Opinion & Community

Reports of mall disturbances light up social media

Susan Miller , USA TODAY 10:16 p.m. EST December 26, 2016
People wait in line for NJ Transit buses after the Jersey Gardens Mall was evacuated on one of the busiest days of the year after a fight broke out Dec. 26, 2016.
(Photo: Kevin R. Wexler, NorthJersey.com, via USA TODAY Network)
A flurry of reports of mall melees and disturbances rippled across social media Monday on a day Americans swarmed shopping hubs for post-holiday bargains.

Disturbances that led to some malls being evacuated included reports from Elizabeth, N.J.; Fayetteville, N.C.; East Garden City, N.Y.; Aurora, Colo.; Tempe, Ariz.; Beachwood Place, a suburb of Cleveland; and Memphis.

About 10 people were injured during a melee at the Jersey Gardens mall in Elizabeth on Sunday evening, Mayor Chris Bollwage said in a tweet.

The injuries were non-life-threatening, Bollwage said. A fight in the food court led to false reports of a shooting after a chair was thrown and hit the ground loudly, officials said.

Posts on social media showed police with machine guns responding to the food court. Police evacuated the building as a precaution, and hours later there were still long lines waiting for NJ Transit buses as it began to rain.

Sergio Cleto, a tourist from Brazil, was waiting for a bus back to Manhattan. "We saw the kids fighting ... then everyone began to run and everything is a mess after that," Cleto said.

In Tennessee, police in Memphis shut down Oak Court Mall on Monday evening aft

Deadly Christmas weekend in Chicago: 12 people fatally shot

By Ralph Ellis and Mayra Cuevas, CNN
Updated 6:50 PM ET, Mon December 26, 2016
At a news briefing on Monday, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said: "The violence primarily occurred in areas with historical gang conflicts on the South and West sides of the city."

At a news briefing on Monday, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said: "The violence primarily occurred in areas with historical gang conflicts on the South and West sides of the city." 00:53
Story highlights
City police investigating 27 shooting incidents over the weekend
Police say majority of cases "were targeted attacks"

(CNN)Chicago's citywide crime wave didn't slow down during the holiday weekend.

City police investigated 27 shooting incidents this Christmas weekend, 12 of which were fatal, city Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said during a Monday news briefing.
"The violence primarily occurred in areas with historical gang conflicts on the South and West sides of the City," Johnson said. "We now know that the majority of these shootings and homicides were targeted attacks by gangs against potential rival gang members and groups who were at holiday gatherings."
Chicago police said there have been 753 homicides and 3,495 shooting incidents in the city from January 1 to December 25. During the same time frame in 2015, there were 478 homicides and 2,393 shooting incidents.
Chicago tops 700 homicides for the year

Simone Biles soars to AP Female Athlete of the Year

By Will Graves (Associated Press) | Updated December 27, 2016 - 10:12am
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In this Aug. 7, 2016, file photo, United States' Simone Biles performs on the floor during the artistic gymnastics women's qualification at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Briles was selected as the AP Female Athlete of the Year, on Monday, Dec. 26, 2016. | AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File
Simone Biles tried to treat the 2016 Summer Olympics like just your average ordinary gymnastics meet. So what if the stage and the stakes were different?

The floor was still the floor. The vault still the vault. The uneven bars still uneven. The balance beam still a four-inch wide test of nerves.

And the 19-year-old with the electric smile and boundless talent was still the best in the world. Maybe the best of all-time.

Over the course of 10 days in August, the biggest meet of her life ended like pretty much all the others in the four years that came before it: with Biles standing atop the podium, a gold medal around her neck and the sport she's redefining one boundary-pushing routine at a time staring up at her. Not that she remembers any of it.

"It's kind of a blur," Biles said.

Maybe to Biles, but not to the rest of the world. Her massive haul in Rio de Janeiro — a record-tying four golds to go along with a bronze for the dominant U.S. women's team — propelled her to stardom and rendered her last name superfluous. Now there's one more honor to add to what on Twitter is known simply as #SimoneThings: Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year.

In a vote by U.S. editors and news directors announced Monday, Biles received 31 votes out of a possible 59 votes. U.S. Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky, who won four golds and a silver in Rio, finished second with 20 votes. Serena Williams, who won Wimbledon for the seventh time to tie Steffi Graf's record of 22 Grand Slam titles, and three-time AP women's NCAA basketball Player of the Year Breanna Stewart tied for third with four votes each.

The AP Male Athlete of the Year will be announced Tuesday.

Biles became the fifth gymnast to win the honor, joining Olga Korbut in 1972, Nadia Comaneci in 1976, Mary Lou Retton in 1984 and Gabby Douglas in 2012. It's company Biles joined while completing a run of dominance that included three straight all-around World Championships, an unprecedented run at the top in a sport where peaks are often measured in months, not years.

The teenager from Spring, Texas, hardly seemed burdened by the outsized expectations. If anything, she embraced them. She opted out of a verbal commitment to compete collegiately at UCLA to turn professional so she could cash in on the lucrative opportunities afforded an Olympic champion, a bit of a gamble considering the window is so narrow and directly tied to success at the Games.

Yet Biles seemed immune to it. At least on the outside. Inside, there were more than a few butterflies when she stepped onto the floor during team preliminaries on Aug. 7. They vanished the moment she stepped onto the green and cream colored floor at Rio Olympic Arena as she and the rest of her "Final Five" teammates — Douglas, Aly Raisman, Laurie Hernandez and Madison Kocian — put on a clinic that showcased how substantial the gap between the Americans and the rest of the world has grown.

Then again, the gulf between Biles and every other gymnast on the planet — even her good friends in red, white and blue — may be even wider.

"In prelims I did very well I kind of shocked myself," Biles said. "I came in thinking, 'I've been to three worlds.' I knew the gist of it. Once I got (prelims) out of the way, I just kind of relaxed."

Mbala wants to play for Gilas

By Joaquin Henson (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 27, 2016 - 12:00am
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Ben Mbala (left) with two-time Olympic cager Tony Genato.
MANILA, Philippines - La Salle’s Ben Mbala said yesterday if ever an invitation to join Gilas as a naturalized player comes his way, it would be an honor to play for the country that the Cameroonian calls his second home.

“I love the Philippines,” said the 6-7 Mbala who this season became La Salle’s first UAAP senior men’s basketball MVP in 17 years. “I can see myself settling down in the Philippines but right now, I’m not thinking of getting married or raising a family. My priorities are to win more championships for La Salle and earn a degree.”

Mbala, 21, is taking up Business Management. He was on the Dean’s List two terms back and almost made it again this past term. “I got an A in Economics Statistics but my GPA wasn’t high enough for the Dean’s List,” he said. “As a student athlete, I’m trying hard to be a good role model. You’ll notice when I play, I smile a lot. Coach Aldin (Ayo) always reminds me to keep my cool because opponents will try to get me out of my game and mess with my mind by roughing me up. But I just walk away from all that with a smile. They double team me, sometimes triple team me, they choke me, they hold me down. I try not to get frustrated when the referees don’t call the foul. It’s worse when I get banged up and I get called for the foul. I know if I mess up, it won’t be good for the team. I’d rather be on the court than on the bench.”

Next season, La Salle will miss Jeron Teng, Jason Perkins, Julian Sargent and Thomas Torres who’ve completed their years of UAAP eligibility but Mbala said the Archers will remain competitive. “I remember when we won the Filoil Flying V championship, Jason and Julian didn’t play and Jeron missed some key games because of injury,” he said. “Still, we were competitive. Of course, we’ll miss them all, especially Jeron. We’ll also miss Thomas who sets up our plays and is such a smart point guard. That means others must step up. We’ve got guys like Prince (Rivero), Abu (Tratter) and Kib (Montalbo). Aljun (Melecio) will only get better as he matures. Mark (Dyke) is adjusting to the college game and I expect him to contribute. He was a big man in high school and now, his role is different. Andrew (Langston) took a year off and it was a blessing. He played without pressure in the offseason and picked up his game. Then, we’ve got guys like Santi (Dodong Santillan) who’s a stretch four and Gabe (Capacio) who’s a deadshot shooter.”

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Mbala said there’s pressure on La Salle to repeat. “This early, they’re calling us the team to beat,” he said. “I know the other teams are beefing up so it will be a challenge for us to retain the title. But my goal is a three-peat. After I graduate, I hope to continue playing. Joining Gilas would be an option if I’m invited to play as a naturalized player.”

The other day, Mbala met two-time Olympic cager Tony Genato, a veteran of the Philippine team that took third place and the bronze medal at the FIBA World Championships in Rio de Janeiro in 1954. Genato, now 87, played at the 1952 Helsinki and 1954 Olympics. “Of course, it’s a dream to play in the Olympics,” he said. “I’ve been invited to train with the Cameroon national team but the schedule conflicts with my studies. Besides, basketball isn’t a priority sport in Cameroon where football is No. 1. NBA players from Cameroon don’t play for the national team because the game isn’t popular, there is little support and they’re not covered by insurance.”

Unloads a career best 32 pts King Japeth deals Star royal bashing

By Nelson Beltran (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 27, 2016 - 12:00am
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Japeth Aguilar
MANILA, Philippines - For all his wondrous shooting touch, behemoth Japeth Aguilar is actually being developed to be Barangay Ginebra’s pillar of defense.

But Sunday night at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, Aguilar lit up the showdown with Star with tremendous offensive thrust, going 5-of-5 from the long range and finishing with a career-best 32 points as the Gin Kings toppled the Hotshots, 86-79, in the PBA Philippine Cup.

“I was surprised my offense came along. To be honest, I was focused on defense as I was instructed by coach Tim (Cone),” said Aguilar.

“One of those moments in my basketball career that I never expected to happen – five out of five from the three-point line,” he added.

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But Ginebra coach Tim Cone insisted he wasn’t a bit surprised by Aguilar’s three-point shooting, saying they’ve long been urging their athletic center to take the shots from the long range.

“If you remember, I coached his dad Peter. And Peter was like the best shooting big man I’ve ever seen. So when I first saw Japeth, he looked exactly the same, same form, everything,” said Cone. “Japeth has great form and great ability to be that kind of player that can shoot shots like that. So I’m not surprised by it. Hopefully, we don’t live by it, but that is a nice weapon to keep.”

Alyssa Valdez to suit up for Thai squad

(philstar.com) | Updated December 25, 2016 - 3:37pm
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Bureau of Customs Transformers and former Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagle Alyssa Valdez | Shakey's V-League Photo
MANILA, Philippines — Volleyball superstar Alyssa Valdez will kick off the new year in a new uniform.

This after Thai Volleyball club 3BB Nakornnont announced on Christmas Eve that they’ve snared the services of the former Ateneo de Manila University ace for two leagues.

Through their Facebook page, 3BB Nakornnont indicated that Valdez will be lending her talents to the club for the Thailand League and the Thai-Denmark Super League. It said the Filipina’s edge lies in her offensive game.

Valdez is no stranger to the team as she is set to rejoin her Shakey’s V-League teammates in Bureau of Customs, Nic Jaisaen and Som Kuthaisong. The trio propelled the Transformers to the tournament Finals where they fell short against Pocari Sweat.

The news was first broken by ABS-CBN Sports. But according to Fox Sports PH editor-in-chief Josiah Albelda, who is also a close friend of the decorated athlete, nothing is final as of now.
24 Dec
Josiah Albelda @_josiahalbelda
.@AlyssaValdez2 herself talks about her possible stint with 3BB in Thailand.http://www.foxsportsasia.com/en-ph/news/ph-superstar-alyssa-valdez-excited-possible-thailand-stint/ … pic.twitter.com/NhCWgEaPQl
Josiah Albelda @_josiahalbelda
And while a Facebook post by 3BB reportedly said they have acquired her, Valdez clarified nothing is final and official just yet.
9:49 PM - 24 Dec 2016
40 40 Retweets 155 155 likes

Valdez, regarded as one of the faces of Philippine volleyball, was once the amateur arena’s decorated queen. A three-time UAAP Most Valuable Player, she led Ateneo to back-to-back UAAP titles in 2012 and 2013.

The 23-year-old has also suited up for various national contingents in the international arena.

Roach wants Pacquiao to fight Crawford at 140

By Dino Maragay (philstar.com) | Updated December 24, 2016 - 3:34pm

Manny Pacquiao and Terence Crawford
MANILA, Philippines – Stressing that his ward doesn’t back down from challenges, Freddie Roach has welcomed a showdown between Manny Pacquiao and undefeated rising star Terence Crawford.

Speaking to Ryan Burton of boxingscene.com, Roach said Pacquiao – who currently campaigns at the welterweight division (147 pounds) – can slide back to junior welterweight (140 pounds) to make the fight happen.

And Crawford, who holds the WBC and WBO junior welterweight championships, is considered the best fighter in the division.

“I like the fight at 140 but he (Pacquiao) hasn't fought at 140 in a long time. I think he will be a bit quicker and a bigger puncher but he's been at 147 for so long so we will see,” said Roach.

AWS catapulted Amazon into a breakout 2016 on Wall Street

Posted Dec 22, 2016 by Matthew Lynley (@mattlynley)
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You could argue that 2016 was the breakout year for Amazon’s cloud computing service, AWS — and Wall Street knows that an even bigger wave is coming next year.

Amazon’s retail business continues to grow, and chug along, and gobble up share from offline commerce and other companies desperately trying to up their e-commerce game. And that’s all fine and good — that’s what Wall Street has come to expect from Amazon. What might not have been expected, though, was just how big AWS would be and how fast it would grow to become that big.

We got a brief taste of it in April this year in the company’s earnings report, which showed Amazon Web Services was clearly on a great clip and on its way to being a business that generates more than $10 billion on a regular basis. And since then, it seems more and more obvious that the AWS bet that Amazon made years ago is going to pay off in spades as a strong core business that’s going to have great scale without the insane overhead costs of its core retail business. Each quarter we seem to see continuous success from AWS — and continuing heavy investment in that operation.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the current state of AWS from the company’s most recent earnings presentation:

aws performance

The raw efficiency of AWS is going to be something that Wall Street is salivating over as Amazon continues to diversify itself beyond just its standard retail operations. Wall Street loves companies that have multiple different kinds of revenue streams that operate efficiently in parallel or are even perpendicular to the core business, but still give the company a strong way to continue to deliver value.

And Amazon knows it. Earlier this year, Amazon held an event where it unveiled a slew of new products designed to give AWS users more flexibility, streamlining the process of getting their data into Amazon’s servers. One extreme example is literally driving a truck to the front door of an office to transfer that data, but that just goes to show the lengths that the company is going to go to in order to get more and more companies signing up for AWS.

It’s hard to understate the importance of AWS, especially as competition aggressively ramps up. Microsoft and Google are increasingly trying to encroach on Amazon’s turf, where the company essentially defined what this style of cloud computing looks like and offered startups a way to quickly roll out their products for a much lower cost than buying their own infrastructure. And now, Amazon is looking at a business that is already generating more than $10 billion on a trailing twelve-month basis.

So, in short, it’s going to be a way that Wall Street is going to be looking for continuous growth from Amazon much in the same way it’s always looking for growth in its retail operations. We’re coming up on the holiday quarter, so we’re going to see what Core Amazon looks like in the face of a critical season, but nonetheless AWS represents one of the most important elements of the company as it goes into 2017 and a growth moment that pretty much defined Wall Street’s observations of the company in 2016.

So, that’s enough about AWS. Let’s talk about Amazon proper.

This year another rather special thing happened for Amazon, too: It recorded multiple straight quarters of profit. Sure, it wasn’t the same kind of profitability you might see from Alphabet or Apple. For a company that is known to just rapidly invest and not worry too much about profits, it gave Wall Street a taste of what a profitable and efficiently operating Amazon might look like:

FindTheCompany | Graphiq
Online retail is still just cracking the surface of pulling dollars away from brick and mortar, so the overhead for Amazon’s retail business remains very high. If Amazon continues to close that time gap of getting a product in the hands of consumers following an order, it’s going to continue to see additional traction there. Wall Street is naturally looking for that continued innovation, but it’s clear that Amazon’s proper business is continuing to grow. (And maybe that will come from drones, even — though let’s hope your new Amazon Echo doesn’t fall on your head.)

Amazon, also, has the advantage of being able to stay ahead of traditional brick and mortar that are trying to expand to e-commerce. Walmart realizes the potential existential threat it faces and is trying to expand its e-commerce operations, but it might just simply not be fast enough to get to Amazon. It will to some extent come down to the number of SKUs each company can offer, but Amazon has a huge lead on Walmart in terms of an e-commerce branding and also in terms of the ancillary services it can offer on the back of that branding and the efficient operations that it’s set up.

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So, all looking good for Wall Street again. But we have to pivot back to AWS for just a second, which as we can see while Amazon is now generating an income though small, it’s pretty clear that AWS is a significant contributor to that income.
So, now we have a company that in 2016 had a core new business that continues to not only grow rapidly but also at a very efficient rate. And we have Amazon retail operations that continue to grow, and an income stream that once again allows the company to continue to invest in new operations, like once again closing that time gap from an order to getting a product in a user’s hands. We’re looking at an Amazon that in 2016 showed a huge amount of continued potential while those bets are starting to play out materially.

Understandably so, Amazon’s stock has seen a rather spectacular rise on the year as we start to get a look at what Amazon looks like after all its huge bets are starting to pay off. The company’s shares are up around 15 percent in the past year.

FindTheCompany | Graphiq
Amazon is, of course, not just going to rely solely on its retail operations. And even though AWS is wildly successful, getting users to get stuck to the Amazon brand — whether that’s through Prime or something else — gives it the ability to monetize its users in new and unique ways. One of the most natural ones is a strategy that’s played out well for Apple and Amazon: sell media products. And so far, it looks like it’s generating a decent amount of revenue:


Apple leaps into AI research with improved simulated + unsupervised learning

Posted 6 hours ago by John Mannes (@JohnMannes)
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Corporate machine learning research may be getting a new vanguard in Apple. Six researchers from the company’s recently formed machine learning group published a paper that describes a novel method for simulated + unsupervised learning. The aim is to improve the quality of synthetic training images. The work is a sign of the company’s aspirations to become a more visible leader in the ever growing field of AI.

Google, Facebook, Microsoft and the rest of the techstablishment have been steadily growing their machine learning research groups. With

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