Monday, March 31, 2014

Is religion as big a deal today as it used to be? Weigh in with the Red Clay Readers

Thanks for joining's Red Clay Readers on the second week of a five-week journey into "To Kill a Mockingbird," the beloved book by Monroeville native Nelle Harper Lee.

At noon today, you'll see a discussion story of the seventh and eighth chapters of the novel led by's Kelly Kazek, accompanied by a video of famed author Fannie Flagg talking about the Southern classic.

But, like last week, we want to jump into the week with a discussion question:

In the first chapters, Lee called going to church "Maycomb's principal recreation." Is that still true for towns and cities throughout the state? If not, why is religion or attending church not as big a On Sales as it was then?

Take our poll, and use the comments section below to share your thoughts, opinions and insights.

Remember that to comment, you must be signed up for a free account. If you've never commented on our site before, go to the top bar on this page, click on the "Sign In" icon and scroll down to "Register now for free." If you get stuck, email me at and I will help you.'s Red Clay Readers, in partnership with the Alabama Center for Literary Arts, is a book club designed to take a fresh look at a southern classic with the help of our readers. The first version of the club, which focuses on "To Kill a Mockingbird," will culminate with a panel discussion at the Alabama Writers Symposium in Monroeville on April 25. Click here to get 20 percent off your copy of the book at Books-a-Million.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Design personalized gift coupons

It is the most time-honored way to send a gift without having to whip out your wallet. All you need is a creative idea for a Discount or an IOU, and GoodFor will help you make a gorgeous coupon that will make anyone in your life feel extra special.

Do you want to surprise your girlfriend? Create a coupon that is GoodFor "One free back rub." Does mom have a birthday coming up? Use this app to create a coupon GoodFor "Breakfast in bed." Are you short on cash and needing a great gift for your BFF? Use this app to create a coupon that is GoodFor "One free house cleaning." The possibilities are endless.

The idea behind GoodFor is to give you an easy way to create and share personal IOU coupons with your loved ones. Just download the app, and select a background. Pick from their featured illustrated designs, or pick an image from your camera roll. Customize the design by choosing your own border, font and other decorative flourishes. Make them funny, heartfelt or as snarky as you want. When completed, send your GoodFor via email or SMS.

Whenever you send someone a GoodFor, the person receiving it will almost certainly give you a big hug! Also, you are now officially in debt. The GoodFor recipient can cash in their coupons WHENEVER they want! Although, these coupons are not "real" coupons (like the kind you would find for retailers in the SnipSnap app) and they cannot be redeemed for cash, they are valuable and represent your word; therefore, they should be binding.

Send them to your mom, your boyfriend and even your boss. Above all, make sure you are giving that someone special a promise that will bring a smile to their face . . . and that you are prepared to keep.

Join me on Facebook, search Coupon Clippin' Cuties and add yourself to our group. Discover that the perfect gift for that "hard to buy for individual" starts with a creative coupon!

Sandra Dulakis is a nurse, mother, wife and founder of Coupon

Clippin' Cuties.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Banana Republic Accidentally Lets Customers Stack Coupon Codes, Notices, Cancels Orders

Rules are rules, and getting some special deals requires playing by the rules. If a company's website lets you use multiple Deal Now together, then that means that the codes can be combined, no matter what the coupon fine print says, right? Well, no.

Using multiple coupons together is a practice that veteran bargain-hunters call "stacking," and e-commerce sites generally don't let you do it, because then the deals would be too awesome. The Gap family of sites does, but it isn't allowed on all codes. One handy code that gave customers 40% off two regular-price items could be stacked with a 25% off coupon code, and online deal-hunters rejoiced. Then they stopped rejoicing when Banana Republic started canceling their orders.

The experience of one Fatwallet poster was typical:

I never received any emails (checked both inbox and spam) since Friday, so I called. I was told (after waiting for about half an hour) that my order had been cancelled because using more than one promotion at a time isn't allowed. Apparently, even though the website allowed it, it was mentioned somewhere in the fine print.

The CSR offered to apply the 40% off promotion, but when I had her break down how much each item would cost, the base prices were higher than when I originally placed my order, so that even 40% off was really only ~30% off for some things. Totally not worth it.

We've discussed in the past how companies aren't liable for pricing errors, and that also applies to errors in their system that let customers get away with things that they normally can't. Does that mean that Gap should have canceled all of these orders because the customers got too good a deal? In some cases, customers claim that the extra savings they go through using both coupons was only a few dollars, so the cancellations were automated or executed on principle.

We contacted Gap about this coupon mess, and will let you know what they have to say if they get back to us.

Get 40% off your on-line purchases with code @ Banana Republic [FatWallet]

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Coupon inserts expected on Sunday, March 16

How many Discount inserts will we receive on Sunday? There should be 2 inserts including 1 SmartSource and 1 RedPlum!

You can see the coupon preview at HERE for a list of many of the coupons we should receive this Sunday. This list is not exactly what we will get here, but many will be the same.

If you buy the paper at a store on Sunday (instead of getting a subscription), make sure you buy it INSIDE the store, not from the paper boxes. You want to make sure your paper has the coupons in it before you pay, which you can't do if you are buying from the paper box.

Happy shopping everyone!

This post contains affiliate links and I appreciate your using them!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Famous Smoke Shop Releases New Cigar Promo Codes

Famous Smoke Shop is the Internet's leading online distributor of discounted premium cigars. The company has currently launched a new slate of cigar promo codes to help save customers money when they buy from Famous Smoke Shop.

Easton, PA (PRWEB) March 03, 2014

Famous Smoke Shop is an online distributor of discount premium cigars specializing in offering the web's widest cigar selection, best prices, and expert customer service. The company has just announced its release of new cigar promo codes they will offer. Each Deal Now is applicable to any order made through or over the phone at 1-800-564-2486

Starting now, Famous Smoke Shop will be extending coupon offers to all of it's customers to take advantage of free products and instant cash back off their order through the middle of this month. Some of the coupons available are $20 instant cash back on any order over $200, free 6 pack samplers and 5 packs with an order of $125 or more. There are also bonus 5-packs, bonus ashtrays, and even free boxes of cigars with an order, as well as other bonus items. No matter what a customer wants to order, they are able to use a coupon on it to either save money or get free product ranging from La Floridita to Arturo Fuente.

Each order allows customers an opportunity to receive instant cash back of bonus items and every order may be able to include a coupon. This allows customers to customize their orders and get more for the money they spend.

Since the coupons were released, there has been a big splash at Famous Smoke Shop by customers rushing to take advantage of the deals. All of these deals and coupons are available not only on the web but through phone orders as well. People interested in learning more about Famous Smoke Shop's cigar promo codes can call 1-800-564-2486 or log on to Customers should be advised that restrictions may apply on particular items. Full restrictions can be easily viewed on the company's website.

About Famous Smoke Shop
Famous Smoke Shop is the nation's #1 discount retailer of premium cigars online, offering one of the largest selections of handmade cigars, machine-made cigars, cigar humidors and accessories. Famous offers the web's lowest prices on a wide selection of cigar brands including Acid, Davidoff, Macanudo, Romeo y Julieta, Ashton, Padron, Oliva and Perdomo cigars, and many more. Famous offers their customers the best prices on all premium cigars as well as friendly and knowledgeable customer service.

For the original version on PRWeb visit:

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Printable coupon alert: $1/1 Progresso soup & .50/1 Pillsbury Grands Biscuits!

There are some super new coupons available for $1.00/1 Progresso soup and .50/1 Pillsbury Grands biscuits on right now at zip code 77477!

An easy way to change the zip code is to go to the Coupons section on HERE (click on Discover and then Coupons). You also earn 10 Swag Bucks for every redeemed Best Buy you print through Swagbucks!

Then click on Local (look for the colorful logo near the top and then look to the right of the logo to see Local).

Click on Local and then click on the zip code.

Change the zip code to 77477 then click Apply.

Finally, click on the word Coupons that is right about the zip code to get to the printable coupons. You can sort by Food to find the food coupons more quickly. we always get a lot of questions on how to change the zip code, so I hope that helps. Thanks to for the heads up on the coupon!

If you are not a member, see below for all the info on this super rewards website!

New to Swagbucks?

If you don't know about Swagbucks yet, it's the largest rewards website that gives people free gift cards for the things they do online. You earn points (called Swag Bucks) for online activities and then you can cash them in for gift cards to places like CVS, Amazon, Starbucks and many more options!

How do you get these super Swag Bucks? Each time you need to search for something online, use the Swagbucks search engine on their website (instead of Google). I actually have the Swagbucks toolbar installed on my desktop and it places a search box right on my screen making it super easy to search. Every once in a while, they award Swag Bucks just for doing the searches I used to do using Google. There are also a number of other ways to earn Swag Bucks including taking surveys, answering polls, watching videos, playing games, referring friends and more.

Swagbucks also posts additional bonus codes on their Facebook, Twitter and blog pages. When a Smart Shopper reader finds a code (usually one per day), they post it here on the blog so we can all get it. The codes are only valid for a couple hours usually. Once you find a code, you then copy and paste the code into the Swag Code box at the top of the homepage of HERE. . Look for the circle with the words Swag Code next to it.

New member bonus Swagbucks sign-up code!

It's free to sign up for Swagbucks and only takes a minute. New members usually get 30 Swagbucks when you sign up HERE but through the end of March, you can score an additional 70 Swag Bucks for a total of 100 Swag Bucks! To get the bonus Swag Bucks, click the text that reads "I have a sign up code" during registration and then enter the code: SMARTSHOPPER to get the bonus. Make sure you use all caps since it is case sensitive.

This post may contain affiliate links and I appreciate your using them!

Reddit: We Don't Know Where Gabe Newell Is...

This morning Gabe Newell was set to take part in a reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). Gabe initially posted an announcement thread, and people posted questions in there. Reddit mods weren't too happy with that, and began deleting comments, with the hope that Gabe Newell would set up a new Reddit thread when the time came, but that hasn't happened yet. And no-one at Reddit knows what the hell is happening.

In an update posted on the AMA subreddit, the Reddit mods stated the following:

Hey everyone: just wanted to give you an update on the status of Gabe Newell's AMA.

Earlier this morning, he posted an announcement saying that he was planning to host an AMA later this afternoon (4 pm EST, 1 pm PST). The moderators responded with information about how to submit his AMA when the time comes, which we normally do with announcement posts. The thread was then locked the thread (disallowed new coments) and removed all other comments so that this information would be the only thing visible, making it easier for him to find.

Unfortunately, since then, no one has heard from Mr. Newell. We've been constantly monitoring his Reddit account, and the admins have reached out through their contacts at Valve. But unfortunately, after an hour of waiting, we have been unable to confirm anything. It is possible that he intended to answer on a different date (which does occassionally happen sometimes).

We'll keep you all up to date, but we know this was anticipated so we wanted to make sure you know what happened. When we do get in touch with him, he will either create a new AMA, or possibly will be added to our calendar, so keep an eye out both there and the /new queue. Just to be clear: there is no indication that the AMA is cancelled; just that we don't know when he plans to actually come answer questions.

Thank you all for your patience, and we're all looking forward to this AMA.

Hopefully the AMA will still go ahead. We'll update when we hear anything further.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

'Scandal' Behind the Scenes: Josh Malina introduces fans to 'Jazzy Snaps' - VIDEO |

Josh Cam, like scandal, is back!

After a winter break that left us all having to cope without Pope, ABC's crowned king of OMG TV is back. And to celebrate, we present you an all-new edition of EW's ongoing behind-the-scenes video series in which cast member Josh Malina gives us a sneak peek at the action on set.

In this week's edition, Malina introduces us to Mitchell Haddad, the man behind Scandal 's signature "jazzy snaps." (You'll know exactly what we're talking about when you click below.)

Have you missed an installment of Josh Cam? Don't freak out (save that for the new episode of Scandal): They're all below:

Scandal airs Thursdays at 10 pm ET on ABC.

New app cuts out coupon clipping, maximizes savings

Careful couponing can mean some serious savings, but who has time for all that work?

Consumer reporter Steve Noviello says a new smartphone app is all about cutting out the clipping while maximizing the money shoppers get back.

Shopper Sheila White is not the same shopper she was six months ago.

Saving money used to be limited to sales and price matching, but now, she's all about strategy.

Not only does she clip coupons, but she times their redemption so they match up with store sales.

"My food bill used to be $156 a week," she said. "It's now $67 a week."

But not everyone has time for that, which is where the smartphone app, Checkout 51, comes in.

The app is poised to make shoppers smarter by offering cash back on what you buy -- without clipping a single Printable Coupons.

It also features new offers about once a week.

FOX 4 asked White to help take the app for a test drive.

Immediately, she was rewarded with $2 cash back just for trying it out and found savings throughout the store.

White was instantly impressed at the variety of offers, which are brand specific.

The coupons aren't store specific, though, allowing you to shop where you like and save on everything from cereal to bananas.

The app allows you to stack its deals with the coupons you clip.

At the end of White's shopping trip, her grocery total was $37.17, and coupons saved her $2.50.

But at checkout time, by using Checkout 51 and the deals she wanted to redeem, her account was credited $9.50.

Add to that an additional in-store deal, and her total savings was $17 - almost half off.

So how do you cash out?

Each time you accumulate $20 back, Checkout 51 sends you a check.

The app is free and for both iPhone and Android.

For more information, visit

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Famous Smoke Shop Releases New Cigar Promo Codes

Easton, PA (PRWEB) February 24, 2014

Famous Smoke Shop is an online distributor of discount premium cigars specializing in offering the web's widest cigar selection, best prices, and expert customer service. The company has just announced its release of new cigar promo codes they will offer. Each Best Buy is applicable to any order made through or over the phone at 1-800-564-2486

Starting now, Famous Smoke Shop will be extending coupon offers to all of it's customers to take advantage of free products and instant cash back off their order. Some of the coupons available are $20 off any order over $200, free shipping, a bonus 6-pack sampler with an order of $125 or more, bonus box of Arturo Fuente Chateau Fuente with $500 order or more, bonus ash tray with an order, and the list goes on. No matter what a customer wants to order, they are able to use a coupon on it to either save money or get free product.

Each order allows customers an opportunity to receive instant cash back or bonus items and every order may be able to include a coupon. This allows customers to customize their orders and get more for the money they spend.

Since the coupons were released, there has been a big splash at Famous Smoke Shop by customers rushing to take advantage of the deals. All of these deals and coupons are available not only on the web but through phone orders as well. People interested in learning more about the Outlet at Famous Smoke Shop can call 1-800-564-2486 or can log on to Customers should be advised that restrictions may apply on particular items. A full list of restricted items is available on the company's website.

About Famous Smoke Shop
Famous Smoke Shop is the nation's #1 discount retailer of premium cigars online, offering one of the largest selections of handmade cigars, machine-made cigars, cigar humidors and accessories. Famous offers the web's lowest prices on a wide selection of cigar brands including Acid, Davidoff, Macanudo, Romeo y Julieta, Ashton, Padron, Oliva and Perdomo cigars, and many more. Famous offers their customers the best prices on all premium cigars as well as friendly and knowledgeable customer service.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Growing Up Fisher: TV Review

The Bottom Line

A boy's parents are divorcing. His dad is a blind lawyer. His mom wants to be a cool teenager. The boy learns lots of lessons.


Sunday night after the Olympics (NBC)

Created by

DJ Nash


Jason Bateman


J.K. Simmons, Jenna Elfman, Eli Baker, Ava Deluca-Verley

It's hard to figure out what NBC was thinking when it plotted out its Tuesday sitcoms. From 9 to 10 p.m. it's a pretty tough field already, at least quality-wise. Fox has New Girl and this season's hit comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine. ABC counters with its own hit in The Goldbergs and the underappreciated Trophy Wife. NBC? Apparently it's launching the Saccharine Offensive.

With About a Boy (which had an excellent pilot) getting a sneak peak on Saturday night after the Olympics, now Growing Up Fisher comes out as the Olympics close. Will that help launch it? Only if people really, really love those overly sentimental Olympic features. No, desperately, weepily love them. And the second episode of About a Boy is extremely sugary on the emotional end. Watching these two shows together is like going into a sugar coma.

PHOTOS: NBC's 2013-14 Season

Growing Up Fisher is about a boy coming of age with a blind father. Well, the father has always been blind - just hiding it from the rest of the world until he and his wife separate. In any case, that's not entirely important or all that the show is about. It's the kid. And the coming of age. OK, and the blind thing. And a dog named Elvis. And the soft goo of life lessons (really obvious ones) encasing you like a caramel hug.

The series is narrated by Jason Bateman ( Arrested Development), who provides the grown-up voice of Henry (he's also executive producer).

Created by DJ Nash ( Up All Night, Bent) and inspired by his own life story, Growing Up Fisher is about 12-year-old Henry ( Eli Baker) and his two parents: blind father Mel ( J.K. Simmons, The Closer), who's an attorney; and Joyce ( Jenna Elfman, 1600 Penn, Dharma & Greg), who is something I can't recall because I was flossing so I wouldn't get a cavity. Or three. Well, she's a mom for sure. Although she kind of wants to be best friends with her daughter, Katie ( Ava Deluca-Verley).

When we meet Henry, he's like a "wingman" to his dad. Once the separation/divorce news hits, dad has to get a dog named Elvis and Henry feels useless. This allows for 22 minutes of story about how Henry really isn't useless, but Elvis will help his dad through this new phase and everybody will be happy. I'm not sure that's what I took from it, but I did watch the second episode as well. And what I took from that was that I'd never watch the third one. You might. I mean, these kinds of soft, sentimental comedies with little learning lessons are all the rage (well, sure, they used to be ... now, like The Goldbergs, they come with more palatable doses of snark to leaven the sweetness and whole lot more laughs).

Deal Now/a-boy-review-new-nbc-681595">TV REVIEW: About a Boy

But as a strategy, I get what NBC is trying to do. Both About a Boy and Growing Up Fisher are feel-good comedies. Compared with what Fox and ABC are offering, maybe the thinking is people need less sarcasm and negativity in their lives. It's like a candy-gram bit of counterprogramming.

Actually, that can't be completely true because About a Boy, when it's good - meaning when it's not trying to be super fuzzy sweater - has its caustic elements. And, to its credit, there are funny jokes in the three I watched (whereas I didn't laugh once in two episodes of Growing Up Fisher). But I'm also very wary of About a Boy, given that the second episode is from the same Fisher DNA. If that tendency is increased, you've definitely got a huggy pair of sitcoms on your hands.

Simmons does his usual solid work in this role, and he's got all the physical comedy in the playing blind (and faking sight) bits. Elfman makes another solid statement that she should be in something much better (this coming off her fine work in 1600 Penn; she hasn't lost any comedy chops). Together they're just undermined by, well, syrup.

If you like very obvious, very simple lessons in your family comedies - that was once a trend in TV - then by all means embrace Growing Up Fisher and its BFF, About a Boy. No doubt they will hug you back, earnestly.

Twitter: @BastardMachine

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Editorial: Make sure taxpayers get the best deal for prison plan

The Republican majority of the Utah House - including many members who make all or part of their living by buying, selling and developing real estate - really wants to move the state prison off all that yummy land in Draper and turn it over to the private sector. Really, really.

The good news is that they want the prison site so badly that they are at least promising to give the people of Utah something very valuable indeed in return. And that is not just a shiny new prison, which will probably sit somewhere to the west of the Wasatch Front, but what sounds like a comprehensive reform of the whole Utah correctional system.

That's the Amazon Deal deal the taxpayers are likely to get. But we should make sure to hold our brokers, er, representatives accountable for following through on their offer.

The House Republican caucus gave its blessing Thursday to House Joint Resolution 19. That's the measure that ratifies the conclusions of the state's Prison Relocation and Development Authority - the initials of which are also the brand name of a very expensive purse - in finding that the prison that sits on some 700 acres near the Point of the Mountain should find a new location and the current site be turned over to the market forces that have already transformed the area into a sea of bricks, glass and concrete.

The vision, of course, is that the land will go back on the local tax rolls and create a boon in economic activity.

The dark side of that view, of course, is that we might think we are just moving a storage yard. But we're moving a prison, with custody of a few thousand souls who must not simply be housed and fed, but treated, educated and prepared for a re-entry into society with, hopefully, the skills they will need to survive inside the law.

That requires more than even the newest bricks, beds and security cameras. It requires programs, experts, volunteers, medical care and a minimum of separation from families and other support systems that are always crucial in helping inmates make it on the outside.

The good news is that HJR19 makes careful and explicit note of all that. It sets out that the planning for a new prison include consideration of all those factors, including that every effort should be made to reduce, or at least slow the growth, of the number of people Utah incarcerates.

That, plus a demand that the sale and development process for both the new prison and the old site be as transparent as possible, could still make this a good idea.

But the people of Utah need to stand guard to make sure that happens.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Amazon UK sales growth slows as competition step up their game

Analysts said Britain's biggest online retailer was feeling the squeeze as traditional players such as John Lewis and Dixons raised their game - particularly with "click and collect" services.

Accounts filed by the US parent company show On Sales's UK sales were $7.29 billion (£4.46 billion) - a rise of around $800 million on a year earlier. British revenues rose by $1 billion to $6.48 billion in 2012 and by $1.4 billion to $5.35 billion in 2011.

Taking into account changes to the dollar-sterling exchange rate, UK growth is estimated at 14 per cent last year on a like-for-like basis - down from 22 per cent in 2012 and 31 per cent in 2011.

"The competition is a bit stronger for them in electricals," said independent retail analyst Nick Bubb, pointing to Dixons' decision to match Amazon on price and John Lewis's move to offer "click-and-collect" at its Waitrose food stores.

"What has been a drag is the books and entertainment market is pretty mature," added Bubb, who reckoned falling CD sales and other traditional entertainment products - once at the heart of Amazon's business - have pushed down on revenues.

Amazon remains Britain's biggest online retailer, but Bubb said "mathematically, arithmetically, it gets harder to keep growing" at double-digit rates.

The web giant has come under fire for tax avoidance because it processes sales in Luxembourg but there in no sign the row has hit the UK. Amazon had a foreign tax bill last year of just $173 million on $30 billion of international sales.

Amazon declined to comment.

Monday, February 3, 2014


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Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Morning Download: Microsoft CEO Search Nearing End

<chinese free new year cardsp>Good morning. Microsoft Corp. is said to be close to picking Satya Nadella as its new CEO. Mr. Nadella, who currently runs its cloud and enterprise business, would provide CIOs the assurance of continuity, particularly with regard to the direction of the company's cloud strategy. Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, says in this case, "CIOs will not likely need to worry about new leadership of that [cloud] division or a change in direction."

Saturday, January 25, 2014

AT&T Launches Several New 4G LTE Markets, 11 States Affected

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AT&T launched a big list of new 4G LTE markets this morning, opening up about 20 new markets across the US, including Puerto Rico. San Bernardino County in So-Cal has a few new markets to show off, while Michigan also got a hearty serving of improved mobile data speeds.

AT&T is now right on Verizon's heels in terms of the number of LTE markets available, and with all of the talks now surrounding LTE-Advanced, 2014 and 2015 should be a couple of great years for data speed.

The full list of new markets can be found below.

New Markets

  • El Centro and Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.
  • Jasper, Ind.
  • Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • Danville, Richmond and Somerset, Ky.
  • Cadillac and Niles-Benton Harbor, Mich.
  • Tunica, Miss.
  • East Liverpool, Ohio
  • Erie and New Castle. Pa.
  • Aguadilla-Isabela-San Sebastian, Fajardo and Ponce, Puerto Rico
  • Barre and Burlington, Vt.
  • Wheeling, W.Va.
  • La Crosse, Wis.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

White House rejects review board finding that NSA data sweep is illegal

Amazon Deal-board-says-nsa-phone-data-collection-program-should/">

The White House on Thursday disputed the findings of an independent review board that said the National Security Agency's mass data collection program is illegal and should be ended, indicating the administration would not be taking that advice.

"We simply disagree with the board's analysis on the legality of the program," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

He was responding to a scathing report from The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), which said the program ran afoul of the law on several fronts.

"The ... bulk telephone records program lacks a viable legal foundation," the board's report said, adding that it raises "serious threats to privacy and civil liberties" and has "only limited value." The report, further, said the NSA should "purge" the files.

The president did not go nearly as far when he called last week for ending government control of phone data collected from hundreds of millions of Americans.

Carney claimed the president, in his address last week, did "directly derive" some of his ideas from the board's draft recommendations. But he made clear that Obama does not see eye to eye with them on the legitimacy of mass phone record collection.

"The administration believes that the program is lawful," he said.

Nevertheless, the findings could be used as leverage in federal lawsuits against NSA spying. The report concluded that the NSA collection raises "constitutional concerns" with regard to U.S. citizens' rights of speech, association and privacy.

"The connections revealed by the extensive database of telephone records gathered under the program will necessarily include relationships established among individuals and groups for political, religious, and other expressive purposes," it said. "Compelled disclosure to the government of information revealing these associations can have a chilling effect on the exercise of First Amendment rights."

The panel added that the program "implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments."

The recommendations are sure to meet resistance in Washington. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who has been a staunch defender of the NSA, voiced dismay at the report's findings.

"I am disappointed that three members of the Board decided to step well beyond their policy and oversight role and conducted a legal review of a program that has been thoroughly reviewed," he said in a statement, noting that federal judges have found the program to be legal dozens of times.

The report also rejected claims that the program was necessary to cover up a gap in intelligence arising from a failure to detect Al Qaeda members in the United States prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks. U.S. officials had claimed that the phone data collection program would have made clear that terrorist Khalid al-Mihdhar was calling a safehouse in Yemen from a San Diego address.

"The failure to identify Mihdhar's presence in the United States stemmed primarily from a lack of information sharing among federal agencies, not of a lack of surveillance capabilities," the report said. "This was a failure to connect the dots, not a failure to connect enough dots."

The board's recommendations go well beyond the reforms ordered by Obama in a major speech last Friday, in which he said that the phone records database would no longer be held by the NSA. Obama also tightened restrictions on gathering and accessing phone data, but did not recommend the program's end.

The PCLOB recommendations also are more sweeping than reforms proposed by another panel of experts. That panel, the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, advised Obama in December to restrict phone surveillance to limited court-ordered sweeps.

Along with its call for ending bulk phone surveillance, the oversight board report outlined 11 other recommendations on surveillance policy, calling for more government transparency and other reforms aimed at bolstering civil liberties and privacy protections. The board called for special attorneys to provide independent views in some proceedings before the secret spy court -- as opposed to Obama's plan for a panel of experts that would participate at times. The board also urged the administration to provide the public with clear explanations of the legal authority behind any surveillance affecting Americans.

Legal opinions and documents "describing the government's legal analysis should be made public so there can be a free and open debate regarding the law's scope," the board said. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have been criticized by civil liberties advocates and by tech industry officials for failing to provide clear public explanations of the decision-making behind their surveillance policies.

While the oversight board found consensus in some of its recommendations for transparency, its members were sharply divided when it came to the surveillance programs and their judicial oversight.

Two members, former Bush administration Justice Department lawyers Rachel Brand and Elisebeth Collins Cook, defended the bulk phone sweeps and said they were too valuable to shut down.

"I am concerned about the detrimental effect this superfluous second-guessing can have on our national security agencies and their staff," said Brand, who as a Justice lawyer defended USA Patriot Act legislation that provided the NSA with its authority to make the bulk phone collections.

But the oversight board's three other members -- executive director David Medine, former federal judge Patricia Wald and civil liberties advocate James Dempsey -- held firm for broad changes.

"When the government collects all of a person's telephone records, storing them for five years in a government database that is subjected to high-speed digital searching and analysis, the privacy implications go far beyond what can be revealed by the metadata of a single telephone call," the majority wrote.

The oversight board was created at the urging of the independent commission on the 9/11 attacks as a key organizational reform needed to balance counterterrorism policy with civil liberties concerns. The board functioned fitfully for several years, often short on members because of Congress' inaction. It finally won legislative approval last year for all five members and staff and took on its study of the NSA programs at the urging of Obama and congressional leaders.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Amazon to collect NC sales tax

Online retailer Deal Of The Day confirmed Saturday that it will begin charging sales tax to North Carolina customers on Feb. 1.

Amazon currently collects state sales taxes in 19 states, including Virginia. Because it has no offices or warehouses in North Carolina, the company isn't required to collect sales tax on purchases.

Customers are required to pay taxes for online purchases, but the requirement is rarely enforced by retailers.

The amount of tax charged will depend on factors such as the identity of the seller, the type of item purchased and the destination of the shipment, according to the retailer. The company has not said why they changed course on charging sales tax to North Carolina customers.

Disputes between the state and Amazon go back to at least 2009, when the retailer opposed state budget plans to collect online sales taxes.

Amazon sued the state Department of Revenue in 2010 to block the department's attempt to obtain names and addresses of North Carolina residents who bought or received items from the company. Amazon claimed it provided the department with purchase data, including product codes revealing the exact items purchased. A U.S. district court judge ruled against the state, which eventually settled with Amazon.

Former state Revenue Secretary David Hoyle vowed in 2010 to collect sales tax on purchases North Carolina residents made from online retailers.

In 2012, the Department of Revenue estimated North Carolina lost as much as $214 million in online sales taxes each year.

A measure introduced by U.S. lawmakers last year - the Marketplace Fairness Act - would allow each state to collect sales taxes on online purchases from out-of-state vendors. The measure passed the U.S. Senate but is currently stuck in the House of Representatives.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Use Options For a Chance To Buy NRF at a 36% Discount

Looking back to 32 days ago, Northstar Realty Finance Corp ( NYSE: NRF) priced a 50,000,000 share secondary stock offering at $11.65 per share. Buyers in that offering made a considerable investment into the company, expecting that their investment would go up over the course of time and based on early trading on Monday, the stock is now 20.5% above the offering price.

Investors who did not participate in the offering but would be a buyer of NRF at a cheaper price, might benefit from considering selling puts among the alternative strategies at their disposal. One interesting put contract in particular, is the January 2016 put at the $10 strike, which has a bid at the time of this writing of 95 cents. That would result in a cost basis of $9.05 per share before broker commissions in the scenario where the contract is exercised. If the contract is never exercised, the put seller would still keep the premium, which represents a 9.5% return against the $10.00 purchase commitment, or a 4.7% annualized rate of return (at Stock Options Channel we call this the YieldBoost).

Click here to find out the Top YieldBoost Puts of of Stocks with Recent Secondaries "

Secondaries can often present buying opportunities for bullish investors interested in purchasing shares, because the sudden extra supply of stock tends to require that the offering be priced at an attractive Discount to where the stock had previously been trading before the offering announcement. That can also introduce near-term volatility which improves the premiums a put seller can achieve. Selling a put does not give an investor access to NRF's upside potential the way owning shares would, because the put seller only ends up owning shares in the scenario where the contract is exercised. The chart below shows the one year performance of NRF shares, versus its 200 day moving average:

Looking at the chart above, NRF's low point in its 52 week range is $7.38 per share, with $14.27 as the 52 week high point - that compares with a last trade of $14.15.

The current annualized dividend paid by Northstar Realty Finance Corp is $0.84/share, currently paid in quarterly installments, and its most recent dividend ex-date was on 11/06/2013. Below is a long-term dividend history chart for NRF, which can be of good help in judging whether the most recent dividend with approx. 5.9% annualized yield is likely to continue.

According to the ETF Finder at, NRF makes up 5.98% of the iShares Mortgage Real Estate Capped ETF ( AMEX: REM) which is trading higher by about 0.1% on the day Monday.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sports Authority Coupon 2014: 15% off Coupons, Printable Coupon & Deals

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The Sports Authority coupon code is the best way to save money on purchasing gym equipment or the latest and greatest gear from the sports world at a very reasonable cost. This Sports Authority coupon code will allow customers to get the opportunity of saving on different versions of accessories that can be used for outdoor activities and the amount of money that customers got as their savings can be used to purchase other products that they might need. Sports Authority coupons provide additional discounts off the original price. These Sports Authority coupon codes are exclusive unadvertised deals and are not published outside of Sports Authority's affiliate networks. Consumers must hunt Sports Authority coupons down through the internet. The discount is calculated when the ordering is processed. To use the Sports Authority coupon code, consumers must enter it on the check out page before they submit their ordering.

Sports Authority is a full-line sporting goods store, which is dedicated to providing our customers with the best shopping experience possible by consistently providing an impressive assortment of brand name merchandise at great values in over 1,200 categories including equipment, footwear and apparel. Dedicated to increasing that value, Sports Authority strives to be the first choice for the sports, leisure and recreational customer by providing industry-leading customer service and product knowledge as well as "Specialty Service at Everyday Low Prices". When customers sign up for the newsletter they will also receive a Sports Authority coupon for 10% on their next purchase.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

T-Mobile fuels wireless pricing wars, but will Verizon finally take the bait?

LAS VEGAS--The 2014 Consumer Electronic Show took an interesting turn this year. Typically CES is a glitzy, gadget-centric convention. And in some ways it still is: wearables and connected automobiles garnered significant attention. But this year the convention also became a venue for wireless operators to fuel their competitive juices and launch some new rate plans. Yep, that's right--rate plans.

In case you haven't noticed, the U.S. wireless operators are at war with each other. T-Mobile US ( NYSE:TMUS) set the stage for this battle a year ago when it unveiled its "Uncarrier" strategy and promised to revamp the way wireless operators traditionally do business.

If disruption was T-Mobile's goal, and it appears it was, then the company has succeeded. First T-Mobile riled up its competitors with its Simple Choice no contract plans, then it announced Jump, a program that allows customers to upgrade their wireless devices up to two times per year after an initial six-month enrollment period. Then last October it put an end to international data plans and it gave tablet customers 200 MB of free data for life as long as they keep their tablet on the company's network.

But the final straw that appears to be setting the industry in a full-tilt spin is yesterday's announcement by T-Mobile that it will pay up to $650 in early termination fees (ETFs) for customers that want to switch to T-Mobile from AT&T Mobility ( NYSE:T), sprint lte las vegas ( NYSE:S) or Verizon Wireless ( NYSE:VZ).

T-Mobile isn't really the first carrier to target ETFs; AT&T announced last week that it was going to offer up to $450 in credit to customers who switch from T-Mobile to AT&T and trade in their smartphones. However, AT&T executives have said this is only a temporary offer while T-Mobile insists its offer is permanent and intended to go after the lucrative family plan customers of AT&T and Verizon. Moreover, numerous carriers have routinely offered to pay EFTs during the past several years as competition has increased--but those offerings have been promotional and not permanent.

Sprint also used CES as a forum to announce its new "Framily Plan," a new calling circle offering launching tomorrow that promises greater savings for everyone in the group as more people join. In addition, Sprint announced "Easy Pay," an equipment installment plan.

In a research note, Jefferies analysts pointed out that Sprint's new plans largely mimic T-Mobile's existing Simple Choice and EIP plans, and are most likely a knee-jerk response to the fact that T-Mobile is taking customers away from Sprint at a rapid rate. At T-Mobile's media event at CES yesterday, T-Mobile CEO John Legere quoted porting ratio stats that seem to indicate that all carriers are taking a hit from T-Mobile. He said that Sprint's porting ratio, or the number of customers who are switching from Sprint to T-Mobile, has been above 2.0 percent ever since T-Mobile announced its new strategy in early 2013. He also said that AT&T's porting ratio is above 2.0 percent and hinted that Verizon's porting ratio may be climbing. He said it was 1.7 percent for the first seven days of 2014.

But Verizon appears to be the only U.S. operator staying on the sidelines of this price war. Sure the company did respond to T-Mobile's Jump with the launch of Edge, a handset upgrade program that lets customers upgrade to a new device every six months if 50 percent of the retail cost of the phone has been paid. Analysts, however, panned Verizon's the program because Verizon doesn't take the cost of a device subsidy out of its rate plans. Thus, customers who sign up for Edge effectively pay the cost of the device twice--upfront and in the handset subsidy in the rate plan.

Will Verizon take T-Mobile's bait and start eliminating ETFs? Or International roaming fees? Or revise its rate plans? The operator, which has long touted its LTE coverage and capacity, has recently admitted to experiencing network issues due to higher-than-expected LTE data traffic. The company is in the midst of deploying LTE in its AWS spectrum to help alleviate that stress, but it will take time because Verizon needs to launch more handsets capable of operating on its AWS spectrum first.

For now, it's unlikely that Verizon will enter the price battle. However, if T-Mobile's latest ETF elimination strategy starts to make inroads with Verizon's customers, the operator will surely have to respond. The wireless pricing wars are escalating, but I have a feeling we are in for a long and treacherous battle ahead. -- Sue

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Amazon to start collecting sales tax in three new states in 2014

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Amazon has begun collecting sales tax in three additional states - Nevada, Tennessee and Indiana - this year. The online retail giant has fought for years to avoid collecting sales tax in as many states as possible, but it now collects sales tax in 19 states.

State officials from the three new states joining the club say that it will help generate $50 million a year, reports The Wall Street Journal.

As part of its deal with Tennessee officials, Amazon said it will build two warehouses there. The Christian Science Monitor reports that Gov. Bill Haslam said that the warehouses should create 3,500 jobs for the state.

The general rule of thumb used to be that an online retailer would only collect sales tax if the company had a physical presence within the state. However, Amazon had been successful in fighting that, until the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to rule on a New York case, in which Amazon tried to avoid charging tax there. New York State argued that since Amazon had affiliates in the state - used to help boost online traffic - that it had a foothold there and should charge tax. Amazon decided to cancel agreements with affiliates in Minnesota and Missouri just to avoid charging tax there, notes the Wall Street Journal.

In 2013, Amazon did reach a deal to bring warehouses to Florida, so sales tax will be collected there soon as well. Tax will begin being collected in 2016 for South Carolina residents.

image: Wikimedia Commons