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Conspiracy theorists see themselves as critical thinkers — here's why


 A passenger plane flies through aircraft contrails in the skies near Heathrow Airport in London, Britain, April 12, 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

If you ask someone who believes in chemtrails or identifies as a 9/11 truther why they believe conspiracy theories, they'll tell you that they aren't conspiracy theorists at all.

Instead, most who believe in these theories think of themselves as "critical freethinkers," willing to challenge the conventional wisdom, according to a study recently published in the journal Cultural Sociology.

"[C]onspiracy theorists appropriate the image of the radical freethinker to differentiate themselves from the 'sheeple' who simply follow the crowd," authors Jaron Harambam of Erasmus University in the Netherlands and Stef Aupers of the University of Leuven in Belgium write. (In what has to be among the best footnotes in an academic paper ever, 'sheeple' is defined in the notes section: "Sheeple = sheep + people, a common term in the conspiracy milieu to describe the 'gullible mainstream who do not think for themselves but just go with what everyone else is doing.")

Harambam and Aupers, who set out to answer the question of how conspiracy theorists view themselves, noted that other researchers have looked at these populations from the exterior to see how their beliefs affect culture. Still, there haven't been many studies looking at how those in the "conspiracy milieu" define themselves, or at their relationships with others within their ideological circles.

Conspiracy theorists or "critical freethinkers?"

"[W]e aim to find out inductively who they think they are," the authors write. Over a two year period, they spent time at conspiracy-related gatherings (shows, conferences, political demonstrations, and movie screenings), conducted extensive interviews with 20 Dutch conspiracy theorists, and spent time analyzing conspiracy media (movies, websites, and all kinds of YouTube videos).

This research was conducted in the Netherlands, so it's possible that these findings are most accurate for the Dutch conspiracy theorists in the study. Still, many of the ideas these people describe — a secret world government, the idea that authorities are trying to poison people with vaccines or by releasing gas from airplanes, the beliefs of 9/11 truthers or those espoused by people like David Icke or Alex Jones — are popular among conspiracy theorists the world over.

The study's authors say that people in the conspiracy scene have certain traits in common, mainly an "opposition towards the cultural mainstream." They don't trust government, media, or conventional academic institutions.

tin foil hatBut there are also major differences among conspiracy believers, according to Harambam and Aupers. Mostly, even though these people reject the label "conspiracy theorist" for themselves, they'll use it to describe others in the conspiracy believing world as a way of differentiating themselves both from the mainstream and those they call "the 'real' paranoids."

For example, Tom, a 9/11 truther, tells the authors that the "real conspiracy theorists" threaten his credibility. "David Icke for example, I find him terrible, I also warn people active with 9/11 to not refer to him, please don’t, that man is crazy as a loon, just psychotic, a real demagogue," he says. (Icke is known for theorizing that secretly, lizard-people run the world).

3 types of conspiracy theorists

Harambam and Aupers say that based on the way people think they should act because of their beliefs, it's possible to divide conspiracy theorists into three groups.

1. Activists: This group believes they need to confront society to change things. "We need to do something, we need to go protest and go into resistance," Liam, one activist, tells the authors. "So now I am constantly approaching politics, media, science and all other authorities to tell them, 'guys, open your eyes, because this is serious, it’s not going well.'"

The militant advocacy among some members of this group can disturb other conspiracy believers. "[T]hese people really go too far, like Alex Jones or so, well, he’s a true fear monger," Michael, an economics student who wants to help society cast off its shackles, tells the authors.

A picture illustration of crumpled one Dollar banknote laying amongst euro and kuno banknotes, taken in Zagreb January 18, 2011. REUTERS/Nikola Solic

2. Retreaters: Members of this group think it's folly to try and convince the mainstream that conspiracies really are happening and that instead, they should just focus on themselves.

"I don’t think resistance is the right way to go, what I do instead is to apply it to myself," an agricultural entrepreneur named Robert tells the authors. "And if other people notice it, ask about it, feel touched by it, then it will have effect, not by imposing it on people, I think that will have much more effect than pushing. To inspire others instead of terrifying them."

3. Mediators: Finally, there's a group that believes you can't force change on society, but you may be able to convince them of "the truth."

As Tom tells the authors, "My work [running a 9/11 truther website] is not directed at the people who are already convinced [9/11] is bullshit. I aim explicitly at those who are used to the mainstream ... I want to bring down the wall between the mainstream and the critical current in society."

It's not enough to identify conspiracy theorists as a monolithic group, the authors say. In order to understand how these ideas circulate, we need to see how individuals create their own identities, separating themselves from both the mainstream and the "real" paranoids.

SEE ALSO: Here's how a deadly zombie pandemic would play out in the world

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: NASA tested a rocket engine — and did something unusual in the process

22 great snacks to eat at your desk


healthy snacks

What you eat all day doesn't affect just your health and weight — it affects your productivity, too.

High-fat, high-sugar meals and snacks make us sleepy and have low energy, says Lisa De Fazio, a healthy-lifestyle expert and registered dietitian. But thanks to things like boredom, lack of time, and sleep deprivation, people tend to make bad eating decisions during the workday.

Luckily, there are plenty of quick, easy, and inexpensive healthy snack options.

SEE ALSO: An unexpected way to prepare for your next big job interview in just 15 minutes


Almonds are a great source of protein and healthy fat that is satisfying. "They contain nine essential nutrients; have the highest rate of proteins when compared to other nuts; have the highest rate of fiber (3.5g per 23 pieces) when compared to other nuts; are rich in Vitamin E (23 pieces provide 35% of the daily value of Vitamin E); and contain monounsaturated fats that help increase HDL levels," explains Nicole Maftoum, a Lebanese clinical dietitian

Low-fat popcorn

This low-calorie snack will satisfy your craving for something salty and crunchy, and it's also a good source of fiber, De Fazio says. 

If you're trying to be healthy, stay away from the buttery variety.

Fresh fruit

Fruits are packed with vitamins and minerals and are full of great natural sweetness, Maftoum says. "They are also a great source of antioxidants needed for a stronger immune system and a better performance at work."

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

A fifth grader wrote the most adorable Pokemon-inspired love note ever


Reddit Pokemon Love letter

Do you remember your first love? For a fifth-grade boy trying to woo the girl of his dreams, there's no higher praise than Pokemon. 

In a post going viral on Reddit right now, "dreichert87" shared this adorable love note sent to his fifth grade niece. It says:

Dear Abby,

Your eyes remind me of the evening sky. My heart felt like broken glass until I saw you, and then, I felt like I had every pokémon, ever. I love how you play Zelda even when people think its weird. If you liked me, it would be my first ever victory. Love, [name blocked.]

Cuter still, he turned every dot over the letter "i" into hearts.

The comments on Reddit add to the cuteness.

bombinabirdcage writes: "Every Pokemon ever. That must be one special girl."

Omnipotent_Goose writes:"Girls these days have so much pressure on them. I remember when I was younger, girls only had to make guys feel the worth of 151 pokemon. Now, theres 726! How is a girl supposed to live up to these extremely high standards?

And Trinkets adds: "He loves Pokémon, she loves Legend of Zelda. This is retro gamer love, people- and it's God d--- beautiful."

SEE ALSO: Oracle billionaire Larry Ellison emailed a touching tribute when an employee, his friend, died

Join the conversation about this story »

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One of the biggest cities in the US wants to put homeless people in tiny houses


Coyote Creek Homeless San Jose 1

More than 4,000 people are homeless in San Jose, California. The 10th largest city in the US has long run out of beds to keep them sheltered.

A new law will make the city, located an hour's drive south of San Francisco, the first in the state to legally permit construction of tiny homes for the homeless, the San Jose Mercury News reports.

Starting in January, the city will temporarily make an exception to state building, safety, and health codes and build houses so small, they wouldn't ordinarily be approved for construction. The new residences will measure 70 square feet for individuals and 120 square feet for couples. It's still unknown how many people the program will accommodate.

Cute as they may be, tiny houses are often illegal.

tiny house side

Many US city and county governments (including San Jose prior to this new law)do not authorize residences under a certain square footage. Development codes have requirements related to plumbing, utilities, and building foundations that such unconventional dwellings don't meet.

That's unfortunate, because tiny homes offer a creative solution to the homelessness crisis. Tiny homes cost between $200 and $400 per square foot, depending on the materials used and their extravagance, according to Forbes, while the median list price in San Jose is $515 per square foot. Earlier this year, the city became the first in the US where the average home costs over $1 million.

Coyote Creek Homeless San Jose 6

In San Jose, where many of the city's homeless stay in camps along trails, creeks, and rivers, something had to give. The city declared a "shelter crisis" back in December for the purpose of building homes that skirt existing development codes, according to the Mercury News.

"This law really is the first of its kind," Ray Bramson, San Jose's homeless response manager, tells the Mercury News. "It will allow us to create bridge housing opportunities — a stable place people can live and stay while they're waiting to be placed in a permanent home."

San Jose isn't the first city to build tiny houses for the homeless. A number of cities, including Austin, Texas; Detroit, Michigan; and Portland, Oregon, have experimented with "tiny villages" for the homeless. Residents of these villages speaking to the media describe a sense of pride in their communities.

tiny house home homeless

In Austin, the creator of one such village estimates it will save taxpayers up to $3 million annually that's normally spent on medical bills and criminal justice expenses for the homeless.

San Jose plans to hold a competition where people can submit designs for the new homes. Cost effectiveness and the ability to duplicate homes easily are two major criteria, according to Bramson. The future locations of the tiny homes is still to be determined.

The law that temporarily allows their construction in San Jose will be suspended in 2022, when the city will evaluate the program's impact.

Should it prove successful, other cities in California might look to San Jose to see how it's done.

SEE ALSO: A former San Francisco mayor wants to put the city's homeless on a Navy ship

Join the conversation about this story »

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11 daily questions that could improve your life forever



Benjamin Franklin began and ended each day with a question: "What good shall I do this day?" in the morning, and "What good have I done this day?" in the evening.

In fact, many great thinkers embraced the idea of constantly questioning things.

As Albert Einstein reportedly said, "Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning."

Of course, getting into the habit of self-reflection is easier said than done, as we often prefer to avoid asking ourselves the tough questions. As philosopher and psychologist John Dewey explained in his 1910 book, "How We Think," reflective thinking involves overcoming our predisposition to accept things at face value and the willingness to endure mental unrest.

But enduring this discomfort is well worth the effort, as it can result in the confidence boost necessary to perform better in our work and daily lives.

To help kickstart your habit of self-reflection, here are 11 daily questions you can start asking today:

'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?'

In 2005, about a year after he received his pancreatic cancer diagnosis, Apple's then-CEO Steve Jobs told Stanford's graduating class that, for 33 years, he would look in the mirror every morning and ask himself, "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?"

If the answer was "No" for too many days in a row, he says he know he needed to change something.

"Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important," Jobs explained. "Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

'How do I see myself?

"This questions gets at your likely unspoken beliefs about who you are," writes Wanleo.com founder and CEO Deena Varshavskaya on Quora.

She says that changing how you see yourself in various situations can also change your actions and, ultimately, who you are.

"An example: if you see yourself as an unproven entrepreneur, the focus of your actions will be to prepare for later when you are more proven. By changing this to start looking at yourself simply as a hard working and capable entrepreneur, you can change what actions you take, who you chose to speak to, and so on," she writes

'Is getting rich worth it?'

"It changed the way I looked at life, and it might change yours too," writes Quora user David Liew

Liew points to another Quora user's response to the Quora question, "Is getting rich is worth it?" as one of the most insightful responses:

"Most people hold the illusion that if only they had more money, their life would be better and they would be happier. Then they get rich, and that doesn't happen, and it can throw them into a serious life crisis.

If you're part of the middle class, you have just as many opportunities to do with your life what you want of it. If you're not happy now, you won't be happy because of money."

Asking if getting rich is worth what you're about to do or if it's worth being your primary motivator daily could help you adjust your priorities and prevent you from making some big mistakes.

'What is my biggest strength?'

VaynerMedia CEO and cofounder Gary Vaynerchuk writes on Quora that asking this question is the key to loving your job.

As he explains, so many people have jobs they hate because they haven't found their true passion yet. "They are good at a few things, so that's what they do here and there, but they aren't sure what that one big thing they want to do forever could be," he says.

"Stop doing stuff you hate. Nail down your strengths so you can discover your passion," he advises.

'What pain do I want in my life?'

Happiness requires struggle, as well as an understanding of what we are willing to struggle for, writes self-development blogger Mark Manson.

"What determines your success isn't 'What do you want to enjoy?' The question is, "What pain do you want to sustain?' The quality of your life is not determined by the quality of your positive experiences but the quality of your negative experiences. And to get good at dealing with negative experiences is to get good at dealing with life," Manson explains.

'What was different then from now?'

If you're struggling to start a new habit, "Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives" author Gretchen Rubin suggests thinking about a time in the past when you successfully changed your behavior.

Asking yourself, "What was different then from now?" can help you figure out what factors helped you successfully change your behavior in the past so that you can emulate them going forward.

"If you set it up in a way that's right for you, you're going to have much better success," Rubin told psychologist Ron Friedman at the Peak Work Performance Summit.

'How are you doing?'

Quora user Michael Hopkins writes: "It's silly, but it all started when I watched an episode of 'The Tick' where the Tick travels on a quest inside his own mind to seek the answer to any one question. When he finally meets his inner being, and can ask any question he wants, he asks something like, 'How are you doing?'

"I took from that a very profoundly meaningful lesson: At the center of each of us, this is the most basic and truest and most important question. It leads to so many internal conversations that we would all be better off having with ourselves each day."

'Why so serious?'

"I tend to fuss over little things and don't feel quite alright until I get them done in the manner I desire," writes Quora user Soham Banerjee. The question is a good reminder to us all not to take life so seriously all the time and can help put things in perspective.

"And also, asking that question in the Joker's voice is fun," he notes.

'Do I pick partners and friends who support me, challenge me, encourage me, and help me grow?'

Quora user Nela Canovi says: "There is a saying that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. Think about the people in your life. Are the people close to you helping you grow as a human being? Or do you spend time with people who don't respect their own time (and therefore won't respect yours), who drain your energy, who are negative and only like to complain, and who exemplify a 'fixed mindset' instead of a 'growth mindset' so that at the end of the day you struggle to understand why you don't feel happy and energized around them?

"Be selective about who you keep in your inner circle of friends. Surround yourself with people based on your common interests, your values, the things you consider important to your personal growth, as well as how you value time, knowledge, and friendship."

'Did I do my best to set clear goals today? Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?'

These are actually two out of 32 questions Marshall Goldsmith asks himself daily, as Business Insider previously reported.

Goldsmith writes on his blog that he challenges himself every day by answering questions that represent behavior that he knows is important, but that is easy for him to neglect given the pressures of daily life.

Of these questions, six are what he calls "active questions," and he believes they can help set anyone up to be more successful.

Specifically, they are:

  1. "Did I do my best to increase my happiness?"
  2. "Did I do my best to find meaning?"
  3. "Did I do my best to be engaged?"
  4. "Did I do my best to build positive relationships?"
  5. "Did I do my best to set clear goals?"
  6. "Did I do my best to make progress toward goal achievement?"

As Goldsmith explains, "There is a huge difference between 'Do you have clear goals?' and 'Did you do your best to set clear goals for yourself?' The former is trying to determine your state of mind; the latter challenges you to describe or defend a course of action." It injects accountability into the equation.

He says there's nothing wrong about asking passive questions, but, "when asked exclusively, passive questions can become the natural enemy of taking personal responsibility and demonstrating accountability. They can give people permission to 'pass the buck' to anyone and anything but themselves!"

'What went well today?'

Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino and her colleagues asked workers to spend 15 minutes at the end of their workdays writing about what went well that day, and they found that the journaling employees had 22.8% higher performance than those who didn't ponder on their workday.

As former Tech Insider reporter Drake Baer points out, reflecting on the day's successes can help you incorporate those lessons into the next day. "It's like the process of 'iteration' that startup folks are always talking about. You introduce a stimulus, gather the data of your experience, and then improve from there," he writes.

It's worth noting that study participants didn't simply think about what went well, but wrote their responses down. "It's very easy to deceive yourself if you're just thinking about it," Gino notes, "but when you write things down on paper, it's easier to identify what's helpful."

Some responses have been edited for clarity.

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These clever photos show how faces change as they age


Bobby at 6 and 36

Bobby Neel Adams was 36 when he noticed how much he resembled a picture of himself at age 6. He was inspired to create a composite image, splicing a new photo of himself with the image of him as a kid.

This was back in 1989, so he couldn't use modern techniques.

"In the darkroom I sized up both images to the same proportions and made prints," Adams wrote in an email. "Once these photographs were dry I tore the most recent portrait and laid it on top of the school photo, gluing it down the rubber cement."

Adams continued using the same method for dozens of works in his "Age Map" series. Since then, he has explored other strange techniques, including splicing photos of couples and family members and, most recently, posing dead creatures in beautifully haunting scenes (currently showing in Brooklyn).

Adams shared a set from "Age Maps" below.

SEE ALSO: 10 photo visualizations that reveal hidden worlds

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Lorna at 7 and 25

Sally at 14 and 62

Chris at 12 and 45

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The richest village in China is one of the most mysterious places on earth

Lots of people with chronic pain are turning to 'alternative' medicine


cupping therapy acupuncture

A lot of people are in pain.

According to a government report released Wednesday, 54.5% of US adults live with a "musculoskeletal" pain disorder such a arthritis, lower back pain, sciatica, or other problems of the joints and muscles of the body.

But that's not really new information. Here's what is new though: People with these disorders use alternative medicine — treatments doctors typically do not prescribe, often for lack of scientific grounding — far more than the general population. 

National Institutes of Health (NIH) researchers found that 41.6% of people with musculoskeletal pain disorders use what the report calls "complementary health approaches." Compare that to just 24.1% of people without such disorders. 

The data came from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey, which is the most recent of the annual surveys to specifically examine alternative medicine practices.

Here are some highlights from the data:

  • People with neck problems were by far the most likely to turn to alternative medicine, at a rate of 50.6%.
  • Most people with musculoskeletal pain disorders who use alternative medicine aren't actually using it to directly treat the disorders. The number doing that is much smaller: 14%.
  • Almost 25% of people with musculoskeletal pain disorders use natural supplements, compared to just 13.4% without. These can be any of thousands of herbal pills and other concoctions often sold without peer-reviewed research or FDA oversight.
  • Almost 15% use what the report calls "mind and body" approaches, such as the exercise practices yoga or tai chi. That's compared to 10.2% without.
  • More than 18% saw alternative practitioners, like chiropractors and osteopathic manipulators, compared to just 6.9% of the general population. Chiropracty, osteopathy, and a third system known as the Alexander technique rely on the outdated belief that illness arises from misalignment of the body and can be treated by adjusting the body's posture.
  • And 5.3% used what the report calls "whole medical systems." Those are practices like Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine), acupuncture (a therapy involving puncturing the body with needles),homeopathy (a pseudoscience involving tiny doses of disease agents), naturopathy (a loosely-defined system of "natural" remedies), and traditional healers. Compare that to just 2.5% of those without such pain disorders.

It's difficult to draw specific conclusions from this report. NIH researchers are just digging into their piles of data, finding an interesting trend, and presenting it.

There's no causality here, and people in the 2012 survey didn't explain their decisions. Plus, a majority of those with the pain disorders didn't report using these therapies directly to treat their pain.

Further, the scientific grounding for the treatments described in the report vary wildly. Yoga offers some clear benefits, and treatments like acupuncture have some firm scientific grounding. Others on the list, less so.

What this report reinforces is that a lot of people in the US are living with pain that the medical system may not be adequately handling. And many of them appear to be looking for solutions elsewhere.

SEE ALSO: You and your kids have very different ideas about what makes a good person

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What it's really like to work as a TSA officer


TSA students

When Jason Pockett joined the TSA in 2010, he said his intentions weren't wholly altruistic.

"In all honesty, what brought me to the TSA was the health insurance and the pay," Pocket told Business Insider.

"I didn't know what TSA really was other than airport security. But once I got there I realized the importance of the job."

Before joining the US Transportation Safety Administration as a transportation security officer, or TSO, Pockett was a youth pastor at a church. He spent two years working as a TSO in California before joining the TSA Academy team at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Glynco, Georgia, as a training instructor.

"When I came to TSA, saw what they were about, and realized the importance of what they have to do with protecting the nation — making sure airplanes stay in the air — it clicked with me and it became that career," Pockett said. "It made it so I wanted to be here to ensure the safety of all the traveling public."

In July, Business Insider visited FLETC and spoke with academy instructors and recruits to learn more about what it's really like to join the TSA as an officer, and then we followed up with the agency's head recruiter for more details.

Here's what they told us.

SEE ALSO: 'You're at war': I went inside the new TSA Academy, where officers learn to detect bombs, spot weapons, and find out why failure isn't an option

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Who are the TSA?

Willie Gilbreath, a retired veteran from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and incoming TSO, told Business Insider that his perception of the TSA was pretty vague before joining. "I didn't know a lot about it. Going through the airport, I wasn't really paying attention to those people. I was like everyone else. I wanted to get through as fast as possible.

"But now that I'm into the process and I'm starting to learn some of the procedures and some of the things that we're looking for, I understand why it takes a little bit longer. Now, my perception is, I'd rather take a little bit longer and be safe than to rush through the process and have something go wrong or have something slip through."

Gilbreath said he found his TSO job through a veterans' website. "The job popped up and I said, 'Wow, an opportunity to get a job with the federal government. I better jump on this.'"

Diane Brundidge, the executive director of recruitment and hiring at the TSA, said it's helpful if applicants have done similar work, like security at a non-federalized airport or security work in the government. Many TSOs have law-enforcement, military, or security background, and 17% of TSOs are veterans.

Gilbreath said he's able to apply some of the skills he has as a veteran to the job of a TSO. In the military, he said you learn "the skills to assess a situation and to actually have the discernment to understand a threat. You learn how to actually guard and protect.

"The only thing about this job is you've got to learn how to serve the public, too," he added. "That's the aspect I'm going to have to work on, because in the military it's a little bit different. It's more protection than service. This is service and protection."

Finding the right people

All the incoming TSOs Business Insider spoke with said they had heard about the job through an online job site.

"I always wanted to do something important to me — I always wanted to help someone," said Carmen Guzman, and incoming TSO from Stockton, California. "When I was looking online, I came across TSA. I was pretty curious, so I started looking into more information about that and how they wanted to protect people when they flew."

Internet job listings aren't the only way the TSA recruits.

"We really satisfy ourselves at the length we go to advertise," Brundidge said.

Among other places, the TSA recruits at colleges, universities, military bases, and military-transition assistance programs. It advertises on college listserves and on the side of buses. "We target it to the area that we're in. If we're in Martha's Vineyard, we'll put it on the side of a boat ... We're very astute to what gets attention, and based on the number of applications we receive, we know it's working."

Brundidge said the TSA received more than 200,000 applications in 2015.

Getting the job

"We're hiring constantly," Brundidge said. "There are 100 or so job-opportunity announcements open at any given time, and we always have people in our 'ready pool' ready to hire."

The TSA ramps up its hiring efforts before anticipated surges and converts people from part-time to full-time during busy periods.

From its pool of applications, the TSA will first invite some people to take its computer-based test. Applicants are tested on things such as imaging, color-blindness, and English proficiency.

From there, applicants go through airport assessments, which is sort of like a job interview. That's followed by a medical exam and pre-hire background checks, where the TSA will take fingerprints, perform a criminal background check, and check to see if applicants are on the terrorist watch list, among other things.

If all goes well, applicants then go into the "ready pool," and, once there is a job vacancy, the TSA will present a tentative job offer, where they'll be invited to participate in job training.

The starting salary ranges from about $15 to $22 an hour, and both full-time and part-time employees get benefits.

"I would love to, personally, raise that salary, but that's legislature," Brundidge added.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

5 questions to ask before making any big purchase


Chase post #2

Chase has teamed up with The Players' Tribune and Business Insider to present "Letter to My Younger Self," a series in which athletes reflect on their biggest lessons learned — from finance to relationships to careers. Readers will also discover how to apply specific financial learnings to their own lives.

It's natural to want to do everything we can for our loved ones—and that can often involve spending money. But no matter how good your intentions, there are always financial realities.

Research by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows the majority of American households have less than one month of income in readily accessible savings. This lack of emergency money means every purchase has to be considered for its potential long-term impact.

So whether you're a family on a budget or a young couple only responsible for yourselves, thinking through every financial decision is important. Here are five questions to ask before making your next big purchase:

1. How will it impact those around me?

When making a big purchase for a relative, or the whole family, it's worth involving them in the process. You all have different perspectives and share the same pool of money, so it's only fair that everyone's opinion is considered.

Ask why this item is important, and use the answers to develop a clear idea of who it will benefit, and why. If the family member is too young or old to help inform that decision, then do your best to understand what their point of view would be on the topic.

2. Is it a replacement, or something new?

If you're buying something new, ask yourself: Do I really need this? You've gone this long without it, so ask yourself why now is the right time for the purchase. Identifying the real motivation for buying something—whether that's social pressure, a personal pick-me-up, or something else—will help you make a smarter decision.

If you're considering a replacement item, look at whether you really need it now. If the answer is yes, then consider spending more on a quality product that will last longer.

3. How much (time) is it worth?

It's far easier to spend money than earn it. Think about this the next time you're ready to click the “buy" button, or swipe your credit card. Ask yourself how many hours of pay the purchase will cost you. If the use of your time can be justified, then it's a sign of a worthwhile investment.

Also consider alternative uses for that money. If there are more beneficial ways you could be spending it, then you know what should be done.

4. What's happened with past purchases?

If you have a good track record of making big purchases, without regret or lasting credit card debt, then you have reason to be confident in your judgment. If not, think back to your last big purchase and learn from your mistake.

It's very easy to make the same mistake again—that's how they become bad habits. If you have feelings of guilt or uncertainty at the cash register, think it over for 24 hours.

5. Is this the best deal?

This is a question for you as much as for the salesperson you're dealing with. You should compare quotes and check other outlets for the best price.

Ask the salesperson if they can give you a better deal. It can help to shop around the end of the month or quarter when there are sales targets to be met and there may be more flexibility.

Asking these questions before making a big purchase will put you in a better position to give your family every opportunity without walking a financial tightrope.

For more tips and resources on mastering your finances, visit chase.com/financialfitness.

This post is sponsored by Chase.


SEE ALSO: More Letter to My Younger Self

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Most vitamins are useless, but here are the ones you should take


health food store vitamins natural organic

It seems like simple, obvious advice: Eat your vegetables, get some exercise, and — of course — take your vitamins.

Or not.

Decades of research has failed to find any substantial evidence that vitamins and supplements do any significant good. In fact, recent studies skew in the opposite direction, having found that certain vitamins may be bad for you. Several have been linked with an increase in certain cancers, for example, while others have been tied to a rise in the risk of kidney stones.

And a large new study out Wednesday suggests that despite this growing knowledge, Americans' pill-popping habits have stayed basically the same over the last decade.

So here are the vitamins and supplements you should take — and the ones you should avoid:

UP NEXT: Most dietary supplements are useless, but here are the ones you should take

SEE ALSO: A 4-year-old who overdosed on vitamins reveals why we should never have told people to start taking them

Multivitamins: Skip them — you get everything you need with a balanced diet.

For decades, it was assumed that multivitamins were critical to overall health. Vitamin C to "boost your immune system," Vitamin A to protect your vision, Vitamin B to keep you energized.

Not only do you already get these ingredients from the food you eat, but studies suggest that consuming them in excess can actually cause harm. A large 2011 study of close to 39,000 older women over 25 years found that women who took them in the long term actually had a higher overall risk of death than those who did not.

Vitamin D: Take it — It helps keep your bones strong and it's hard to get from food.

Vitamin D isn't present in most of the foods we eat, but it's a critical ingredient that keeps our bones strong by helping us absorb calcium. Getting sunlight helps our bodies produce it as well, but it can be tough to get enough in the winter. Several recent study reviews have found that people who took Vitamin D supplements daily lived longer, on average, than those who didn't.

Antioxidants: Skip them — an excess of these has been linked to an increased risk of certain cancers, and you can eat berries instead.

Vitamins A, C, and E are antioxidants found in plentiful form in many fruits — especially berries — and veggies, and they've been touted for their alleged ability to protect against cancer.

But studies suggest that when taken in excess, antioxidants can actually be harmful. A large, long-term study of male smokers found that those who regularly took Vitamin A were more likely to get lung cancer than those who didn't. And a 2007 review of trials of several different types of antioxidant supplements put it this way: "Treatment with beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E may increase mortality."

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

A new company found a way to take the hassle out of reusing water bottles


que bottle

Water bottles are super useful until they're empty. Then you just have an empty tube to carry around.

An alternative to that hassle is to buy disposable plastic bottles, but those aren't exactly environmentally friendly.

Jean and Kevin Wu have a better way to avoid that dilemma: que Bottle.

What starts as an 8.4-inch, 20-ounce bottle when full can be compressed to a 4.8-inch "cube" when empty. Que Bottle also comes in a smaller, 12-ounce model that squishes into an even tinier cube. Both are made entirely of food-grade silicone and come with a leak-proof stainless steel cap.

Jean and Kevin say they came up with the idea after attending too many music festivals where the easiest choice for portable drinking water was disposable plastic bottles. The two entrepreneurs launched a Kickstarter campaign for the que Bottle October 4, and have already surpassed their fundraising goal.

"We just thought it was so bad for the environment that people were buying all these bottles of water and then just throwing them away," Jean told Digital Trends.

que bottle According to the Kickstarter campaign, the que Bottle can handle hot liquids up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, is dishwasher safe, and is taste- and odor-free.

"Unlike metal or plastic containers, silicone WILL NOT change the taste of your water," they write. "It's the water bottle that has the best qualities of glass and metal, with the added benefit of being flexible, light, and shatter resistant."

The bottle was also designed with a wide mouth to accommodate full-sized ice cubes.

que bottleUnlike aluminum bottles, which may dent or break over time, the makers of que Bottle say their silicone bottle is highly durable. If you drop it, the bottle might flop around awkwardly, like a fish out of water, but it won't crack or leak.

The bottle is currently available for pre-orders as part of the Kickstarter campaign, where it's selling for $22. It will retail for $25 after the campaign ends.

SEE ALSO: This 'self-filling' water bottle turns air into drinking water

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NOW WATCH: Watch a hydraulic press crush a coconut to smithereens

PHOTOS: What it's like to vacation in America's most expensive summer destinations


catalina island

We've given you a glimpse into the fabulous lives of the super rich, noted some of the outrageous things they can buy with their billions, and taken you on a tour of their lavish homes— but how, and where, do the rich spend their summers?

Using Travel Magazine's ranking of the most expensive summer destinations in the US, we've highlighted a handful of resort cities, celebrity playgrounds, and chic summer spots. 

Scroll through to see where the rich and famous are chilling this summer:

SEE ALSO: 25 pictures that take you inside the luxurious mansions of the super rich

The Hamptons, New York

The Hamptons, a cluster of affluent communities on Long Island’'s South Fork, are known as the "celebrity summer playground" for a reason. Beyoncé, Scarlett Johansson, and Alec Baldwin are just a fraction of the stars who own homes at the chic summer destination.

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Source: Curbed

New York-based Hamptonites can head out on the Long Island Rail Road or Hampton Jitney, a privately owned bus service ... or, in lieu of a private jet, they can use Blade, an Uber-like helicopter service between New York City and the Hamptons. A one-way trip will set you back a minimum of $495.

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Source: The New York Times

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

8 things you should always buy with a credit card


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Credit cards often get a bad rap.

"There isnopositive side to credit card use," personal finance guru Dave Ramsey wrote on his website. He has a good point, as our consumer-driven society makes it incredibly easy to spiral into credit card debt.

However, advantages to credit cards include the purchase and fraud protection they offer, and the fact that using them allows you to build the credit required for major purchases in the future, like a home or car. There are some situations when it's smarter to choose credit over debit — as long as you pay your bills on time, that is.

Now that that's out of the way, use your credit card responsibly for these eight types of purchases:

Kathleen Elkins contributed to an earlier version of this article.

SEE ALSO: 12 sneaky ways online retailers get you to spend more

1. Online purchases

It's better to be overly cautious and use credit over debit — particularly if you're buying from a smaller and less established company.

2. Flights

It's smart to use a credit card with built-in travel protection when buying flights, as you never know when something might come up.

3. Items from small vendors

If you're at a flea market, food festival, or buying from a vendor on the street who accepts cards, err on the side of caution and use credit.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Take a behind-the-scenes look at how the wine gets made at New York City's coolest winery


Wine, grapes

At Manhattan's City Winery, located in the heart of Tribeca, over 300 barrels of wine are aging to perfection.

The fully functioning winery, which produces over 6,200 cases of wine a year, is also a music venue and restaurant — creating a unique culinary experience for attendees.

Business Insider recently went behind the scenes to see just how the urban winemaking process works.

SEE ALSO: Go inside America's largest diamond factory, which is leading a revolution in the jewelry industry

On the morning we arrived, six tons of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, one ton of Pinot Noir grapes, and about four tons of Roussanne white wine grapes, had just been shipped in.

The Cab grapes are grown in Yountville, a landmark vineyard in Napa Valley.

The Pinot grapes came in from Durant vineyard in Willamette Valley, Oregon — and the Roussanne is from Alder Spring vineyard, located in Mendocino, California.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

The plant-based burger that tastes like real meat is coming to the West Coast


impossible foods meatless burger 0103

The bloody, plant-based burger developed by startup Impossible Foods has been backed by Bill Gates and served by David Chang of the Momofuku empire in New York City.

Now, the burger that looks like meat, smells like meat, but isn't really meat, is coming to the West Coast.

Up until now, the burger has only been available at Chang's Nishi restaurant in New York City. On Wednesday, Impossible Foods announced it's teaming up with three award-winning restaurants in California that will begin serving the meatless burger later this week.

Jardinière and Cockscomb in San Francisco and Crossroads Kitchen in Los Angeles will sell the burger first-come, first-serve, starting at $14.

Chefs will prepare the plant-based "meat" in ways they see fit.

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Traci Des Jardins, owner of Jardinière and a consulting chef at Impossible Foods, will serve the burger with caramelized onion, avocado, and "special sauce."  Earlier this year, the James Beard Award-winning chef prepared the burger for media reviewers.

Chef Tal Ronnen of Crossroads Kitchen previously cofounded a plant-based dairy startup, Kite Hill, alongside Patrick Brown, the CEO of Impossible Foods. His restaurant will serve the burger with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and a custom sauce.

Cockscomb's Chris Cosentino, an ardent meat lover who calls the Impossible Burger a "game changer," will put his own spin on it with a preparation of caramelized onions, lettuce, gruyere, and dijon.

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Impossible Foods came onto the food scene in 2015 when Google reportedly made a bid to buy the startup for between $200 and $300 million. The two allegedly couldn't agree on a selling price, but the startup has so far raised $182 million in funding from Swiss venture firm UBS, Gates, Google Ventures, and others.

The Impossible Burger has been years in the making.

The public got its first taste of the meatless burger at Nishi, a restaurant in New York and the newest location in Chef Chang's food empire. The Impossible Burger comes "Nishi-style," on a potato bun with pickles, lettuce, and a slice of American cheese. It sells for $12.

Kim Renfro eats the Impossible Foods burger at Momofuku Nishi

My colleague Kim Renfro tried the menu item at Nishi earlier this year and fell in love. Renfro, a longtime vegetarian, called the meatless burger a "dream come true" and raved about the patty's beefy texture and aroma. She said it was the most realistic meat alternative she's eaten.

I had the chance to try the Impossible Burger at the company's headquarters last week. Though not Chef Chang's preparation, the burger still beat any dry, crumbling veggie burger I've had before.

The patty seared on the grill, leaking blood-red juices just like real beef. The outside crisped and darkened, while the inside stayed pink and slightly rubbery.

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While not indistinguishable from cow's meat, in my opinion, the burger piled underneath fresh toppings and a Thousand Island dressing was meaty enough.

At the time of the tasting, Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown said the company remains several years away from bringing the Impossible Burger to grocery stores, as its competitor Beyond Meat has done. A massive restaurant expansion is in the works for mid-2017, Brown said.

Until then, meat- and animal-lovers alike can try the Impossible Burger and judge its authenticity for themselves by visiting one of the restaurants that serves it.

SEE ALSO: The biggest meat processor in the US is investing in a startup that makes fake meat

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: We did a blind taste test of fast-food burgers

The most expensive housing market in every state


Boulder Colorado

Coldwell Banker recently released its annual Home Listing Report, which ranks the most expensive places to purchase homes in America.

Though California dominated the overall rankings, expensive homes dot the entire country. Business Insider pulled the top ranking city in each state from the report, which range from average listing prices of over $1 million in California and Connecticut to those coming in under $300,000 in places such as Arkansas and Kentucky.

To determine the most expensive cities, Coldwell Banker analyzed the average listing price of more than 50,000 four-bedroom, two-bathroom homes for the period between January 2016 and June 2016. The ranking covered 2,168 markets across the US, excluding any with fewer than 10 listings. Note that just as prices vary by location, the size of these homes can vary significantly by market as well. 

Read on to see where to find the most expensive housing market in your state.

SEE ALSO: The 25 most expensive housing markets in the US

DON'T MISS: Here's what a one-bedroom apartment looks like in America's 20 most expensive rental markets

ALABAMA: Fairhope

Population: 18,730

Average cost of a 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom house: $359,633

Median household income: $58,767

ALASKA: Anchorage

Population: 298,695

Average cost of a 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom house: $378,686

Median household income: $78,121

ARIZONA: Scottsdale

Population: 236,839

Average cost of a 4-bedroom, 2-bathroom house: $530,372

Median household income: $72,455

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Inside the Bill Gates-backed startup on a mission to reinvent meat


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The world's population could reach nine billion people by 2050.

The bad news for carnivores: There aren't enough resources on the planet to support sustainable animal agriculture at that scale. Raising chickens, pigs, and cattle already takes up 30% of the Earth's surface.

A number of companies are tackling the challenge with meat and dairy alternatives, but one stealthy startup out of Redwood City, California, has garnered buzz with a veggie burger it says is indistinguishable from real beef.

Impossible Foods recognizes that most veggie burgers resemble pan-fried Frisbees more closely than meat. Their mission to reinvent the burger targets the most ardent meat-lovers, with an offering that sizzles, smells, and even bleeds on the griddle.

The Impossible Burger became available at Momofuku Nishi in New York over the summer. Starting October 13, people on the West Coast can try the burger at three restaurants in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Business Insider recently toured the lab and test kitchen at Impossible Food's headquarters to see how the future of plant-based meat comes together.

In a Redwood City, California, office building with blacked-out windows, scientists, foodies, and Silicon Valley veterans work on making the perfect veggie burger.

But don't call it a "veggie burger" within earshot of founder Pat Brown and his team. In 2011, they set out on a mission to make a plant-based burger unmistakably meaty. While a black bean or mushroom burger fools no one, the Impossible Burger might.

"I have no reason to believe cows make the best meat," Chris Davis, director of research and development at Impossible Foods, tells Business Insider.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

11 websites every modern gentleman should bookmark



Websites almost feel passé in the world of apps.

But as anyone who works at a desk for a living can tell you, we still spend a lot of time staring at computer monitors, looking at websites.

We've put together a list of websites you should visit every so often to make sure you're the best person and man you can be.

We've covered everything from how you dress to how you manage your money, so you can be the true renaissance man you know you are.

SEE ALSO: 14 books every modern gentleman should read

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If you're a fan of pricey watches, and you're not reading Hodinkee yet, you should be.

There's no better place to learn about luxury watches on the internet – no matter if you're already an expert or a complete novice on the subject. They have plenty of catch-up material to get you up to speed on everything, as well as news about the latest and greatest in the world of horology.


InsideHook is a men's interest blog dedicated to the finer things in life. That includes travel, food and drink, style, and more.

The goal here is to tell you what you need to know about men's lifestyle as efficiently as possible in a stylish way.


You wouldn't think of going on a vacation without hitting up TripAdvisor and seeing how everyone has ranked the coolest spots.

Sure, it'll only give you some of the most popular place — no deep cuts here. But it'll help you avoid some of the spots that just aren't worth the hype.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

11 photos of urban coincidences that will make you look twice


'Latte Revolution'

Eight people walking with lattes in hand; an intersection full of people carrying balloons; eight people yawning at once. These scenes lie somewhere between fantasy and reality, says photographer Peter Funch.

Funch’s best-known work, "Babel Tales," combines multiple photos from locations in Manhattan to create uncanny coincidences.

"Humans most often can only experience time in a linear manner," Funch said in a 2013 interview. "Breaking away from a linear perspective of time does not make an image 'untrue.’"

Funch has experimented with temporal perspective in other series, taking simultaneous pictures of an event from multiple perspectives and recreating postcards in modern photos. He shared a selection from "Babel Tales" below.

SEE ALSO: These clever photos show how faces change as they age

DON'T MISS: 10 photo visualizations that reveal hidden worlds

"Memory Lane"

"Screaming Dreamers"

"Hommage A Ellis." Says Funch: "This is taken right when Recession hit America in 2008 outside Wall Street on the Friday when it was Halloween." See if you can spot the psycho killer.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider
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