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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Joe Biden Joins Instagram, Everyone’s Lives Improve Exponentially 

Joe Biden Joins Instagram, Everyone’s Lives Improve Exponentially 


Joe Biden Joins Instagram, Everyone’s Lives Improve Exponentially 

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 10:42 AM PDT

Well, it finally happened. Vice President Joe Biden has joined the selfie-snapping, brunch-loving, filter-abusing masses of Instagram, and we couldn’t be more thrilled about it.

His handle is @VP and everyone should probably start following him immediately.

Seriously, his first post is utter perfection:

Instagram Photo

Can’t wait to see what else you have in store for us, Amtrak Joe.

Ski Resorts Want You to Pay for Next Season’s Skiing Right Now

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 10:39 AM PDT

Resorts are trying to get skiers locked in as loyal guests next season—and simultaneously keep them away from competitor mountains—with major deals for early-bird purchases.

America’s biggest ski resorts are at it again. For a variety of reasons, starting with recent seasons of less-than-stellar snow and ending with increasingly aggressive tactics in the pursuit of customer loyalty throughout the industry, resort companies are upping their game to convince skiers and boarders that they should pay for next season’s skiing mere days after the current season has ended.

And how do they get customers to commit so far in advance? By waving special offers that are often so good customers can’t refuse.

Two of the industry’s biggest players, Vail Resorts and Intrawest, make it easy even for those who are currently struggling to pay off credit card bills related to the ski season just in the rear-view mirror, by allowing customers to lock in pass prices now with only a $49 down payment. Once that’s been paid, the company has your credit card information—and before next ski season begins, your card will automatically be charged for the balance.

Vail, which owns and operates ten major ski resorts, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Heavenly, and Kirkwood, offers a wide variety of passes. The unrestricted Epic Pass is at the top price-wise, running $729 (up $40 from special prices available last summer), with a range of cheaper options for special buyer categories (kids, seniors, college students) and for skiers who can live with more restrictions (blackout dates, fewer resorts, etc.). Considering that a single-day walkup ticket can run well over $100 at a place like Vail, it’s easy to see how these season passes are well worth the money for even a moderate skier who figures to log in, say, 10 or 12 days of making turns each winter.

For diehards putting in a few dozen days per season on the mountain, these passes are no-brainers. They’re probably even underpriced. Why, then, do ski companies keep prices so low?

The big reason is that they want skiers to commit their money—and their loyalty—early, long before anyone can tell if the season’s snow will be good or bad (and potentially not worth the trip at all). They also want customers to commit because doing so largely eliminates the possibility that these skiers will wind up spending a day, let alone an entire week’s vacation, at a competitor resort. After you’ve already coughed up a few hundred bucks for a pass, after all, you’ll want to use it rather than paying more money out of pocket.

The ski companies are also well aware of the powerful trickle-down effect of selling one pass. The likely result is that the passholder will wind up spending money in resort-area restaurants, bars, and hotels, perhaps over the course of seven, ten, or many more days. And pass purchases beget pass purchases, as skiers and boarders tend to buy passes at the same places as their skier and boarder family and friends.

In fact, the Intrawest Passport pushes group sales by directly incentivizing family and friends to buy their passes together. One adult pass, which grants six days of mountain access at each of the company’s six North American resorts (including Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado, Stratton in Vermont, and Tremblant in Quebec), costs $589. But up to five additional adult passes purchased at the same time cost $449 each, and up to five kids ages 12 and under are totally free. The deal gets more appealing when you add more people to the mix—and bringing more customers to Intrawest’s resorts is exactly what the company wants.

Each of the many ski pass programs in North America features different price points and inclusions, but they all have one thing in common: They want your money asap. Intrawest is only guaranteeing current pricing through April 30. The Mountain Collective, which provides two days apiece at resorts like Whistler-Blackcomb and Aspen-Snowmass and 50% off the regular rate thereafter, is throwing in an extra free day at your choice of mountains for a vague “while supplies last” period. The Mountain Collective pass is now $359, up from $349 last season, and runs $99 for kids 12 and under.

Another pass partnership, the Powder Alliance, hasn’t announced its policies for the upcoming season yet. If they remained unchanged from 2013-2014, all season passholders from a dozen resorts will automatically get three free days each at all of the other participating resorts, including Stevens Pass in Washington, Crested Butte in Colorado, Snowbasin in Utah, and Schweitzer in Idaho. And yes, you can expect discounts for buying passes early. The pricing at Schweitzer, for instance, generally calls for 2014-2015 passes to rise by $100 as of June 1. The takeaway is pretty obvious: Smart skiers will want to lock in a lower price now.

KFC Is Reintroducing a Sandwich That Replaces Bread With Fried Chicken

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 10:39 AM PDT

Maybe KFC felt like it didn’t go far enough by bestowing a $20 fried chicken prom corsage upon the world earlier this week. Wednesday, the fast food chain announced that is bringing back the Double Down starting April 21.

To the uninitiated (way to keep those arteries unclogged, guys!), the Double Down is a sandwich that replaces bread with fried chicken, used to hold together an assortment of bacon and cheese. Although the item has been in and out of stores since its 2010 premiere, now is the obvious time to bring it back. Why? Because the internet is currently facilitating American consumers’ slow overdose on viral food hybrids. Taco Bell uses both Doritos and waffles in place of taco shells. McDonald’s has new ads for it’s pancake breakfast sandwich. Dominos announced a fried chicken crusted pizza Monday. (Pizza Hut Middle East stuffed chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers into its pizza crust in 2012, so we’re slightly underwhelmed.)

Can the Double Down stand tall in among its Twitter-friendly “food” hybrid counterparts? Maybe it can make a compelling SnapChat campaign to convince us. According to USA Today, the tagline has been dubbed “Double Down Dare”… so we’ve been warned.

Sidenote: If you want more information on what the Double Down is actually like, here’s TIME’s Joel Stein chowing down when it was first released:

Al-Qaeda’s Second-in-Command Seen in New Video

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 10:34 AM PDT

A video published recently on Islamist websites purports to show a large group of al-Qaeda fighters, including the terrorist group’s second in command, gathering in an open air location.

Counterterrorism authorities are scrutinizing the video for clues to potential plots, the Washington Post reports, citing unnamed U.S. officials. Officials told the Post the video appears to be recent and authentic. They declined to explain why there had been no U.S. strike on the gathering in an undisclosed, open location.

Nasir al-Wuhayshi, al-Qaeda’s leader in Yemen, is said to appear in the video without a mask, along with other group leaders. Some faces in the footage are blurred out, raising fears the organization may be seeking to protect the identities of recruits being trained for attacks.

The video evokes footage shot in the late 1990s of al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. The terrorist network’s Yemen affiliate has generally avoided open-air meetings.

The United States has carried out eight strikes in Yemen so far this year. A U.S. strike there in December killed a dozen people in a wedding caravan.

[Washington Post]

Judge Overturns North Dakota Early Abortion Ban

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 10:31 AM PDT

A federal judge overturned Wednesday a North Dakota law that banned early abortions, the Associated Press reports.

The law made it illegal for a woman to get an abortion after a fetal heartbeat was detected. That can happen as early as six weeks into pregnancy—often before a woman even knows she’s pregnant.

U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland ruled that the law was “invalid and unconstitutional.”

North Dakota has only one abortion clinic, located in Fargo. The Fargo clinic filed a lawsuit against the early abortion ban in July with the support of the New York-based Center for Reproductive rights.

The overturned law was among four anti-abortion bills that North Dakota Republican Gov. Jack Dalrymple signed in 2013 with the support of the state’s Republican-dominated legislature.

[AP]

This Is How Caffeine Actually Affects Your Brain 

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 10:00 AM PDT

Over 83 percent of Americans drink coffee, making the U.S. the world's largest consumer of the potent beans. We probably love it so much because it's also our favorite drug—caffeine keeps us going (even in today's strangely wintry weather). But only a fraction of addicts actually understand how caffeine impacts the brain. Here's a video that explains the addiction.

The Reactions video explores the chemistry of caffeine, which breaks up into three different molecules: theobromine, paraxanthine, and theophylline. The combined impact of these three compounds induces the wakeful state we all need to start our mornings.

Virginia Tech Pays U.S. Fines Related To ’07 Killings

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 09:57 AM PDT

(RICHMOND, Va.) — Virginia Tech has paid federal fines for its actions on the morning of April 16, 2007, when a lone gunman killed 32 people on the school’s campus.

The U.S. Department of Education said Wednesday the university has paid two fines totaling $32,500 for violations of the Clery Act, which requires universities to issue timely warnings of campus threats.

Student gunman Seung-Hui Cho (sung-wee joh) shot two at a dorm on the Blacksburg campus hours before his rampage at a classroom building. University officials have defended their decision to not alert the campus of the first shootings because police said that they were domestic in nature and that the broader campus was not at risk.

Tech officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

Sky Ferreira Heads to Compton in “I Blame Myself” Video: Watch

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 09:53 AM PDT

After more than five years as a rising pop star, Sky Ferreira must be used to her singles going underappreciated, and "I Blame Myself" was the most underappreciated track off last year's already great Night Time, My Time. Indebted less to '90s alt than the kind of sparkly, introspective pop that's not tied to any decade – like Ferreira's own "Everything Is Embarrassing" – it was both immediate and searing, sparing no fury for the intersection of condescension, sexualization and ("it's like talking to a friend who's trying to be a lover") she encountered while churning through the major-label teen pop machine, while never being obvious. It goes right for the throat: of its targets, of its hooks.

It's also, with its John Hughes closing-credits vibe, fertile material to turn into a video. Sadly, the clip for "I Blame Myself" is not really so topical, a fakeout of a gangsta rap clip that – shock? – doesn't star a gangsta rapper but a be-hoodied Sky, fresh out of the stylist's room — or at least the "LoveGame" storyboard. There is about a 50 percent chance you will encounter a thinkpiece about this by the end of the week.

 

Instagram Begins Purging Spam Accounts

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 09:49 AM PDT

Instagram is taking out the trash: the photo-sharing app is sifting through its entire user base and deleting inactive, old and spam accounts on a mass scale for the first time.

If you log into your account today, you will likely see a message that reads:

“Changes in followers

We’ve removed deactivated and spam accounts. Your list of followers and people you follow may have changed.”

"After receiving feedback from members in the Instagram community, we recently fixed an issue that incorrectly included inactive accounts in follower/following lists," an Instagram spokesperson said in a statement to Re/code. "We believe this will provide a more authentic experience and genuinely reflect people who are actually engaging with each other's content."

Owned by Facebook since April 2012, Instagram has always had a bit of a spam problem. So many users complained about fake accounts that the company had to officially comment on the situation two years ago.

"There's no quick fix, but we have a team of engineers working every day to tackle the issue and we hope you'll notice their improvements," Instagram wrote in the comments section of a photo on the official Instagram account.

Instagram’s terms prohibit people from spamming others on Instagram and encourage users to police the app themselves by reporting suspected spam as “inappropriate.”

Many users may see a drop in their number of followers thanks to the purge, but at least now you’ll know who your real friends are.

[Re/code]

See One Man Perfectly Imitate 30 Different Animals 

Posted: 16 Apr 2014 09:30 AM PDT

RudiRok is a Finnish comedian and beatboxer, but he also wouldn't be out of place on Noah's ark. In this video, he perfectly mimics the sounds of 30 different animals, from horses and pigs to lambs and even flies.

The beatboxer's lion and pig imitations are spot-on, the wolf perfect. He yowls like an upset kitten, then purrs like a contented one.

While RudiRok's other videos haven't catapulted him to instant Internet fame, mimicking animals seems to be a particular talent. Just imagine the possibilities! Helping pandas mate by faking their calls. Ordering bears to catch salmon for him. Attracting ducks for hunters. Way better than being a DJ.

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