National / International News

Getting back from March Madness

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-04-06 02:00

Large tournaments like March Madness mean equally large logistical challenges. The numbers are staggering when you consider that 68 teams also means 68 coaches, 68 marching bands, 68 cheerleading squads. The numbers made Marketplace listener Angela Barker curious:

How do teams, which include support staff and pep bands, arrange their flights home? Most teams go home the day after they lose. Figure 50-75 plane tickets per team. That's a lot of seats to have the airline hold over multiple days.

Short answer: The NCAA arranges and pays for all travel. Or most of it, rather. Here are the numbers behind getting teams from campus to court.

75

NCAA Division I rules pay for travel and a per-diem stipend for parties of up to 75 for preliminary games. Aside from supporting staff, that number allows for 15 players, 29 band members, 1 band director, 12 cheerleaders, 1 cheer coach, and 1 mascot.

If teams make it to the Final Four, that number goes up to 100.

350 miles

If a team is traveling under 350 miles to a game, they have to take a bus, which is arranged by the NCAA. And that’s a hard rule, even if a team is traveling, say, 347 miles.

467 buses

That’s how many bus trips will be organized by the NCAA. This number includes buses involved in transporting teams to and from airports (these trips are organized by the NCAA, but are paid for by the schools).

214 flights

That’s how many flights will be arranged by Short’s Travel on behalf of the NCAA. As soon as the bracket for March Madness is announced, Shorts launches into action — coordinating flights, making deals with charter companies and mapping out airports as rapidly as possible.

3 PM

Which brings us to Barker’s question: When a team loses, how is it that they manage to fly home so soon after the game?

The answer: charter flights.

Over at the NCAA website, they’ve got an exhaustive explainer on how Short’s Travel figures out how to get each team where they need to be. The process involves non-stop communication with charter plane companies to the point that Shorts representatives refer to the airlines by the gender of their representative. These planes exist on a “what-if” schedule — prepared to drop or pick-up flights depending on who wins and loses.

Those organizing flights don’t pay attention to the game so much as they wait for the buzzer to make a round of calls about who is flying where.

Three o'clock in the afternoon is a crucial time: if a game’s tip-off is before 3 p.m., the losing team flies home that night. If it’s after 3 p.m., flights are arranged for early the next day. Shorts handles travel arrangements for all of these flights, with the NCAA reimbursing for the personnel counts listed above.

90 percent

But some argue that with the amount of money the NCAA makes on March Madness, it could be doing a better job helping schools out with expenses. After all, 90 percent of the NCAA's $800 million revenue originates in television and marketing-rights fees for the men's basketball championship alone. 

In a recent article for Forbes Magazine, Robert Tuchman points out that those 75- and 100-personnel allotments barely cover costs when you factor in extra staff, band members, and cheerleaders who are also traveling to an away game. And if a university has a smaller program, they don’t necessarily have the money to cover those extra costs. It can add up, with some schools barely breaking even on participating in the tournament. (Though, Tuchman also says schools can earn back lost money through increased visibility from making it further into the tournament).

Which leads to the last number:

$3,000

That’s how much the NCAA will give each of the players on Final Four teams. The stipend is meant to cover travel and housing costs for family to make it to the final games. It's a pilot program for this season — many expect an announcement soon about whether or not the NCAA will choose to continue paying out the stipend.

Researchers want to predict future traffic

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-04-06 02:00

Microsoft is helping researchers in Brazil study whether they can predict traffic congestion 15 minutes to an hour before it happens.

The plan is to use Microsoft's cloud computing service to store and crunch data from multiple sources.

"The Traffic Prediction Project uses data available by social networks, department of transportation, and data that the users create themselves while they move around the city," Juliana Salles of Microsoft Research said in a promotional video.

Those data points aren't new, and neither is work to predict traffic jams. In fact, such predictions are happening now, says Peter Keen of Digital Traffic Systems.

"It is being done now. It can always be done better," Keen says, because right now prediction models depend on past traffic information.

"You have historical trends of what the volume's going to be at a given day of the week, at a given time of day," says Keen, which can help make predictions that are accurate much of the time, especially about typical traffic patterns on major passageways.

Keen says predictions can be better if both past and current data is combined. But such data is often in multiple formats and multiple databases, and hard to combine.

Rahim Benekohal, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Illinois who studies traffic flows, says we already know a lot about traffic patterns. 

"By understanding how the congestion grows, where the congestions grows and what's the cause of it," says Benekohal, you can often predict future congestion without the need for crunching huge amounts of data.

In fact, Benekohal says, most of us can predict traffic congestion just from our own past experience with around 80 percent accuracy. Still, he says he admires the effort being undertaken by Brazilian researchers with the help of Microsoft.

Keen adds that there have been a lot of efforts to research traffic congestion prediction, but no one has yet discovered "a magic bullet," he says.

How many billionaires are there in the world?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-04-06 02:00

It's time for a set of fiendishly confounding questions about the global economy in the form of a quiz. Stephan Richter, editor in chief of the Globalist, joined Marketplace Morning Report host David Brancaccio to talk about something most people aren't aware of about the globalized world. The question of the day is: "How many billionaires are there in the world?"

Is it...

A. 13.7 million

B. 3.1 Million

C. 2325

D. 286

Click the media player above to find out.

Forget the elevator. Try pitching on a ski lift

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-04-06 02:00

On a perfect day at the Taos Ski Valley, the skies are deep blue and the powder is fresh, thanks to a mid-week storm.

But among the skiers and snowboarders waiting for the lift, there are people with more than freshies and black diamonds on their minds. Molly Cernicek is the CEO of SportXast. She's one of  one of 11 entrepreneurs competing for a $10,000 prize in a contest sponsored by ABQid, a business accelerator in Albuquerque. Dalton Wright is with Kickstart Seed Fund in Salt Lake City and he's one of the investors judging the pitches from startup founders like Cernicek.

As the they settle into the chairlift and start the ascent, the wind picks up and casual chit chat ends.

“Molly, tell us about the business,” Wright says.

“We have two products, Dalton,” Cernicek answers. “The first is an app that makes it easy for parents and fans to capture and share video highlights of a game.”

Over the course of 10 minutes Wright lobs a series of questions to Cernicek.

“What’s the revenue model? Who pays for it? How is that a significant improvement over how they’re already doing things? How far along are you?”

And she answers.

“The revenue model is going to come from the Athlete Channel ... Nobody’s looked at the media part of the value chain ... We’re up to about 6,000 downloads and we’re starting to see a lot of activity.”

As the lift crests the top of the mountain, they jump from the chair and continue talking as they ski to the next lift for the next round of pitching.

Four finalists make the initial cut, including Cernicek, and they each make a final pitch over lunch for a large crowd. Then everyone heads for the slopes, only to reconvene later at the historic Bavarian Inn for the prize announcement. 

Katie Rice is a board member with ABQ id and the Ski Lift Pitch was her idea. An avid skier, she saw potential in the conversations that start on chair lifts. “We thought they can make a much more meaningful connection than they can at a conference or a board room or a setting like that, right?”

As the snowfall intensifies outside, attendees applaud the ultimate winner: Taos Mountain Energy Bar. The company launched in 2010 with the idea of making an anti-energy bar, namely one that actually tastes good and has decent branding. The company is in 1100 retailers now and has about $1 million in revenues. But the founders plan to expand production and reach $100 million by 2020.

New Mexico has struggled since the recession, and it's this kind of optimism that the Ski Lift Pitch organizers hope will help pull the state from the economic doldrums.

 

 

Should weapons have a kill switch?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-04-06 02:00

When the Iraqi army gave up Mosul in June 2014, the fleeing soldiers left behind large amounts of weaponry that had been supplied by the United States. By some accounts, three army divisions’ worth of Humvees, helicopters, anti-aircraft missiles and tanks fell into the hands of ISIS.

The news made Jonathan Zittrain, a Harvard professor and one of the directors of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, wonder if there was some way to build weapons that could be turned off remotely. Like the way you turn off a smartphone that is lost or stolen.  

In an article he published in Scientific American, Zittrain argued: “It is past time that we consider whether we should build in a way to remotely disable such dangerous tools in an emergency. Other technologies, including smartphones, already incorporate this kind of capability.”

He was referring to the “kill switch,” a feature that allows Apple users to turn off their iPhone remotely so it cannot be turned on or accessed without the original owner’s permission.  

“I probably shouldn't have called them kill switches,” said Zittrain, while speaking to Marketplace Tech. “This would really be a not kill switch.”

If we can turn off our smartphones from a distance to prevent them from being used by others, said Zittrain, why not try and do the same for deadly weapons? “We are talking tanks and anti-aircraft missiles and such,” he said.

How would the technology work? “Well, the technology is, of course, really tricky,” admitted Zittrain. “The last thing you want is for any form of kill switch or disabling mechanism to be triggered by the adversary when the thing hasn't been stolen.”

He thinks one way to do this would be to have equipment naturally expire at a certain date unless it’s renewed by a code. But in order to equip weapons with such technology, Zittrain added, consumers must be “down with the plan.”

“This is not about a secret kill switch,” he said. “This is about a perfectly open one. Ideally, viewed as a feature rather than a bug.”

 He believes those who buy the weapons and deploy them in battle need to be invested in what happens to the weapons when the war ends or if they fall into the wrong hands.

He points to landmines as an example of what happens when consumers are not invested.

“Who’s going to take responsibility for digging it all up?” said Zittrain. “The consumer might be indifferent to the fact that it’s going to last 6 years because they don’t expect the war to go on that long but it could have incredibly important consequences.”

 

Kenya bombs Somalia al-Shabab bases

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-06 01:59
Kenyan air force bombs al-Shabab bases in Somalia following the militant group's onslaught on Garissa University last week which left 148 people dead.

Rodgers defends Liverpool commitment

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-06 01:47
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers says his players "give him everything" after reports of a crisis meeting at Anfield.

Mexico searches for oil-rig workers

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-06 01:44
Mexico's state-run oil company Pemex says it is still searching for three workers who disappeared after a deadly fire at an oil rig.

David Lynch leaves Twin Peaks reboot

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-06 01:35
Director David Lynch walks away from a sequel to his cult TV series Twin Peaks, after a disagreement over money.

Agro-hacked food at smart allotment

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-06 01:19
The Click TV team try to see if gadgets can deliver a bumper crop on its smart allotment in London.

'Revenge porn' site owner jailed

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-06 01:13
The operator of a 'revenge porn' website has been sentenced to 18 years in jail in America.

Obama: US will be there for Israel

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-06 01:12
President Obama seeks to reassure Israel that the US remains its staunchest supporter, amid Israeli fears about a deal on Iran's nuclear programme.

Taliban chief biography a message to IS

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-06 01:05
A biography of Taliban chief Mullah Omar aims to counter the growing influence of Islamic State in Afghanistan by dispelling rumours of his death, writes David Lyon.

India launches air quality index

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-06 01:03
India launches its first air quality index, to provide real time information about its often dangerous urban pollution.

Ex-Tory candidate 'switches to UKIP'

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-06 01:00
A former Conservative parliamentary candidate joins UKIP, amid a row in the Hull West and Hessle constituency.

Just a small town store with big town dreams

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2015-04-06 01:00
1 hour

That's how far into the future technology can help us see...at least in traffic congestion. Microsoft is reportedly helping researchers in Brazil to calculate traffic jam  up to an hour before it happens. The Traffic Prediction Project uses data available by social networks, department of transportation, and data that users create themselves while they move around the city.

13.7 million? 3.1 Million? 2325? or 286?

One of these numbers is how many billionaires there are in the world. Find out the answer by listening to our conversation with quiz master Stephan Richter, editor in chief at the Globalist magazine. 

Half a billion dollars

This is how much debt Greece owe the IMF. The head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, spent several hours of her Easter Sunday with the finance minister of Greece, who offered assurances that his country will pay what it owes the IMF. The loan is due on Thursday this week. It's not clear if Greece has the money, which has to come from somewhere. Some say as Greece struggles to stay within the eurozone by not defaulting internationally, it may be defaulting internally. 

$10 dollars a ton

That's how much some municipalities in New Jersey used to earn for selling materials to recyclers who would, in turn, resell the scrap. But as oil prices have continued to fall, so has the price of plastic. That's because plastic is often derived from oil. And as a result, as the WSJ reports, it's no longer a cheaper option to buy recycled plastics.

5,000 to 100,000

That's the population size of cities where Radioshack will focus its efforts as it regroups from near bankruptcy. The reason? Smaller cities still need a neighborhood electronics store. As reported by the NY Times, the company will stop selling items like smartphones and laptops, instead focusing on accessories like chargers and bluetooth headsets—items that customers would prefer to have as soon as possible rather than waiting for a delivery.

Farmers, Trade Association Debate Merits Of Organic Marketing Fund

NPR News - Mon, 2015-04-06 00:58

The fast-growing organic sector hasn't had a succinct motto. The Organic Trade Association wants growers to help pay for one. The idea is splitting farmers, processors and marketers into factions.

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States Tout Crowdfunding As The Future Of Private Investment

NPR News - Mon, 2015-04-06 00:58

Many states want to boost their economies through business startups. But outside of Silicon Valley, funding for private investors is hard to get. States are giving equity crowdfunding more attention.

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Tribute paid to air crash couple

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-06 00:52
Tribute is paid to a Dundee GP and her engineer husband who died in a plane crash on a Glen Etive hillside in Argyll.

Two dead in County Antrim accidents

BBC - Mon, 2015-04-06 00:42
Two people die in separate road accidents in County Antrim.

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