Category Archives: Money

Travel industry fears damage from a long government shutdown

America’s busiest airport, Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International, is a blur of activity on the best of days. But an extra layer of anxiety gripped the airport Friday, the eve of a three-day holiday weekend. The partial government shutdown — the longest ever — has thinned the ranks of federal workers who staff airport security lines. And some travelers had braced for the worst.

“I have a 3 o’clock flight, and I arrived at 10:15 a.m.,” Beth Lambert said while waiting to check in at a Delta Air Lines counter as her 5-year-old, Michael, rode around on his wheeled bag like a scooter. “We’re going to be hanging out for a while.”

The scene at most of the nation’s airports has so far been marked more by concerned passengers showing up early than by missed flights. Longer lines are evident at some airports. But delays resulting from a rise in federal security screeners calling in sick have been slight.

Yet concern is quickly growing. President Donald Trump and Democrats in Congress remain far apart over Trump’s insistence on funding for a wall along the Mexican border as the price of reopening the government. With the two sides trading taunts and avoiding talks, travel industry analysts and economists have been calculating the potential damage should the shutdown drag into February or beyond.

Airlines and hotels would suffer. So would parks and restaurants that cater to travelers. And, eventually, the broader U.S. economy, already absorbing a trade war with China and a global economic slowdown, would endure another blow.

The travel and tourism industries generate about $1.6 trillion in U.S. economic activity — one-twelfth of the economy — and one in 20 jobs, according to the Commerce Department. Macroeconomic Advisers says it now expects the economy to expand at just a 1.4 percent annual rate in the first three months of this year, down from its previous forecast of 1.6 percent, because of reduced government spending during the shutdown.

America’s air-travel system will face its sternest this weekend, which coincides with Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, a federal holiday.

On Friday, the Transportation Security Administration sent a small team of extra screeners to beef up checkpoints at the airport in Newark, New Jersey, which has had among the longest lines in the country this week.

The TSA predicts it will screen over 8 million passengers between Friday and Monday, up 10.8 percent from last year’s MLK weekend. And it will do so with fewer screeners. On Thursday, the TSA said 6.4 percent of screeners missed work — nearly double the 3.8 percent rate on the same day in 2018.

A TSA spokesman said the agency was offering overtime to screeners for this weekend, though those workers wouldn’t be paid — for their regular pay or for overtime— until the shutdown eventually ends.

On top of potentially longer airport security lines this weekend, a blast of winter weather could snarl travel this weekend in the Midwest and Northeast.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International, home to Delta Air Lines, has likely been the hardest hit airport. Delta said this week that the shutdown will cost it $25 million in January because fewer federal employees and contractors will be flying. By contrast, United Airlines, which has a substantial presence around Washington, D.C., said it hasn’t felt much impact yet.

But the airlines fear that if the shutdown doesn’t end soon, more TSA agents will call in sick or quit. A shortage of screeners would cause security lines to swell. Air traffic controllers, who are also working without pay, say they, too, are short-staffed. If the controller shortage became severe enough, the government could restrict the number of flights, though some analysts think that’s unlikely.

“Luckily this is the low season — January is one of the weakest months of the year,” said Savanthi Syth, an airline analyst for Raymond James. “This spilling into February is a real concern. The risk is that the longer this drags out, it might cause some passengers to say, ‘I don’t want to deal with all the hassle, maybe I won’t take that trip.'”

Consumers are, in fact, taking a dimmer view of the economy, in part because of the shutdown. A measure of consumer confidence fell this month by the most in more than six years, according to the University of Michigan, which conducts the survey. If Americans were to cut back on travel and other discretionary spending, it would weaken consumer spending, the U.S. company’s primary fuel.

Laura Mandala, who runs a travel and tourism research firm, said the shutdown might discourage international travelers, too.

“These uncertainties will result in fewer conferences being booked,” Mandala said, leading to “convention and hotel staff layoffs, reduced schedules, resulting in less income for workers to spend in the local economy.”

Hotels are starting to feel the impact, particularly in the Washington, D.C., region but also in other cities with substantial federal workforces, such as San Diego, which has a large naval base.

In the Washington area, including its nearby suburbs in Maryland and Virginia, hotel revenue plunged 26 percent in the second week of January compared with the same period last year, according to STR, a travel research firm. That’s much steeper than the 8 percent decline that occurred nationwide.

Michael Bellisario, an analyst for investment bank R.W. Baird, suggested that other factors accounted for the most of the nationwide drop but said the shutdown almost certainly played a role.

“In no way is the government shutdown a positive for hotel demand and travel,” Bellisario said.

If the shutdown lingers and people see more reports of long TSA lines on television news, “they will say, ‘Oh wow, traveling is hard,’ and that impacts the hotel industry,” said Jan Freitag, a senior vice president at STR.

For now, though, the most visible impact has been at airports. One of the seven checkpoints at Houston’s main airport has been closed all week and will remain so indefinitely, a spokesman said. Miami closed one concourse during the afternoons and evenings last weekend. On the other hand, officials at airports in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami said they weren’t experiencing any problems.

The problems would emerge if the shutdown persists, and the damage would extend to the private companies that operate airport shops and restaurants.

Mike Boyd, an airport consultant in Colorado, noted that a pullback in travel would be felt most in airports that are heavily dependent on government employees such as Reagan National Airport outside Washington, Manhattan Regional Airport in Kansas, near the Army’s Fort Riley, and Watertown International Airport in upstate New York, near Fort Drum.

Federal employees going without pay — there are about 800,000 of them, including 420,000 who are still working — are already suffering, of course.

“We still have to make sure our kids eat, make sure to have a roof over their head,” said Shalique Caraballo, whose wife is a TSA worker in Atlanta. “We sweat in private and don’t let the kids see the struggle.”

Some in the airline industry and even in Congress have suggested that longer TSA security lines could exert enough pressure on politicians to break the stalemate that is keeping the government shuttered.

Others have all but lost hope.

“I would love to think that politicians understand that travel and tourism is an incredibly important gear in the economy,” said Ninan Chacko, CEO of Travel Leaders Group, which owns and manages travel agencies, “but I don’t think that is really the rational discussion that is taking place in Washington.”

———

Koenig reported from Dallas and Rugaber from Washington. AP staffers Sarah Blake Morgan and Ron Harris in Atlanta and Cathy Bussewitz in New York contributed to this report.

These are the best cheeses at Trader Joe’s

Having a good cheese board is essential to hosting any great party and the first step is having the best cheeses available. It’s time to make cheese boards grate again, people! Trader Joe’s is known for its extensive (and amazing) cheese selection, so we figured its the first place to stop before constructing a cheese board. But there is a lot to choose from.

To figure out the best cheese Trader Joe’s offers, we took on the incredibly taxing task of trying 14 of its most popular cheeses for the good of the public. With a variety of different palettes (and amateur cheese connoisseurs) in the room, we think we got a good handle of what the average cheese plate eater would enjoy.

Here is Reviewed’s (un)official list of best Trader Joe’s cheeses. You won’t brie-lieve which cheese won!

The winner: Unexpected Cheddar

Trader Joe's Unexpected Cheddar

Credit: Reviewed

Unexpected Cheddar is literally the best cheddar you can get at Trader Joe’s—or anywhere for that matter.

Overall score: 4.1 out of 5

Contrary to what the name suggests, we completely expected Unexpected Cheddar to be a top choice since it’s a TJs favorite and, I mean, it’s cheddar. With (spoiler alert!) hints of parmesan, this aged cheddar is a universal favorite. It has a nice, sharp flavor that tastes absolutely delicious on its own but also pairs nicely with a cracker or toast point. Show up to the next house party you’re invited to with this cheese and you will definitely be the best guest.

The runner up: Blueberry Vanilla Chevre Goat Cheese

Trader Joe's Blueberry Vanilla Chevre Goat Cheese

Credit: Reviewed

This dessert-like cheese was a favorite among our testers.

Overall score: 3.8 out of 5

Most of our testers already had a special place in their hearts for Trader Joe’s Cranberry Chevre, but this blueberry version received high marks for its sweet vanilla taste and the combination of texture and flavor. It’s more of a “dessert cheese,” but the creaminess pairs really well with a salty cracker. Most of our testers loved this sweet treat, but it was obviously not a big hit among those who already had an aversion to fruit-cheese blends.

Best soft cheese: Burrata

Trader Joe's Burrata

Credit: Reviewed

This burrata was hands-down our favorite of the soft cheeses we tried.

Overall score: 3.75 out of 5

Burrata is a beloved soft cheese with its neutral flavor and creamy center, so it’s no surprise that the Trader Joe’s brand came so close to the runner-up. Our testers loved that it tasted so fresh and we think it would go great with crackers or on a salad. One reviewer even claimed they would “sell their soul” for this cheese.

How we tested

Trader Joe's Cheese Testing

Credit: Reviewed

Our extensive testing of all of the Trader Joe’s cheeses.

We put eight Reviewed employees to the tough task of trying 14 different Trader Joe’s cheeses. We made sure to incorporate a variety of hard and soft cheeses, and chose popular cheeses from the vast selection at Trader Joe’s. Each cheese was randomly numbered for a blind taste test (though if you knew a thing or two about cheeses, you could probably guess the variety).

Testing was done in one day and reviewers had the option of eating the cheeses with crackers, but they were required to do so with all cheeses if they chose that route. Everyone ranked each cheese on a scale of 1 to 5 and provided tasting notes for their favorites and least favorites. We then averaged all the scores from all eight different palettes to determine the winners and losers. But at the end of the day, everyone who eats cheese (for testing or for pleasure) is a winner in our book.

Other cheese we tested

4. Cheddar & Gruyère Melange
Overall score: 3.6 out of 5

This mix of two popular kinds of cheese gives a nice mild flavor that most testers liked. There’s nothing particularly exciting about this hard cheese, but no one would be opposed to seeing on a cheese board. TL;DR: it’s a safe bet for all palettes.

5. Wisconsin Extra Sharp Cheddar
Overall score: 3.4 out of 5

This is a fine, run-of-the-mill white cheddar. Compared to the Unexpected Cheddar it was pretty basic, which is why it appeared lower on the list. It goes to show that even a less impressive cheddar still makes a good choice for any cheese board.

6. 1,000-Day Gouda
Overall score: 3.1 out of 5

This hard cheese gets its surprising nutty flavor by enduring a rough 1,000-day maturation, but it didn’t appeal to all of our testers. As a harder gouda, this cheese will definitely mix up your cheese board and wow some of the simple-minded cheese eaters in your life.

7. Cotswold Double Gloucester
Overall score: 2.9 out of 5

This cheese has some pizazz that may not appeal to every palette. With onions and chives, its more savory flavor goes better in sandwiches and eggs than on its own. Some testers were also put off by how moldy it looked, but it does add great texture and color to a more adventurous cheese board.

8. Iberico
Overall score: 2.75 out of 5

This Spanish cheese has quite a neutral taste and didn’t really wow any of our testers, but it also didn’t disappoint anyone. All and all, it’s a fine cheese.

9. Goat Milk Brie
Overall score: 2.5 out of 5

Brie is really hit or miss. Some testers loathe the soft cheese and hate the rind, which is why this cheese ranked lower on our list. Others liked its smooth, neutral taste. But it was the favorite of the two bries that we tried because it was a bit harder of a brie.

10. Cabra al Vino
Overall score: 2.3 out of 5

This is another neutral cheese. Most testers didn’t really mind its taste, but others said it had a funky aftertaste that ruined the experience for them.

11. Cambozola Triple Cream Soft Ripened Blue Cheese
Overall score: 2 out of 5

Blue cheese is tricky. Either you love it or you hate it. It turns out most of our testers fall into the latter category. One was so turned off by the taste that they spit it out.

12. Light Brie
Overall score: 1.9 out of 5

As the name suggests, this brie was too light, leaving it with not enough flavor. It also became far too soft during our tests, leaving it looking very unappetizing after about 30 minutes. Between that and the lack of flavor, it would not hold up on a cheese board meant to last through a cocktail party.

13. White Stilton with Apricots
Overall score: 1.8 out of 5

Now, we have nothing against white Stilton, but our testers did not like the addition of apricot chunks. The sharpness of the Stilton and the sweetness of the apricot were too contrasting for our liking.

14. Manchego Anejo
Overall score: 1.75 out of 5

Our testers really didn’t like this cheese. In our expert options, it does not have any real taste or flavor. Some even went as far to say it tasted like trash on the side of the road. Their words, not mine.

Council houses were once a glory of the public realm. Let’s return to those days | Rowan Moore | Opinion

Build more council homes. Not so long ago, this idea was, although not new, radical. So thoroughly had Margaret Thatcher schooled the nation in the virtues of private property that, decades after her departure, it still seemed outlandish to mainstream politicians to go back to what had been the main way of addressing housing need. Now, as it has finally sunk in that the private sector cannot, will not and should not be expected to fill all the gaps in the supply of homes, even Conservative politicians are calling for local authorities to be given the powers to do so instead.

However, whenever the case is made, it raises the obvious question, which is where to find the money. Everyone knows that housing is expensive. Everyone knows – or did, before it was found that national wealth can be frittered and forsworn in the great Brexit adventure – that the government has been in the grip of austerity for all of this decade. It’s a reasonable point.

There has always been a good answer to this question, which is that colossal sums are already spent on housing benefit, much of it going to private landlords and on providing temporary accommodation for the homeless. To spend on building council homes would reduce this expenditure and return income to the public purse whence it came. It would be an investment that would pay off in the not-too-distant future.

Gradually, local authorities have been given more ability to borrow and to build, which has resulted in some new council homes that are as good – thanks in part to standards set by modern building regulations – as any that have ever been built. But they are swimming against the current of another part of the Thatcher inheritance, her famous decision to allow council tenants to buy their own homes, at up to 70% discounts of their value, without allowing local authorities to reinvest the proceeds in new housing.

“Reinvigorated” by the coalition government in 2012, the policy is continuing to remove homes from public ownership. The coalition promised that changes they made to the policy, allowing councils to reinvest some of the proceeds from sales, would enable the replacement of homes sold. In practice, many more are being sold than are being built.

Shared ownership homes in Worland Gardens in Stratford, east London, designed by Peter Barber Architects for Newham council.



Shared ownership homes in Worland Gardens in Stratford, east London, designed by Peter Barber Architects for Newham council. Photograph: Morley von Sternberg

The result, as a new report by Tom Copley, a Labour member of the London Assembly, argues, is that 42% of ex-council homes in the capital are owned by private landlords, often in portfolios of five or more properties. Copley calculates that more than £900m a year would be saved if every benefit claimant in London in private rented accommodation were in council accommodation. He highlights a perverse consequence of right-to-buy policies, which is that councils find themselves paying, often at premium prices, to rent from private landlords homes that they themselves once owned. He also points out that conditions for residents in the private rental sector are generally worse than any other. At the London level, Copley’s conclusion is that right to buy should be abolished in the capital, as has happened in Scotland and is happening in Wales.

The case for this is compelling. There is also a bigger point that goes beyond the capital, especially other areas where pressures on housing are severe. This is that, short of an extreme libertarian position that housing should not be subsidised in any way, it is more wasteful not to build council homes than it is to build them. It is generally better for local government to own assets and receive income for them than it is to pay rent.

This is not to say that expanding public housing is easy. It is not only a question of funding but also of the supply of land, which is in turn a matter of planning. Given constraints across much of the country, especially in the south, this requires a higher level of constructive thinking and public confidence in planning processes than exists.

In principle, in a country of which (depending how you measure it) about 7% is developed, there is room for more. In principle, thoughtful planning can provide new homes that are beautifully or at least adequately designed. Modern garden cities could be created, with exemplary transport and open spaces, while also giving more people better access to nature than before. Serious organisations have proposed such things but it requires a leap of faith to believe that they will actually happen.

There is also a question of the ability of the construction industry, which tends to find it hard to expand and contract, to find the materials and labour to meet demand. If a recent cross-party report is to be believed, 3m socially rented homes have to be built by 2040. If these numbers are added to private sector housebuilding, annual output would be greater than at any time since the public housing boom of the 1960s.

Back then, builders turned to prefabricated systems of construction in order to improve output. The results were mixed, although they have since become common and successful in the building of offices. Now, private companies are again experimenting with making homes in factories, although, as this requires initial investment and therefore confidence in future returns, this is unlikely to happen in large numbers as long as there are booms and busts in housebuilding. Reliable and consistent public investment would help here.

It seems daunting and improbable that a country that has long proceeded with short-term responses to housing need, driven by the preferences of the private-housebuilding industry and private property-owners, should undertake such a far-sighted and co-ordinated set of policies. Whatever happens will certainly be more haphazard and piecemeal than it ideally could be. But there have at least been shifts – the experiments with prefabrication, the cautious consideration to planned development given by thinktanks and policy units.

Among these is the once unthinkable return of council housing, whose funding is one of several essential issues. Copley’s report, being London-based and focused on specific issues, doesn’t offer all the answers, but it helps to dislodge one more intellectual obstacle. It is one more nudge towards a saner future.

Rowan Moore is architecture critic of the Observer

‘Why won’t Zurich pay £1,548 claim to repair my piano?’

I arranged to have my grand piano transported from Croatia to the UK. The piano did not arrive for six weeks. It was at this point that I found it had been damaged.

This included severe damage to the surface of the lid and the candle platforms connecting the music carrier. Pictures were taken by the people who delivered it as well as by myself.

Subsequently I was advised to obtain a quotation for repair because a new lid was unobtainable for this piano. I sent this, and the removals company claims to have passed it on to its insurer, Zurich.

However, when I approached Zurich directly, it simply sent automated replies stating it cannot deal with claims as quickly as it would like.

Can I please enlist your help?

ED, Hants

You had paid £1,736 by BACS transfer to the removers to have the baby grand piano brought back from the ground floor of a property in Croatia. The piano was supposed to have been packed in a wooden case. Indeed a picture had been sent of it ready for transport in this.

Later it was being maintained that the damage must have occurred while it was with one or two other companies that also took over the delivery at a later stage. You had not been told about these extra companies becoming involved, but in any event you had been assured that the piano would be insured throughout, including while it was in a warehouse.

When the piano arrived you describe it as being bubble-wrapped and in cardboard. It had been transported in such a way that the lid was bearing the weight instead of the piano travelling sideways as it should have done.

You had sent any amount of emails about the whole sorry saga.

Elon Musk warns ‘the road ahead is very difficult’ as Tesla lays off 7 percent of workforce

Tesla announced on Friday that it will cut 7 percent of its workforce, marking the second round of job cuts in just over six months, as it faces the pressure of building and delivering its long-promised, lower-priced Model 3s at scale while keeping costs down.

The news comes just one week after CEO Elon Musk announced layoffs of 10 percent at his other company, SpaceX, in an all-hands meeting, which was first reported by The Los Angeles Times.

“We, unfortunately, have no choice but to reduce full-time employee headcount by approximately 7 percent (we grew by 30 percent last year, which is more than we can support) and retain only the most critical temps and contractors,” Musk wrote in an email to employees delivered at 1:20 a.m. Friday morning. It was later posted on the company’s website. In October, Musk tweeted the company had about 45,000 employees, so the cuts would eliminate about 3,150 jobs.

PHOTO: Tesla Motors unveils the new lower-priced Model 3 sedan at the Tesla Motors design studio in Hawthorne, Calif., March 31, 2016.Justin Pritchard/AP, FILE
Tesla Motors unveils the new lower-priced Model 3 sedan at the Tesla Motors design studio in Hawthorne, Calif., March 31, 2016.

“Tesla will need to make these cuts while increasing the Model 3 production rate and making many manufacturing engineering improvements in the coming months. Higher volume and manufacturing design improvements are crucial for Tesla to achieve the economies of scale required to manufacture the standard range (220 mile), standard interior Model 3 at $35k and still be a viable company. There isn’t any other way,” Musk wrote.

The electric carmaker laid off 9 percent of its staff last June.

Tesla is facing several market conditions that are challenging for the company itself, the electric vehicle industry in general and the auto industry at large. It is certainly not the only automaker laying off workers in significant numbers: GM will lay off 15 percent of its workforce and close factories, with about 14,000 employees in North America losing jobs by the end of the year. Ford is also making global job cuts in the thousands, as it eliminates product lines, particularly in Europe. Jaguar Land Rover will also cut almost 5,000 jobs, and Nissan is also making layoffs.

In the meantime, Tesla faces increasing competition in the luxury space, as traditional brands plan to enter the electric market, including Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Volkswagen’s Audi and Porsche.

Musk needs to find a way to mass produce and deliver the lower-priced Model 3s he has staked the company’s future on — an affordable mid-range electric car priced at $35,000. Tesla began taking deposits for the car three years ago and has yet to deliver at that price point. Currently, the cheapest Model 3 sells at $44,000. Furthermore, Tesla hopes to deliver Model 3s to Asia and Europe in the next three months.

“It has always been hard to make affordable electric cars, that’s why all car-buyers and tax-payers have to subsidize them through taxes and government incentives,” Brian Moody, Autotrader’s executive editor, wrote in an email to ABC News. “Tesla should never have promised affordability in the first place. The real future for EVs is luxury cars like the Jaguar I-Pace and automated delivery and taxi services.”

“Starting around May, we will need to deliver at least the mid-range Model 3 variant in all markets, as we need to reach more customers who can afford our vehicles. Moreover, we need to continue making progress towards lower-priced variants of Model 3,” Musk wrote.

“The need for a lower priced variants of Model 3 becomes even greater on July 1, when the US tax credit again drops in half, making our car $1,875 more expensive, and again at the end of the year when it goes away entirely,” he added.

The electric vehicle tax credit, which offset the price of a new Tesla by $7,500 was halved on Jan 1, making it now $3,750.

The electric vehicle tax credit applies to all manufacturers for their first 200,000 vehicles. After that threshold, it’s halved, and then halved again before it is phased out. Therefore newer entrants to the market can defray costs for consumers by $7,500, potentially swaying buyers to Tesla’s competitors. Earlier this month, Tesla dropped the price of all of its vehicles by $2,000.

PHOTO: Elon Musk speaks at a SpaceX event in Hawthorne, Calif., Sept. 17, 2018.Chris Carlson/AP, FILE
Elon Musk speaks at a SpaceX event in Hawthorne, Calif., Sept. 17, 2018.

Musk’s email was markedly somber in tone compared the fiery tweets he’s become known for — and which cost him and the company each $20 million in settlements with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year. Musk had been sued for fraud and misleading investors about taking the company private.

Friday’s email confirmed many external criticisms of the company.

“This announcement is a rare moment of concession for Tesla, where the company is officially acknowledging the fact that Model 3 buyers actually do care about the tax credits, and could insinuate that demand for the vehicle is starting to wane,” Jessica Caldwell, an executive at auto research firm Edmunds, wrote in an email to ABC News.

“This is clearly big news because it’s Tesla, but it’s not unlike moves we’re seeing from other automakers as costs rise and competitive pressures increase. But when you’re talking about a company that builds tents to solve production challenges, it’s almost more notable when you see them doing something conventional,” Caldwell wrote.

The company has been struggling to be profitable its entire existence. In October, it reported a record third-quarter profit of $311.5 million, reversing Wall Street expectations. Musk referred to that 4 percent as “our first meaningful profit in the 15 years since we created Tesla.” Musk credited the higher-priced Model 3 sales.

Within Tesla’s own ecosystem, Tesla has been struggling from both production and delivery issues, which Musk admitted in a tweet last year, saying the company had gone from “production hell to delivery logistics hell.”

Tesla shares dipped dramatically on Friday, down 13 percent to $302.

The best Playstation 4 tips, tricks, accessories and games you need to know

Want to feel old? Try taking a twelve year hiatus from gaming before jumping back in as if nothing had ever changed. That’s what I did, and folks, it’s been a wild ride.

Here’s just a sampling of the (somewhat embarrassing) discoveries I’ve made in the three weeks since I became the confused, proud owner of a Playstation 4:

· You have to install games now. Insane.
· Controllers have colorful lights on them.
· It’s incredibly easy to blow a bunch of money on games in one evening.
· Still waiting on Half Life 3

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had coworkers, online acquaintances, friends, and family members coaching me on how best to navigate the Playstation life in 2019—the games to play, the accessories to buy, and the mistakes to avoid.

So I thought I’d share my findings to date, in a piece that will hopefully be a guiding light to other aging dweebs who need help figuring this stuff out.

For more guides on gaming in this crazy age of streaming content and HDR TVs, check out Reviewed’s Guide to Gaming.

1. How do I set-up a PS4 with an HDR TV?

The first mistake I made when setting up my PS4 was the easiest one to avoid: I plugged the dang thing into the wrong HDMI port.

You see, I own a Playstation 4 Pro and a TV that supports HDR, but since it’s a mid-range TV from 2017, only one of its four ports is HDMI 2.0a—the type of connection required for an HDR signal.

Newer HDR-compatible TVs are far more likely to offer HDMI 2.0a support across all of their HDMI ports, so there’s a good chance you won’t have to concern yourself with port management if your TV is relatively fresh out of the box.

And if your Playstation 4 isn’t of the “Pro” variety, none of this applies to you, either, since standard PS4s don’t support 4K HDR gaming at all.

2. What’s the best HDMI cable for a PS4?

HDMI Cable Connector

Credit: Reviewed

You probably don’t need to worry about your HDMI cables not being good enough for your PS4.

Even if you intend to do some ultra-high resolution, 4K HDR gaming, it doesn’t matter which HDMI cables you use for your PS4, so feel free to use the one that came with your console or any of the ones you already own. Our recommendation is the ultra-affordable AmazonBasics HDMI cable from Amazon—a two-pack will only set you back nine bucks.

At some point in the future you might need to upgrade your HDMI cables, but at that point you’ll probably have upgraded your TV, too. I could go into the details about HDMI standards, transmission rates, and how cables work, but you would probably close the tab (and you’d be right to do so).

My colleagues and I write about this often, but it’s worth repeating: There’s no reason to spend a lot of money on HDMI cables. As long as your cables are long enough and made with quality, you’ll be fine.

That’s not to say that cheap, poorly-made HDMI cables don’t exist—they certainly do. But any company offering premium features, extra-high speeds, or special gold-plated connectors is probably giving you the run-around. Just make sure they’re durable and long enough.

You can read more about HDMI cables and how we tested them in our round-up of the best HDMI cables.

Get a 2-pack of AmazonBasics HDMI cables (6ft.) from Amazon for $8.99

3. How do I fix black borders around a PS4 game?

So you finally got that new copy of God of War up and running, and there’s a big, honkin’ letterbox wrapped around your picture. Not good! Those black bars aren’t a deliberate choice on the part of the game’s creators, so don’t settle for a scaled-down picture. Fixing the problem is as easy as accessing your PS4’s settings.

From the PS4’s dashboard, select “Settings,” then “Sound and Screen,” and then “Display Area Settings.” Next, enlarge the display to fit your screen.

I’m not sure why this particular display setting only affects certain games, but in any event, it’s good to get the adjustment out of the way, even if you’ve never encountered the bars yourself.

4. What are the best games to buy for the PS4?

Red Dead Redemption 2

Credit: Rockstar Games

Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of the most popular PS4 games.

Red Dead Redemption 2. Next question.

OK, but seriously—you should probably play Red Dead Redemption 2. If you’re looking for more recommendations, my colleague Lee wrote about the most popular video games last fall in the run-up to the holiday season.

When it comes to choosing the right games, the best advice I received came from an online acquaintance of mine who recommended I use the website PSPrices. In addition to letting you search for titles on the Playstation Store and track their price history, you can also sign up for email alerts from PSPrices whenever a game goes on sale. It’s the easiest way to keep tabs on the games you might be on the fence about paying full-price for.

Get Red Dead Redemption 2 for PS4 from Amazon for $58.98

5. What’s the best PS4 headset?

HyperX Cloud Stinger Gaming Headset

Credit: Reviewed / Jackson Ruckar

When it comes to reliable PS4 headphones, you’ve got options.

Whether you need a way to chat with players online or you want to stay up late without waking up your housemates, a good pair of headphones is essential for most PS4 owners.

Over the years, we’ve tested several headsets—both wired and wireless—for Xbox and Playstation, so we’ve got a pretty good idea of what makes for a slam-dunk pair. You can check out our round-up of the best PS4 headphones for a the full story, but to summarize, we found the HyperX Cloud Stinger to provide the overall best value. One drawback: These cans aren’t wireless.

If you’re looking for a wireless pair of headphones and don’t want to fuss with third-party companies, consider the Sony Gold Wireless headphones. At $130, they don’t come cheap, but you’ll be investing in 7.1 surround sound and all of the ease that comes with using a first-party accessory.

Get the HyperX Cloud Stinger gaming headset from Amazon for $48.99
Get the Sony Gold Wireless headset for PS4 from Amazon for $129.99

6. What’s the best PS4 controller?

Sony PS4 Dualshock 4 Wireless Controller (Crystal)

Credit: Sony / Amazon

The Crystal variant of Sony’s official Dualshock 4 controller is typically the most affordable Dualshock 4 on Amazon.

For my money, there’s no better option than Sony’s official Dualshock 4 wireless controller. I used to despise the Dualshock controller until this current fourth generation, which feature fuller, “beefier” handles for better ergonomics.

Buying Dualshock 4 controllers on Amazon is a decent option if you don’t mind choosing colors that are in stock. The two color options that are seemingly always in stock and always listed at lower prices are the standard Jet Black variant and the Crystal variant, and some, like Berry Blue, are much harder to find at a sensible price.

Get the Sony Dualshock 4 wireless controller (Crystal) from Amazon for $46.96


Prices are accurate at the time of publication, but may change over time.

Let’s move to Somers Town: one of London’s best-kept secrets | Money

What’s going for it? We shan’t mention HS2 and the new Euston station (well, OK, just once more). But ’twas ever thus. Apart from a brief fancy period in the early 19th century when Charles Dickens and Mary Wollstonecraft lived here, Somers Town has always been on its uppers, easy prey for grands projets. When London ended at Euston Road in the 18th century, it was famous for being where the city chucked its rubbish in mountainous landfills. By the mid-19th century, London’s most notorious slums were here. In the name of “improvement” and slum clearance, railway companies saw nothing wrong in charging through the neighbourhood with new lines, plonking their stations here, rather than posher Bloomsbury to the south. There’s no escape from the railways. That said, the commuters mostly dart down holes in the ground, leaving Somers Town, these days, one of London’s best-kept secrets, ripe with history and character, like the magnificent 1920s Ossulston Estate social housing, Drummond Street’s Indian cafes, and the spooky St Pancras Old Church, one of the oldest sites of worship in London, in whose churchyard the Hardy Tree grows among gravestones moved by the young Thomas Hardy (when he was an architect) to make way for St Pancras station; railways even bothering the dead.

The case against The disruption of HS2 construction for years to come. Gruff around the edges. Euston Road is choked with traffic and pollution 24/7.

Well connected? Trains: I think you’ll be OK. Euston, King’s Cross, St Pancras and Marylebone stations are all walkable, with the Bakerloo, Circle, Hammersmith & City, Northern, Victoria and Metropolitan tube lines on your doorstep. Driving: why would you? But Euston Road is right there, if you need it.

Schools Primaries: Netley, Christ Church CofE and Edith Neville are all “good”, says Ofsted, with St Mary & St Pancras CofE “outstanding”. Secondaries: Maria Fidelis Catholic and Regent High are “good”.

Hang out at… You have the pick of all London has to offer on your doorstep. But it’s hard to beat Malaysian caff Roti King on Doric Way.

Where to buy There are some stretches of late Georgian and Victorian townhouses, almost all in flats these days: hunt in the grid around Drummond Street and Chalton Street. You’ll find some modern “luxury apartments”, too. But much of the neighbourhood is in various (and mostly well-designed) social housing estates, from the late 19th century to the postwar period. The very odd house, mostly ex-council, around £850,000-£1m for four to five bedrooms. Flats: three bedrooms, £600,000-£1.4m; two, £450,000-£1.2m; one, £350,000-£825,000. Rentals: a one-bedroom flat, £1,450-£3,500pcm; a three-bedroom flat, £2,200-£4,500pcm.

Bargain of the week Two-bedroom postwar flat, needs refurbishment; £384,500, with saffroninternational.com.

From the streets

Jim Sheeran “A space behind the British Library is being made into a community garden; hidden restaurant gems like Mai Sushi.”

Geoff Kelly “The Cock Tavern is welcoming and atmospheric.”

Live in Somers Town and Euston? Join the debate below

Do you live in Bedford? Do you have a favourite haunt or a pet hate? If so, email lets.move@theguardian.com by Tuesday 22 January.

Controlling your partner’s money to be recognised as domestic abuse for first time 

Manipulating a partner’s finances is to be treated as a form of domestic abuse for the first time, Telegraph Money has learned, but experts say victims seeking justice will continue to be left vulnerable by the legal system.

Every day, millions of people are deprived access to their finances by abusive partners, according to the charity Surviving Economic Abuse (Sea). The Government will respond to a consultation on the issue next week, insiders said, with a new Domestic Abuse Bill that will officially recognise economic abuse.

But Jenny Beck, a family lawyer at Beck Fitzgerald, said more needs to be done to help bring perpetrators to justice. She said: “Economic abuse leaves victims without financial resources to get legal help. Recognition must be accompanied by more legal aid.”

As neither economic nor domestic abuse is recognised as a criminal offence, for a prosecution to take place the abuse must fall under the terms of crimes such as grievous bodily harm or controlling or coercive behaviour.

Dr Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, founder of Sea, said a large proportion of economic abuse happens among wealthier families, particularly when the abuser works in a high-powered profession, such as law, management or finance. 

Women are disproportionately affected. One victim, who preferred to remain anonymous, was with her abusive partner for more than 10 years. After she was promoted, her new husband quit his job, transferring his personal direct debits to their joint account without her knowledge.

“I was paying for his car, his loans, everything. Then he’d shout at me for not earning enough,” she said. “He’d threaten to hit me – which he often did anyway – if I told anyone the truth, and threatened my children too.”

Stocks keep climbing as hopes for US-China trade deal rise

Stocks in the U.S. and Europe are surging Friday as renewed hopes for progress in trade talks between the U.S. and China contribute to the market’s newfound optimism.

Stocks rallied after Bloomberg News reported that China’s government offered to buy more goods and services from the U.S., potentially eliminating its trade deficit by 2024. Technology and industrial companies made some of the top gains, while banks rose after more of them posted strong fourth-quarter reports.

Stock indexes have made big gains since reaching a low point on Christmas Eve, as the S&P 500 has risen for four weeks in a row.

KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 index rose 32 points, or 1.3 percent, to 2,668 as of 11:30 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 278 points, or 1.1 percent, to 24,648. The Nasdaq composite added 87 points, or 1.2 percent, to 7,171. The Russell 2000 index of smaller and more U.S.-focused companies picked up 15 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,482.

The S&P 500 is up 2.6 percent this week and has risen at least 1.9 percent every week during the rally. It’s been a long time since stocks had a similar winning streak: according to Ryan Detrick of LPL Financial, the last time the S&P 500 rose at least 1.5 percent a week for four weeks in a row was in early 2009. That was immediately after the stock market hit its low point in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis that caused the Great Recession. That streak lasted for six weeks.

TRADE TALKS: President Donald Trump has complained repeatedly about the U.S. trade deficit with China. It grew to a record $323.3 billion in 2018, and eliminating it could mean hundreds of billions of dollars in increased sales for U.S. companies. The two countries have raised taxes on billions of dollars of each other’s goods in the wide-ranging fight over the trade deficit, Beijing’s manufacturing plans, and U.S. complaints that China steals technology from foreign companies or forces them to hand it over.

Stocks sank in late 2018 as investors worried that global economic growth, and U.S. growth in particular, would get worse than they thought. Threats including the U.S.-China trade dispute, rising interest rates in the U.S., slowing growth in China and Europe, and unstable political situations like Brexit all made it seem like 2019 was going to be a disappointing year. Some investors felt a recession in the U.S. or the global economy was a possibility in late 2019 or in 2020.

But investors are starting to think it won’t get that bad. There are signs the U.S. and China are making gradual progress and the U.S. economy doesn’t appear to have slowed much. The Federal Reserve has suggested it won’t raise interest rates much further in light of slowing growth and the stock market’s recent turmoil. The S&P 500, the main benchmark for U.S. stocks, fell 19.8 percent from late September to late December and has recovered slightly more than half of those losses.

MACHINE EARNING: Trucking and logistics company J.B. Hunt Transportation jumped 7.3 percent to $107.21 and railroad company Kansas City Southern climbed 5 percent to $109.37 after their fourth-quarter reports. Farm equipment maker Deere gained 3.1 percent to $165.07.

Among technology companies, software maker Oracle added 1.5 percent to $49.32 and chipmaker Broadcom rallied 2.4 percent to $261.41.

BANKS: Financial stocks continued to do better than the rest of the market. SunTrust jumped 4.7 percent to $60.77. Many large banks reported their fourth-quarter results this week, and they’ve benefited from gradually rising interest rates as well as the corporate tax cut and other tax law changes at the end of 2017. Bank stocks had a bad year in 2018, in large part because investors weren’t sure where interest rates would go. But the stocks tend to do better when traders feel better about the health of the economy because when it’s growing, businesses and individuals tend to take out more loans. The S&P 500’s index of bank stocks has jumped 9 percent over the last month, while the S&P 500 itself is up almost 5 percent.

GROWTH HOPES: Resolving the trade dispute would resolve an obstacle to growth for the global economy and corporate profits. European stocks jumped. Germany’s DAX climbed 2.6 percent and the FTSE 100 in Britain rose 1 percent. The French CAC 40 gained 1.7 percent.

Benchmark U.S. crude jumped 2.8 percent to $53.54 in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 2.5 percent to $62.71 a barrel in London.

In another sign investors expect more growth, bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.78 percent from 2.74 percent.

TESLA CUTS: Tesla fell 9.5 percent to $314.37 after the company said it would cut 7 percent of its jobs. CEO Elon Musk said the cuts are meant to reduce costs as the company lowers the price for its cars. He said in a note to staff that the road ahead is “very difficult.”

THE SHOE FITS: VF Corp, the maker of brands including Timberland and North Face, surged 11.9 percent to $81.97 after it raised its forecasts for the year.

ASIA: Asian stocks also finished higher. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 1.2 percent and the Nikkei 225 in Japan rose 1.3 percent. Seoul’s Kospi added 0.8 percent.

————

AP Markets Writer Marley Jay can be reached at http://twitter.com/MarleyJayAP

Fornite a bigger rival for Netflix than HBO in battle for screen time

Even though every other media company seems to be starting a streaming service, Netflix is facing an on-screen challenge from another corner: “Fortnite,” that ultra-popular, multiplatform videogame, appears to be a formidable foe.

“We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO,” Netflix said in a letter to shareholders Thursday as the company reported its quarterly earnings. “There are thousands of competitors in this highly fragmented market vying to entertain consumers.”

On the heels of a celebratory third quarter, Netflix’s latest earnings report was met with mixed reviews.

Though the streaming giant’s subscription growth beat analyst expectations – Netflix reported 8.8 million new additions compared to the 7.5 million new subscribers that analysts projected – the video streaming company’s shares fell about 3 percent in after-hours trading.

Netflix’s global paid subscriber additions also topped its own forecast of 7.6 million.

“The fact that investors reacted negatively to what amounted to a strong performance indicates the extent to which Netflix has set a high bar,” said eMarketer media analyst Paul Verna. “The bottom line is that Netflix remains the uncontested leader in the subscription video space.”

Thursday’s announcement comes just two days after the streaming media titan flexed its pricing power, phasing in a U.S. subscription price hike over the next three months for existing subscribers. The new prices will become effective immediately for new subscribers. 

The company reported a total of 393.3 million members worldwide.

More: Netflix raises monthly prices on all of its US plans; here’s how much you’ll pay

More: Nielsen backs Netflix’s claim of huge ‘Bird Box’ viewership

During the same October-December period last year, Netflix added 6.6 million paying subscribers and 8.3 million total subscribers.

The company is projecting it will add 8.9 million new paid customers during the first quarter, which is lower than analysts projected. Netflix expects earnings per share of 56 cents with revenue of $4.49 billion, compared with analyst estimates of 83 cents and $4.61 billion in revenue.

Netflix announces only guidance on paid membership subscriptions, rather than the total number of memberships which includes people who may be using a free trial. It said in October that it will stop including end-of-quarter free trial subscriber numbers in its reports.

More: Despite backlash, Netflix has no plans to cut controversial ‘Bird Box’ scene

The world’s largest paid online TV network is raising prices by 13 percent to 18 percent, which is the 12-year-old company’s biggest price hike ever. Its most popular monthly service plan will rise to $12.99 from $10.99. The cheapest plan will increase to $8.99 from $7.99, and the premium plan will rise to $15.99 from $13.99.

The price increase could have an effect on adding new U.S. subscribers going forward, according to Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. 

“We do not expect significant churn given the utility provided by the service to existing subscribers, but attracting new subscribers will likely be more challenging because of the higher prices,” Pachter said. 

“We change pricing from time to time as we continue investing in great entertainment and improving the overall Netflix experience for the benefit of our members,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement to USA TODAY. 

As the streaming giant pushes to rely on its TV and film studios to make more of its own content, rather than licensing content, viewers can expect to see new seasons of hit shows like Making a Murderer, House of Cards, The Crown, and Stranger Things.

Some of the streamer’s major investments in talent and programming will hit screens small and big in 2019, including series The Umbrella Academy, and Martin Scorsese’s crime drama, The Irishman

The earnings report comes amid growing competition in the streaming space in 2019. AT&T, now the owners of Time Warner’s vast content library (including HBO), plans to launch a streaming offering later this year. As does Disney, which is in the process of acquiring 21st Century Fox’s movie and TV studios.

In the company’s earnings interview, Netflix made a surprising move, revealing some of its viewership data.

In the wildly popular interactive movie Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, the first choice in the story was a breakfast cereal: Frosties or Sugar Puffs? Netflix revealed that 73 percent of people chose Frosties.

Netflix’s Chief Product Officer Greg Peters said that viewers can expect to see more interactive entertainment in the future. 

“There have been a few false starts on interactive storytelling in the last couple (of) decades. This one has storytellers salivating about the possibilities,” said Netflix’s Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos.  “We’ve got a hunch that it works across all kinds of storytelling. Some of the greatest storytellers in the world are excited to dig into it.”

Netflix also said that 80 million member households have watched its thriller starring the actress Sandra Bullock, Bird Box, in its first four weeks. 

Overall, Netflix said it serves about 100 million hours of video per day, earning an estimated 10 percent of all time spent in front of the TV in the U.S.

“One thing this quarter that’s been incredibly exciting is when you see a big number like Bird Box and You,” Sarandos said during Netflix’s earnings interview. “These shows are playing incredibly globally. So it’s an interesting thing when you can tap into the global zeitgeist with something, which gets me very excited about the potential scale of the content business when the world is excited about something.”

The Los Gatos, California-based company reported earnings of 30 cents a share, beating analyst estimates of 24 cents a share.

Netflix reported net income of $133.9 million, or 30 cents a share, on sales of $4.19 billion.