Current Events and Blog

29Jul 2016

How This Woman Turned Her Passion For Wine and Travel Into A Career – Forbes

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How This Woman Turned Her Passion For Wine and Travel Into A Career
When Gretchen Thomas started working in the kitchens of restaurants in her native Kentucky at age 14, she had no idea it would lead to a career that would allow her to travel the world. “My mother just needed me to burn off some energy and have a job

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29Jul 2016

This Week In Credit Card News: DNC Emails Contain Card Numbers; Card Info Still Confusing Consumers – Forbes

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550 KTSA

This Week In Credit Card News: DNC Emails Contain Card Numbers; Card Info Still Confusing Consumers
WikiLeaks' DNC Email Trove Includes Social Security Numbers, Credit Card Info. WikiLeaks posted 19,252 searchable emails, including 8,034 attachments, from inside the Democratic National Committee. WikiLeaks says the emails are from the accounts of …
Credit card rates for Friday, July 29 –
Many Credit Cards Drop International Fees – Connecticut PostCT Post
Credit Card Fees Falling550 KTSA News (blog) -Atlanta Journal Constitution -Economic Times
all 11 news articles »

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29Jul 2016

Trump's strategy to distract from Democratic convention carries risks, rewards – WJLA

Following Donald Trump’s unusual mid-Democratic National Convention press conference Wednesday, two schools of thought quickly formed among political observers.

Liberals and conservative Trump critics saw his comments, particularly his call for Russia to hack and release Hillary Clinton’s personal emails, as disastrous and disqualifying. Some argued that the Republican nominee felt the need to act out because the media was so focused on the Democrats.

“Trump’s statement is impossible to defend on the merits,” wrote Dara Lind of Vox. “But it’s actually really easy to understand why he made it: Donald Trump hasn’t been in the news yet all week.”

However, others saw Trump’s actions as a strategic maneuver to derail coverage of the convention. They say he succeeded in hijacking the news cycle and drawing attention to voters’ concerns about Clinton’s email practices as secretary of state.

“By answering reporters’ questions about Russia and bringing up the Clinton email scandal on his own, Trump once again directed attention to one of Clinton’s greatest liabilities at precisely the moment she didn’t want it discussed,” said Byron York in the Washington Examiner.

Holding a press conference on the third day of the opposing party’s convention was one of several unusual moves Trump has made this week. In addition to conducting multiple national media interviews, the candidate has held rallies in key swing states, including Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Experts say candidates traditionally lay low during their opponent’s convention because they realize they will have difficulty getting their own message out. Clinton held few public events last week, allowing campaign aides and surrogates to challenge Republican criticisms in the media.

“It’s usually not the lead characters who are doing this sort of counter-punching,” said Tobe Berkovitz, a former political media consultant and a professor of advertising at Boston University.

“Trump is always his own front-man and he is continuing his splendid track record of breaking pretty much every political rule in the book,” Berkovitz said.

According to Michael Cornfield, associate professor at the George Washington University Graduate School of Public Management, this may be unusual behavior for a politician but it is typical for Trump at this point.

“Most of the political establishment must feel as though they’ve wandered into a screening of ‘The Dark Knight,’” he said. “Donald Trump’s strategy is the strategy of chaos. He’s the Joker.”

Robert Lehrman, a former speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore, said Trump may not have the staff and resources to leave the counter-messaging entirely to others, so taking on his Democratic critics directly may be his best option.

“You don’t want to leave the whole field to the other team,” said Lehrman, now an adjunct professor at American University.

“Trump’s campaign from the beginning rejects every campaign norm,” said David Niven, a former political speechwriter and a professor at the University of Cincinnati. “He rejects fundamentally that there’s ever a moment that he can’t be in the spotlight.”

Given the Democrats’ constant refrain about Trump’s recklessness, encouraging cyberattacks against his opponent may not be the best way to seize that spotlight.

“I think the downside is when the Democrats are presenting themselves as the sober and responsible choice, he is helping them make their point,” Niven said.

During the 75-minute question-and-answer session on Wednesday morning, which was carried live on cable networks, Trump made several statements that could have been newsworthy on their own. The Russia comments made immediate headlines, and they dominated media coverage throughout the afternoon.

According to Berkovitz, the media perception that this was an error on Trump’s part may be missing a broader point.

“I think it makes sense because he is inserting himself into the Democratic message machine,” he said. “Even though a lot of people think what he has done is detrimental to him, what he has done is made people talk about emails.”

Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary and her deletion of 30,000 emails her attorneys deemed to be personal is “part of what makes ‘Crooked Hillary’ crooked,” Berkovitz said of Trump’s nickname for his opponent. So even if the media is now talking about Trump’s relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, any discussion that involves the emails could be bad for Clinton.

“What it does is it keeps the conversation moving in a direction that Trump wants, even though many people perceive it’s backfiring on him,” he said. “But at least the topic is what he has chosen.”

Lehrman said that is a plausible rationale for Trump’s behavior.

“I think he might have said to himself, ‘Let me remind people of her emails,’” he said.

Cornfield also suggested Trump succeeded in dredging up a very real problem for Clinton.

“I think it was a masterstroke,” he said. “Does that mean that he will win more votes? I don’t know about that. But did he disrupt the news cycle? Did he disorient opponents? Yes, and that’s been his strategy all along.”

While Rush Limbaugh and others have suggested the Clinton campaign fell into Trump’s trap by responding to his words, Democrats had no real choice but to acknowledge them.

“At this point, he’s the nominee and as baffling as that may be to the Democrats, they have to make the direct comparison,” Niven said. “So every time they see a good contrast, they’re going to engage with him.”

Trump’s comments fed directly into the narrative Democrats have been building in Philadelphia, and at least one speaker, former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, revised his speech to address them.

Lehrman said Democrats may have overreacted, but a response was necessary.

“Even if you do it the wrong way, I think that the other side has to do something strong and immediate,” he said.

According to Cornfield, specific examples of Trump’s past behavior like the fraud allegations over Trump University or making his products overseas are more potent issues than dwelling on outrageous things he says.

“I just think reacting to his comments is counterproductive… They’re better off when they attack what he’s done than what he’s just said,” he said.

Throughout the campaign, Trump has demonstrated an ability to effortlessly commandeer the media’s attention. Despite the many controversies his words have spawned, he did defeat 16 Republicans in the primaries and some polls do show him beating Clinton now.

“He is sort of going with that classic, old-time PR strategy, which is as long as you spell my name right, there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” Berkovitz said.

Rivals have attempted to paint him as unqualified and lacking the temperament for the presidency for over a year, and indeed polling indicates most voters feel he does not have the right temperament. More than 40 percent still consistently support him, though.

“The quandary for the Democrats is, what’s going to be the kryptonite that finally crashes this guy?” Berkovitz said.

Trump’s apparent belief that all publicity is positive may have served him well in the primaries, according to Niven, but he is now facing a different electorate and a different opponent.

“His premise is to reject everything that’s ever been done before, and there’s some advantage in that,” he said. “You saw what it did to Jeb Bush for example.”

Facing a coordinated effort by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party to portray him as reckless and unprepared, that strategy could backfire.

“When you help the Democrats tell their story, attention is not good for Donald Trump,” Niven said. “That’s campaign 101. He understands brilliantly how to get attention, but I don’t know that he fully understands the danger of that attention running against a professional campaign.”

Based on his fear-driven acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention last week and his comments at the press conference Wednesday, Lehrman said Trump appears to still be appealing to his fans instead of expanding his base.

“It’s like he’s preaching to the converted.”

This could provide an opening for Clinton in her primetime acceptance speech Thursday.

“What Hillary has to do is pay attention to the people outside the hall,” Lehrman said. “Of course the people in the hall are going to jump up and down and cheer for you. That’s why they’re there.”

If Clinton can connect with viewers at home in the handful of swing states that will decide the election, she may succeed where Trump has so far failed.

A Gallup poll this week found that response to Trump’s convention speech was the lowest of any the company has ever tested. More than half of Americans said the convention overall made them less likely to vote for Trump, the highest percentage in the 15 times Gallup has asked the question.

“There’s a different audience now for his act,” Lehrman said, “and he hasn’t evolved at all for this new audience.”

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29Jul 2016

4 Simple Ways to Earn Miles And Get Free Money For Travel – Forbes

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4 Simple Ways to Earn Miles And Get Free Money For Travel
Low-cost flights, heavily discounted hotel rooms, extra spending cash; ask just about anyone if they'd like to travel on the cheap this summer and you'd be hard-pressed to hear a “no.” Yet about four in five U.S. adults are saying just that – and

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29Jul 2016

Airport plans frequent flyer parking perks – Standard Speaker

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PITTSTON TWP. — Customers who regularly fly out of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport soon could find it easier getting in and out of its parking garage and outdoor lot.

Rather than stopping to pay for parking, they’ll be able to use an airport-issued electronic card in an automated system at the exit gates.

The card will link electronically to the parker’s pre-established account and charge it for the amount of time parked, airport assistant director Michael W. Conner said Thursday.

Airport users will be able to subscribe to the electronic system online. Though it’s meant for frequent airport parkers, anyone can sign up.

“The customer has less to do than they do now, they don’t have to wait in lines anymore,” Conner said.

The bi-county airport board approved Thursday a previously negotiated eight-year extension as part of the deal that includes the automated system. SP Plus now may run the parking lot and garage through July 31, 2021. As part of the deal, SP Plus will install the automated system, estimated to cost $113,000, at its own expense.

“The airport will not incur any costs for the system while it provides just another customer perk,” Conner said.

— Borys Krawczeniuk

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28Jul 2016

23 Companies That Will Help You Travel The World For Free (And Maybe Even Pay You To Do It) – Forbes

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23 Companies That Will Help You Travel The World For Free (And Maybe Even Pay You To Do It)
If you're willing to do a little work while you're on vacation, these companies will help you get most — if not all — of your travel costs covered. Some will even pay you a stipend or a salary. It's a trend that is taking off, especially among young

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28Jul 2016

​Heading abroad? Here's a good reason to pack your credit card – CBS News

If you’re a frequent traveler and credit card user, there’s some good news: Many popular cards are dropping those pesky foreign transaction fees, according to a new report.

27Jul 2016

6 Great Rewards You Can Get For Giving Blood This Summer – Money Magazine

Free Amazon gift cards, theme park tickets, and more.

For the second time this month, the Red Cross has issued an emergency request for blood donations.

The Red Cross said this week it has fallen below a five-day supply of blood, the minimum it always wants on hand to cover the needs of everyday patients and emergency situations. So now’s the time to give blood, if you can. And if you need incentive to donate blood beyond simply doing what you can to help, the Red Cross is offering a few special summer promotions to provide a little more enticement. Here are some of the rewards available to blood donors:

$5 Amazon Gift Card

Between July 25 and August 31, the Red Cross will be thanking anyone who donates blood or platelets with a $5 Amazon gift card. Just head to your local Red Cross blood bank, donate, and you will get an Amazon voucher emailed to you 14 days later. (Don’t expect to pile up Amazon credits by donating multiple times; this is a one-time offer as you can only donate blood every 8 weeks.)

$10 Amazon Gift Card

Good news for the estimated 7% of the population with O Negative blood, which is considered the “universal” blood type as it can be safely transfused into almost any patient. “Your blood type is always in high demand,” the Red Cross says, because “when a patient shows up with minutes to live and there is no time to determine blood type, emergency personnel reach for your type O negative blood.” Because O Negative is so rare and in such high demand, the Red Cross is offering donors $10 Amazon gift cards from now until December 31, 2016 if you give blood three times. This offer applies to to any blood bank around the U.S.

Cedar Fair Park Tickets (Ohio only)

Calling all Ohio donors: For every blood donation made until the end of August 2016, you’ll get a free ticket to any U.S. Cedar Fair theme park. You can only donate at certain times and locations in Ohio, so make sure you check before you head out.

Donors can also enter their Grand Prize package to win a trip for four to Knott’s Berry Farm or Cedar Point, which includes hotel accommodation and two days worth of park tickets.

Baltimore Orioles Tickets (Maryland only)

For one day only, Baltimore-based donors will be treated to 2 ticket vouchers for select upcoming Orioles home games, plus a Red Cross T-shirt. To participate, make an appointment and show up at the correct time for the blood drive, which is taking place on Saturday, August 6, 2016, at the Marriott in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor at Camden Yards.

Free Haircuts (Men only)
Saving lives never looked so good, says the Red Cross. At select blood donation centers around the U.S., men will receive a free hair cut from Sports Clips for donating blood now throughout September. The voucher is only valid at certain locations, so make sure to check before you go.

Read Next: The Smarter Way to Give to Charity

…Good Karma

Finally, perhaps the best reward of all for donating blood is simply the feeling of chipping in and helping people in need. Maybe there’s a little good karma in it for you too. And what could be better than good karma? By donating blood you’ll be helping to close the gap on the 36,000 units of red blood cells that are needed in the U.S. every day. One person in America is in need every two seconds.

To schedule an appointment to donate, use the free Blood Donor App, visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).

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27Jul 2016

Air France Braced for Slump as Terror Spree Weighs on Travel – Bloomberg

Air France-KLM Group warned that political and economic uncertainties are weighing on travel demand, with the carrier especially worried about France’s standing as a tourist hotspot after a succession of terrorist attacks that have spanned Paris to the Riviera.

Europe’s largest airline said Wednesday there is “special concern about France as a destination” amid the Islamic State-inspired killings, with inbound flows on long-haul routes set to fall at least 10 percent this summer. Fuel savings that helped lift operating profit 77 percent in the second quarter are also about to be eaten up by a fare decline as passenger numbers slide.

“If the question is do we see a deteriorating environment, the answer is yes,” Chief Financial Officer Pierre-Francois Riolacci said in a phone briefing. “As the months have gone by we’ve seen a significant drop in demand for inbound travel to Europe, especially France. This pressure is happening in the context of capacity growth that is very high for the summer season.”

Demand for travel from countries including Japan and China is ebbing away as attacks including those that claimed 130 lives in the French capital in November and 84 in Nice this month make global headlines, the company said. In the latest outrage Tuesday, a priest was murdered in a village church. Sluggish growth in markets such as Brazil is also hurting passenger numbers, while Britain’s vote to quit the European Union may prove a further drag.

Incoming Chief Executive Officer Jean-Marc Janaillac said that even with its troubles he views France as “reasonably safe” compared with other countries around the globe, while adding that it is “up to the authorities” to reassure the public. Group travel from China is already down 50 percent, based on forward bookings, with demand from the U.S. also weak.

Air France-KLM said the benefits of cheaper fuel for 2016 as a whole — which it estimates at $1.8 billion — will be “more than offset” by a fare drop in coming quarters prompted by overcapacity. The company had previously suggested fuel savings would only be “significantly offset.”

Targets Retained

Oliver Sleath, an analyst at Barclays in London, said in a note that the gloomier outlook, which didn’t include specific earnings guidance, was no surprise given recent events, with Air France-KLM joining a chorus of airlines warning about demand shocks during the key summer season.

The jump in second-quarter operating profit to 317 million euros ($348 million) was also bigger than expected even after a 30 percent decline in fuel costs, especially since fare erosion led sales to slip 5.2 percent to 6.22 billion euros, and reflected better-than-expected trading and cost performance, Sleath said.

The company, which posted a first annual profit for four years in 2015, also kept its 2016 goals of a free cash flow between 600 million euros and 1 billion euros, a 1 percent unit-cost reduction, and a “significant” drop in net debt.

Air France-KLM shares traded 2.5 percent higher at 5.34 euros as of noon in Paris, where the company is based, paring their decline this year to 24 percent. British Airways parent IAG SA, which competes in many of the same markets as Air France-KLM and benefits from a lower cost base, rose as much as 5 percent and Deutsche Lufthansa AG, which last week predicted a decline in annual operating profit instead of a gain, rose as much as 2 percent.

Flybe Group Plc separately cautioned that “consumer uncertainty about Brexit, its economic impact and repeated terrorist incidents” is weighing on earnings, pushing the U.K. regional carrier’s stock down as much as 11.3 percent.

Strike Saga

In addition to contending with turbulent markets, Air France-KLM is immersed in a long-running fight with unions. Flight attendants at its French unit began a strike Wednesday in a dispute stemming from a wholesale restructuring of the airline to cut costs, while KLM ground crew plan unspecified labor actions Thursday. A four-day strike by Air France pilots, timed to disrupt the Euro 2016 soccer championships, wiped 40 million euros from second-quarter earnings.

The walkouts send a message to Janaillac, a former bus company head who took over this month pledging “openness and dialog.” The airline’s new boss doesn’t intend to make any strategic announcements until November.

Riolacci, who plans to leave the company later this year following the exit of his former CEO Alexandre de Juniac, said the strikes are probably contributing to passenger “wariness” about traveling with the Air France unit, though the effect is impossible to quantify.

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27Jul 2016

Some People Are Still Getting Money Back For A 90's Credit Card Scam – Forbes

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Some People Are Still Getting Money Back For A 90's Credit Card Scam
If you were a victim of credit card fraud in the 1990s, you've probably moved on. Not the Federal Trade Commission. On Tuesday, the FTC said it is mailing some 322,000 checks totaling nearly $9.7 million to people who were victims of an illegal credit

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