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Must-see: Niagara Falls is a winter wonderland in these stunning photos

A cold wave is sweeping almost all of North America, and as temperatures have dwindled, we’ve seen some pretty bizarre things. But one of the coolest and most beautiful sights right now has to be Niagara Falls, where Jack Frost painted a spectacular scene that looks like something straight out of Narnia.

>> RELATED STORY: Could Niagara Falls completely freeze? 

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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.

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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.

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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. 

Beyoncé rocks chic 'mom haircut' in new photo

When it comes to hair, Beyoncé has done it all, but now, she’s bringing back a classic look.

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Fans have seen her in everything from the long ponytail she sported at Serena Williams’ wedding to the signature cornrows she had on the album cover of “Lemonade.” In her latest hair debut, Queen Bey is bringing back a fan favorite — the affectionately known “mom” haircut. The chic look — a short, chin length wavy bob in golden blonde — re-emerged in a series of photos on her website. The look first appeared soon after the Grammy winner wrapped up her self-titled album’s world tour.

>> See the photo here

The look was shown off in a series of photos snapped by her husband, Jay-Z. As mother of infant twins Rumi and Sir Carter, and 5-year-old Blue Ivy, the “mom” look is very fitting.

>> Destiny’s Child might reunite when Beyoncé performs at Coachella

The pop star’s hair stylist recently revealed her natural hair look a few weeks back, sending fans into a frenzy. A dismayed Neal Farinah, however, found himself calling out people who couldn’t believe the singer’s flowing tresses were real.

“Sometimes women make choices, and black women are not the only ones who wear wigs, weaves and pieces. Remember that!” he said in an Instagram video.

>> Year in review: The 7 most controversial figures from 2017

“And underneath wigs and weaves? Black women have some of the most beautiful, curly hair. It’s a choice a woman makes — and that’s the choice a black woman makes to wear wigs or weaves. If she wants to, ain’t nothing wrong with it!” he added.

“So, the myth about Black women not having hair … y’all think again 'cause they have some of the most beautiful textured hair. Recognize!”

5 facts about New Year’s Eve

As the roller coaster year that was 2017 comes to a close, plans for New Year’s Eve celebrations are underway.

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Before “Auld Land Syne” begins to play, here are five facts about New Year's Eve:

New Year's Eve wasn’t always Dec. 31

Different cultures celebrated the new year at different times of the year. CNN reported that some cultures considered the autumn equinox, or winter solstice, to be the start of the new year. Babylonians held an multi-day festival to celebrate the new year around the spring equinox.

The first New Year’s Eve celebration in what is now Times Square was in 1904

According to PBS, New Year's Eve celebrations moved to the New York Times building in 1904 in Manhattan. There was no big time ball, but there was a midnight fireworks display. Prior to the move, spectators rang in the new year at Trinity Church in Manhattan as bells chimed and marked the end of one year and the beginning of another.

The time ball tradition in NYC emerged when fireworks didn’t go very well

Fireworks from efforts of The New York Times Company to bring spectators to its building caused hot ash to descend on the city streets. The New York Police Department banned fireworks soon after, and The New York Times' chief electrician created the time ball for the celebrations instead. The first ball drop celebration occurred December 31, 1907, on top of what was at the time the Times Tower and One Times Square.

Different foods have different meanings when cooked around this holiday

In the southern United States, collard greens and black-eyed peas are prepared for money and good luck, respectively. Similar meanings hold true for leafy greens and legumes in Ireland, Germany and Italy.

In Japan, long noodles are an indicator of a long life. Ring-shaped cakes in Mexico, Greece and other places around the world indicate the year has come full-circle.

“Auld Lang Syne” was never meant to be a holiday song

Most experts say the song “Auld Lang Syne” written by Robert Burns in 1700s, according to ABC News. The song was popularized by Guy Lombardo when it was used as a segue between radio shows at midnight in 1929, although the midnight timing was not on purpose.

Metro Detroit church gives away cars for Christmas

A church in metro Detroit gave away gifts on four wheels this Christmas.

Triumph Church in Southfield gave away the previously-owned cars to those in need, WXYZ reported. The recipients included a single mother, a single father, a college student and a family. The cars were presented to the recipients on Christmas Eve.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

The church also gave away free groceries to a 1,000 families and a shopping spree to 1,500 children and their parents. Triumph Church officials told WXYZ it's not the first time they've given cars away. They've seen such a gift change the lives of their church members and hope they can set an example for other organizations.

Kitten born with two faces dies

A kitten born with two faces has died.

Bettie Bee was born Dec. 12 in South Africa with a rare congenital condition called craniofacial duplication, The Dodo reported. The kitten was born with two noses, two mouths and three eyes. While Bettie Bee received special care and was initially thriving, she died 16 days after birth after developing pneumonia.

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While most cats born with two faces die shortly after birth like Bettie Bee, a few have beaten the odds over the years. Frank and Louie lived to be 15, making it the the longest surviving janus cat according to the Guinness Book of World Records.

Woman married 80 years says she loves husband even more now

A Texas couple has reached a remarkable milestone, celebrating their 80th wedding anniversary earlier this month.

Lois and B.E. Thompson, both 98, have been through a lot together. B.E. is bedridden and in the latter stages of Alzheimer's disease, WFAA reported. The couple’s loving bond has only grown stronger since they were married in 1937.

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

The Thompsons have four children, 17 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and seven great-great-grandchildren, WFAA reported.Lois told WFAA that what has kept them together for so long is always showing love to one another.While family gathered to mark the milestone anniversary, Lois mostly remained by her husband's bedside. When asked if love for someone can remain as strong as it was 80 years ago, Lois said, “I love him more. And I’m not ready to see the end." 

Colorado officials rescue more than 80 tame rats left out in cold

Colorado animal control officers received an unusual call from a concerned citizen Thursday: Dozens of tame, friendly rats were on the loose.

The Larimer Humane Society told the Reporter-Herald it received a second call about roaming domesticated rats Friday. That's when the Humane Society's animal protection and control team headed to Fort Collins to search for the rats in two designated nature areas.

>> Read more trending news 

Part of the search-and-rescue effort was streamed live on Facebook. An official used peanut butter cookies his children made to lure the rats out, where they were captured in nets, according to the Larimer Humane Society. The rescue mission took approximately an hour, the Reporter-Herald noted.

With temperatures dipping into the single digits, rescuing the rats was a priority. Officials say the rodents appeared to be in good shape, other than being cold and hungry.

In all, more than 80 rats were rescued, officials say. It is believed the rats were owned and abandoned by the same person. The owner could face animal cruelty charges, a humane society spokesperson said. 

The rats will eventually be available for adoption, officials said. 

Fiona the hippo celebrates Christmas to the perfect song for her

Fiona the hippo is celebrating her first Christmas, and keepers at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden couldn't help but playing the perfect song while she opened her gift.Fiona was born six weeks premature in January and her survival against all odds has become an international sensation.

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The holiday video was posted on the zoo's Facebook page, where Fiona has her own show. Fiona played with her holiday-decorated box and ate treats while "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas" played in the background.The zoo wrote on its Facebook page, "We got a hippopotamus for Christmas!"

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