/2021 by Steven Cohen: This article has been updated with details for the latest UFC PPV fight.

What is ESPN+?

ESPN+ is a streaming subscription service that's considered a complement to existing ESPN content, not technically a separate platform. Think of it as an add-on to the standard ESPN app with live games, exclusive on-demand videos, and access to what was formerly known as ESPN Insider.

Previously, ESPN Insider offered subscribers exclusive written articles for a monthly $4.99 fee. ESPN decided to add video to the mix and created ESPN+ for a similar price, giving subscribers access to stories, live streaming, and on-demand videos.

What's included with ESPN+?

What is ESPN+? We break down this network’s streaming subscription
ESPN+ is available to stream on mobile devices, media players, and select smart TVs.

ESPN+ includes a bevy of exclusive video content from live games to on-demand shows and exclusive stories. Unfortunately, the live games come with commercials - just like regular TV.

Subscribers can watch live games from the MLB, NHL, and MLS when their seasons are active; there are no live NBA or NFL games. There's also PGA golf, UFC, college football, international soccer, and tennis. You can read more details on how to watch Major League Baseball on ESPN+ and other services here.

In addition to games, ESPN+ also features original shows, including in-depth game recaps and analyses hosted by Peyton Manning and Daniel Cormier, and a shorter version of "NFL Primetime." Documentary programs, like "30 for 30," as well as full replays of historic NFL games are also available to stream on-demand.

Does ESPN+ offer UFC PPV and UFC Fight Night events?

If you're a fan of UFC or boxing, ESPN+ often offers exclusive pay-per-view (PPV) matches so you'll get even more content from the service. The PPV events cost $69.99 for existing subscribers. ESPN+ also offers a special discounted bundle for new subscribers that includes a one-year membership and one PPV event for $89.98.

The next UFC PPV fight is UFC 257: Poirier vs. McGregor on January 23. The match will take place on UFC's Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.

In addition to PPV matches, ESPN+ also features access to UFC Fight Night events. Fight Nights are typically included as part of a regular ESPN+ subscription for $5.99 per month. 

What's not included with ESPN+?

ESPN+ is technically separate from ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNews, so a subscription will not grant you access to live games being broadcast on those networks, including any live games during Monday Night Football and Sunday Night Baseball. That said, MLB games are still available to be streamed.

New docuseries airing on ESPN, like "The Last Dance," are also not included with a subscription. With that said, programs like this could be added to the ESPN+ library at a later date.

Your ESPN+ account is not the same as a cable login with access to the ESPN networks, so there's no way of getting around it either. 

How much does ESPN+ cost?

An ESPN+ subscription will run you $5.99 per month, or $59.99 annually. If you do the math, this means that an annual plan will save you about $12 a year compared to paying for 12 months with the month-to-month plan. 

ESPN+ originally cost $4.99 a month or $49.99 annually when it first launched. The monthly price was increased to $5.99 on August 12, 2020, and the annual price was increased to $59.99 on January 8, 2021. Existing members who signed up for the $4.99 plan will continue to pay that price for at least one year. Existing annual subscribers will be able to renew their plans for $49.99 until at least March 2, 2021.

If you're looking for even more streaming content, there's also a combo package that bundles ESPN+ with Hulu and the Disney Plus streaming service for just $12.99 per month - a $6 savings each month compared to getting all three services separately. Existing ESPN+ members can even upgrade to the bundle without having to cancel their current subscription. You can upgrade here

Where can I watch ESPN+?

One of the cool things about ESPN+ is that you can access it through the current ESPN app.

Instead of launching a separate app, all the ESPN+ content is unlocked in the ESPN app once you subscribe. The app is available on virtually every platform you can imagine - phones, tablets, laptops, Roku players, Fire TV products, Apple TV, Android TV, Chromecast, PS4, Xbox One, and Samsung smart TVs. 

You can also stream on up to three devices simultaneously with one account.

How do I sign up for ESPN+?

Head over to the ESPN+ website and create an account, or open your existing ESPN account and you'll be prompted to sign up.

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N95 masks are in high demand - this company makes it easy to buy them and help healthcare workers too

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N95 Mask Co 4x3
  • The CDC doesn't recommend medical-grade masks for the general public because they're in high demand for healthcare workers. 
  • But, N95 Mask Co. has a production model that helps keep them in stock for both the healthcare industry and the general public. 
  • When I ordered three different masks from the company, the process was simple and the shipping was extremely fast.
  • This article was medically reviewed by Aimee Desrosiers, PA-C, MS, MPH, a practicing infectious diseases physician assistant in Washington, DC.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

The United States - along with many other countries of the world - has been battling a pandemic since early 2020, and the battle continues as we head into 2021. As we wait for vaccination rates to increase and infection rates to decrease, practicing social distancing and wearing a mask in public remain two of the most important ways to reduce the spread of the virus.

By now we all know that we should be wearing a mask, but let's talk about the specific types of masks and why they're recommended. The CDC recommends that everyone wears a cloth face mask when in public, and in its guidance, also advises against wearing medical-grade equipment like N95 respirators.

Here's why the CDC doesn't want you to wear N95 masks

Although this guidance might seem counterintuitive, there's a reason behind it. Cloth face masks can provide a barrier to respiratory droplets that travel in the air when you talk or sneeze, and are scientifically proven to reduce the chance of transmission from larger particles. N95 respirators, on the other hand, are medical-grade masks that filter 95% of small (.3 micron) particles and are far more effective. Average people are recommended against wearing them in order to save them for healthcare professionals that knowingly or unknowingly come in contact with positive cases on a daily basis at work.

But now, a company called N95 Mask Co. is making N95 respirators available to the public, and rather than taking away from supplies that healthcare workers desperately need, its genius production model actually helps keep them in stock.

How N95 Mask Co. allows average consumers to buy masks

Just about any textile company can produce cloth face masks, but N95 masks are made to meet exact specifications and regulations. That means they can't be made by your favorite T-shirt or jeans company using excess materials. The demand needs to be met by factories that are approved to produce them in accordance with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), FDA, and CDC guidelines.

However, the factories that are approved to produce them can't just crank up production on a whim and slow it back down when demand diminishes. In order to consistently produce masks in high volume, companies like N95 Mask Co. have to guarantee that a certain amount of items get shipped out of factories on a daily basis - whether they're needed to fulfill existing orders or not. If products don't get shipped out, factors like unpaid production costs and limited inventory space prevent factories from producing more.

Typically, factories produce smaller amounts to fulfill bulk orders placed by hospitals (which comes with a lead time for production), but with a high-volume steady production method, N95 Mask Co. can keep them readily available for the healthcare industry and sell excess stock to average consumers.

Instead of trying to get your second cousin's wife's sister who happens to be a nurse to snag you some masks from the supply room, which takes them away from the people that need them the most, you can get them in good conscience for fair prices at N95 Mask Co. And when medical institutes run low on supplies, they won't have a long wait time before they're replenished.

What's the difference between N95 and KN95 masks?

The most notable difference is that N95s are the US Standard and KN95s are the Chinese Standard.

While N95 and KN95 masks are both designed to filter 95% of small (.3 micron) particles, N95s are NIOSH approved. On the other hand, KN95s are not NIOSH approved as they are regulated by the Chinese government. The FDA granted emergency use authorization for some KN95 masks as an alternative when N95s were not available, only if they met certain criteria. There is a considerable problem with counterfeit KN95s, so it is important to ensure they are on the list of FDA authorized KN95 masks. The biggest giveaway that a mask advertised as a KN95 is counterfeit is if it has a breathing valve.

When comparing N95s and KN95s, they perform very similarly but there are some minor differences in their standards such as for air leakage and breathability. These differences are minor and should not impact the average person who is wearing them in public places.

Another thing to note is that N95s are more expensive than KN95s since the latter can't be worn by healthcare professionals in the US as medical-grade personal protective equipment (PPE).

What it's like to order from N95 Mask Co.

Shopping on N95 Mask Co. is easy. The brand has two styles of N95s, plus KN95s, surgical masks, and cloth face masks. Regardless of which style you choose, you can buy in small packages or in bulk. For the purpose of this review, I ordered a few of the Respokare NIOSH N95s, the NIOSH Cup Style N95s, and the KN95s. A day after I placed my order, it already arrived at my door which was a pleasant surprise. Granted, it shipped one state over from New York to New Jersey, but the super-fast shipping proves that the company's production model works. There was no long lead time to fulfill my order.

Shop all masks and coronavirus-related supplies on N95 Mask Co. now.

The Respokare NIOSH N95

Respokare N95 mask

Product Card (small, Preferred: N95 Mask Co.)

The Respokare NIOSH N95 is the top-of-the-line respirator mask available at N95 Mask Co. As with any N95, it is rated to filter 95% of small particles, but thanks to an antiviral layer within the mask it inactivates pathogens and viruses that permeate through. The added technology brings its filtration rate up to 99.9%.

At $49.99 for a four-pack, it's also the most expensive option. This comes out to about $12.50 each.

The NIOSH Cup-Style N95

Cup Style N95 mask

Product Card (small, Preferred: N95 Mask Co.)

The NIOSH cup-style N95s closely mimic the design of 3M's cup-style N95s. The design allows for a comfortable fit for most adults. You won't feel like the mask is directly against your nose, mouth, and face, like other mask styles.

At $179.99 for a 20 pack, the smallest bundle possible, they're about $9 each. 

The KN95 Face Mask

KN95

Product Card (small, Preferred: N95 Mask Co.)

If you're not keen on the head and neck straps found on the two N95 models or you're on a tighter budget, the KN95 Mask might be the best choice for you. It features elastic ear straps and an adjustable nose bridge.

You can get a 20-pack of KN95s for $59.99, which comes out to about $3 each. Buying in bigger bulk quantities brings the price per unit down even more.

How many times can I wear an N95 or KN95 before discarding it?

According to the CDC, it is likely safe for healthcare workers to wear N95s up to five times if the manufacturer hasn't provided a specific recommendation. As an average person though, it's safe to assume that your daily interactions are much lower risk than most healthcare workers. You shouldn't feel like you have to throw away your N95 after a few low-risk actions like running to the lobby of your building to check the mail, opening your front door to grab a food delivery, or going into a mostly-empty grocery store.

With that said, you should definitely discard your mask if it becomes visibly soiled, if the head straps and nose bridge are worn out or broken and no longer provide a secure fit, or if you've worn it while in direct contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. You'll also want to wash your hands thoroughly before taking your mask off and storing it separate from other masks.

If you're concerned about preserving your N95s or KN95s, I would recommend saving them for higher-risk situations like going to a doctor's appointment in a hospital, flying on planes, or taking public transportation.

The bottom line

Although I've worn each style of the masks above, my personal thoughts should have no bearing on which style(s) you decide to buy.

I obviously can't speak to their effectiveness with more authority than the NIOSH, FDA, and CDC, but they do seem to be as good of quality as other N95 masks I've worn. What I can speak to is how simple it was to shop and how fast the items arrived. There's nothing worse than ordering something you really need and having to wait weeks or months for it to be delivered, but with N95 Mask Co., you can expect your items in a timely manner. 

I reached out to several of the hospitals that have purchased masks from N95MaskCo. for comments about their experiences but did not hear back in time for publishing. I will update this story if and when I get responses.

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How COVID-19 is ravaging two cities across the US-Mexico border, with no end in sight

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  • Two cities across the US-Mexico border, El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, are both COVID-19 hotspots that are struggling to fight the pandemic.
  • But despite their proximity, the two cities are not officially coordinating their pandemic response together. 
  • Funeral homes and hospitals in the two cities are now overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases as vaccines are slowly distributed. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
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How to upload a file on Google Forms or let respondents upload their own files

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young woman using laptop computer at home
It's easy to upload files to Google Forms.

People use Google Forms for everything from research surveys to academic quizzes. It's especially helpful because of how customizable the questions are.

One of these customization options is the ability to upload files, as well as letting people taking your quiz or survey upload files themselves. If you want to provide a visual aid, or want respondents to hand in an assignment, Google Forms is built for you.

Here's how to upload a file on Google Forms, in both ways.

How to upload a file on Google Forms when making questions

When you're creating a Google Form, you may want to upload a file into one of the question fields, like an image or video. This is great for adding visual aids and reference materials.

1. In your Google Form, select the panel that includes the question you want to add a file to.

2. To the left of the drop-down menu that designates the type of question, you'll see a small square icon. Click on this icon to add an image to the question.

You can also click the image or video icons in the bar on the right to add the file as its own section, with no question attached. This is the only way to add videos.

How_to_upload_file_on_Google_Forms_ _1
There are two ways to add files.

3. If the image you want to upload is already saved to your computer, click "Browse" and select the file. If you want to add a file that isn't already on your computer, click on the corresponding tab and select an image or video from the results. You can add an image from your Google Drive, by pasting a URL, by searching for it, and more.

If you want to add a video, you'll have to upload it to YouTube first and then paste in the YouTube link.

How to upload files to Google Forms 2
You can upload a file from your computer, your mobile device, or from the internet.

4. Once your image or video has been uploaded, you can edit a few settings by clicking the icon with three vertical dots. This will open a sub-menu that allows you to choose the file's alignment, add a caption for screen readers, swap it out for a different file, or delete it.

How to upload files to Google Forms 4
Once uploaded, you can change the picture's placement and more.

How to ask respondents to upload a file to your Google Form

In your Google Form, you may want to include a question that requires the respondent to upload a file of their own.

1. Select the panel that includes the question that you want respondents to upload files for.

2. Click on the drop-down menu on the right side of the panel.

How to upload files to Google Forms 5
The type of question is listed in the drop-down menu.

3. In the drop-down menu, click "File upload."

How to upload files to Google Forms 6
The "File upload" option will allow respondents to answer the question by uploading a file.

4. In the message that appears, click "Continue."

How to upload files to Google Forms 7
When asked for permission, click "Continue" to proceed.

5. Select the settings that best represent the file type(s) you want respondents to upload. You can also choose a limit for the number of files uploaded and the allowable file size.

How to upload files to Google Forms 8
You can limit the types of files respondents can upload.

When respondents reach this question, they'll be prompted to upload a file before proceeding. If the file they upload doesn't match what you asked for, it won't be accepted.

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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Microsoft doubled the price of Xbox Live Gold memberships to $120 per year and gamers aren't happy

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Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S

Microsoft is raising prices for Xbox Live Gold memberships in certain markets in an apparent effort to convert more users to its Xbox Game Pass Ulimate, and the gaming community is not receiving the news well.

Microsoft announced in a blog post Friday that, moving forward, new six-month Xbox Live Gold subscriptions will cost $59.99, while three-month plans will cost $29.99 and one-month plans will cost $10.99.

That means a full year of Xbox Live Gold will go for nearly $120, double the price Microsoft charged for the 12-month plans that it quietly got rid of last year.

"Periodically, we assess the value and pricing of our services to reflect changes in regional marketplaces and to continue to invest in the Xbox community; we'll be making price adjustments for Xbox Live Gold in select markets," the company said.

The pricing changes won't affect existing Xbox Live Gold subscribers, however, as they'll still be able to renew their current plans at the same price. Microsoft is also letting players who upgrade to its Xbox Game Pass Ultimate - which costs $14.99 per month, or roughly $180 per year - convert any remaining time on their Xbox Live Gold memberships to Xbox Game Pass Ulimate without an additional cost.

Microsoft also said that the new prices won't kick in until 45 days after subscribers receive an email and message center notification alerting them to the increases.

The new prices dramatically close the gap between the annual costs of Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscriptions, a sign that Microsoft is likely trying to push more users to sign up for the latter.

The move drew fierce backlash from the gaming commmunity, which accused the company of being out of touch with the economic situation of many customers during the pandemic, as well as continuing to require them to pay for subscriptions even to play free-to-play games like "Fortnite" and "Call Of Duty: Warzone."

"@Xbox have done this in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, where kids will be most affected, where finances are tight and online gaming is their main (sometimes only) way to play and communicate with friends. Let that sink in," @swooper_d tweeted.

"Xbox also still remains the only platform you need a subscription to play free to play games, including Warzone," gaming news site Charlie Intel tweeted.

Others also pointed to the stark pricing differences between Xbox and other online gaming platforms.

"I'm still in shock at how there is now a $100 Difference Between getting Nintendo Switch Online for a Year and Xbox Live Gold for a Year," @JCretor tweeted.

Nintendo Switch Online memberships cost $19.99 and Playstation Plus memberships cost $59.99 for 12 months.

"We invest in our community by strengthening the digital safety of our players, enabling new ways to share, communicate and play with your friends, and delivering industry leading reliability across our network," Microsoft said as part of its rationale for raising prices, while adding: "In many markets, the price of Xbox Live Gold has not changed for years and in some markets, it hasn't changed for over 10 years."

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How to watch UFC 257: Conor McGregor returns to the octagon for a PPV match on ESPN+ this Saturday

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Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier
Conor McGregor defeated Dustin Poirier in their 2014 meeting at UFC 178.

Former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor is returning to the octagon to face #2 ranked lightweight Dustin Poirier in the main event of UFC 257 on January 23.

McGregor has fought just twice since 2016, losing the lightweight championship to Khabib Nurmagomedov in 2018 and scoring a first round knockout against welterweight Donald Cerrone in January 2020. The UFC star has flirted with retirement but said he was "grateful" for his latest UFC booking.

McGregor beat Poirier with a first round knockout in their last meeting at UFC 178 in 2014, when both fighters were in the lighter featherweight class. Poirier has posted an impressive 8-2 record since that match, including a short reign as UFC's interim lightweight champion.

McGregor vs. Poirier will have lasting implications on UFC's lightweight division - reigning champion Nurmagomedov announced his own retirement after defeating Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, leaving the championship belt open for the taking. Gaethje remains the division's top ranked fighter, but lost a head-to-head match with Poirier in 2018. The winner of UFC 257 could face Gaethje in a title fight for the vacant lightweight championship.

UFC 257 will be held at the UFC Fight Island campus on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Fans will not be allowed to attend due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the venue makes it easier for UFC to host international fighters and safely quarantine staff. A total of three events will be held at UFC Fight Island in January.

Updated on 1/22/2021 by Kevin Webb: Added links to complementary UFC coverage and ESPN deals.

Here's the match schedule for UFC 257: Poirier vs. McGregor

espn+

Early Prelims - 6:15 p.m. ET, 3:15 p.m. PT on UFC Fight Pass

  • Andrew Sanchez versus Makhmud Muradov [Middleweight]
  • Nik Lentz versus Movsar Evloev [Catchweight]
  • Amir Albazi versus Zhalgas Zhumagulov [Flyweight]

Prelims - 8 p.m. ET, 5 p.m. PT on ESPN+ and ESPN

  • Khalil Rountree Jr. versus Marcin Prachnio [Light Heavyweight]
  • Julianna Peña vs  Sara McMann [Women's Bantamweight]
  • Brad Tavares versus Antonio Carlos Junior [Middleweight]
  • Arman Tsarukyan versus Nasrat Haqparast [Lightweight]

Main Card - 10 p.m. ET, 7 p.m. PT on ESPN+ for $69.99

  • Marina Rodriguez versus Amanda Ribas [Women's Strawweight]
  • Matt Frevola versus Ottman Azaitar [Lightweight]
  • Jessica Eye versus Joanne Calderwood [Women's Flyweight]
  • Dan Hooker versus Michael Chandler [Lightweight]
  • Dustin Poirier versus Conor McGregor [Lightweight]

How to watch UFC 257

UFC 257 is separated into three portions: the early prelims, the prelims, and the main card. The early prelims are only available to UFC Fight Pass subscribers, while the prelims will air on ESPN+ and the ESPN cable channel. The main card is an ESPN+ exclusive pay-per-view event.

This means that you have to subscribe to the ESPN+ streaming service before you're able to purchase the main card PPV. An ESPN+ membership costs $5.99 per month or $59.99 per year. The UFC 257 PPV event costs $69.99 for ESPN+ subscribers.

You can access the ESPN+ app on all major mobile and connected TV devices, including Amazon Fire, Apple, Android, Chromecast, PS4, Xbox One, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs, and more.

Ways to save on the UFC 257 pay-per-view price

If you plan on signing up for ESPN+ to watch UFC 257, you can take advantage of a special discounted package.

New subscribers can purchase a year-long ESPN+ membership with access to UFC 257 included for a total of $89.98. That's over 30% off the standard price. Following your first year of service, ESPN+ will then renew for the regular annual price of $59.99.

Bundle the next UFC PPV with an ESPN+ Annual Plan to save over 30% 

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