Monthly Archives: December 2017

31Dec 2017

Here's proof that the EMV chip in your credit card is working – USA TODAY


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These helpful tips can keep hackers out of your credit card accounts.
USA TODAY

Since the use of EMV chips was incentivized by the liability shift two years ago, this type of fraud has fallen dramatically.

On Oct. 1, 2015, a massive liability shift occurred across the domestic retail landscape. Before that date, when a fraudulent purchase was made using a credit card at a retail location, the card issuer was liable for the purchase. After that date, merchants that didn’t employ EMV-chip-reading terminals for transactions would be liable for the damages. In other words, prior to that date, when American consumers called their credit card company to report fraudulent transactions on their credit card statement, the bank would eat the charges. After that date, the seller would have to reimburse the card-issuing bank unless they used chip-compliant processors at the point of sale.

Two years later, there’s enough data to measure the effects of the change. At first glance, the results are promising. Merchants that completed the chip upgrade have seen a drop of 66% in counterfeit card and fraudulent purchases from June 2015 to June 2017, according to a recent security report from Visa Inc.(NYSE: V). Over 2.3 million U.S. merchants, or about 50% of domestic storefronts, now accept chip cards, a whopping 473% increase since the beginning of the EMV migration in the U.S. Chip payment volume across Visa cards has risen mightily as well. In December 2015, just a shade under $16 billion was facilitated using Visa chip cards. By June 2017, that number had risen to $58.4 billion, a 265% increase.

Why have EMV chips been so effective?

To understand what has made EMV chips so effective, one must first understand what they are. EMV stands for Europay, Mastercard Inc.(NYSE: MA), and Visa. In the early 1990s, these payment networks worked together to form a universal standard for card payments that would combine interoperability with security. The EMV chips embedded inside the cards was the solution these industry giants believed would combat fraud most effectively.

The magnetic stripe on the back of credit cards contains all the pertinent data needed to authorize and complete a payment using a credit or debit card. When a card’s stripe is swiped at a vendor’s point-of-sale terminal, crucial data is read, including the card number, the cardholder’s name, the expiration date of the card, the service code, and the CVV code. The most important thing about this information is that it is all static! From the time the card is issued to the date it expires, all information on the back remains the same.

This is a significant weakness if the information on the back of that card is ever compromised. Unfortunately, in an age of data breaches, credit card fraud, and gas station skimmers, this is an all-too-common occurrence! If a fraudster gets a hold of that information, it is all too easy to produce a counterfeit card with the victim’s information embedded on the magnetic stripe on the back and the fraudster’s authentic information on the front. This makes identifying fraudulent transactions in real time nearly impossible. Even if a vigilant clerk asks to see the crook’s identification while making the sale, the thief’s identity will match the front of the card!

The EMV chip embedded in the card prevents this type of counterfeit-card fraud. The chip produces a unique cryptographic code every time for each transaction. This means that even if the information on the back of the card is compromised, the fraudster still cannot make a counterfeit card and use it at merchants that are equipped to accept chip-card payments, because the counterfeit card would have no way of producing the chip’s cryptographic code.

The inherent limitations of EMV chips

That doesn’t mean, however, that the EMV chip is a silver bullet designed to stop all fraud. Unfortunately, that is well beyond its capabilities. But, as the Visa report points out, it has been quite effective for the job it was designed for: to stop the fraudulent use of counterfeit credit cards. As an economic crimes detective in a suburban area known for fraudulent activity, I can attest that the cases I’ve seen for this type of fraud have dropped dramatically since Oct. 1, 2015.

There are still several areas vulnerable to credit card fraud in the payments ecosystem. For instance, gas station pumps are not required to accept EMV chip cards until October 2020. It is no coincidence, then, that gas station skimmers are still quite common. Another vulnerability is online retail where chips obviously offer no protection.

Credit cards still most secure payment method?

It’s probably better to think of the new chips in your card as another tool in the tool box for the payments industry to use to prevent a specific, but previously prevalent, form of fraud. EMV chips definitely make credit cards safer and, sometimes, incremental improvements are all you can ask for.

Paying with credit cards is still the easiest and most effective way to avoid permanently losing money to fraud. It’s far better than carrying cash, which can be stolen, or writing checks, which reveal too much personal information, and offers far more legal protection than debit cards. The EMV chips now embedded in the majority of credit cards in circulation just add another layer of security. While not a perfect solution against all fraud, it has now proven it works for what it was designed to do: prevent counterfeit credit card fraud.

Matthew Cochrane owns shares of Mastercard. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Mastercard and Visa. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The Motley Fool is a USA TODAY content partner offering financial news, analysis and commentary designed to help people take control of their financial lives. Its content is produced independently of USA TODAY.

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30Dec 2017

7 Travel Coworking Spaces That Will Give You Serious Wanderlust – Forbes


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Photo courtesy of Outsite

An Outsite coworking space in Canggu, Bali.

Sure, there are some people who want to get away from work while they’re on vacation. But a growing number of people want to find ways to stay connected by meeting —&nbsp;and working alongside —&nbsp;local entrepreneurs while they’re traveling.

Enter the idea of the travel coworking space.

But the options are overwhelming. According to recent survey by Deskmag, there will be around 14,000 coworking spaces in operation worldwide by the end of 2017, and almost 1.2 million people will have worked in one of these spaces.

We sifted through the options to come up with some of the coolest coworking concepts around the globe. From a&nbsp;startup that allows you to combine surfing the internet with real-life surfing to a new service that&nbsp;helps women find options for coliving and&nbsp;coworking&nbsp;spaces, we’ve got a handful of amazing&nbsp;finds that are sure to give you instant wanderlust.

Photo courtesy of Outsite

Outsite’s new San Diego location.

The Company:&nbsp;Outsite

The Concept:&nbsp;With&nbsp;Outsite, you can&nbsp;take a “workation” that combines&nbsp;the best of coworking with the convenience of Airbnb , complete with free outdoor gear (bikes, surfboards),&nbsp;plus house managers who&nbsp;help arrange activities like skiing and surf instruction.&nbsp;Outsite also has a commitment to facilitating female entrepreneurship and creating environments that are relaxing for both men and women.

Where: Nine locations ranging from coastal towns&nbsp;to mountains to cities,&nbsp;including&nbsp;Costa Rica,&nbsp;Puerto Rico,&nbsp;Hawaii, Venice Beach, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Lake Tahoe and&nbsp;New York City. Lisbon, Baja California and Portland are on the horizon.

Stand-Out Space:&nbsp;The newest&nbsp;Outsite&nbsp;property in the surf town of Encinitas&nbsp;has expansive views of the ocean and stairs that lead to a private beach.

Point of Difference:&nbsp;An emphasis on community and playing outside. Plus, coffee and condiments are always organic and&nbsp;the company works&nbsp;with Patagonia Provisions, a leader in sustainably sourced foods.

Photo courtesy of Roam

Roam Ubud in Bali.

The company:&nbsp;Roam

The Concept:&nbsp;A&nbsp;coliving and coworking community&nbsp;that blends&nbsp;work, travel and adventure.&nbsp;With rates from&nbsp;$500 per week, you gain access to spaces around the world&nbsp;and can come and go as you please.

Where:&nbsp;London, Tokyo, Bali&nbsp;and&nbsp;Miami, with San Francisco coming soon.

Stand-Out Space:&nbsp;The Ubud, Bali&nbsp;outpost is in a converted boutique hotel, with a&nbsp;rooftop cafe, an&nbsp;open-air yoga studio&nbsp;and a sleek&nbsp;pool at the center of it all.

Point of Difference:&nbsp;Affordable access to like-minded&nbsp;travelers&nbsp;and a balance&nbsp;of&nbsp;privacy and community.

Photo courtesy of Hera Hub

The Mission Valley, California, location of Hera Hub.

The Company:&nbsp;Hera Hub

The Concept:&nbsp;The first international female-focused&nbsp;coworking&nbsp;concept and business&nbsp;incubator&nbsp;offers spa-inspired environments for women.

Where:&nbsp;Founded in San Diego, the company&nbsp;has expanded to six locations, including&nbsp;Uppsala, Sweden, with more on the horizon (Atlanta, Irvine).

Stand-Out Space:&nbsp;The treehouse-style&nbsp;Mission Valley location&nbsp;has an open plan, desks complete with exercise balls and plenty of candles to create a relaxing space.

Point of Difference:&nbsp;Hera Hub&nbsp;provides members with connections to business experts, as well as&nbsp;an angel investment division&nbsp;to support&nbsp;at female entrepreneurs.

Photo courtesy of Behere

An example of a Behere apartment in Europe.

The Company:&nbsp;Behere

The Concept:&nbsp;The first flexible-lifestyle service of its kind for women, Behere provides coworking and living spaces and fitness memberships on a monthly basis in cities around the world. Members can choose a location and stay month-to-month for as long as they like.

Where:&nbsp;Six cities in Europe and Southeast Asia, and expanding to more locations in 2018.

Stand-Out Space:&nbsp;Behere takes care of booking stylish, private apartments (in addition to international flights and&nbsp;coworking spaces), so that women can&nbsp;plug right in to&nbsp;a new city.

Point of Difference:&nbsp;New&nbsp;startup that redefines short-term living and coworking&nbsp;for women.

Photo courtesy of Selina

Selina’s Medellin location.

The Company:&nbsp;Selina

The Concept:&nbsp;Selina blends the&nbsp;convenience&nbsp;of a boutique hotel with the youthful, community-oriented feel of a hostel. Selina offers&nbsp;cinemas, permaculture gardens, yoga decks, mediation studios, surf camps, recording studios, language schools and curated coworking offices.&nbsp;The team running&nbsp;Selina is primarily made up of women.

Where:&nbsp;Originally founded in&nbsp;a&nbsp;small fishing village&nbsp;in Panama, Selina is growing fast, with 13 locations —&nbsp;islands and beaches, tropical jungles and urban city centers.

Stand-Out Space:&nbsp;The&nbsp;Medellin, Columbia property&nbsp;has a meditation room, a vegetable&nbsp;garden and&nbsp;suspended&nbsp;“chill nets.”

Point of Difference:&nbsp;A&nbsp;focus on wellness, music, art&nbsp;and culture, plus&nbsp;surprises for coworkers: free desk massages, deskside mediation and sessions in workplace mindfulness.

Photo courtesy of The 1961

The 1961, a coworking space in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The Company: Loop

The Concept:&nbsp;Like an Airbnb for coworking,&nbsp;Loop has partnered with&nbsp;hip spaces around the globe; a $30-a-month-membership gives you one day of free access to each space in Loop’s network each month. If you want to work more than that, you can buy a day pass.

Where:&nbsp;More than 42 countries with over 160&nbsp;locations&nbsp;ranging from Rabat, Morocco to Hanoi, Vietnam.

Stand-Out Space:&nbsp;Not far from&nbsp;the temples of Angkor&nbsp;Wat, the 1961 is a coworking concept with an art gallery, cafe and boutique that&nbsp;attracts&nbsp;artists, poets, musicians and writers from the local community.

Point of Difference:&nbsp;A cheap way to connect with locals and experience&nbsp;a wide range of coworking spaces while traveling.

Photo courtesy of Servcorp

Spectacular views from Servcorp’s coworking space in Sydney’s Barangaroo Tower One.

The Company:&nbsp;Servcorp

The Concept:&nbsp;Luxury flexible office-space&nbsp;company Servcorp is giving coworking&nbsp;a twist: It has paired up&nbsp;with&nbsp;In the Know Experiences (ITKE)&nbsp;to give members access to VIP experiences and events, like tickets to the&nbsp;Broadway&nbsp;show&nbsp;Hamilton,&nbsp;courtside seating at the U.S. Open or&nbsp;red-carpet passes to the American Music Awards in Los Angeles.

Where:&nbsp;There are&nbsp;15 global coworking locations, from New York to Sydney.

Stand-Out Space:&nbsp;Sydney’s&nbsp;Barangaroo Tower One&nbsp;features original art by Zoe Young, a rising talent in the&nbsp;Sydney&nbsp;art scene and Archibald Prize finalist in 2014, as well as stunning city views.

Point of Difference:&nbsp;One-of-a-kind&nbsp;experiences give members tools to impress clients or&nbsp;see a place in a unique way.&nbsp;The partnership with ITKE also lets&nbsp;Servcorp members book customized corporate trips and travel itineraries.

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Photo courtesy of Outsite

An Outsite coworking space in Canggu, Bali.

Sure, there are some people who want to get away from work while they’re on vacation. But a growing number of people want to find ways to stay connected by meeting — and working alongside — local entrepreneurs while they’re traveling.

Enter the idea of the travel coworking space.

But the options are overwhelming. According to recent survey by Deskmag, there will be around 14,000 coworking spaces in operation worldwide by the end of 2017, and almost 1.2 million people will have worked in one of these spaces.

We sifted through the options to come up with some of the coolest coworking concepts around the globe. From a startup that allows you to combine surfing the internet with real-life surfing to a new service that helps women find options for coliving and coworking spaces, we’ve got a handful of amazing finds that are sure to give you instant wanderlust.

Photo courtesy of Outsite

Outsite’s new San Diego location.

The Company: Outsite

The Concept: With Outsite, you can take a “workation” that combines the best of coworking with the convenience of Airbnb , complete with free outdoor gear (bikes, surfboards), plus house managers who help arrange activities like skiing and surf instruction. Outsite also has a commitment to facilitating female entrepreneurship and creating environments that are relaxing for both men and women.

Where: Nine locations ranging from coastal towns to mountains to cities, including Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Venice Beach, San Diego, Santa Cruz, Lake Tahoe and New York City. Lisbon, Baja California and Portland are on the horizon.

Stand-Out Space: The newest Outsite property in the surf town of Encinitas has expansive views of the ocean and stairs that lead to a private beach.

Point of Difference: An emphasis on community and playing outside. Plus, coffee and condiments are always organic and the company works with Patagonia Provisions, a leader in sustainably sourced foods.

Photo courtesy of Roam

Roam Ubud in Bali.

The company: Roam

The Concept: A coliving and coworking community that blends work, travel and adventure. With rates from $500 per week, you gain access to spaces around the world and can come and go as you please.

Where: London, Tokyo, Bali and Miami, with San Francisco coming soon.

Stand-Out Space: The Ubud, Bali outpost is in a converted boutique hotel, with a rooftop cafe, an open-air yoga studio and a sleek pool at the center of it all.

Point of Difference: Affordable access to like-minded travelers and a balance of privacy and community.

Photo courtesy of Hera Hub

The Mission Valley, California, location of Hera Hub.

The Company: Hera Hub

The Concept: The first international female-focused coworking concept and business incubator offers spa-inspired environments for women.

Where: Founded in San Diego, the company has expanded to six locations, including Uppsala, Sweden, with more on the horizon (Atlanta, Irvine).

Stand-Out Space: The treehouse-style Mission Valley location has an open plan, desks complete with exercise balls and plenty of candles to create a relaxing space.

Point of Difference: Hera Hub provides members with connections to business experts, as well as an angel investment division to support at female entrepreneurs.

Photo courtesy of Behere

An example of a Behere apartment in Europe.

The Company: Behere

The Concept: The first flexible-lifestyle service of its kind for women, Behere provides coworking and living spaces and fitness memberships on a monthly basis in cities around the world. Members can choose a location and stay month-to-month for as long as they like.

Where: Six cities in Europe and Southeast Asia, and expanding to more locations in 2018.

Stand-Out Space: Behere takes care of booking stylish, private apartments (in addition to international flights and coworking spaces), so that women can plug right in to a new city.

Point of Difference: New startup that redefines short-term living and coworking for women.

Photo courtesy of Selina

Selina’s Medellin location.

The Company: Selina

The Concept: Selina blends the convenience of a boutique hotel with the youthful, community-oriented feel of a hostel. Selina offers cinemas, permaculture gardens, yoga decks, mediation studios, surf camps, recording studios, language schools and curated coworking offices. The team running Selina is primarily made up of women.

Where: Originally founded in a small fishing village in Panama, Selina is growing fast, with 13 locations — islands and beaches, tropical jungles and urban city centers.

Stand-Out Space: The Medellin, Columbia property has a meditation room, a vegetable garden and suspended “chill nets.”

Point of Difference: A focus on wellness, music, art and culture, plus surprises for coworkers: free desk massages, deskside mediation and sessions in workplace mindfulness.

Photo courtesy of The 1961

The 1961, a coworking space in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

The Company: Loop

The Concept: Like an Airbnb for coworking, Loop has partnered with hip spaces around the globe; a $30-a-month-membership gives you one day of free access to each space in Loop’s network each month. If you want to work more than that, you can buy a day pass.

Where: More than 42 countries with over 160 locations ranging from Rabat, Morocco to Hanoi, Vietnam.

Stand-Out Space: Not far from the temples of Angkor Wat, the 1961 is a coworking concept with an art gallery, cafe and boutique that attracts artists, poets, musicians and writers from the local community.

Point of Difference: A cheap way to connect with locals and experience a wide range of coworking spaces while traveling.

Photo courtesy of Servcorp

Spectacular views from Servcorp’s coworking space in Sydney’s Barangaroo Tower One.

The Company: Servcorp

The Concept: Luxury flexible office-space company Servcorp is giving coworking a twist: It has paired up with In the Know Experiences (ITKE) to give members access to VIP experiences and events, like tickets to the Broadway show Hamilton, courtside seating at the U.S. Open or red-carpet passes to the American Music Awards in Los Angeles.

Where: There are 15 global coworking locations, from New York to Sydney.

Stand-Out Space: Sydney’s Barangaroo Tower One features original art by Zoe Young, a rising talent in the Sydney art scene and Archibald Prize finalist in 2014, as well as stunning city views.

Point of Difference: One-of-a-kind experiences give members tools to impress clients or see a place in a unique way. The partnership with ITKE also lets Servcorp members book customized corporate trips and travel itineraries.

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29Dec 2017

Inside United Airlines' secret, invite-only restaurant at Newark airport – CBS News


If you’re walking through Terminal C at Newark Liberty International Airport, you might have no idea that you’re passing right by one of the most sought-after restaurants in the New York area. Down a secret hallway, you’ll find a speakeasy that meets fine dining. It’s called Classified. Here your taste buds will delight – if you can score an invite.

The invite-only restaurant has just 36 seats and is steps from your gate, reports CBS News correspondent Kris Van Cleave. Its exclusive guest list boasts CEOs and celebrities like Madonna.

“It’s very much like New York. It’s secret, I actually had to take a little time to find it, the hostess was very discrete, so I felt very special,” United frequent flyer Brie Morrow said. She was one of the first invited to make a reservation. 

“I just had oysters, and I’m eating a very fresh salad with shrimp, so I appreciate being able to have a healthy meal with a nice glass of wine,” Morrow said. 

The menu and wine list rivals anything you’d see at a trendy New York City restaurant. A meal can easily set you back $100 a person – and that’s if you don’t order a $500+ bottle of wine.

James Beard Award-winning chef Nate Appleman is the vice president of culinary for OTG, the restaurant company that teamed with United Airlines to turn a mostly forgotten meeting room into Classified. We spoke with Appleman as he prepared a 42-ounce Tomahawk steak, one of their signature dishes.

“Most airports have prepackaged food that’s been cooked before and someone is reheating in a microwave,” Appleman said. “Here we are cooking from scratch, we are using great product, and you can’t find that anywhere.”

“We wanted to create a really unique space that’s kind of out of the way, little bit of speakeasy … but somewhere where you can just enjoy a great meal, listen to some nice music, have a delicious glass of wine, take it easy, get yourself away from everything else,” OTG CEO Rick Blatstein said.

“People don’t think of Newark airport as a spot for trendy dining,” Van Cleave said.

“They don’t, but they soon will,” said Rick Hoefling, United Airlines vice president of Newark operations. 

The airline looks at Classified as a way to “surprise and delight.” But who gets invited? “There’s not one perspective or one way we look at the invitation list. Right now that’s classified and it does remain a secret,” Hoefling said. 

“Was the idea to create one of the most elite restaurants in New York here in the Newark airport?” Van Cleave asked.

“We didn’t set out to make the most elite restaurant and the most difficult to get into, but it kind of worked out that way,” Blatstein said.

An email invitation is your ticket inside. For United flyers who haven’t gotten one yet, they can request an invitation, but United won’t say how long the waitlist is. 

© 2017 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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29Dec 2017

Writer's Blocks: The Risks & Rewards Of Week 17, And Dez Bryant's Future – DallasCowboys.com


FRISCO, Texas – The playoff implications might be gone, but the intrigue never really goes away.

I shouldn’t be shocked to learn that lesson at the tail end of my fifth season covering the Dallas Cowboys, but it still comes as a small surprise. Even with the playoffs ruled out of the conversation, there’s a never-ending dialogue around this team.

Take your pick between a dozen topics. We’re talking about coaching job security, we’re talking about Dez Bryant’s production, as well as his salary. We’re talking about who should play in this Week 17 finale against Philadelphia – and how much.

The conversation never truly ends – which I suppose I should’ve known. So, as we head into this final game of the season, I’m going to do my best to touch on all of it.

1.   I’ve said this numerous times this week across a variety of platforms, so I’m sorry if I’m being repetitive. But I just don’t understand the benefit of throwing the Cowboys’ starters out there this weekend at Lincoln Financial Field.

Sure, the Cowboys can attain a winning season with a win. They can end the year on a high note and feel better about themselves heading into the offseason. They are, after all, professional football players whose job is to play football – regardless of the circumstance.

It’s an admirable sentiment, but I worry that it’s a bit misguided. The reality of the situation is that the Cowboys are at the end of a six-month grind, which began two weeks before everyone else in the middle of July. Everyone on the roster is battling various injuries, and the outcome of game will determine nothing about their playoff hopes.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has said several times this week that players who aren’t healthy enough to play likely won’t. For instance, Tyron Smith will likely sit out, given the numerous injuries he’s fought through this year.

I’m sorry if I’m a worrywart, but I can’t get behind the idea of playing Dak Prescott without Tyron Smith in a game that has no playoff implications. We’ve seen what can happen to Dak in a game without his left tackle, and it isn’t pretty.

So if you’re going to spare your quarterback, why not take a look around the rest of the roster? Sean Lee is the Cowboys’ best defender, and injuries have been a big issue for him in 2017. Why subject him to further risk? Something similar can be said for DeMarcus Lawrence, who has dealt with back injuries the past two seasons.

How about La’el Collins, who has battled through back problems this year? Or Dez Bryant, who claimed just this week that he’s been dealing with a knee injury.

Every guy I just named is a valuable asset for this organization heading into 2018. And it’s not like we’re talking about the preseason, when the upcoming season is a full calendar year away. By Dec. 31, we’re just five months removed from OTAs and seven months removed from training camp.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that a major injury on Sunday afternoon could severely alter your roster for 2018. That more than anything else is where my mind is in Week 17.

2.   Like I said earlier, I know these are professional football players. There’s no doubt in my mind that these guys want to play on Sunday. Given how competitive they are, I’m sure they want to wash the taste of last week’s loss to Seattle out of their mouths.

I respect that fact, but I’m not going to let it affect my game plan for the coming year – assuming I’m the one making the decisions, that is. Which I realize I am not.

If the Cowboys play this game and win, then great. They feel better about themselves, they end on a high note and they go into the offseason. I’m not buying that the result allows them to build some sort of momentum in three months, when they get back together for the offseason program. If anything it’s a footnote at the end of a bizarre year.

The risks outweigh the rewards by a long shot, and if it’s up to me, I’m just fine protecting these guys from themselves.

3.   What’s the flipside of this? Well, a chance to see something from your younger players.

Garrett has said at times this week that the Cowboys have already played a lot of their younger players this season, and that’s true – but there’s so much more that could be done.

The obvious example is Cooper Rush, who has been an afterthought since the end of his fantastic preseason. The rookie quarterback was a game day inactive for the first half of 2017, but he has been Dak Prescott’s backup since October, when Kellen Moore was demoted to the practice squad.

Personally, I’d love to get a longer look at Rush in a regular season game – regardless of who’s playing and who’s sitting. There’s a lot of reasons to feel optimistic about the guy, but there’s no telling how much a full game could do for him as he heads into his second season.

The same could be said for Ryan Switzer and Noah Brown. Both draft picks have carved out niches for themselves, but it’d be fair to call their roles limited. Switzer has been the Cowboys’ primary kick and punt returner all season, but he has played just 65 offensive snaps. Brown’s abilities as a blocker have gotten him onto the field a fair amount, but he has still taken just 13 percent of the offensive snaps – managing four catches for 33 yards in the process.

I’d be fascinated to see what both guys could do with 60 or 70 snaps of offensive duty, as it’d allow them to incorporate into things even more than they already have. Not to mention, Bryant was limited by a knee injury all week, and Cole Beasley has been laid low with an illness.

Those two veterans have proven plenty about what they can bring to the table. I’d love to see what other kind of talent is on hand. And that goes for plenty of other positions. Blake Jarwin, Lewis Neal, Daniel Ross and Kavon Frazier all come to mind.

It seems like there’s a lot more to gain for these young players than the vets.

4.   Speaking of Dez, the Cowboys’ All-Pro receiver sparked plenty of this week’s discussion himself – both with his play on Sunday and his comments on Wednesday.

It’s unusual for Bryant to talk on a Wednesday, but that speaks to the nature of the criticism that has surrounded him since that Seattle loss, when he lost a fumble and bobbled an eventual interception.

Bryant is an easy scapegoat for a team that hasn’t lived up to expectations this year. He hasn’t had a 100-yard game. He hasn’t been on the same page as his quarterback. He’s dropped what feels like a dozen catchable passes over the course of the year. And on top of all of that, he’s one of this team’s highest-paid players. It’s easy and understandable to lay the Cowboys’ woes at his feet.

I’m not going to defend Dez too much, because it’s inarguable that he’s had a bad season. He has struggled for one reason or another, and his salary makes that even harder to ignore.

And yet, despite that, I’m not convinced the Cowboys should make any drastic decisions regarding their star wide out.

It’s a long offseason, so it’s a situation that bears monitoring. But there’s far more that goes into cutting Dez Bryant than whether or not he has been disappointing. You’re talking about a guy that’s set to make roughly $13 million next year, with a cap hit of roughly $17 million. If you release him, you could theoretically save $8.5 million – but he also hits your salary cap for $8 million of dead money.

Now, let’s say you weigh your options and still decide to part ways with Dez. You can take those savings and try to spend them on a free agent wide receiver – which hardly seems like it makes sense. If you’re going to overspend on an older receiver with no guarantee that he produces, I’d rather keep the guy who’s intimately familiar with the organization and won’t further complicate the salary cap.

5.   Then, there’s the rookie route. You could obviously turn toward the NFL draft to replace a seminal talent like Dez. There’s no shortage of rookie receivers who have hit the ground running in recent seasons.

My problem with that is, if you opt to release Dez, you’re putting a ton of strain on this draft to be a hit. Without an established veteran, there’s very little margin for error – this rookie receiver must be a playmaker, from the get.

Not only is it a gamble that said player will pan out, but it’s also not a guarantee that he’ll be ready to carry the receiver corps from Day 1. If you could promise me the Cowboys were about to find their Odell Beckham Jr. in the middle of the first round, this strategy would make a ton of sense.

The more realistic scenario involves the Cowboys finding a Nelson Agholor, a Josh Doctson or a Will Fuller – that is to say, a talented player who isn’t necessarily ready to take over the league from the beginning.

It makes a ton of sense to add to the talent at wide receiver, and I’d be surprised if the Cowboys don’t ultimately draft one. But you’re making life harder on yourself if you’re trying to do that without Dez Bryant as a bit of a safety net.
 

6.   The obvious answer is to get Dez to take a pay cut. He’s making far more than his production suggests he should, and it could clear up a lot of issues if he simply settled for less.

But that’s not how this business works. Dez alluded to that on Wednesday when he said he had no intention of agreeing to a reduced salary. And honestly, he shouldn’t – not in a league where players aren’t given much in the way of guarantees, and any snap can be your last.

Anything is possible, and maybe there’s a compromise here that can satisfy all parties. But if not, I think Dez has the better leverage here. For all of his faults, I think the Cowboys are a better team with Dez Bryant on the roster. I also think trying to remove him from the roster puts an undue strain on their offseason, whether that’s because of salary cap money or draft resources.

I think the smart play is to grin and bear it, prepare for the future and see what happens. If 2019 brings about the same questions, you can answer them then. 

The kneejerk reaction often doesn’t work out for the best. Read

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29Dec 2017

New Year's Travel Resolutions For 2018 – Forbes



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Each year, people around the world face the December 31st countdown with a sense of hope. Travel enthusiasts are no different. As they watch the ball drop, leaving yet another year in the dust, they will often create the bucket list of exotic destinations, checking off yet another country en route to that elusive triple digit bragging right, or perhaps resolving themselves to the simple wish of traveling more frequently.

Travelers wait in line at a Frontier Airlines Inc. check-in counter at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Here are some suggested travel resolutions for 2018

  1. Join TSA pre√ – after an online application and an in-person background check, you’re good to go. This program offers expedited screening for passengers on domestic flights (and some international flights). Resolve to do this in the new year, and you can look forward to bypassing the need to remove your shoes, laptop, liquids, etc., reducing your security line wait time to five minutes or less. For more information, click here.
  2. Get rid of the term “staycation.” – Not only are such words annoying (the technical term for this type of hybrid word is portmanteau, as in cosplay, emoticon, and ginormous) but there is so much to learn from experiencing the world outside your familiar. Leave the virtual devices at home, and dive into the realistic sensations to transport you to another place. Take advantage of the new tax incentives (double-sized standard deductions), and double down on a trip with the family to a fun-filled destination. After all, you’re entitled.

    A family plays on the beach on Phuket island, southern Thailand. Photographer: Udo Weitz/Bloomberg News

  3. See America first – This applies to Americans as well as those living in other countries. The American landscape is eclectic, with travel experiences that can take you from the depth of caverns, such as the Tears of the Turtle Cave in Montana to the height of majestic mountains such as Denali (also known as Mount McKinley). There are huge, bustling cities and quaint small towns, open fields and dense forests, wildlife and wild nightlife, all within close proximity. In fact, the National Park Service has a multitude of opportunities for adventurers, and several fee-free days in 2018 as well:

January 15 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day

April 21 – First Day of National Park Week

September 22 – National Public Lands Day

November 11 – Veterans Day

A view of Denali, formerly known as Mt. McKinley in Denali National Park, Alaska. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

  1. Start that diet, but for another reason – Nearly every 2017 New Year’s resolution top ten list featured losing weight in the number one spot, and 2018 is not likely going to see a change However, travelers have one more reason to shedding those winter pounds, and that actually goes back to the economy. The width of airline seats range from as little as 15.9 inches on the American Airlines Airbus to 25 inches on Allegiant from Boeing (yet the overall average is closer to 17 inches). Despite major corporations getting huge tax breaks, there is no indication that airline seats are going to see a width upgrade, so travelers should plan to slim down as they make travel plans.

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Each year, people around the world face the December 31st countdown with a sense of hope. Travel enthusiasts are no different. As they watch the ball drop, leaving yet another year in the dust, they will often create the bucket list of exotic destinations, checking off yet another country en route to that elusive triple digit bragging right, or perhaps resolving themselves to the simple wish of traveling more frequently.

Travelers wait in line at a Frontier Airlines Inc. check-in counter at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Here are some suggested travel resolutions for 2018

  1. Join TSA pre√ – after an online application and an in-person background check, you’re good to go. This program offers expedited screening for passengers on domestic flights (and some international flights). Resolve to do this in the new year, and you can look forward to bypassing the need to remove your shoes, laptop, liquids, etc., reducing your security line wait time to five minutes or less. For more information, click here.
  2. Get rid of the term “staycation.” – Not only are such words annoying (the technical term for this type of hybrid word is portmanteau, as in cosplay, emoticon, and ginormous) but there is so much to learn from experiencing the world outside your familiar. Leave the virtual devices at home, and dive into the realistic sensations to transport you to another place. Take advantage of the new tax incentives (double-sized standard deductions), and double down on a trip with the family to a fun-filled destination. After all, you’re entitled.

    A family plays on the beach on Phuket island, southern Thailand. Photographer: Udo Weitz/Bloomberg News

  3. See America first – This applies to Americans as well as those living in other countries. The American landscape is eclectic, with travel experiences that can take you from the depth of caverns, such as the Tears of the Turtle Cave in Montana to the height of majestic mountains such as Denali (also known as Mount McKinley). There are huge, bustling cities and quaint small towns, open fields and dense forests, wildlife and wild nightlife, all within close proximity. In fact, the National Park Service has a multitude of opportunities for adventurers, and several fee-free days in 2018 as well:

January 15 – Martin Luther King Jr. Day

April 21 – First Day of National Park Week

September 22 – National Public Lands Day

November 11 – Veterans Day

A view of Denali, formerly known as Mt. McKinley in Denali National Park, Alaska. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

  1. Start that diet, but for another reason – Nearly every 2017 New Year’s resolution top ten list featured losing weight in the number one spot, and 2018 is not likely going to see a change However, travelers have one more reason to shedding those winter pounds, and that actually goes back to the economy. The width of airline seats range from as little as 15.9 inches on the American Airlines Airbus to 25 inches on Allegiant from Boeing (yet the overall average is closer to 17 inches). Despite major corporations getting huge tax breaks, there is no indication that airline seats are going to see a width upgrade, so travelers should plan to slim down as they make travel plans.

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29Dec 2017

Jason's Deli warns customers of possible credit card breach – San … – mySanAntonio.com



Jason’s Deli is advising customers to monitor credit card and bank accounts closely for suspicious activity following a possible credit card breach.

Jason’s Deli is advising customers to monitor credit card and bank accounts closely for suspicious activity following a possible credit card breach.

The restaurant, which began in Beaumont and now has 266 locations in 28 states, was notified Dec. 22 by their payment processors that a large quantity of MasterCard security information had been made available for sale on the “dark web,” the company said on its website.

Any questionable charges should be reported to your financial institution, as well as Jason’s Deli at 409-838-1976 or by emailing Customer.Service@JasonsDeli.com.

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29Dec 2017

Tropic Air unveils TropicMiles frequent flyer program – Breaking Belize News (blog)


Posted: Friday, December 15, 2017. 3:17 p.m. CST.

By BBN Staff: Tropic Air has unveiled its new frequent flyer program, TropicMiles, which will officially launch on January 1, 2018.

The loyalty program will reward customers for flying with Tropic Air, and provide unique benefits for being a member.Once registered and enrolled, members can redeem their miles for seats every day.

Members earn miles for every dollar spent on Tropic Air flights, and miles won’t expire as long as there is earning activity within a 12-month time period.

The number of miles earned is based on the fare and fare category purchased, and the same is true for redeeming miles. In addition, members that reach certain annual thresholds will be elevated to TropicMiles Gold status, which will entitle them to additional benefits, like bonus miles for each flight.

“We are always looking for more ways to engage our customers and make their journeys with us more rewarding,” John E. Greif, President of Tropic Air said. “The TropicMiles program highlights our commitment to constantly grow the benefits of flying with us.”

Tropic Air CEO, Steven Schulte said: “The feedback from our test customers on this new program has been fantastic. The availability of a Frequent Flyer program for those that travel within Belize has been the number one request by our customers. Today, we are pleased to give it to them.”

Customers wishing to become a TropicMiles member, or wanting to learn more about the program can do so by visiting http://miles.tropicair.com

© 2017, BreakingBelizeNews.com. This article is the copyrighted property of Breaking Belize News. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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28Dec 2017

This is one of the most recommended rewards credit cards — here's why – Business Insider


The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you’ll like. Business Insider may receive a commission from The Points Guy Affiliate Network.

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If you’ve done any research into the best credit card rewards and travel perks — even just a Google search — you’ve probably come across the Chase Sapphire Preferred. The card is a favorite among a ton of different experts, ranging from credit card rewards and personal finance writers to frequent travelers and road warriors. While it may be clear that carrying the card has benefits, it isn’t always apparent why people are so enthusiastic about it, or why it’s so universally considered a great card.

There are a few reasons, including travel and purchase protections and other perks, but from a rewards perspective, Chase’s cards are particularly valuable because of the type of rewards currency they earn: transferable points.

That means that you can transfer the points you earn through your everyday spending to certain partners; in this case, nine airline frequent flyer programs and four hotel loyalty programs. The airline partners include carriers in all three of the major airline alliances, which effectively means that you can book frequent flyer tickets — also known as “award flights” — on most airlines.

The value of the points, combined with the fact that the card earns 2x points on all dining and travel purchases, plus the 50,000 bonus points you’ll earn after opening an account and spending $4,000 within the first three months, all mean that you can be on your way to traveling with your points before you know it.

Transferable points can save you a ton on your flights

In many cases, it can be better to book flights through an airline’s frequent flyer program instead of, say, exchanging points for cash back and using that money to buy plane tickets, or exchanging your points for a statement credit to “erase” travel purchases.

Cash prices for flights are extremely variable, changing all the time thanks to complicated pricing algorithms designed by the airlines. When you exchange points for cash or as a statement credit, generally the best return you can get is one cent for each point applied towards the price of the ticket when you booked it.

However, frequent flyer tickets are different

In many cases, award ticket pricing is different, with the disclaimer that each airline’s system varies significantly. For this example, I’m going to focus on United Airlines — a partner of Chase’s Ultimate Rewards program — and the way that its MileagePlus frequent flyer program works.

Regardless of what happens to the cash price of a United ticket, an award ticket will cost one of two possible amounts: a “saver” level price in miles, and a “standard” price. You can look at United’s interactive awards chart to find the saver and standard prices between any two destinations.

United Airlines Award ChartA screenshot from United’s interactive award chart tool.United Airlines

Let’s say you wanted to travel round-trip from Chicago to Munich, Germany. That ticket could cost more than $1,200 depending on which month you travel. If you exchanged your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for cash to purchase the ticket, or if wanted to use fixed-value points worth one cent each — such as miles you can earn with the Capital One Venture card — you would need 120,000 points to cover the whole trip.

However, if you transferred your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United, you could book the same flight for as little as half as many points. United’s award chart shows that a saver ticket from the mainland US to anywhere in Europe only costs 30,000 MileagePlus miles each way, or 60,000 total for a round-trip. That saves you a ton of points, or means you can afford the trip sooner.

The difference is even starker if you want to fly in business or first class, something that might be completely unattainable with cash, but doable with points. To use the same United Airlines example between Chicago and Munich, a business class ticket on this route starts at around $4,600 round-trip. That would cost 460,000 fixed-value points, or points exchanged for cash back, if you wanted to use them to “erase” the purchase from your statement.

However, the United award chart shows that business class saver tickets only cost 60,000 each way, or 120,000 round-trip for the same exact flight, a quarter of how many miles or points you would have needed with cash back or a statement credit.

If transferring points doesn’t get you the best deal, Chase Ultimate Rewards offers another great way to use your points for travel.

The catch is that most airlines only make a few saver-level tickets available for each flight — and they make them available at various points before traveling — so you may not be able to find saver seats right away. Also, it’s possible there will be a time when the cash price of a coach ticket in the above example is less than $600.

In that case, transferring your points to United and getting a saver-level round-trip for 60,000 miles is actually not the best deal. Fortunately, Chase gives you another great option to redeem points for travel in those cases.

Chase operates a travel booking service as part of its Ultimate Rewards website. If you use that service — either online or by phone — to purchase airline tickets or make hotel reservations, you get a 25% bonus in value. In other terms, instead of each point being worth one cent, they’re worth 1.25 cents. That means that if you were looking at a $600 flight from Chicago to Munich, you would only need 48,000 Chase points, fewer than you would need for a saver ticket if you were to transfer the points to United.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 50,000 bonus points if you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of opening your account. That’s worth $500 as cash back, $625 for travel booked directly through Chase, or potentially even more if you transfer your points to an airline or hotel partner.

The Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with a ton of other benefits, too.

While many credit card and travel experts value the Chase Sapphire Preferred for its rewards, it also comes with some extremely valuable benefits. 

Trip delay protection covers you for expenses if you’re delayed either for 12 hours or overnight while traveling. Each covered person on the trip can be reimbursed for up to $500 a day in reasonable expenses, including food, toiletries, a change of clothing, and hotel accommodations. This can be extremely useful when you’re on the road.

The card also offers a primary auto rental collision damage waiver, or free loss and damage coverage when you use the card to pay for a rental car. Just decline the collision/damage/loss coverage offered by the rental agency.

With additional features including trip cancellation/interruption insurance, various purchase protections, extended warranty coverage, and even luggage delay insurance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred offers an incredible level of coverage considering its $95 annual fee (which is waived for the first 12 months), which makes it a favorite for shoppers and travelers everywhere.

Click here to learn more about the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

If you want to see more from Insider Picks, we’re collecting emails for an upcoming newsletter. You’ll be the first to hear about the stuff we cover. Click here to sign up .

Disclosure: This post is brought to you by Business Insider’s Insider Picks team. We aim to highlight products and services you might find interesting, and if you buy them, we get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our commerce partners. We frequently receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising sales team. We welcome your feedback.

Have something you think we should know about? Email us at insiderpicks@businessinsider.com.

Read the original article on Insider Picks. Copyright 2017. Follow Insider Picks on Twitter.

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27Dec 2017

Chrissy Teigen's Travel Nightmare 'Happens More Often Than People Think' – New York Times


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The model Chrissy Teigen was one of more than 200 passengers on an All Nippon Airways flight that left Los Angeles at 11:36 Tuesday morning and arrived (safely!) at 7:33 p.m. — in Los Angeles.

The Tokyo-bound flight, NH175, was interrupted on behalf of a single mixed-up passenger, who had boarded the incorrect flight.

“As part of the airline’s security procedure, the pilot in command decided to return to the originating airport, where the passenger was disembarked,” the airline said in a statement.

It may seem outrageous, but it is surprisingly common for planes to return to their point of origin midway through a flight, analysts said.

“It happens more often than people think,” said Ian Petchenik, a spokesman for the global flight-tracking service Flightradar.

All Nippon Airways planes at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. The airline said that it was investigating how a mistaken passenger had made it onto Tuesday’s flight.CreditToru Hanai/Reuters

In the last 24 hours, Flightradar found that 10 flights (of about 150,000) had returned to their origin, for reasons including mechanical issues, weather, a disabled aircraft at the destination airport and, of course, a confused passenger.

ABC reported that the man in question was one of two brothers who had planned to fly to Japan, and that he had booked a flight with United. All Nippon Airways said that it was working to figure out how the mistaken passenger had made it onto the plane and apologized to the others on board.

Ms. Teigen, who commands a Twitter following of more than nine million thanks partly to her irreverent sense of humor, narrated the ordeal she experienced along with her husband, the R&B singer John Legend, and hundreds of other passengers.

Ms. Teigen said that she was not as upset by the decision to turn around as might be expected. But she did raise some obvious points: “Why did we all get punished for this one person’s mistake? Why not just land in Tokyo and send the other person back? How is this the better idea, you ask? We all have the same questions.”

Bad weather and mechanical and medical problems are the main reasons that planes turn around. Mr. Petchenik said that airlines were increasingly citing unruly passengers to justify flights being diverted as well. But he did not recall another instance in which a passenger had boarded the wrong plane and was not discovered until after takeoff.

Asked whether he had any other thoughts on the matter, Mr. Petchenik paused a moment.

“No — just that you know, poor guy,” he said. “And poor however many other people there were on the flight. But they’re on their way now, so that’s good.”

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27Dec 2017

City Hall: County employees who use their own credit card have some explaining to do – Lincoln Journal Star


John Jorgensen was not having a wonderful day.

It was a raining, pouring, when Jorgensen’s iPad slipped out of its magnetic cover, fell to the pavement — he heard it crack — and slid under his car in the County-City Building parking lot.

Jorgensen, a deputy public defender, put his file folders into the car and got down on the ground to retrieve the iPad, which worked, though the glass was broken.

He needs the device for work, so he taped the screen as best he could and carried on, Jorgensen told the Lancaster County Board at a recent meeting.

Jorgensen had to explain to the board why he wanted reimbursed for buying glass for the iPad with his personal credit card.

So he came — with his boss, Public Defender Joe Nigro — to tell the story, the long story, about how he saved the county money, through his own ingenuity, using his own credit card.

Jorgensen put off ordering any glass through regular channels because it would take forever —  days, if not weeks.

The broken glass “was more of an annoyance than a hindrance,” and Jorgensen said he kind of enjoyed the irony. After all, he was the IT guy for the public defender’s office and he was using a tablet with cracked glass.

But one day Jorgensen cut his hand on the screen. So he checked on costs to replace it. He got a $150 estimate at one place; $100 at the next. Jorgensen had the glass replaced for about $50 at a local game store, then sought reimbursement through the county.

For several weeks the County Board has been hearing similar stories, though most aren’t as lengthy nor as detailed as the poker-faced Jorgensen’s presentation.

The board is taking a closer look at expense claims after County Treasurer Andy Stebbing’s expense claim problems came to light, said Todd Wiltgen, board chairman.

Commissioners also found the clerk’s office doesn’t have time to adequately review the 3,100 claims submitted each month, that it costs about $20 to process each claim, that the county is reimbursing for sales taxes paid when people use their own credit cards, and that the county has no policy covering people using their own credit cards for expense claims.

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There is potential abuse when an employee uses a personal credit card. The employee could purchase something, request reimbursement from the county, return the item and get a refund. The county would have no way of knowing that, Wiltgen said.

Some department heads find the new reporting requirements frustrating, where every purchase made using a personal credit card, whether it’s $4 for office supplies or $100 for cookies and balloons for a reception, must be justified before the County Board.

After all, they say, elected officials and other department heads are already supposed to be reviewing and approving these purchases.

Eventually, the county will implement a purchase card system, where employees will be able to purchase items using what’s known as a P-Card.

The cards can be programmed so certain things cannot be purchased, such as liquor and cigarettes. 

With the P-Card, the county would cut one check to the credit card company instead of making dozens of payments a month to employees, and the county would get a rebate on purchases, Wiltgen said. The county clerk will not have the work of processing all those claims, but the county will still have to have a system to audit the purchases, he said.

County officials are hoping the P-Card system also includes some flexibility for situations that don’t fit the rules.

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