The possible indictment of incumbent D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has turned what many expected to be a routine election into a referendum on whether voters trust him.
As March Madness gets underway, commentator Frank Deford wonders if Americans just have too many teams to root for.
The NFL, NASCAR and others have built social media command centers to engage directly with fans during live events.
As the mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continues, millions of people have turned to the internet to try to contribute to the search. Tomnod, the online crowdsourcing website that asks users to help identify objects in satellite imagery, has seen a huge bump in traffic from those looking to find the missing plane somewhere amongst the site's collected photographs. Gideon Lichfield, an editor at Quartz, admits that there are benefit in having human eyes involved in the process.
"I think the issue is that you have a vast area of sea, and algorithms just are not good enough to reliably identify places where there is or is not debris. It’s very hard to tell what you’re actually looking for and program an algorithm to do that."
According to Lichfield, the problem with attempting to find Flight 370 on a site like Tomnod is the sheer size of the search area. Tomnod has images available for about 24,000 square kilometers surrounding the missing flight, which is just a tiny fraction of the 7.7 million square kilometers that now comprise the expanded search area.
Lichfield also points out that the technology isn't developed enough yet to be of any service - Until higher resolution photographs can be produced, the search for debris will continue to be very difficult. Still, he is impressed by the potential of the technology and the enthusiasm of its users.
"The benefits potentially are there. Tomnod says that something like 3 million people have used it. If that’s accurate, that’s actually a huge amount of processing power."
*CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misstated the name of the editor at Quartz. He is Gideon Lichfield. The text has been corrected.
More than two years after a 5.8-magnitude earthquake damaged the Washington Monument, the U.S. National Park Service is readying to reopen it to tourists this spring.
“If you had a high-powered lens on your camera, or a set of binoculars to see up at the top, there were some very visible cracks,” says Brian Hall, a public information officer with the U.S. National Park Service.
Examining and, where needed, repairing the monument’s more than 30,000 stone pieces cost $15 million, but that work is being paid for in a novel way. The government split the tab with billionaire David Rubenstein.
“Increasingly, I think people should give money to things the federal government used to be able to do, but probably can’t do,” says Rubenstein, co-founder of The Carlyle Group, a private equity firm headquartered in Washington. He has given tens of millions of dollars to government institutions.
According to Jim Ferris, who heads the Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy at the University of Southern California, the wealthy used to shy away from this kind of philanthropy, but that is starting to change.
“Increasingly, people see opportunities to actually work with government,” Ferris says, noting there is a federal task force to encourage agencies to partner with donors. “The extent to which we’re trying to engrain it, institutionalize it I think is new.”
Gene Tempel, the dean of the Lilly School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, says there is a call for philanthropy to do more. During the most-recent government shutdown, hedge fund billionaire John Arnold and his wife, Laura, gave $10 million to Head Start, to keep it from closing.
Tempel says philanthropists like Rubenstein and the Arnolds are doing noble work, but he warns there could be a danger to this kind of giving: “That is the government can think that this is the way that it has to be done.”
Tempel says we’re not there yet. Indiana University keeps track of gifts worth a million dollars or more, and so far, Tempel says, less than one percent of those has gone to the government.
Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen can expect questions about interest rates and unemployment when the Fed wraps up its two-day meeting later today.
The Fed had promised to keep interest rates near zero, at least until unemployment hit 6.5 percent. Unemployment is currently at 6.7 percent and dropping (and the Fed has said it will likely look at other factors, too). Yellen is known as a proponent of transparency – but she’s expected to say as little as possible about what those other factors might be. Here's why:
1. Players in the stock and bond markets always want to know exactly what the Fed will do next. Even when the Fed can’t say for sure.
"They’re trying to figure out 'What is the Fed telling me about, what are interest rates going to do?'” says Ann Owens, a Hamilton College economics professor and former Fed economist. "There’s a real incentive to figure that out before everybody else does. Because if you can do that, then you can make a profit."
2. The Fed wants to give some guidance about what it’s thinking, without boxing itself in. Williams College economics professor Kenneth Kuttner, who also worked for the Fed, says the Fed is like a college professor—with market players as grade-grubbing students.
"You hand out the grading rubric, and some kid says, 'Oh, look, I did X that’s on your grading rubric. Why didn’t I get an A?'" he says. "You need to be specific enough that they know what to do in the paper, but vague enough that you can say, 'There are these other things I’m taking into account as well.'"
Because if those students get too unruly, it can cause trouble for the whole class.
The Israeli military said Wednesday's strikes were in response to a roadside bomb that hit an Israeli patrol and wounded four soldiers the day before.