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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

    snake river farms review 4

    • The highly coveted Japanese Wagyu is hard to come by in the US. An alternative that's just as delicious is American Wagyu, which is Wagyu crossed with Angus breeds to make a highly marbled and flavorful meat. 
    • Snake River Farms is a top purveyor of American Wagyu cuts — think juicy and tender filet mignon, prime rib, and even brisket. 
    • Though its cuts aren't cheap, you can taste and feel the difference in quality. If you love a good steak, it's easy to order and cook one from Snake River Farms. 

    The city of Kobe, Japan is synonymous with Wagyu beef, prized among steak lovers for its unique marbling, rich flavor, and melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. Before you book a flight to Japan or put your name on the months-long reservation list at the fanciest restaurant in your city, there's a secret you need to know: you can order your very own Wagyu beef here in the US.

    Snake River Farms (SRF) is a premium meat brand that's used at Michelin-starred restaurants and sold at select retailers and online. It sells not Japanese Wagyu, but American Wagyu — the result of imported Japanese Wagyu cattle crossbred with traditional cattle breeds.

    Chef and Snake River Farms fan Wolfgang Puck describes American Wagyu as having "the richness of Japanese beef with lots of marbling," but with a flavor that's "more akin to what we’re used to in America." He even says that given the choice between the best Japanese Wagyu and American Wagyu, he would "choose the New York steak from Snake River Farms every time." 

    snake river farms review

    Instead of using the USDA Prime designation, the highest USDA grade for beef, SRF follows the Beef Marbling Standard (BMS), a Japanese marbling scale that the company believes better captures the superior quality of its beef. Its steaks range in BMS from 6 to 12, with 9 to 12 considered excellent (you can find these top-notch, "Gold Grade" steaks here). 

    The cattle are raised along the high plain of the Snake River in Idaho, where they're fed balanced diets and have space to roam freely. Each piece is wet-aged (marinated in its own juices) for more than three weeks, then hand cut by a butcher and shipped frozen to you. 

    On the website, you'll find dozens of American Wagyu beef cuts to buy for a treat-yourself meal or to impress your dinner guests, including porterhouse, filet mignon, ribeye, and prime rib. Even hot dogs and brisket are elevated here, the perfect additions to a gourmet backyard cookout. 

    snake river farms review 2

    SRF sent me its American Wagyu Prime Rib Starter Kit ($255), a set designed to help novice cooks make their first prime rib. A simple kit that reinforced how easy it really it is to make a tasty prime rib, it contained a five-pound prime rib, Jacobsen black pepper salt, and a Thermoworks digital thermometer — quality meat, a generous sprinkling of savory seasoning, and accurate temperature are the only things you need. 

    Everything arrived in an insulated box (the insulated foam is biodegradable and dissolves in water) with dry ice and a reusable thermal bag, and the prime rib was a little thawed by the time I came home to pick it up. 

    Prime rib is no doubt a treat I usually only indulge in around the holidays, and a treat this was. The cooking process was a breeze, and I ended up with a huge, flavorful, and juicy prime rib, which I of course also shared with friends.

    I don't buy or eat a lot of meat regularly, but when I do, I know I want high-quality stuff. There's no point in skimping or settling, and Snake River Farms is now one of the first online companies I'll turn to, whether I want to buy for myself or for a friend who deserves a good meal. 

    Shop American Wagyu beef at Snake River Farms here

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Toro Snowblower

    • A high-quality snow blower is easy on your back, can handle several inches of heavy snow, and works on a variety of surfaces.
    • I liked the Toro SnowMaster 24-Inch Single-Stage Gas Snow Blower because it's self-propelled to match my gait, the joystick discharge chute control works smoothly, and it could handle my gravel driveway and city sidewalks.
    • Though it is more expensive than most single-stage throwers (currently $749 at The Home Depot), it clears a wider path and is backed by a three-year limited warranty.

    Thanks to years of skating in one direction while playing roller derby, my back is perpetually in pain. Every few months, it gets to the point where I'm laid up for a week or so. Anything can aggravate it. So, shoveling snow is out of the question. Fortunately, snow blowers provide an excellent way for me to clear snow without helping to fund my chiropractor's next Caribbean cruise.

    When it comes to snow blowers, one of the top names in the industry is Toro.

    For over a century, this Bloomington, Minnesota-based manufacturer has made top-of-the-line turf maintenance and irrigation equipment for residential and commercial purposes. In the '70s, they entered the snow thrower space and have been a major player ever since.

    Toro recently sent me their SnowMaster snow blower to test. Here are my experiences with it.

    My first experiences with the Toro SnowMaster snow blower

    The SnowMaster is recommended by several expert sites and has garnered a 4.4-star customer rating on The Home Depot.

    This single-stage snow blower utilizes the "Personal Pace" self-propel drive system that senses your preferred walking pace and adjusts to match it, which is nice since the thrower weighs 125 pounds. The "Quick Stick" chute control works like a joystick to allow you to put show where you want it. The helical-shaped auger moves at high speeds to break up snow and throw it up to 40 feet through the chute in one motion.

    The clearing width of the blower is 24 inches, and Toro says it can clear snow up to 16 inches deep. Toro backs the quality of the blower with a three-year limited warranty with the chute, deflector, and lower chute covered by a lifetime warranty.

    Delivery of the Toro SnowMaster had to be coordinated with a local freight company. A big 18-wheeler parked in the center lane of the busy street outside of my house, and the jolly driver unloaded it with a pallet jack and brought it to my shed.

    The box had helpful unboxing instructions on it. The snow blower comes with the handle folded down, the discharge chute detached, and the chute controls disconnected. With the Ikea-like, picture-only directions, the entire process of unboxing, assembling, checking the oil, checking the tire pressure, and adding gas took about 30 minutes. For assembly, you do need 3/8 inch and 7/6 inch wrenches. I used my socket set to make quick work of the nuts.

    How the Toro SnowMaster performed

    I usually like to test out products a few times before I write reviews about them, but we have had a relatively mild winter here in Michigan so far. So, I've only been able to take the snow blower out once. I wanted to share my experience with you when it's most useful — in the early winter.

    In general, you only want to use a snow blower when you have at least two inches of snow on the ground. I got my chance right after Thanksgiving when we were blanketed with five inches of heavy, wet snow.

    I have two flat driveways: one gravel and one concrete. I started with the gravel driveway and adjusted the skid plates as low as possible to allow for the most auger clearance. In general, you shouldn't use single-stage snow blowers on gravel because the auger makes contact with the surface and can easily throw rocks. This is why it's important to put the skid plates as low as possible.

    And, as I was warned, the SnowMaster did indeed pick up and toss a few rocks harmlessly into my yard. I'll have to keep a look out for those when it's time to mow, but otherwise, the rocks didn't appear to cause any damage. When I felt like I was hitting the gravel, I simply tilted the auger up slightly by pushing down on the handle.

    The self-propelling function worked smoothly for the most part, though there were some jerky moments. I was trying to go as fast as possible while still doing a decent job of clearing all of the snow.

    On the city sidewalks, I got going a little too fast and the discharge chute clogged up. When this happened, I would push down on the handle and pull back up quickly to bump the front of the machine on the ground. Or, I could sometimes rotate the chute and that would loosen the snow up. If that didn't work, I had to stop the snow blower entirely and use a stick to loosen it up.

    Never try to clear the chute while a snow blower is running, or you might lose a hand. The chute only clogged a couple of times, and I'm pretty sure it was because I was moving fast and the snow was heavy and packable.

    The joystick Quick Stick chute control took me a couple minutes to get used to, but once I had the hang of it, it was pretty simple to use. I liked that I could easily adjust the angle at which the snow came flying out so I wasn't nailing cars trying to navigate the already-slick roads.

    I only recently moved to Michigan, and having lived in a temperate climate for most of my adult life, I don't have much experience with snow blowers. Consequently, I committed a rookie error: I flooded the engine. To my credit, the directions are picture-only and somewhat ambiguous. The problem occurred when I stopped the engine to talk to my wife — the snow blower is quite loud. A couple of minutes later, I used the same directions I used to start the snow blower to restart it. Nothing.

    After some online research, I discovered that there's no need to use the choke when the engine is warm. I waited about 15 minutes to allow the engine to unflood and simply pulled the cord. Voila!

    Overall, I had so much fun using the snow blower that when I was done with my driveways and my corner-lot sidewalks, I went ahead and cleared off my neighbors' walks. This all took me under an hour and less than a tank (about half a gallon) of gas.


    Some concerns about the snow blower

    I like the idea of the MyToro app, but it seems like they need to devote more resources to improving it. The coolest function is it can automatically track how many hours you've used your Toro equipment and let you know when to perform maintenance. Unfortunately, for this function, you have to spend an extra $20 to buy the Portable Usage Calculator (PUC). I understand that not everyone is interested in this function, but if you're spending $750 on equipment and are trying to get people to use your app, throw the PUC in for free, Toro.

    Without the PUC, you can enter your usage into the app manually, which is still helpful. I've had a pleasant — if not limited — experience with this, but it appears I'm in the minority. In the Google Play store, the MyToro app currently has a two-star rating with numerous complaints about the PUC failing and the app erasing manually inputted data. You might want to stick with good old pen and paper to log your maintenance information until Toro works out the kinks.

    I was kind of bummed that the snow blower didn't come with the operator's manual. Instead, you need to download it from Toro's website (or The Home Depot.) I understand that this is better for the environment, and I do appreciate that, but I'm still a paper-in-hand style reader.

    Lastly, I'll give you some tips.

    If you have the skids on the lowest setting, you probably won't clear all of the snow. I recommend sprinkling some ice melt to get the rest. Also, I suggest buying some fuel stabilizer to mix in with your gasoline in case you end up like me — going more than a month without any significant snow. The stabilizer will keep the gas fresh for up to six months or even longer.

    The bottom line

    I looked at early November's first flakes of snow with dread. But, now that I have the Toro SnowMaster Snow Blower in my shed, I find myself excited for the snow.

    With the Personal Pace self-propel system, easy-to-adjust discharge chute controls, and the ability to handle heavy snow, clearing the driveways and sidewalks is actually enjoyable. If you have snow you need to clear from your property and want to save your back, I strongly recommend picking up the Toro SnowMaster before the next winter storm.

    Buy the Toro SnowMaster 724 QXE 24 in. 212cc Single-Stage Gas Snow Blower at Home Depot for $749

    SEE ALSO: The best snow and ice melt you can buy

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    nancy pelosi donald trump

    • The government shutdown is now in day 19, tying it for the second-longest shutdown in the modern era.
    • There appears to be no end in sight as President Donald Trump and Democrats dig in on their border wall stances.
    • As the shutdown drags on, more federal workers and agencies become affected.
    • Here's your rundown on how the government ended up in a shutdown and where we go from here.

    President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats seem to be dug in over the government shutdown, and after more than two weeks without a funding bill, there's no end in sight.

    At the heart of the dispute is Trump's demand for just over $5 billion toward a long-promised wall along the US-Mexico border. Democrats insist they will allocate no money toward a wall.

    Those factors mean the possibility of a record-breaking shutdown seems to be growing. As it stands, the shutdown is in its 19th day, tying the 1978 shutdown to become the second-longest of the modern budgeting era. The record is a 21-day shutdown in 1995-1996.

    Read more:Here's a history of all the previous shutdowns in the modern era»

    The shutdown only affects part of the federal government, as seven of the 12 bills that fund the government were passed in September. But a large number of departments are shuttered, including agriculture, commerce, justice, homeland security, the interior, state, transportation, and housing and urban development.

    The problems caused by the shutdown are wide-ranging, from waste piling up in national parks to uncertainty for 800,000 federal workers about when their next paycheck will come. And as the shutdown drags on, the problems caused by the shutdown are expected to keep getting worse.

    Read more:Here's what happens to Social Security and disability benefits during a government shutdown»

    With all that in mind, here's a rundown of just how we got here:

    The pre-shutdown fight

    • December 6: Congress passes a short-term funding bill to delay the shutdown until after the date of President George H.W. Bush's funeral.
    • December 11: Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer meet with President Donald Trump to discuss the funding deadline. Trump demands $5 billion in border-wall funding, Democrats counter with an offer of $1.6 billion in general border-security funding. Trump rejects the idea and offers to take the blame for the shutdown. The president says he would be "proud" to shut down the government.
    • December 19: The Senate passes a clean short-term funding bill, called a continuing resolution (CR), that does not include border-wall funding but will keep the government open until February 8. Trump supported the bill at the time, Senate GOP leaders said.
    • December 20: Trump flip-flops on the clean CR after listening to attacks from conservative TV pundits and the hardline House Freedom Caucus, and he announces that he will not sign a bill with no wall funding. House Republicans then pass a CR that includes $5.7 billion in wall funds.

    Shutdown kicks in and the Christmas break

    • December 21: Trump demands the Senate vote for the House version of the CR and tells Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to get rid of the legislative filibuster in order to pass the vote with only GOP lawmakers, but the idea is a nonstarter. The Senate votes down the House version of the bill, and the government moves closer to a shutdown at the midnight deadline.
    • December 22: McConnell announces in the afternoon that lawmakers have not reached a deal, and adjourns the Senate until December 27. Senior Trump administration officials also suggested to reporters that the White House would not back down on the wall, indicating that only Senate Democrats could end the shutdown by caving on the funding.
    • January 1: After a relatively quiet Christmas break, Trump suggests Nancy Pelosi should make a deal. "Border Security and the Wall "thing" and Shutdown is not where Nancy Pelosi wanted to start her tenure as Speaker! Let's make a deal?" Trump tweets.

    Democrats take control and the shutdown gets real

    • January 2: Congressional leaders from both parties meet with Trump at the White House, it is the first face-to-face meeting in three weeks. The president enlists Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to make the case for the border wall. Following the meeting, Democratic leaders reiterate that no money will be allocated for the wall.
    • January 3: Democrats take over control of the House and Pelosi is elected Speaker. Later in the night, the new Democratic majority passes two bills which would both fund the government that do not include funding for the border wall. The bills even earned a handful of GOP votes. Despite the bills being nearly identical to the measures passed by the Senate before the holiday break, Republican Senate leaders reject the idea of taking up the bills.
    • January 4: Congressional leaders meet with Trump at the White House, where the president told Democrats that the shutdown could last for "months or even years" if no border wall money was allocated. Democrats suggested that Trump allow the government to reopen and then fight over the wall.

    Shutdown nears history

    • January 5: Representatives from the White House meet with representatives from Schumer and Pelosi's offices, according to reports the talks go poorly. Trump also floats the idea of declaring a national emergency to secure the funds for the wall.
    • January 6: Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney tells NBC's "Meet the Press" that talks between the Trump administration and Democrats were difficult. "I think this is going to drag on a lot longer," Mulvaney said.
    • January 8:Trump addresses the nation from the Oval Office, giving a speech that is carried by all the major networks in primetime. The president largely sticks to previous talking points regarding the situation at the border and does not declare a national emergency. Schumer and Pelosi offer a rebuttal, also sticking to previous talking points.
    • January 9: A White House meeting between congressional leaders and Trump ends abruptly. Schumer claims that Trump "sort of slammed the table" and left the room when Pelosi again rejected border wall funding. Republican leaders dismiss the idea that Trump slammed the table and tell reporters Trump even "passed out candy" to the participants. 

    SEE ALSO: Most Americans would rather spend the $5 billion Trump is demanding for the border wall on infrastructure, education, or healthcare

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: MSNBC host Chris Hayes thinks President Trump's stance on China is 'not at all crazy'

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    • Instant Pot has garnered a cult-like following for their pressure cookers that promise easy, delicious, healthy meals in a snap.
    • The brand just released their newest and most expensive model, the Instant Pot Max, which retails for $200.
    • We tested out the Instant Pot Max to see how it compares to older models and if it's worth the higher price tag.

    Since moving into my tiny New York City apartment, my home-cooked meals have become a little lackluster. With just enough counter space for approximately one large cutting board, prepping lots of ingredients and dirtying lots of dishes in the name of a delicious, well-rounded meal is ultimately a hassle. Understandably, I've resorted to lots of egg scrambles, frozen meals, and excuses to order takeout.

    Recently overcome with the infectious "new year, new me" attitude, I've taken on some lofty goals — like saving money and eating better by cooking at home. So, when the opportunity to test out the new Instant Pot Max presented itself, I jumped on it— in the name of self-betterment, of course. 

    My Insider Picks team members rave about Instant Pots, but they aren't the only ones — the brand has garnered a cult-like following for helping people make delicious meals with ease and efficiency. Given all the hype, I was excited to test one out for myself.

    The Instant Pot Max is the brand's newest model, boasting a few new features and a price tag that's about $50 more than the next "best" model, the Instant Pot Ultra.

    What's new about the Instant Pox Max?

    Like the other models, the Max aims to replace many of your most commonly used kitchen appliances. On the Max specifically, the settings are: Pressure Cooker, Pressure Canner, Sous Vide, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Sauté/Searing pan, Steamer, Yogurt Maker, and Food Warmer. This breadth of uses allows you to make just about anything in the Max, from a decadent chicken risotto to a fudgy chocolate cake

    The most noticeable of the updates is the look of the pot itself. The Max sports an LCD touchscreen, which not only makes for a sleeker display, but makes controlling the device pretty seamless as well. While older models require you to manually control the pressure release valves, the Max has an automatic pressure release valve. Users can choose how they want to release pressure (naturally or with a quick burst) on the touch screen, which is definitely an added bonus in terms of safety.

    More serious chefs can try their hand at canning and sous vide, two new features made possible by the heat capacity of the pot. What really stands out is the claims that the Max can seriously decrease cooking time. The Max is the first 15 psi electric pressure cooker on the market, which, in pressure cooker jargon, really just means it can come to pressure faster than previous models, which should make the whole cooking process faster.


    My experience cooking with the Max:

    I'm new to pressure cookers, but I found the Max extremely easy to use. To test, I settled on making pulled pork— it's something I would never attempt to make in the oven, but have heard lots of great things about making it in the Instant Pot. I threw in some white onion, a pork tenderloin rubbed with an array of spices, and lastly a few cups of Coca-Cola (it might sound weird, but I was following a recipe here). I set it to the "pressure cook" setting on high for an hour, as my recipe suggested. Within about thirty minutes, a sweet and spicy scent filled the air — and I was suddenly ravenous. During the last ten minutes of the cycle, I set the pot to QR (quick release), which, you guessed it, releases the pressure quickly.

    Since this was my first foray into Instant Pot territory, I let everything sit for an extra minute or two just to make sure all of the pressure was released. When I opened the lid, I was pleased to see the pork was cooked perfectly. My roommate and I went to pull it with two small forks, but even a slotted spoon did the trick — it was that tender. The meal was amazing, but what impressed me most was how efficient this pot made the cooking process. About 20 minutes spent prepping ingredients and 10 minutes cleaning my dirty dishes were all I needed to get enough pulled pork for a week's worth of lunches or dinners — not just for me, but for my roommate too. 

    The verdict:

    My meal was delicious, the cleanup was fast and easy, and I have pulled pork leftovers for days — it's everything I wanted to get from this experience. Will I be using the Max again? Yes! While it's definitely the largest cooking appliance I have, it makes batch-cooking healthy meals easy, efficient, and totally worth the space it takes up in my kitchen. But, I think many of Instant Pot's other models would have given me the same delicious results.

    If you want to expand your cooking repertoire and experiment with canning and sous vide cooking, then the Max might be for you. If your current pot is a little out of date, or you like having the newest gadgets, you'll appreciate the shiny, new features on the Max. On the other hand, if you're trying to save some money, you don't have to spend $200 to experience the benefits of pressure cooking — you can frequently find older Instant Pot models on sale, sometimes even for under $100

    I think an Instant Pot is a worthy investment and the breadth of models can help you pick the right one for your budget and lifestyle. For now, I'll be brainstorming what I'm going to whip up next. 

    Shop the Instant Pot Max, $200, available at Amazon and Williams Sonoma

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    • Fender's new Player Series electric guitars are some of the most affordable professional-quality instruments available today.
    • The company has been making the Stratocaster for more than 60 years, with the first model released back in 1954.
    • The Player Series feature classic styling that nods to the instrument's long heritage as well as new features such as dual-tone control knobs and a 22-fret neck.

    You know the Fender Stratocaster electric guitar.

    Even if you're not a guitarist, you know about this instrument.

    Frankly, even if you're not all the into music, you've almost surely heard of it. And when you picture an electric guitar, it probably looks like a Stratocaster. Hendrix played one. So did Lennon and Harrison. So did Clapton. And now, thanks to the new Player Series of guitars from Fender, so do I.

    Many top-quality electric guitars sell for thousands of dollars. Being an amateur player and with mouths to feed and such, there was no way I'd ever shell out that much, even for a great guitar. So for years, I was relegated to my trusty acoustic. And that was fine, but acquiring a superlative electric axe took things up to 11. What changed? The price, basically.

    In 2018, Fender launched its Player Series, a slate of instruments including multiple guitars and basses all priced well under $700. In case you're not sure, let me be clear: That's a great price for a great guitar.

    The first time I strummed the strings of my Player Series Stratocaster, there was no doubt in my mind that "great" was the word. And guess what? I hadn't even hooked the thing up to an amp yet. Once plugged in and powered up, I was sold. (And so was my 4-year-old son, who now asks for daily jam sessions. He strums, I play the chords, he hits the whammy bar.)

    Player Series Stratocasters are designed for comfortable, easy play. The contoured shape of the solid alder wood head allows for ideal arm placement and rests comfortably on your lap, while the maple wood 22-fret neck (that's one more fret than standard) offers excellent note range. Having rather large hands, I also appreciate the fact that the "medium jumbo" frets and neck are relatively wide, yet I can still comfortably play chords requiring close finger position.

    As for the color, I went with a classic bright red, but the guitar comes in more than a half dozen colors with a luscious gloss polyester finish.


    So the guitar looks good, and it's comfortable and easy to play. But what makes it sound so amazing?

    Part of the sound quality comes thanks the high-quality wood and careful craftsmanship thereof, but hey, this is an electric guitar, people. The trio of Player Series Alnico 5 Strat single-coil pickups, which are set by the bridge, middle, and neck, are responsible for getting the fine sounds produced by a well-made guitar channeled through an amp and out to our ears. And in case you're thinking "That's great, but what's a pickup?" it's a transducer that converts the mechanical vibrations produced by the strings into an electrical signal that can be sent to an amplifier. They literally pick up the sound and carry it to the speakers. Wait... ok, no, not literally "pick up," but capture and convert — whatever; you know what I mean. Let's move on, because I've got jams to play.

    A five-position pickup switch and dual-tone control knobs give a guitarist ample control over his or her sound, and of course that whammy bar is there when you need to bend a note for extra awesome, as my son so often does. 


    While I may be only a middling player, at best, I'll tell you that my take on Creedence songs have never sounded better, and now I've even got some backup from my infant daughter on the shaker.

    Buy a Fender Player Series Stratocaster Electric Guitar on Amazon for $650

    Join the conversation about this story »

    Warnning: Do NOT Get Caught While Searching!!
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    Your ISP TRACKS Your Online Activity! Hide your IP ADDRESS with a VPN!
    Before you searching always remember to change your IP adress to not be followed!
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    • Sea cucumbers might not look it, but they are very valuable creatures — a kilo can cost over $3,000.
    • They are so prized that people will risk their lives to get ahold of one. The rarer these animals get, the deeper divers have to swim to find them.
    • There are 1,250 different species of sea cucumber in the world. Watch the video above to learn what makes them so expensive.

    Narrator: Cucumbers usually cost under $3 a kilo. But sea cucumbers can set you back over $3,000 a kilo. In fact, they're so valuable people will risk their lives to get ahold of one. They might not look it, but sea cucumbers are pretty special creatures. Just ask this guy, Steven Purcell, one of the world's foremost experts on sea cucumbers.

    Purcell: They're quite strange animals. They don't have any limbs, they don't have any eyes. They have a mouth and they have an anus and a whole bunch of organs in between.

    Narrator: These otherworldly animals have been prized as a delicacy in Asia for centuries, where the wealthiest class would eat the animals as a nutritious high-protein treat. But it wasn't until the 1980s that demand exploded. A growing middle class in China meant more people could afford the luxury. Today, they're typically dried and packaged in ornate boxes, then given as gifts and served on special occasions. So, the fancier and more unusual-looking, the better. And more expensive. It turns out...

    Purcell: The spikier the animals, the higher the price.

    Narrator: And of the 1,250 different species of sea cucumber in the world, the Japanese sea cucumber takes the cake.

    Purcell: Imagine some sort of mystical dragon slug with all these sort of spikes coming out of it.

    Narrator: At up to $3,500 a kilo, it's the most expensive sea cucumber on the market. Compared to other varieties, like the Golden Sandfish, Dragonfish, and Curry Fish. And even if you order a common species on Amazon, you could still pay over $170 for a plate. Besides presentation, cucumber connoisseurs also value thick, chewy bodies, and to a lesser extent, taste. But the experience of eating them is only part of their appeal. Turns out sea cucumbers contain high levels of a chemical called fucosylated glycosaminoglycan in their skin, which people across Asia have been using to treat joint problems like arthritis for centuries, and more recently in Europe, where people are using it to treat certain cancers and to reduce blood clots. The sea cucumber craze now comes from all sides. You have the original Asian delicacy demand that started in the 1980s, and the new interest from Western pharmaceutical companies. In response, nations have clamored to harvest their local species. From Morocco to the United States to Papua New Guinea, everyone wants in on the sea cucumber trade.

    Purcell: It's just spread like a contagion from one country to another.

    Narrator: For example, from 1996 to 2011, the number of countries exporting sea cucumbers exploded from 35 to 83. But unfortunately, sea cucumbers couldn't handle the strain. In Yucatan, Mexico, for example, divers saw a 95% drop in their harvest just between 2012 and 2014, and that's a problem for everyone. For one, because the more sea cucumbers are harvested, the rarer and more expensive they become. Average prices rose almost 17% worldwide between 2011 and 2016. And the rarer these animals get, the deeper divers are swimming to find them. That's when fishing gets dangerous.

    Purcell: Some countries, they're doing that without either a lot of training. In some of the tropical countries, you're getting a lot of people either becoming paralyzed through decompression sickness.

    Narrator: So far, at least 40 Yucatan divers have died trying to harvest sea cucumbers. And as demand continues to increase, the problem is only getting worse. Of the 70 or more species of exploited sea cucumbers, 7 are now classified as endangered, all through exploitation, forcing numerous fisheries worldwide to shut down and damaging local economies in the process. So, why not farm sea cucumbers and leave the wild ones alone? Well, it's easier said than done, since many larvae die before reaching maturity, and those that do survive take two to six years to grow to a marketable size. That said, aquaculture for a few varieties has started to take off. Like with that fancy Japanese sea cucumber.

    Purcell: There's now aquaculture in China in the billions.

    Narrator: Hopefully more species will be farmed instead of fished in the future, if not to protect local economies and help develop potentially life-saving drugs, then at least to preserve a fascinatingly bizarre animal.

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    trump california

    • President Donald Trump has repeatedly insisted that "raking" and better forest management can prevent more forest fires like those that devastated California in 2018.
    • But the government shutdown is preventing the Forest Service and other agencies from doing that.
    • Employees say that preventative activities such as prescribed burns and debris clean-ups have been stopped during the shutdown.

    President Donald Trump's government shutdown looks as if it's getting in the way of his solution to the California wildfires.

    Trump has long suggested that better forest management and "raking" are the primary solutions to the rash of devastating wildfires in California and the rest of the country. But according to federal employees working on land management, the ongoing shutdown is crippling the very activities Trump wants.

    During a visit to California in November, Trump suggested that raking the floors of forests could have prevented the devastating fires that ravaged the state in 2018.

    "I was with the president of Finland and he said, 'We're a forest nation,'" Trump said during a visit to the town of Paradise. "He called it a forest nation. And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things. And they don’t have any problem. And when it is, it’s a very small problem."

    Trump has often cited the need for increased "forest management" in California to combat the worsening forest fires. In fact, Trump once again harped on the issue in a tweet Wednesday.

    "Billions of dollars are sent to the State of California for Forest fires that, with proper Forest Management, would never happen," Trump said. "Unless they get their act together, which is unlikely, I have ordered FEMA to send no more money. It is a disgraceful situation in lives & money!"

    While experts say that Trump's view of the issue is a bit simplistic — ignoring factors like climate change — the forest Service and other agencies do clean up "fuel"on forest floors that can act as kindling for wildfires.

    Read more:The effects of the shutdown are only going to get exponentially worse as the fight drags on»

    But the government shutdown has cut off funds for the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), including the National Forest Service and the Department of the Interior. That means the employees that would be "raking" the debris on the forest floor, or conducting other forest management services like prescribed burns, are unable to do so.

    While the departments can respond to fires, employees have said that preventative activities have ceased.

    One National Forest Service wildland firefighter told the Washington Post that all work on clearing excess brush to help mitigate forest fires has ceased.

    "We’re not allowed,” the firefighter told the Post.

    In addition, the Forest Service is unable to hire or train new recruits during the shutdown — a critical function that helps get firefighters ready for the more active months.

    "This is the second year in a row we’ve had a shutdown right in the middle of the training season," Jim Whittington, a former US Bureau of Land Management employee, told McClatchy. "The last thing we want is for fires to break out, and not have the kind of crews we need to to field."

    The issues aren't just in California: Prescribed burns in the Pisgah National Forest— which covers a half a million acres in North Carolina — have not been carried out during the shutdown.

    According to the USDA's shutdown plan, just two-thirds of Forest Service employees are still on the job during the shutdown, while the rest — around 11,000 employees — are on furlough. Those employees remaining on the job are also doing so with no pay, but will receive back pay when the government reopens.

    While state agencies are still active, the shutdown is still cutting into critical time for forest managers and could lead to worse wildfire conditions.

    SEE ALSO: The government shutdown is in its 18th day and there's no end in sight. Here's how Trump and Congress got into this mess.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    border wall map full border

    • The US government is currently shut down because President Donald Trump is demanding billions of dollars to build a wall along the US-Mexico border, and Congress won't fund it.
    • Of the 1,933 miles along the border, 1,279 miles is unfenced.
    • Most of the barrier that currently exists, and that the Trump administration has built, isn't the high concrete wall Trump talked about on the campaign trail, and instead resembles a fence.

    From western California to eastern Texas, across four US states and 24 counties, the 1,933-mile US-Mexico border criss-crosses arid desert, rugged mountains, and winding rivers.

    For 654 of those miles, fencing separates the two countries from each other.

    The 7.3 million people who live in the border counties on each side of the line have watched for years as security grew tighter and illegal crossings tapered off.

    In just the last 12 years, the US government built the barriers, deployed troops, and started using advanced surveillance technology — all in an effort to tame and control some of the wildest and remotest land in the United States.

    In an effort to make good on campaign promises to "build that wall," President Donald Trump has refused to back down on his demand that Congress allocate $5.7 billion for the project, plunging the government into a weeks-long shutdown after Senate Democrats refused to back a spending bill with the wall funding.

    Democrats, who now control the House of Representatives, have long opposed Trump's wall and placed the blame for the shutdown on Trump.

    The shutdown comes amid controversy over US immigration and border policies, after two young migrant children died in Border Patrol custody last month. The deaths also come on the heels of outrage over the Trump administration's family separation policy over the summer, which split thousands of children from their parents.

    With public outrage has growing toward the government's immigration policies, it's worth taking a look at the complexity of the borderlands to understand the daunting task of securing them.

    From the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Gulf of Mexico in the east, here's what the entire US-Mexico border looks like.

    SEE ALSO: The 8-year-old migrant boy who died on Christmas Eve was held in US custody for nearly a week — against Border Patrol's own rules

    DON'T MISS: The Trump administration just released new photos of 'the president's border wall' — and it looks more like a fence

    California has stood more defiantly than any other state against Trump's immigration agenda and his long-promised wall. Yet the Golden State's southern boundary is one of the most thoroughly fortified along the entire US-Mexico border.

    Source: Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting and OpenStreetMap contributors

    Roughly 105 miles of the 140-mile border California shares with Mexico are walled off by pedestrian fencing or vehicle barriers, beginning on the west coast with a tall, metal fence that juts into the Pacific Ocean.

    Source: GAO analysis of Customs and Border Protection data

    Though some Trump critics have seized upon his deployment of the National Guard in California, the San Diego coastline already hosts around 55 guardsman who assist in "counterdrug missions" and conduct surveillance support.

    Source: USA Today

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    jeff bezos mackenzie bezos

    MacKenzie Bezos could be poised to become the world's richest woman. 

    Her husband, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, is the richest person in the world, with a fortune of $137 billion, and she'll likely be walking away with a good chunk of that after their divorce, which they announced on Wednesday.

    Given that Jeff founded Amazon after they got married, MacKenzie could be entitled to half of the fortune he made from Amazon.

    Jeff and MacKenzie live in Washington state, one of nine US states where everything acquired throughout the marriage — from real estate to income — is considered joint property. That means their assets could be split 50-50, unlike in the other 41 states, where a marital estate is made up of assets acquired under each spouse's name and isn't considered joint property unless both names are on the deed, as Business Insider previously reported.

    Read more: MacKenzie Bezos played a big role in the founding of Amazon and drove across the country with Jeff to start it

    If MacKenzie walked away from the divorce settlement with exactly half of Jeff's fortune, that would make her worth an estimated $68.5 billion — and the richest woman in the world by nearly $23 billion.

    But Melisse G. Burstein, a Miami certified public accountant who specializes in accounting in high stakes litigation, said it's not likely the billionaire couple will end up splitting assets 50-50.

    "Because much of Jeff Bezos' net worth is tied up in Amazon stock, it would be difficult to figure out how to get the wife 50%," Burstein told Business Insider. "I believe dividing the shares in the company could result in Jeff Bezos' control of Amazon being diluted. This would be against MacKenzie Bezos' interest as it has the potential of devaluing the company and thus devaluing the amount the individual shares are worth."

    If the couple signed a prenuptial or a postnuptial agreement, that would overrule state law, Michael Stutman, a New York divorce attorney, told Business Insider.

    Jeff Bezos + Mackenzie

    Given the couple's vast wealth and assets, it's likely they have some sort of marital financial agreement.

    The billionaire couple owns a nearly 29,000-square-foot estate outside of Seattle, Washington, as well as two neighboring Beverly Hills mansions, a Texas ranch, the largest house in Washington, DC, and a set of four condos in New York City.

    The richest woman in the world

    It's unknown whether Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos signed a postnuptial agreement. But MacKenzie could walk away with significantly less than 50% of the $137 billion and still become the richest woman in the world. That title is held by Francoise Bettencourt Meyers, who controls 33% of L'Oreal, the world's largest cosmetics-maker, and who is worth $45.6 billion, according to Bloomberg.

    If MacKenzie comes away with even 33.4% of her husband's $137 billion fortune, she would still be worth a staggering $45.7 billion, edging out Bettencourt Meyers.

    However, if Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos end up dividing their assets, the business of two billionaires getting divorced is a complicated one. Super-wealthy couples often have to deal with complex and illiquid assets, company issues, and public perception, divorce attorneys say.

    For this particular couple, the question of Amazon shares complicates matters even further.

    The amount MacKenzie will walk away with will be "dependent on how the divorce terms are structured and whether it is feasible for Mackenzie to acquire Amazon shares without diluting Jeff's control of the company," Burstein said.

    SEE ALSO: MacKenzie Bezos has been part of Amazon lore since before the company began, driving across the US with her husband Jeff as he wrote out his business plan in 1994

    DON'T MISS: Jeff Bezos and his family own at least 6 massive properties across the US. Here's a look at the homes, from a sprawling Seattle estate to a set of historic NYC condos

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The 3 best holiday gifts for a wine lover — according to a top sommelier

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    classpass activities

    • You don't need a gym membership to get in shape this year. In fact, the inconvenience of one may be one reason your resolution to work out more isn't sticking.
    • Below you'll find six clever tricks to working up a sweat without the commitment and cost of a gym membership.

    Signing up for a gym in January is about as American as apple pie. Winter passes in a haze of puffy coats, comforting holiday foods, and gratuitous celebratory drinking. By the time January has rolled around, we're practically itching for a change. We feel gross, we research juicers online, and we sign up at the gym that's always packed at 6 p.m. 

    But you don't need a gym membership to be healthier, stronger, or more flexible. You can workout consistently — and, yes, be challenged — without the commitment, cost, crowds, and any other string of downsides that keep us from actually using said memberships. And you can do it without paying $30 for a boutique fitness class every time, too. 

    Below, you'll find six ways to get around signing up for a gym membership. You'll still get a great workout, but you won't be tied down to any fees, locations, or genres if you don't decide to be. 

    Here's how to get a great workout in without ever committing to a gym: 


    Start a 30-day trial of Aaptiv for iOS

    Start a 30-day trial of Aaptiv for Android

    Love working out with the help of a personal trainer but lack the time, money, or desire to go in person? Aaptiv is for you. 

    It's an app that gives you unlimited access to audio workouts led by professional certified trainers. It's cheap (a free 30-day trial and $15 per month after), travels with you, and lets you move at your own pace — plus, you never need to worry about classes filling up or being charged a no-show fee. 

    There are over 2,500 classes at every level ranging from running, cycling, HIIT, and elliptical workouts to stretching, yoga, and strength training. There are over 30 new classes added each week. You can even use it to train for a marathon (full, half, 10K, or 5K).

    Even if you just use it to learn the ins and outs of an exercise, it's worth it to maximize your time and prevent injury. Both Will Tso, co-founder of Routinely, and I have said it's a smarter way to keep yourself motivated in self-workouts, and great for consistency while traveling.

    It's also worth noting that while you'll hear the trainer's instructions, there's also typically popular music pairings, just like any other class. 


    Start a free month of ClassPass

    If you're looking for a discount on pricey studio classes, variety, and little commitment, you should try ClassPass. 

    If you're unfamiliar, ClassPass is pretty simple. You pay a monthly fee that's calculated based on where you live and how many classes per month you want to attend. For five to eight classes, you can expect to pay $49-$79 per month. That means you pay $6-$16 per class—far cheaper than drop-in rates for boutique classes, and likely cheaper than most nice gyms in the area. You can use your membership in 80+ participating cities, get class recommendations, see class reviews, and stream workouts from home for free.

    Right now, ClassPass is offering an entire month free. Their usual offer is two weeks. With the trial, you can go to up to six boutique fitness classes in January for $0.

    You can find out more about ClassPass and the deal here.


    POPiN (NYC specific)

    Download POPiN

    If you like working out in gyms but hate the commitment of an expensive membership, try POPiN.

    POPiN is an app that lets you drop in at gyms, boutique studios, and sometimes clubs, which you pay for by the minute. The clock starts ticking once you've checked in. Rates range from $0.14 to $0.35 per minute depending on the gym, which means you can spend as little as $8.40 per hour for your workout.

    POPiN doesn't have a contract, cancellation fee, or require you to plan ahead of time. Just walk in and workout at your own convenience by checking in at the site's front desk tablet. 

    This is a great option for the lowest amount of commitment possible — aside from a home gym. 

    Find out more about what POPiN is like in real life in the Insider Picks review.

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Before you searching always remember to change your IP adress to not be followed!
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    • L.L.Bean is having a massive winter clearance sale — one of it's biggest sales of the year.
    • Now through January 13, you can save up to 50% on sale styles.
    • The sale includes apparel, footwear, outdoor equipment, travel accessories, and home goods.

    The start of a new year is a great time to save on clothes, shoes, and outdoor gear as retailers work to clear out inventory in preparation for the next season. L.L.Bean's massive winter clearance sale is a prime example of that — and it's going on right now.

    Until January 13, you can save up to 50% on winter clearance apparel and footwear styles for men, women, and kids. The sale also includes bags and travel accessories, outdoor equipment, and home goods. Although you've got a few days to take advantage of the deals, you'll want to grab the best ones now before they're gone.

    Whether you're in need of items to wear right now or you're already planning your adventures for the next fall and winter seasons, there are plenty of worthwhile things to buy.

    To help you get to the best deals quickly, we rounded up 20 of our favorite products on sale. Check them out below or find plenty of other amazing deals on the site here

    Shop the L.L.Bean sale now.

    Men's L.L.Bean Fleece-Lined Flannel Shirt

    Fleece-Lined Flannel Shirt, $64.99 (Originally $74) [You save $9.01]

    Men's L.L.Bean Mountain Classic Colorblock Fleece Pullover

    Mountain Classic Colorblock Fleece Pullover, $59.99 (Originally $69) [You save $9.01]

    Men's L.L.Bean Ultralight 850 Stretch Down Hooded Jacket

    Ultralight 850 Stretch Down Hooded Jacket, available in four colors, $239-$249 (Originally $279) [You save up to $40]

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    vrai and oro 14

    • Vrai & Oro comes up in every jewelry shopper's search for alternative and affordable fine jewelry sites
    • What makes shoppers stay and stick with the company boils down to these factors: beautiful styles, high quality, transparency, and customizability. 
    • With Valentine's Day coming up, Vrai & Oro's 14-18-karat gold and ethically grown diamond pieces make a thoughtful gift for yourself or a loved one. 

    For a jewelry company that stands by the values of quality, simplicity, and transparency, Vrai & Oro, which translates to "truth" (French) and "gold" (Spanish), couldn't be a more appropriate name. 

    Founded in 2014, Vrai & Oro is where you can find simple, timeless, and beautiful fine jewelry — no vermeil, only 14-karat and 18-karat gold here — at a better price and through a less stressful shopping process than traditional fine jewelry retailers. 

    Its story has only become more interesting in the last two years. It was acquired by Diamond Foundry, a company that grows above-ground diamonds using 100% solar energy, and it launched an engagement collection, which also includes a Design Your Own Ring feature. 

    vrai and oro 15

    All of its pieces are designed and manufactured in downtown Los Angeles, with its Diamond Foundry diamonds traveling south from San Francisco. This unique localization and amount of control over the entire process allows Vrai & Oro to ensure ethical labor practices, maintain quality standards, and keep prices low. 

    Vrai & Oro is part of a growing movement of online jewelry startups that want to do things differently and are rewarded with loyal fan bases.

    The decision to partner with Diamond Foundry, for example, was a no-brainer because of founder Vanessa Stofenmacher's desire to bring change to the industry and highlight the availability of high-quality diamonds unmarked by social and environmental issues. 

    vrai and oro 16

    Meanwhile, Vrai & Oro Weddings (VOW) and the custom design studio give newfound power to the shopper. If you don't want to go with the crowd and stand anxiously inside a jewelry store, you can instead shop stunning options online with no pressure. You're not even missing out on the physical experience of trying on rings because Vrai & Oro will send you three ring samples through its Home Try On program.

    If you don't see a combination you like, that's fine, too, because the design studio lets you choose every ring feature imaginable: the setting, prong, band width, metal type, polish, engraving, diamond type, and more. There are over 3,500 style combinations possible and each ring is made to order. 

    vrai & oro

    Since Vrai & Oro's jewelry follows a minimalist and dainty aesthetic, you'll be hard-pressed to find something you can't see yourself wearing at your most dressed up or laid back.

    Plain gold bands start at just $55, and most bracelets and necklaces are $200 to $300. More luxurious pieces aren't out of the picture: the brand's gleaming Round-Brilliant Diamond Necklace is $3,290 and Baguette Diamond Tennis Bracelet is $5,890. 

    Find our 12 favorite Vrai & Oro pieces below, or shop all fine jewelry at Vrai & Oro here

    Earrings for when you can't decide between studs or hoops

    Door Knocker Studs, $2,425, available in 18-karat yellow, white, and rose gold

    A personalized bar bracelet

    Bar Bracelet, $335, available in 14-karat yellow, white, and rose gold

    Add an engraving for $10. 

    A sophisticated baguette ring

    Baguette Diamond Ring, $365, available in 14-karat yellow, white, and rose gold

    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    lauren sanchez jeff bezos patrick whitesell

    • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is reportedly dating entrepreneur and former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez.
    • Earlier on Wednesday, Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos announced that they were divorcing after 25 years together.
    • The New York Post reported that Sanchez is still married to Hollywood agent Patrick Whitesell, though they are separated.
    • The National Enquirer said it's on the verge of publishing an exposé on the alleged affair between Bezos and Sanchez, saying its reporters tailed the pair for months.

    Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reportedly has a new romance in his life: former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez.

    On Wednesday, the billionaire exec and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, announced they were divorcing, saying in a joint statement: "We want to make people aware of a development in our lives. As our family and close friends know, after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends."

    The New York Post and the National Enquirer both reported that Jeff Bezos, 54, is romantically involved with 49-year-old Sanchez, a former "Good Day LA" news anchor with Fox who also works as a helicopter pilot and entrepreneur.

    The TV host is still married to Patrick Whitesell, the co-CEO of prominent Hollywood talent agency WME. Whitesell counts Matt Damon, Christian Bale, and Hugh Jackman among his clients. According to the New York Post, Sanchez and Whitesell separated in the fall. It's after this that Bezos reportedly "became closer" with Sanchez. Sanchez has three children — two from her marriage to Whitesell and one from a previous relationship.

    The National Enquirer said it conducted a four-month investigation into Bezos and Sanchez's alleged affair, and suggested that it was its impending report — due to be published in full later this week — that sparked the announcement from Bezos.

    "During a blockbuster four-month investigation, The ENQUIRER tracked Bezos, who turns 55 on Jan. 12, and secret lover Sanchez across five states and 40,000 miles, tailed them in private jets, swanky limos, helicopter rides, romantic hikes, five-star hotel hideaways, intimate dinner dates and 'quality time' in hidden love nests," the National Enquirer wrote in a story teasing its upcoming investigation.

    Bezos has an estimated net worth of about $137 billion, and news of his impending divorce has sparked fevered speculation as to what it will mean for his fortune. It's not clear whether Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos signed a prenuptial agreement or formed another arrangement regarding what would happen if they split. The couple have been married for 25 years, and have four children.

    An Amazon spokesperson did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

    Got a tip? Contact this reporter via Signal or WhatsApp at +1 (650) 636-6268 using a non-work phone, email at rprice@businessinsider.com, Telegram or WeChat at robaeprice, or Twitter DM at @robaeprice. (PR pitches by email only, please.) You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.


    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 7 science-backed ways to a happier and healthier 2019 that you can do the first week of the new year

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    Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, arrive for the Axel Springer award ceremony on April 24, 2018 in Berlin. Bezos will be receiving the award later.

    • Amazon could soon have a large new individual shareholder in the form of MacKenzie Bezos as a result of her impending divorce from the company's CEO.
    • Jeff Bezos owns 16% of the e-commerce giant, and MacKenzie could be entitled to up to half of those shares, which would giver her, with Jeff, one of the two largest stakes in the company.
    • Although the Bezoses are worth $137 billion on paper, nearly all of their assets are in the form of Amazon stock.
    • They live in, and will likely file for divorce in, Washington, which is a community-property state, which potentially gives her a claim on a sizeable portion of their wealth.
    • Because of the numerous variables in play, it's unclear exactly how much Amazon stock she'll end up with.

    Jeff Bezos may soon have someone familiar looking over his shoulder when it comes to running Amazon and having substantial say about it — his soon-to-be ex-wife.

    Bezos and his wife, MacKenzie, announced Wednesday they plan to divorce after more than 25 years of marriage. Because nearly all of their $137 billion net worth is in the form of his stock in Amazon, it's highly likely that she will end up with a substantial stake in the company as part of any separation agreement. Indeed, there's a good chance that she could end up having the biggest stake in the company other than Bezos'.

    "One would think so," said Ira Garr, a family law attorney in New York who represented Rupert Murdoch and Ivana Trump in their respective divorce cases. "I can't see anywhere else the settlement could come from."

    Read this: Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos may split his $137 billion fortune in half when they divorce — here's what typically happens when billionaires break up

    Bezos owns about 79 million shares of Amazon's stock, which are worth about $130 billion. The shares give him a 16% stake in the company, making him its largest shareholder by far. The second largest is Vanguard, which had about 6% of Amazon shares as of last February.

    Should Bezos have to give half of his shares to MacKenzie — a not-unthinkable outcome — her 39 million or so shares would give her an 8% stake in the company and vault her over Vanguard. Although she could opt for cash instead — which would force Bezos to sell off tens of millions of shares  — or immediately turn around and sell the shares herself, it's likely she'll choose to hold on to her shares instead, legal experts said.

    If she chose to sell — or forced Bezos to — "the stock would go way down," Garr said.

    MacKenzie will likely benefit from Washington state law

    The reasons why MacKenzie could end up with such a huge stake in Amazon have a lot do with where the Bezos' divorce proceedings are likely to occur.

    Although the Bezoses have dwellings in different areas of the country, it's likely they'll file for divorce in Washington state, legal experts said. They have a home in the Seattle area where Amazon has its headquarters and have lived out most of their marriage there, said Deirdre Bowen, an associate professor of law at Seattle University's law school. 

    Amazon holiday"Washington seems to be the most logical place" for the divorce proceedings, Bowen said.

    That's important, because it would mean that Washington state law would govern the dissolution of the Bezoses' marriage. 

    Washington is a community-property state; generally, assets acquired during a marriage are considered to be jointly held by the two parties. In the case of a divorce, those community assets have to be divvied up between the two spouses.

    Community property law works a little bit differently in Washington than in other parts of the country. Unlike states such as California, Washington doesn't require community assets to be divided evenly between the two parties, legal experts note. But in the Bezoses' case, where the two have been married for a long time and the founding of Amazon took place after they got married, it's likely that's where a court would end up, said James Spencer, an adjunct professor at Seattle University's School of Law and an attorney with Brothers & Henderson.

    "Considering the totality of the circumstances (as are publicly known), I think it more likely than not that a court would divide the stock roughly in half," Spencer said.

    Bezos and Mackenzie will likely settle out of court

    Legal experts such as Spencer, though, don't expect the Bezoses' case to end up being decided by a judge. Instead, they expect the two to reach a settlement out of court, whether through negotiations among themselves or between their lawyers or through arbitration proceedings. So, Washington's community-property law may not have a direct effect on the divorce's outcome.

    But it's likely that MacKenzie will use it — and the assumption that she should get half of the couples' community assets — as a starting point for negotiations, Bowen said.

    "She can go in and tell her attorney ... to work with the assumption that it's going to be 50-50," she said.

    To be sure, MacKenzie could end up with a far smaller stake in Amazon than half of Bezos' current holdings. If they signed a pre- or post-nuptial agreement, for example, such a contract could severely limit her claims on Bezos' shares in the company.

    Amazon representatives did not respond to an email inquiry about whether the Bezoses had such an agreement.

    Bezos and MacKenzie could fight over what she's entitled to

    Another complicating factor is how negotiators for the two parties — and potentially an arbiter or judge — classify Bezos' stock holdings. Although assets acquired in marriage or the amount by which they appreciate are generally considered community property, courts can make a distinction between passive and active appreciation of assets, Bowen said.

    Bezos could potentially argue that the massive increase in the value of his Amazon stock was due largely to his personal active management of the company and had nothing to do with MacKenzie. Should he take that stance and have it affirmed by a judge or arbiter, MacKenzie could end up with a much smaller stake in Amazon than she might otherwise.

    He could argue his Amazon stake "should remain mine," Bowen said.

    The outcome of the case also will hinge in large part on the mental and emotional state Bezos and MacKenzie are in going into it. In their joint statement announcing the divorce, the two portrayed their parting as amicable. But late Wednesday, reports in the New York Post and the National Enquirer charged that Bezos has been having an affair with former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez, which could indicate their separation wasn't all that friendly.

    If there's rancor involved, it could have a major effect on what each party will demand and settle for, Bowen said.

    new shepard reusable rocket launch 2016 blue origin"The wild card here is I don't know the psychology each party has going into this divorce," Bowen said.

    MacKenzie could end up demanding a large cash payout, she said.

    "I don't think she's an unreasonable person, so I don't see that happening," Bowen said. But, she added, MacKenzie could say in the proceedings something like, "'Why would I want Amazon stock when you're controlling it? I want you removed from my life.'"

    And there's another potential wrinkle. Amazon's board and Bezos himself may be uncomfortable and unwilling to hand over that much of the company's stock to MacKenzie, particularly if the two are at odds. The board or Bezos may push to limit her ownership, either by having Bezos sell shares and give her her stake in cash or by giving her other assets, such as his ownership of the Washington Post or rocket company Blue Origin, instead.

    "With someone who is as closely associated to his brand as Jeff Bezos, it may be that he will refuse a settlement that gives his ex-wife that much Amazon corporate power," said Terry Price, a family law professor at the University of Washington's School of Law.

    SEE ALSO: Amazon Web Services could be worth $600 billion by itself. Here's why Wall Street analysts think a spinoff won't happen any time soon.

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    Jeff Bezos

    • The National Enquirer, a gossip tabloid, said it has conducted a four-month investigation into an affair between Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez. 
    • On Wednesday, the Amazon CEO announced he and his wife, MacKenzie Bezos, were divorcing.
    • Hours later, the National Enquirer reported it tracked romantic involvement between Bezos and Sanchez.
    • The Enquirer said it has photos of Bezos and his new partner, and plans to publish them — and that it has access to "one steamy picture too explicit to print here."
    • The National Enquirer has long-standing ties to President Donald Trump — fueling speculation that the investigation of Bezos, a critic of the president, could have been politically motivated. 

    The news of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' impending divorce has taken a dramatic turn.

    On Wednesday, the billionaire technology exec announced he and wife of 25 years, MacKenzie Bezos, were splitting up. Hours later, the National Enquirer, a well-known celebrity-gossip tabloid, said it had conducted a four-month investigation into an affair between Bezos and Lauren Sanchez, a former TV host — and that it plans to publish the full story on Thursday. 

    The Enquirer said its reporters tracked Bezos and Sanchez "across five states and 40,000 miles, tailed them in private jets, swanky limos, helicopter rides, romantic hikes, five-star hotel hideaways, intimate dinner dates and 'quality time' in hidden love nests." The front-page headline, the Enquirer revealed, will be "The cheating photos that ended his marriage."

    The publication also said it has obtained photos of the two "doing the dirty" and suggested it has access to "raunchy messages and erotic selfies — including one steamy picture too explicit to print here." It said the full report will include "more shocking photos of the pair," though it has yet to print any. 

    The New York Post reported Sanchez and Bezos were involved in a relationship shortly before the National Enquirer did so on Wednesday. While the Post did not mention the National Enquirer by name, it suggested that the Bezoses timed their announcement to come ahead of the possible release of photos of Bezos and Sanchez.

    The President Trump connection 

    Commentators have already been watching the divorce with fascination, given what it could mean for Bezos' $137 billion fortune. The involvement of the National Enquirer — which has a long-standing association with President Donald Trump — adds a new dimension to the story, with some already speculating that the investigation could be politically motivated.

    Bezos, who is also the owner of the Washington Post, is a longtime critic of President Trump, and the two have a long-standing public feud.

    Meanwhile, David Pecker, the CEO of National Enquirer's parent company, American Media Inc. (AMI), was known for a long time as an ally of Trump, even before he entered politics, and the publication reportedly squelched several stories that would have reflected poorly on the future president. 

    MSNBC journalist Chris Hayes tweeted: "Given everything we know about how Pecker's National Enquirer has functioned as essentially an arm of Trumpworld, this prompts some questions."

    And Erica Orden, a CNN reporter, said: "One of the bylines on this National Enquirer story about Jeff Bezos is Dylan Howard, the AMI editor who was involved in AMI & [former Trump lawyer] Michael Cohen’s efforts to silence women who claimed affairs with Trump."

    It's worth noting, however, that Pecker seems to have flipped on Trump and is cooperating with prosecutors investigating payments made to women with whom Trump has been accused of having affairs, even as the National Enquirer is said to have downplayed its coverage of the president.

    The National Enquirer did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider. An Amazon spokesperson also did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider. 

    Lauren Sanchez is still married to Patrick Whitesell, the co-CEO of prominent Hollywood talent agency WME. Whitesell counts Matt Damon, Christian Bale, and Hugh Jackman among his clients. According to the New York Post, Sanchez and Whitesell separated in the fall, and she and Bezos "became closer" afterward. The National Enquirer, meanwhile, reported that their secret relationship has been ongoing for eight months.

    Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos announced their separation in a joint statement on Twitter earlier on Wednesday. "We want to make people aware of a development in our lives. As our family and close friends know, after a long period of loving exploration and trial separation, we have decided to divorce and continue our shared lives as friends," they wrote. 

    Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos have four children together. Sanchez has three children — two from her marriage to Whitesell and one from a previous relationship.

    Got a tip? Contact this reporter via Signal or WhatsApp at +1 (650) 636-6268 using a non-work phone, email at rprice@businessinsider.com, Telegram or WeChat at robaeprice, or Twitter DM at @robaeprice. (PR pitches by email only, please.) You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

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    Split Universal

    • Having a "split personality" is called Dissociative identity disorder.
    • Split personalities are known as "alters," while the body is the "host" or "system."
    • DID has been wrongly portrayed in film, TV, and books as linked with evil.
    • In most cases, people with DID are the victims of abuse, not the abusers.
    • They want you to know they are not "monsters" but are human just like you.

    This article was originally posted on Feb 16, 2017.

    Have you ever been reading a page of a book, but you zone out and don't recall anything you've just read? Are you ever driving a familiar route, only to realize you haven't really been focusing on the road the entire time? This is sort of what it's like to have dissociative identity disorder (DID). The only difference is it happens all the time, and in these moments someone else takes over.

    Non-violent and seemingly normal anecdotes like these from people who have multiple personalities — or "alters" — are a far cry away from the character(s) represented in "Split," the new film starring James McAvoy as a man with 24 individual personalities.

    In the climax of the film, Kevin (McAvoy) morphs into "the Beast," one of his personalities. The Beast has superhuman speed, strength, and agility, apparently unique to its manifestation, and also kills and devours people, suggesting the human body can adjust itself biologically to fit a dangerous and psychopathic alter.

    While the film is entertaining, it is not a realistic portrayal of DID, and may do harm to people who live with the real disorder. One common misconception about DID is that whoever has it is not "themselves" 100% of the time. In fact, concepts such as "me," "myself," or "I" can be quite tricky things to define.

    According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM-IV, DID is formally recognized as a psychiatric diagnosis, and the patient must show at least two individual identities or personalities, which routinely take control of the individual's behavior. Along with this there is also memory loss that goes beyond normal forgetfulness, and each alter can display a broad range of traits such as phobias or mood disturbances.

    All of the individuals that Business Insider spoke with who self-identified as having DID said they had suffered abuse at some point in their lives. Robert T. Muller, a professor of clinical psychology at York University in Toronto who has over 20 years experience working with people with DID, explained how the two are linked.

    "It's virtually unheard of that you have a client with multiple personality disorder who has not had significant attachment based trauma," or psychological trauma such as abuse from an early care giver like a parent, he said.

    Several studies have found a relationship between childhood trauma and dissociation, such as the work by Bethany Brand who recognized there was controversy around the disorder and looked into independent files and police records. She found that people with DID had all routinely had severe childhood traumas, and since then the research has been consistent.

    "Split" does address the topic of child abuse somewhat, explaining that Kevin's personalities began manifesting to help him cope with an abusive mother who has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, as a horror film, it fails to accurately represent DID.

    Here are the stories of four people with multiple alters who explain what it's really like to live with many voices — sometimes competing and conflicting ones — within their own heads. It's important to remember that these are personal stories, however, and everyone who deals with a distinct mental illness — just like anyone who deals with a distinct physical one — has a unique experience.

    depression anxiety mental health

    Jennifer's* story

    There are four people in Jennifer's system — the name people with DID sometimes call their collective selves — and three of them are much younger. Jennifer is 39 years old but Emily* is 3, Caroline* is 7, and Eloise* is 16. She wanted her name and location to remain anonymous as she was only recently diagnosed.

    Jennifer believes she started dissociating at around age 3 to try and escape the volatile temper and abuse of her mentally unstable mother. For this, she sees her alters as her saviors.

    "My father never stood up for me so I felt defenseless and alone," she recalls. "Without Eloise, I wouldn't have survived being in that house. Without my alters, I wouldn't have survived — period."

    For Jennifer, her alters kept her safe when nobody else could. She said that Eloise was the personality that finally started fighting back, for example. Apparently she is the headstrong, fierce and very protective tomboy of them all, who enjoys martial arts, hunting and all things military. This couldn't be further from Jennifer, who is a liberal who loves animals and is considering taking up a career in dog massage. Eloise, Jennifer said, thinks this is ridiculous.

    Caroline is the most burdened of all the alter, probably because she was present for the majority of the abuse. She doesn't trust anyone, even Jennifer herself, which they say they are working on in therapy.

    For all their differences, Jennifer and her alters have found a happy medium by listening to each other and learning how they can help each other.

    "I have learned to face Eloise, to listen to her and to treat her as an equal, and it seems to have made our relationship much more manageable," Jennifer said. "If there is any friction we talk it out calmly rather shouting at each other like we used to do.

    "The system only works if we all respect each other and are all given 'air time' to voice our thoughts and feelings. I’ve never argued with Emily or Caroline; with them being so young they tend to look to me as parent-like figure so they are easy to advise and guide."

    Rich's story

    Rich, a 38-year-old farmer from California, was diagnosed with DID at age 14. He currently has three alters, but he said there used to be a lot more. Eventually, he said, those other alters became integrated into his personality. Now it's just him (Rich), Bobbie (who is female), and Fred (a newer addition). For him, his dissociation was a journey which began with him phasing out from reality, to seeing things in third person, to finally splitting into other separate personalities.

    "I couldn't feel anything that was happening to me, and sometimes I would have an out of body experience and even leave the room," he explained. "Later in life, my dissociative episodes were stronger, for lack of a better word. I would get amnesia and depending on the situation I would behave differently and even use different names. I guess it made things feel like they weren't happening to me."

    Rich said he was also mistreated when he was young. He was left with a babysitter for much of his childhood as his parents worked, and was sexually and emotionally abused, and he feels he probably hasn't recovered all of the memories from that time yet due to dissociating.

    "It feels like I am watching a movie when I try to recall things I did when I lived in that town," he said.

    Rich is married and said that his wife and Bobbie get on very well, and even sometimes go shopping together. He thinks Bobbie is likely to stick around now, rather than disappear like many of his other alters, because he is now "comfortable and happy."

    "I never took an exact count but I could count more than 10 and felt there was more," Rich said. "That includes alters that were just containers for memories and fragments that performed a singular purpose. I have struggled with food. I feel guilty about eating. I had one solely to make sure I would eat. I — it — would sneak food during the night. I had obsessive hand washer. That trait passed to me when it integrated."

    Drew's story

    Drew is in his 40s and lives and works full time as a graphic designer in a major metropolitan area in the US Midwest. There are about seven alters in his system of which he is the only male. He's also in a female body, but he doesn't consider himself trans — more that he has gender dysphoria. Drew was diagnosed with DID at age 20.

    Drew's alters include Sophie* who is the host aged 41, Claire who is 23, Eden who is 17, Rain who is 12, and a couple of younger alters who are about 4 and 8, but that's an estimate.

    "I don't like to put an exact number on us, especially the kids, because there are rumors that there are others hidden away," Drew said. "When you think you know everyone but then run into someone you didn't know, it really throws everyone for a loop."

    Drew said they are all very different people, and all appeared at different times. Many of them have memories of abuse growing up, and hold different memories about what happened to them.

    "Some memories of abuse are even 'split' in a way that one recalls only intense feelings like shame and fear, where someone else recalls mainly physical pain," Drew said. "Working together to share those memories with each other and integrate the experiences into a complete narrative is what we consider an eventual goal. Nobody has any desire to try and become one person, if that were even possible, which we don't believe it is."

    Drew believes his alters may have appeared as a way of dealing with emotional and physical abuse, as well as neglect and psychological harm, meaning there was no safe space to crawl away to. Splitting off and dissociating can be a defence mechanism, like playing possum or focusing your mind, only it has been taken to the extreme, according to Muller.

    Over the years, Drew and the others have worked hard at being co-conscious, which he describes as "a state in which one person is "out" but the others are also aware of what is happening." So while one may not recall going to the shops as a first-person memory, they would be aware of what happened as a sense of "we went to the shops."

    They also have their own areas where each prefers to take the lead. For example, Claire is very well organized, and so handles most of the day-to-day things at work. Sophie and Rain are the "artists" and are both very creative. Drew is the practical and logical one, and, he admits, slightly controlling.

    "We have pretty clearly defined areas of expertise, which helps us work cooperatively most of the time," he said. "There is occasionally a lot of shouting, or at least loudly voiced opinions."

    Jess's story

    Jess is studying to be an interpreter for the deaf. She's 34, from Ohio and works part time as a server assistant in a restaurant.

    Jess was diagnosed with DID at age 25, and sees her dissociation slightly differently to the others, in that she doesn't believe any person really just has one identity. She said babies take a long time to figure out their spatial surroundings, and even what and who they are, and so we develop identities as we grow, "through experiences and discovering the relation of ourselves to our environment."

    As for her system, she said there are three hosts: Post Traumatic Jess, Dissociative Jess** (who uses two asterisks to signify the alters within her) and Normal Jess, as well as 15 alters contained within three groups. That 18 people all together.

    There's Jey, Morrighan, EvaMarie, Morgana and Erzsebet in the adult group, ;Suzy, June and Bel in the teen group, then Emerald, Sapphire, Eloise and Connie who are children. There are also three "non-human" alters that Jess said helped her with surviving trauma. They are Kiki, a cat that distracts from reality as a human, Zoey, a sprite-a fairy like creature, and Justice, her guardian angel. Jess discusses them and her feelings and thoughts in her blog.

    She doesn't exactly know when each identity was created, but she knows she was very young, because that's when the sexual assault by her brother started.

    "I feel that each time I was in a situation that was unbearable, then I'd leave and someone else would be there," Jess said. "I believe at first they were like a blank shell, and the more they came out, the more they grew and learned just like any child does."

    Connecting everyone internally is the most difficult skill to master according to Jess, especially as all her alters differ in age, the memories they have, and their emotional reactions to situations. Some even have very distinct facial expressions, voices, and unique body language behavior.

    A challenge with DID, she said, is when something triggers the dissociation and she is suddenly not "present" any more and loses time.

    "You end up places you don't know how you got there, your plans you were supposed to do, go undone. Sometimes things come up missing or are misplaced," Jess said. "There are a lot of challenges but it's really unique to each individual.

    "The hardest part about life is just living it, I say. It's a lot of work to get everyone inside here on the same page."

    Split movie

    The challenges of being more than one person

    Dissociation can come with a host of challenges, but one of the most difficult may be memory loss. Jennifer, for example, spoke about how her partner used to get frustrated because she would forget conversations they'd had three or more times before.

    "I find that I do things without realizing that I've done — nothing sinister — mundane things like I would somehow find I have something in my hand that I know for a fact was in a different room, on a different floor in the house, but have no recollection of fetching it," she said. "I can forget whole movies, I can forget a book within days of reading it. I can even forget entire days of trips that I've taken with my partner."

    Rich recalled similar events. Sometimes he meets people and later doesn't remember when he sees them again, which can be confusing for others, and can sometimes be misconstrued as rudeness.

    Drew said Sophie refers to the lost time as "time warps" in her diary when she was younger and before she was diagnosed with DID. It's like driving along and missing the turning because you're on autopilot, but it happens at seemingly random times.

    "I might suddenly realize I'm having a conversation with a person I don't know or that I'm in a part of town I don't recognize holding a shopping bag of things I don't remember buying," Drew said.

    Jess said normal days can end up being like a game of Cluedo (Clue), trying to figure out "who did it."

    "I have a dark sense of humor that keeps me going," she said. "It's different for everyone, but I'm sure we all spend our days just trying to keep a schedule going between us all."

    Another challenge is something as simple as looking in the mirror and defining a sense of self.

    "Looking in the mirror and not recognizing myself is also a little disconcerting but I have grown to accept it now," Jennifer said. "Or I should say that the others have grown used to not recognizing themselves, as the reflection in the mirror is of the physical host, me, Jennifer*."

    Screen Shot 2017 02 09 at 15.38.59

    What they want you to know

    One major issue with "Split," as with other films about DID, is the fact that they portray one or many alters as evil. You just have to Google the term "multiple personality film" to see the ominous, brooding titles and covers accompanying the topic.

    In reality, this is almost always untrue, according to Muller. The vast majority of people with DID do not have alter-egos that allow them to indulge in evil desires.

    Drew has friends with DID, and said that the media portrayal has perhaps even contributed to individuals fearing their own alters, but it all comes down to a lack of understanding and willingness to listen.

    "Everyone I've known with DID has alters who were considered "evil" or "bad" by the rest of the system, only to come to understand that these individuals are actually very badly hurt children who have been tasked with carrying the bulk of the sadness, rage, and pain associated with abuse," he said. "People are just afraid of anything they don't understand and it's easy to turn people into monsters for being different."

    Muller said the idea of alters being dramatic or flamboyant in TV and film could originate from the fact there is often a juvenile part, who is childish to their approach to the world, and then a "persecutor" who is very aggressive.

    "[It's] a part that actually wants to torture themselves in a way, but to the person when they're in the persecutor role, they feel powerful and their cruelty feels powerful to themselves," Muller said.

    This doesn't mean the alter wants to wreak havoc on anyone else, as usually it's a means of punishing themselves. As with some other victims of abuse, people with DID also may have very low self esteem and self-worth, according to Muller.

    As for whether there is an "evil one," Muller said it's interesting because in some ways, DID is almost literary.

    "Something like Jekyll and Hyde, something that is the embodiment of a metaphor: our different parts and how we have different sides to ourselves, and how we don't show people our ugly sides, and we present a certain way to the world," he said.

    'The human mind is remarkable'

    It can be frightening for people in relationships with those who have DID to see their aggressive sides, but that's because it's disorienting to see your loved one as someone completely different, rather than being scared of what they would do to you. Jennifer said it's never crossed her mind to harm anyone else, because she knows how it feels to be scared of an abuser.

    "We are not dangerous in any way — we are more likely to hurt ourselves and be hurt by other people than we are to hurt anyone," she said. "We have endured so much suffering that to inflict pain on anyone else is the last thing we would ever wish for."

    Suffering is such an integral part of DID because it is so closely intertwined with PTSD. Certain triggers can make someone dissociate, such as loud noises, raised voices, or the sight of flannel shirts, in the case of Matt who has DDNOS, a form of dissociating, and keeps a blog about his experiences. Now that Matt is an adult, his mind is allowing him more and more access to his past and the abuse he went through as a child, thanks to therapy and finally exploring why he had so many feelings of depression within himself.

    "It's a defense mechanism and it's a very good thing, because our brains are so amazing," he said. "The trauma happened when I was a kid, but I didn't start dealing with it until 30, 35 years later.

    "All those memories were in a shoe box in the bottom corner of the closet of my mind... Then once you begin to pick through the rubble and start to recall memories, your brain says, 'okay, now you're able to deal with this memory so I'm going to give you bits and pieces of this gigantic puzzle.'"

    DID is an incredible survival tool rather than something to fear. Unfortunately, as a way of dealing with trauma that kept them safe as children, people with DID have carried it on past that stage. However, everyone I spoke to with DID was very aware of their disorder and their shortcomings, and had a take home message along the same lines: we are human, just a little different.

    "We just want them to know that we're not a monster, just because we have a DID diagnosis," said Jess. "We may be a system of many people, but we are people just like you... DID experiences are personal, and are as different as the amount of different people in the world."

    Ultimately, Rich would just like people to be a little more patient.

    "In short, 'I have a Dissociative Disorder. Please forgive my forgetfulness,'" he said.

    *Some names changed for anonymity at the interviewee's request.

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    Wireless earbuds

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    Shaz & Ryan 2

    • Muzmatch is the first global matchmaking app for Muslims.
    • It was founded by 34-year-old Shahzad Younas, a former Morgan Stanley banker, and 25-year-old iOS engineer Ryan Brodie.
    • The app says it is close to hitting one million users, and claims 20,000 people have got married after meeting on Muzmatch.
    • Younas and Brodie told Business Insider they have declined attractive aquisition offers as they aim to become "the biggest app for Muslims worldwide."

    With pun-filled taglines like "Halal, is it me you're looking for?" and "You had me at halal," Muzmatch may seem like just another quirky dating app — but there's much more to it than that.

    Muzmatch is targeted at finding marriage partners for Muslims around the world — and it claims to be close to hitting one million users globally.

    Operating in nearly every country (though it's most popular in the UK, US, and Canada), the location-based app shows users the most relevant people near them based on a "sophisticated algorithm" which considers a number of different factors based on the information they provide in their profiles.

    Muzmatch was the brainchild of 34-year-old Shahzad Younas, a former Morgan Stanley banker who told Business Insider he left his job in June 2014 to learn how to build apps after he had the idea for the company.

    "I thought, 'Why is nobody doing an app for the Muslim market?'" he told Business Insider. "We didn't have anything, we were still on websites."

    As a Muslim himself, he said he understood "the market, the audience, and the problem" — something other companies had a lack of expertise in.

    "For Muslims, marriage is such a big part of your life," he explained. "We don't really date, we marry."

    He added that the Muslim market was generally "at least five years behind the mainstream market and dating apps" with mainly web-focused platforms — so he decided to make Muzmatch mobile-only.

    Read more: This new app gives access to hundreds of private members' clubs around the world for $120 a month

    In April 2015, initially using nearly $200,000 of his own savings from his nine-year banking career, he launched the first version of the app from home, and grew it to 50,000 users around the world in less than a year.

    "They just heard about it going to mosques, hanging out, literally spreading the word by any means," he said. "I thought, 'There's clearly a demand here,' but it was just me doing all of it."

    Luckily, he came across iOS engineer Ryan Brodie, 22 at the time and now 25, on LinkedIn in April 2016.

    "He's kind of like me, an engineer, can code, and had some startups himself, so it was perfect," Younas said. "We literally had a three-hour phone call where we ripped the whole thing apart... and then Ryan wanted to come on board."

    Brodie, who had successfully started and sold two companies in the events and consumer tech space, said even as a non-Muslim he immediately saw the opportunity for Muzmatch — and it was an added bonus that both men knew how to build and improve apps.

    Starting from scratch, the pair revamped and relaunched the company in August 2016. By halfway through 2018, they had 500,000 registered users.

    "Even in 2019 it’s very hard and expensive to build an app, but the unique thing we had is, while we might not have had a huge amount of money at the time, we knew how to make the product," Brodie told Business Insider.

    Blurred photos, nicknames, and chaperones

    It's free to sign up on Muzmatch, initially using just your date of birth and gender. You can then start swiping through people near you.

    muzmatch_PP   in situ 3

    "To get initial users on board, we appreciate they might not want to fill out 30 different fields," Brodie said, adding that once you make your first match, you're then asked to give more information for your profile, such as your sect and ethnicity.

    One profile, for example, might state: "Modest dress, sometimes prays."

    When users get a match, they get a prompt to get a conversation going.

    They can also choose to go "premium" for £20 a month in return for extra features, such as unlimited swipes (there's a daily cap for free users), more advanced search filters and preferences, the ability to reset or change past swipes, and being at the front of the queue for users around you.

    It might sound straightforward, but there are a number of things that make Muzmatch different than its competitors.

    Firstly, users have the option of blurring their photos or using a nickname.

    "If [you choose to do this and] you match someone, they still can’t see your photos [or name], and it's up to you when you reveal them," Brodie said.

    Read more: These are the 18 most-wanted singles in London, according to the dating app Happn

    Younas added that after profile signup, the app also prompts users to "keep things Halal."

    "For us, it's a lighthearted way to remind users of what's expected, he said. "We're not a casual app, it's not a photo 'yes, no.' There's so much more to it.

    "The whole point of our app is we want serious people looking for marriage, serious about a relationship, so people invest a lot of time and energy into the whole process."

    muzmatch_PP   in situ 5

    The duo added that this type of "oath" is starting to be introduced to other mainsteam apps, like OK Cupid.

    Muzmatch also claims to be the only one in the world with a chaperone feature, which allows a friend or relative to be present in a chat.

    "There's an Islamic principle where when a guy and a girl are getting to know eachother there should be a third party present," Younas explained. "For [some users] it's important — if it didn't have that feature, they wouldn't use it."

    Brodie added that a dedicated team manually approve each profile to confirm users are who they say they are, and users also have the option to provide "positive feedback" on another user after they match and have a conversation, with enough positive praise resulting in profile badges.

    "We want users to feel comfortable, but equally we need people to feel that, actually, this is a more serious place, it's not just for messing around," Brodie added.

    "Halal, is it me you're looking for?"

    This is a message that's clear not only on the app, but also through Muzmatch's marketing campaigns.

    In October 2018, it launched ads on the London underground with catchy phrases like "Halal, is it me you're looking for?"

    It launched a second campaign in January with similarly tongue-in-cheek taglines.

    You Had Me At Halal!

    Younas said the company wanted to put out a positive message that was also humorous.

    "It's a side that, especially for the Muslim segment, doesn't get portrayed that often," he said. "Sadly it's nearly always negative. [We wanted] to do things a bit differently, freshen things up a bit."

    He added that the reaction to the ads has been "overwhelmingly positive," with plenty of attention on Twitter and Instagram.

    "Obviously there were a few EDL [English Defense League, a far-right, Islamophobic organisation] types who basically don't like any sort of Muslim reference," he added. "We had a bit of that, but that was 1% of the feedback we had."

    Support from Silicon Valley

    And the strategy certainly seems to be paying off.

    In the summer of 2017, Muzmatch was accepted into Silicon Valley-based accelerator Y Combinator, who have backed the likes of Airbnb, Dropbox, and Reddit and provide a network of resources and support for startups — as well as investment.

    "They invest $120,000 for 7% of the company," Younas explained. "13,000 companies apply, 800 are flown out to San Francisco for an interview, and 100 are accepted. It's harder to get into than Harvard."

    He added that Muzmatch was the first Muslim-centric startup to ever be backed by Y Combinator.

    Also in summer 2017, the duo raised just under $2 million in seed investment.

    They confirmed to Business Insider that they've even turned down attractive acquisition offers because they believe in the future of the business.

    brodie younas sky news muzmatch

    Part of this is because the duo believe they have a sustainable business model.

    "People doubted we could monetise this market at all, but the model we have works," Brodie said.

    Younas added: "Even though most users don't end up upgrading, because of the scale we're at, the people who do more than cover our costs and make sure we can invest in the platform."

    'Muslims don't date'

    However, he also believes the interest in Muzmatch is due to the fact no other company has been able to cater to this market before.

    "Probably more so with other faiths, people are more open to marrying outside of the faith, but generally for Muslims people stick to their faith," he said.

    "You've got things like JSwipe for Jewish people, Christian Mingle for Christians, but for [Muslims] we have to remember that generally people don't date. They use the app to find someone to have a few initial chats with and have coffee a couple of times, and then they get the family involved."

    He added traditionally, Muslim parents would call women called "aunties" who would charge thousands to match up their son or daughter with someone in the community. However, now young Muslims are meeting people and having conversations themselves.

    "In places like India [the aunties] take a percentage of the wedding, so it's crazy, they make a lot of money. [We have made] it so much more affordable for people, and [are] empowering the person doing the search. Nobody knows apart from them the kind of person they'll get on with."

    He added: "People are getting younger and younger when they're finding Muzmatch. They're getting the experience of meeting people, talking to people, having that social interaction."

    Shaz & Ryan 4 (1)

    Reaching the world's 1.8 billion Muslims

    Now, Younas and Brodie are cofounders in the business, which they're looking to grow right away with at least 10 new hires.

    "We’ve grown to the stage where we’re going to hit one million members very soon, mostly by word of mouth," Younas said, adding that the company is growing even faster than digital mobile-only bank Monzo, which reports to have 20,000 new sign-ups a week.

    "Now we're looking at how do we get to five million, 10, 20? For us, there are 1.8 billion Muslims around the world. We reckon 300 to 400 million of those are single and eligible in terms of our app — that's a massive user base."

    In order to do that, the company has recently conducted a project localising the app in different places around the world. It's now live in 14 different languages, including Arabic and Turkish.

    "The core mission is to be the biggest app for Muslims worldwide," Brodie added. "We want to be a standout brand for Muslims around the world."

    Younas added that so far, the company knows of 20,000 people who have got married after meeting on Muzmatch.

    "We have something called Wedding Bell, where every time someone leaves the app it sends us a Slack alert with the comment they put in [about why they left]. People who met on Muzmatch say [things like] 'thank you, Muzmatch' and 'met someone, got married.' It's nonstop. We get about 100 a day."

    The company also regularly features "success stories" on its blog.

    v2 success_2

    'Our users aren't on Tinder and the other apps'

    For those still not convinced the likes of Muzmatch can compete with giants like Tinder, Bumble, and Happn, Younas said: "The key thing with Muzmatch is we're not a Tinder competitor.

    "Our users aren't on Tinder and the other apps — they don't serve their need. From the off, this is not a hookup app. The Muslims who do want to hook up aren't essentially our customers."

    However, since starting the app, Younas believes he's already seen a shift in how Muslims are approaching dating.

    "Three generations ago, your parents would decide who your partner was going to be and that would be that, you'd go along with it," he said. "With the second generation, your parents would still be involved, talk to the families, but they'd show you people and you'd meet them and both have the decision.

    "Now, we have parents coming to us saying 'We don't know anyone, families aren't as connected as they used to be, can you help us find someone for our son or daughter?' and we say 'no — get them to sign up.' In a sense, the son or daughter are now saying 'I want to find someone on my own terms.'

    "Attitudes are changing so quickly. Through technology, this is how people are finding partners."

    Join the conversation about this story »

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    • Barefoot shoe industry leader Vivobarefoot is now producing a line of shoes made from recycled water bottles ($75 - $210).
    • Each pair of shoes will be made from 17 recycled water bottles. Left to their own devices, those bottles would take ~400 years to decompose.
    • Vivobarefoot hopes this line will combat our desensitization to pollution. It's part of a larger trend
    • Increasingly sustainable production is a goal for Vivobarefoot, with hints at new materials coming down the pipeline. 

    At the heart of the barefoot shoe movement is a belief that nature, ultimately, knows best.

    The argument commonly includes the sentiment that there is no machine as elegant nor as intelligent as the human body — a mechanism we’ve spent much of our collective history trying to understand, whilst enjoying the considerable benefits of its near-incomprehensible complexity. 

    So it's not entirely surprising that barefoot shoe industry-leader Vivobarefoot is rolling out a line of shoes made out of recycled water bottles. Instead of heading to the oceans (which is estimated to be more plastic than fish by 2050) or a landfill to decompose over 400 years, the material will be reworked into durable, high-performance shoes deployed to mimic and stabilize the anatomy of the human foot. Each pair will use 17 throw-away water bottles.

    It makes sense, and is an extension of steps the company took in 2015 with their eco-canvas and eco-suede (each using 50% recycled PET). Nature is Vivobarefoot's inspiration, and its production process will now prioritize and protect nature — as a gesture of goodwill, common sense, and, if you like, a sort of royalty payment. 

    According to the company, 2017 reports estimated that humans collectively bought 1 million plastic water bottles every single minute. And though plastic's convenience in modern life has afforded it a sort of ubiquity that makes such a figure appear standard rather than alarming, Vivobarefoot bills this generation as the one "to realize that its use comes at a devastating environmental cost."

    Vivobarefoot, like many companies recently, is beginning to assume more responsibility for such a crisis of our own making. While most bottles are made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate), a highly recyclable material, fewer than half the bottles bought in 2016 were collected for recycling — and only 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles.

    Screen Shot 2018 08 06 at 5.43.22 PM

    But PET is a malleable, strong, and durable material — uniquely well-suited for incorporation into tough, versatile shoes. This clever reconceptualization is reflected in a larger trend of companies embracing unexpected materials, ranging from leggings made out of fishing nets to low-carb pasta made from chickpeas to cult-favorite sneakers made out of leaves. As long as the quality stays high and prices stay low, consumers are happy to support sustainability.

    Thankfully, not much will change in the new recycled PET line except for the recycled material and the company's processes. For shoppers already aware of Vivobarefoot's sterling reputation for design, style, and durability, this is great news. In fact, I've written about Vivobarefoot in the past because they make one of my favorite pairs of city and travel shoes — the $125 Kannas which are lightweight, perforated, and roll up to the size of a pair of socks. 

    Vivobarefoot shoes, like most barefoot pairs, are based upon the idea that a wider, minimalist shoe will allow the foot to function as it was designed to function. Wearers will benefit from the sensory input of their feet as well as their hands for a potential increase in balance and accuracy, and the muscles in the leg may develop more naturally and cohesively. 


    According to the company, the human foot is a biomechanical masterpiece that can cope with more than we ask it to nowadays. "By cramming it into a modern shoe, you negate its natural function." Your feet have 200,000 nerves in them — the same as your hands. By loading up on padding, you muffle the sensory feedback your brain would otherwise receive, resulting in clumsier, less skillful movement.

    Vivobarefoot's new PET line will cover the gamut: minimalist sports shoes, trail shoes, 'ultimate' land and sea boots, and streetwear like suede chukka boots. Prices range from $75 to $210.

    For the company itself, sustainability is an ongoing project. In 2018, they plan to introduce more recycled and traceable fibers into over 50% of the vegan line, with more clever material innovations just over the horizon. But, for now, the PET collection will suffice as tangible strides in the right direction, hopefully on the feet of people who will care about the larger message as much as Vivobarefoot. 

    Shop the VIVOBAREFOOT recycled PET collection here, ranging from $75 - $210

    SEE ALSO: 10 stylish sneakers to buy that aren't going to sell out in seconds

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    • The BetterBack (as seen on "Shark Tank") is a $49.99 posture corrector that has completely eliminated any back pain I usually experience while sitting at a desk. 
    • I have two slipped discs in my spine and suffer from chronic back pain. I've tried plenty of treatments and products, but this is the only one that has worked.
    • If you have any sort of back pain or posture problems from sitting at a desk all day, this product is actually worth your money. 

    Take it from someone with two slipped discs in her spine — sitting at a desk all day is no walk in the park. In fact, sometimes my back is in so much pain that an actual walk in the park is no walk in the park, either. 

    According to the American Chiropractic Association, half of all working Americans experience some form of back pain — including the youngest rung of the workforce. That means the "aching backs" we used to hear about from our parents now often apply to us, too.

    This is often a result of the poor posture that desk jobs cause us to develop. I know for a fact that I'm not the only 26-year-old with bad posture, but there aren't quite as many people my age who also suffer from severe and chronic back pain. 

    In addition to things like stretch, yoga, chiropractic treatment, physical therapy, and massage, I've tried a ton of different ergonomic chairs, quite a few back rests, seat cushions, balance balls, etc. to combat the constant stress on my back that's caused by my slipped discs and generally terrible posture. After dumping way too much money into treatments that didn't help much, I found one thing that has worked for me — a $59 product you might have seen on "Shark Tank" by the name of the BetterBack


    The BetterBack isn't particularly pretty, and yes, its name is a little gimmicky, but it is extremely effective at reducing back pain. It looks almost like a harness, with a soft pad that sits behind your back and a connected set of straps that are placed over your knees as you sit. It uses the tension from the straps to correct your posture and relieve pressure from improper spinal alignment, effectively eliminating discomfort.   

    This is going to sound really dramatic, but hear me out: The Better Back has had a drastic impact on my quality of life at work. 

    After attempting so many ineffective and expensive treatments and testing out so many products to help my back, I honestly never thought that I'd be able to feel "normal" again, or that I'd ever experience what it was like to have zero pain in my spine. But the first time I tried the Better Back, it completely eliminated the buzzing discomfort I was so (frustratingly) accustomed to, which was usually at its worst when sitting at my desk.

    When I try to describe to people the sense of physical relief it gave me, I pretty much come up short of words. And for a writer and someone who generally just talks too much, that's an extremely rare occurrence for me. I'm talking like, angels singing in a choir from above, children throwing flowers at your feet, suddenly a whole new person type of pain relief — I hope that gives you somewhat of an idea. 


    The company suggests that you use the Better Back for about 15-30 minutes a day to help correct posture and re-train your body's sitting position — but I just tend to keep mine on all day. Plus, because it folds up neatly into a built-in zippered pouch, it can also be easily transported for use at home or on airplanes. 

    You don't need to have a diagnosed spinal injury for the BetterBack to help out your discomfort. It wasn't necessarily invented to help severe spinal problems — it just happened to make an extra significant difference for me because of the intensity and persistence of my pain. But if it helped me as much as it did, I can only imagine how helpful it would be to others who experience general discomfort from misaligned posture. 

    If you suffer from back pain, particularly as a result of sitting at your desk all day, I cannot recommend the BetterBack enough. 

    Check out the BetterBack on Amazon for $49.99

    SEE ALSO: The 32 best things we ever bought on Amazon for under $25

    Join the conversation about this story »

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