Current Events and Blog

25Sep 2018

Shoppers Love Rewards Credit Cards. Retailers Hate Them. – Wall Street Journal


Target Corp. is one of the merchants pushing for the right to reject some rewards credit cards.


Photo:

LM Otero/Associated Press

Consumers have become addicted to credit cards with generous rewards programs. Retailers are trying to cut them off.

Large merchants including

Amazon.com
Inc.,

Target
Corp.

and

Home Depot
Inc.

are pushing for the right to reject some rewards credit cards, which typically carry higher fees for merchants. They are likely to opt out of a roughly $6.2 billion settlement

Visa
Inc.,


V -0.63%

Mastercard
Inc.


MA -0.25%

and several large banks recently reached with merchants and continue to make their case in court, according to people familiar with the matter.

The retailers are trying to end the card networks’ “honor all cards” rule, which requires merchants that accept Visa- or Mastercard-branded credit cards to take all of them. If merchants could pick and choose among Visa or Mastercard credit cards, those with the highest merchant fees—and most generous rewards—likely would be on the chopping block.

The stakes are high all around. Rewards credit cards are wildly popular among consumers for their perks like cash back, airfare and hotel stays. Some 92% of all U.S. credit-card purchase volume is currently charged on rewards credit cards, up from 86% in 2013 and 67% in 2008, according to estimates from Mercator Advisory Group Inc., a payments research and consulting firm.

Related

  • Airlines Cash In on Loyalty Credit Cards (Aug. 27)
  • Why the Credit-Card Boom May Have Just Peaked (May 16)

Yet merchants say rewards credit cards are cutting into their profits. When shoppers pay with Visa or Mastercard credit cards, merchants are charged interchange fees that are set by the card networks and funneled to the banks that issued those cards. These “swipe” fees are higher on rewards credit cards—sometimes around 3% of the cardholder’s purchase price.

Banks have come to rely heavily on the fees they earn from credit cards. All told, merchants paid credit-card issuers $43.4 billion in Visa and Mastercard credit-card interchange fees in 2017, up 68% from 2012, according to the Nilson Report.

Rewards credit cards and a broader consumer shift to cards from cash have fueled big gains for Visa and Mastercard in recent years. Shares of Visa and Mastercard have soared 31% and 46%, respectively, so far this year.

An upending of the fee structure could lessen the incentive for small banks to issue credit cards, said Brian Riley, director of credit advisory services at Mercator, cutting into the fees the card companies collect and leaving them with a customer base more heavily made up of big banks that have more clout to negotiate directly with merchants.

“The long-term risk to Mastercard and Visa still centers on interchange more than anything else,” said Mr. Riley. “In the next three years, there’s going to be a shakeout.”

Card networks say preventing merchants from picking and choosing among credit cards creates a frictionless experience for consumers. They argue their rule also creates an even playing field by making sure credit cards issued by banks large and small are accepted.

JPMorgan Chase’s Sapphire Reserve was so popular among consumers, the company temporarily ran out of metal used to manufacture the cards.

JPMorgan Chase’s Sapphire Reserve was so popular among consumers, the company temporarily ran out of metal used to manufacture the cards.


Photo:

/Associated Press

“If a merchant agrees to accept Mastercard, there cannot be any discrimination between different issuers’ cards or between different types of cards issued by one financial institution,” a Mastercard spokesman said.

“Visa believes consumers should always have a choice in how they pay, including being allowed to use their Visa credit card regardless of the card type or issuer. When consumer choice is limited, nobody wins,” said a Visa spokeswoman.

The lead lawyer for a group of merchants suing Visa and Mastercard to end the “honor all cards” rule said merchants aren’t trying to take away consumer choice. “What merchants want is the right to negotiate the terms of acceptance like they do with vendors in every other aspect of their business and partner with banks directly,” said Jeffrey Shinder, a managing partner at Constantine Cannon LLP.

Retailers have been battling for years to lower interchange fees and relax the rules governing credit-card agreements. A class-action lawsuit filed in 2005 alleged that the policies are anticompetitive.

While that lawsuit is closer to a resolution with the $6.2 billion settlement, Visa and Mastercard are likely to continue battling with Amazon and other retailers that previously filed separate lawsuits challenging the “honor all cards” rule.

A recent court ruling may bode well for the card companies. The Supreme Court earlier this year ruled in favor of an

American Express Co.

policy that prevents merchants that accept AmEx from offering customers discounts and other incentives to pay with cheaper credit cards.

Banks began rolling out more generous rewards credit cards about six years ago in an effort to challenge AmEx, which dominated the market for wealthy consumers.

Citigroup
Inc.

ramped up the rewards-card race in 2013 with its Prestige card.

JPMorgan Chase

& Co. rolled out its Sapphire Reserve card three years later, and

U.S. Bancorp

introduced the Altitude Reserve card in 2017.

The credit cards have annual fees of around $400 or higher, large sign-up bonuses in exchange for sizable spending in the first few months of usage, and travel benefits that range from airport lounge access to travel expense reimbursement. Sapphire Reserve was so popular, JPMorgan temporarily ran out of the metal used to manufacture the cards.

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As more cards were launched with higher swipe fees, they became harder for retailers to avoid. For years, some merchants had opted not to accept costlier AmEx cards, but rejecting Visa and Mastercard could result in a steep decline in sales. (Unlike Visa and Mastercard, AmEx both operates the card network and issues its cards. An AmEx spokesman says that on average the current cost of accepting AmEx is about the same as Visa and Mastercard.)

Visa and Mastercard premium credit cards charge some of the highest interchange fees, often north of 2.1% of the purchase amount, compared with roughly 1.2% to 1.7% on nonpremium credit cards.

Interchange fees are often comprised of a flat fee plus a percentage of the dollar amount of a cardholder’s purchase. The fees vary based on several factors, including merchant type and fraud rates, and they aren’t fixed. Large merchants try to negotiate those fees. Amazon, for example, has been working to negotiate lower interchange fees with Visa and Mastercard for years on the grounds that it has lower fraud rates than many online merchants, according to a person familiar with the matter.

For some merchants with lower margins, like grocers, the fees can have a big impact.

Kroger
Co.

unit Foods Co Supermarkets stopped accepting Visa credit cards in August after the two companies failed to reach an agreement on swipe fees.

Kroger Chief Information Officer Chris Hjelm said in an interview at the time that the growing use of rewards credit cards factored into the decision.

Write to AnnaMaria Andriotis at annamaria.andriotis@wsj.com

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24Sep 2018

Fortnite Season 6 release date, theme, Battle Pass cost and rewards explained – Eurogamer.net


Everything you need to know about Fortnite Season 6, including emotes and skins.

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24Sep 2018

Why Travel Is Important Today More Than Ever – Forbes


Sometimes our beautiful world seems like a scary place. The news that we are drip-fed through our devices often paints a biased and disproportionally terrifying picture. Technologically, we are more connected, but in many ways more isolated than ever.

Instead of using interconnectedness to seek out data that broadens our knowledge and understanding, too often we seek out information that reinforces our prejudices and fears. Politicians and others understand this trait well and weaponize it to manipulate and control our actions in ways that favor them.

Once ideas, even false ones, have taken hold, it is much more difficult to take in information that challenges those ideas. Challenging beliefs and preconceptions can be uncomfortable. For me, one of the best ways to overcome false information about the world is to travel.

Jonathan Look, Jr. at Rocket Festival in LaosSarah Wilson

Travel is the antidote to our fears.

There is a tendency to feel out of control and more fearful when we are unfamiliar with or we don’t understand something. When I hear people who don’t travel expressing fears about faraway places I like to ask them how they formed their opinion. Usually it is from outdated news stories, friend of friend anecdotes, or politically motivated tales concocted to promote an agenda.

It is rare to meet a fearful traveler and it is even more rare to meet a traveler that grows more fearful as they gain experience. There is something telling in that.

Sure, there are places in the world that are inadvisable to visit, disaster and war zones for example, but they are extremely small. Demonizing strangers is easy. It is harder to demonize friends. Traveling, getting to know the world and connecting with people helps reduce the risk that areas of conflict will spread.

Through traveling, you learn quickly that it is hard to categorize people and that the cartoonish impressions that others ascribe to foreigners are invariably inaccurate. In fact, when you see someone thoughtlessly demonizing any group they do not know well, it says much more about the accuser than the accused.

Through traveling, we learn that people of all cultures share basically the same hopes and aspirations that we have. Yes, outside appearances are often vastly different. We pray to different Gods or no Gods at all. We dress in different manners and have different traditions and languages. Some cultures are outgoing and others are more reserved and stoic; but all cultures love their children, they are proud of their heritage, they want to improve conditions for their families and want to leave a legacy of some sort behind.

Through traveling we realize that we don’t know everything, our preconceptions are challenged and you will see other, perhaps better, ways of accomplishing positive things.

By its very definition, “news” is something that is unusual or doesn’t happen very often. That is why, when we hide behind borders, the bad stories are the ones we hear and the good ones seem to go unreported. It is because the world seems focused on the bad things we not only need to go see for ourselves, we also need to be informal ambassadors for what is good in us and our country.

Instead of building walls and barriers to understanding, we should be searching for common ground, celebrating our differences and encouraging humankind to be more tolerant of each other. I am not so naive as to believe everyone is good, but no matter your political persuasion, those that benefit from spreading hate and division are often thwarted when we take the time to meet the world.

No, being traveled does not make you a better person, but neither does uninformed or irrational fear. Learning about this world gives us freedom over those who would use our fears to cynically and selfishly influence and control us. Becoming a better person involves being open to knowledge and willingness to change.

Jonathan Look, Jr. at the Ghost Festival (Pee Ta Khon) in Dansai, ThailandSarah Wilson

If you go to faraway places and get outside of the bubble, you will become more informed and that gives everyone the chance for growth. That is good for you and it is good for the planet.

Freedom is something we talk about, but don’t often exercise. Mindlessly waving flags and reciting pledges is not freedom. Acquiring the knowledge to critically examine and analyze your circumstances and taking action to act upon that knowledge is freedom.

Mark Twain said it best: ‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.’

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24Sep 2018

This Student Credit Card Has No Annual Fee and Gets You an Amazon Prime Discount. Here's Why It's Best of 2018 – Money Magazine


As much as you might be wary of sending your kid off to college with a credit card, the benefits of establishing a good credit history from a young age are worth the risk for responsible spenders. (And you’ve taught them to be financially responsible, right?) Student credit cards tend to have higher APRs and lower credit limits then typical cards. Some cards we reviewed, with help from MagnifyMoney, offer financial literacy or education programs to help students become more credit-savvy. To make sure that young adults don’t get over their head with debt they can’t afford to repay, the CARD Act requires all credit card applicants under the age of 21 — including for student credit cards — to provide proof of independent income or have a co-signer.

Winner: Deserve EDU Mastercard

Courtesy of Deserve

Why You Should Get It

Not only this card, but the entire Deserve card program is tailored specifically for students: There’s no annual fee, and you can get one even if you don’t yet have a credit history, which is a benefit other credit cards for college students don’t generally offer.

Deserve EDU does have a couple of restrictions that act as financial guardrails for credit card novices—namely, you have no ability to transfer a balance or get cash advances. Among credit cards for students, this is an important distinction that can help avoid drowning in debt. And there are other perks, too: This best credit card for college students include a simple, easy-to-use rewards program (no revolving categories to keep track of), and you can join the Amazon Prime Student program—a $59 value—for free. If you’re planning to travel during spring break, or take a gap year or a semester abroad, there are no foreign-transaction fees. This card also stands out in the category with its relatively lenient late fee of $25.

Drawbacks

If you know you have a short-term budget-buster like an upcoming big purchase, two Discover student credit cards — the Discover it Student Cash Back and Discover it Chrome — both offer an introductory 0% APR for six months. Discover also gives you an incentive to keep your grades up with an annual $20 statement credit available for up to five school years as long as your GPA stays at 3.0 or higher. However, Discover is less widely accepted outside the U.S., a consideration if you plan to study abroad.

While many student credit cards require you to be a student in the traditional sense of the word, there’s a Capital One student credit card that offers you more flexibility: The Capital One Journey Student Rewards Mastercard doesn’t require cardholders to be enrolled in college. The card offers 1% cash back and an extra 0.25% bonus cash back if you pay on time every month. Plus, there’s a potential credit-limit hike after five months.

Key terms

  • Rewards: 1% cash back
  • Annual Fee: $0
  • APR: 20.49%

MONEY worked with MagnifyMoney to narrow down the credit card options in each category to a set of finalists. MONEY’s editorial staff was solely responsible for choosing the winners.

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24Sep 2018

Eagles notes: Wendell Smallwood rewards Doug Pederson's trust – The Delaware County Daily Times


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The Delaware County Daily Times

Eagles notes: Wendell Smallwood rewards Doug Pederson's trust
The Delaware County Daily Times
PHILADELPHIA — There was humor and truth in Doug Pederson's explanation about what why he trusted Wendell Smallwood, who had made only a cameo at running back this season, to play so many snaps Sunday. “Darren Sproles and Jay Ajayi,” …



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24Sep 2018

Stress-free travel tips from a Sedona spiritualist – USA TODAY


Pete A. Sanders Jr. is a time traveler. Not in the H.G. Wells sense of the word, with time machines and Morlocks, but in a metaphysical sense.

Sanders is an expert on vortex energy and meditation. He’s the founder of a nonprofit organization called Free Soul-Mind Body Education in Sedona, Arizona, that teaches spiritual healing principles. 

So what’s he doing in this travel column? Well, it turns out Sanders has a valuable perspective on ordinary travel. His insights include strategies for reducing stress, avoiding confrontations and finding positive energy no matter where you go. 

Sanders did a four-year hitch as a Navy officer, which took him around the world, and he remained an avid traveler after leaving the service. And – surprise! – Sanders has an MIT degree, which keeps him grounded even when he’s at cruising altitude – or crossing a dimensional threshold.

“I’m all about getting away from the woo-woo,” he says, “and getting to the wow-wow.”

So, about time travel. Sanders says it’s not as dramatic as the sci-fi version from the movies. You can train yourself to travel forward and backward in time through meditation. Forward time travel is about seeing possible timelines – futures that may or may not eventually happen but that can guide your actions now. Backward time scanning can help you clear old hurts that are degrading your quality of life, even on vacation. No need to worry about running into Biff Tannen from Back to the Future.

More: Forest bathing: Walk in the woods to shed worldly woes

How to reduce stress when you travel

Sanders, who is the author of several books including “You Are Psychic!: The Free Soul Method,” spends a lot of time talking about stress. In travel, a seemingly never-ending cycle of hassles and delays can make travelers feel like hamsters on a wheel. 

“To counter that, I recommend rapid minimeditations that unwind you and help you lower your blood pressure,” Sanders says. 

He recommends taking seven breaths as you visualize unwinding a tightened spring. It takes less than minute. It’s also a matter of shifting your attitude – from beating up on yourself (“I should have!”) to enhancing your serenity with a sense of purpose and progress (I’m learning more about how to …”). A positive attitude can also help. 

On a recent trip to Switzerland, Sanders tried to check into his hotel only to find that it was out of rooms. He had a reservation number and now, jet-lagged and exhausted, he chose to stay positive and did his minimeditation techniques to stay calm. The hotel found another room at an even better property – for the same price. When everything else is out of control, he says, “you can still control your attitude.”

Moderation makes for a better trip

Sanders says travelers miss the full rest and recharge opportunity when they try to soothe their distress with overeating, overdrinking and rushing to see everything. Add all those together, plus the inevitable stress of travel, and you have a potentially combustible mix of draining effects.

“A vacation should be about more than expanding your waistline,” he says. “It should enhance your well-being.”

Sanders’ lectures, which he delivers weekly at the Los Abrigados Resort & Spa in Sedona, are filled with encouragements to consume responsibly. Take a hike, he says, but leave some time for quiet reflection when you arrive at the summit. Spend time with the ones you love instead of watching TV or shopping. These principles apply to virtually any vacation.

“Most people go on a trip without identifying ahead of time the essence of what would most recharge them – a quest for new insight and adventure or relief from stress and the healing of old hurts,” he says.

More: Why parks matter: Nature improves your brain

Look for positive energy

Among Sanders’ areas of expertise are the legendary energy vortexes in Sedona. Vortexes are believed to be energy centers that are conducive to healing and meditation. The red rocks, blue sky and lush, green vegetation in central Arizona make the vortexes all the more memorable. But Sanders says you can find vortexes everywhere when you travel and benefit from their positive energy. The roof garden of a high-rise hotel can be an energy vortex, for example. 

“Just take the elevator to the top floor,” he says.

Maybe Sanders has found a deeper truth for all travelers, not just those seeking spiritual enlightenment. In a sense, everyone has a choice between positivity and negativity. Focusing on the uplifting aspects of a trip, even in small ways, can lead to a more enlightened spiritual journey. 

Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, a plane is not a place of positive energy. “Too many people, too close together,” he says. But a glider, with just one or two people in it, can be a rich source of positive energy.

It’s unlikely you’ll get a chance to hit the “rewind” button for a vacation do-over, no matter how good your time-travel abilities. A few deep breaths, a little moderation and a lot of positive energy can ensure you’ll get your vacation right the first time.

More: ‘Blue Mind’: Why being near the water makes you happy

More travel tips from a spiritual guide

• Don’t be a control freak: Many travelers try to control every aspect of their trip, from beginning to end. That leads to frustration – and stress. Accept the positive and the negative. “Whatever is part of your vacation is part of your vacation,” Sanders says.

• Think of it as a journey: Travel, and, indeed life itself, is a journey. Some of the most useful tools for meditation are are labyrinths, which help you reflect spiritually as you walk, frequently leading to unexpected insights. Conscious, focused strolling is an essential part of a successful journey.

• Apply the insights when you come home: “For maximum benefit from your trip, think of how you can apply your new insights back at home,” he says. “Remember, you can be in control by choosing to learn from and build on what you are going through.”

Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate. Contact him at chris@elliott.org or visit elliott.org.

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23Sep 2018

Unlikely closer Trevor Hildenberger rewards Twins' 22nd-round faith – TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press


OAKLAND, Calif. — Deron Johnson ran nine drafts for the Twins, bookending those with first-rounders Aaron Hicks in 2008 and Alex Kirilloff in 2016.

Late-round finds included relievers Michael Tonkin (30th round in 2008) and A.J. Achter (46th round in 2010), but for sheer surprise and round value, it’s hard to top Trevor Hildenberger in 2014.

Taken in the 22nd round (650th overall) out of Cal Berkeley that year, Hildenberger might have signed for $1,500 or $2,000. Johnson, now a senior scouting adviser for the Twins, wasn’t sure of the exact figure.

“Whatever seniors get,” Johnson, based in nearby Sacramento, said before watching the Twins’ fall 7-6 to the A’s in 10 innings on Friday night. “He just wanted a chance to play, and we had a pretty good Cal run for a couple of years.”

Khris Davis capped a two-homer night with his majors-leading 45th homer. This one, off Matt Magill, sent the Twins to their 14th walk-off loss, including a franchise-record 10 by homer.

Only the 1964 Twins, with 15 walk-off losses, have suffered more in club history.

According to researcher Bill Arnold, the Twins have already eclipsed the 2010 St. Louis Cardinals (eight) for most losses by walk-off homer. With two road games remaining, they are two walk-off losses shy of the big-league record for a single season (’75 Astros, ’69 Giants, ’66 Red Sox, ’43 Browns, ’24 Phillies).

Hildenberger, the late-blooming sidewinder who warmed up but didn’t appear Friday, was in the big leagues three years after being drafted. This year, after the August trade that sent Fernando Rodney to the Oakland A’s, Hildenberger moved into the closer role.

Seven saves in nine chances later, one of the game’s unlikeliest success stories had Johnson smiling at the conviction shown by then area scout Elliott Strankman and national crosschecker Tim O’Neil.

“They really loved Hildy,” Johnson recalled. “They were pounding the table for him. They really liked his makeup. He comes down Laredo — sidearm. He was unique.”

Just six 2014 draftees taken and signed after Hildenberger have reached the majors. All are pitchers, five of them situational lefties, but none of them have come close to matching the contributions of the Twins’ find.

Not coincidentally, all four men most responsible for that pick have since received promotions. Strankman is now the West Coast scouting supervisor and O’Neil is now assistant scouting director under Sean Johnson, the former West Coast supervisor.

Then Cal pitching coach Mike Neu, now the Bears’ head coach, had only converted Hildenberger to his lower arm slot late in his college career. Hildy’s competitiveness, intelligence, durability and surprising velocity out of that lower slot all caused Neu to lobby hard for somebody — anybody — to take his honorable mention all-conference closer.

“Mike just said, ‘This guy is going to pitch in the big leagues,’ ” Johnson recalled. “Mike got a cup of coffee up there and he just liked the way (Hildenberger) went about it. He threw strikes. He came from a different angle. He was a bulldog.”

What about the hometown A’s? Wouldn’t they have had the most familiarity with the Cal product?

“I don’t remember seeing the A’s,” said Hildenberger, who went to high school in nearby San Jose. “I talked to their (area) scout once or twice, but I don’t remember them showing any real interest. Filling out a questionnaire or anything? I don’t think so.”

It was all too easy to write off Hildenberger. Despite a solid frame at 6-foot-3, he just didn’t throw very hard. A’s shortstop Marcus Semien, who was two years ahead of Hildenberger at Cal, remembers young Hildy throwing over the top with middling stuff and few opportunities.

“Probably 88 (mph); he’d touch 90,” Semien said. “He didn’t get many innings over the top. I’m glad he made the adjustment and the Cal coaches got him to try something different. He’s really taken off with it.”

Last July 30, in Hildenberger’s only career appearance at Rickey Henderson Field, he struck out five across two innings, including Semien. That was their only prior confrontation heading into this series.

“He struck me out on a changeup,” Semien said. “That righty-righty changeup is tough. It’s good for him to get some high-leverage innings. He’s a tough at-bat. Hopefully we don’t have to face him.”

Sometimes old friends have a hard time concentrating when facing each other in the majors. But Semien just remembers the sense of respect he felt for Hildenberger as he stood in against him.

“I was just really happy for him that he was getting to pitch in the big leagues, especially getting to play back here at home,” Semien said. “It’s just a great story.”

Deron Johnson couldn’t be more proud of the fearless reliever who simply wouldn’t let his many doubters define him.

“I’m very proud,” Johnson said. “He’s done well for himself up here. He’s doing a heck of a job. He’s reliable. He’s been in some tough situations as a closer, but he’s not afraid to take the ball.”

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23Sep 2018

Family Travel Five: Opportunities to explore – Honolulu Star-Advertiser


Travel provides opportunities to learn new skills and explore the world beyond our own boundaries. Here are five ideas to consider.



  • MIAMI HERALD / TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE

    An old NASA logo hangs on a wall at the Heroes & Legends exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.


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ADVERTISING



Travel provides opportunities to learn new skills and explore the world beyond our own boundaries. Here are five ideas to consider.

1. Kennedy Space Center
Cape Canaveral, Fla.

As NASA prepares for a 60th birthday celebration, it’s a good time to visit this multifaceted destination to learn about the past, present and future of interplanetary space travel. Further, with more than 40 rocket launches expected in the months ahead, you and your family could have an up-close view of the excitement. Spend a day or longer at the visitor complex to meet the Astronaut of the Day, tour launch pads and learn what it means to train for a mission in space. Check out the world’s largest collections of spacecraft, vehicles and artifacts and ponder what it might be like to travel into the unknown.

Contact: KennedySpaceCenter.com

2. Kartchner Caverns
Benson, Ariz.

In 1974, two University of Arizona students and amateur cavers spotted a narrow crack in the bottom of a sinkhole. They followed the unusually moist air and discovered more than two miles of unspoiled cave passages. The caverns, carved from limestone, were not opened to the public until 1999 and are now part of the Arizona State Park system. Visit this living or “wet” cave, and you will be in awe of the stalactites, stalagmites, cave bacon and small white helectites. Many of the resident minerals, you will learn, are not found in any other cave in the world. Among the cave’s highlights, a 22-foot-long “soda straw” stalactite, reported to be the second longest in the world.

Contact: AZstateparks.com/Parks/KACA/index.html

3. Historic Philadelphia

Meet “Betsy Ross,” American flag maker and weaver of a significant piece of our country’s history in her authentic 18th century home. Interactive, family-friendly programming, including kids audio tours, makes it possible for visitors to learn more about the Revolutionary War and her role as businesswoman, wife, mother and revolutionary. An evening tour of Independence Hall, as it might have appeared in 1776, offers families the chance to enjoy a Colonial-style dinner and to eavesdrop on the most pressing debate of the era.

Contact: HistoricPhiladelphia.org

4. Great Wolf Lodge
Grand Mound, Wash.

Guests of Great Wolf Lodge Grand Mound, best known for their indoor water park, can team up with Oliver the Raccoon at Oliver’s Mining Co. to explore a mysterious mine shaft and discover hidden gemstones. After learning about how a mine works, kids head to the sluice to uncover hidden gems in the pay dirt. Young explorers can take home their treasures in a keepsake collection bag, complete with a gemstone identification card, personalized labels and a special mining hat.

Contact: GreatWolf.com

5. Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
Collinsville, Ill.

During the Mississippian period (800-1400) as many as 20,000 people may have lived in what is now considered the largest pre-Columbian settlement north of the Mexican border. Located just across the Mississippi River and 15 minutes from what is now St. Louis, the historical center offers guided and self-guided tours and an interpretive center for children. Among the significant features is the 100-foot-high Monks Mound, considered the largest prehistoric earthwork in the Americas. A 5.4-mile nature and culture hike is also possible. A guide booklet, available in the museum shop, helps families understand the culture of the Mississippians, where archaeology has taken place, and the use of various plants for food, medicine, dyes and fibers, as they explore the more remote regions of the historic site.

Contact: CahokiaMounds.org

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23Sep 2018

Americans think 22 is the ideal age to get a credit card—but money experts disagree – CNBC


The right age to apply for your first credit card is whenever you can handle it responsibly. Many Americans think that age is 22. But according to a recent survey from financial website Bankrate, which polled 10 certified financial planners from different parts of the country, that’s actually not soon enough: 19 is a smarter age at which to start building your credit history.

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“I think 22 is a little late,” Dana Twight, a certified financial planner in Seattle, tells Bankrate. “I think you want to help your kids, or your independent kids, and support them in opening a card when they’re young enough to benefit from a parental safety net, if that’s possible.”

That’s because a credit score, which can range from 300 to 850, is an important measure of your financial health that signifies your trustworthiness to financial institutions. A good score can help determine how easy, or how expensive, it will be for you to rent an apartment or buy a home.

So, “the sooner you start building credit,” concludes Bankrate, “the better.”

If you’re under 18 and aren’t old enough to get your own card, you could, with permission, use someone else’s. This process is called credit card “piggybacking” and involves becoming an authorized user on someone else’s card: The primary cardholder agrees to add you as a secondary user and the card’s payment history then becomes part of your own credit report.

While this method is useful if want to gain experience using plastic, or if you lack enough credit history for a specific goal like buying a car, it’s not intended to rehabilitate poor credit.

Another option is to get a junior credit card, which is intended to teach young adults good credit habits by allowing them to use a card connected to an adult’s account. Though, much like a normal card, any missteps on the part of the junior holder are reflected on the adult’s account.

If you’re over 18, you can try starting with a secured card, which typically requires a deposit that matches the line of credit. That limits the risk for the card issuer, while helping the new cardholder learn to handle credit.

Here are some additional ways to go about getting your first card.

Whichever method you choose, opening an account can help you establish an official line of credit and begin building your credit history. Installment loans, such as student loans, are also considered a part of your credit history, which is why it’s important to pay them on time or to look into alternatives if you can’t.

Many millennials agree with the experts polled by Bankrate that it’s best to open a card at a younger age. Nearly two-thirds of respondents, or 63 percent, say it’s best to get a card before turning 21. That’s compared to only 37 percent of older generations who say the same.

Still, there are good reasons not to rush: Quentara Costa, a certified financial planner in North Andover, Massachusetts, warns she has “seen too many college kids with credit cards getting themselves into trouble,” Bankrate reports. So waiting until you’re 22 or older is “a safer bet.”

Whether you open a card at age 19, 22 or even later, it’s important to be attentive and careful. That means understanding how scoring works, paying bills in full and on time, keeping your utilization rate below 30 percent and monitoring your credit score.

“Opening your first credit card is an important step to building your credit history and helping you achieve your financial goals,” Todd Rosenthal, general manager of credit cards for PNC Bank, tells CNBC Make It. “There is no perfect age to starting this journey.”

Remember, though, he adds, “it’s a journey and not a sprint. The time is right when you are ready to commit to financial responsibility and well-being. In the end, using a credit card [and] establishing a good credit history are important tools to your financial lives.”

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22Sep 2018

Christine Blasey Ford Weighs the Risks and Rewards of Testifying – The Atlantic


Will she or won’t she?

The question has captivated much of official Washington as lawmakers await Christine Blasey Ford’s decision on testifying in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley offered Ford the chance to speak publicly about her allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her at a party some 35 years ago.

Late Friday night, after hours of tense negotiations with Ford’s lawyers, Grassley extended a deadline until 2:30 p.m. Saturday; by then, Kavanaugh’s accuser must decide whether she will testify on Monday and under what terms. Ford had earlier signaled her willingness to testify later next week, so long as senators, not outside counsel, ask the questions, and Kavanaugh speaks first; Grassley has said he wants Ford to appear at a hearing Wednesday.  

It’s not unusual, of course, for a private citizen to testify in a congressional hearing. But Ford’s hypothetical appearance has prompted discussion about the risks and rewards of a layperson—that is, someone unaccustomed to the public eye—willingly enduring the no-holds-barred atmosphere of a congressional hearing. The rules (or lack thereof) dictating a hearing, coupled with the spectacle-like nature of the event, make for one of the most high-pressure climates in Washington. All of which is only compounded by the fact that Ford would be testifying about something deeply personal and intimate.

“A lot of the  things she says seem very believable. But every single story has gaps in it—sometimes you win or lose based on how you handle those gaps,” Jennifer Loven, the managing director of Glover Park Group, told me.

Loven has prepped scores of clients for congressional hearings—from low-profile, private citizens to major CEOs—but said, ultimately, the risks will be weighed by the client alone. “It’s such a personal decision. Every woman who has a story to tell, assuming she’s credible and telling the truth, weighs just an incredible number of factors … Really only she can decide whether she has an obligation to herself, to society, before going before members of Congress.”

The decision to testify, however, is only a small part of the battle. It’s understandable that Ford’s lawyers would blanch at the thought of a Monday hearing. According to sources on both sides of the aisle with knowledge of the process, 48 hours is hardly enough time to ready a client for a congressional hearing. From hiring the right counsel to simply understanding how to dress, preparing for a hearing is an endurance test in itself, requiring many days, if not weeks, to accomplish.

Order one, according to these sources, is to hire the right team—but avoid the so-called process story. The less attention paid to who is helping prep your client, and how, the better. But because this is Washington, those details will likely leak. As such, those I interviewed said they advise clients not to hire folks who are known as partisan brawlers. “For [a hearing] so politically charged at its core, that could put you in a category of contrivance instead of authentic,” Loven said.

Politico reported on Thursday that, contra such advice, Ford has hired Ricki Seidman, who advised the Obama administration during Sonia Sotomayor’s confirmation, to help prep her. In this case, according to Juleanna Glover, a top political and corporate adviser at Ridgely Walsh, Ford should also consider hiring a well-known name from the other side. “If she wanted to be savvy and pick off a Republican, she’d go to Reg White at Wilmer Hale,” Glover said. (White helped prep Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for his recent testimony before Senate and House Judiciary members about the site’s sharing of user data during the 2016 presidential election.) She noted that Kavanaugh himself has latched on to this strategy in hiring Beth Wilkinson, a high-powered trial lawyer who represented Hillary Clinton’s top State Department staffers during the FBI probe of her private email server.

Another key element of preparation is familiarizing the client with the physical space of the committee room. “It sounds sort of dumb and obvious,” Loven said. But there are multiple factors that could overwhelm someone who’s never sat in on, or even watched, such a high-profile hearing. For one, there’s the flurry of photographers who crouch as close as six inches away from where the witness sits. And then there’s the power dynamic inherent in the room’s layout: Senators quite literally speak down to the witness from their dais, monitoring the witness’s answers closely with a timer. “Everything about it is intimidating,” Loven said. Accordingly, she and her colleagues will prep clients by setting up a faux hearing room, including a long dais where people act as certain members, a lower witness table, and a clock.

Next comes the game tape, so to speak. “They’ll show her clips of people who’ve done poorly, people who’ve done well,” one Washington congressional-investigations lawyer, who requested anonymity because of ongoing cases, told me. “Anita Hill will be mandatory viewing.”

Reviewing the tape is not just to judge past witnesses, though. It’s also to understand which senator will play what role—in other words, the lawyer said, “who will be the attack dogs, and who will be the supporters.”

“You have to know what political points each of them might be looking to score,” Loven echoed. “Sometimes it’s not as much a search for truth as it is a presentation [these senators are] making to members of the public. You have to acknowledge the larger political circus that’s going on.”

Perhaps the most crucial element of preparation, the sources said, is making sure their client knows the audience. “This is a situation where you’re on two really tricky stages at once,” Loven said, “and you need to survive both of them.”

First, a client must prepare for  the “inside game”: the senators themselves. Glover would advise “hard, smart, savvy inquisitors across the table” for at least three blocks of two to three hours of prep. “You’d subject them to what is, in essence, a murder board: asking them the most uncomfortable, disquieting, humiliating questions. You want to have that person become fully centered and understanding of all aspects of their emotions on these very personal matters.”

Loven predicted that senators will spend a lot of time grilling Ford on the timing of her allegations, in order to try and tease out a political motive. “They’ll want to know, if her story is so solid, why now? Why all of the sudden at the 11th hour? Because there’s a little bit about that that doesn’t make sense from a very distant perspective,” she said.

“She’ll also probably get questions about her life in between high school and [this past] summer, whether she’s working with outside groups, who else is supporting her,” the Washington lawyer said. “They’ll want to know about the decisions to delete her social-media accounts. Ultimately, your entire life is fair game in these kinds of proceedings.”

Yet the second stage—the public stage—may matter most of all. Ford’s task is to convince not just the Judiciary Committee of the veracity of her story, but also the nation. “She and her lawyers will have to figure out what the most important message is that they want to transmit over this multihour exhibition,” Glover said. “Because this is not focus-grouped at all: They have to decide what the best words are to explain her story.” And not just words, the Washington lawyer added; everything from posture to appearance—how little makeup, what color blouse—all factor into the public’s final impression of Ford.

Should Ford decide to testify, this is the preparation battle that lies ahead. Loven’s final word to the wise? “The first rule of these things,” she said, “is that there are no rules.”

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.

Elaina Plott is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was previously a staff writer at Washingtonian, and a Buckley Fellow at National Review.

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