On Saturday, near the New Mexico town of Alamagordo, a group of video game enthusiasts, excavation specialists, and filmmakers started digging a hole in a desert landfill. Why? You may remember some months ago we talked about the legend that in the early 1980s, video game maker Atari secretly dumped tons of video games into a hole in the middle of the desert.
The reasons for this particular move remain a bit of a mystery, but certainly the game maker was in financial trouble. That's in part because of one particular game -- it was based on the movie E.T., and it did poorly. So poorly, in fact, that it's still described as the worst video game in history.
The man who designed Atari's E.T. game is Howard Scott Warshaw. He was there when the video game treasure trove was uncovered. Listen above for the post mortem.
From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Tuesday, April 29th:
In Washington, the Federal Reserve begins a two-day meeting on interest rates. It's one of eight scheduled over the course of the year.
The Conference Board releases its April Consumer Confidence Index.
Newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst was born on April 29, 1863. He built a media empire and a giant castle which you can tour in San Simeon, California.
And what's the deal with birthdays? Comedian Jerry Seinfeld turns 60.Marketplace for Monday April 28, 2014by Michelle PhilippePodcast Title Will Jupiter align with Mars? Story Type BlogSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No
A company called Sociometric Solutions has developed tracking badges for employees.
What if your company ID badge was a tracking device? You'd wear it from the moment you got to work in the morning til you clocked out at night. Your badge would constantly collect data that could potentially benefit you and the whole company.
Great news: It exists.
A company called Sociometric Solutions has developed this technology. They insert microphones, Bluetooth, and other proximity sensors into an employee’s company ID badge. So far, they've had a 90 percent participation rate in every rollout they've done.
"What we’re trying to do is really quantify what people have always felt to be unquantifiable," says Ben Waber, President and CEO of Sociometric Solutions. "Things like, how are people interacting with each other? How do you talk to customers? How engaged are you in a conversation? And how is information flowing in an organization?"
How does Sociometric Solutions get workers to agree to participate in the research process?
“[We] don’t just come into a company and say, 'Here everybody, wear this sensor.' It's actually about a four week rollout process," says Waber. "We give people consent forms, which show them the actual database tables of what we collect."
Naturally, participants have had privacy concerns. But Waber tells them not to worry: "We won’t share your individual data with your company. We don't even keep your name in the database where we are calculating all the features."Marketplace for Monday April 28, 2014Interview by David GuraPodcast Title If your company ID badge was a tracking deviceStory Type InterviewSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No
It took Dennis McGuire 24 minutes to die after the drugs were injected into his body back in January. After review, the state says he did not experience any pain, but it is upping the dosage.
A fan holds a sign in protest of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2014 NBA Playoffs.
The NBA is still investigating the legitimacy of a recording that appears to show Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racist remarks, but action from the corporate world was swift and decisive. Several major sponsors of the Clippers either "paused" or pulled their support from the team.
The used-car retailer CarMax and Virgin Airlines both announced they will cut ties to the Clippers immediately, while insurance company State Farm and the auto maker Kia Motors have suspended their sponsorships. It is difficult to be exact with the numbers on how much each company pays in sponsorship, but it will certainly be a blow to a team that was otherwise having a strong year.
Listed No. 13 on Forbes' list of NBA team valuations, the Clippers are currently valued at $575 million, though many estimate the team could sell for more than that. It is also worth noting that Sterling bought the team in 1981, when they were based in San Diego, for $12 million.
This is not the first time the Clippers' owner has faced accusations of this nature -- in 2009, Sterling paid a settlement of $2.725 million in a federal housing discrimination case in which he was accused of excluding black and hispanic tenants from renting properties that he owned in Los Angeles.
by Tobin LowStory Type BlogSyndication PMPApp Respond No
Bao Bao, the Giant Panda cub, in one of his first media appearances.
You know that in Washington, DC we like politics. What may surprise you is how much we love pandas.
At the National Zoo, there was my favorite: Rusty, the red panda. And now there's always a long line to see Bao Bao, the baby giant panda. We even have panda related press conferences.
The National Zoo sent an email to donors this morning advertising a "$6,000 VIP Bao Bao Tour package." That'll get you a private, behind-the-scenes tour to meet the giant panda cub, five valet parking passes and admission to a panda-themed cocktail reception.
Baby Bao Bao at the National Zoo.Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images
Marketplace for Monday April 28, 2014by David GuraPodcast Title Can pandas jump the shark?Story Type BlogSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No
President Obama announced new sanctions against Russia today. The sanctions target 17 Russian companies and seven individuals. Among those individuals is Igor Sechin, the head of Russia’s biggest oil company, Rosneft.
How will that affect Big Oil? Well, for starters, BP’s stock fell after the sanctions were announced. BP owns almost 20 percent of Rosneft.
At its annual meeting earlier this month, BP said it’s committed to its investment in Rosneft, and will comply with any relevant sanctions. And if those sanctions really start to bite, will Moscow take a whack at BP or Exxon? Some oil analysts say no.
“Western oil companies and Russia are in bed together... they are strange bedfellows, but they are dependent on one another,” says Stephen Schork, of the Schork report.
So far, drilling is continuing as usual in Russia. But senior Obama administration officials say the sanctions could be ratcheted up.
Coal ash jumped into the headlines this year when a pond maintained by Duke Energy spilled into the Dan River in North Carolina. It fouled the water supply, and brought national scrutiny to what sounded like a huge, and largely unregulated source of toxic waste.
The same week, to much less fanfare, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that it endorsed the practice of using coal ash to make concrete. As it turns out, environmentalists largely agree.
Engineers tend to be advocates. Steve Fleming is technical director for Chicago-based Prairie Materials, a large concrete supplier. And he is a fan of coal ash.
"We add it to our concrete to help with its performance," he says. "Both in its plastic state"— that is, when it’s wet, since coal ash makes concrete easier to work with — "and most important from my point of view, it helps the long-term performance of the concrete as well. It actually increases the strength, and makes the concrete last longer."
As an engineer, Fleming has long appreciated coal ash’s benefits. It took customers longer.
"When I first started, 18-19 years ago, I had a lot of customers who thought that fly-ash was not good," he says. "They said, 'It’s a waste product, and why are you putting it in my concrete?' Now, we have contractors who are requesting fly ash. If we ship them a straight cement mix, they’ll complain."
There are environmental advantages, too. Coal ash has toxins in it: arsenic, lead, mercury. Locking that stuff up in concrete seems safer than letting it sit in landfills or ponds that can contaminate groundwater.
The EPA endorsed using coal ash in concrete after comparing it to the toxins in Portland cement. Turns out, Portland cement is more toxic.
Portland cement is also much worse for the environment. "Portland cement production is one of the major greenhouse-gas sources worldwide," says Craig Benson, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Wisconsin.
He explains: Making Portland cement involves applying heat to limestone — which is made of calcium, oxygen and carbon — to get lime: calcium and oxygen.
"That process liberates a lot of carbon dioxide," he says. "That goes right up in the atmosphere."
There are more benefits: Using coal ash means not using resources to dig up limestone. Or burning fuel to heat it up. And because fly ash makes concrete last longer, it also means not replacing the concrete as often.
All of which also means saving money. Benson did a study on that. "It was really remarkable," he says. "Just the economic impact is about $5 billion to our economy."
Lisa Evans, a lawyer for Earthjustice, is reluctant to declare herself a fan of using coal ash for concrete. She’d rather we stop burning coal. Failing that, however, she thinks concrete is a good idea.
"I think characterizing it as a 'win' would be accurate," she says. "If you’re going to make coal ash in the first place, locking it up in concrete is preferable to a lot of the other ways we use or dispose of coal ash."
But the consensus isn’t perfect. The EPA is currently deciding between two alternatives for regulating coal ash. Evans favors one that would regulate coal ash as hazardous waste, except for designated "beneficial re-uses" like concrete.
That proposal worries John Ward, a spokesman for the coal-ash recycling industry, who runs a group called Citizens for Recycling First. He thinks the exception would just cause confusion. "How can you call something hazardous on the property of the people who made it," he says, "and expect you to want to use it in your house?"
He thinks that potential confusion could make utilities reluctant to allow recyclers to take coal ash at all.