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  Khamenei says nuclear deal, if passed, will not open Iran to U.S. influence
Posted by: IceWizard - 08-17-2015, 10:56 AM - Forum: World News - No Replies

Mon Aug 17, 2015 | 6:42 AM EDT
By Bozorgmehr Sharafedin and Sam Wilkin

DUBAI (Reuters) -
Iran will remain closed to U.S. influence and continue to oppose U.S. policies in the Middle East after its nuclear deal with big powers, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Monday, noting either country can still block the accord.

The 76-year-old cleric, Iran's highest authority,
has refrained from making decisive statements
on the July 14 nuclear agreement, but gave
President Hassan Rouhani crucial political
cover to pursue talks with the six powers..

Tehran agreed to verifiable limits on its atomic
energy program to create confidence that it will not be put to developing nuclear weapons, in exchange for lifting international sanctions
crippling its oil-based economy.

"They thought this deal - and it is not clear if it
will be passed in Iran or in America - will open
up Iran to their influence," Khamenei was
quoted on his website as saying at a meeting
with members of the Islamic Radio and
Television Union. "We blocked this path and will definitely block it in the future. We won't allow American political, economic or cultural influence in Iran."

Most analysts see the chance of Khamenei
rejecting the deal as small so long as it passes
through the U.S. Congress, where opposition
Republicans aim to block it.

But Khamenei has always dismissed the notion that the agreement could reconcile the Islamic Republic with the United States, its arch-adversary since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

"Khamenei wants to keep the deal with the U.S. purely nuclear. He is worried about economic, political and cultural intrusion after the deal," said Hossein Rassam, former Iran adviser to Britain's Foreign Office. "He fears integration into the international economy could make the Islamic Republic vulnerable and potentially lead to its collapse."

If the deal is fully implemented, Iran's market of
nearly 80 million people would be opened up to foreign investment -- after protracted isolation.

But unlike European competitors, U.S. firms will
struggle to gain any toehold in Iran due to fear
among Iranian officials of being seen to be
coming under any American influence, and
because U.S. economic sanctions not related to the nuclear program will remain in place.

"It will be a long time, regardless of whether the deal goes through, before U.S. businesses will fully operate in Iran," said Sarah Dayan, an analyst at consultancy The Risk Advisory Group in London.

Even if the nuclear issue is successfully
resolved, Iran and the United States are likely
to remain locked in a struggle for influence in
the Middle East.

They support opposite sides in Syria's civil war and the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.

"The Americans want to gain influence in the
region and reach their goals. We will not let
them," said Khamenei, who has previously said
U.S. regional policies are "180 degrees"
opposed to those of the Islamic Republic.

(Reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafedin; Writing
by Sam Wilkin; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

[b] ***Opinion***[b]
I still don't trust those Iranians in general.... I'm sure there are those among them that are fine folks ... I just don't think the majority are ....

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  Fish oil helps minimize disorders for those at risk of schizophrenia, study finds
Posted by: Linville - 08-17-2015, 02:12 AM - Forum: World News - No Replies

Fish oil helps minimize disorders for those at risk of schizophrenia, study finds.

As long as seven years after getting a 12-week course of Omega-3 fatty acid supplements, new research has found that young people at very high risk of developing schizophrenia were much less likely than those who did not get the supplements to develop full-blown psychosis, or to manifest a range of psychiatric disorders that commonly afflict such young adults.

The new research is the first to document rigorously the impact of fish oil supplements as a means of preventing severe psychiatric disease. The apparent effects of a brief regimen of fish oil capsules were both lasting and far-ranging in a population of young adults whose mental health is fragile.
Published this week in Nature Communications, the latest study adds further luster to fish oil's reputation as potentially powerful psychiatric therapy. Omega-3 fatty acids--found plentifully in fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel but also available in fish oil capsules--have long been shown to boost the effectiveness of antidepressants and to improve attention both in those with ADHD and those without attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

In the young and cognitively healthy, fish oil supplementation has been found to improve working memory performance as well.

In the new study, researchers focused on a population of young people who are uniquely vulnerable to developing severe mental illness. The trial drew subjects between the ages of 13 and 25 who were reporting low-level or transient hallucinations or delusional thinking, or who had a family history of severe mental illness and whose functioning at school, work or home had begun to deteriorate.

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On average, young people who fall into one or more of these categories are thought to have a 35% to 40% chance of developing schizophrenia--a lifelong condition marked by disabling disturbances of thinking and perception. And nearly 7 in 10 will develop other psychiatric disorders, including major depression, bipolar disorder and substance dependency.
Psychiatrists are keenly interested in measures that might head off such outcomes. 

Once a psychotic break happens in a person's late teens or early 20s, his or her ongoing symptoms generally require medication that has a range of difficult side effects. And those medications fail to treat schizophrenia's other debilitating symptoms: difficulty in planning, organization, motivation and executive function.
Some research suggests that early treatment with antipsychotic medications might help prevent a person's conversion to psychotic disorder. But the risks of weight gain, metabolic disturbances and movement disorders that come with such medications are difficult to justify in young people who, while troubled, are not yet floridly delusional.
Of 81 young people in Vienna who had sought psychiatric treatment and were drawn into the study, 41 got a daily dose of fish oil that contained 700 milligrams of Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)  and 480 milligrams of Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for 12 weeks. Another 40 study subjects got a placebo capsule to take daily.

Roughly seven years later, researchers found clear differences in outcomes between the two groups. Among those who had gotten the placebo capsules, 40% had suffered a full-blown psychotic episode and were diagnosed as suffering psychotic disorder; among those who got the Omega-3s, just under 10% had progressed to psychotic disorder.  And those who got the placebo had converted to full-blown illness more quickly than subjects who had taken fish oil.

While 54% in the placebo group were found on follow-up to have been prescribed antipsychotic medication, 29% of those in the fish-oil group had had such medications prescribed. Of the placebo group, 83% had been diagnosed with some other psychiatric condition seven years later. Among those who got fish oil supplements, 53% had received another psychiatric diagnosis.
The findings, wrote the authors, offer "hope there may be alternatives to psychopharmacological treatment as early interventions in young people at risk for psychosis." Fish oil supplements sometimes cause fishy burps, but they appear to be very safe, and the Omega-3 fatty acids they contain are thought to help maintain cardiovascular and eye health as well.

The latest research also suggests that there may be a critical period of brain development, somewhere in mid- to late adolescence perhaps, in which a young person teetering on the edge of mental illness can be pushed back from the brink.
How Omega-3 fatty acids might do that has not been pinned down, the authors acknowledge. Fish oil supplementation appears to boost brain cell regeneration and the availability of a number of key neurotransmitters linked to mental well-being, as well as to tame inflammation and improve cell function.
Follow me on Twitter @LATMelissaHealy and "like" Los Angeles Times Science & Health on Facebook.
For men on testosterone therapy, some good news and bad
In IVF, success rate for frozen donor eggs lags behind use of fresh eggs
In survey, 88% of U.S. adults said they had sexted and 96% of them endorsed it
Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

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  This is a family.
Posted by: Kittycat - 08-16-2015, 11:12 PM - Forum: Welcome - Replies (18)

I just wanted to tell newbies and veterans alike, i truly look at this forum as a family. I have not had one unkind word seen here.  And people really care about eachother and want to help in all aspects of life. We are commiseraters, mood elevators, helpful, and loving. I enjoy coming here everyday to see how everyone is doing. And the information is always solid.

So, if you are a new member, this is what i feel this forum is all about, and I hope you open yourself open to the honesty and kindness, and reiprocate as well. 

This forum is SPECIAL. You'll see. I really trust, care for these people, and enjoy them.

My love to you also,


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  Arms seized in Kuwait came from Iran: Kuwaiti newspapers
Posted by: IceWizard - 08-16-2015, 09:32 PM - Forum: World News - No Replies

Sun Aug 16, 2015 | 7:21 AM EDT

KUWAIT (Reuters) -
A huge arms cache seized in Kuwait last week was smuggled into the country from Iran, two Kuwaiti newspapers reported on Sunday.

The Interior Ministry said on Thursday
authorities had found ammunition, explosives,
weapons and grenades in holes dug under
houses in an area near the Iraqi border.

Three men who owned the houses were detained.

Al-Anba newspaper reported at the time that
the weapons had been smuggled across the
border from Iraq for use by members of an
Iranian-backed Hezbollah cell. But al-Rai and al-Qabas dailies, citing unnamed sources, reported on Sunday that the weapons had been brought into Kuwait by sea from Iran.

They quoted the sources as saying that the
new information had come from confessions
made by the detainees during interrogation.

Al-Qabas said the number of suspects held had risen to 13. "The suspects have disclosed that there is a direct Iranian line in supplying weapons to Kuwait by sea," al-Rai said.

The Interior Ministry declined to comment.

Another newspaper, al-Jarida, said Iranian
Revolutionary Guards had trained members of
the cell a year ago, along with citizens from
Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, on the use of
weapons and explosives, at an unnamed Red
Sea island.

It said the trainees had traveled to the island
through a port controlled by Yemeni Houthis, an Iranian-linked group which controls much of northern Yemen.

Kuwait, a Western-allied Gulf oil exporter, has been on alert since a suicide bomber killed 27
people in an attack on a Shi'ite Muslim mosque
in the capital, Kuwait City, on June 26.

The interior minister said in June it was at war
with hardline militants, who officials said were
trying to stoke sectarian strife in a state where
the two Muslim sects have traditionally
coexisted peacefully.

Ties between Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbors are strained by suspicions that Tehran is trying to extend its influence into Arab countries including Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

(Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy and Mahmoud
Harby, writing by Sami Aboudi, editing by Angus

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  Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace
Posted by: Linville - 08-16-2015, 03:12 PM - Forum: World News - Replies (2)

Here is the link to article

Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace

SEATTLE — On Monday mornings, fresh recruits line up for an orientation intended to catapult them into Amazon’s singular way of working.
They are told to forget the “poor habits” they learned at previous jobs, one employee recalled. When they “hit the wall” from the unrelenting pace, there is only one solution: “Climb the wall,” others reported. To be the best Amazonians they can be, they should be guided by the leadership principles, 14 rules inscribed on handy laminated cards. When quizzed days later, those with perfect scores earn a virtual award proclaiming, “I’m Peculiar” — the company’s proud phrase for overturning workplace conventions.
At Amazon, workers are encouraged to tear apart one another’s ideas in meetings, toil long and late (emails arrive past midnight, followed by text messages asking why they were not answered), and held to standards that the company boasts are “unreasonably high.” The internal phone directory instructs colleagues on how to send secret feedback to one another’s bosses. Employees say it is frequently used to sabotage others. (The tool offers sample texts, including this: “I felt concerned about his inflexibility and openly complaining about minor tasks.”)

[Image: 13amazon-selects-slide-AUYG-articleLarge.jpg]
Amazon is building new offices in Seattle and, in about three years, will have enough space for about 50,000 employees. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Many of the newcomers filing in on Mondays may not be there in a few years. The company’s winners dream up innovations that they roll out to a quarter-billion customers and accrue small fortunes in soaring stock. Losers leave or are fired in annual cullings of the staff — “purposeful Darwinism,” one former Amazon human resources director said. Some workers who suffered from cancer, miscarriages and other personal crises said they had been evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover.
Even as the company tests delivery by drone and ways to restock toilet paper at the push of a bathroom button, it is conducting a little-known experiment in how far it can push white-collar workers, redrawing the boundaries of what is acceptable. The company, founded and still run by Jeff Bezos, rejects many of the popular management bromides that other corporations at least pay lip service to and has instead designed what many workers call an intricate machine propelling them to achieve Mr. Bezos’ ever-expanding ambitions.
“This is a company that strives to do really big, innovative, groundbreaking things, and those things aren’t easy,” said Susan Harker, Amazon’s top recruiter. “When you’re shooting for the moon, the nature of the work is really challenging. For some people it doesn’t work.”
Continue reading the main story

Quote:[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.498039)]“Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”[/color]

Bo Olson, worked in books marketing

Bo Olson was one of them. He lasted less than two years in a book marketing role and said that his enduring image was watching people weep in the office, a sight other workers described as well. “You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face,” he said. “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”
Thanks in part to its ability to extract the most from employees, Amazon is stronger than ever. Its swelling campus is transforming a swath of this city, a 10-million-square-foot bet that tens of thousands of new workers will be able to sell everything to everyone everywhere. Last month, it eclipsed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the country, with a market valuation of $250 billion, and Forbes deemed Mr. Bezos the fifth-wealthiest person on earth.
Tens of millions of Americans know Amazon as customers, but life inside its corporate offices is largely a mystery. Secrecy is required; even low-level employees sign a lengthy confidentiality agreement. The company authorized only a handful of senior managers to talk to reporters for this article, declining requests for interviews with Mr. Bezos and his top leaders.
However, more than 100 current and former Amazonians — members of the leadership team, human resources executives, marketers, retail specialists and engineers who worked on projects from the Kindle to grocery delivery to the recent mobile phone launch — described how they tried to reconcile the sometimes-punishing aspects of their workplace with what many called its thrilling power to create.
In interviews, some said they thrived at Amazon precisely because it pushed them past what they thought were their limits. Many employees are motivated by “thinking big and knowing that we haven’t scratched the surface on what’s out there to invent,” said Elisabeth Rommel, a retail executive who was one of those permitted to speak.
Others who cycled in and out of the company said that what they learned in their brief stints helped their careers take off. And more than a few who fled said they later realized they had become addicted to Amazon’s way of working.
“A lot of people who work there feel this tension: It’s the greatest place I hate to work,” said John Rossman, a former executive there who published a book, “The Amazon Way.”
Continue reading the main story
Quote:[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.498039)]“It would certainly be much easier and socially cohesive to just compromise and not debate, but that may lead to the wrong decision.”[/color]

Tony Galbato, Amazon vice president for human resources

Amazon may be singular but perhaps not quite as peculiar as it claims. It has just been quicker in responding to changes that the rest of the work world is now experiencing: data that allows individual performance to be measured continuously, come-and-go relationships between employers and employees, and global competition in which empires rise and fall overnight. Amazon is in the vanguard of where technology wants to take the modern office: more nimble and more productive, but harsher and less forgiving.
“Organizations are turning up the dial, pushing their teams to do more for less money, either to keep up with the competition or just stay ahead of the executioner’s blade,” said Clay Parker Jones, a consultant who helps old-line businesses become more responsive to change.
On a recent morning, as Amazon’s new hires waited to begin orientation, few of them seemed to appreciate the experiment in which they had enrolled. Only one, Keith Ketzle, a freckled Texan triathlete with an M.B.A., lit up with recognition, explaining how he left his old, lumbering company for a faster, grittier one.
“Conflict brings about innovation,” he said.

New employees arrive at the campus of Amazon in Seattle. The company holds orientation sessions on Mondays. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
A Philosophy of Work
Jeff Bezos turned to data-driven management very early.
He wanted his grandmother to stop smoking, he recalled in a 2010graduation speech at Princeton. He didn’t beg or appeal to sentiment. He just did the math, calculating that every puff cost her a few minutes. “You’ve taken nine years off your life!” he told her. She burst into tears.
He was 10 at the time. Decades later, he created a technological and retail giant by relying on some of the same impulses: eagerness to tell others how to behave; an instinct for bluntness bordering on confrontation; and an overarching confidence in the power of metrics, buoyed by his experience in the early 1990s at D. E. Shaw, a financial firm that overturned Wall Street convention by using algorithms to get the most out of every trade.
According to early executives and employees, Mr. Bezos was determined almost from the moment he founded Amazon in 1994 to resist the forces he thought sapped businesses over time — bureaucracy, profligate spending, lack of rigor. As the company grew, he wanted to codify his ideas about the workplace, some of them proudly counterintuitive, into instructions simple enough for a new worker to understand, general enough to apply to the nearly limitless number of businesses he wanted to enter and stringent enough to stave off the mediocrity he feared.
The result was the leadership principles, the articles of faith that describe the way Amazonians should act. In contrast to companies where declarations about their philosophy amount to vague platitudes, Amazon has rules that are part of its daily language and rituals, used in hiring, cited at meetings and quoted in food-truck lines at lunchtime. Some Amazonians say they teach them to their children.
The guidelines conjure an empire of elite workers (principle No. 5: “Hire and develop the best”) who hold one another to towering expectations and are liberated from the forces — red tape, office politics — that keep them from delivering their utmost. Employees are to exhibit “ownership” (No. 2), or mastery of every element of their businesses, and “dive deep,” (No. 12) or find the underlying ideas that can fix problems or identify new services before shoppers even ask for them.
The workplace should be infused with transparency and precision about who is really achieving and who is not. Within Amazon, ideal employees are often described as “athletes” with endurance, speed (No. 8: “bias for action”), performance that can be measured and an ability to defy limits (No. 7: “think big”).
“You can work long, hard or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three,” Mr. Bezos wrote in his 1997 letter to shareholders, when the company sold only books, and which still serves as a manifesto. He added that when he interviewed potential hires, he warned them, “It’s not easy to work here.”

Amazon employees and family members attending a company picnic. Some fathers at Amazon said they considered quitting because of pressure from bosses to spend less time with their families. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Mr. Rossman, the former executive, said that Mr. Bezos was addressing a meeting in 2003 when he turned in the direction of Microsoft, across the water from Seattle, and said he didn’t want Amazon to become “a country club.” If Amazon becomes like Microsoft, “we would die,” Mr. Bezos added.
While the Amazon campus appears similar to those of some tech giants — with its dog-friendly offices, work force that skews young and male, on-site farmers’ market and upbeat posters — the company is considered a place apart. Google and Facebook motivate employees with gyms, meals and benefits, like cash handouts for new parents, “designed to take care of the whole you,” as Google puts it.
Amazon, though, offers no pretense that catering to employees is a priority. Compensation is considered competitive — successful midlevel managers can collect the equivalent of an extra salary from grants of a stock that has increased more than tenfold since 2008. But workers are expected to embrace “frugality” (No. 9), from the bare-bones desks to the cellphones and travel expenses that they often pay themselves. (No daily free food buffets or regular snack supplies, either.) The focus is on relentless striving to please customers, or “customer obsession” (No. 1), with words like “mission” used to describe lightning-quick delivery of Cocoa Krispies or selfie sticks.
As the company has grown, Mr. Bezos has become more committed to his original ideas, viewing them in almost moral terms, those who have worked closely with him say. “My main job today: I work hard at helping to maintain the culture,” Mr. Bezos said last year at a conference run by Business Insider, a web publication in which he is an investor.
Of all of his management notions, perhaps the most distinctive is his belief that harmony is often overvalued in the workplace — that it can stifle honest critique and encourage polite praise for flawed ideas. Instead, Amazonians are instructed to “disagree and commit” (No. 13) — to rip into colleagues’ ideas, with feedback that can be blunt to the point of painful, before lining up behind a decision.
“We always want to arrive at the right answer,” said Tony Galbato, vice president for human resources, in an email statement. “It would certainly be much easier and socially cohesive to just compromise and not debate, but that may lead to the wrong decision.”
At its best, some employees said, Amazon can feel like the Bezos vision come to life, a place willing to embrace risk and strengthen ideas by stress test. Employees often say their co-workers are the sharpest, most committed colleagues they have ever met, taking to heart instructions in the leadership principles like “never settle” and “no task is beneath them.” Even relatively junior employees can make major contributions. The new delivery-by-drone project announced in 2013, for example, was coinvented by a low-level engineer named Daniel Buchmueller.
Continue reading the main story
[img=0x0]http://static01.nyt.com/images/2015/08/1...are640.jpg[/img]Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Quote:[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.498039)]“I was so addicted to wanting to be successful there. For those of us who went to work there, it was like a drug that we could get self-worth from.”[/color]

Dina Vaccari worked on projects from corporate gift cards to sales of scientific supplies, 2008 to 2014.

Last August, Stephenie Landry, an operations executive, joined in discussions about how to shorten delivery times and developed an idea for rushing goods to urban customers in an hour or less. One hundred eleven days later, she was in Brooklyn directing the start of the new service, Prime Now.
“A customer was able to get an Elsa doll that they could not find in all of New York City, and they had it delivered to their house in 23 minutes,” said Ms. Landry, who was authorized by the company to speak, still sounding exhilarated months later about providing “Frozen” dolls in record time.
That becomes possible, she and others said, when everyone follows the dictates of the leadership principles. “We’re trying to create those moments for customers where we’re solving a really practical need,” Ms. Landry said, “in this way that feels really futuristic and magical.”
Motivating the ‘Amabots’
Company veterans often say the genius of Amazon is the way it drives them to drive themselves. “If you’re a good Amazonian, you become an Amabot,” said one employee, using a term that means you have become at one with the system.
In Amazon warehouses, employees are monitored by sophisticated electronic systems to ensure they are packing enough boxes every hour. (Amazon came under fire in 2011 when workers in an eastern Pennsylvania warehouse toiled in more than 100-degree heat with ambulances waiting outside, taking away laborers as they fell. After an investigation by the local newspaper, the company installed air-conditioning.)
But in its offices, Amazon uses a self-reinforcing set of management, data and psychological tools to spur its tens of thousands of white-collar employees to do more and more. “The company is running a continual performance improvement algorithm on its staff,” said Amy Michaels, a former Kindle marketer.
The process begins when Amazon’s legions of recruiters identify thousands of job prospects each year, who face extra screening by “bar raisers,” star employees and part-time interviewers charged with ensuring that only the best are hired. As the newcomers acclimate, they often feel dazzled, flattered and intimidated by how much responsibility the company puts on their shoulders and how directly Amazon links their performance to the success of their assigned projects, whether selling wine or testing the delivery of packages straight to shoppers’ car trunks.
Continue reading the main story
[img=0x0]http://static01.nyt.com/images/2015/08/1...are640.jpg[/img]Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Quote:[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.498039)]“When you have so much turnover, the risk is that people are seen as fungible. You know that tomorrow you’re going to look around and some people are going to have left the company or been managed out.”[/color]

Amy Michaels worked in advertising and marketing, 2012-2014.

Every aspect of the Amazon system amplifies the others to motivate and discipline the company’s marketers, engineers and finance specialists: the leadership principles; rigorous, continuing feedback on performance; and the competition among peers who fear missing a potential problem or improvement and race to answer an email before anyone else.
Some veterans interviewed said they were protected from pressures by nurturing bosses or worked in relatively slow divisions. But many others said the culture stoked their willingness to erode work-life boundaries, castigate themselves for shortcomings (being “vocally self-critical” is included in the description of the leadership principles) and try to impress a company that can often feel like an insatiable taskmaster. Even many Amazonians who have worked on Wall Street and at start-ups say the workloads at the new South Lake Union campus can be extreme: marathon conference calls on Easter Sunday and Thanksgiving, criticism from bosses for spotty Internet access on vacation, and hours spent working at home most nights or weekends.
“One time I didn’t sleep for four days straight,” said Dina Vaccari, who joined in 2008 to sell Amazon gift cards to other companies and once used her own money, without asking for approval, to pay a freelancer in India to enter data so she could get more done. “These businesses were my babies, and I did whatever I could to make them successful.”
She and other workers had no shortage of career options but said they had internalized Amazon’s priorities. One ex-employee’s fiancé became so concerned about her nonstop working night after night that he would drive to the Amazon campus at 10 p.m. and dial her cellphone until she agreed to come home. When they took a vacation to Florida, she spent every day at Starbucks using the wireless connection to get work done.
Continue reading the main story
Quote:[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.498039)]“I would see people practically combust.”[/color]

Liz Pearce, worked on Amazon’s wedding registry

“That’s when the ulcer started,” she said. (Like several other former workers, the woman requested that her name not be used because her current company does business with Amazon. Some current employees were reluctant to be identified because they were barred from speaking with reporters.)
To prod employees, Amazon has a powerful lever: more data than any retail operation in history. Its perpetual flow of real-time, ultradetailed metrics allows the company to measure nearly everything its customers do: what they put in their shopping carts, but do not buy; when readers reach the “abandon point” in a Kindle book; and what they will stream based on previous purchases. It can also tell when engineers are not building pages that load quickly enough, or when a vendor manager does not have enough gardening gloves in stock.
“Data creates a lot of clarity around decision-making,” said Sean Boyle, who runs the finance division of Amazon Web Services and was permitted by the company to speak. “Data is incredibly liberating.”
Amazon employees are held accountable for a staggering array of metrics, a process that unfolds in what can be anxiety-provoking sessions called business reviews, held weekly or monthly among various teams. A day or two before the meetings, employees receive printouts, sometimes up to 50 or 60 pages long, several workers said. At the reviews, employees are cold-called and pop-quizzed on any one of those thousands of numbers.
Explanations like “we’re not totally sure” or “I’ll get back to you” are not acceptable, many employees said. Some managers sometimes dismissed such responses as “stupid” or told workers to “just stop it.” The toughest questions are often about getting to the bottom of “cold pricklies,” or email notifications that inform shoppers that their goods won’t arrive when promised — the opposite of the “warm fuzzy” sensation of consumer satisfaction.
The sessions crowd out other work, many workers complain. But they also say that is part of the point: The meetings force them to absorb the metrics of their business, their minds swimming with details.
Continue reading the main story
[img=0x0]http://static01.nyt.com/images/2015/08/1...are640.jpg[/img]Credit Matthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times
Quote:[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.498039)]“There’s no reward for not speaking up. ‘Good backbone’ is a compliment. It’s a very seductive quality about the organization because people want to contribute.”[/color]

Stephenie Landry has worked on projects from grocery delivery to sales of books and baby gear since 2004.

“Once you know something isn’t as good as it could be, why wouldn’t you want to fix it?” said Julie Todaro, who led some of Amazon’s largest retail categories.
Employees talk of feeling how their work is never done or good enough. One Amazon building complex is named Day 1, a reminder from Mr. Bezos that it is only the beginning of a new era of commerce, with much more to accomplish.
In 2012, Chris Brucia, who was working on a new fashion sale site, received a punishing performance review from his boss, a half-hour lecture on every goal he had not fulfilled and every skill he had not yet mastered. Mr. Brucia silently absorbed the criticism, fearing he was about to be managed out, wondering how he would tell his wife.
“Congratulations, you’re being promoted,” his boss finished, leaning in for a hug that Mr. Brucia said he was too shocked to return.
Noelle Barnes, who worked in marketing for Amazon for nine years, repeated a saying around campus: “Amazon is where overachievers go to feel bad about themselves.”
A Running Competition
In 2013, Elizabeth Willet, a former Army captain who served in Iraq, joined Amazon to manage housewares vendors and was thrilled to find that a large company could feel so energetic and entrepreneurial. After she had a child, she arranged with her boss to be in the office from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, pick up her baby and often return to her laptop later. Her boss assured her things were going well, but her colleagues, who did not see how early she arrived, sent him negative feedback accusing her of leaving too soon.
“I can’t stand here and defend you if your peers are saying you’re not doing your work,” she says he told her. She left the company after a little more than a year.
Ms. Willet’s co-workers strafed her through the Anytime Feedback Tool, the widget in the company directory that allows employees to send praise or criticism about colleagues to management. (While bosses know who sends the comments, their identities are not typically shared with the subjects of the remarks.) Because team members are ranked, and those at the bottom eliminated every year, it is in everyone’s interest to outperform everyone else.
Craig Berman, an Amazon spokesman, said the tool was just another way to provide feedback, like sending an email or walking into a manager’s office. Most comments, he said, are positive.
However, many workers called it a river of intrigue and scheming. They described making quiet pacts with colleagues to bury the same person at once, or to praise one another lavishly. Many others, along with Ms. Willet, described feeling sabotaged by negative comments from unidentified colleagues with whom they could not argue. In some cases, the criticism was copied directly into their performance reviews — a move that Amy Michaels, the former Kindle manager, said that colleagues called “the full paste.”
Soon the tool, or something close, may be found in many more offices. Workday, a human resources software company, makes a similar product called Collaborative Anytime Feedback that promises to turn the annual performance review into a daily event. One of the early backers of Workday was Jeff Bezos, in one of his many investments. (He also owns The Washington Post.)
The rivalries at Amazon extend beyond behind-the-back comments. Employees say that the Bezos ideal, a meritocracy in which people and ideas compete and the best win, where co-workers challenge one another “even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting,” as the leadership principles note, has turned into a world of frequent combat.
Continue reading the main story
[img=0x0]http://static01.nyt.com/images/2015/08/1...are640.jpg[/img]Credit Jason Henry for The New York Times
Quote:[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.498039)]“You can feel comfortable that if there’s a flaw in your plansomeone will tell you to your face.”[/color]

David Loftesness worked as a developer and manager on Amazon’s internal search capabilities, 2003-2006.

Resources are sometimes hoarded. That includes promising job candidates, who are especially precious at a company with a high number of open positions. To get new team members, one veteran said, sometimes “you drown someone in the deep end of the pool,” then take his or her subordinates. Ideas are critiqued so harshly in meetings at times that some workers fear speaking up.
David Loftesness, a senior developer, said he admired the customer focus but could not tolerate the hostile language used in many meetings, a comment echoed by many others.
For years, he and his team devoted themselves to improving the search capabilities of Amazon’s website — only to discover that Mr. Bezos had greenlighted a secret competing effort to build an alternate technology. “I’m not going to be the kind of person who can work in this environment,” he said he concluded. He went on to become a director of engineering at Twitter.
Each year, the internal competition culminates at an extended semi-open tournament called an Organization Level Review, where managers debate subordinates’ rankings, assigning and reassigning names to boxes in a matrix projected on the wall. In recent years, other large companies, including Microsoft, General Electric and Accenture Consulting, have dropped the practice — often called stack ranking, or “rank and yank” — in part because it can force managers to get rid of valuable talent just to meet quotas.
The review meeting starts with a discussion of the lower-level employees, whose performance is debated in front of higher-level managers. As the hours pass, successive rounds of managers leave the room, knowing that those who remain will determine their fates.
Preparing is like getting ready for a court case, many supervisors say: To avoid losing good members of their teams — which could spell doom — they must come armed with paper trails to defend the wrongfully accused and incriminate members of competing groups. Or they adopt a strategy of choosing sacrificial lambs to protect more essential players. “You learn how to diplomatically throw people under the bus,” said a marketer who spent six years in the retail division. “It’s a horrible feeling.”
Amazon employees on a lunch break. Many employees say they spend hours working at home most nights or on weekends. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Mr. Galbato, the human resources executive, explained the company’s reasoning for the annual staff paring. “We hire a lot of great people,” he said in an email, “but we don’t always get it right.”
Dick Finnegan, a consultant who advises companies on how to retain employees, warns of the costs of mandatory cuts. “If you can build an organization with zero deadwood, why wouldn’t you do it?” he asked. “But I don’t know how sustainable it is. You’d have to have a never-ending two-mile line around the block of very qualified people who want to work for you.”
Many women at Amazon attribute its gender gap — unlike Facebook, Google or Walmart, it does not currently have a single woman on its top leadership team — to its competition-and-elimination system. Several former high-level female executives, and other women participating in a recent internal Amazon online discussion that was shared with The New York Times, said they believed that some of the leadership principles worked to their disadvantage. They said they could lose out in promotions because of intangible criteria like “earn trust” (principle No. 10) or the emphasis on disagreeing with colleagues. Being too forceful, they said, can be particularly hazardous for women in the workplace.
Motherhood can also be a liability. Michelle Williamson, a 41-year-old parent of three who helped build Amazon’s restaurant supply business, said her boss, Shahrul Ladue, had told her that raising children would most likely prevent her from success at a higher level because of the long hours required. Mr. Ladue, who confirmed her account, said that Ms. Williamson had been directly competing with younger colleagues with fewer commitments, so he suggested she find a less demanding job at Amazon. (Both he and Ms. Williamson left the company.)
He added that he usually worked 85 or more hours a week and rarely took a vacation.
When ‘All’ Isn’t Good Enough
Molly Jay, an early member of the Kindle team, said she received high ratings for years. But when she began traveling to care for her father, who was suffering from cancer, and cut back working on nights and weekends, her status changed. She was blocked from transferring to a less pressure-filled job, she said, and her boss told her she was “a problem.” As her father was dying, she took unpaid leave to care for him and never returned to Amazon.
“When you’re not able to give your absolute all, 80 hours a week, they see it as a major weakness,” she said.
A woman who had thyroid cancer was given a low performance rating after she returned from treatment. She says her manager explained that while she was out, her peers were accomplishing a great deal. Another employee who miscarried twins left for a business trip the day after she had surgery. “I’m sorry, the work is still going to need to get done,” she said her boss told her. “From where you are in life, trying to start a family, I don’t know if this is the right place for you.”
A woman who had breast cancer was told that she was put on a “performance improvement plan” — Amazon code for “you’re in danger of being fired” — because “difficulties” in her “personal life” had interfered with fulfilling her work goals. Their accounts echoed others from workers who had suffered health crises and felt they had also been judged harshly instead of being given time to recover.
A former human resources executive said she was required to put a woman who had recently returned after undergoing serious surgery, and another who had just had a stillborn child, on performance improvement plans, accounts that were corroborated by a co-worker still at Amazon. “What kind of company do we want to be?” the executive recalled asking her bosses.
The mother of the stillborn child soon left Amazon. “I had just experienced the most devastating event in my life,” the woman recalled via email, only to be told her performance would be monitored “to make sure my focus stayed on my job.”
Continue reading the main story
[img=0x0]http://static01.nyt.com/images/2015/08/1...are640.jpg[/img]Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Quote:[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.498039)]“The joke in the office was that when it came to work/life balance, work came first, life came second, and trying to find the balance came last.”[/color]

Jason Merkoski worked on projects including Kindle and the Fire TV device. Employed at Amazon 2006 to 2010, then again in 2014.

Mr. Berman, the spokesman, said such responses to employees’ crises were “not our policy or practice.” He added, “If we were to become aware of anything like that, we would take swift action to correct it.” Amazon also made Ms. Harker, the top recruiter, available to describe the leadership team’s strong support over the last two years as her husband battled a rare cancer. “It took my breath away,” she said.
Several employment lawyers in the Seattle area said they got regular calls from Amazon workers complaining of unfair treatment, including those who said they had been pushed out for “not being sufficiently devoted to the company,” said Michael Subit. But that is not a basis for a suit by itself, he said. “Unfairness is not illegal,” echoed Sara Amies, another lawyer. Without clear evidence of discrimination, it is difficult to win a suit based on a negative evaluation, she said.
For all of the employees who are edged out, many others flee, exhausted or unwilling to further endure the hardships for the cause of delivering swim goggles and rolls of Scotch tape to customers just a little quicker.
Jason Merkoski, 42, an engineer, worked on the team developing the first Kindle e-reader and served as a technology evangelist for Amazon, traveling the world to learn how people used the technology so it could be improved. He left Amazon in 2010 and then returned briefly in 2014.
“The sheer number of innovations means things go wrong, you need to rectify, and then explain, and heaven help if you got an email from Jeff,” he said. “It’s as if you’ve got the C.E.O. of the company in bed with you at 3 a.m. breathing down your neck.”
A Stream of Departures
Amazon retains new workers in part by requiring them to repay a part of their signing bonus if they leave within a year, and a portion of their hefty relocation fees if they leave within two years. Several fathers said they left or were considering quitting because of pressure from bosses or peers to spend less time with their families. (Many tech companies are racing to top one another’s family leave policies — Netflix just began offering up to a year of paid parental leave. Amazon, though, offers no paid paternity leave.)
In interviews, 40-year-old men were convinced Amazon would replace them with 30-year-olds who could put in more hours, and 30-year-olds were sure that the company preferred to hire 20-somethings who would outwork them. After Max Shipley, a father of two young children, left this spring, he wondered if Amazon would “bring in college kids who have fewer commitments, who are single, who have more time to focus on work.” Mr. Shipley is 25.
Amazon insists its reputation for high attrition is misleading. A 2013 survey by PayScale, a salary analysis firm, put the median employee tenure at one year, among the briefest in the Fortune 500. Amazon officials insisted tenure was low because hiring was so robust, adding that only 15 percent of employees had been at the company more than five years. Turnover is consistent with others in the technology industry, they said, but declined to disclose any data.
Continue reading the main story
[img=0x0]http://static01.nyt.com/images/2015/08/1...are640.jpg[/img]Credit Todd Heisler/The New York Times
Quote:[color=rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.498039)]“Working at Amazon can be a bit of an acquired taste, because everyone has a different need for positive reinforcement. It was hard to feel like the work we were doing was satisfactory. There are not a lot of people that last even as long as I stayed.”[/color]

Chris Brucia worked at Amazon from 2005-2012, on projects from software sales to launching a new flash-sale site.

Employees, human resources executives and recruiters describe a steady exodus. “The pattern of burn and churn at Amazon, resulting in a disproportionate number of candidates from Amazon showing at our doorstep, is clear and consistent,” Nimrod Hoofien, a director of engineering at Facebook and an Amazon veteran, said in a recent Facebook post.
Those departures are not a failure of the system, many current and former employees say, but rather the logical conclusion: mass intake of new workers, who help the Amazon machine spin and then wear out, leaving the most committed Amazonians to survive.
“Purposeful Darwinism,” Robin Andrulevich, a former top Amazon human resources executive who helped draft the Leadership Principles, posted in reply to Mr. Hoofien’s comment. “They never could have done what they’ve accomplished without that,” she said in an interview, referring to Amazon’s cycle of constantly hiring employees, driving them and cutting them.
“Amazon is O.K. with moving through a lot of people to identify and retain superstars,” said Vijay Ravindran, who worked at the retailer for seven years, the last two as the manager overseeing the checkout technology. “They keep the stars by offering a combination of incredible opportunities and incredible compensation. It’s like panning for gold.”
The employees who stream from the Amazon exits are highly desirable because of their work ethic, local recruiters say. In recent years, companies like Facebook and LinkedIn have opened large Seattle offices, and they benefit from the Amazon outflow.
Recruiters, though, also say that other businesses are sometimes cautious about bringing in Amazon workers, because they have been trained to be so combative. The derisive local nickname for Amazon employees is “Amholes” — pugnacious and work-obsessed.
Call them what you will, their ranks are rapidly increasing. Amazon is finishing a 37-floor office tower near its South Lake Union campus and building another tower next to it. It plans a third next to that and has space for two more high-rises. By the time the dust settles in three years, Amazon will have enough space for 50,000 employees or so, more than triple what it had as recently as 2013.

Amazon continues to grow and is finishing a 37-floor office tower near its South Lake Union campus and building another tower next to it. It plans a third next to that, and has space for two more high-rises. Credit Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Those new workers will strive to make Amazon the first trillion-dollar retailer, in the hope that just about everyone will be watching Amazon movies and playing Amazon games on Amazon tablets while they tell their Amazon Echo communications device that they need an Amazon-approved plumber and new lawn chairs, and throw in some Amazon potato chips as well.
Maybe it will happen. Liz Pearce spent two years at Amazon, managing projects like its wedding registry. “The pressure to deliver far surpasses any other metric,” she said. “I would see people practically combust.”
But just as Jeff Bezos was able to see the future of e-commerce before anyone else, she added, he was able to envision a new kind of workplace: fluid but tough, with employees staying only a short time and employers demanding the maximum.
“Amazon is driven by data,” said Ms. Pearce, who now runs her own Seattle software company, which is well stocked with ex-Amazonians. “It will only change if the data says it must — when the entire way of hiring and working and firing stops making economic sense.”
The retailer is already showing some strain from its rapid growth. Even for entry-level jobs, it is hiring on the East Coast, and many employees are required to hand over all their contacts to company recruiters at “LinkedIn” parties. In Seattle alone, more than 4,500 jobs are open, including one for an analyst specializing in “high-volume hiring.”
Some companies, faced with such an overwhelming need for new bodies, might scale back their ambitions or soften their message.
Not Amazon. In a recent recruiting video, one young woman warns: “You either fit here or you don’t. You love it or you don’t. There is no middle ground.”

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  California marijuana farms at risk as weed smoke could rise from wildfires
Posted by: Linville - 08-16-2015, 02:02 PM - Forum: World News - Replies (1)


California marijuana farms at risk as weed smoke could rise from wildfires

[Image: MW-DR725_califo_20150807132010_ZH.jpg?uu...15c588e0f6]

[Image: 4893.jpg?w=620&q=85&auto=format&sharp=10...3c5b52d08d][img=660x0]http://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/17ab9850c2...3c5b52d08d[/img]
Marijuana farms have been engulfed by California wildfires over the summer as firefighters work to contain blazes across northern California that have already burned through more than 70,000 acres. While the marijuana crops destroyed are unlikely to cause any statewide supply issues, it could drive up some prices, put small farmers out of business – and disseminate a familiar smell.
Hezekiah Allen of the Emerald Growers Association, an association of cannabis growers in California, said a burning marijuana farm would potentially release similar smoke into the air as when a person traditionally smokes. It might smell close to pot, he said, but would be “tainted” because of all the other items and plants like poison oak burning along with it.
A representative from Cal Fire cautioned residents to stay away from high smoke areas – even those that smell like pot – because of other substances being burned.
“Basically, you’d get sick from other things,” Allen said. “The residents won’t get high.”
Allen said wildfire damage “isn’t going to have an impact on supplies across the state” but may hit many individual farms and dispensaries hard.
He did not specify the number of farms destroyed, but did confirm that he was aware of individual farms that had been lost.
Marijuana farms suffer the same risks as other farmers in California – facing the potential loss of their crop, on top of the strain of the drought. The profitable Napa wine industry, too, is threatened by wildfires, with winemakers concerned that smoke-infused grape skins will alter the flavor of the wines.
[img=0x0]http://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/40884072f1...d14248dbe2[/img]A firefighter checks for hot spots near Clearlake, California. Photograph: Jeff Chiu/AP

[Image: 3978.jpg?w=620&q=85&auto=format&sharp=10...d14248dbe2]

But some of those impacts are exacerbated for marijuana growers, who won’t get subsidies from the state if their crop is lost, and whose value per plant is much higher than that of many other plants.
Allen said the issue for dispensaries – where patients are legally permitted to purchase medical cannabis – could be that they lose their supply of marijuana because of limits on transport.
Under California law, counties can opt out of permitting medical marijuana transport through their borders, meaning that getting marijuana from one county to another can present problems.
“The market regulation has been unhealthy for years and this could be one of the problems some dispensaries may face,” Allen said.
For growers who lost crops in northern California, it will likely mean a hit at the bank. According to EGA, “the most commonly occurring revenues were in the $300,000 range, with a net to the farmer of just over $100,000”.
Allen said the “tragedy on the local level is very real. This year has been devastating to a number of farmers, who have lost their greenhouses and farms.”
In an industry that brings in more than $500m per year to the state, according to NerdWallet, it may not seem like a major loss when one farm is destroyed.
But there is serious concern among some purchasers who are open about the effects destroyed crops could have on what is described by Harborside Health Center purchasing manager Timothy Anderson as an “already constricted market”.
“We were already under pressure from the drought,” Anderson told MarketWatch. “Prices are high and availability is low.”
“I had to help another farmer get new plants,” Anderson said. “They’re having trouble getting young plants to thrive because of the smoke. There’s a range of issues.”

A link to the California fire map,  Here

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  Old Farmer's Almanac predicts freezing temperatures, more snow
Posted by: IceWizard - 08-16-2015, 10:17 AM - Forum: World News - Replies (4)

Published August 16, 2015
Associated Press

Just when you thought you had gotten over last winter, be warned: The Old Farmer's Almanac predicts it will be super cold with a slew of snow for much of the country, even in places that don't usually see too much of it, like the Pacific Northwest.

Otherwise, look for above-normal snow and
below-normal temperatures for much of New
England; icy conditions in parts of the
South; and frigid weather in the Midwest.

The snowiest periods in the Pacific Northwest will be in mid-December, early to mid-January and mid- to late February, the almanac predicts.

"Just about everybody who gets snow will have a White Christmas in one capacity or another," editor Janice Stillman said from Dublin, New Hampshire, where the almanac is compiled.
It's due out in the coming week. The almanac says there will be above normal-rainfall in the first half of the winter in California, but then that will dry up and the drought is expected to continue.

"We don't expect a whole lot of relief," Stillman

The weather predictions are based on a secret formula that founder Robert B.
Thomas designed using solar cycles, climatology and meteorology.

Forecasts emphasize how much temperature and precipitation will deviate from 30-year averages compiled by government agencies.

No one's perfect, and some meteorologists
generally pooh-pooh the Almanac's
forecasts as too unscientific to be worth

The almanac, which defends its accuracy for its predictions overall, says its greatest errors were in underestimating how far above normal California temperatures and Boston-area snowfall would be, although it did predict both would be above normal.

The record-breaking winter in Boston dumped more than 110 inches of snow on the city. The almanac doesn't call for as much this year.

The 224-year-old almanac, believed to be
the oldest continually published periodical in
North America, is 26 years older than its
closest competitor, "The Farmers' Almanac,"
published in Maine and due out later in

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  Cops say a jealous husband cut off a man's penis, flushed it
Posted by: IceWizard - 08-16-2015, 10:10 AM - Forum: World News - Replies (2)

By Jenn Gidman Published
August 14, 2015

If you just Googled "jealous husband," "Japan," "penis," and "toilet" to see if there could possibly be any stories that merge all of those keywords into one mind-blowing story, today's your lucky day.

One person who's not having a lucky day: The 42-year-old Tokyo lawyer who's the unfortunate subject of that aforementioned story and who had his penis lopped off and
flushed down the toilet, reports AFP.

The alleged culprit: a 24-year-old graduate
student who believed his wife was having
an affair with the victim.

Police say Ikki Kotsugai—an ex-boxer in college, reports the Tokyo Reporter—busted his way into the lawyer's office yesterday morning, punched the counselor a bunch of times, then removed the man's pants and severed his "lower body part" with a pair of garden shears, reports AFP.

Kotsugai's wife reportedly works in the office and witnessed the entire scene, per News.com.au.

Kotsugai told cops he flushed the penis down a toilet at the office, and a Tokyo police spokesman confirmed to the paper that the penis was indeed the member in question.

The victim is recovering from non-life-
threatening injuries, while Kotsugai has been charged with inflicting bodily harm.

(Things like this have happened before.)

This article originally appeared on Newser:

Cops: Man's Penis Severed, Flushed by
Jealous Husband

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Exclamation 'Tape Your Webcam': Horrifying Malware Broadcasts You to the World
Posted by: IceWizard - 08-16-2015, 07:32 AM - Forum: World News - Replies (1)

Video-hosting platforms and Internet users need to do more to combat the 'slaving' of devices, advocates warn.

The Internet is flush with webcam videos of
people who clicked unwittingly on a malware link and opened their computer to anonymous
miscreants intent on mocking, blackmailing or
simply spying on them, according to a report being published Thursday.

There’s not enough being done about such little-known but alarming invasions of privacy, the Digital Citizens Alliance says in its report on computer “slaving” by programs known as
Remote Access Trojans, or RATs.

However, the organization says both corporations and individuals can take steps to
address the problem. “Tape your webcam,” advises Adam Benson, deputy executive director of the Digital Citizens Alliance. “I have tape on both my work computer and home computer.”

He also suggests not clicking on links with uncertain destinations, and keeping anti-virus software and device operating systems up to date.

[RELATED: Most Android Phones Vulnerable to Remote Activation of Cameras, Microphones]

“The camera on your computer, when hacked,
can become a tool to spy on you in your own
home. And it’s easy,” the report warns.

While the scope of the problem isn’t clear, report authors found hundreds of victim and tutorial videos shared online, as well as chat forums through which amateur hackers share tips and programs that are “inexpensive and technically simple to use.”

“I don’t think people necessarily know how
prevalent it is,” Benson says. “The clear and
present danger can be lost on people

For those who don’t take the adequate
precautions, or whose virus-detecting software
has not kept up with ceaselessly innovating
hackers, the consequences can be dire.

One famous victim of computer slaving, 2013
Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf, fought back,
informing the FBI and winning a prison sentence for a man who took photos of her using her webcam.

But investigators believe many other victims don’t come forward or are unaware they were victimized.

[READ: Beware of Butt Dialing, Court Rules]

Wolf was shown some of the victim videos in the report.

“This could have been my face blurred out,” she said, “and it’s sad because they seriously have no idea. I mean I had not one clue of having someone watching me. It never passed my mind for the entire year.”

One video cited in the report (but apparently
removed from YouTube as of Wednesday),
featured a discussion in Arabic of the young
woman being surveilled.

“This girl is seriously the most beautiful victim I’ve had so far. She is quite clean, I just saw her naked,” a viewer wrote in Arabic.

Benson says the use of RATs, which can affect viewers in less visual but equally disturbing ways by granting hackers access to all files on a computer, can’t be crushed entirely by the use of anti-virus and anti-malware software.

Even Internet users who are aware of the
potential harm and take measures to protect
themselves may not be immune.

“I don’t think they realize there’s a community out there that’s strategizing all the time about how to bind malicious files to movies and music and videos,” Benson says.

Law enforcement experts cited in the report
expressed concern about authorities' readiness to combat the problem, and noted the various abuses hackers can inflict.

“I think that RATs are an interesting tool
because they allow the criminals to do any
number of crimes. I mean we’ve talked about
going after young women and their computers,
but you know the sky’s the limit for the types of
cases that a RAT can be used in,” said Wesley Hsu, chief of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

Scott Aken, a former FBI cybercrime agent, told report authors that “law enforcement just isn’t equipped at this stage of the game to keep up with this stuff as fast as it’s changing. People aren’t trained enough.”

The Digital Citizens Alliance says it’s important
that, in addition to Internet users and law
enforcement, companies be more aggressive in combating the exploitation of victims. Many companies unwittingly have advertisements on victim or instructional videos, according to the report.

And revenue-sharing by companies like YouTube may pay some culprits for their misdeeds if they aren't detected.

[FBI Director: Authorities 'Will Go to Jail' If They Look at Snapchats Without Warrant]

Google, YouTube’s parent company, has
unveiled an online mechanism that allows people to request removal of non-consensual
material from its platforms.

The reporting form can be used to remove content taken from “slaved” computers, though it was established in part to address revenge porn.

But to report an intrusion, people first need to
know about it.

Despite hundreds or thousands of views on YouTube videos – which can be found by searching “rat victims” – it’s usually not clear
victims are aware their actions have been
broadcast to the world.

The report says that can be rectified if Google
treats the content like child pornography and
crafts a comprehensive response.

A YouTube spokesperson said in an emailed statement the video-hosting service, which sees an estimated 400 hours of video uploaded every minute, "has clear policies that outline what content is acceptable to post, and we remove videos violating these policies when flagged by our users."

YouTube says it takes the matter seriously and
that its policies include a ban on instructional
videos for hacking people's computers.

Any user can "flag" a video for review.

Benson says the report’s aim is to help kick off a conversation about the threat. “It’s an issue that will simmer up at some point,” he says.

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  China blasts death toll 112 and likely to rise as scores of fire fighters missing
Posted by: IceWizard - 08-16-2015, 07:10 AM - Forum: World News - No Replies

Sun Aug 16, 2015 | 1:46 AM EDT
By Megha Rajagopalan

TIANJIN, China (Reuters) -
The death toll from massive explosions in China's port of Tianjin has risen to 112 and 95 people, most of them fire fighters, are missing, state media said on Sunday, suggesting the toll will rise significantly.

More than 720 people remained in hospital four days after Wednesday's disaster, which sent massive yellow and orange fireballs into the sky, rained burning debris on to a vast industrial zone, crumpled cars and shipping containers, burnt out buildings and shattered windows of nearby apartments.

President Xi Jinping on Saturday urged
authorities to improve safety and learn lessons
paid for with blood.

China evacuated residents who had taken
refuge in a school near the site of the blasts on Saturday after a change in wind direction
prompted fears that toxic chemical particles
could be blown inland.

It was not clear from media reports how many
people were evacuated, but the order came as
a fire broke out again at the blast site, a
warehouse specially designed to store
dangerous chemicals, according to Xinhua.

Officials acknowledged the presence of toxins
but said they posed no risk to people outside
the evacuation zone.

"I can responsibly say that there will be no
secondary damage to the people," Shi Luze,
the chief of staff of the People's Liberation
Army's Beijing Military Region, told reporters,
referring to people outside the zone.

Shi confirmed the presence of more than 100
tons of deadly sodium cyanide, stored at two
separate sites. He said workers were trying to
clear the area of chemicals before possible rain showers, which could create toxic gas.

Greenpeace in an emailed said its tests around the blast site showed that local water supplies were not severely contaminated with cyanide, but that they did not "disprove the presence of other hazardous chemicals in the water". "Greenpeace reiterates its call for authorities to implement a comprehensive survey of hazardous chemicals currently present in air and water supplies and make public all information," it said.

In an earlier statement, Greenpeace urged the
government to establish a five-km (three-mile)
evacuation zone.

Some 6,300 people have been displaced by the blasts. Shockwaves were felt by residents in apartment blocks kilometers away in the city of 15 million people. About 100 people from a residential area near the blast site protested outside a hotel where a government press briefing was held, angry that dangerous chemicals had been stored near their homes.

"I'm very worried that these dangerous
chemicals will harm my health," said Zhang
Yinbao, who works in the chemical industry and whose apartment building is only 800 meters from the blast site. "The government has said they won't have a big impact, but we have no way to know for sure," Zhang said, calling for a thorough investigation and compensation.

About three dozen family members of missing
fire fighters marched to district government
offices where they were dispersed by police
after scuffles.

Eighty-five of the 95 missing are fire fighters. After Wednesday's blasts, fire crews were
criticized for using water to douse flames which may have contributed to the blasts given the volatile nature of the chemicals involved.
Industrial accidents are not uncommon in China following three decades of fast growth. A blast at an auto parts factory killed 75 people a year ago.

(Reporting by Megha Rajagopalan and Natalie
Thomas in TIANJIN, Writing by Michael Martina and Matthew Miller; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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