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    MaddieEvery year during Thanksgiving dinner, 30 or so of my family members have a tradition of temporarily putting down our forks as we go around the room to say what we are thankful for.

    This year, my 20-year-old cousin, Maddie, was unable to attend the annual feast because she has 10 days left in her study abroad program in Spain. Before that, she spent the summer studying in China.

    So this year, Maddie  a junior at the University of Richmond  emailed in what she was thankful for as her mom read the letter of gratitude aloud. 

    Not only has Maddie traveled the world and seen so much that makes her appreciative of where she comes from, but she discussed how thankful she is for modern technology that allows her to keep in contact with family.

    Her letter serves as a wonderful reminder of being thankful for things that take us out of our comfort zones and don't necessarily go our way, and she is allowing me to share it with you (sans the inside family jokes) below:

    Since this time last year, I have been to Beijing, Vietnam, Shanghai, Kunming, Dali, Shangri-la, Lijiang. I have been to Madrid, Ibiza, Copenhagen, Munich, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Rome and Switzerland.

    I have climbed the Great Wall, backpacked across paradise (or hell, beauty is the eye of the beholder, no?), seen a kingdom of midgets. I have played with monkeys, been to beautiful beaches, seen where Disney got his magic. I have been to Oktoberfest, eaten far too many pretzels and schnitzel and learned the importance of double checking the direction of the train, missing my flight home. I have seen the greatest modern DJs perform, seen more prostitutes than the majority of young girls should ever see, and stayed up until 8 am in a city that never sleeps.

    MaddieI have learned to cook paella and seen the greatest soccer players in the world play in the greatest soccer game, with the greatest people. I have seen the Vatican, the Spanish steps and sealed lifelong friendships. I have skied the Swiss alps and paraglided over Interlaken, Switzerland.

    It is evident I have a lot to be thankful for this year. I am by far the luckiest girl in the world.

    I am thankful for tap water, for hot water, for water that turns on. I love my shower. I am thankful for white rice, for silverware, for restaurants that don’t serve dog. I am thankful for spontaneity and for alcohol, both of which were necessary to get me through the lack of water and all the white rice.

    I am thankful for Google Translate, really, THANK YOU Google Translate. I do not know what I would do without you, you are my everything.

    I am thankful for my landlord Begoña, your English is flawed but you try and that makes me smile. I am thankful for the sanitation workers, don’t you dare go on strike again. I am thankful for the cab driver who, though I denied a ride, followed me home one night to make sure I got in safely and expected nothing in return.

    MaddieOn this Thanksgiving, thank you to the street vendors who call us “beautiful” and “pretty” as we walk to and from school every day, you do great things for our self esteems. We might even miss you one day.  

    I am thankful for Facetime and for Viber, for making those I love the most not seem so far away. I am thankful that my parents love me for who I am, sorry for not making an abroad blog.

    I am thankful for my brothers. For Granny and for Papa, for enjoying the simple things. I am thankful that the wisest and those with the most experiences are not jaded by the world, that they still get excited over a phone call and of course, I am thankful for speaker phone.  

    For Mom and for Dad, there are no words. I am thankful for their sense of adventure, for passing it down onto me.  It is obvious, I have a lot to be thankful for this year. My passport may be full, but my life has been fuller.

    I am thankful for the times without hot water, I  learned to be flexible. I am thankful for the times without girls, I have never loved my girlfriends more. For the missed flights, for the homesickness, for the letdowns, I am thankful for them all. I have learned from every experience and for that, I am the luckiest girl in the world.  

    Thank you does not begin to express my gratitude, there is no way to articulate how thankful I am. This past year has introduced me to new people, taught me new things and brought me to new places. But in 10 days I get to send “Strings, Home” and for that, I am by far the most thankful.

    SEE ALSO: Here's Why We Celebrate Thanksgiving When We Do

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    ChartIQ app screenshot

    The winter holidays are upon us, which means many traders and investors will be away from their workstations.

    So, what to do for those who want to keep tabs on what's going on overseas — where markets will be open for business as usual?

    Luckily, investors with smartphones or tablets have their choice of apps to keep them up to speed while away from their desks.

    We went through nearly 100 finance-related mobile apps and these are the best ones we found.

    Most of the apps listed here are either free or pretty inexpensive, too.

    NetDania Forex

    App Store rating:
    4.5 stars


    Available on:
    iPhone, iPad, Android

    Why we like it:
    Live updating quotes on currency pairs, global stock exchanges, and key commodities, as well as an awesome feed with economic data releases around the world. The best part: you can set up the app to send you push notifications when economic data is released.

    Download it here >

    FRED Economic Data

    App Store rating:
    4.5 stars


    Available on:
    iPhone, iPad, Android

    Why we like it: 
    For those unfamiliar with FRED (Federal Reserve Economic Data), it's a massive repository with tens of thousands of time series for various economic datapoints. Now, you can chart 34,000 economic data series from around the world, right on your mobile device.

    Download it here >

    ChartIQ Pro - Stock Charts and Technical Analysis

    App Store rating: 


    Available on: 

    Why we like it: 
    The best app for drawing charts on the iPad. Overlay charts with various drawings like Fibonacci retracements or trend lines, or add technical indicators to the chart. When you're done, use the share button to tweet charts directly from your iPad.

    Download it here >

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    macy's thanksgiving parade candy cane balloon

    A month ago I asked Will the Fed "Taper" in December? Although the consensus is the Fed will wait until 2014 to start to taper asset purchases, December is still possible.

    From a month ago:

    There are many key releases right at the beginning of December, and we know the Fed is "data dependent".  So here is what the FOMC would like to see to start tapering: 1) the unemployment rate fall to 7.2% in the November report, 2) Employment up about 2.2 million year-over-year in November, 3) inflation increasing toward 2% target, and 4) some sort of fiscal agreement by Dec 13th.  All possible.

    • The unemployment rate criteria should probably be expanded - not only would the Fed like to see the unemployment rate decline in November, they'd like to see the participation rate increase (the participation rate declined sharply in October to 62.8% from 63.2% in September, and I suspect the Fed will like to see some of that reversed in the November report). The unemployment report will be released next Friday, and the consensus is the unemployment rate will decline to 7.2%.

    • Following the solid October employment report, it will be pretty easy for total employment to be up 2.2 million year-over-year in November (employment was up 2.33 million year-over-year in October).  The Fed will probably be looking for November job growth in line with the consensus of 180 thousand.

    • Inflation is probably the key right now.  Core PCE was up 1.2% year-over-year in September, and the Fed would like to see this increasing towards their 2.0% target.   PCE prices for October will be released next Friday, and the consensus is for core PCE prices to only be up 1.1% year-over-year.  Low inflation might stop the Fed from tapering in December.

    • Some sort of fiscal agreement looks likely now since Congress is playing "small ball". Of course you never know with Congress.

    Right now the key is inflation.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Steve Ballmer Tony Bates Microsoft Skype

    Microsoft's search for a new CEO has been playing out rather publicly, with Ford CEO Alan Mulally pegged as the front runner since September

    Dina Bass and Carol Hymowitz at Bloomberg reiterated that Mulally is the leading external candidate, with Satya Nadella, who runs Servers & Tools as the leading internal candidate.

    Mulally has a lot of people scratching their heads. He's not a tech guy. He's not a visionary, and he doesn't seem like a very long term solution.

    The argument in favor of Mulally is that he's done a brilliant job at Boeing and Ford. Microsoft needs a sharp manager to reshape the company and Mulally could be the guy to make that happen. 

    Nadella has successfully run Microsoft's most promising new business line, so he makes sense as an internal candidate. Also, Microsoft is really an enterprise company, so promoting Nadella makes a lot of sense. 

    While those two seem to be the favorites of the board, it is Tony Bates, who came to Microsoft when it acquired Skype, who is the leading internal candidate, we've heard from a Microsoftie. Our source says Bates is the guy people inside Microsoft are hoping is named CEO.

    Kara Swisher at AllThingsD says she's heard the same thing. She's also heard that just about everyone in Silicon Valley thinks Microsoft should pick Bates

    The case for Bates: He's both an insider and an outsider at Microsoft. He's an insider because he's been at the company for two years, but an outsider because that's not that long. He has consumer/mobile skills from running Skype. He was previously at Cisco, so he understands bigger company dynamics, and the enterprise. 

    The case against Bates: He ran Skype for less than a year, and mostly seemed to just guide to its Microsoft sale. He's never led a major public company like Microsoft. Swisher says he never stuck his neck out for any major projects at Microsoft, so he doesn't have a huge resume at the company. 

    Here's Swisher on what she's hearing:

    ...More than a dozen tech leaders in Silicon Valley, as well as several top Microsoft execs, I have talked to over the last week have one single choice to lead the company: Tony Bates.

    ...those I spoke to said Bates had all the right assets, making him “the best candidate across all of the various criteria,” said one source.

    “Tony is a bold choice that would say a lot to the rest of the tech world that Microsoft is ready to engage,” said another source close to the company. “Mulally makes sense only if the board wants a transitional figure, which means it basically doesn’t know what to do yet.”

    Read Swisher's full story here >

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    cold brew coffee

    Forget the rumors you've heard about making an espresso on your stove top.

    According to Darleen Scherer, the co-owner of Brooklyn-based Gorilla Coffee, that's technically just brewed coffee, since the brewer can't control the pressure of the steam  an essential part of making espresso.

    "You really need a consistent temperature and pressure that you can only get from a so-called fancy machine," Scherer told Business Insider.    

    So what's a coffee snob to do when he or she wants a quick fix from home?

    Scherer had two recommendations for concentrated coffee, a stronger dose than regularly brewed coffee that can substitute for espresso in a pinch. One brew method's fast while the other's slow, but yields a larger volume.  


    Brew time: About one minute

    How-to:  Insert coffee grounds into the chamber, add heated water, put the plunger on top of the AeroPress and slowly press down. The farther down you press, the more bitterness you extract from the grounds.

    Difference from regular brew: The press extracts coffee across an equal surface area instead of over-extracting from the sides and center like a drip-brew.

    Cold Brew

    Brew time: 18 - 24 hours

    How-to: Steep rough coffee grounds in cold or room temperature water overnight or longer, depending on how strong you want the flavor. A Toddy set is a typical tool for cold brewing. Once brewed, some grounds have to be filtered out of the coffee. Then the extra brew can be stored in the fridge for about a week for quick coffee later. 

    Difference from regular brew: It has a concentrated flavor, but cold brewing doesn't extract the acids from the coffee bean, making it less bitter.     

    SEE ALSO: 7 Apps For Coffee Addicts

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Barack Obama Iran

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A crucial weekend for the troubled website that is the backbone of President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul appears to be off to a shaky start, as the U.S. government took the site offline for an unusually long maintenance period into Saturday morning.

    Just hours before the Obama administration's self-imposed deadline to get the insurance shopping website working for the "vast majority" of its users by Saturday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it was taking down the website for an 11-hour period that would end at 8 a.m. EST on Saturday.

    It was unclear whether the extended shutdown of the website - about seven hours longer than on typical day - represented a major setback to the Obama administration's high-stakes scramble to fix the portal that it hopes eventually will enroll about 7 million uninsured and under-insured Americans under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

    At the very least, the shutdown suggested that nine weeks after the website's disastrous launch on October 1 prevented most applicants from enrolling in coverage and ignited one of the biggest crises of Obama's administration, U.S. officials are nervous over whether Americans will see enough progress in the website to be satisfied.

    For the administration and its Democratic allies, the stakes are enormous.

    The healthcare overhaul is Obama's signature domestic achievement, a program designed to extend coverage to millions of Americans and reduce healthcare costs. To work, the program must enroll millions of young, healthy consumers whose participation in the new insurance exchanges is key to keeping costs in check.

    After weeks of round-the-clock upgrades of software and hardware, Obama officials said they were poised to successfully double its capacity by this weekend, to be able to handle 50,000 insurance shoppers at one time.

    But if the website does not work for the "vast majority" of visitors this weekend as the administration has promised, uninsured Americans from 36 states could face problems getting coverage by an initial December 23 deadline.

    It also could create ripples that extend to the 2014 elections when control of the U.S. House of Representatives (now controlled by Republicans) and the Senate (now led by Democrats) will be up for grabs.

    Obama's fellow Democrats who are up for re-election in Congress already have shown signs of distancing themselves from the president and his healthcare program. If the website does not show significant improvement soon, some Democrats - particularly the dozen U.S. senators who are from states led by conservative Republicans and who are up for re-election next year - might call for extending Obamacare's final March 31 enrollment deadline for 2014.

    That would delay the fines that are mandated by the law for those who do not have insurance by that date, a scenario that insurers say would destabilize the market. It also would fuel Republicans' arguments that Obamacare, and its website, are fatally flawed and should be scrapped.

    In broader political terms, the website's immediate success has become vital to Obama's credibility, which polls indicate has been tarnished by the site's problems as well as Obama's admission that he overreached in promising that everyone who liked their healthcare plan would be able to keep it under the new law.

    Obama has been forced to apologize for oversimplying how the law would affect certain Americans, and has acknowledged being embarrassed and frustrated by the website's failures. Recent polls have shown that Obama's approval ratings are at the lowest point of his presidency.

    "It is a lot harder to reboot public trust than it is to reboot software," said David Brailer, chief executive of the Health Evolution Partners private equity firm and a former health official in George W. Bush's administration.

    "But the good thing about when you're down is that usually, you got nowhere to go but up," Obama said in an interview that aired on Friday on ABC.


    Several technology specialists told Reuters that it will be difficult to independently assess on Saturday whether the site has met the administration's goals of functioning for most users most of the time, including handling 50,000 users at once.

    "There won't be anything you can tell from the outside," said Jonathan Wu, an information technology expert and co-founder of the consumer financial website ValuePenguin.

    When the site opened for enrollment on October 1, many users found that they could not complete the simple task of creating an account. Now, the website is functioning better but any remaining problems lie much deeper within the site, Wu said in an interview.

    Eleventh-hour checks were not encouraging, said Matthew Hancock, an independent expert in software design who said he could tell within hours of the site's launch that its problems were the results of poor system design and bugs, rather than the heavy traffic that the administration blamed initially.

    "I have tested the site every several days trying to buy a health insurance plan, but haven't been able to," Hancock said.

    "I think the issues the site faces now are more complex to diagnose from the front end, whereas before the site was immediately failing and returning error details," he said.

    Questions also remain about the website's ability to direct payments to private insurance companies when consumers enroll in their plans. Portions of the system handling those functions are still being built, officials say.

    "The real tests are: Were my premium payment and subsidy accurately calculated? Am I getting the coverage I signed up for? If my income situation changes, will the reconciliation occur in a timely fashion?" said Rick Howard, a research director at technology consultant Gartner.


    Heading into this weekend, administration officials tasked with rescuing Obamacare showed signs of confidence that the series of fixes by tech specialists would work.

    The officials gave a "virtual tour" of what they had branded the "tech surge" to a group of White House reporters.

    The White House also invited a group of IT specialists to tour the website's "command center," where an engineer on unpaid leave from Google Inc directs disparate contractors and monitors their progress.

    It was a convincing show that the team had the crisis under control, said John Engates, chief technology officer at Rackspace, a web hosting firm in San Antonio, who participated.

    Engates, who had been publicly critical of the launch, said he felt it was likely the website would be able to handle 50,000 concurrent users on Saturday, although he did not know for sure.

    "Whenever you have a date and a number, you need to be pretty sure that you can hit that date and that number," Engates told Reuters.

    "It's just another loss of confidence if you don't make it."

    (Editing by David Lindsey and Lisa Shumaker)

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    china internet cafe turpanChina claims victory in scrubbing rumors from Internet; critics say speech has been curtailed

    BEIJING (AP) — The Chinese government has declared victory in cleaning up what it considers rumors, negativity and unruliness from online discourse, while critics say the moves have suppressed criticism of the government and ruling Communist Party.

    Beijing launched the campaign this summer, arresting dozens of people for spreading rumors, creating new penalties for people who post libelous information and calling in the country's top bloggers for talks urging them to guard the national interest and uphold social order. At the same time, government agencies at all levels have boosted their online presence to control the message in cyberspace.

    "If we should describe the online environment in the past as good mingling with the bad, the sky of the cyberspace has cleared up now because we have cracked down on online rumors," Ren Xianliang, vice minister of the State Internet Information Office, said during a rare meeting this week with foreign journalists.

    A study by an Internet opinion monitoring service under the party-owned People's Daily newspaper showed the number of posts by a sample of 100 opinion leaders declined by nearly 25 percent and were overtaken by posts from government microblog accounts.

    "The positive force on the Internet has preliminarily taken back the microphone, and the positive energy has overwhelmed the negative energy to uphold the online justice," said Zhu Huaxin, the monitoring service's general secretary, according to a transcript posted by state media.

    Observers say the crackdown has noticeably curtailed speech by suppressing voices and triggering self-censorship, with more liberal online voices being more ginger in their criticism and posting significantly less.

    Even Zhu suggested the campaign might have gone too far. In one example, Web users refrained from reposting information and commenting on the government response to a severe flood in the eastern city of Yuyao in early October. A year ago, they were garrulous in questioning Beijing's drainage system when a rainstorm ravaged the city. "It is a reminder that we must strike a balance between crushing online rumors and ensuring information flow," Zhu said.

    Some critics say the moves may backfire by eliminating an effective conduit for the public to let off steam.

    "If there's no channel for the public to express themselves, they may take to the street," said historian and political analyst Zhang Lifan, whose online accounts were recently removed without warning — possibly because he had shared historic facts that the party did not find flattering.

    "The governments also can take pulse of the public opinion, but if no one speaks up, they will be in darkness," Zhang said. "It is so odd they are covering up their eyes and blocking their ears."

    The rise of the Internet in China has always been followed by Beijing's efforts to rein it in, and the latest challenge has been the explosive growth in social media, particularly microblogging, which has allowed users to share firsthand accounts and opinions with great speed. Advocates of free speech have applauded the technology as a strong boost to their cause.

    As of June this year, China's microblogging services had more than 330 million users, and WeChat, a mobile phone-based instant messaging service that allows users to share information with circles of friends or subscribers, had more than 300 million users, Ren said.

    "The unexpected growth has caught people by surprise," Ren said.

    Chen Ziming, a Beijing-based political analyst, said Beijing's apparent success in grabbing control of social media is a big setback for free speech.

    "They have always been able to control newspapers, radios and TV stations, but there have been some holes in the Internet, and the microblogging was the last hole," Chen said. "They have achieved their goal. When 10 percent of the accounts are banned, additional 20 to 30 percent of the users will not speak."

    Authorities in recent months have been arresting microbloggers on the charge of spreading rumors or disrupting the public order, including a teenager boy who raised some questions over a murder case online. Many intellectuals, writers, and journalists have seen their blogging and microblogging accounts removed altogether. A Chinese-American businessman with a strong online following was arrested for soliciting prostitutes and paraded on state television in a campaign to discredit him.

    Chinese propaganda officials have always seen the media — new or old — as a crucial tool to support state rule and are wary of cacophony.

    "The ecosystem for public opinion online has noticeably improved, and that has created a good environment conducive to the overall work of the party of the government," Ren said, in touting the benefits of well-managed public discourse.

    But the historian Zhang said Beijing has failed to play by rules when it shut down critical but law-abiding microblogging accounts. "They see critics as opponents," Zhang said. "That's a stupid thing to do."

    Despite claiming preliminary success in taking control of the Internet, Beijing is likely to roll out more regulations. In a guiding document for the next five or even 10 years, China's senior leaders have mandated that the state must set the perimeters and the tone for online opinion with "positive guidance" and "management" and that the state should "standardize" how online communication unfolds.

    Political analysts say they predict the heavy-handed control will continue. "They are still pretty nervous about preserving stability," said Steve Tsang, a political scientist at the University of Nottingham. "Given the political environment, I don't see any relaxation."

    But known for their ingenuity to circumvent censorship, members of the Chinese public may again push for more room in speech, said Willy Lam of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

    "I think the cat and the mouse game will go on. People might be afraid now, but after a while, the old pattern will resume."

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    iranThe Stuxnet virus that ravaged Iran's Natanz nuclear facility "was far more dangerous than the cyberweapon that is now lodged in the public's imagination," cyber security expert Ralph Langer writes in Foreign Policy.

    Stuxnet, a joint U.S.-Israel project, is known for reportedly destroying roughly a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges by causing them to spin out of control.

    But the exploit had a previous element that was much more complicated and "changed global military strategy in the 21st century," according to Langer.

    The lesser-known initial attack was designed to secretly "draw the equivalent of an electrical blueprint of the Natanz plant" to understand how the computers control the centrifuges used to enrich uranium, Peter Sanger of The New York Times reported last June.

    Langer adds that the worm — which was delivered into Natanz through a worker's thumb drive  also subtly increased the pressure on spinning centrifuges while showing the control room that everything appeared normal by replaying recordings of the plant's protection system values while the attack occurred.

    The intended effect was not destroying centrifuges, but "reducing lifetime of Iran's centrifuges and making the Iranians' fancy control systems appear beyond their understanding," Langer writes.

    He notes that the coding was "so far-out, it leads one to wonder whether its creators might have been on drugs." (The worm was reportedly tested at Israel's Dimona nuclear facility.)

    Only after years of undetected infiltration did the U.S. and Israel unleash the second variation to attack the centrifuges themselves and self-replicate to all sorts of computers.

    And the first version of Stuxnet was only detected with the knowledge of the second.

    So while the second Stuxnet is considered the first cyber act of force, the new details reveal that the impact of the first virus will be much greater. That's because the initial attack "provided a useful blueprint to future attackers by highlighting the royal road to infiltration of hard targets": humans working as contractors.

    From Foreign Policy:

    The sober reality is that at a global scale, pretty much every single industrial or military facility that uses industrial control systems at some scale is dependent on its network of contractors, many of which are very good at narrowly defined engineering tasks, but lousy at cybersecurity.

    Or as one of the architects of the Stuxnet plan told Sanger: “It turns out there is always an idiot around who doesn’t think much about the thumb drive in their hand.”

    Given that the next attackers may not be nation-states, they may be much more likely to go after civilian critical infrastructure. Langer notes that most modern plants operate with a standardized industrial control system, so"if you get control of one industrial control system, you can infiltrate dozens or even hundreds of the same breed more."

    SEE ALSO: The US power grid is incredibly vulnerable to hackers

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    phil schiller introduces apple ipad air

    Here's a wrinkle in the story of Android taking over the world.

    Both IBM and Adobe are reporting that Apple's iOS, which powers iPhones and iPads, is destroying Google's Android in mobile shopping on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. 

    IBM says it tracked "millions of transactions and terabytes of data from approximately 800 U.S. retail websites" on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. 

    It broke out an analysis of iOS and Android:

    On average, iOS users spent $127.92 per order on Black Friday compared to $105.20 per order for Android users. iOS traffic reached 28.2 percent of all online traffic, compared to 11.4 percent for Android. iOS sales reached 18.1 percent of all online sales, compared to 3.5 percent for Android.

    This is astounding when you consider that in the comScore says Android has ~52% of the smartphone market, and iOS has ~42% of the market in the U.S..

    Adobe also has an analytics tool. It tracked "400 million visits to more than 2000 U.S. retailers’ websites on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday."

    Here's Adobe on iOS versus Android:

    iOS-based devices drove more than $543 million dollars in online sales, with iPad taking a 77 percent share. Android-based devices were responsible for $148 million in online sales, a 4.9 percent share of mobile driven online sales.

    ...iPads drove the vast majority of online sales with $417 million while iPhones were responsible for $126 million. In comparison, Android-based phones generated $106 million, Android-based tablets $42 million in online sales on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

    These are both measured in the U.S., which is a unique market for iOS. However, this is still a jaw-dropping gap in usage between the two platforms. It suggests that the focus on smartphone market share misses a bigger picture about how the platforms are actually used.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    U.S. Mobile Commerce

    This year will mark a major milestone for tablets and their influence on Internet retailers. We believe tablets will draw even with smartphones, and account for 50% of the total value of U.S. retail sales made over mobile devices. 

    How is it that tablets are beginning to overtake the smartphone for retail, despite the fact that there are fewer tablets than smartphones in consumer hands? It turns out tablets are perfect devices for "lean-back," or power shopping sessions. Their large screens make it easy to pinch-to-zoom for detailed product views, browse the Web, and search. Average order values, retail traffic, and conversion rates are higher on tablets, helping them punch above their weight class. 

    In a new report from BI Intelligence, we take stock of the explosion in tablet-based e-commerce, analyze the best data available on tablet shopper behavior and how it's different from the behavior of smartphone owners. We also explore why retailers have lagged in creating tablet-friendly shopping experiences for their users, despite allocating budgets to ad campaigns meant to be viewed on tablets.  

    Access The Full Report And Data By Signing Up For A Free Trial Today >>

    Here's how tablets are emerging as a preferred e-commerce device: 

    The report is full of charts and data that can be easily downloaded and put to use.

    In full, the report:

    For full access to the report on Mobile Commerce And Tablets sign up for a free trial subscription today

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    women drinking

    A new iPhone app called Jetpac City Guides will appear in the iPhone store on December 5. It tells you all about the best places in every city to hit, based on analyzing millions of Instagram photos.

    We've been playing with a preview of it and really like it.

    It uses some pretty cool big data technology to look at the photos, understand what's going on in them (are people smiling? what are they wearing?) and match them to their GPS locations.

    From that, the app tells you, city by city things like:

    • The bars women love (based on how many photos of smiling women taken there).
    • Where foodies eat and drink
    • The best coffee shops
    • Where music lovers hang out
    • Hikes tourists don't know about
    • Restaurants with the best views
    • Dog-friendly places
    • Best places for kids
    • And (one of our favorites), hipster hangouts, based on pictures of guys dressed hipster style or sporting hipster mustaches.

    For instance, from the app we learned that ...

    The No. 1 bar that women love in San Francisco is Ace Wasabi's Rock-N-Roll Sushi.

    SF Ace.PNG

    The top restaurant where people take photos of their food in Manhattan is the Terakawa Ramen noodle house.


    The favorite hangout for hipsters in Denver is a breakfast spot called Snooze.


    SEE ALSO: Before And After Pics From Pixtr, The Photo App That Erases Your Flaws

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    javad zarif

    Iran will decide the level of uranium enrichment in its nuclear programme based on its energy and other civilian needs, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in remarks reported Saturday.

    His remarks appeared to conflict with the landmark nuclear deal struck with world powers in Geneva last weekend, which states that the enrichment level must be mutually defined and agreed upon by both sides in further negotiations.

    "Iran will decide the level of enrichment according to its needs for different purposes," Zarif said late Friday night, according to the official IRNA news agency.

    "Only details of the enrichment activities are negotiable," he said, referring to a final accord with the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia plus Germany -- known as the P5+1 group -- that the parties hope to negotiate within a year.

    The interim agreement reached in Geneva set out trust-building measures by both sides to be implemented in a six-month period, during which negotiations over the final accord must begin.

    Iran agreed to freeze expansion of its nuclear activities -- which Western powers and Israel suspect mask military objectives despite repeated Iranian denials -- and to cap enrichment of above low-level purity, including 20 percent.

    Israel and Western powers hope the final accord will drastically scale back Iran's enrichment programme, which is currently producing the low-enriched uranium required for electricity and medical isotopes but could be ramped up to produce the highly enriched uranium which is a key element of a nuclear weapon.

    Iran has repeatedly said it will not seek nuclear weapons while insisting it has the "right" to enrich uranium under the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

    "We have always said we will not allow anyone to determine our needs," Zarif was quoted as saying by the Fars news agency. "But we are prepared to negotiate about it."

    According to the interim deal, the final accord must "involve a mutually defined enrichment programme with mutually agreed parameters consistent with practical needs."

    But it also calls for limits "on scope and level of enrichment activities, capacity, where it is carried out, and stocks of enriched uranium, for a period to be agreed upon."

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    Thousands of people will take to the slopes this winter, but they may be missing out on the fun at these far-flung resorts. 

    Ski resorts in Kazakhstan or Finland offer plenty of lengthy trails, off-road exploration opportunities, and a much more reasonable price tag than you would find at Vail or Aspen

    Grab your passport — our friends at Find the Best have helped us round up some of the best ski resorts in unexpected places around the globe. To compile the list, they ranked ski resorts on factors including average snowfall, skiable acres, and overall ratings from They then excluded resorts in countries that are known as popular ski destinations, such as the U.S., Canada, Austria, and Switzerland.

    JASNA–CHOPOK, SLOVAKIA: Located in the country's Low Tatra mountain range, this huge resort has 30 chair lifts and nearly 40 runs.

    Read more about Jasna-Chopok on FindTheBest >

    BOVEC, SLOVENIA: This small resort may only have five lifts, but its 5,961-foot vertical drop is certainly impressive.

    Read more about Bovec on FindTheBest >

    LEVI, FINLAND: With 43 trails and 26 lifts, Levi is the largest ski resort in Finland. Guests can also rent snowmobiles, go ice fishing, or take a reindeer excursion.

    Read more about Levi on FindTheBest >

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    iphone music headphones

    In 2001, Apple started making all of its products white. 

    This happened even though Steve Jobs was not a fan of the idea. 

    "Initially, Jobs's instincts were against white products," says Leander Kahney in his new book, Jony Ive, The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products.

    Jony Ive, Apple's design leader was in favor of white products. Since his school days, he'd been building products out of white plastic. 

    He started making Apple's products white partially in reaction to the colorful phase Apple went through with the translucent plastic iMac.

    Apple shocked the world, and changed everything, when it released the first iMac in Bondi Blue. It followed up with a bunch of different colored iMacs. 

    Apple made the iBook in white plastic. Ive wanted to continue that with the iPod.

    "Right from the very first time, we were thinking about the product, we'd see [the iPod] as stainless steel and white. It's just so ... brutally simple. It's not a color. Supposedly neutral — but just an unmistakable, shocking neutral," said Ive about the iPod. 

    When Apple's designers were presenting products to Jobs he reflexively disliked white initially. So, Apple's designers tried to come up with colors that were close to white without being white to make him happy. 

    The designers came up with cloud white, snow white, glacial white, and moon gray, which looked like it was white, but was really grey. Jobs liked the moon gray, and approved it for a keyboard, says Kahney. 

    Moon gray also ended up being used in the cords on iPod ear phones, even though most people called the cords white.

    "Moon grey and seashell gray were shades developed by us at Apple that were so close to white as to appear almost white but were in fact gray," says Doug Satzger, who worked in the Apple design group.

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    high school students

    Current high school seniors are going to have an easier time getting into college than in past years due to the decreasing number of applicants, the Los Angeles Times reports.

    According to the Times, the graduating high school class of 2014 is "the smallest group in years" to apply to college. Higher education admissions experts predict that — except for top schools like those in the Ivy League — many good and traditionally competitive colleges will offer admission to more students. 

    Why is the group of applicants so small? It's simple, at 3.2 million, this will be the smallest high school graduating class in years, according to a report by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education cited in the Times. The number of high school graduates met its peak from 2010-2011 with 3.4 million with the children of Baby Boomers graduating.

    "It's a great time, I think, to be a high school student, and to dream and to reach for those schools they might not have considered in the past ... More doors absolutely will be open for students nationally," one college admissions official told the Times.

    Additionally, the Times reports, "many colleges face uncertainty about filling a freshman class and getting enough tuition revenue," which could lead to schools more actively recruiting students — including by offering high amounts of financial aid.

    Overall, the admissions environment this year should make for a relatively easy for potential applicants. "Students and families are a little more in the driver's seat than they were a few years ago," according to one admissions researcher.

    Check out the full story at the Los Angeles Times >>

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    In a documentary for Nat Geo Wild's "Big Cat Week," Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears and Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans raced against a pair of Cheetahs. While Johnson came up short in his race, Hester bested his beast.

    Hester did have an advantage. Johnson and his Cheetah had to race two lengths of the 30-yard Cheetah exercise track at Busch Gardens in Tampa while Hester and his Cheetah raced four lengths. Hester had a decided advantage on the turns. Also, it appeared that Hester's opponent was a little slow out of the gate.

    Here is video of both races, starting with Johnson. You can see GIFs of each race below (via Nat Geo Wild)...

    Here is a GIF of Hester's run...

    And here is Johnson losing to his Cheetah...

    Here is a video of both races...

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    man looks suspicious dubious sneaky Your fellow Americans aren't so trusting: Faith in one another at lowest level in 4 decades

    WASHINGTON (AP) — You can take our word for it. Americans don't trust each other anymore.

    We're not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events.

    For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy — trust in the other fellow — has been quietly draining away.

    These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question.

    Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say "you can't be too careful" in dealing with people.

    An AP-GfK poll conducted last month found that Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters. Less than one-third expressed a lot of trust in clerks who swipe their credit cards, drivers on the road, or people they meet when traveling.

    "I'm leery of everybody," said Bart Murawski, 27, of Albany, N.Y. "Caution is always a factor."

    Does it matter that Americans are suspicious of one another? Yes, say worried political and social scientists.

    What's known as "social trust" brings good things.

    A society where it's easier to compromise or make a deal. Where people are willing to work with those who are different from them for the common good. Where trust appears to promote economic growth.

    Distrust, on the other hand, seems to encourage corruption. At the least, it diverts energy to counting change, drawing up 100-page legal contracts and building gated communities.

    Even the rancor and gridlock in politics might stem from the effects of an increasingly distrustful citizenry, said April K. Clark, a Purdue University political scientist and public opinion researcher.

    "It's like the rules of the game," Clark said. "When trust is low, the way we react and behave with each other becomes less civil."

    There's no easy fix.

    In fact, some studies suggest it's too late for most Americans alive today to become more trusting. That research says the basis for a person's lifetime trust levels is set by his or her mid-twenties and unlikely to change, other than in some unifying crucible such as a world war.

    People do get a little more trusting as they age. But beginning with the baby boomers, each generation has started off adulthood less trusting than those who came before them.

    The best hope for creating a more trusting nation may be figuring out how to inspire today's youth, perhaps united by their high-tech gadgets, to trust the way previous generations did in simpler times.

    There are still trusters around to set an example.

    Pennsylvania farmer Dennis Hess is one. He runs an unattended farm stand on the honor system.

    Customers pick out their produce, tally their bills and drop the money into a slot, making change from an unlocked cashbox. Both regulars and tourists en route to nearby Lititz, Pa., stop for asparagus in spring, corn in summer and, as the weather turns cold, long-neck pumpkins for Thanksgiving pies.

    "When people from New York or New Jersey come up," said Hess, 60, "they are amazed that this kind of thing is done anymore."

    Hess has updated the old ways with technology. He added a video camera a few years back, to help catch people who drive off without paying or raid the cashbox. But he says there isn't enough theft to undermine his trust in human nature.

    "I'll say 99 and a half percent of the people are honest," said Hess, who's operated the produce stand for two decades.

    There's no single explanation for Americans' loss of trust.

    The best-known analysis comes from "Bowling Alone" author Robert Putnam's nearly two decades of studying the United States' declining "social capital," including trust.

    Putnam says Americans have abandoned their bowling leagues and Elks lodges to stay home and watch TV. Less socializing and fewer community meetings make people less trustful than the "long civic generation" that came of age during the Depression and World War II.

    University of Maryland Professor Eric Uslaner, who studies politics and trust, puts the blame elsewhere: economic inequality.

    Trust has declined as the gap between the nation's rich and poor gapes ever wider, Uslaner says, and more and more Americans feel shut out. They've lost their sense of a shared fate. Tellingly, trust rises with wealth.

    "People who believe the world is a good place and it's going to get better and you can help make it better, they will be trusting," Uslaner said. "If you believe it's dark and driven by outside forces you can't control, you will be a mistruster."

    African-Americans consistently have expressed far less faith in "most people" than the white majority does. Racism, discrimination and a high rate of poverty destroy trust.

    Nearly 8 in 10 African-Americans, in the 2012 survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago with principal funding from the National Science Foundation, felt that "you can't be too careful." That figure has held remarkably steady across the 25 GSS surveys since 1972.

    The decline in the nation's overall trust quotient was driven by changing attitudes among whites.

    It's possible that people today are indeed less deserving of trust than Americans in the past, perhaps because of a decline in moral values.

    "I think people are acting more on their greed," said Murawski, a computer specialist who says he has witnessed scams and rip-offs. "Everybody wants a comfortable lifestyle, but what are you going to do for it? Where do you draw the line?"

    Ethical behavior such as lying and cheating are difficult to document over the decades. It's worth noting that the early, most trusting years of the GSS poll coincided with Watergate and the Vietnam War. Trust dropped off in the more stable 1980s.

    Crime rates fell in the 1990s and 2000s, and still Americans grew less trusting. Many social scientists blame 24-hour news coverage of distant violence for skewing people's perceptions of crime.

    Can anything bring trust back?

    Uslaner and Clark don't see much hope anytime soon.

    Thomas Sander, executive director of the Saguaro Seminar launched by Putnam, believes the trust deficit is "eminently fixable" if Americans strive to rebuild community and civic life, perhaps by harnessing technology.

    After all, the Internet can widen the circle of acquaintances who might help you find a job. Email makes it easier for clubs to plan face-to-face meetings. Googling someone turns up information that used to come via the community grapevine.

    But hackers and viruses and hateful posts eat away at trust. And sitting home watching YouTube means less time out meeting others.

    "A lot of it depends on whether we can find ways to get people using technology to connect and be more civically involved," Sander said.

    "The fate of Americans' trust," he said, "is in our own hands."


    Associated Press Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta and AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius contributed to this report.



    AP-GfK Poll:

    General Social Survey:


    Follow Connie Cass on Twitter at

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    obama jordan middle east

    Politicians and pundits from Riyadh to Washington have castigated recent American foreign policy in the Middle East for being unfocused, misguided or harmful to national interests.

    Contrary to these accusations however, the Obama policy is none of the above: It is a pragmatic approach that takes into account a progressive decline in the political and economic importance of the Middle East.

    This policy change is currently making headlines in Syria where the United States, despite accusations of hypocrisy and strategic blundering, remains skittish about engaging in a conflict that is drawing in almost every other regional player, many of whom are long time American allies. 

    This policy change is also reflected in other recent developments in the region, such as Turkey’s courting of CPMIEC, a Chinese weapons manufacturer under US sanction, Saudi Arabia’s de-coupling from America’s intelligence networks and renewed dialogue with Iran. These diplomatic changes already reflect a very different Middle East than the one most politicians acknowledge.

    Furthermore, there is a simple explanation for this shift: The region no longer warrants the same level of attention that it did when it was a nexus of global conflict during the Cold War and the two decades that followed, when Middle Eastern oil’s role in the global energy market allowed it to hold the world economy hostage.

    The results of the shale oil revolution, which is set to make America the world’s biggest oil producer by 2015, and the United States’ shift towards oil reserves in the Western Hemisphere are not the only factors in the decline of Middle East oil fortunes.

    Even China is now jumping on the shale bandwagon, with a 5-year plan that is predicted to produce 60-100 billion cubic meters of shale gas by 2020. In the Middle East, Israel’s recent natural gas discoveries amount to approximately 950 billion cubic meters of reserves.

    Further complicating matters is the continued instability of the region, which drives up the price of oil and makes alternatives more attractive. The Saudi ruling coterie is clearly worried, as Prince Alwaleed bin Talal demonstrated in an open letter to the Kingdom’s government last spring. He warned that revenues from oil form over 90% of the Saudi state budget, and the consequences of producing below capacity could be devastating.

    Former National Security Agency specialist Paul D. Miller noted in his 2012 article “The Fading Arab Oil Empire,” peak oil production in the Middle East is either soon approaching or already behind us. Although oil production in the Middle East has reached levels unseen in two decades, the IMF recently warned Arab oil producers that they will face deficits by 2016.

    Last month, the Kingdom announced it would no longer engage in the high level of intelligence sharing with the United States that had marked the two countries combined efforts in fighting terrorism in the region. In the same vein, the Saudis rejected a position on the UN Security Council that they had campaigned relentlessly to obtain. In a recent interview, Saudi Arabia’s Turki Bin Faisal Al Saud questioned whether Obama, “gets it” while condemning a “worldwide apathy—a criminally negligent attitude toward the Syrian people.” 

    But the reality is much more complicated than the picture Al Saud painted. In addition to a human rights catastrophe, the situation in Syria represents perhaps the most fundamental regional contest for power in decades.

    The policies of the House of Saud and its allies, as well as those of Assad and his supporters, are both fueling the carnage, with neither side backing down. With so much at stake, longtime allies like the Saudis find it surprising that America remains so uncommitted, while America has every reason to abstain.

    Domestically, boots on the ground is a non-starter and other interventionist alternatives are almost as unpopular. Just as importantly, the deference showed to Russia and China reflects a more balanced approach to foreign policy.

    From Obama’s perspective, any marginal gains made by saving face on the Syria issue would be sharply offset by serious diplomatic fallout with Russia and China, not to mention Iran where a groundbreaking agreement was just inked.

    Without the ability to use oil as a diplomatic weapon, there is very little that Gulf countries can do. The Russians and Chinese, on the other hand, wield far more economic and diplomatic influence over not only the United States but its European allies as well. For the time being, the primary belligerents in this conflict are of Middle Eastern origins and America would prefer to keep the conflagration localized.

    If Saudi Arabia is so concerned about the degeneration of human rights conditions, there is little stopping them from taking a more interventionist role. Aside from arming rebels, many of whom are hardline Islamists, Saudi Arabia has shown little willingness to engage Syria militarily.

    This is not for wont of weapons: America has granted the Kingdom an enormous amount of military support since 1950, with the Saudi Armed Forces absorbing huge amounts of armaments to keep the Gulf free of Soviet influence. Arms sales exploded again in the wake of the Islamic Revolution. After 9/11, arms sales received another shot in the arm.

    Turkey has expressed its discontent with the U.S. and the West through a variety of moves. Announcements concerning the planned purchase of a $3.4 billion high-altitude missile defense system from China have already raised the ire of NATO’s leadership.

    Erdoğan has also successfully drawn Turkey closer to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), stating that the organization shares Turkey’s values and gaining observer status earlier this year. Ankara has also expressed interest in joining the Eurasian Union, an economic block being formed between former Soviet states.

    In spite of its aggressive signaling however, Turkish policies seem to have had no real impact on America’s regional shift. NATO officials maintain that any Chinese missile systems will not be compatible with the organization’s defenses, leaving Turkey with very little room to negotiate.

    During the Cold War, Turkey was a valuable ally and it remains a key strategic state. In the current climate, however, the former ally is no longer able to command the same attention and must make threats to go elsewhere in search of economic and military alliances.

    The erosion of American support has reduced Turkey’s ability to wield influence in the region. Two of its major projects, Syria and Egypt, have both ended poorly, alienating the Erdogan regime and damaging Turkey’s ability to act as a regional leader. It is clear now that Turkey engaged in the Syrian conflict with the expectation of far more Western support that it received.

    With an 822 kilometer shared border with Syria and a refugee crisis on his hands, Erdogan has everything to gain from an intervention and has repeatedly lobbied Turkey’s allies for one. Yet without Western support beyond defensive Patriot missile batteries, Turkey finds itself saddled with a humanitarian crisis and uncomfortably close to a perturbed and resilient Assad. 

    The unwillingness of the United States to condemn the recent coup in Egypt is another illustration of this divergence. Ever since they came to power in Egypt, Erdogan closely aligned himself with the Muslim Brotherhood. When Morsi was ousted, Erdogan saw the West’s compliance as a personal and ideological betrayal. Just as importantly, Washington’s response showed that it was more interested in maintaining the status quo than defending Erdogan’s allies. 

    The status quo of the last half century was predicated on American interventionism, which is dwindling. Under the new circumstances, states in the region will do well to follow a path of increased cooperation and compromise.

    The current feud between Turkey and Israel over the death of Turkish activists on board the Mavi Marmara is dividing countries that would benefit from an improvement in relations. The Saudis, for their part, will need to either look elsewhere for allies against Iran, or opt for a peaceful resolution. And as the sectarian conflict rages on in Syria, those chances are dwindling. 

    In a classic 1973 Foreign Affairs article, “The Oil Crisis: This Time the Wolf is Here,” U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia James E. Akins bemoaned the inability of the global economy to break itself free from Middle Eastern oil, and pined for the day when America’s shale oil reserves, alongside supplies from the emerging field of renewable energy, would allow the U.S. to reduce oil imports.

    Four decades later, Akins’ dreams of an American foreign policy no longer held hostage to the international oil market is coming into focus. After a decade of heavy investment, renewable energy supplied almost 15% of U.S. demand in the first half of 2013, and the United States has pushed aside Saudi Arabia and Russia to become the world’s top oil producer.

    The first half of the 20st century demonstrated that oil has the ability to alter regional and global power balances, placing the Middle East at the center of the world stage. But the dawn of a new century has brought with it new geopolitical realities, including America’s new surge in domestic energy production, allowing Washington to begin its ‘pivot towards Asia’ while avoiding becoming mired in an increasingly unstable and unpredictable Middle East.

    Luke Rodeheffer is a graduate student in Istanbul as well as a researcher at Wikistrat. He has previously written for a variety of publications, including The Diplomat, Open Democracy, The Interpreter, and New Eastern Europe.

    Lewis King is a graduate student studying International Relations in Istanbul. He has previously worked for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is an expert on geopolitics in the Middle East.

    SEE ALSO: The Obama Administration's 'Worst Case Scenario' Is Happening In Syria

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    Petri Dish Bacteria

    This post originally appeared on

    We have more bacteria in our gut than cells in our body.

    As foreign as it sounds, the word microbiome may soon be part of the mainstream lexicon. The term refers to the microbes or bacteria that naturally inhabit the body from the surface of your skin to your gut. We tend to think of microbes as bad—pathogens that need to be killed—but new research suggests that storing scores of them is paramount to our health and metabolism.

    "We have 100 trillion microbes in our gut — more bacteria than cells in the body," says Frank Lipman, MD, the founder of Eleven Eleven Wellness in Manhattan. " They aid in digestion and detoxification, help support our immune system, and manufacture key vitamins, among other functions. Western medicine is catching on to the importance of all the bacteria in our bodies, especially in our gut. In Functional Medicine we've been manipulating this microbiome for some time, but it's primarily been guesswork."

    "Understanding these microbes is the future of medicine," he said.

    The Human Microbiome Project, a National Institute of Health initiative, is working to shed light on the topic.

    "It's such a new field and there are so many studies underway. But we do know that it's important to keep your flora in a balanced state," says Lipman. "A disturbed microbiome, where bad bacteria and yeast overtake the good ones can cause all sorts of health problems from autoimmune diseases to weight gain."

    Thus far, gut microbes have been shown to influence metabolism, and certain types may play a role in obesity. In fact, one family of bacteria called Firmicutes can even cause you to absorb more calories from your food. Another, called Bacteroidetes, is associated with leanness.

    Wondering how to keep your belly balanced—and flat? Your trump card may be a healthy diet, which can prevent microbes associated with obesity from flourishing. No real surprises there, and until more is known Lipman suggests keeping your microbiome in mind when you eat. Here are his five tips:

    1. Eat pre-biotic foods

    Healthy gut bacteria thrive on pre-biotics, which are non-digestible fibers found in foods like root vegetables, onions, leeks, garlic, artichokes, beans, asparagus, oats, nuts, and bananas. Think of it as giving the good microbes something to chew on.

    2. Drink Green Juice

    There are thousands of bacterial strains, and while we don't know enough about all these organisms yet, greens appear to help improve the diversity of healthy organisms in the gut. Plus, research shows that the greater the diversity, the greater the health benefits.

    3. Cut out processed foods

    The additives in processed foods can kill off good bacteria. Refined carbs are also problematic because sugar feeds bad bacteria, allowing it to proliferate and leading to physical cravings for more sugar. Stay away from wheat and soy, too. Most are genetically modified and GMOs disrupt gut flora.

    4. Limit antibiotics

    There's a place for antibiotics, but don't take them every time you have a runny nose. They're overused and even though they target bad bacteria, they also kill off the good guys. Another surprising problem is factory-farmed meats. Seventy percent of antibiotics in the U.S. are used in livestock, leading to chronic exposure; when you consume the meat, you're absorbing those antibiotics, too.

    5. Get your probiotics

    Fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, and sauerkraut are making appearances on more menus as people learn more about body ecology. They're important because they naturally contain probiotics, which encourage the growth of good bacteria. Some people also respond well to a supplement. Choose one containing some of the most studied probiotic strains: Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium longum, Bifidobacterium lactis.

    dec jan 2013 baleMore From Details:

    SEE ALSO:  The Bacteria In Your Guts Can Change Your Mood

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  • 11/30/13--07:38: REVIEW: The Nest Thermostat
  • nest thermostat

    Over the summer, my wife and I bought a house.

    When it started to get cold here in the Northeast, we decided to get a Nest thermostat.

    Nest is a company co-founded by Tony Fadell, who built the original iPod. Fadell is CEO, and his mission to improve the "unloved" products in our homes, like the thermostat. Recently, Nest launched the Nest Protect, a smoke detector. 

    The Nest thermostat is an Internet connected device that learns your habits and adjusts automatically after figuring out when you're home and when you're away. It also has a smartphone app that can control the thermostat remotely. 

    Prior to installing the Nest, we just had a normal thermostat that was entirely manual. It did its job, but we had to always remember to adjust the temperature. One weekend, we left the house and forgot to turn down the heat, so we were burning money. Other times, we would be in the house, turn down the heat before going to bed, but would wake up freezing. 

    After a week or so in the cold weather, we decided to get a Nest. I didn't do much research into rival thermostats. I had heard good things about the Nest. I liked the company and the CEO, so I decided to dive in. 

    The Nest is $250, which makes it more expensive than any similar thermostat we've seen on Amazon

    I think it's worth the money because it's easy to use, it works brilliantly with my phone, and it should save me money this winter.

    Here's a run down of my experience with Nest after two weeks. 

    thermostatInstallation was a snap. If you're worried about installing a Nest, you shouldn't be. I just took off my thermostat's face plate, and snapped a photo of the wires underneath.

    On Nest's website, a few check boxes made sure my house was compatible with the thermostat. After I bought the thermostat, I just screwed in a base plate, snapped in the next piece then reconnected the wires. From there, I had to punch in my WiFi password, then Nest did a software update and I was pretty much good to go.

    Except, I wasn't! I mis-connected one of the wires. I had the Rh mixed up with the Rc, or something like that. Nest's website very quickly helped me figure out the mistake, and I was all set. 

    It took about a week for the Nest to figure out our schedule. For the first week, we were controlling the Nest either manually, or through the Nest app. Then, after a week, the thermostat decided to take over. 

    nest appThe problem with Nest's automated system is that we don't have a truly routine schedule. Some nights we're home from work at 7 PM. Other nights we don't come back, we go out with friends. On the weekends, it's a total crap shoot. We've been out of the house a lot on the weekends, so the Nest has no clue about what to do. 

    The good thing, though, is that the Nest's smartphone app lets us control the thermostat. I love, love, love the ability to control the thermostat from my phone. During the first week, we would turn on the Nest on the train on the way home, so it was warmed up when we got home. Or, I could wake up, grab my phone and turn up the heat. 

    That said, the app still needs a little bit of fine tuning. You can set up a schedule for the thermostat through the app, but it's not the best experience. I'd like to see it work more like a calendar app, maybe. I can't quite put my finger on what it is, but there's something ever so slightly off about it. Overall, I think the app and the scheduling are gold, but they could use some refinement. 

    Bottom line: I'm thrilled with the Nest and would recommend it to just about anyone. 

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