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What is bitcoin? What you need to know about cryptocurrency

If you own bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, it might be a bad day for you.

The price of bitcoin plunged by 15 percent Tuesday morning, dropping below $12,000 for the first time since Dec. 4. Other cryptocurrencies have also seen price declines, with Ethereum falling by 20 percent and Ripple falling by 33 percent. The plunging prices are a stark difference to the success bitcoin saw last month — hitting a record of nearly $20,000 on Dec. 16.

>> On DaytonDailyNews.com: Currency of the future? Some argue it’s bitcoin

As the digital currency bitcoin surges in popularity, curious investors and entrepreneurs alike are watching closely to see what happens with the fluctuating prices. Don’t understand the basics of bitcoin? Here’s what you need to know:

What is bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, or a digital token, that can be sent electronically and directly from peer to peer. There is no physical backing and it is a decentralized currency — meaning it is not controlled by any government or banking entity. Bitcoin is the first cryptocurrency ever created, and remains the most popular one to date.

“I tell people it’s a digital currency and it’s a program,” said Jad Mubaslat, Wright State University graduate student and founder of BitQuick.co, a bitcoin trading platform. “For the first time in history, it allows anyone anywhere in the world to send any amount of money instantly. Most importantly, it’s without a third party … like a bank or a government. Now, you can truly send your money without somebody telling you what you can or cannot do.”

>> On MyDaytonDailyNews.com: I bought bitcoin. Here’s what I learned

The record of all bitcoin exchanges and transactions are on what is called the blockchain, which is a network of decentralized computers.

How was bitcoin created?

Bitcoin was created by a programmer going by the name Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008. He communicated only through email and social messaging, and no one truly knows Nakamoto’s identity. He released the software globally in 2009, and now anyone can use and download it.

How do you buy bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies?

In the U.S., several websites have popped up where you can buy and sell bitcoin online. One of the most popular websites is Coinbase and others include Mubaslat’s BitQuick.coCoindesk.com and bitcoin.com. Investors can also meet with other bitcoin users in person and trade bitcoin via their virtual wallets on their phones. After meeting another bitcoin user through websites like Craigslist or LocalBitcoin.com, a user simply scans a QR code with another person’s wallet to transfer bitcoin.

Some people prefer to buy bitcoin in person or through a bitcoin ATM because the bitcoin transfer over faster than when they buy it online — it can take up to seven days, and sometimes longer, for bitcoin to show up in a virtual wallet after purchasing it online.

Why do some criminals use cryptocurrency for illegal transactions?

Some criminals use bitcoin because users can open a wallet to send and receive bitcoin without giving a name or identity. There is no bank or central authority, like a government, to control this information. Bitcoin also became a popular method for making ransom payments when a computer system is taken over by ransomware.

>> On DaytonDailyNews.com: How criminals use bitcoin illegally

However, bitcoin is not completely anonymous and transactions can be traced by police through bitcoin trading websites. Other untraceable cryptocurrencies, like Monero, are becoming popular for dark web uses including drug trafficking and human trafficking.

How is the worth of bitcoin decided?

The price — and ultimate worth — of bitcoin fluctuates, and experts are calling the cryptocurrency extremely volatile. The price is determined by open-market bidding on Bitcoin exchanges. The worth of bitcoin could be compared to the way that gold prices fluctuate — in the sense that gold has value because people believe it does.

What exactly is bitcoin mining?

Mining is the process that creates new bitcoins in the blockchain, or network of computers. The bitcoin miners race to process new transactions, and the fastest computers get a chunk of new bitcoin. A miner wins the race about every 10 minutes, which will happen until there are 21 million bitcoins in the world. No new bitcoins will be created after the blockchain has 21 million, which is expected to happen in 2140.

Anyone can set their computer up to mine bitcoin, but programmers with specialized hardware are usually the only ones to win bitcoin now.

Are there any other cryptocurrencies as popular as bitcoin?

Other cryptocurrencies also exist, but bitcoin is the most popular one right now. Other popular cryptocurrency includes Ethereum, Bitcoin Cash, Ripple, Litecoin and Monero. Digital cryptocurrencies are being created for all types of uses like the legal marijuana industry and adult entertainment and sex worker industries.

>> Read more trending news 

What are the legal uses of bitcoin?

Most transactions on the bitcoin network aren’t illegal — it’s typically people buying and selling bitcoin to each other. People in countries with high inflation or unstable governments are putting their money into bitcoin to avoid losing their savings. It’s also used to transfer large sums of money internationally. It is quicker to transfer bitcoin than it is to go through a bank transfer, which can take weeks.

Some businesses also accept bitcoin, including Overstock.com, Wikipedia, backpage.com and Square. For a short time, a franchise of Firehouse Subs in Cincinnati accepted bitcoin. The restaurant, in Clifton, shut down a few years ago. “Firehouse Subs didn’t do very many transactions in bitcoin, but it has generated buzz around the shop,” the Cincinnati Business Courier wrote.

Apple hiring for work from home positions

Apple is looking for additions to its workforce and you don’t even have to leave home. 

The tech company is looking to fill about 50 AppleCare at-home positions to offer tech support of devices like iPhones, iPads and MacBooks, the Houston Chronicle reported

>> Read more trending news 

While working from home is a big enough perk for some, the job also comes with Apple discounts, paid time off and potential career growth, even for those who work part time, according to Apple’s job announcement.

Apple At Home employees work directly for Apple for the company’s normal support hours. There could be extra shifts for holidays, what’s considered “peak business hours,” and training.

Workers are required to have a distraction-free room that is quiet and that can be closed off to keep noise down, high-speed internet with at least 5 mps download/1 mps upload, a desk and an ergonomic chair. 

Apple provides the iMac and headset that is only for work.

Click here to see what jobs are open and to apply.

Mary B's frozen biscuits recalled due to listeria concerns

Be sure to check your freezer because there’s a new recall on frozen biscuits that were sold in nearly two dozen states.

>> Biscuits recalled over listeria concern

Hom/Ade Foods is recalling Mary B’s brand biscuits due to listeria concerns. The biscuits were sold in Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia.

>> Read more trending news 

Company officials said the problem was discovered in a product sampling conducted by an outside company that manufactured the product.

Listeria can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, elderly people and others with weakened immune systems.

The Mary B’s products affected are frozen bagged biscuits. All have “Best If Used By" dates before Sept. 23, 2018, and with the letter “M” immediately after the date.

UPC codes affected by the recall:

  • 2059300007 MARY B’S JUMBO BUTTERMILK BISCUITS 35OZ 10 / 3.5OZ
  • 2059300015 MARY B’S BUTTERMILK BISCUITS 26.4OZ 12 / 2.2OZ
  • 2059300018 MARY B’S SOUTHERNMADE BISCUITS 26.4OZ 12 / 2.2OZ
  • 2059300020 MARY B’S BUTTERMILK VALUE PACK BISCUITS 44OZ 20 / 2.2OZ
  • 2059300021 MARY B’S SOUTHERNMADE VALUE PACK BISCUITS 44OZ 20 / 2.2OZ
  • 2059300022 MARY B’s BUTTERMILK TEA BISCUITS 24OZ 24 / 1OZ
  • 2059300023 MARY B’S BUTTERTASTE VALUE PACK BISCUITS 44OZ 20 / 2.2OZ
  • 2059300028 MARY B’S THIN BUTTERMILK BISCUITS 28.6OZ 22 / 1.3OZ
  • 2059300033 MARY B’S BUTTERMILK FAMILY PACK BISCUITS 60OZ 30 / 2OZ
  • 2059300034 MARY B’S SOUTHERNMADE FAMILY PACK BISCUITS 60OZ 30 / 2OZ
  • 2059300035 MARY B’S BUTTERTASTE FAMILY PACK BISCUITS 60OZ 30 / 2OZ
  • 2059383000 MARY B’S BUTTERMILK 0 TRANS FAT 220CT BULK BISCUITS 220 / 2.2OZ
  • 2059383004 MARY B’S BUTTERMILK BISCUITS 220CT BULK BISCUITS 220 / 2.2OZ
  • 2059387000 MARY B’S MADE WITH WHOLE GRAIN 220CT BULK BISCUITS 220 / 2.2OZ
  • 3059320583 MARY B’S 3.5 OZ JUMBO BUTTERMILK 144CT BULK BISCUITS 144 / 3.5OZ

Customers are urged to return affected products to the store for a full refund.

Read more here.

CVS to stop digitally altered images in its store brand advertising, will label other brands’ manipulation

CVS is making sure its beauty ads live up to real life. 

It’s stopping the practice of photo manipulation on its store-brand beauty products and will mark other company’s advertisements with a notation on images that have been Photoshopped, USAToday reported.

The company will also mark photos that have not been altered with what it is calling the CVS Beauty Mark. 

>> Read more trending news 

The initiative has a deadline of 2020, the company announced.

CVS has 9,600 stores across the country and is considered one of the largest sellers of beauty products with 80 percent of the customers women. 

CVS Pharmacy President, Helena Foulkes told USAToday, “We’re all consuming massive amounts of media every day and we’re not necessarily looking at imagery that is real and true. To try to hold ourselves up to be like those women is impossible because even those women don’t look like how they appear in those photographs.”

The company hopes to have the CVS Beauty Mark on photos this year.

Walmart to raise starting wages, expand benefits: 6 things to know

Walmart officials on Thursday announced plans to increase starting wages for hundreds of thousands of the company’s employees, affecting the wallets of more than a million people across the country.

>> Read more trending news

In a news release Thursday morning, Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon characterized the wage increases and other announced benefits as “building on investments we’ve been making in associates, in their wages and skills development.”

“It’s our people who make the difference and we appreciate how they work hard to make every day easier for busy families,” he said.

>> Related: Sam's Club abruptly closes locations across the country

The announcement came on the same day that dozens of Sam’s Club locations announced they were closing for good and just days after company officials said they planned to expand Walmart’s “Mobile Express Scan & Go” app to 100 more locations. The app allows users to pay for their Walmart purchases in-store from their phones without the need to go through a checkout line manned by a cashier. The expansion has led to speculation that Walmart, the country’s largest employer, might replace some of its workforce with technology.

“(The app) means no waiting in line at the register, but presumably also means that cashiers will lose their jobs,” the Arkansas Times reported

It was not immediately clear how many jobs would be affected.

Here are six things to know about the planned changes:

1. The starting wage rate for all hourly associates in America will rise to $11, $3.75 over the federal minimum wage of $7.25 and $2 over Walmart’s previous starting wage of $9. The wage change will apply to all hourly associates in the U.S. who work in Walmart stores, Sam’s Clubs locations, eCommerce, logistics and Home Office, according to company officials.

2. The pay bump will take effect starting during the Feb. 17 pay cycle. Walmart officials said its employees will determine which associates qualify for the cash bonuses before February, “and payments will be paid as quickly as practical thereafter.”

3. Some associates will also be eligible for cash bonuses of up to $1,000, depending on how long they’ve been with Walmart. Officials said the $1,000 bonus would go to those with 20 or more years of Walmart employment.

4. The company plans to expand on its maternity and parental leave policy. Full-time hourly associates will be eligible for 10 weeks of paid maternity leave. Both hourly and salaried employees will also get six weeks of paid parental leave.

5. Walmart will create a benefit to help associates with adoption expenses. The company will provide full-time hourly and salaried associates who are adopting children with $5,000 per child to help cover expenses like adoption agency fees, legal costs and translation fees.

6. McMillon credited the recently approved tax reform bill for the changes. Company officials said they are still reviewing their options for additional investments.

“We are early in the stages of assessing the opportunities tax reform creates for us to invest in our customers and associates and to further strengthen our business, all of which should benefit our shareholders,” McMillon said Thursday. “Tax reform gives us the opportunity to be more competitive globally and to accelerate plans for the U.S.”

Subway's $5 footlong could bankrupt franchises, some owners warn

While the $5 footlong from Subway is one of the best bites for your buck in the fast food industry, business owners aren’t always fond of the deal. Some of them say it could even threaten their business.

Keith Miller, who owns three Subways in North Carolina, told The Washington Post that the ingredients in the sandwich cost him about $2, but after paying his employees and adding up all the overhead — electric, gas, rent and supplies — his store brings in a measly profit on the hoagies. When the company decided to drop the prices of its famous subs to $4.99, Miller and a number of other franchise owners sent a letter telling the higher-ups that such a move would have them staring down bankruptcy.

>> Read more trending news 

Subway isn’t the only company to keep prices low with the hopes of enticing hungry customers; Taco Bell, Wendy’s and McDonald’s both boast dollar menus. You’d probably have a tough time finding a franchise owner happy with the low-priced items, but Subway owners have been the most vocal about their complaints. They recently wrote a petition to the big wigs at the company, asking them to reconsider. Owners admitted that the cheap options bring in more customers but that even the increase in traffic “insufficient to make up for the lost margins.” The petition was signed by almost 900 people in 39 states.

Subway says the promotions are optional and that the majority of franchise owners don’t share Miller’s views. In a statement given to the Post, Subway claimed “we are in constant communication with our Franchisees and Development Agents … they are actively involved in many aspects of our decision-making process, and we welcome and encourage their feedback.”

As the minimum wage continues to rise, the prices of some products (like Subway’s sandwiches) haven’t risen to the level necessary for owners to make a profit. Miller says that when he bought his first franchise, he was bringing in profit margins as high as 18 percent. But that number has drastically dropped in recent years.

There are also a number of other problems facing franchise owners. The fast food restaurant industry has become more crowded and, on top of that, people are shopping less and less at fast food stops. And for most owners, the problems show no sign of letting up.

New Year's resolutions: 4 tips for avoiding gym membership scams

The holidays are over and it’s time to get back in shape, but officials are warning consumers about potential gym membership scams.

>> Read more trending news 

In 2017, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received about 140 complaints involving fitness or health club memberships. Top problem areas included cancellation and billing issues. Under Ohio’s Prepaid Entertainment Contracts Act, consumers generally have three business days to cancel a contract for gym memberships and other “health spa services,” martial arts training, dance studio lessons, or social referral services (such as a dating service).

>> How to keep your New Year’s resolutions this time

“This is a time when many people are thinking about joining a gym, and that can be a great way to get in shape. We just want consumers to understand what they’re signing up for,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “A little bit of prevention can go a long way.”

>> PHOTOS: Most controversial figures from 2017

DeWine’s tips for avoiding scams include the following:

1. Research the gym. Look for complaints on file with your local attorney general’s office or Better Business Bureau, and check online reviews for feedback from current or past customers. Pay attention to how a business addresses customer complaints.

2. Read contracts carefully. Make sure verbal agreements are put in writing. Otherwise, they are not guaranteed.

3. Watch out for extra fees. Determine the total cost of your membership. Find out if there are any extra fees for services like fitness classes or personal training. Also find out if payments will be withdrawn automatically from your account.

4. Check the cancellation policy. Understand what you would need to do to cancel your contract and how far in advance cancellations must be made. Many contracts renew automatically, so be sure to check the total length of the contract. 

Goodbye signatures? Credit card firms make big change

Don’t take this too hard: Your autograph isn’t worth what it once was.

>> Read more trending news

American ExpressMastercard and Discover have each announced that, starting in April, they will no longer require signatures on any U.S. and Canadian credit card purchases.(Actually, American Express is making the change for all its transactions worldwide.)

Visa hasn’t announced any plans to do the same. But there’s speculation it may eventually do so.

That pretty much would fully evaporate what may be the most common reason U.S. consumers still bother writing signatures, which were once the most prominent symbol of our financial integrity and proof of our identity (It’s also another blow to the general use of cursive writing, for those who remember what that is.)

“Signatures may be going the way of the lava lamp,” said William McCracken, the president of Phoenix Synergistics, a metro Atlanta-based consumer market research company focused on financial services.

“They will not be part of Gen Z. Signatures won’t be part of their stored memories.”

The shift away from signatures also hints at the fantasy we all pretended to believe: that signatures actually proved something.

“The industry’s unspoken secret is that signatures on a credit card receipt are relatively worthless from a security standpoint,” McCracken said.

Thieves only had to look at the signature on the back of a credit card, practice it a few times and come up with a fake good enough to pass.

But even that involves some quaint thinking. Because almost no one in places where we shop or dine is even glancing at signatures these days, whether you signed on paper or a glitchy electronic pad using a faulty stylus or your finger.

That would seem to explain why I’ve never been flagged for using my finger to draw a line across checkout signature pads.

Signatures are still used on plenty of legal property documents, government-issued IDs, artwork, acknowledgments of medical privacy notifications, cards to grandma and anything fans can ask celebrities to scribble on.

Yet, in other ways signatures have been slipping from the economy.

Instead of putting his “signature” on new dollar bills earlier this year, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin used a handwritten mix of upper- and lower-case block letters that could have been thumbed out on a smartphone.

Signatures became less necessary as check writing shrank. And while credit card use continues to grow — there were more than 37 billion U.S. transactions last year totaling $3.27 trillion dollars — most of that is going unsigned.

John Hancocks aren’t required on typical online purchases.

And credit card firms already scaled back signature requirements on small transactions. More than 75 percent of face-to-face Visa card transactions in North America don’t require people to sign their name, according to a Visa spokesman.

Thar is just as well.

Who hasn’t gone to sign for a credit card purchase using a pen that doesn’t work and “you just scribble anyway,” said Kim Sullivan, the senior director of payments solutions for Georgia-based transactions technology giant NCR.

Dropping signature requirements should speed up lines at retailers, Sullivan said, which is exactly what store owners are seeking.

“It’s going to improve the experience” for merchants and consumers, she said.

“It’s all about faster and frictionless,” she said.

Sullivan guesstimated that eliminating signatures might save an average of three seconds on each credit card transaction. So retailers can increase the number of customers they serve and generate more money, she said.

Some customers may feel a little unsettled with the idea that purchases of hundreds or even thousands of dollars could be made without signing anything.

Security is already the biggest concern people have about using credit cards, said McCracken from Synergistics.

For now, there has been no widespread rush to require use of PIN codes with credit card transactions in the United States. And some consumers are creeped out about the idea of entrusting credit card companies with personal biometric data that could help verify their identity.

Other security measures are already in place, such as checking the cards’ three- or four-digit CVV number, asking consumers for their billing ZIP code, adding computer chips to more cards and monitoring for unusual purchasing activity.

But the cruelest reality of saying goodbye to our signatures is this: apparently they already have so little value there isn’t a sweeping rush to replace them with something new.

Pedialyte for a hangover? Company says yes

Did you party this New Years Eve? If you have a hangover, Pedialyte wants you to turn to its drink for relief.

The hydration drink, usually targeted at infants and children, also aims to alleviate your nausea, dry mouth and pounding headache.

The company says its drink is for both kids and adults for rehydration as part of its “see the lyte” campaign.

>> Read more trending news 

Dr. Robert Swift, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University told NBC News that hangovers are complicated, and no one cure fits all.

“The thing about Pedialyte, Gatorade and things like that, there is an optimal concentration to absorb glucose and electrolytes and fluid from the intestines,” he said. 

According to Nielsen research, adults are now a third of Pedialyte’s users, and adults have increased their use of Pedialyte 57 percent since 2012, NBC News reported.

John Schnatter stepping down as Papa John's CEO

Papa John’s founder John Schnatter is stepping down from his role as the pizza company’s CEO weeks after criticizing the NFL for its handling of the national anthem protests.

>> Read more trending news

Schnatter had blamed slow pizza sales on the national anthem protests by NFL players, saying in a Nov. 1 earnings call that “NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders” and that the protests “should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago.”

His comments cost him $70 million in one day, according to multiple reports. He eventually apologized.

Papa John’s Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie, who will take over for Schnatter, declined to say if the November comments led to the move announced Thursday. Schnatter will still serve as chairman of the board for the company.

>> Related: Papa John's CEO apologizes for comments on NFL anthem protest controversy

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones came to Schnatter’s defense, calling him “one of the great Americans” in this country, NBC Sports reported. Jones is a joint owner of 120 Papa John’s restaurants.

Advertisers have threatened to pull their advertising from the NFL in the wake of the politically charged national anthem protests, but none have taken as drastic a move as Papa John’s.

The company last month apologized for Schnatter’s comments in a statement, saying, “The statements made on our earnings call were describing the factors that impact our business and we sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive. That definitely was not our intention.”

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first started kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” last year to protest police violence against minorities. The protest got mixed reactions, but other NFL players -- and players in other sports -- have since followed Kaepernick’s lead to protest inequality.

President Donald Trump in September suggested that NFL team owners should fire players who refuse to stand during the anthem, telling a crowd in Alabama that “that’s a total disrespect for our heritage.”

The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

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