According to a release issued Thursday, Michael Gardner will continue as president and CEO, the workforce of 1,100 is expected to remain unchanged and the Scranton-based company will keep its name.
“Operationally, 2018 was an outstanding year,” said Gardner. “We doubled our network presence in Atlanta, Allentown, and southern California, opened new locations, booked record sales in 2018, and increased our transportation capabilities by 30 percent. All of this takes resources and expertise.”
“Harkness Capital is the perfect fit to assist us in achieving our goals of exceptional logistics delivered by our dependable and dedicated associates,” Gardner said. “Besides providing the capital we need to accelerate our growth, they bring decades of operating experience and proven investment success in the logistics industry.”
Dick Kane, former CEO and returning board member, said the Kane family is delighted to welcome Harkness as fellow owners of the business.
“Their investment allows us to preserve the family culture at Kane Is Able and expand our best-in-the-industry service levels,” Kane said. “As we approach our 90th year in business, we’re excited to have Harkness as our partner.”
Ted Dardani, partner at Harkness Capital, said it is “honored and excited” to team with the Kane family and the Kane Is Able team.
NEW YORK — An escalating trade war between the U.S. and China could mean higher prices on a broad array of products from toys to clothing. But some retailers will be less equipped to handle the pain than others, leaving consumers to carry the load.
Analysts say big box giants like Target and Walmart who marked their latest quarter with strong performance are best positioned to absorb the higher costs because of their clout with suppliers. They’re also taking a judicious approach to price increases to lessen the impact.
The losers will be the ones that have been struggling all along — the mall-based clothing stores and others that sell commoditized products like basic sweaters or that don’t have the financial wherewithal to absorb extra costs.
Consumers, as well as most retailers, had been left largely unscathed by the first several rounds of tariffs that the U.S. imposed on China because they mostly focused on industrial and agricultural products. But that began to change when items like furniture saw an increase in tariffs to 25% two weeks ago.
Retailers will absorb the extra costs when those products arrive in U.S. ports in June. But now the Trump administration is preparing to extend the 25% tariffs to practically all Chinese imports not already hit with levies, including toys, shirts, household goods and sneakers.
Cowen & Co. estimates shoppers could see as much as 10% to 15% in price increases across all goods imported from China, which would mean an incremental cost of $100 billion or more.
Retail executives from a wide array of stores from Walmart to Kohl’s said on conference calls with analysts this week and last week that they remain optimistic about the financial health of the consumer, citing low unemployment and a strong economy. But shoppers could balk at paying higher prices on things they don’t need, especially those in the lower income bracket who are sensitive to any cost increases.
Analysts believe shoppers’ habits will change if the trade wars escalate and the next round of hikes stay in place for a while.
“It will change behaviors and change how much people buy and where people do that buying,” said Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail.
Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight, a technology firm that advises retailers and brands on pricing decisions, believes that if prices do rise because of the new tariffs, they will be permanent but not all products will be hit the same way. For example, home decor is less sensitive to price increases than big furniture based on millions of data points his firm collects monthly. Women’s clothing is more sensitive to price hikes than men’s clothing. In children’s shoes, which lost a big player Payless ShoeSource, retailers will have more power to increase prices since the shoe supply has gone down, he said.
Meanwhile, UBS is offering a dire analysis of what the new tariffs could mean in terms of store closures. UBS was already forecasting that nearly 21,000 stores in the U.S. would shutter by 2026, but with the next round of tariffs, more than 50% of those closures would occur within one year instead of four, it said.
“We continue to think the apparel and footwear consumer’s willingness to spend remains tepid at best,” UBS retail analyst Jay Sole wrote in his report.
In fact, nearly 200 footwear retailers and brands including Adidas and Shoe Carnival wrote a letter to President Donald Trump on Monday calling for him not to slap tariffs on footwear imported from China.
The group, the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, estimates Trump’s proposed actions will add $7 billion in additional costs for customers every year.
Many retailers from Macy’s to Walmart warned that even though the escalating trade wars would mean higher prices for shoppers, the situation is still fluid.
Walmart said it’s been closely working with suppliers and says it will look at price increases on a case by case basis. Target’s CEO Brian Cornell said it will be able to weather the storm better than others because it sells a variety of items instead of focusing on a single product.
“Our ability to flex our focus from category-to-category is something that’s somewhat unique to Target versus single-category retailers,” he told analysts Wednesday.
Among department stores, the big concern is its private label clothing offerings, much of its sourced in China.
T.J. Maxx parent, on the other hand, which sells top brands at discounts and has been a darling in the retail world, sees itself benefiting from other retailers’ woes.
“Disruptions in the marketplace have created off-price buying opportunities for us,” Ernie Herrman, CEO of TJX Cos. told analysts earlier this week. “Further, because of our great values, if retail prices overall increase, that may create an opportunity for us to attract new customers.”
You won’t pay for health care in retirement with one lump sum. That’s the way these expenses are often presented, though, and the amounts are terrifying.
Fidelity Investments, for example, says a couple retiring in 2019 at age 65 will need $285,000 for health expenses, not including nursing home or other long-term care. The Employee Benefits Research Institute says some couples could need up to $400,000 — again, not including long-term care. The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College hasn’t updated its figures recently, but back in 2010 estimated a typical couple could spend $260,000 for medical and long-term care, with a 5% risk that costs will exceed $570,000.
No wonder 45% of people in their 50s and early 60s have little or no confidence that they’ll be able to afford their health care costs once they retire, according to a survey by the University of Michigan.
The approach of presenting people with a huge, perhaps unattainable, figure has long bothered Jean Young, senior research associate with the Vanguard Center for Investor Research.
You also may need six figures to cover food, or transportation, or shelter in a typical retirement. But these are costs you pay over time — just like you’ll pay for health care.
Young and other Vanguard researchers partnered with actuaries at Mercer Health and Benefits consulting firm to create a proprietary model based on what retired people actually spend on health care. What they found was that medical costs tend to be in certain ranges, based on a handful of factors:
Higher-income people pay larger premiums for certain parts of Medicare. Some premiums also vary by location, as do medical costs in general. How much health care you’ll consume is greatly influenced by how healthy you are when entering retirement, and, to some extent, your genes.
“The actuaries know that the health status of your parents tends to pass generationally,” Young says.
Here’s the number the researchers came up with: $5,200. That’s the median amount a typical 65-year-old woman could expect to spend annually for premiums and out-of-pocket medical, dental and vision costs in 2018. (Median is the point where half pay more and half pay less. The study used women because they have slightly higher long-term costs, but the gender difference is about 2%.)
That assumes the woman lives in a medium-cost area, is at medium risk for health care costs (she either smokes or has a chronic medical condition or two) and buys supplemental Plan F, the most popular Medigap policy. Eighty percent of those in similar situations would face costs in the range of $4,900 to $6,000.
The models also include worst-case scenarios. If her health deteriorated to the high-risk category, her costs could exceed $11,000. If she opted to do without a Medigap policy and had a bad year, she could pay over $21,800.
Retirement planning involves a lot of educated guesses. How long you’ll live, inflation rates, returns on your investments, your expenses — these may not end up being what you expected. Financial planners typically craft their assumptions about what’s most likely to happen and may suggest insurance or contingency plans to cover the worst-case scenarios.
Long-term care costs remain the big wild card. Half of people over 65 don’t incur any long-term care costs, Young says, and a quarter incur less than $100,000.
Those who exhaust their savings may end up on Medicaid, the government program for the indigent that pays for long-term care (Medicare does not). People who have a few million dollars saved may opt to “self-fund,” or pay for it without help. Those in between might consider some kind of long-term care insurance, or earmark assets they can tap if necessary, Young says. That could be your home equity or investments that give you income while you’re healthy but could be sold to pay for long-term care. The key is to not use up those resources for other costs. Holding something in reserve is particularly important for women, who are twice as likely to require paid care.
“We live longer; we tend to care for our husbands,” Young says. “The risk is higher for women.”
Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: lwestonnerdwallet.com. Twitter: lizweston.
Editor’s Note: Joseph A. Boylan is executive director of Wilkes-Barre Connect, the Entrepreneurial and Economic Development arm of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber. He recently attended the Boston Innovation Festival. The three-day experience brought together six events — including the industry-acclaimed FEI: Front End of Innovation conference — and hundreds of innovators to the Seaport World Trade Center. Below are edited highlights from the journal Boylan kept during the festival.
After months of telling every single person willing to listen to me about the Boston Innovation Festival, it’s finally here.
The thrill of being asked to participate back in November 2018, finally wore off in time for me to focus on my presentation the past two months. I was asked to present in the Enterprise Design Thinking Summit portion of the festival.
And just when I had the confidence I needed to feel like I deserved to be on the stage – FEI released a marketing piece on the Enterprise Design Thinking Summit, promoting a one-day summit “featuring some of the leading minds in design and innovation” and that fear came right back.
I would share the track stage with some of the most innovative and successful thought leaders in the US – including Jamin Hegeman, VP Design of Capital One, Lisa Marchese, COO of WITKOFF, Oen Michael Hammonds, Design Principal of IBM, and Henry Chesbrough, Faculty Director of the UC-Berkeley-Haas School of Business.
However, once again, the fear subsided, and the past two weeks I worked day and night on my presentation that would introduce the world to Wilkes-Barre Connect.
But lo and behold, that fear bubbled up once again on my drive to Boston when Ram Katamaraja — Founder of Colaberry and SOLVER at Solve-MIT — messaged me that he is fascinated with my work and was looking forward to my presentation.
But after arriving in Boston on Monday night — and settling in with a pint of Guinness from the famous Black Rose — I finally was able to relax, breathe, and transform that nervous energy into the confidence I needed to represent NEPA this week at the Conference.
Connect belongs on this stage. It is time to tell our story. And there is no better place to launch then at the Boston Innovation Festival.
I arrived super early to check out the space, specifically where I was going to speak on Thursday. It provided me with a great opportunity to mentally prepare for my presentation.
Arriving early also provided me with the opportunity to get some one-on-one experiences with some of the exhibitors.
My biggest takeaway, outside of their impressive portfolio, was their focus on recruiting startup teams to conceptualize and launch the new and innovative ideas generated from the process.
Next stop was bitsurf, where I had the opportunity to meet with Tracey Dodenhoff, their CEO, and good friend of Julie Anixter. Bitsurf tranforms your pipeline of emails, attachments and other content into a manageable, automated play list, allowing you the opportunity to watch, listen, comment on, favorite and share content through media platforms.
Tracey and I exchanged information to discuss a potential partnership with Connect. My first win of the day.
Eventually it was time for the main stage for the conference welcome and first of several featured speakers.
I had two main takeaways from the morning session – one bit of technology and one part motivational. On the technology side, the presenter used Slido – an app which allowed for real-time feedback from the audience. It was an amazing component to integrate into a usually straight-forward power point presentation. The motivational bit really hit me hard.
Shawn Nason, CEO & Chief Ecosystem Disruptor of the Nason Group, delivered this line as his welcome: “never be okay with mild salsa.”
At its surface, it sounds ridiculous, but when placed in the context of his presentation, it resonated tremendously – not just personally, but with what we are trying to do with Wilkes-Barre Connect.
Nason went on to describe how as innovators you should never be okay with mild salsa, but to find the hot salsa or “fire”…always find your fire or passion. Such a simple statement, with a powerful message.
The remainder of the day was essentially divided into two components for me personally: track sessions and networking. Both provided significant opportunities to understand the existing innovate processes and platforms that can provide true value to Wilkes-Barre Connect and Northeastern Pennsylvania.
For 15 minutes at a time, I was able to pitch Northeastern Pennsylvania and Wilkes-Barre Connect as an up-and-coming innovation hub. Collectively, the conference was worth every second of that collective 1:15.
The co-founder of Apple not only delivered the main presentation of the day titled “Who Runs the World? Humans,” but also participated in an executive panel debate discussing a bold vision for tomorrow’s innovation agenda.
The other panelists include Lisa Skeete Tatum, Founder & CEO of Landit, Leland Maschmeyer, Chief Creative Officer of Chobani, and Ivy Ross, VP, Design for Hardware Products at Google. One heck of a group to start the day.
Spent the morning finishing my Dunkin’ over a conversation with Richard Miller – a social innovation thought leader who just happens to reside in Tunkhannock. It took a conference in Boston to finally get us together for a chat.
We talked about some of the incredible work Richard has done, and the need to form a partnership with Wilkes-Barre Connect.
Before we knew it, the music blasts from the speakers. It’s Steve Wozniak time. And Steve didn’t disappoint. His talk was so personable – I was blown away, along with the rest of the audience. He wasn’t shy in describing how introverted he was as a high schooler, or his early days at HP, or his interesting relationship with Steve Jobs.
He didn’t hold back. Steve implored the audience to “follow the truth” and described his desire from an early age to “be a part of a revolution someday.”
And on a personal level, I loved hearing Steve talk about his infatuation with chasing down Bob Dylan artifacts and just his overall sense of humor, noting “Luck is the greatest superpower there is.”
I had the opportunity to sit and chat with Ivy Ross – VP, Design for Hardware Products at Google – for about 10 minutes. The experience was incredible. Being provided time and space to have an interactive discussion with Google about the innovation that is occurring in Wilkes-Barre is insane. There I was, describing to a Google VP about the THINK Center and our recent partnership with the USPS. I will never forget those 10 minutes.
The morning kicked off with several keynotes, including Mike Hatrick, Group Director IP Strategy for Volvo Group Trucks Technology, Jack Morgan, the Design Lead for Duolingo, and Henry Chesbrough, Faculty Director for the UC Berkeley-Haas School of Business.
Each offered unique insight from their perspectives, but quite honestly, my focus was on going over my presentation one more time.
One great interaction from this morning was being able to spend a few minutes more with Shawn Nason, CEO & Chief Ecosystem Disruptor for the Nason Group – and also MC of the festival.
I was able to bend his ear on the troubles we’ve had in Northeast PA, changing the culture and perception of the region, and how Wilkes-Barre Connect has dedicated tremendous amounts of time and resources to changing that through process.
I talked about our push to become a true innovation leader and the support and energy we’ve received from entrepreneurs and students to make that happen. Shawn was complimentary and loved our focus, inspiring me to not give up until our community finds “their hot salsa.”
And now the time has arrived for me to take the stage — it’s go time. I’m actually not feeling nervous, probably because I’ve gone numb. But there’s no time to be scared, this is what I came here to do — represent Northeastern Pennsylvania.
My half hour presentation was a blur – it raced by in a time frame which felt more like 30 seconds.
I wanted to be authentic and motivational, describing a process that can be replicated in any type of business – no matter the size or industry.
I presented on the importance of focusing on user outcomes – in our case our members. I was able to present in front of a great crowd, including some of new “Boston friends” that I made during the week, including Alex James from Addapptation and Zohaib Gulzar from FUJIFILM.
And I was even approached from attendees requesting a meeting to discuss Connect even further – including Christina Gerakiteys, CEO at SingularityU in Australia. And with that, the conference has come to a close. I can’t begin to even describe the value derived from just a few days in Boston.
Whether it’s launching a partnership with MIT Solve, or integrating bitsurf into our NEPA Regional Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, I’m bringing home knowledge and relationships to share and help uplift our entire region.
Retirement experts frequently recommend working longer if you haven’t saved enough. But you may not realize just how powerful a little extra work can be.
Researchers who compared the relative returns of working longer versus saving more last year reached some startling findings. Among them :
• Working just one extra month was similar to saving an additional 1% for 10 years before retirement.
• Delaying the start of retirement from age 62 to age 66 could raise someone’s annual, sustainable standard of living by 33%.
This is potentially great news for people in their 50s and 60s who are able and willing to stay on the job. But younger people shouldn’t use the findings as an excuse to ignore their 401(k)s, since many people retire earlier than they planned.
“I would see this as a positive message for people who maybe didn’t save as much as they could have and they’re wondering what to do,” says researcher Sita Slavov, a professor of public policy at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia, and a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. “I would not use this to advise younger people not to save.”
The study, which Slavov co-authored with her former Stanford University professor John Shoven and two of his other students, Gila Bronshtein and Jason Scott, first compared the effects of saving more, working longer or trimming investment expenses. They used theoretical households who save 9% of their salary over 30 years starting at age 36. Then they looked at actual households from the University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study, which tracks thousands of people 50 and over. The trends were the same: Working longer had the biggest impact on the household’s standard of living in retirement.
That makes sense. When you’re young, your savings have decades for compounded returns to grow. Likewise, keeping investment fees low means more of your money is available to compound. So an increase in savings or decrease in expenses can have an outsized impact.
When you’re older, your savings have less time left to grow: The runway ahead of you is shorter. So working longer starts to have the biggest effect.
Most of the benefit comes from delaying the start of Social Security checks, the researchers found, but continued contribution to retirement accounts and delayed withdrawal from those accounts are also factors. You’re not required to start Social Security when you retire, or vice versa, but most people do, Slavov notes, so the study was structured to reflect that.
Starting Social Security at 62, the earliest age you can claim retirement benefits, means locking in a permanently smaller check. Your check could be as much as 76% larger if you waited until age 70, when your monthly benefit maxes out. Delaying increases your checks by about 7% each year between age 62 and what’s known as your full retirement age: currently 66, but rising to 67 for people born in 1960 and later. After full retirement age, your benefit rises by 8% each year you delay.
The advantages of delaying Social Security typically are so great that many financial planners now recommend clients tap other resources, including retirement funds, if that allows them to put off claiming.
Thanks to current low interest rates, there’s no other investment that gives such a high, guaranteed return. And while the larger checks are designed to compensate for the fact that people who claim later will receive fewer payments over their lifetimes, longer life expectancies mean that most people will see more money overall by waiting. Delaying is particularly advantageous for the higher earner in a married couple and for single people, Slavov’s previous research with Shoven found.
Their latest research shows that, overall, lower earners benefit even more from delay than higher earners. Again, that makes sense, because Social Security is progressive. It’s designed to replace a larger proportion of lower income people’s earnings. The more you rely on Social Security, the more it can pay to wait — if you can.
Slavov acknowledges that job loss, bad health or the need to care for a loved one often can push people into retirement earlier than they planned. (A 2018 TransAmerica study found 56% of the retirees surveyed retired earlier than expected.)
“These results really apply to people who have the option of working longer,” Slavov says. “Obviously, that’s not going to be an option for everyone.”
Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: lwestonnerdwallet.com. Twitter: lizweston.
Natural gas customers in UGI’s North District will pay more for the fuel next month, but the hike will be short lived, the utility said Friday.
The price it pays to buy natural gas on the wholesale market will rise on June 1 and decrease in Dec. 1, UGI Utilities Inc. said in a press release.
The average residential heating customer’s bill will increase by approximately 1.9 percent in June. But when UGI submits its annual purchased gas cost rate projection for Dec. 1 to the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission it’s expecting a 2.2 percent decrease from the June quarterly rate.
“These changes reflect actual and projected gas costs related to wholesale supply purchases,” said Chris Brown, UGI vice president and general manager of rates and supply. “Natural gas remains a strong value for our customers, backed by low-cost and reliable shale gas supplies.”
UGI is required to file its gas cost rates annually for review with the PUC and may adjust the rates quarterly to reflect changes in wholesale natural gas prices. By law, utilities cannot earn a profit on the natural gas commodity portion of a customer’s bill and are required to pass purchased gas cost rate onto the customers without any markup.
Beginning June 1, the bill for a typical residential heating customer who uses 91 hundred cubic feet or ccf of natural gas per month will increase to $94.50 from $92.75. If UGI’s proposed rates for Dec. 1 are approved, that bill will decrease to $92.42.
The bill for a typical commercial retail customer using 31.2 thousand cubic feet or mcf per month will increase to $256.62 from $250.59 on June 1 and decrease to $249.25 on Dec 1.
The bill for a typical industrial retail customer using 88.1 mcf per month will increase to $663.55 from $646.54 on June 1 and decrease to $642.75 on Dec. 1
The proposed Dec. 1, 2019 rate may be impacted by the PUC’s final order in the UGI Gas Division base rate proceeding currently under consideration. In that case, the company proposed consolidating the existing standalone purchased gas cost rates for each rate district – North, Central and South – into a single consolidated PGC rate applicable to all PGC customers.
Customers may call UGI at 1-800-276-2722 to receive further information on the proposed rates or to find out what actions they may take. UGI encourages customers to use energy wisely and make efficiency improvements in their homes. All customers are encouraged to sign up for UGI’s free budget billing program, which spreads bills out over a 12-month period. Customers with a limited or fixed income should call UGI at 1-800- UGI-WARM to determine if they are eligible for one of several energy assistance programs. Any customer who is behind on their gas bills should contact the utility as soon as possible to discuss a payment arrangement.
UGI is headquartered in Denver, Pennsylvania. UGI Utilities – North District serves approximately 172,000 customers in 13 northeastern Pennsylvania counties. Additional information about UGI is available at www.ugi.com.
DETROIT — Want to ditch the shopping cart? Grocery delivery services are growing rapidly, but shoppers need to decide if the convenience is worth the higher cost.
Big companies like Amazon and Walmart are expanding grocery delivery, as are regional players like FreshDirect. Grocery chains like Kroger and Safeway are working with third party delivery services like Instacart or developing their own services.
Groceries have been slower to migrate online than books, clothing and other items. Online grocery sales make up 3% of the $800 billion food retail market, according to a recent report by Deutsche Bank. That’s expected to climb to 12% by 2025 as services grow and stores offer more options, like online ordering for pickup.
Offerings vary. Customers can pay per delivery or with an annual fee. Orders under $35 generally cost more. Some companies promise delivery in one or two hours. Others, like Peapod, offer next day service. Delivery during peak times may cost more.
Sometimes shoppers pay the same price they would in the store. In other cases, they pay more for each item to cover the processing cost. Shipt says members can expect to pay $5 more per $35 order when they shop through its website versus shopping in a store.
Celeste Haar, a small business owner in Metairie, Louisiana, uses Shipt for orders from Target but Instacart for most groceries. She has a $49 annual membership for Shipt and pays a $9.99 monthly fee for Instacart.
“This is one small way to take care of myself that is so much better than a massage or pedicure and costs less,” she said.
For some, grocery delivery is more than a convenience. Maryjo Harper, a retired insurance claims manager and minister who lives in Wilsonville, Oregon, started using Instacart a little more than a year ago while she was recuperating from rotator cuff surgery.
Harper still uses the service a couple of times a month, especially in the winter. She pays $3.99 per delivery plus service fees. But she’s a reluctant user, partly because she feels Instacart isn’t transparent about its fees. She recently paid $3.69 on Instacart’s website for green leaf lettuce, for example, but on the actual receipt from Safeway — where it was purchased — the lettuce cost $1.19.
There are other downsides to delivery. Customers might miss an interesting new product or a good deal. Picky shoppers might not like what’s selected for them. And some customers have complained that delivery drivers won’t go to certain neighborhoods.
Still, Tobie Stanger, a senior editor with Consumer Reports, said delivery is a good option for many people.
Customers can save money by ordering online and picking up the groceries themselves, Stanger said. That’s already a free option at 2,100 U.S. Walmart stores; 3,100 will have it by the end of this year, the company says. Albertsons Companies, which operates Safeway and other grocery chains, offers online ordering and pickup at 250 stores. At some it’s a free option; at others the company charges $3.95 or $4.95 per order.
• Instacart: Founded in 2012, Instacart is now one of the largest grocery delivery services. It has partnerships with 20,000 stores in 5,500 North American cities, including Costco and Aldi. Instacart charges $99 for an annual subscription — or $9.99 monthly — which gives consumers free delivery on orders of $35 or more and lets them shop at warehouse stores like BJ’s Wholesale without a membership. Instacart will also deliver from its partner stores to non-members for $3.99 (or $8.99 from member-only warehouse stores) plus a 5% service fee.
• Shipt: Shipt was launched in 2014 and bought by Target Corp. in 2017. It delivers from Target and other grocery stores in 260 cities. An annual plan is $99, although the company was recently offering a Mother’s Day special for $49. Membership includes free delivery for orders over $35. Shipt charges $7 for orders under $35.
• Walmart: Walmart offers delivery from 1,000 stores, and plans to expand that to 1,600 by the end of this year. It partners with third party delivery companies like DoorDash. Customers must order at least $30 worth of goods for delivery. They pay the same price they would in store. Walmart charges $7.95 (or $9.95 at higher demand times) to deliver.
• Amazon Prime Now: Prime Now is included in Amazon’s $119-per-year Prime membership. In 90 cities, Prime Now will deliver groceries from Whole Foods. Two-hour delivery is free; one-hour delivery is $7.99. There’s a $4.99 charge for an order less than $35. In 15 U.S. cities, Amazon also offers AmazonFresh, a grocery delivery service that costs $14.99 per month.
• Peapod: The granddaddy of grocery delivery was founded in 1989 and operates in 24 markets. It requires a minimum order of $60 and charges between $7.95 and $9.95 for delivery. It also offers unlimited free delivery for $119 per year.
WASHINGTON — The young models and the candy-colored graphics that helped propel Juul to the top of the e-cigarette market are gone. In their place are people like Carolyn, a 54-year-old former smoker featured in new TV commercials touting Juul as an alternative for middle-age smokers.
“I don’t think anyone including myself thought that I could make the switch,” Carolyn says, sitting in a suburban living room as piano music quietly plays in the background.
Under intense scrutiny amid a wave of underage vaping, Juul is pushing into television with a multimillion-dollar campaign rebranding itself as a stop-smoking aid for adults trying to kick cigarettes. But the strategy is raising concerns from anti-smoking experts and activists who say the company is making unproven claims for its product.
On Thursday, six anti-tobacco and health groups called on the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates e-cigarettes, to investigate Juul’s marketing efforts across TV, radio and other formats.
“Juul, a product that FDA has found to be largely responsible for the current epidemic of youth usage of highly addictive e-cigarettes, is being advertised and marketed on a massive scale as a smoking cessation product, without the required review and approval by FDA,” said the letter from the American Heart Association, the Truth Initiative, the American Academy of Pediatrics and three other groups.
In a statement, FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum said only that the agency “continues to closely scrutinize potentially false, misleading or unsubstantiated claims” to make sure the public is “not misled into mistakenly using inherently dangerous tobacco products for medical uses.”
Indeed, Juul’s website carries the disclaimer: “Juul products are not intended to be used as cessation products, including for the cure or treatment of nicotine addiction” — a point underscored Thursday by a Juul representative.
Over the past half-century, the FDA has granted approval to just a few kick-the-habit products, including nicotine gums, patches, lozenges and prescription drugs.
Anti-tobacco experts are perplexed that the FDA hasn’t stopped Juul from pitching its nicotine-emitting device to millions of American smokers looking to quit cigarettes.
“I think Juul is skirting the edge of the law, and I think that the FDA is letting them get away with it,” said Stan Glantz, a tobacco control researcher at the University of California San Francisco.
FDA enforcement is especially important, Glantz and others argue, because e-cigarettes are not subject to the decades-old laws that ban advertising of traditional cigarettes on TV, radio and billboards.
Most experts agree e-cigarettes are less harmful than the paper-and-tobacco variety because they don’t produce all the cancer-causing byproducts found in smoke.
But researchers are only beginning to understand the unique risks of e-cigarettes, which emerging science suggests can damage the lungs and airways and contribute to precancerous growths. Those risks have led some experts to conclude that smokers who use both cigarettes and e-cigarettes are unlikely to get any health benefit.
Survey and study results suggest about 10% to 30% of smokers who vape are able to quit cigarettes. The rest use both products.
Juul points to recent survey results that suggest nearly 50% of smokers who tried Juul stopped using cigarettes within three months. The company-funded research is based on online questionnaires. Participants did not undergo chemical testing to verify they had quit, a technique used in more rigorous studies.
Juul spent more than $11.8 million on the TV ads over the first four months of the year, according to ad tracker iSpot.tv. The spots aired more than 2,800 times on cable channels including A&E, the Food Network and the Discovery Channel.
The TV campaign followed more than $75 million in spending on radio, print, online and outdoor display advertising last year, according to Kantar, a tracking and analytics company. That was more than what was spent by tobacco giant Altria, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes and a recent investor in Juul. Because of the restrictions on tobacco advertising, Altria and other tobacco companies spend most of their marketing budgets on in-store displays and promotional mailings to smokers.
The Juul ads carefully avoid key words associated with FDA-approved smoking aids, such as “quit,” ”addiction” and “health.” Instead, the company’s testimonials refer to “switching” to Juul to get a “nicotine fix” and “improve” one’s life.
“I think the Juul ads are very carefully written and lawyered to confuse the public,” Glantz said.
The FDA has broad leeway to decide which regulations it will actually enforce. In the case of e-cigarettes, all vaping products now on the market are technically illegal, under an Obama-era regulation that required manufacturers to submit applications by 2018. But recently departed FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb decided the FDA would not enforce the policy until 2021, in part because of industry complaints that earlier regulation would wipe out most vaping businesses.
“There are a ton of non-enforcement decisions going on at FDA, and that’s clearly what’s happened with the advertising by Juul,” said Eric Lindblom of Georgetown University’s law school, who previously served as a senior official in the FDA’s tobacco center.
The light U.S. approach to regulation contrasts with that of Europe, where nicotine levels are capped and advertising is tightly restricted.
Britain and other countries have had success promoting e-cigarettes as a reduced-risk product to smokers without seeing the surge in underage vaping gripping the U.S. But they also ban most e-cigarette advertisements from television, newspapers, magazines and websites.
FDA rules permit marketing across all those formats, provided ads carry a single warning message: “This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.”
Paul Cheeseman of Philadelphia said smokers may need to try a number of options before finding something that helps them quit. The 37-year-old accountant quit smoking two years ago after a neighbor gave him a Juul device he had confiscated from his child.
Cheeseman said he thinks the Juul ads are effective because they tap into smokers’ negative feelings about being “controlled by the ritual of smoking.” He said Juul works because it helps replace both the nicotine and the physical ritual of smoking.
“While Juul might not be the most trustworthy company, and the science isn’t very clear yet, I can positively say that Juul has worked out very well for me,” he said.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
DOVER, Del. (AP) — NASCAR is making its first big play in the world of expanded legal sports betting, hoping a sports data partnership will lead to gamblers being able to bet during races on much more than just who gets the checkered flag.
Genius Sports has become the exclusive provider of NASCAR data to licensed sportsbooks, officials announced Friday.
“NASCAR is one of those sports that I think has an enormous opportunity to present an exciting betting product, particularly in-game,” said Genius spokesman Chris Dougan.
Genius Sports will develop an official NASCAR gambling offering for legal sportsbooks, using NASCAR’s official data feed.
The exclusive deal lets Genius Sports help books provide up-to-the-minute odds and a slew of traditional wagers and prop bets.
“We feel that NASCAR has a little more of an upside in the in-race event experience than some of the other stick-and-ball sports,” said Brian Herbst, senior vice president of broadcasting and innovation for NASCAR. “The in-game experience that we’re building through Genius will have live odds around NASCAR.”
So a bettor could watch odds on their selected driver fluctuate throughout the race before deciding to place a bet. NASCAR hopes that will keep fans interested (Fox Sports has averaged 5.14 million viewers this season) in watching for the duration of a race.
“What could happen in the next five seconds? What could happen in the next lap? It opens the door to a massively exciting new market,” Dougan said. “NASCAR is now starting to recognize this is a huge fan engagement tool. We give them that distribution and that reach.”
Herbst said it should take six to eight months for the technology to come together for in-race betting, leading to live race odds by the 2020 season.
Before the start of the 2019 season, NASCAR developed an integrity program and gambling policy in which the sanctioning body granted all teams and tracks the ability to sell marketing sponsorships to sports betting companies and licensed sportsbooks.
Among the restrictions: drivers and team members are banned from betting on races or disclosing confidential information. They are allowed to participate in fantasy sports relating to the three national touring series, Cup, Xfinity and Truck, but may not accept prizes with a value of more than $250 in any games. The bans are in line with other major sports.
Football, basketball and baseball historically generate the bulk of sports betting in the United States and NASCAR has yet to spark interest among the masses. Even with less inventory than other popular sports, NASCAR’s move is an attempt to carve out a sliver of a market with billions bet each year.
Vernon Kirk, director of the Delaware lottery, said since full-scale sports betting started in Delaware on June 5, 2018, about one-tenth of 1% has been wagered on auto racing ($208,100 out of $154.8 million), through April 28.
“I don’t think we’ve done a really good job of taking the tools that our in our tool kit and leveraging those,” Herbst said. “We weren’t really in the gaming conversation until this year. We’re still taking a kind of pragmatic, staggered approach into it.”
Nevada’s effective monopoly on sports betting ended last spring, when the Supreme Court ruled the ban should be lifted. Casinos in seven other states — Rhode Island, Delaware, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New Mexico — now accept wagers on sports. The list is expected to grow by next year with numerous states considering bills.
Because of its alliance with Dover Downs Hotel & Casino on the same property, Dover opened an on-site kiosk last fall and became the only track that allowed sports gambling on its property. The casino’s sportsbook staff will set up on Sunday inside the Delaware Lottery’s display near the 46-foot tall Monster Monument at Victory Plaza.
With rain in the forecast for Sunday’s Cup race, most of the prop bets like laps led, number of cautions and average speed of the race have all been taken off the board. Kyle Busch is a 3-1 favorite to win and Kevin Havick checks in with 9-2 odds. Bubba Wallace, who finished second in the 2018 Daytona 500, faces 500-1 odds.
“I think a whole new generation and a whole new demographic could become engaged with NASCAR,” Dougan said.
Most retirement calculators are optimistic to a fault. They assume our incomes will rise throughout our working lives, or at least stay roughly the same.
In reality, our incomes are likely to peak years — and sometimes decades — before we retire. Consider this:
• People’s biggest wage increases tend to happen in their 20s and 30s, with more modest increases in midlife followed by declines, according to a 2016 analysis of Social Security earnings records underwritten by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
• Most people’s incomes peak by age 45, the researchers found, although the top 20% of earners peaked in their 50s.
• More than half of those who enter their 50s with a stable job are laid off or otherwise forced out the door, and the vast majority don’t recover financially, according to analysis by ProPublica and the Urban Institute.
“When you’re 40 and things are going well, you think, ‘OK, I can see when things are going to get better and that’s when I can save for retirement ,’ ” says Gary Burtless , an economist with the Brookings Institution who studies earnings patterns . “And those days just don’t come.”
What’s true on average for a group of people may not be true for an individual, of course. Understanding these general patterns, though, could help people make better decisions about spending, saving and when to retire.
Generally, the more education people have, the more money they make over their lifetime and the later their earnings peak, Burtless says.
“For somebody with a position like professor at a university, it might be when they’re in the second half of their 50s, as opposed to the second half of their 30s, which it might be for your brother-in-law who failed to complete high school,” Burtless says.
But the 50s tends to be a dangerous decade for workers, according to ProPublica , an independent nonprofit newsroom, and the Urban Institute , a nonprofit think tank that researches social and economic issues.
The researchers found 56% of full-time, full-year workers ages 51 to 54 suffered an involuntary job loss after age 50 that had a substantial economic impact, either by reducing their earnings at least 50% or resulting in six months or more of unemployment. The median household income of these workers dropped 42%, and only one in 10 ever earned as much after they left their jobs as before. An additional 9% left their jobs involuntarily for personal reasons such as health. The analysis was based on data from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, which tracks 20,000 people in the U.S.
Job disruptions and declining earnings help explain why so many people in their 60s have so little saved, Burtless says.
“Instead of having those last years when you no longer have children in the house to bulk up your savings, you are using up your savings even before you reach retirement age,” he says.
People entering their 50s without having saved enough for retirement may need to plan to work longer, or cut their expenses, rather than assume rising incomes will help them make up the deficit, says certified financial planner Michael Kitces, who blogs at Nerd’s Eye View.
Kitces advises people in their 20s and 30s to commit to putting half of their raises into retirement funds. Since those raises are likely to be largest in the early years, saving half can jump-start retirement funds while limiting “lifestyle inflation,” or the tendency to spend more as income increases.
It can be tempting to take on a big mortgage, for instance, thinking that future salary boosts will make the payments more manageable, or to celebrate a raise by buying a fancier car. If your income doesn’t rise — or starts to drop — it can be painful to downsize or go back to plainer vehicles. (Also, the more expensive your lifestyle, the more money you’ll need to retire.)
“Recognize that it’s a lot harder to remove something from our lives than it is to just not add it to our lives in the first place,” Kitces says.
Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet, a certified financial planner and author of “Your Credit Score.” Email: lwestonnerdwallet.com. Twitter: lizweston.
WASHINGTON — U.S. productivity grew at a solid 3.6% rate in the first three months of this year, the strongest quarterly gain in more than four years and a hopeful sign that a long stretch of weak productivity gains may be coming to an end.
The first quarter increase in productivity was more than double the 1.3% rate of gain in the fourth quarter, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Labor costs actually fell in the first quarter, dropping at an annual rate of 0.9%, indicating that tight labor markets are not creating unwanted wage and inflation pressures.
If it continues, an uptick in productivity would be good news for President Donald Trump and his goal of achieving sustained economic growth above 3%. Productivity, the amount of output per hour of work, is a key factor determining an economy’s growth potential.
With the strong gain in the first quarter, productivity over the past year has grown by 2.4%, the best four-quarter gain since a 2.7% rise in 2010.
Productivity gains over the past decade have for the most part been lackluster, averaging annual gains of just 1.3% from 2007 through 2018. That was less than half the 2.7% gains seen from 2000 to 2007, a period when the economy was benefiting from technology improvements in computers and the internet.
Economists have labeled the slowdown in productivity since the Great Recession as one of the country’s biggest challenges. However, recent signs have indicated that may be turning around. The economy’s potential to grow is governed by two major factors, growth of the labor force and growth in productivity.
The overall economy, as measured by the gross domestic product, expanded at a surprisingly robust 3.2% annual rate in the first three months of this year. For all of 2018, GDP growth was 2.9%. The Trump administration has projected sustained GDP gains of 3% or better over the next decade, well above the 2.2% average GDP gains seen since the current expansion began in June 2009.
In a separate report Thursday, the Labor Department said that applications for unemployment benefits, a proxy for layoffs, held steady at 230,000 last week. That is a low level that indicates a strong job market. The government will release its April jobs report on Friday. In March, employers created 196,000 jobs while the unemployment rate stayed at 3.8 percent, the lowest level in nearly 50 years. Economists believe April job growth will remain strong.
Recently, I helped with a group of ninth-grade students from Carbondale School District who were participating in our program called Finance Park at the Junior Achievement Mericle Family Center for Enterprise Education in Pittston Township.
The students were randomly assigned annual salaries, family statuses (single, married, children) and careers. Then they were given the opportunity budget and pay for their lifestyle with salaries that ranged from $25,000 to $110,000 a year. Some had hard choices to make, some not so difficult. This same scenario plays out with the dozens of school districts that send their students to us.
As I walked around offering my support and talking with them about their choices, I found myself saying, “You may want to trade in the Chevrolet Camaro for the Ford Fiesta, because you’ve run out of money and you haven’t eaten yet.”
Finances are frustrating. One student even said “I’m never asking my Mom to buy me anything” once he saw that after paying all of his bills, he was left with $75 for the month.
The frustration abates, however, when we learn the skills needed to be in control of our financial future.
And, for these young people, their experience in Finance Park was just a practice run – a well- structured and supervised exercise in financial literacy. Taking an honest healthy look at what it really takes to manage your financial future can be a challenge at any age, but at Junior Achievement we can help people at a younger age develop the skills and knowledge about the basics of personal finance.
As we highlight “Financial Literacy Month” throughout April, we are teaching our students the basics of financial literacy such as paying yourself first, understanding a need versus a want, and preparing for emergencies, with relevant examples even at the kindergarten level.
These lessons are freely provided to school districts by way of tested curriculum throughout the year and are often taught by experienced professionals, who are encouraged to share their life experiences.
We believe that teaching financial literacy from an early age encourages the skills needed to be successful. It is Junior Achievement’s ultimate goal to inspire and prepare young people to succeed in a global economy.
So as the students left frustrated with their simulated “adulting,” we hope they took away a better understanding of their parent’s daily responsibilities as well as a connection to their own future with the good choices they can make now.
If you are looking to get involved with Junior Achievement and find out more ways to inspire and motivate young people, please give us a call 570-602-3600 or email us at Info@JANEPA.org.
Ginny Crake is the President of Junior Achievement of Northeast Pennsylvania, based at the Mericle Center for Enterprise Education in Pittston Township. Junior Achievement of NEPA serves over 12,000 students in 13 counties at the Mericle Center based programming regarding financial literacy and career preparation.
WILKES-BARRE — Kate Volla and her husband, Fotis Tsali,s have gone thin and expanded menu at the same time.
They’ve added the thin, delicate pancakes known as crepes to the daily fare at their Curry Donuts shop at 28 N. Main St. in Wilkes-Barre.
“In Greece we have many stores with with crepes,” Volla said of their native land. “Some people, they have tasted in other places. We decided to start something new.”
The couple serve up two varieties — sweet and salty — made fresh daily on a round griddle-like appliance in the shop they’ve operated for approximately six years. Handwritten on a small chalkboard hung above a counter are prices and selections. The sweet crepes have spreads such as Nutella or peanut butter. Fruit can be added to it. The salty features cheese, ham and turkey. The basic versions are $3.50. Added ingredients, such as the air fried french fries in the salty variety, cost extra.
“We cook here,” Volla stressed. The crepes are not microwaved and the dough is made fresh daily with “milk and flour,” Volla said stopping short before she revealed the recipe. They’re flat and paper thin and not to be confused with fluffier pancakes.
Customers have been getting a rise out of the crepes. “Everybody who tastes comes and tastes again,” Volla said.
People who work downtown stop into the small shop tucked into the Park & Lock North parkade, as do students from King’s College on their trek up and down North Main Street to and from classes.
“It’s something new,” Volla said, hoping the added menu items make their shop a destination downtown.
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