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Toys 'R' Us CEO Reveals The Real Reason Why Sales Are Down


toys r us

Toys 'R' Us CEO Jerry Storch is tired of hearing about how Amazon and "showrooming" are driving business into the ground. 

While Toys 'R' Us sales are down this year, it's not because consumers are using the store to as a "showroom" to look at product they later order from Amazon, Storch told us at an event at the store's NYC flagship today. 

The real reason why Toys 'R' Us sales are down is because video games are flopping, down 30 percent in the past year. 

"There just hasn't been much excitement in that category and it drags the rest of sales down," Storch said. "It's not that the internet is taking away our business, which is a popular story." 

Toys 'R' Us actually leads in market share and has almost double the customers that Amazon does, according to data by NPD Group. 

Storch said the decline in video game sales can be attributed to a lack of new products or innovations.

But that will change soon with the release of Nintendo's long-awaited Wii U. How the Wii U sells at holiday will have big implications for the video game industry. 

For now, Toys 'R' Us is focusing on getting exclusive products that no one else has. 

"If you have exciting products, people are going to buy them," Storch said. "That's the bottom line." 

DON'T MISS: The New Kindle Fires Will Display Ads On Their Lock Screens >

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Sears Accidentally Put Up Another NSFW Listing For Lingerie



Sears seems to be having a problem keeping overly exposed women from popping up on its website.

The latest image, which is for the Morris Babydoll Mesh & Lace, is on sale at Sears for $25.25, and shows a lot more of the model than Sears would want you to see (we've added a black bar.) 

It wants to be elegant and toned down, and it definitely doesn't feel the need to flash any nipple on its website.

A link to the listing was first posted on Reddit.

Now when you head over to the page, it tells you: "While the product you were looking for is no longer available, take a look at these related items."

It happened earlier this year as well. One of Sears' Valentine's Day offering showed far more than Sears would've liked, and the company was pretty embarrassed by it.

Here's the explanation that Sears spokesperson Tom Aiello gave to Forbes' Kashmir Hill the last time it happened:

“The terms on our Marketplace prohibit images from displaying nudity and see-through clothing.  Most often, we see third party sellers blocking out the nudity in the images,” says Aiello. “We perform ad-hoc content audits to remove inappropriate items and  also take customer feedback and react very quickly.”

This one appears to be from third-party seller Fright Depot, and it wasn't changed to be appropriate for the Sears site, according to Neetzan Zimmerman at Gawker.

NOW SEE: The 11 Most Infamous Companies In The World >

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STUDY: The Children Of The Rich Are More Likely To Keep Living At Home


woman on couch

It's no surprise that with reports of the record number of 20-somethings living at home with their parents that someone would do a study on it.

Australian researchers from the Melbourne Institute and the Research School of Economics have paired up and conducted interviews with 18-to-20-year-olds over the past decade, focusing on the socioeconomic situation of the subjects' families and how that influenced the likelihood that they would move home and/or receive financial help from their parents.

What they found wasn't altogether too shocking. Young adults from disadvantaged families were more likely to be independent and receive little to no financial aid than their more privileged counterparts.

The study found that 75% of 20-year-olds from privileged backgrounds still lived at home or received financial help in contrast to less than two-thirds of those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

The researchers concluded it came down to whether or not the family could afford to support their grown children.

"Some families lack the necessary resources," states Deborah Cobb-Clark, the director of the Melbourne Institute and co-author of the study, in her conclusion, "while others may simply be unwilling to continue to support their children after they reach adulthood."

The study determined if a family was considered "disadvantaged" by their welfare history, and not by the annual household income. It therefore did not account for any disparity between a middle class household and a wealthy one.

Now meet the world's hottest billionaire offspring >

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New York's 'Dine In The Dark' Restaurant Is Sponsoring A Halloween Screaming Contest


Dans le Noir? dining in the dark restaurant new york

Dining in a pitch black restaurant is an experience all to itself. It's easy to get spooked by sitting in the dark, eating food you can't see.

But adding a Halloween-themed screaming contest to the mix? That just sounds unnecessarily terrifying.

Dans Le Noir, the New York City restaurant where patrons dine in the dark, is hosting a Halloween contest for "the most horrible shout in the dark," Eater is reporting.

I, personally, enjoyed my experience at Dans Le Noir, but adding people intermittently shrieking sounds like it would ruin the experience and enjoyment of the food.

The person with the loudest and most terrifying scream will win a dinner for two and a bottle of wine at the restaurant. 

DON'T MISS: I Just Ate At The Most Amazing Restaurant In The World >

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10 Scientifically Proven Ways To Spice Up Your Sex Life


couple love phone cameraIt's a rare to find someone who doesn't want to find a way to ramp up his or her sex life.

We're here to help.

We broke down 10 recent scientific studies that found some surprising ways to improve life in the bedroom, from your liquor intake to your furniture color.

Wear red if you want to land a partner in the first place.

It takes two to tango, after all.

A University of Rochester psychologist's study showed that men rated women who wore a shade of crimson as more attractive. The hue of red helped alter the male perception of how attractive the female was, but it didn't change how they rated personality, intelligence, or competence.

"Men also were more likely to say they wanted to have sex with a woman and that they would be willing to spend more on a date if she were in red," according to the report in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Practice your downward-facing dog.

A study in India showed that men looking to prolong their orgasm saw improvements after practicing yoga for an hour each day.

The study showed that men were able to triple the amount of time they lasted in the sack after taking up yoga.

The research concluded that the stretching and isometric holds in yoga improved core strength and pelvic muscle control, which helped prolong the time until the male orgasmed.

Speak up in the bedroom.

People who speak up about what they want in bed were more satisfied in bed, a study in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found.

Those who talked about sex while participating in the act were even more sexually satisfied, the study showed.

If you're afraid to verbalize exactly what you want, start with non-verbal cues to signal to your partner your desires.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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There's An Interesting Meaning Behind These 'Black And White' Burgers From McDonald's In China


mcdonalds black and white burgers

McDonald's has some strange menu items around the world, but this limited-time offering combo pack in China is particularly bizarre.

It's a Black and White Hamburger combo, reports Brian Ashcraft at Kotaku.

The black burger has white sesame seeds, black pepper sauce and onions. 

The white burger has black sesame seeds — clever, right? — and sweet and spicy sauce.

Josh Ong at the Beijinger explains:

"We weren't sure whether these burgers were meant to be a yin-yang sign, a tribute to Michael Jackson or just a lab experiment gone wrong.

But then a colleague informed us they're a play on a Chinese phrase: heibai liangdao tongchi (黑白两道通吃), which describes people who are so well-connected with both the government (that's the white side) and organized crime ("black society," as it's called in Chinese) that they can "eat from both sides."

In other words, someone who has a foot in both camps."

And now we know.

The last time we saw a black bun burger from a big chain, it was in the form of Darth Vader at Belgian fast food chain Quick.

It turned out to be a wildly successful viral marketing stunt.

NOW SEE: Japan's Epic Fast Food War Inspired These Crazy Menu Items >

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Social Media-Inspired Outfits In Honor Of Fashion Week

McDonald's Is Testing A Whole New Type Of Egg McMuffin


egg mcmuffin mcdonalds

McDonald's USA Jan Fields announced today that the fast food chain is continuing to work on new, healthier options, reports the AP.

The one that could be big is a brand new form of the Egg McMuffin called the Egg White Delight.

What exactly is this thing?

It's a 260-calorie sandwich made with egg whites, canadian bacon and white cheddar cheese on a whole grain muffin.

McDonald's has always dealt with the stigma of being perceived as horribly unhealthy, but the fast food mammoth is working on patching up its image.

For instance, it recently declared that it's going to put calorie numbers on its menus nationwide — a move that not only comes ahead of upcoming government regulations, but makes its competitors look bad.

NOW SEE: 12 McDonald's Menu Items That Failed Spectacularly >

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Here Are The Most Outrageous Outfits That NBA Players Wore To New York Fashion Week


nba fashion week 2012 russell westbrook and rajon rondo

We're still 50 days away from the NBA season and a whole new round of ridiculous fashion choices.

But last week was Fashion Week in NYC, and a bunch of the NBA's preeminent fashionistas were there to strut their stuff.

Russell Westbrook clearly had the most insane looks. But Dwyane Wade and Amar'e Stoudemire both had strong showings, and the soft-spoken Tyson Chandler shocked everyone by wearing the week's craziest outfit.

Rajon Rondo kept it pretty toned-down, but Russell Westbrook was the star of the week...

He wore these spikey shoes to Fashion's Night Out

He wore a shirt with glasses on it the next night

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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The 20 Cheapest Countries For Vice


nighclub, dancing, partying, Miami

Miami, Ibiza and Las Vegas may be some of the best party spots on the globe, but a trip to those places can cost a lot of money.

We wanted to know where in the world it would be cheapest to indulge in some common vicesspecifically booze, beer, wine, and marijuana.

We can't vouch for the nightlife in most of these places, but they certainly aren't expensive places to party.

#20 Guinea-Bissau

  • Beer (500ml): $0.31
  • Wine (750ml): $0.48
  • Aguardente spirit, 30-40% alcohol (750ml): $1.12
  • Cannabis herb (1g): $7.00

Guinea-Bissau may be one of Africa's smallest nations, but it has become one of the biggest cocaine traffickers to Europe.

To come up with this ranking we looked at every country with average beer, wine, and spirit prices listed in the World Health Organization's Global Status Report on Alcohol 2004, the most recent year for which those figures are available. For those countries, we also looked the average price of 1g of Cannabis herb listed in the UN World Drug Report 2006 or on this marijuana global price map.

We averaged the prices to achieve a total score. The lower the total score, the higher the country placed in our rankings.

#19 Sri Lanka

  • Beer (500ml): $0.37
  • Wine (750ml): $7.80
  • Kassipu, 30-40% alcohol (750ml): $0.52
  • Cannabis herb (1g): $0.015

Kassipu, Sri Lanka's "special drink," is a type of moonshine made from, according to one blogger, "sugar, bananas, chameleons, barbed wire, rat snake, garbage, and God knows what else. It can be used in cars as a substitute for gasoline."

To come up with this ranking we looked at every country with average beer, wine, and spirit prices listed in the World Health Organization's Global Status Report on Alcohol 2004, the most recent year for which those figures are available. For those countries, we also looked the average price of 1g of Cannabis herb listed in the UN World Drug Report 2006 or on this marijuana global price map.

We averaged the prices to achieve a total score. The lower the total score, the higher the country placed in our rankings.

#18 Eritrea

  • Beer (500ml): $0.48
  • Wine (750ml): $1.60
  • Spirit (750ml): $1.60
  • Cannabis herb (1g): $4.00

If you're willing to give up freedom of the press for a cheap drink, than Eritrea is the place for you; Reporters Without Borders placed Eritrea dead last — even behind North Korea, Iran, and Cuba — in its 2009 Press Freedom Index.

To come up with this ranking we looked at every country with average beer, wine, and spirit prices listed in the World Health Organization's Global Status Report on Alcohol 2004, the most recent year for which those figures are available. For those countries, we also looked the average price of 1g of Cannabis herb listed in the UN World Drug Report 2006 or on this marijuana global price map.

We averaged the prices to achieve a total score. The lower the total score, the higher the country placed in our rankings.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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HOUSE OF THE DAY: Johnny Depp Just Bought A $4.4 Million Hollywood Home For His Ex

A PR Guru Is Suing A French Fashion Magazine Editor For $1 Million Over An Alleged Face Slap


zac posen, coco rocha

A PR rep is suing the editor-in-chief of French magazine Jalouse for $1 million, claiming she physically assaulted her by slapping her in the face at a recent fashion show, according to The New York Daily News.

The incident supposedly happened after fire marshals removed the first row of seats at Zac Posen's show Sunday, leaving the PR team at HL Group to scramble and reassign VIP seats.

According to NYDN, Jalouse editor Jennifer Eymere didn't like the way HL Group PR maven Lynn Tesoro explained the situation to her and her mother.

She reportedly threatened to slap Tesoro, and then allegedly followed through with her threat.

Tesoro has now filed a $1 million lawsuit against Eymere for “assault, battery, emotional distress, slander and/or libel," according to the New York Daily News.

Fashion week never fails to be catty.

DON'T MISS: Here's What We Saw Backstage At Nicole Miller's Sci-Fi Runway Show >

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Extraordinary Photos Of Drag Queens In Half Drag


half-drag, leland bobbe

New York-based photographer Leland Bobbé has captured portraits if drag queens in half drag for his ongoing project 'Half-Drag . . . A Different Kind of Beauty.'

"With this series my intention is to capture both the male and the alter ego female side of these subjects in one image in order to explore the cross over between males and females and to break down the physical barriers that separate them," Bobbé says.

These images images, composed and stylized through the power of hair and makeup, are captured in one snap, and are not digitally composed.

Bobbé has kindly given us permission to feature selection of his Half-Drag project. His work can be seen in a solo show at the PHD Gallery, St. Louis (opening October 20), and at a show at the Empty Quarter Gallery in Dubai (opening October 16.)

Adriana LeGlam

Vivienne Pinay

Roxy Brooks

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Multimillionaire Became 'Combative, Bullying, And Aggressive' As Luxury Home Construction Went Wrong


london nightMultimillionaire Giles Mackay was said to have 'lost nearly all sense of objectivity' after construction of his luxury home went wrong.

When multimillionaire Giles Mackay hired builders to create his family’s dream home, he had clear ideas about how the work should be carried out.

There was to be a swimming pool, a library, a cinema, a wine cellar and staff quarters, among other features.

But after the multi-million pound London property development "stumbled" into "delay, rising costs and confusion", the qualified barrister was apparently determined to make his feelings known.

The married father-of-two, who had set up a London-based property investment company and was worth over £100 million, warned that “my middle name is relentless” and fired off a string of angry emails to those he blamed.

His behaviour towards architects, staff at a firm of contractors, and consultants was "not simply coarse" but "combative, bullying and aggressive", a High Court judge said.

Mr Justice Akenhead heard how Mr Mackay had referred to the wife of one of his business partners as "needing a f****** good slapping” and had suggested to a director at the contractors' firm “a new career as a traffic warden might be ideal" and "I'll bet you will lord it in the pub over those neighbours of yours in the cheap semis".

The court heard of extensive legal disputes between contractor Walter Lilly & Company, Mr Mackay, and a property company he set up with business partners

The judge ruled in favour of Walter Lilly and awarded the firm more than £2.3 million after it claimed damages for sums wrongly deducted for alleged defects, loss and expense related to delay and outstanding unpaid value of works.

He said the parties involved had run up "obviously disproportionate" legal costs approaching £10 million.

In a written ruling, he concluded that Mr Mackay had "lost nearly all sense of objectivity" in the disputes about the building project near Earl's Court in London.

Mr Mackay and his partners were developing three houses there after spending more than £13 million on land.

But "substantial tensions" between him and his team of professionals arose, with Mr Mackay complaining about his planned luxury home that "every room in the house contained defective plastering".

Other complaints centred on "the need for ballet bars in the gym", the quality of the finish in children's bathrooms being a "disgrace", and about baths being "disproportionately small" and "plastic".

The "specially designed lift" was described as "another disaster".

The judge said Mr Mackay had written to surveyors complaining that "they were... trying to make me look like I'm an idiot".

"That I may be," he said Mr Mackay had continued, "but only in the context of employing you to look after the costs plans on the job".

He had also said he “wakes up in the morning wanting to kill” one of his architects.

In one email to a director at Walter Lilly he wrote: "Guess what, when I have forgotten about you in a year's time enjoying my £100 million home or sailing on one of my 40 metre yachts - you'll still be trying to wind up some other poor unsuspecting customer with your brand of mediocrity - a sad loser - gaining your kicks and being irritating. Suggest a new career as a traffic warden might be ideal at least it wouldn't involve lying."

Another said: "Oh no, little guy like you - throws his weight around - big chip on your shoulder - you were definitely bullied at school!!!!... or is it the fact that your little Victorian 1,800 sq ft cottage... can fit into my dining room... Or perhaps the fact when you bought it in 2003 the cost was the same as my defective veneer.”

He also wrote: "You're such a loser. I'm going to enjoy finishing you off over the summer” and “I have the money and anger at this point to push on and make sure that you have to deliver or get punished for not delivering... Never underestimate me."

Mr Justice Akenhead said the director's limited responses were "polite and restrained" while Mr Mackay appeared to be "used to getting his own way".

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What It's Like To Attend The Best University In The World


mit massachusetts institute of technology

If you are considering studying at the best university in the world, you'd better be prepared to work your socks off. The pace of learning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been likened to "drinking from a fire-hose".

The science and technology university, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has just been named number one university in the world in the latest QS league table.

It has a stellar reputation. In fact, if you added up the revenues of companies founded by MIT alumni, it would make the 11th largest economy on earth.

But what do students think of it? The first thing they tell you about is the workload.

"So, MIT is a lot of work. I'm four days into the semester, and I've already handed in two p-sets [problem sets] and a writing assignment, I have two other p-sets and a 20-minute presentation to do, and I have to read All The President's Men by the end of the week," says Amy Guyomard, a third-year maths major.

The institute has become a movie byword for a technical intelligence. Engineering prodigy and billionaire inventor Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, is an MIT graduate. Good Will Hunting, starring a super-brainy Matt Damon, was set on the campus.

Of course, it's very tough to get in. In 2012, just 9% of 18,109 applicants received an offer. Exceptional students are drawn to the institute.

Take Michael Plasmeier. He built GridView, a Facebook app that let users make a photo mosaic using their friends' pictures, when he was 15. The app had 1.3 million installs and made about $16,000 in revenue.

But even he admits that when he first came to MIT, he did "very poorly": "MIT is like bootcamp for your brain. You are given all these hard problems and you need to figure out how to solve them.

Plasmeier, now 21 and a management and computer science student, adds: "Information is not spoon-fed, you need to find your own personal style of learning."

How does the institute pick from the thousands of students that apply? "MIT does not admit purely on test scores," says Michael Colao, who helps co-ordinate admissions to the school from the UK.

He looks for initiative and intellectual curiosity when he interviews potential students. "We look at certain characteristics. Especially how well you collaborate: evidence of being good at working as part of a team. So much of science and technology is now focused on working together."

Colao says there has been a 45% increase in successful applicants from the UK over the past three years. This is in line with other Ivy League colleges such as Harvard and Yale, who have also seen strong increases in applications.

MIT does a lot to minimise competition between students. There is no class of degree, a degree from MIT is just a degree.

Plasmeier stresses that there is huge variety in the student population: "We do have some Good Will Hunting-style people. But we have all types of people. People who like to party. People who like to build roller coasters in front of their dorm.

"MIT is as hard as you want to make it. Just like bootcamp, every day might not be fun, but you come out a lot better than you went in."

This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk

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'I Catered Tom Cruise's Wedding And Didn't Get Paid'


Sinar ParmanSinar Parman joined the Church of Scientology in 1978 and worked as a personal chef to founder L. Ron Hubbard, his successor David Miscavige, and — on the days he visited Scientology's HQ — Tom Cruise.

Parman says he became so close to Miscavige and Cruise that he was selected to cater Cruise's wedding reception. Parman claims he wasn't paid a fee for the meal and was stiffed on his expenses, he tells Business Insider.

The incident was "one of the last straws" for Parman, who says he then quit the church and fled its California compound with his wife.

His escape from the religion didn't last long — he claims the church's security personnel chased him down and persuaded him to re-enter life inside the secretive church. He remained inside Scientology for 20 more years before becoming disillusioned enough to leave permanently.

Here's Parman's story, told in his own words, which we've edited lightly for brevity and clarity.

Note: We left two messages requesting comment from the Church of Scientology, but have yet to hear back.

I was born in Indonesia but I left there when I was 7 and when to school in the U.S. I went to high school in Los Angeles and then UCLA. I did a chef apprenticeship in Los Angeles because I didn't know what I wanted to do, but everybody needs to eat!

At the same time I got into Scientology. I paid for a lot of courses at the mission and a lot of auditing. I had maybe paid for 400 hours of auditing [a type of counseling]. It was only $50 an hour. I felt like I had a lot of gains. So I changed my career; I wanted to be on staff in Scientology place.

L. Ron HubbardI was on staff at the Los Angeles Org starting in 1977. I was approached by some recruiters and was asked if I wanted to cook for L. Ron Hubbard at La Quinta.

There were security procedures, certainly. You're not supposed to talk to reporters. If there are any people with subpoenas, you're taught how to handle it. There were also rattlesnakes at that time, so we were told how to kill rattlesnakes. In 1977 there was an FBI raid in Los Angeles, so this was 1978. It was basically a secret base. We all had to use fake names.

I was shown around and I met Hubbard outside the kitchen of his house, which was called Rifle. He was bigger than his pictures. He had big mutton chop sideburns and a cowboy hat and dark sunglasses you could see it was him but he was bigger than life. I was in awe. I was a little bit shy. He said hello. I was like wow, I was starstruck. But he was fine. After that I started cooking for him. At that time he was on a fish diet. It was rough. In Palm Springs, Indio, there was nothing around. There was no fresh fish it was all frozen.

NEXT: Hubbard dies, and Parman gets a new boss >

In 1986, Hubbard died and Miscavige took over the church.

Sinar ParmanDavid Miscavige took over in '87. In 1988 Miscavige persuaded me to become executive chef for the Gold Base, [near Gilman Hot Springs, Calif.] From '88 to about 1990 I was basically the executive chef. We renovated the main cooking and dining facilities at Gold Base. Three of us feeding 500 people. Miscavige didn't have a personal chef at the time. I was cooking for everyone.

In 1990 when Tom Cruise came by I was assigned as his personal chef. He was doing training, doing courses, he was also getting some auditing. He came with his assistant, Andrea Morris. He had a nice luxury apartment renovated for him. Miscavige set up a whole bunch of facilities for Tom Cruise. He even made a couple of tennis courts. There was a rifle range operated just for Tom Cruise.

David MiscavigeTom Cruise would come in and his cars would be taken care of. Washed, maintained, it was just provided to him, services beyond services. Miscavige got him hooked up with the Feshbach brothers for his investments. They were famous on Wall Street for investing in companies that were [in distress].

Tom was a very nice guy. He was like, a lot of energy, he wasn't pretentious, he was really very cool. He liked a lot of pasta and high energy, complex carb meals. Not much on the red meat, but some of the larger meats, that kind of stuff. It was a very Hollywood diet. He had to keep fit. His body was everything because of his profession. Sometimes he'd like Chinese food, sometimes he'd like lo mein.

John Travolta was there for a while and I cooked for him and also Kirstie Alley. They were cool people. Tom was Mr. Mellow but he liked to eat, let's put it that way. His hamburger was chopped filet mignon. He liked to have clear ice in his drinks, not that they were alcoholic. Little things like that.

Kirstie Alley, she stayed there maybe a week. I had to make noodles from scratch, really thick just like her grandma made it. Chicken noodle soup, so many times. She loved it.

I would do a menu based on their likes and dislikes.

I couldn't tell what Nicole Kidman wanted. I was still trying to figure out that until the end. Some personalities you can't tell what they really like. Some days she liked it and some days she didn't. It wasn't definite.

She was very much more reserved than Tom, not as outgoing. There was one dinner, one meal with Cruise and John Travolta and Kirstie Alley and they were like a raucous bunch and they would try to out-entertain each other. Three A-listers at the time and you get a really loud place, but she wasn't one of those. She was more reserved. I mean she was still laughing.

There was no booze because they had to go into sessions.

Tom stayed the longest time. He stayed there for months. He took off doing films, Days of Thunder, where he met Nicole. He took off for maybe a month and a half to film that in NASCAR country. Then he came and continued doing his thing there.

He was here six to eight months. He was doing the auditor levels from 0 to 4, the lower area before you do any clear and OT levels. He started also some basics courses, “Keys of Life” and “Life Orientation” courses.

NEXT: Parman is asked to cater the Cruise-Kidman wedding >

cruise kidman

A trip to Telluride on Cruise's private jet

[In 1990], David Miscavige told me, “Hey you're going to cater for Tom’s wedding in Colorado." After it was over it was, “Oh Dave decided you were not going to be paid by Tom.” It really ticked me off because you know what, my wife and I earned 50 bucks a week. [Staff members of the church work as volunteers for bed and board and a small amount of cash per week.] We had to go to Telluride in winter. It was a matter of buying new clothes for PR purposes, We went there in his private jet he paid for a rental car, hotel room, ski lift tickets, that kind of stuff. We had to go eat in Telluride for however long and it was expensive and we had to cover it personally on our credit cards.

I figured when we get back, we get paid, and I’d pay off my credit cards. It never happened and that's why I left. I left in 1991 with my wife. That was one of the last straws.

I drove off in the night with my wife. I stopped at my parents house in LA. She gave me a bunch of cash to pay off my credit cards. We went up north thru Monterey, stayed in Lake Tahoe and stayed in Carson City where my wife’s distant cousin had a business and I worked for him in a furniture store.

But the church had, like, a couple of private investigators on us. I later found out they basically had my ID stolen. All the mail is opened, my personal mail, they know my bank, all the details of my credit cards, my date of birth, social security number, and my mother’s maiden name.

Suddenly five people showed up on our doorstep, in a house in Carson City. It was early in the morning, 7 or 8 a.m. Several guys come up and they're from Gilman, from Gold Base.

Parman and his wife say they were interrogated by the men at a motel for a week. They were persuaded to rejoin the church.

It lasted for maybe about a week. They went through all our luggage and belongings. I had personal notes from L. Ron Hubbard, Tom Cruise and Kirstie Alley, and photos, and they took all that and that was never returned to me.

Parman stayed in the church through 2001. When asked why, he says:

I still haven't grasped it. I thought I would achieve my spiritual ends.


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People Watch TV Irrationally


watching tv

When homo economicus gets home after a hard day's cost-benefit analysis, he sits down in front of the box and puts his utility-maximising feet up. He looks at the TV schedule, works out his optimal channel preferences and, knowing these would lead to the most happiness, sticks to his choices.

Sadly most folk's habits are not like this. A new paper by Constanca Esteves-Sorenson and Fabrizio Perretti finds we tend to stay on the same channel, sometimes despite our indifference to the next programme. Even when the costs are one thumb-press of a button, we stubbornly stick with the less preferred option.

The authors look at Italian TV data from 1990 to 2003: six channels drew in about 90% of audience in this period, so assessing couch potatoes' habits is easier. The authors take into account factors such as soggy weather, which raises demand for all shows, and reverse causality (some eager viewers tune in early and watch the last five minutes of a show). They find that a 10% greater audience for one programme results in a 2-4% rise in ratings for the next show, even if there are competing programmes that ordinarily attract viewers away (such as new episodes and gender-targeted shows).

This has a huge effect on profits. Had Italian media barons not taken advantage of this behaviour, they would have seen a 20-40% fall in profits. Other countries also routinely exploit this irrationality. "Seinfeld" was so popular that TV bosses joked, "You could read the phone book after Seinfeld and get a 25% viewer share." The BBC, Britain's paternalistic broadcaster, used to show "light" programmes just before weightier culture programmes, solely to trick viewers into watching culture. Media rival Rupert Murdoch griped about this "elitism" to David Dimbleby, a lofty inquisitor, on the BBC in the 1980s:

MURDOCH: In order to get viewers for this programme, [the BBC] put on a very sexy episode of Star Trek.

DIMBLEBY: Oh I don't think they put it on to get us viewers. We were just lucky -

MURDOCH: They try to carry viewers into these shows. I know how it's done.

What interests the authors of the paper is why people don;t quick switch channel. Previous studies on US television yield different explanations. Some think imperfect information is at play (channels advertise the next show between ad breaks, so some viewers stay tuned); others think, with so many channels, the costs of estimating the optimum channel is too high. These conclusions imply viewers are still rational.

But these factors are not at play in the Italian study. The explanation that most fits, say the authors, is procrastination: TV viewers put off changing channel till the last possible moment, even if they prefer the other side. This is consistent with findings that folk do not cancel gym membership even when they no longer use the gym; and irrationally delay contributing to their pensions. The homo economicus model is defunct: in TV, as in other things, a little dose of paternalism may help.

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23 Houses That Were Once Owned By American Presidents


Nixon california mansion

Presidents of the United States either were born into wealth or found it somewhere along their ascent to the office. 

With that sort of wealth, Presidents tend to hold some breathtaking and enviable real estate, either buying storied real estate or developing a property into a brand — like the Kennedy Compound or Monticello. 

Here, we take a look at where the presidents slept besides 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, using Zillow's page on Presidential Real Estate to find out what the story is with each of these properties. 

Barack Obama's Chicago House

Right before Obama was elected to the Senate, he bought this home in Chicago's Kenwood neighborhood for $1.65 million, $300,000 less than the asking price. 

It's got 7 baths, is 6,199 square feet, and is on a quarter acre lot. The house has central cooling, a detached garage, and a fireplace. 

The house is estimated by Zillow to cost around $1,884,436 right now. 

George W Bush's first home

Bush's first home was in Midland, Texas, He bought the 2,406 square foot home in 1977 lived there until 1985 when George W. moved to Washington to work for George H.W.'s presidential campaign. 

The home is estimated to be worth $176,212

Bill and Hillary Clinton's Chappaqua House

Bill and Hillary Clinton bought the $5.95 million mansion in Westchester County, New York in 1999. Bill apparently was known to hang out in downtown Chappaqua with neighbors. 

The house was built in 1889, has 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms, and is 5,232 square feet. 

The house is now estimated to be worth $6.84 million.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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10 Sports Cars That Cost Insurance Companies A Ton Of Cash


Maserati 12

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety just released its latest status report on insurance claim information.

When it comes to collision coverage, by far the most expensive vehicles are luxury sports cars: They're powerful, hard to repair, and attract drivers who like going fast.

Among those ranked "worst" by the institute were Maseratis, Ferraris, and Lexuses.

The "overall losses" figure refers to the amount each insured car on the road cost the insurer: So the overall loss of $134 for the Chevy Tahoe hybrid means that for every Tahoe on the road, insurance companies paid out $134.

#10 The BMW 7 Series with four wheel drive cost insurance companies 165 percent more than the average vehicle.

MSRP: $80,300 

Claim Severity: $7,828

Overall Loss: $755

All coverage is for 2009-2011 models. Results represent overall losses, which reflect both the frequency of collision claims and the average loss payment per collision claim.

Source: Insurance Institute For Highway Safety

#9 Lexus' IS-F with four wheel drive was nearly as bad.

MSRP: $61,600

Claim Severity: $8,487

Overall Loss: $852

All coverage is for 2009-2011 models. Results represent overall losses, which reflect both the frequency of collision claims and the average loss payment per collision claim.

Source: Insurance Institute For Highway Safety

#8 The Porsche 911 Turbo convertible had a sky high claim severity figure.

MSRP: $149,000

Claim Severity: $24,679

Overall Loss: $855

All coverage is for 2009-2011 models. Results represent overall losses, which reflect both the frequency of collision claims and the average loss payment per collision claim.

Source: Insurance Institute For Highway Safety

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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See The Hidden Costs Of Being A Woman


waitress, dating, friends

Earlier this year, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation made a surprising announcement: Women, it turns out, pay higher interest rates on credit cards than men do.

It’s just a half-point difference, but the study points out that over a lifetime, women could pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars more to borrow money than men.

The study also finds that women with low levels of financial literacy are particularly vulnerable to credit card mismanagement.

They are more likely to carry a balance on their cards, pay only the minimum, and pay late fees than men with low levels of financial literacy. At the same time, low-financial literacy women are also less likely to embrace positive credit card behaviors, such as comparison shopping for cards.

Women face other financial disadvantages, too: An analysis of new Census Bureau data by the National Partnership for Women & Families found that in almost every congressional district in the country, men out-earn women. In Washington, D.C., for example, the median woman’s salary is 90 percent of the median man’s salary, which adds up to a $6,428 annual difference. Across the country, women earn 77 percent of men’s salaries, which adds up to an $11,084 annual difference.

Marie Claire also recently pointed out that women pay more for everything from dry-cleaning to health insurance to shampoo. “We lose out in nearly every transaction we make,” writes Lea Goldman.

The National Partnership for Women & Families urges new legislation, the Paycheck Fairness Act, to help close the gender gap. Marie Claire similarly suggests that women contact their Congressional representatives about fighting what it calls “gender-pricing.”

With credit cards, though, the solution seems to be more routed in education than policy changes. Financial literacy, in fact, appears to trump most of the credit card disadvantage that women face. FINRA found that once you look only at men and women with high levels of financial literacy, the gender differences disappear. (Credit Sesame also analyzes the data in a helpful infographic.)

The conclusion? Increasing financial literacy can help people—and especially women—make better credit card decisions. FINRA states that by improving financial literacy, “women’s credit card behavior will improve by 60 percent more than men’s credit card behavior.” Experts generally agree that improving financial literacy is a priority; after all, higher financial literacy levels are correlated with higher levels of wealth and better retirement planning.

How’s your own financial literacy? Test yourself on these sample questions from FINRA:

1. Suppose you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2 percent per year. After five years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow?

a. More than $102

b. Exactly $102

c. Less than $102

d. Don’t know

e. Prefer not to say

2. Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account was 1 percent per year and inflation was 2 percent per year. After one year, how much would you be able to buy with the money in this account?”

a. More than today

b. Exactly the same

c. Less than today

d. Don’t know

e. Prefer not to say

3. If interest rates rise, what will typically happen to bond prices?

a. They will rise

b. They will fall

c. They will stay the same

d. There is no relationship between bond prices and the interest rate

e. Don’t know

f. Prefer not to say

Answer key. 1. a, 2. c, 3. b.

DON'T MISS: 10 charts about women and money > 

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