Easily Make GIFs From Nearly Any Online Video With This New Imgur Tool

Yay! Everything is wonderful in this amazing age of technology!

On the rare occasion that Google image search fails you, you’ve always wanted to just whip up your own GIFs, but that would take too much effort.

 

Fear not! Imgur has just unveiled an easy new tool for creating GIFs directly from videos!

 

All you have to do is find the video you want online, plug the URL into Imgur’s new tool, and tell it the start and end points that you want to memorialize forever in a glorious, infinitely looped animation. If the created GIF would be larger than 10MB, Imgur also automatically converts it to a much more efficient GIFV, which is a standard from improved video clips that they’ve been pushing since last year.

Other sites like Gfycat and even YouTube have been working on GIF conversion and updated Internet animation standards with HTML 5 video, but this Imgur tool, well…

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MH370: Malaysia declares flight disappearance an accident

The Malaysian government has officially declared the disappearance of Malaysian Airline flight MH370 an accident and says there were no survivors.

No trace of the Beijing-bound aircraft has been found since it disappeared on 8 March 2014.

Officials say that the recovery operation is ongoing but that the 239 people onboard are now presumed dead.

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The plane's whereabouts are still unknown despite a massive international search in the southern Indian Ocean.

The declaration on Thursday should allow compensation payments to relatives of the victims.

'Deepest sorrow'

Malaysian officials added that the recovery of the missing aircraft remained a priority and that they had pursued "every credible lead".

Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) Director-General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman said that it was "with the heaviest heart and deepest sorrow that we officially declare Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 an accident.''

"All 239 of the passengers and crew onboard MH370 are presumed to have lost their lives," he said.

Following Thursday's announcement, China's foreign ministry called for compensation for the victims' families.

"We call on the Malaysian side to honour the promise made when they declared the flight to have been lost and earnestly fulfil their compensation responsibilities," spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.

The majority of the passengers on MH370 were Chinese.

Declaring the missing plane an "accident" should help unlock compensation payments for bereaved relatives Some families are angry with how the search has been conducted

Malaysia airlines said they would be contacting the families to proceed with the compensation process.

But in China, some family members refused to accept the official position that the plane was lost.

"They have found nothing," said Li Jingxin whose brother is missing.

"With nothing found, how can they make any announcement?''

He told the Associated Press news agency that his family would not accept compensation from the airline at this time.

Analysis: Richard Westcott, BBC News, transport correspondent

You might reasonably assume that by declaring the MH370 disappearance an "accident", the Malaysians are ruling out any kind of foul play.

Unfortunately, they are doing nothing of the sort. This is a legal move, we are told, to help the families claim compensation.

This means we are no closer to finding out where the plane is or how it got there.

Some of the families are angry at today's declaration. They do not want a pay-out, because they fear it will give the Malaysians an excuse to give up the search.

Recently, I spoke to two, very experienced pilots about flight MH370. One is convinced someone on board crashed the aircraft on purpose. The other is convinced it was an accident.

That sums it up really. We are coming up to a year now. And we are no closer to getting any answers.

You can only imagine what it must be like for the families.

'No evidence'

Four vessels are currently searching the seafloor with specialised sonar technology in a remote stretch of ocean where the plane is believed to have ended its flight.

Mr Azharuddin added that Malaysia, China and Australia have spared no expense in the hunt for the plane.

Based on analysis of satellite and aircraft performance data, MH370 is thought to be in seas far west of the Australian city of Perth.

The vessels have so far searched an area of over 18,000km sq (11,185sq miles), according to officials.

The search area involved also has known depths of up to 6,000m (19,685ft).

Mr Azharuddin said that the progress of the safety investigation into the accident would be released soon, but that "at this juncture, there is no evidence to substantiate any speculations as to the cause of the accident".

The DCA said on Wednesday said that it planned to release an interim report on the investigation on 7 March, a day before the first anniversary of the disappearance.

Jordan reportedly offers to swap would-be bomber for captured pilot; no mention of Goto

Jordanian state-run television reported Wednesday that Amman was ready to release an Iraqi failed suicide bomber on death row if the Islamic State group freed a captured Jordanian pilot, citing a government minister in the Middle East country.

The flash news report, however, did not mention Japanese hostage Kenji Goto, who is being held by the armed extremists.

Meanwhile, a video apparently linked to the Islamic State group was released shortly after 11 p.m. on Wednesday. A man featured in the video claimed the pilot, Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh, came to kill members of the jihadi group. However, the video did not mention Goto, according to Kyodo News.

The latest reports suggested that last-minute negotiations were still going on between Jordan and the Islamic militants even after the deadline set by the group to kill both Goto and al-Kaseasbeh, whose fighter jet crashed in Syria in December, apparently expired at around 11 p.m.

In a video posted online a day earlier, the Islamic militants again demanded that Amman release Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi would-be suicide bomber now on death row in Jordan.

In Jordan, the release of al-Rishawi, one of four suicide bombers who assaulted three hotels in Amman in 2005, was considered a possible bargaining chip to free the air force al-Kaseasbeh.

But in an apparent bid to divide Japan and Jordan, the Islamic State group demanded a straight swap of al-Rishawi for Goto, in the video posted on Tuesday.

The group did not say whether it would release the al-Kaseasbeh along with Goto if Amman freed al-Rishawi.

Overseas media reports surfaced Wednesday afternoon that Jordan and the Islamic State group had reached, or were nearing an agreement to free Goto in exchange for al-Rishawi.

According to Japanese TV station FNN, an Israeli news agency reported Wednesday that Amman and the militants had agreed to a swap.

Earlier, the Jordan News website had reported that al-Rishawi was transferred from one prison to another in preparation for her handover to Islamic State militants.

But three high-ranking Japanese officials in Tokyo contacted by The Japan Times remained highly skeptical of the reports.

“The situation is not like that at all,” one of them said. The Islamic State group “is not such an easy party to deal with.”

Another of the three officials said that a hostage swap would be conducted in an extremely sensitive manner and with the utmost secrecy until a deal was carried out “to the very end.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Japanese officials condemned the Islamic State threat issued on Tuesday but appeared to have no other options than to request the “cooperation” of the Jordanian government to help resolve the ongoing crisis.

A male voice in the video posted Tuesday said that unless its demand was met within 24 hours, the group would first kill al-Kaseasbeh and then Goto, a Japanese freelance journalist. The video features a still image of Goto holding a photo of what appears to be al-Kaseasbeh, and is accompanied by the voice of a man speaking English who identified himself as Goto.

Using unusually blunt language, a high-ranking Japanese official said Tuesday that “Japan is incompetent” in handling the hostage crisis and suggested that it would be the Jordanian government that decided any hostage swap.

Tokyo can only “ask cooperation of the Jordanian government” in order to save Goto’s life, according to the official, who was speaking on condition of anonymity.

The situation appeared no better on Wednesday morning when Abe convened a special Cabinet meeting on the crisis.

“We the government, facing an extremely tough situation, have asked for cooperation from the Jordanian government. . . . This policy will remain unchanged,” Abe told his ministers during a Wednesday morning meeting. “We feel strong indignation over this extremely vicious act. We resolutely condemn it.”

The man speaking in the Islamic State video blames the Jordanian government for resisting the group’s demand to free al-Rishawi in exchange for Goto.

“I’ve been told this is my last message, and I’ve also been told that the barrier (to) extracting my freedom is now just the Jordanian government delaying the handover of Sajida,” the man says in the video, which was titled “The second public message of ‘Kenji Goto Jogo’ to his family and the government of Japan.”

“Tell the Japanese government to put all their political pressure on Jordan. Time is now running very short. It is me for her,” the man says.

“What seems to be so difficult to understand? She has been a prisoner for a decade, and I’ve only been a prisoner for a few months. Her for me. A straight exchange.”

“Any more delays by the Jordanian government will mean they’re responsible for the death of their pilot, which will then be followed by mine. I only have 24 hours left to live, and the pilot has even less. Please don’t leave us to die,” the voice says.

“Anymore delaying tactics will simply see both of us getting killed. The ball is now in the Jordanians’ court.”

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Doomsday Clock moves closer to midnight, but can we really predict the end of the world?

 The second hand of the Doomsday Clock is now only three minutes to midnight. This is the closest to apocalypse we have come since 1984 – the coldest of Cold War years, just a year after Able Archer, the Petrov incident and Reagan's "evil empire" speech.

 

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, which controls the clock, said the time was changed on January 22 because of the threat posed by both climate change and nuclear weapons. Increased international tensions, a faltering of the disarmament process, upgrades to nuclear arsenals and increasing proliferation, as well as a lack of progress on curbing emissions make the probability of global catastrophe "very high".

A sceptical journalist pointed out that the bulletin has been moving the clock periodically for 68 years, yet the world hasn't ended so far, so "why believe it this time?"

The panel members' response was to point out that they are "not in the business of forecasting" so much as warning the world of its plight. In this case the clock can be viewed as a form of probabilistic rhetoric.

Rolling the dice

How many times do you need to roll a dice and not get a six until you start suspecting it is loaded? How many times do you need to roll a loaded dice before you have a sense of how loaded it is? Just because something does not happen, doesn't mean it's not informative.

If we assume there is an unknown probability of nuclear war per year, and every year fate rolls the dice, we can calculate the chance of a given number of years with no nuclear war. We can turn this around to update our estimate of how likely nuclear war is. Back in 1945 we might have been open for almost any risk, but in 2015 the chance of a nuclear war is at least not high.

(For those interested, this Bayesian approach to probability puts the chance of nuclear war at 1.4% per year, with a 95% confidence interval between 0.036%-5.1%.)

The new clock is red. In case it wasn’t clear enough already. Credit: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

However, we know far more about the world than that. We can investigate the number of close calls that have happened – such as the Cuban Missile crisis and theNorwegian rocket incident – in an attempt to get better estimates. We can analyse the weaknesses of command and control systems, or the risk of accidental faults triggering conflict. But even the best analysis of this kind will be limited. The risks are clearly changing over time, and there may be fundamental things we do not know about the world.

Measuring the end of the world

How would we actually measure how close we are to the end of the world?

One might imagine having actual data: maybe a wormhole leading to a future date and allowing direct observation of when humanity expires. But if the universe is consistent – which is to say paradoxes cannot occur – knowing this information will not allow us to change the date. The value of any information about the risks we face lies in how they allow us to reduce the risk.

We almost have a literal clock for certain risks. We roughly know the time when the sun will start expanding and make Earth inhospitable. We could set up a timer counting down to impact if we detected an asteroid or comet on its way towards Earth. However, the evolution of the sun is slow and we have good reason to believe the risk of an asteroid impact in the near future is very low: the utility of such clocks is limited.

In the case of earthquakes, supervolcanos or pandemics, the causes start out on a microscopic scale – a stressed mineral grain breaking in a faultline, a mutation in a cell somewhere – and expand exponentially to produce a large event. Here we are dealing with something that is, for all practical purposes, random. These threats must be treated as probabilities: any "clock" would give us a probability estimate.

But the actual large threats likely to destroy us are dominated by human factors. This implies far tougher kinds of uncertainty. They change over time, they are affected by self-fulfilling or self-defeating prophecies (like the Doomsday Clock itself), and the very system of risk changes as technology and society changes.

Here the normal forms of probability estimate are not just inadequate, they are actively misleading. The 1.4% probability per year of nuclear war sounds very exact, yet the estimate is based on a list of potentially suspect assumptions. The chance of at least one of them being wrong is high. It may be better to explicitly acknowledge the uncertainty, compare what we know to an acceptable risk of Armageddon, and state the nuclear risk as being "unacceptably high".

Model uncertainty is always present, but becomes particularly important when dealing with complex systems where we do not know everything going on. Environmental researchers are looking for ecological or climatological tipping points: if we knew the exact boundary we could make an index (a "Doomsday Yardstick"?) telling us how close we are. But the actual approach is more of a considered expert judgement, and more like the hints in the warmer-colder game rather than an actual distance. Again, the benefit lies in trying to move in the right direction rather than measuring something exactly.

Proper uses of doomsday predictions

The Doomsday Clock is not a measurement of time, probability or distance. It is a measure of the "strong feeling of urgency" the people who run it have when watching the world-system.

It can be compared to the World Economic Forum global risk report that was recently released. This was not a report of the actual risk, but how concerned people are about the risks -– the experts might vastly overestimate or underestimate the chance of something happening, and there could be far worse threats out there. Yet it is helpful to compile what concerns people and use it as a start for discussing what we need and are willing to do.

Doomsday predictions are rarely informative, but good ones can be directive: they urge us to fix the world.

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Struggle City: Most U.S. cities haven't recovered yet

 

NEW YORK (CNNMoney)President Obama faces a new problem this year: America as a whole is improving, but most cities are getting left behind.

Sixty percent of U.S. cities have not recovered to their pre-recession levels, according to the Brookings Institution's new MetroMonitor report, which ranks the economic health of 300 cities in the world.

America is a tale of two economies: cities focused on tech and energy are thriving while some regions, like the so-called Rustbelt, continue to lag behind.

Related: America's Most Innovative Cities

"Some parts of the country are high-flying, they're doing great," says Joe Parilla, one of the authors of the Brookings report. "Other parts probably feel like they're, if not in a recession, they still feel like they're not recovering."

Austin, Houston and Raleigh -- energy and tech focused cities -- topped the list of fastest growing metro areas in 2014, according to Brookings. Those cities have an average unemployment rate of 4.3%, well below the national 5.6%.

They are doing so well that they actually beat out Beijing, Mumbai and Shanghai in economic health last year if you take into account both GDP and employment gains.

Related: Still waiting for a pay raise? You're not alone

The other America: Meanwhile, several U.S. cities located near the Great Lakes ranked in the bottom 50 cities worldwide for growth. Cleveland, Syracuse and Dayton had either flat or negative growth in 2014, according to Brookings.

Syracuse was the lowest ranked American city: it placed just above Caracas, Venezuela, where food shortages and sky-high inflation are provoking violent protests.

These "Struggle City" economies relied heavily on manufacturing jobs in the past and were severely hit with large layoffs during the recession. Now they're trying to reform their economies, but their populations are dwindling, which challenges the value of their housing markets, Parilla says.

"A lot of these places that were so reliant on manufacturing are struggling to retool that part of their economy to compete in the 21st century," Parilla says.

Brookings uses growth in employment and gross domestic product per capita, a broad measure of economic activity divided by a city's population, to rank cities.

The report also reinforces the trend that wage growth remains flat while the economy adds jobs. Almost all U.S. cities on Brookings' list had more employment growth than GDP per capita gains between 2013 and 2014.

Look at Raleigh, one of the nation's fastest growing cities: its job growth increased four times more than its GDP per capita growth last year. Brookings assigns a status to every city it ranks, and Raleigh's status may serve as a microcosm to the national sentiment: "partially recovered."

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