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Ashley Madison was a bunch of dudes talking to each other, data analysis suggests

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Reuters

The Ashley Madison hack has revealed a lot of interesting things about the men who used the extramarital-dating site, including which cities, states, and universities they’re from.

But what about the women?

It turns out, there may not have been very many women. As in, almost none.

Gizmodo editor-in-chief Annalee Newitz analyzed the data from the site’s user database and found a lot of suspicious stuff suggesting that nearly all the female accounts were fake, maintained by the company’s employees.

First, the official numbers. The info that the hackers published contained about 31 million accounts apparently belonging to men, and about 5 million apparently belonging to women.

But when Newitz dug deeper, she found a bunch of test accounts that ended with ashleymadison.com, suggesting that they were created internally (90% of them were for women), as well as 350 female accounts for people with the same and very unusual last name.

Then she found three really damning pieces of data:

    Only 1,492 of the women in the database had ever opened their inboxes to check their messages on the site. That’s compared with more than 20 million men. Only 2,409 of the women had ever used the site’s chat function, versus more than 11 million men. Only 9,700 of the women had ever responded to a message from another person on the site, versus almost 6 million men. (This number was greater than the number of women who checked messages because it’s possible to answer messages in bulk when you first visit the site, without ever opening your inbox.)

It’s possible that most of the women signed up but never did anything.

Either way, Newitz writes, Ashley Madison is a site where tens of millions of men write mail, chat, and spend money for women who aren’t there.”

The site’s parent company, Avid Life Media, did not immediately return a request for comment.

Read the full story here>>

Let’s stop comparing today’s market to 1998

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Reuters

The mess that is the stock market over the past few days is drawing numerous comparisons to similar drop-offs of the past, most notably the one in 1998.

In 1997-1998, a slowdown in emerging markets, particularly Asia, seemed to spur concerns over global growth. This led to one of the biggest and quickest drop-offs in the US stock market in years. Sound familiar?

According to Aneta Markowska at Societe Generale, investors should caution themselves before using the comparison.

“Concluding that this time is the same would be neither fair not accurate,” Markowska wrote. “The structure of the global economy has changed dramatically since the late 1990s and the transmission channels are not the same today.”

On the positive end, she agrees with other analysts who say what is happening in Asian markets today is not as bad as what was happening in 1997, since the countries have sounder economic fundamentals.

“A full-blown EM crisis is not in our central scenario, in part due to the still-large FX reserves in many emerging economies which will allow them to fight disorderly capital outflows,” she said.

Markowska also mentions some differences that do not bode as well.

While a relatively small portion of the US’ gross domestic product is derived from demand from developing economies, Markowska says US dependence on that demand has increased since 1998 and could affect the look of this correction.

“The emerging world accounts for a much larger share of global GDP and absorbs a larger share of global commodity production,” she said. “The US is a larger producer of energy, and its oil & gas sector is thus more vulnerable.”

To be fair, she noted that domestic demand was still the main driver of the US economy, but the growth in exposure to these markets should still have an impact.

Additionally, there are numerous reasons to believe the major bounce back that occurred in 1998 – the S&P 500 ended up gaining 28% for the year – will not happen this time, as Goldman Sachs predicted.

The first of these reasons Markowska highlights is the overreaction of the Fed in 1998 that helped inflate the already growing tech bubble and ultimately led to more problems for the US economy:

This was the largest financial shock in over a decade and the Fed intervened via three rate cuts delivered between September and November. In hindsight, these cuts proved not only unnecessary, but also costly. The broader economy showed no reaction to the shock. On the contrary, GDP growth accelerated from 4% in the first half of 1998 to 5.3% in Q3 and 6.7% in Q4 of that year. The Fed subsequently had to reverse the three rate hikes and to tighten aggressively over the next 18 months. Despite this, it was still unable to prevent the 60% rally in equities that ultimately followed.

Overall, Markowska says the attitude of the economy is different from the attitude during that decade. “Perhaps most importantly, the fundamental backdrop in the developed world is dramatically different, with little appetite for debt-fuelled growth, weak productivity growth and limited scope for further monetary easing,” she said.

While the current situation may bear some resemblances to 1998, the differences Markowska points out are significant and caution against jumping to conclusions.

71% of top music executives think Jay Z’s streaming service Tidal will die within a year

Jay Z’s music streaming service, Tidal, has had a rocky few months since he bought it for$56 millionin March.

For Tidal, traction has been hard to come by. And now some 71% of top music executives have lost faith in the streaming service, saying they believe the company will fold in a year or less, Billboard reports.

The company’s valuation spiked to areported $250just a month after Jay Z acquired it, but his efforts to brand it as an artists’ platform seem to have largely failed to move the public.

An impressive roster of artists has joined Jay Z in supporting Tidal, including big names like Coldplay, Daft Punk, Alicia Keys, Calvin Harris, Madonna, Usher, and Rihanna. But having blockbuster artists on your side doesn’t mean you are friendly those who aren’t superstars – or can convince people that you are.

Adding to Jay Z’s woes has been the public’s seeming apathy toward Tidal’s original prime selling point: high-fidelity audio. The $20 per month subscription has been regarded as too expensive for many customers, and its (“normal”) $10 per month service faces heavy competition from Spotify and Apple Music.

Billboard anonymously polledmore than 50 top music executives on their outlook on Tidal, and a devastating 71% thought the company would fail within a year. Another 17% thought it would survive for one to two years, and only 12% thought it would be part of the industry for the long haul.

Tidal has seen a string of high-profile departures since it was acquired. Andy Chen, the CEO who oversaw the acquisition, left a few weeks after it was sold, and his replacement, Peter Tonstad, only lasted until June. More recently, Tidal’s US sales and marketing manager,David Solomon,and senior vice president of label and artist relations, Zena Burns, both quit.Burns left after just two months at the company.

Russell Wilson claims $3 water from a company he’s invested in prevented him from getting a concussion

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Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

In a profile published on Wednesday in Rolling Stone, Russell Wilson offered a peculiar answer to how he recovered from a head injury he suffered during the Seahawks’ NFC Championship victory over the Green Bay Packers. He claimed that Reliant Recovery Water, a sports drink with “nanobubbles” that Wilson has invested in, helped cure the injury, an assertion that his agent, Mark Rodgers, downplayed.

Here’s the exchange:

Another venture is slightly less altruistic. Wilson is an investor in Reliant Recovery Water, a $3-per-bottle concoction with nanobubbles and electrolytes that purportedly helps people recover quickly from workouts and, according to Wilson, injury. He mentions a teammate whose knee healed miraculously, and then he shares his own testimonial.

“I banged my head during the Packers game in the playoffs, and the next day I was fine,” says Wilson. “It was the water.”

Rodgers offers a hasty interjection. “Well, we’re not saying we have real medical proof.”

But Wilson shakes his head, energized by the subject. He speaks with an evangelist’s zeal.

“I know it works.” His eyes brighten. “Soon you’re going to be able to order it straight from Amazon.”

The anecdote blew up on Twitter, and Wilson has since doubled down on his claim. On Wednesday afternoon, he said it “helped prevent” him from getting a concussion:

We’ve been in touch with Reliant Recovery Water to discuss the science behind their drink. We’ll update the post when we hear back.

On the company’s website, there’s a paragraph about the drink’s supposed medical benefits:

Proven through scientific research**, using recovery water will help reduce pain and inflammation from your active lifestyle; accelerate recovery from injury and muscle related stress; decrease fatigue for higher energy during activity; speed muscle recovery after activity; and deliver better hydration and an increased sense of well-being.

The asterisk links to this study on electrokinetically modified water.

Uber cofounder is taking over stumbling social media company StumbleUpon

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Garrett Camp, cofounder of StumbleUpon and Uber
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Flickr/Joi

Content discovery site StumbleUpon is ready for a change, according to the site’s cofounder Garrett Camp.

In a Medium post, Camp said that he’s becoming the majority shareholder of StumbleUpon and will take over in an advising role.

“It’s time for a change, and we’re ready to listen,” Camp said.

The company had reportedly started laying off staff since the beginning of August. A person with knowledge of the situation told Business Insider that some employees were having their last day today.

A spokesperson from StumbleUpon did not have an official comment on the layoffs or StumbleUpon’s changes. We will update if we hear back.

Stumbling startup

It’s been a long and unusual path for the startup, which made its name and profits from people sharing articles that they liked and “stumbled upon” on the internet. StumbleUpon would then learn what a user liked and would show them more articles or sites that matched their interests.

Camp, Geoff Smith, and Justin LaFrance started the content website in 2001 as they were finishing up their postgraduate studies in Canada.

Camp would later go on to cofound Uber, but for a few years, the trio would split their time between building out the recommendation service for articles and finishing up their schooling.

As its user base of “Stumblers” grew, the startup raised $1.5 million in a seed round in 2005 some big name investors from Silicon Valley, including Mitch Kapor, Ram Shriram, and Ron Conway.

Business started growing for StumbleUpon as it was heralded the number one social media company by Business 2.0 magazine. Its bragging rights, according to the magazine, was that it was cashflow positive.

With 2.3 million users, StumbleUpon sold to eBay in 2007 in a flashy $75 million deal, a quick exit after raising its seed round just two years earlier.

Not content with an exit

That wasn’t the end of StumbleUpon’s story.

Camp and Smith reportedly felt stifled with the company’s integration into eBay, and the two bought the company back in 2009 for a reported $29 million.

Out of eBay’s clutches, the site returned to its nimble background and started boasting big numbers with Camp as CEO. It was adding 700,000 new users each month in 2010, and was up to 12 million users.

Camp preached grandiose visions of the company to match its metrics. He wanted StumbleUpon to become the “I don’t know what I want” button on your TV or phone. Advertisers were buying into it as they clamored to crack into local markets, and StumbleUpon was positioned to know what people liked.

With momentum and headlines on its side, the company raised $17 million in a series B round in 2011. It hasn’t announced another round since.

Layoffs in pursuit of profit

By 2012, StumbleUpon started facing new competition as competitors like Pinterest were taking off.

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Mark Bartels, current CEO of StumbleUpon
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stumbleupon

A moment of triumph came when the site hit the 25 million user mark in April 2012, but then Camp stepped down as CEO a month later.

Mark Bartels, who took over as CEO, later acknowledged to TechCrunch that its user growth had “softened” in the first half of 2012. A redesign didn’t help and plunged traffic to the site after users complained it looked too much like Pinterest.

The company tried to reroute itself to profitability in 2013. Bartels laid off 30 percent of the staff, although he said at the time that it was still in a “healthy financial state” and attracting lots of advertisers.

StumbleUpon, though, has failed to secure any more funding while Pinterest has gone on to become a “unicorn” tech startup, valued at more than $11 billion.

After failing to bring in more funding last month, the layoffs reportedly continued as the company reduced its staff down to 30 people.

Camp’s notice says that he’s becoming majority shareholder and working on “exploring potential synergies between SU and Expa” (his incubator). Perhaps the company is ready for one last fight.

Donald Trump just dodged two questions about the Bible

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Republican US presidential candidate Donald Trump attends a news conference regarding issues on undocumented immigrants in Beverly Hills, California.
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Thomson Reuters

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump recently called the Bible his “favorite book” while on the campaign trail, but he apparently doesn’t want to discuss it in interviews.

Trump was asked to name “one or two of your most favorite Bible verses” during an interview on Bloomberg’s television show “With All Due Respect” Wednesday. He wouldn’t answer the question.

“I wouldn’t want to get into it because to me that’s very personal. You know, when I talk about the Bible, it’s very personal, so I don’t want to get into verses,” Trump said, adding, “The Bible means a lot to me, but I don’t want to get into specifics.”

Later in the interview, host John Heilemann asked Trump if he was “an Old Testament guy or a New Testament guy.”

“Probably equal,” Trump said.

Watch a video of the exchange below:

Taylor Swift’s boyfriend is the highest-paid DJ in the world — here’s what he makes

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Harris has been the highest-paid DJ for three years in a row, according to Forbes.
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Michael Kovac/Getty

Calvin Harris has had a big year.

This spring he started dating pop star Taylor Swift, and for the third year in a row he’s been ranked No. 1 among the world’s top 10 highest-paid DJs, according to Forbes.

DJ salaries featured on the Forbes list are based on musical earnings and endorsements over the past 12 months.

Harris’ tally is a staggering $66 million, which is actually the same figure as last year.

He beat the second highest-paid DJ, David Guetta, whose salary totaled $37 million, by over $25 million.

Back in 2013, Harris raked in a reported $46 million, so for the past two years he’s maintained his $20 million leap.

The 31-year-old Scottish DJ dropped his chart-topping LP, “Motion,” last October and is the new face of Emporio Armani.

“The rise of dance music has been astronomical … I happened to be in the right place at the right time,” Harris said in his interview with Forbes.

Harris also beat Tiësto, whose $36 million income earned him third place.

As a duo, Swift and Harris have replaced Jay Z and Beyonce as music’s highest-earning couple this year. Together they bring in a total of $146 million, compared to Jay Z and Beyonce’s $110.5 million.

5 daily exercises that will make you a better communicator

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We spend almost half our time communicating by listening.
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Sandra Mu/Getty Images

The most successful people listen more than they speak.

That’s according to legendary industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who passed the lesson on to Napoleon Hill for his 1937 book “Think and Grow Rich.”

He meant that people who excel use conversations to learn from others rather than inflate their own egos.

Speaker and author Julian Treasure gave a popular TED Talk in 2011 about the ways in which we are more distracted and worse at listening than ever before.

Studies have found that about 40% of one’s time spent communicating is spent listening, and by a wide margin more time is spent listening to others than reading, writing, or speaking.

Treasure recommends practicing focused listening as much as any other communication skills. He offers five simple exercises to become a better listener.

Immerse yourself in silence.

Treasure says the brain develops filters for sound so that it doesn’t become overwhelmed by stimuli. For example, if you’re at a noisy party, you’ll still likely be able to recognize someone shouting your name.

In order to “re-calibrate” your ears, Treasure recommends a period of meditation in complete silence, even if it’s only a few minutes each day. You may as well use the opportunity to quiet the cacophony of thoughts in your head, too.

Break soundscapes down.

Treasure recommends taking a moment to think of your mind like an audio mixer, breaking down every sound you hear in a setting in the same way a producer would isolate different instruments and vocals when working on a song. You can try selecting different channels of sound in a café, the office, or even in a song itself.

The exercise will allow you to enhance your selective listening.

Enjoy the mundane.

Focus your mind on sounds you would normally ignore, like your washing machine or a car driving by. This can help you break a habit of drowning out sounds around you when you become distracted.

Adjust your listening positions.

Treasure says this exercise is by far the most effective.

In the same way you imagined your mind as a sound mixer, practice jumping among each of the sound channels around you. If you’re listening to a song, try listening only to the drums before listening only to the bass line, for example.

Similarly, practice jumping among different perspectives. Try listening to a speech from a critical perspective, rapidly processing the validity of statements and their meaning, and then try listening from an empathetic perspective, focusing more on the emotion of the words and how the speaker is delivering them.

Practice engagement with another person.

And finally, learn how to be a better conversationalist.

Treasure says to remember the acronym “RASA.”

“Receive” by making eye contact with and focusing on the other person; “Appreciate” by giving indications of acknowledgment through cues like head nods or short vocal replies; “Summarize” by getting the other person to clarify the point of anything that doesn’t register; and “Ask” by giving follow-up questions to whatever you just learned.

Here’s Treasure’s full presentation:

Bill Ackman’s gains for the year got wiped out in a matter of weeks

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Bill Ackman.
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Reuters/ Brendan McDermid

Pershing Square Holdings, the $7.4 billion publicly traded vehicle led by Bill Ackman, has erased all its gains in a matter of weeks and is down for the year.

Ackman said in an investor update:

“However there has been significant volatility in the investment markets over the past few weeks, largely driven by the decline of the Chinese stock markets, and the fear that slowing growth in China will have repercussions for businesses around the world.

“At the date of this report, the year to date investment performance has been erased, and the Company is at a loss position for the year.”

Pershing Square Holdings had been up 10.1% through the end of July, the letter said.

During the first half of the year, the fund returned 3.2% net of fees. In July, the fund gained 6.6%.

Markets have gotten have gotten clobbered in the last week. On Monday, the Volatility Index (VIX), a key measure of fear in the market, hit its highest level since 2009.

Ackman, 49, is known for typically being a long-only activist investor, taking large positions in a handful of companies.

Some of the companies in the portfolio include Allergan, Valeant Pharmaceuticals, Actavis, Nomad Foods, Canadian Pacific Railway, Mondelez, Air Products & Chemicals, Zoetis, The Howard Hughes Corporation, Platform Specialty Products.

Ackman is also massively short Herbalife, a multilevel-marketing company that he believes is a “pyramid scheme.”

In the letter, Ackman said that he does not believe they will have to exit those investments.

“As a result of our investment principles and the resulting composition of the portfolio, we do not believe that stock market and commodity price declines, currency devaluation, and/or economic weakness in China will have a material impact on the intrinsic value of the portfolio,” Ackman wrote.

“While stocks can trade at any price in the short term, because we do not use margin leverage, we will not be forced out of any investment at an inopportune time,” he added. “As a result, we have made no meaningful recent changes to our current portfolio holdings other than the addition of greater notional short currency exposure principally through the purchase of put options.”

In 2014, Ackman was one of the best-performing hedge fund managers, gaining about 40% compared to the S&P 500’s 13% rise.

Pershing Square Holdings’ stock fell $0.66, or -2.79%, to end the day at $24.80 per share. Shares of Pershing Square Holdings have fallen more than 9% since the beginning of August.

Here’s a chart of Pershing Square Holdings since it IPO’d last October:

source
Google Finance

ECONOMIST: Someone who has Janet Yellen’s ear may have just tipped the Fed’s hand

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Ian Shepherdson.
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Twitter.com

Ian Shepherdson, one of the top economic forecasters on Wall Street, has changed his forecast and thinks the Federal Reserve will wait until December to raise rates for the first time since July 2006.

And his tweaked outlook is all because of what New York Fed President Bill Dudley said Wednesday.

Dudley, a Fed vice chairman and voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee, said the Fed raising rates in September now seems, “less compelling.”

In a note to clients after the market closed Wednesday, Shepherdson wrote (emphasis added):

It’s hard to imagine that Fed Vice-Chair Dudley would choose to say [on Wednesday] that he finds the case for a September rate hike ‘less compelling than it was a few weeks ago’ without having had a chat beforehand with Chair [Janet] Yellen … Accordingly the odds of a September rate hike have just dropped further, and we have to push our forecast for the first move to December.”

Speaking on the New York-area economy Wednesday, Dudley said that when asked about the potential impact of Fed policy due to the recent stock-market volatility, “From my perspective, at this moment, the decision to begin the normalization process at the September FOMC meeting seems less compelling to me than it was a few weeks ago.”

Dudley continued: “But normalization could become more compelling by the time of [the September 16 to 17 FOMC meeting] as we get additional information on how the US economy is performing and more information on international and financial market developments, all of which are important in shaping the US economic outlook.”

And so Dudley did, sort of, leave the door open for a September rate hike.

For its part, the market has sort of left the possibility of a September rate hike behind, putting that possibility at less than 50% earlier this month. And while the stock market staged a huge rally Wednesday, with the Dow and S&P 500 nearly gaining 4%, the volatility and uncertainty surrounding financial markets hasn’t gone away.

And with the markets still looking highly unsettled, it’s unlikely that any Fed officials looking for calmer markets saw what they wanted to see.