12/19/2014

T. G. I. F. Solitude











Boobs Over Butts


Americans appear to prefer "butts" to "boobs" when searching for "straight," woman-with-man pornography on the popular websites Pornhub and Youporn.

A report on the websites' analytics, titled "Boobs, Butts & Beyond," shows that butt-related terms top boob queries in 40 of 50 states. 

The websites, both owned by the same company, developed the report with 20 Minuten, a Swiss newspaper.

Idaho, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine are the only U.S. states where boob searches win out.

The report was compiled using search data from the past year. It looked at various terms relating to both categories -- synonyms for the body parts in question.

When the websites looked at global data, Pornhub said in a blog post, they found that "boob" queries appear more popular in northern regions like Canada and the United Kingdom, but "butt" searches pop up more in southern regions like Chile and South Africa.



There's much more data available for those looking to go further down this rabbit hole, including which parts of the world seem to prioritize searches related to "legs."

The analysis from the websites doesn't include searches in categories beyond heterosexual pornography, and appeared to stick to categories that refer specifically to parts of a woman's body. 

Previously, Pornhub partnered with Buzzfeed for a study about the pornography viewing habits of women.


Pornhub is estimated to be the 72nd most popular website in the world, according to Alexa, an analytics site. 

Its visitors are mostly male, and they spend about eight minutes on the site per day. Youporn is ranked 124th.

12/18/2014

SS Case Thrown Out


BERLIN (AP) — A German court on Tuesday threw out the case against a former SS man accused of involvement in the largest civilian massacre in Nazi-occupied France, saying there was not enough evidence to bring the 89-year-old to trial.

Cologne resident Werner C., whose last name has not been revealed in accordance with German privacy laws, was charged with murder and accessory to murder in connection with the 1944 slaughter of 642 civilians in Oradour-sur-Glane in southwestern France.

In its ruling, the Cologne state court said no witness statements disprove the suspect's contention that he was present but did not take part, nor is there any reliable documentary evidence that he was involved in the massacre.

Werner C. was part of the 3rd Company of the 1st Battalion of the "Der Fuehrer" regiment of the fanatical SS's "Das Reich" division. Four days after the June 6, 1944, D-Day landings in Normandy the company attacked Oradour-sur-Glane in reprisal for the French Resistance's kidnapping of a German soldier.

The troops herded the civilians into barns and into the church, blocked the doors and then set fire to the entire town. Those not killed in the blazes were shot as they tried to flee, though a handful managed to escape.

"In a trial it could probably only be proved the suspect was in the area during the massacre in Oradour-sur-Glane as he has consistently maintained," the court said. "This mere presence is not enough to prove accessory to murder without the proof of other circumstances."

Dortmund prosecutor Andreas Brendel, who led the investigation, said he was surprised by the court's decision but that it was too early to say whether he would appeal.

"I brought charges because I believed that the evidence was sufficient," he said. "The court came to a different conclusion."

Attorney Thomas Walther said he would appeal on behalf of his client, the brother of a young female schoolteacher who was burned to death in the Oradour church, who has joined the case as a co-plaintiff as allowed under German law.

In a gesture of reconciliation last year, German President Joachim Gauck and French President Francois Hollande together visited the phantom village — whose burned-out cars and abandoned buildings were left as a memorial to the massacre.


Slow Roasting



Torture For Hire


WASHINGTON -- For several months before the Senate Intelligence Committee released a summary of its controversial report on the CIA's torture program on Tuesday, Senate Democrats were locked in a well-publicized battle with the executive branch over whether to redact the aliases used for CIA officials used in the document.

But even as the White House and the CIA engaged in this dispute with the Senate, a separate, and potentially more serious, set of revelations was at stake.

According to several U.S. officials involved with the negotiations, the intelligence community has long been concerned that the Senate document would enable readers to identify the many countries that aided the CIA's controversial torture program between 2002 and roughly 2006. 

These countries made the CIA program possible in two ways: by enabling rendition, which involved transferring U.S. detainees abroad without due legal process, and by providing facilities far beyond the reach of U.S. law where those detainees were subjected to torture.

The officials all told The Huffington Post in recent weeks that they were nervous the names of those countries might be included in the declassified summary of the Senate report.

The names of the countries ultimately did not appear in the summary. This represents a last-minute victory for the White House and the CIA, since Senate staff was pushing to redact as little as possible from its document.

The various sites in foreign countries are now only identified in the report by a color code, with each detention facility corresponding to a color, such as "Detention Site Black."

But immediately after the document was released, journalists began to crack the codeby cross-referencing details in the Senate study with previous reports about the CIA's activities in different countries.

Readers of the report can also learn how the agency managed its relationship with foreign governments, offering monetary payments for their silence and undermining more public U.S. diplomatic efforts by explicitly telling their foreign contacts not to talk to U.S. ambassadors about the torture program.

12/17/2014

Hump Day Art

Portugal-based 
street artist Odeith 






   Paper installation art 
      by Young Song









                         
 Weeds, as painted 




The Mexican Connection


An Al Qaeda terrorist on the FBI’s most wanted list for years crossed back and forth into the United States from Mexico to meet fellow militant Islamists in Texas and piloted an aircraft into the Cielo Dorado airfield in Anthony, New Mexico, law enforcement sources tell Judicial Watch.

The same Al Qaeda operative helped plan the 2009 bombing of talk-show superstar Oprah Winfrey’s Chicago studios and the iconic Sears Tower (renamed Willis Tower), a story that Judicial Watch broke just last week. 

His name is Adnan G. El Shukrijumah (above with Mother) (also known as “Javier Robles”) and over the weekend he was killed in Pakistan, according to military officials in the Islamic republic.

In 2010 Shukrijumah was indicted in the Eastern District of New York for his role in a terrorist plot to attack targets in the United States—including New York City’s subway system—and the United Kingdom, according the FBI. 

The plot against New York City’s subway system was directed by senior Al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan, the FBI says, and was also directly related to a scheme by Al Qaeda plotters in Pakistan to use Western operatives to attack a target in the United States.

A year earlier Shukrijumah helped plan a terrorist truck-bomb plot targeting Winfrey’s Harpo Studios and the Sears Tower. Two of his fellow conspirators—Emad Karakrah and Hector Pedroza Huerta—were recently arrested for unrelated state crimes in different parts of the country. 

Karakrah is in Cook County, Illinois Jail on charges of making a false car bomb threat after leading police on a high-speed chase through Chicago with an ISIS flag waving from his car in August. Huerta, an illegal alien twice convicted for driving intoxicated, is in the El Paso County Jail and is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.

Despite being one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists, Shukrijumah for years managed to slip in and out of the U.S. through the southern border to meet fellow militant Islamists—including Karakrah and Huerta—in the El Paso region, JW’s law enforcement sources confirm. 

In fact, in March the most wanted terrorist piloted a private aircraft from Mexico into the airfield at Cielo Dorado in Anthony New Mexico, according to JW’s high-level government sources.


Shukrijumah, 39, probably could have qualified for Obama’s amnesty. He was born in Saudi Arabia and moved to the U.S. with his family as a youngster in the mid-1990s. 

As a teenager he lived in South Florida’s Broward County and he attended the local community college where he took computer science and chemistry classes, according to the area’s newspaper. His mother, Zurah Adbu Ahmed, still lives in South Florida, the paper reports.

With the greatest of ease


OPEC Dies


OPEC oil cartel no longer exists in any  sense of meaningful and crude prices will slump to $50 a barrel over the coming months as market forces shake out the weakest producers, Bank of America has warned.

Revolutionary changes sweeping the world’s energy industry will drive down the price of liquefied natural gas (LNG), creating a “multi-year” glut and a much cheaper source of gas for Europe.

Francisco Blanch, the bank’s commodity chief, said OPEC is “effectively dissolved” after it failed to stabilize prices at its last meeting. “The consequences are profound and long-lasting,“ he said.

The bank said in its year-end report that at least 15pc of US shale producers are losing money at current prices, and more than half will be under water if US crude falls below $55. The high-cost producers in the Permian basin will be the first to “feel the pain” and may soon have to cut back on production.

The claims pit Bank of America against its arch-rival Citigroup, which insists that the US shale industry is far more resilient than widely supposed, with marginal costs for existing rigs nearer $40, and much of its output hedged on the futures markets.

Bank of America said the current slump will choke off shale projects in Argentina and Mexico, and will force retrenchment in Canadian oil sands and some of Russia’s remote fields. The major oil companies will have to cut back on projects with a break-even cost below $80 for Brent crude.

It will take six months or so to whittle away the 1m barrels a day of excess oil on the market – with US crude falling to $50 - given that supply and demand are both “inelastic” in the short-run. That will create the beginnings of the next shortage. “We expect a pretty sharp rebound to the high $80s or even $90 in the second half of next year,” said Sabine Schels, the bank’s energy expert.

Mrs Schels said the global market for (LNG) will “change drastically” in 2015, going into a “bear market” lasting years as a surge of supply from Australia compounds the global effects of the US gas saga.

If the forecast is correct, the LNG flood could have powerful political effects, giving Europe a source of mass supply that can undercut pipeline gas from Russia. The EU already has enough LNG terminals to cover most of its gas needs. 

It has not been able to use this asset as a geostrategic bargaining chip with the Kremlin because LGN itself has been in scarce supply, mostly diverted to Japan and Korea. Much of Europe may not need Russian gas at all within a couple of years.

Bank of America said the oil price crash is worth $1 trillion of stimulus for the global economy, equal to a $730bn “tax cut” in 2015. Yet the effects are complex, with winners and losers.

Barnaby Martin, the bank’s European credit chief, said world asset markets may face a stress test as the US Federal Reserve starts to tighten afters year of largess

“Our biggest worry is the end of the liquidity cycle. The Fed is done and it is preparing to raise rates. The reach for yield that we have seen since 2009 is going into reverse”, he said.

Bank of America said quantitative easing in Europe and Japan will cover just 35pc of the global stimulus lost as the Fed pulls back, creating a treacherous hiatus for markets. It warned that the full effect of Fed tapering had yet to be felt.


From now on the markets cannot expect to be rescued every time there is a squall. “The threshold for the Fed to return to QE will be high. This is why we believe we are entering a phase in which bad news will be bad news and volatility will likely rise,” it said.

12/16/2014

Inflating Profits


After years of heralding China as one of its best markets, Wal-Mart (WMT) in August said its performance there was among the worst in its major countries. A management shake-up and job cuts have followed.

Although the reversals seem abrupt, cracks in the foundation of Wal-Mart’s retail business in China have been developing for years, hidden by questionable accounting and unauthorized sales practices, according to employees and internal documents reviewed by Bloomberg.

The practices -- including bulk sales to other retailers and some sales allegedly booked when no merchandise left the shelves -- made business appear strong even as retail transactions slowed and unsold inventory piled up, these people and documents say. Wal-Mart said in August that it was unhappy with inventory growth internationally.

Stores in China continue to make bulk sales, sometimes unprofitably and without required management authorizations, according to employees who’ve left the company this past month. 

Concerns about bulk sales, raised as far back as 2011 in an internal report, have been the subject of inquiries in China by Wal-Mart’s legal team as recently as May, according to an internal company e-mail and an employee interviewed by lawyers.

The report and interviews with current and former employees say Chinese Wal-Mart stores, under pressure to meet earnings targets, resorted to temporary markups of inventory as an accounting move that can burnish profits without any added sales of merchandise.

After employees “recognized inventory pricing discrepancies” in 2011, the company’s senior leadership in the U.S. and China ordered an extensive investigation that led to “various leadership changes and disciplinary actions,” strengthened compliance measures, training, and regular audits, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said in a statement.

“None of the financial issues we’ve reviewed in China were determined to be material to Wal-Mart’s consolidated financial condition or results of operations,” the statement said. Wal-Mart didn’t address specific questions on accounting issues, and leadership changes. It said bulk sales to retailers are common practice in developing markets, monitored regularly, and a modest part of its Chinese business.


Four top managers of Wal-Mart China left the company in 2011, including Ed Chan, then chief executive officer for the country. Chan, now vice chairman of C.P. Lotus Corp., a retailer based in Hong Kong, said the reason he left was known only to him and Wal-Mart and was unrelated to price markups or bulk purchases. At the time, Wal-Mart said he left for personal reasons.

Oh my.........


Artificial Intelligence


The last time you posted a Facebook status, you were probably thinking, “Wow, I really wish I had an intelligent robot to make sure this post won’t come back around to haunt me.” 

Facebook is building an artificial intelligence program that will serve as a social media assistant—kind of like Clippy, the obnoxious Microsoft Office bot, only more intelligent and invasive. 

Wired profile of the head of the Facebook AI lab, Yann LeCun, says the new program will “mediate your interaction with your friends” and do things like shame you from posting pictures of illicit activities.

From Wired’s profile:

[Mr. LeCun] wants to build a kind of Facebook digital assistant that will, say, recognize when you’re uploading an embarrassingly candid photo of your late-night antics. In a virtual way, he explains, this assistant would tap you on the shoulder and say: “Uh, this is being posted publicly. Are you sure you want your boss and your mother to see this?”

Facebook has been at it for a year, with today marking the anniversary of their vague announcement of AI plans.

For anyone who’s worried about artificial—here’s lookin’ at you, Elon Musk—just know that what Facebook’s developing doesn’t touch the kind of deep learning apparatus Google has built since acquiring Deepmind Technologies.

DeepMind Technologies is a new company which describes itself as “an ambitious London-based tech startup, building general-purpose learning algorithms.”  Employees, amongst others, are Demis Hassabis, Shane Legg and Jaan Tallinn.  Jaan Tallinn is a top donor of the Singularity Institute (now called the Machine Intelligence Research Institute).

Neural networks, which make up half of DeepMind's computer architecture, have been around for decades but are receiving renewed attention as more powerful computers take advantage of them. The idea is to split processing across a network of artificial "neurons", simple units that process an input and pass it on. These networks are good at learning to recognize pieces of data and classify them into categories. Facebook recently trained a neural network to identify faces with near-human accuracy (read more about how computers are learning to see.


All we can do is hope and pray that our robot overlords, once we’ve given them full access to our Facebook profiles, don’t hate engagement announcements and baby photos enough to finally eradicate us all.

12/15/2014

A Way to Manipulate Buyers


BOSTON (CBS) – Retailers are trying to get into customers’ brains and they now have the technology to do it. 

It’s called consumer neuroscience and companies are getting valuable shopper intel that can shape the shopping experience.

To get a firsthand look a reporter went shopping at Betsy Jenney on Newbury Street with Dr. Carl Marci of Boston-based Innerscope Research

They were given glasses with a special camera to track my eye movements and sensors were attached to my fingers to keep tabs on the electricity in my skin.

“What we are collecting here are things we are not very good at articulating with words,” explains Dr. Marci. Things a shopper doesn’t even realize are happening subliminally and subconsciously.

In the seconds before we knowingly decide to buy our brains react. If retailers can tap into those few seconds of subconscious they can use the information to make crucial decisions on how to sell stuff.

“If we present that stuff in an engaging and fun way then people have a better experience and sometimes they buy more,” says professor of neuromarketing, Paul Zak.

“There is no buy button in the brain and we are not talking about manipulation. We are talking about using tools to help create a better retail experience,” says Dr. Marci.

And that’s why many companies are now hiring research firms to help with store strategy. Like moving a sale sign from the ceiling to eye level, deciding which outfits to put on the mannequin, or placing marked down items next to the full price rack.


At Betsy Jenney one-on-one customer service is key. But, for bigger stores neuroscience could be the new norm. “As the digital world is taking off more competition in traditional brick and mortar stores they have to do something to compete,” says Dr. Marci. 

And the new playing field is our own subconscious.