The Creepy Language Tricks Taco Bell Uses to Fool People Into Eating There

What can you tell about a restaurant from its menu? A lot more than what’s cooking. That’s what linguist

Taco Bell

 Jurafsky, a professor of linguistics at Stanford, looked at hundreds of examples of food language—from menus to marketing materials to restaurant reviews. Along the way, he uncovered some fascinating patterns. For example: In naming foods, he explains, marketers often appeal to the associations that we already have with certain sounds. Crackers and other crispy foods tend to have names with short, front-of-the-mouth vowels (Ritz, Cheez-Its, Triscuits), while rich and heavy foods have longer vowels that we form in the back of our mouth (Rocky Road, Jamoca Almond Fudge). He also describes the shared linguistic heritage of some of the most common food words. Take salad, sauce, slaw, and salsa: All come from the Latin word sal, meaning “salted.”

But it’s Jurafsky’s menu analysis that really stands out. Where most of us see simply a list of dishes, Jurafsky identifies subtle indicators of the image that a restaurant is trying to project—and which customers it wants to lure in. I asked Jurafsky to examine the menus of Taco Bell and its new upscale spinoff, US Taco Co., whose first location just opened in Southern California.

We started with Taco Bell’s breakfast menu. Of course, everyone knows that the Tex-Mex fast food chain isn’t exactly fine dining, but Jurafsky pointed to some hidden hallmarks of down-market eateries’ menus.

The first thing that Jurafsky noticed about Taco Bell’s menu was its size: There are dozens, if not hundreds of items. “The very, very fancy restaurants, many of them have no menu at all,” Jurafsky says. “The waiter tells you what you’re going to eat, kind of. If you want, they’ll email you a menu if you really want it.”

Next, Jurafsky picked up on descriptors. “So there’s all of those adjectives and participles,” he says. “‘Fluffy. ‘Seasoned.'” That’s one thing that’s common on cheaper restaurant menus—as if the restaurant feels the need to try and convince its diners of the quality of the food. A fancier restaurant, he explains, would take it as a given that the diner expects the eggs to be fluffy and the pico de gallo to be freshly prepared.

“Notice the word ‘flavorful,’” Jurafsky says. “The cheapest restaurants use these vague, positive adjectives. ‘Delicious.’ ‘Tasty.’ ‘Scrumptious.’ Wonderful. Again, more expensive restaurants take all that as a given.”

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Everything You Need To Know About Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution by Igor Volsky Posted on September 29, 2014 at 10:26 am Updated: September 29, 2014 at 5:01 pm`

Hong Kong Democracy Protest


Riot police in Hong Kong are deploying tear gas and rubber bullets against at least 13,000 protesters demanding greater democratic reforms. The movement — dubbed the “Umbrella Revolution” for the demonstrators’ use of umbrellas to protect themselves from tear gas — is capturing the world’s attention and leading some analysts to wonder if the event could escalate into a broader push for greater democracy in the region.

A civil disobedience movement modeled on Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

In January of 2013, constitutional expert Benny Tai, frustrated with what he saw as the Chinese government’s reluctance to grant Hong Kong the political independence it had promised, called on residents to join a massive act of civil disobedience in Central, Hong Kong’s business and financial center. Joined by sociology professor Chan Kin-Man and the Rev. Chu Yiu-Ming, the trio sought to model the movement, they called Occupy Central, on Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Hong Kong Democracy ProtestCREDIT: AP

The push for greater autonomy and independence began after the United Kingdom transferred sovereignty over Hong Kong to the People’s Republic of China in 1997. Under British rule, Hong Kong became a wealthy manufacturing center, with limited democratic freedoms unseen in mainland China. As part of the transfer-of-power negotiations, China agreed to a “one country, two systems” deal. Under those terms, Hong Kong can develop its own democracy without interference from the central government and in 2017 Hong Kong citizens are permitted to democratically elect their top leader who is currently appointed by Beijing.

The Chinese government, however, has repeatedly reinterpreted this agreement. In July, it released a White Paper reaffirming its “complete jurisdiction” over Hong Kong, adding that “the high degree of autonomy of [Hong Kong] is not an inherent power, but one that comes solely from the authorization by the central leadership.” In August, Beijing announced that “while citizens would be allowed to vote for the chief executive, the candidates for the election would have to be approved by a special committee just like the pro-Beijing committee that currently appoints the chief executive.”

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Data divulges racial disparity in Chicago’s issuance of gun permits – By Kelly Riddell – Monday, September 29, 2014

Wealthier whites get 90 percent of licenses in Illinois

Proponents and opponents of Illinois' concealed carry gun law are weighing in on how it will affect the relative safety of Chicago, the homicide capital of the nation. (Associated Press)

In Chicago’s South Side earlier this month, a 16-year-old boy was shot dead, the seventh person killed this year in the West Garfield Park neighborhood.

The boy was able to give his name and reportedly pleaded with the responding police officers, “Please don’t let me die.”

If you live in 60624, the ZIP code where the shooting took place, you don’t expect your streets to be safe. In the last 30 days, that neighborhood has recorded more homicides, robberies, assaults, thefts and narcotics charges combined than any other ZIP code in Cook County when measured on a per capita basis. Its population is 98 percent black and averages a median income just above the poverty line.

PHOTOS: Best concealed carry handguns

It also is one of the ZIP codes that registers the fewest active concealed carry firearms permits per capita in the county, according to concealed carry numbers obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by The Washington Times.

Ditto for the crime-ridden neighborhoods of Englewood and West Englewood. Combined with West Garfield Park, out of their 114,933 total residents, only 193 concealed carry licenses have been issued — less than 0.17 percent of the population.

It’s a completely different story in affluent Palos Park, located in southwestern Cook County. The 60464 ZIP code boasts a negligible crime rate: Only one homicide has been committed in 10 years, according to the most recent state police data. Ninety-six percent of its residents are white, earning an average income of $121,000.

SEE ALSO: D.C. proceeds with plan for concealed weapon permits to avoid contempt

It also has the most concealed carry licenses in Cook County this year, with 1.24 percent of its residents authorized to carry a gun.

The majority of Illinois’ 73,714 active concealed carry licenses — 90 percent — have been issued to white people, demographic data shows. Only eight percent of African-Americans have secured licenses, according to the FOIA information.

Within Cook County, the top five concealed carry ZIP codes per capita are all predominately white, middle class and are in areas that have low crime rates. However, the most violent neighborhoods within the county — all of which are on the South Side of Chicago — are predominately black, where residents earn less than $48,000 annually and hold the fewest concealed carry licenses as a percentage of the population.

If the same data trends occurred in banking and insurance, there might be outcries of “redlining,” denying a group of people access to goods or services because of the color of their skin or income levels. But there’s little public concern expressed so far about the possibility that poor blacks are being disenfranchised from the right to carry a concealed weapon.

“You really need to ask whether or not politicians are consciously trying to disarm certain groups of people,” said Dr. John Lott, a Second Amendment expert and president of the Crime Prevention Center. “Why do they want a law that primarily disarms blacks and gives guns to only well-to-do whites? Don’t they think it should be equal for everyone to protect their lives?”

Illinois residents say the disproportionate statistics all boil down to cost. Of right-to-carry states, Illinois has the highest registration and training fee, costing an applicant about $650 on average for fingerprinting, taxes and logistics — excluding the price of the gun.

“In these gangbang neighborhoods, people can’t afford the license. They’re making choices between food and medicine, and they can’t even guarantee they’ll get even that,” said Shawn Gowder, 49, who lives in Chicago’s Auburn Gresham neighborhood on the South Side, where two homicides have taken place in the last 30 days. “We need to arm ourselves and protect ourselves from these gangbangers, but we just can’t afford to do it.”

Illinois also has the longest training requirements of right-to-carry states, requiring potential licensees to take a 16-hour course that includes range time. There are no gun ranges within the city of Chicago, and carrying an unlicensed gun on public transportation is a crime.

“There are a lot of systematic and economic barriers that make it difficult for South Side of Chicago residents, many of whom are African-American, to obtain concealed carry permits,” said George Mitchell, president of the NAACP Illinois State Conference. “Some of the barriers include the high costs, time commitment, bureaucracy and the community’s distrust of the police.”

Hong Kong police try and fail to clear protesters with tear gas – By William Wan September 28 at 11:35 PM

 After clashes between police and protesters that lasted into the morning, Hong Kong awoke Monday to a city in chaos — with roads closed and several areas still littered with crowds of sleeping pro-democracy demonstrators.

Some still clutched umbrellas and masks that they had used to fend off tear gas lobbed by police in a failed attempt to disperse them.

The overnight clashes between thousands of protesters and police marked the latest escalation in the battle between Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists and the territory’s rulers in Beijing.

In recent weeks, the democracy movement had appeared to be flagging after a summer of simmering dissent. But this past week, a boycott by students galvanized the cause over the weekend and prompted thousands to join the students’ nonviolent siege of Hong Kong’s government headquarters.

Their protests yielded scenes of unusual chaos over the weekend in the usually staid Asian financial hub.

Forest Service backs off on media restrictions – By Timothy Cama – 09/28/14 01:36 PM EDT

Following backlash from lawmakers and press advocates, the Forest Service is backing off on a proposal that would have banned photography and videography in national forests.

Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell told The Washington Post Friday that his staff would work to ensure that the new rules do not violate press freedoms.

“Based on the feedback we’ve made so far, we’ll make changes to make sure this doesn’t apply to news gathering,” Tidwell said.

Under the rules as originally proposed, anybody taking photos or video in national forests would be required to obtain a permit, costing up to $1,500, the Oregonian reported. Violators would be subject to fines of up to $1,000.

Furthermore, Forest Service officials indicated that they would reject permit applications that did not fit with the agency’s priorities.

Members of Congress from Oregon and elsewhere blasted the rules as unnecessary restrictions, but the Forest Service initially refused to budge, saying it needed to protect national forests for any threat, including commercialization.

The Forest Service, which is a unit of the Department of Agriculture, had been temporarily enforcing the rules for years.

“If you’re news media, it has no effect at all,” Tidwell told the Post. “If you’re a private individual, this doesn’t apply.”

Permits will not be required unless the photographer or videographer wishes to use props, Tidwell said.

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Last Week Tonight Asks, How Is Ayn Rand Still A Thing? – By Heather September 28, 2014 9:13 pm

John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight on the right’s worship of Ayn Rand.

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at Sep 29, 2014 1.00

John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight takes on the Ayn Rand loving right wing conservatives and wonders why they don’t find another hero to worship when there are so many others to choose from given Rand’s views on abortion, God and St. Ronnie.


Cut by the Supreme Court – By Brianne Gorod SEPT. 28 2014 9:15 PM

When the justices denied these cases, justice was underserved.

The Supreme Court takes less than 1 percent of cases it is asked to hear.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Jason Reed/Reuters.

The new Supreme Court term doesn’t officially start until the first Monday in October. But that doesn’t mean the justices are still on vacation. On Monday, Sept. 29, the justices will meet in what is known as the “Long Conference” to consider thousands of requests to hear cases that have come in since June. Shortly thereafter, we’ll find out which cases will make the cut and be heard this term. It’s a good reminder: Although Supreme Court watchers tend to focus on the cases the court decides each term, the court spends a good deal of its time deciding which cases it won’t decide. Each year, the court is asked to hear more than 10,000 cases. And each year the court holds oral argument and issues written decisions in less than 1 percent of those cases.

Why does the court take the cases that it does? We can’t know for sure. For an institution often criticized for its lack of transparency, its decisions about which cases to decide are among its least transparent. Still, we can tell a lot about what the court cares about—and what it doesn’t. Last year the cases the court didn’t care about included several with significant implications for workers’ overtime pay, the constitutional rights of criminal defendants, the victims of racial harassment, and the freedom of the press. It’s useful to consider whether that matters and why.

The court didn’t always have the power to avoid the cases it didn’t want to hear. Until 1925, the Supreme Court was required to hear almost every case that arrived on its doorstep. But that year Congress passed a law that gave the court much more control over its docket. And how does the court decide which petitions to grant? That’s a loaded question (law professors and political scientists have spilled a lot of ink trying to figure that out), but on a mechanical level, it’s pretty straightforward. Unless four justices vote to hear a case, the request will be denied, most often with no explanation at all. (Very occasionally, a justice will issue a statement respecting a denial that offers some insight into the court’s reasoning.)

The court could be hearing more cases. As John Roberts noted at his confirmation hearing to become chief justice, the court was then hearing “about half the number of cases [it] did 25 years ago.” And since he became Chief Justice Roberts, the number hasn’t gone up. Last term, the court issued only 67 signed opinions (apparently the second lowest number of signed opinions since the Civil War). Many of these opinions were hugely consequential, affecting the law in areas from campaign finance to religion to race. But the court decided not to decide many other consequential cases, as well, thereby passing up the opportunity to weigh in on important issues that merit its attention. Here are some of the cases the court should have granted last year.

Remember the classic film Ten Angry Men? Of course not, because it’s Twelve Angry Men. But not in Florida, which allows juries of less than 12. The movie wouldn’t have worked in Louisiana or Oregon either, where juries can convict even if not all members agree that the defendant is guilty. Forty years ago, the Supreme Court said the Sixth Amendment’s right to a jury trial permits those practices. Since then, the court has repudiated the reasoning and result of those old decisions; it has repeatedly said in nonbinding statements (what lawyers call “dicta”) that conviction requires the unanimous vote of 12 of the defendant’s peers. Yet it decided not to hear two crucial cases—Jackson v. Louisiana and Irving v. Florida—that would have allowed it to overrule those conflicting precedents. As a result, people will end up spending their lives in prison even though they weren’t convicted by a unanimous vote of a 12-member jury. It’s one thing to think that your rights have been violated; it’s another thing to have the Supreme Court essentially tell you that they have been, but that the court still won’t do anything about it.

NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. – Daniel Engber SEPT. 28 2014 8:30 PM

Popular stats about the health—and criminality—of football players are often misleading.
Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photos by Getty Images & Thinkstock

Football has a numbers problem. We’re told that 1 in 3 NFL players will suffer from Alzheimer’s or dementia at younger ages than their peers; that they’re four times more likely to die from degenerative brain diseases; that 78 percent will be broke or nearly so within two years of retiring; that they may be disproportionately inclined to beat their wives; and that they live, on average, to the age of 55 or 60. It’s enough to make you wonder if banning football would be good for America.

But there’s another numbers problem here: Each of the figures cited in the paragraph above is false, misleading, or incomplete. They’ve nonetheless become ammunition for anyone who wants to criticize the sport, the NFL, or its players. If we’re going to talk about the social value of the NFL—or, more importantly, its social costs—then it’s time we reckoned with the stats. But which numbers, if any, can we trust?

Some of the most widespread statistical mistakes are simply sloppy. The recent claim that 1 in 3 pro football players will experience accelerated cognitive decline derives from actuarial reports prepared for both sides in one of the NFL’s recent concussion lawsuits. Despite headlines to the contrary in places like the New York Times, these reports pegged the rate at 28 percent—closer to 1 in 4 than 1 in 3. The actuaries predict that players will suffer from cognitive decline at younger ages than their peers, but they don’t imply—as many commentators have—that a full 28 percent will suffer from a rare, early-onset form of illness. Instead, they say that roughly 1 in 4 players will experience cognitive decline at any point during their lives, including when they’re very old. As for how those numbers might relate to those you’d find in a normal, non-football-playing population, both reports can only guess. The plaintiffs’ side admits that, for the majority of the diagnoses involved, “no peer-reviewed published research on the risk to professional football players relative to the general population [could be] identified.” Faced with the same problem, the NFL’s accountants “at each stage sought to err on the side of overstating the number of players who will develop” neurological conditions.

Why Obama Can’t Say His Spies Underestimated ISIS – Eli Lake 09.28.14

On ‘60 Minutes,’ the president faulted his spies for failing to predict the rise of ISIS. There’s one problem with that statement: The intelligence analysts did warn about the group.

Nearly eight months ago, some of President Obama’s senior intelligence officials were already warning that ISIS was on the move. In the beginning of 2014, ISIS fighters had defeated Iraqi forces in Fallujah, leading much of the U.S. intelligence community to assess they would try to take more of Iraq.

But in an interview that aired Sunday evening, the president told 60 Minutes that the rise of the group now proclaiming itself a caliphate in territory between Syria and Iraq caught the U.S. intelligence community off guard. Obama specifically blamed James Clapper, the current director of national intelligence: “Our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that, I think, they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria,” he said.

Reached by The Daily Beast after Obama’s interview aired, one former senior Pentagon official who worked closely on the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq was flabbergasted. “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting,” the former official said.

lapper did tell The Washington Post’s David Ignatius this month that he underestimated the will of the ISIS fighters in Iraq and overestimated the ability of Iraq’s security forces in northern Iraq to counter ISIS. (He also said his analysts warned about the “prowess and capability” of the group.)

Still, other senior intelligence officials have been warning about ISIS for months. In prepared testimony before the annual House and Senate intelligence committees’ threat hearings in January and February, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the recently departed director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the group would likely make a grab for land before the end of the year. ISIS “probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria to exhibit its strength in 2014.” Of course, the prediction wasn’t exactly hard to make. By then, Flynn noted, ISIS had taken the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, and the demonstrated an “ability to concurrently maintain multiple safe havens in Syria.”

Top Republican Presidential Candidate Says Anarchy May Force Cancellation Of 2016 Election by Josh Israel – Posted on September 28, 2014 at 10:37 am Updated: September 28, 2014 at 11:10 am

Top Republican Presidential Candidate Says Anarchy May Force Cancellation Of 2016 Election

Ben Carson

Ben Carson

CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Dr. Ben Carson, a popular Tea Party activist and Fox News contributor who says he will likely seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016, said on Sunday that he is seriously concerned that there will not be 2016 elections in the United States because the country could be in anarchy by that point. His reasons: the growing national debt, ISIS, and the U.S. Senate’s refusal to consider legislation passed by the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

Host Chris Wallace noted that in light of his potential presidential campaign, Carson’s previous comments were now under a greater spotlight. He noted Carson’s August comment that if the Republicans don’t win a majority in the Senate this year, the 2016 elections might not even be held and asked the retired neurosurgeon if he stood by it:

WALLACE: You said recently that there might not even be elections in 2016 because of widespread anarchy. Do you really believe that?

CARSON: I hope that that’s not going to be the case. But certainly there’s the potential because you have to recognize that we have a rapidly increasing national debt, a very unstable financial foundation, and you have all these things going on like the ISIS crisis that could very rapidly change things that are going on in our nation. And unless we begin to deal with these things in a comprehensive way and in a logical way there is no telling what could happen in just a couple of years.

Carson then noted that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has “over three hundred bills sitting on his desk” that he won’t bring to the floor for a vote, “thereby thwarting the will of the people.” He made no mention of the Republican House’s refusal to consider popular Senate-passed bipartisan measures like comprehensive immigration reform and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Carson finished a close second Saturday in a straw poll at the 2014 Values Voters Summit for 2016 presidential preferences.

Despite Carson’s fears, the United States has held presidential elections every four years since 1788, despite a civil war, two world wars, and a great depression. Carson has been no stranger to controversial comments since he became active in politics. In March of 2013, he compared same-sex marriage to bestiality and NAMBLA. That October, he decried the Affordable Care Act as “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” adding that the law “is slavery, in a way.” And earlier this month, Carson defended former Baltimore Raven Ray Rice, saying people should stop “demonizing” him and suggesting that his wife also shared some of the blame for being attacked, opining that “they both need some help.”

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