Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Winter Storm Xenia Forecast: Snowstorm Winding Down in Minnesota

  • Region affected: Parts of Upper Midwest
  • Timing: Now through Tuesday
  • Up to additional six inches possible.

Winter Storm Xenia is slowly winding down over the Upper Midwest, with snow lingering in northern Minnesota, far northwest Wisconsin and the western U.P. of Michigan.

Tornadoes were reported Monday afternoon in the warm air immediately ahead of the cold front associated with Xenia in western Minnesota. Click here for more on the severe weather threat.

Here are the details on the rest of Xenia's path.


    Tuesday: Lingering snow and some wind, diminishing late in the day in parts of the northern Great Lakes.

Snow, wind impacts

  • Additional snowfall: Up to another six inches of snow is possible in parts of northern Minnesota. Lighter accumulations are possible in northwest Wisconsin and the western U.P. of Michigan.
  • Wind chills: Subzero wind chills are likely across much of the Dakotas and northern Minnesota into Tuesday morning. While not at all unusual for this part of the country in winter, it is now unusually late in the season to be seeing such bitter wind chills - remember to take the same common-sense measures to protect yourself from the cold as you would in mid-winter.
  • Travel impact: Road closures have occurred along stretches of I-29 and I-94 in the Dakotas. Secondary roads are or will become impassable due to blowing and drifting snow. Check our Commuter Forecast map for weather and traffic conditions on the road.
  • Road conditions and closures: South Dakota | North Dakota | Minnesota

( MORE: 10 Cities Winter Spared | 10 Worst Winter Cities)

Check back with weather.com and The weather channel for the latest on Winter Storm Xenia.

MORE ON WEATHER.COM: Winter Storm Xerxes, April 2013 (Last Season's "X" Storm)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Miguel Cabrera's deal done: Tigers sign off on $292M commitment

Miguel Cabrera's record $248 million extension is a done On Sales now, as the Tigers have locked up their superstar to an eight-year extension that commits them to 10 more total years with the two-time MVP, including the two years he had on his previous contract, and could keep them together for as many as 12 years.

The Tigers have called a press conference for today at their spring site in Lakeland, Fla., to announce the agreement, which was first reported by CBSSports.com. The eight-year, $248 million extension is the largest extension in baseball history, and the $292 million guaranteed commitment is also the largest commitment. The $292 million figure was first reported by Foxsports.com.

Cabrera had two years to go and $44 million on his previous $152 million, eight-year Tigers deal, and the extension will be added on top of that.

Cabrera is a defending two-time American League MVP who also has won the last three batting titles. Cabrera, 30, is beloved in Detroit, and around the team, where he has become a positive clubhouse force in addition to the best hitter in baseball.

Cabrera could actually make as much as $352 million with the deal, as there are vesting options for years 11 and 12 at $30 million apiece based on achievements during the deal. CBSSports.com first reported the presence of the 11th and 12th year options. The record deal was negotiated by Fern Cuza and Diego Bentz of Relativity Baseball.

Cabrera breaks the previous record commitment of $275 million by the Yankees for Alex Rodriguez, though A-Rod's deal, signed after the 2007 season, remains the highest single contract.

With two years left on his contract, Miguel Cabrera will take Detroit's mega-offer. (USATSI)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Where to find the best car deals

After a tough winter, chances are you can't wait for real spring weather. Car dealers feel the same way. With winter sales cut back by severe weather, dealers are eager to clear unsold vehicles off their lots. And that means good deals for car shoppers.

"Consumers will benefit from auto makers and dealers who are willing to move standing inventory at a steep discount," says chief analyst Jesse Toprak of cars.com. With the aid of manufacturers, who more than ever want to keep inventories under control, dealerships are offering a variety of low-interest loans, rebates and low-payment lease deals if your credit rating qualifies you for these offers.

In addition to these stated deals, you should be able to negotiate down the selling price. Even where a rebate is offered, you can achieve further discounts with determined negotiating.

Here is a closer look at a selection of deals on 2014 models cited as among the Discount by cars.com.

Low-rate financing

Ram 1500: Chosenrecently by Consumer Reports as the best pickup, this RAM comes with an offer of 1.9 percent financing for 36 months. In an unusual combination, dealers also are offering rebates of up to $1,500 along with the low-rate financing.

Toyota Avalon: Toyota's large sedan is praised by critics for its roominess and quiet, comfortable ride. Dealers are offering the Avalon with zero percent financing for 36 months.


Buick Enclave: This midsize SUV is family friendly with three rows of seats. Critics like its responsive handling and well-appointed interior. In an attempt to attract new buyers, General Motors is offering a $4,131 rebate to shoppers who currently do not own or lease a GM vehicle.

Toyota Prius: One of the earliest hybrids and still among the top-ranked vehicles for gas mileage (51 MPG in city driving, 48 on the highway), the Prius carries a $1,500 rebate.

Lease deals

Honda Civic: One of the best-selling small cars, the Civic LX models with continuously variable transmission can be leased for $159 a month for 36 months with $1,999 due at signing.

Toyota Prius: As is often the case, Toyota is offering a choice of a lease deal on its hybrid in addition to a rebate for buyers. If you prefer leasing, the Prius is offered at $279 a month for 36 months with $999 down at signing.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Scandal Review: "No Sun on the Horizon"

It's hard out here for a Gladiator. Not so much for the Gladiators on , but for the Gladiators watching Scandal. There is so much that our beloved show asks us to accept (a point illustrated perfectly by Best Buy-lena-dunhamthe-national.html">Lena Dunham's sketch on Saturday Night Live last week), and sometimes it gets to be a bit much. Last night's episode gave us three (maybe four) Olivia Pope monologues-and this isn't entirely a bad thing! The Scandal monologues are everything! Especially when they concern the political affairs of the Un ited States government. But when you find yourself counting the number of times Olivia gets all hot and heavy and starts speechifying, eyes perpetually on the brink of tears, it probably means they're getting to be a little trope-ish. There's a formula with , and while the formula itself is unique, it's getting to be a wee bit predictable. A lot of exciting stuff went down last night (no surprise there), but much of that excitement was lost among the usual Scandal tricks.

"No Sun on the Horizon" sees President Grant and Vice President Sally Langston making preparations to face-off in the first debate of the campaign season. Langston is losing her mind, quoting way too much scripture in her rehearsals, with way too much fury. So her campaign assistant calls in a preacher to help her get back on track. And Team Grant finds itself divided when Huck and David Rosen bring Olivia the tapes of Cyrus and Sally working together to cover up Daniel Douglass' murder. When faced with the decision to bring the bad guys (her friends, her colleagues) to justice, Olivia decides to do nothing. But this shouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone who's been watching the show for the past few seasons. Olivia is a strange character-she likes to yell and wag her finger at Cyrus, but she rarely does anything to actually put him in a position to pay for his wrongdoings. Perhaps it's because she's done her own dirt and she has her own skeletons. But whatever it is, it makes all her finger-wagging seem more ritualistic than meaningful.

This week, those of us on Team Jake were in for quite a treat ... and the shock of our lives. Olake is back on, as Olivia was seeking some comfort lovin' from her fake boyfriend. It was great. But, of course, things get awkward as soon as Jake starts catching feelings. (He should have known that it was the wine talking when Olivia said with a straight face, "Take advantage of me Jake.") The only problem with their scene together was that Jake suddenly morphed into Fitz! Begging Olivia to run away with him so they could get away from all the big, bad political going-ons that had turned them into murderers and conspirators? We all know Liv never goes for this, so it wasn't a surprise when she shut him down the next day and was back to business as usual. Jake, however, takes it pretty hard and "gets back at her" by officially putting disgraced Gladiator Quinn on B6-13 duty. Liv is going to be sooo pissed when she finds out about this.

Sally Langston's preacher has the exact opposite effect for which he was hired, and she decides to confess her sins publicly. Bad idea. The kind of bad idea that inspires Cyrus to hire Charlie so that he can kill you. Now here was an interesting turn-as Command, we learn that Jake has put a ban on all types of killing! Amazing! So Cyrus (after being shut down by Charlie) goes straight to Jake and asks him to "take care of it" except it's Cyrus, so he actually says, "I need you to kill Sally Langston." Jake turns him down ... for the moment.

Olivia gets the brilliant idea to have Fitz throw the debate so that Sally can win. She knows that nothing compares to political power on the horizon, and that the voice of God (which Sally claims she's missing and can't live without) will be all but forgotten once she hears the applause of the people. And she's right. Although Fitz fights against the idea at first, he ultimately finds a way to "accidentally" bring up his infidelities. Sally forgets all about her confession (and her God) and jumps all over the opportunity to gain the crowd's favor. A good thing, too, because Jake had a sniper waiting in the wings just in case she went ahead with the confession.

And now, about that ending. Jake sets up a fake meeting between David and James, and at first it's all going the way we expect it to go. James says he has changed his mind and doesn't want to bring Cyrus to justice after all. (This is seriously, like, the third time he's done this to David, and it always happens after Cyrus apologizes to him for killing someone, or stealing an election, or whatever.) David gets pissed and gives James a hard time for, once again, being wooed by his political monster of a hubby. And then something legitimately unexpected happens. The two reporters with them working on the case get shot and killed. BOOM. And suddenly we see our beloved Jake! Jake, who just wanted to run off into the sunset with Olivia (he seriously said something like that) is holding a gun and points it at either David or James (guessing which one is the fun part). This moment ties in well with the very first opening scene. We saw Jake sitting in an unknown location explaini ng to an unknown audience that he has no family (or that he had a terribly dysfunctional family, including a sister who has since died), and this has made him perfect for the B6-13 lifestyle. As he faces David and James, gun in hand, there's a flash back (or forward) to that scene. It's great to get a glimpse into the troubled mind of Jake Ballard, but there's also this implication that he's standing there, killing all of these people because Olivia Pope won't run off with him. Quinn had taunted him a bit earlier, warning that Olivia was only pretending to care, that her "We are family" schtick was precisely that-a schtick she uses to get what she wants. Like Fitz, Jake seems to be going over the edge because of Olivia, but the whole appeal of Jake has been that he's not Fitz! At least he wasn't before this episode.

Stray Observations:
-Mellie's Sally Langston impersonation at the beginning of the episode was amazing.
-Olivia Pope noted that every single person running for president of the United States is a murderer. Totally frightening. And hilarious. But mainly frightening.
-Where was Adnan Salif? And where was Olivia's mom? They closed out last week's episode with this sweet little cliffhanger that totally was not addressed this week! Not cool.
-Can it please not be David who gets shot? Abby does not deserve this, and honestly? James/Publius has been so wishy-washy it's officially getting old. So yes, he deserves to die.
-And finally, this. It feels bad to say it (because many of us are more excited about Kerry Washington's baby than we should admit), but it is so distractingly obvious that there's a baby bump underneath all of Olivia's fabulous clothes. One glass of wine is fine, but watching her fake-chug that second glass? Awkward!

Favorite Quote of the Episode: "What would Olivia Pope do? Someone really needs to put that on a bracelet." (David)

Shannon M. Houston is a New York-based freelance writer, regular contributor to Paste, and occasional contributor to the human race via little squishy babies. You can follow her on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Don't ever pay full price for Papa John's in the Carolinas

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Yes, LeBron James scored a career-high 61 points in a win over the Charlotte Bobcats Monday night (all without a single dunk, by the way). But don't look at it as a loss, pizza consumers:

Cats pass 90pts! That means 50% off @PapaJohns all day tomorrow with code BOBCATS90. Offer applies to all participating NC & SC locations.

- Charlotte Bobcats (@bobcats) March 4, 2014

Laugh all you want, but some people take this Bobcats 90 thing very seriously:

Pizza > everything RT @sbnation LeBron had 61... but look at what Bobcats fans get! Who really wins?(H/t @PhilKenSaban) pic.twitter.com/dzOURHUMY1

- Dustin Rivera (@dustinjrivera) March 4, 2014

No really cares if the bobcats win it's all about that 50% off the pizza that we all care about

- The Dream (@C7Lynch) March 4, 2014 - Logan Adams (@loganmadams) March 4, 2014

A refresher: Whenever the Bobcats score 90 points, regardless of whether they win or lose, nearly every Papa John's location in the Carolinas offers half-off pizzas for people who use a promo code when they order online (BOBCATS90). It turns out the Charlotte Checkers (Promo code: CHECKERS) and Carolina Hurricanes (Promo code: CANIAC) offer the same deal after a win. With so many Printable Coupons, should you ever pay full price for a Papa John's pizza?

Probably not. We crunched the numbers since October 4, 2013, when the Hurricanes and Checkers first took the ice. Since then, 151 days have gone by. Out of those days, slightly more than half, 76, have been eligible for some sort of half-priced pizza:

As you can see from the above chart, the Bobcats have led the way in overall pizza discounts. While their overall record of 27-33 is only good enough for 7th place in the NBA's Eastern Conference, they're a remarkable 41-19 when it comes to hitting the vaunted 90-point Pizza Threshold. In addition, if you're holding out for a half-priced pizza, your best bet is to wait for the weekend:

Two more interesting notes here: Since October 4, there have only been 41 days in which the Checkers, Hurricanes and Bobcats have not played. So when you toss out those days, your odds of getting half-priced pizza go WAY up:

Also, there has only been one day in which all three teams, the Checkers, Hurricanes and Bobcats, have all hit the Pizza Threshold: January 18. On that day, the Checkers and Hurricanes both won, and the Heat beat the Bobcats 104-96. LeBron may be able to stop the Bobcats, but he can't stop your discount.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

2 Threats to Amazon.com's Future Growth

When a company is expected to grow earnings by 40% plus over the next several years, any threat to this earnings growth should be carefully considered by investors. Though NASDAQ: Deal Of The Day.com ( AMZN ) seems to want to be everything to everyone, there are at least two major threats that could hurt this company's potential.

A well-known issue everyone seems to ignore
There should be little doubt that one of the prime reasons many people shop online is to avoid paying sales tax at the point of sale. Though some believe that Amazon's competitive advantage is convenience, the economy of the last several years has taught many people to watch every dollar they spend.

It just makes good sense that if a consumer can buy the exact same product from Amazon and avoid paying sales tax they will do so. To combat this challenge, companies like Wal-Mart Stores ( ) are willing to continually cut prices to compete with their online counterparts. Though size clearly plays a part, Wal-Mart's U.S. sales growth came in at just 2.4% in the company's last quarter.

With over 4,000 locations domestically, Wal-Mart is probably a better proxy for the domestic marketplace than Amazon. However, there should be little doubt that the ability to avoid sales tax by purchasing on Amazon is hurting the physical retailers' sales.

Though some might believe sales tax won't be an issue, it's hard to ignore the obvious slowdown in Amazon's overall sales growth in concert with more states requiring sales tax be charged to its customers. Currently, 19 states require Amazon customers to pay sales tax. Not coincidentally, Amazon's worldwide trailing 12 month sales growth has slowed sequentially from 29% in the fourth quarter of 2012, to 24% in the fourth quarter of 2013.

As Amazon continues to expand, more states will certainly require sales tax to be collected, or a nationwide online sales tax may become law. This sales tax issue is a huge competitive difference between a company like NASDAQ: eBay ( EBAY ) and Amazon.

Most of eBay's sellers generate less than $1 million in out-of-state revenue, which would exempt them from collecting sales tax under the current version of the bill. In short, eBay could become a haven for tax avoiding customers.

With more than 60% of Amazon's revenue coming from general merchandise and electronic sales, this might be the most significant threat facing the company today.

A Prime concern
A second threat to Amazon's future actually comes from one of the company's most popular features. Amazon Prime members pay $79 per year for many benefits including free two-day shipping and streaming of thousands of instant video titles, this could change in the future.

Amazon has suggested that the Prime service may be too expensive to maintain the $79 annual price. If the company raised the price by $20 to $40 as has been suggested, Amazon could lose a significant portion of its membership.

In fact, a poll by Bizrate Insights of 200 customers found that 46% thought that the existing $79 price for Amazon Prime was too high. It's not hard to imagine these customers choosing to cancel their membership if Amazon goes through with a price hike of at least 25%.

eBay would seem to be a natural destination for jilted Prime members. The company offers a discount on seller's fees if they offer free shipping and meet certain criteria. Though eBay may not show the same type of revenue growth as Amazon, the company's Marketplaces business has consistently grown users at a double-digit rate, and its fixed price merchandise volume increased by 19% on a year-over-year basis.

In addition, if shoppers are looking for convenience, Wal-Mart's vast number of locations in everyday low prices could draw Prime members back into the stores. Wal-Mart could also one up Amazon at its own game by using its store locations as mini shipping warehouses.

Amazon claims that its Prime service has "millions of members." Imagine these customers having to choose whether to pay a higher annual price for Prime, while simultaneously having to pay sales tax on their purchases where they did not before. For a stock that still trades at a forward P/E ratio of more than 180, a continued slowdown in the company's revenue growth could mean the recent hit to the stock price is only the beginning.

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Cold Weather and Light Inventory Reduce House Sales

Severe cold weather and a shortage of houses on the market pushed home resales to an 18-month low in January, the latest indication that economic activity has hit a soft patch.

The National Association of Realtors said on Friday that home sales dropped 5.1 percent last month to an annual rate of 4.62 million units, the lowest level since July 2012.

The group said unseasonably cold weather was partly to blame, but it also acknowledged some fundamental weakness in the market, with higher mortgage rates and prices and fewer homes for sale.

Lawrence Yun, the group's chief economist, said, "We cannot ignore the ongoing headwinds of tight credit, limited inventory, higher prices and higher mortgage interest rates."

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate is about a full percentage point higher than it was a year ago, even though rates have come down a bit since hitting a two-year high in September.

Sales tumbled in the Northeast, South and Midwest, which were hit by snow storms and ice last month. And they were down 7.3 percent in the West, an indication that other factors apart from the weather also weighed Amazon Deal.

Home resales, which peaked in July, have declined in five of the last six months, and in January were down 5.1 percent from a year ago.

In January, the inventory of unsold homes on the market rose 2.2 percent from December, pushing the supply to 4.9 months. While that was up from December's 4.6 months, it remained below the 6.0 months that analysts consider a healthy balance between supply and demand. The median price for a previously owned home rose 10.7 percent from a year ago.

First-time buyers accounted for 26 percent of the transactions, the smallest share since the group started tracking the series in October 2008. A market share of 40 to 45 percent is considered ideal by economists and real estate professionals.