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How Comp-Sci went from passing fad to must have major

Mon, 2014-06-16 02:30

The demand for computer science majors is booming. Even students at liberal arts institutions are itching to learn how to write code and develop artificial intelligence.

It's hard to believe that the field wasn't considered a serious academic discipline back in the 1960s.

Joel Moses has been teaching computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for 47 years. But when he first arrived on campus in 1963, it was to be a founding member of Project MAC.

"Machine Aided Cognition, which is another way of saying artificial intelligence. And Multi Access Computers, which is another way of saying time sharing," Moses explained.

Project MAC marked the beginning of the formal study of computer scienceAt first, administrators were skeptical. They viewed computer science as just a passing fad.

"We had to prove ourselves,” Moses said. “And we did!”

Not only did Moses and his colleagues create time sharing, they automated calculus problems.

“People were pleasantly surprised that a computer could do that as well as humans," Moses said.

Then, in the 1970s, MIT's Lab for Computer Science was born. MIT researchers developed some of the basic programming that led to fax machines, e-mail, and the complex operating systems we all take for granted today. Computer science was finally making its mark.

“There was a turning point,” Moses said. “Sometime in the 80s I thought it was OK to major in computer science."

Today, one-third of all MIT engineering students are computer science majors. And the number of undergrads taking advanced courses in the field is growing.

We have to reach further with equipment and we can only do this with computer science," said PhD candidate Dehann Fourie.

Inside the lab, Fourie is working to program a robot that can both explore the deepest reaches of the ocean and be smart enough to know what it's found.

Ten thousand meters down, you are sort of in this dark abyss,” Fourie said. “Now you have to go do something useful and that doesn't just happen by itself."

"All these things people have talked about for decades are coming to fruition and the computers are getting better and better," said Moses. 

But he admits it's still early days: computer science is just beginning to really tackle speech and facial recognition and to advance artificial intelligence by figuring our how the human brain works.

Listen to Kirk’s extended interview with Joel Moses:

MIT is celebrating 50 years of computer science and the birth of a new field. To commemorate the ocassion, the university has compiled a list of 50 ways Project MAC transformed computer science.

 

Will the instability in Iraq flow to the pump?

Mon, 2014-06-16 02:17

Oil traders are among the many people keeping a close watch on growing violence in Iraq.

They’re gathering a kind of intelligence, says Phil Flynn, with The PRICE Futures Group in Chicago: “You kind of price in the worst-case scenarios, and then you wait and see if that really happens,” he says.

Traders are worried about what would happen if the world were to lose access to Iraq’s oil, about two million barrels a day, according to Jim Burkhard, head of global oil market research for IHS.

That has traders worried about “spare capacity,” which Burkhard says is like “our emergency supply, in case there is a disruption.”

Right now, total spare capacity worldwide is roughly equal to what Iraq exports.

Paul Sullivan, who teaches courses on energy security at the National Defense University, sounds a note of caution: “The oil is coming out of Iraq without much disruption, except for psychological disruption.”

Still, when it comes to the price of oil, that can be powerful. Even though it takes several weeks for oil to get from the Persian Gulf to U.S. refineries, gas prices are already going up.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, here's what makes up the cost of every gallon of gas pumped at the service station:

$3.66

The average national gas price according to AAA is $3.66 a gallon. If you split that out according to the EIA, that price is made up of costs from crude oil, refining, distribution, marketing, retail costs and taxes. While dependency on foreign oil has decreased, 40 percent of crude oil and petroleum products consumed by Americans is still imported from foreign countries.

$2.45

"The biggest portion of the cost of gas goes to the crude-oil suppliers. This is determined by the world's oil-exporting nations, particularly the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC)," according to Kevin Bonsor and Ed Grabianowski of How Stuff Works. Two-thirds of the retail price of gas is from the actual crude oil, and at today's prices that equates to $2.45.

$0.44

Twelve percent of your $3.66 per gallon goes towards refining costs and profits. That's approximately $0.44 cents that goes towards refining the oil and other terminal operations, including crude oil processing, oxygenate additives, product shipment and storage and brand advertising -- as well as profits. This also includes the cost of any oil spills.

$0.33

Gas consumers, you and I, also help cover the cost of franchise fees, rents, wages, environmental fees, credit cards fees and insurance costs. This includes billboard, TV and newspaper ads. These, among a few other costs, are all encompassed in the distribution, marketing, and retail costs and profits, or 9 percent of the retail price for a gallon of gas.

$0.44

And another 12 percent of the retail price goes towards taxes, including, among others, state and federal. Federal taxes averaged around 18.4 cents per gallon and state taxes averaged 23.52 cents per gallon according to the U.S. EIA.

Horseshoe crab blood (and, why conservation pays)

Mon, 2014-06-16 02:00

Quite possibly, the gentle horseshoe crab has swum ashore during the full and new moons of May and June to spawn for 445 million years. 

Horseshoe crab-like creatures were here when the dinosaurs appeared, and they were here after the dinosaurs disappeared. They survived ancient global warming and ice ages alike. And then people happened. 

“Over a hundred years ago, they were ground up and put on land as a fertilizer,” says Eric Hallerman, professor of fish conservation at Virginia Tech. In places like the Delaware Bay, 90 percent of the crab population was wiped out, and not a great many people cried about it. 

Then in the '70s, people discovered that they need the crabs for something much more valuable.  

“Every human on the face of the earth, if they’ve ever been given an injectable medicine, has been touched by LAL,” says Allen Bergenson with biomedical firm Lonza. 

LAL – Limulus Amebocyte Lysate – is a test for bacterial contamination made from the crab’s blood (usually made without killing the crabs). Lonza is one of four companies that manufacture it. The test is used throughout the medical industry to ensure medical instruments and materials don’t cause fever or complications when introduced to the blood.

It’s among the reasons that, gradually, people and governments started to care about the crab. 

“We’ve created laws that make sure the animals are returned to sea, that require them to be harvested by hand,” says John Dubczak, general manager with biomed company Charles River Endosafe in South Carolina. In that state the industry lobbied to ban fishermen from harvesting hundreds of thousands of crabs to use as bait for sea snails and eels. 

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission intervened in 1998 to relieve pressure on the crab from the bait industry. 

Now, the biomedical industry is competing within itself to see who can use the fewest crabs. 

Charles River has developed a highly sensitive test that only uses one twentieth the normal amount of horseshoe crab’s blood. Lonza has a synthetic version that doesn’t use any crab’s blood. The firms argue, sometimes bitterly, over which product is better. The synthetic version doesn’t have the same regulatory standing as the crab-based version (it’s not currently listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia, an official list of sanctioned drugs and uses), and for now that has dissuaded the pharmaceutical industry from embracing it.

Whatever the result, the competition raises a different way of thinking about nature.

“Instead of nature for nature’s sake, nature for people’s sake,” explains Janet Ranganathan, Vice President for Science and Research at the World Resources Institute. She’s referring to a concept called “Ecosystem Services.” When people realize the value in nature, and then pay to maintain it, everyone wins. 

In many cases, this approach has saved entire ecosystems.

“In the '80s, water quality was degrading in NYC because of development in the Catskill and Delaware watershed,” she says. Instead of building a $6 billion water filtration plant the city spent a fraction of that ($1.5 billion) just protecting the forests that purified water by paying landowners to maintain and restore it. 

It doesn’t always work, of course. Upstream agriculture on the Mississippi causes dead zones downstream that negatively affect fishermen, Ranganathan gives as an example. “You have one industry trumping another,” and polluters don’t have to pay for the disruption in services that nature provides. 

But things appear to be working out somewhat for the horseshoe crabs. Overall, the pressure on their population appears sustainable, according to the ASMFC, though there are troubling declines numbers in certain regions.

In some cases, making money off of nature can be a good way to protect it. 

Airbus just can't take flight

Mon, 2014-06-16 01:00

The A380 was supposed to change aviation as we know it. The plane can hold more than 500 people -- Airports around the world even remodeled to accommodate the huge jet.

But apart from Emirates Airline, the double decker jet hasn’t sold well.

Robert Mann, a former airline executive, says the reality is there are only a few airlines and airports in the world where the A380 makes sense.

“The A380 is a niche airplane," he says. “Anybody who had a need for them, or could conceive a need for them has ordered them.”

That’s left an opening for Boeing.

Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst at the Teal Group Corporation, says most airlines are interested in long haul, twin engine jets that can seat between 250 and 400 people.

“That’s where the action’s act,” he says.

Aboulafia says that fits nicely with what Boeing offers with the Dreamliner and its redesigned 777X. He says it “puts Airbus at a competitive disadvantage.”

Airbus is trying to answer Boeing with a slightly smaller jet: the redesigned A350XWB. Though, the company is having difficulty getting the planes off the ground -- Last week, Emirates Airline canceled its order for 70 of those planes.

Don’t just get mad, decode the system

Mon, 2014-06-16 00:40

Here is the latest menu item on my "Get Smarter in 90 Minutes A Week" media diet: The other night I watched How to Survive a Plague, a film about ACT UP and its activism to fight AIDS. I am not sure why I chose to view the documentary from 2012 now; maybe it is that I just came off a seven-day bike ride in California to raise money and awareness in the fight against HIV/AIDS, during which I had a number of conversations during the ride about the progress against the disease, and the many remaining challenges.

What I did not realize until after the fact is that I was watching the film on the 25th anniversary of one of the film's key moments. This week in 1989, activists were able to shove their way into the International AIDS  Conference in Montreal. As the film shows, the insurgents were there to make much more than just a ruckus in support of speeding up the testing of new treatments for the disease. Members of ACT UP had the smarts and focus to study and decode the Food and Drug and Administration's system for drug approval. The activists forced their way into that meeting with more than banners, placards, and slogans: They had drafted a smart action plan that would radically change the fight against AIDS.

Activists had come up with the now-famed National AIDS Treatment Agenda: 15-pages long and printed with a yellow cover. This agenda proposed — demanded, really — a series of changes to the drug approval process to make clinical trials of new medicines for AIDS, and the opportunistic infections that are associated with the disease, better meet the needs of patients. It was the product of some very smart systems analysis from people without a formal background in this area of medical research and drug regulation. These activists applied intellectual rigor to figure out how the federal system worked and what it might need to get drugs to desperate people more quickly.

As the film shows, thoughtful medical statisticians got a copy of the agenda that day 25 years ago and took seriously many of the recommendations. Eventually, activists, patients, researchers at the National Institutes of Health, members of Congress, and officials at the FDA would come more closely into line in the fight against the disease.

One of the activists who figured out the AIDS drug process was broken and contributed to new thinking on ways to fix it is Mark Harrington, who won a MacArthur "Genius" fellowship in 1997 for his work in this area. Although Harrington doesn’t have an MBA, he was acting on a lesson from business: He understood the power of a deep systems analysis to diagnose something big that was broken.

Another star of the doc I watched last night is still working hard in the fight against the disease. Peter Staley wrote a column just the other day calling for a new set of changes to America's HIV prevention efforts.

On the 25th anniversary of the original agenda, he points out that 50,000 people a year still get infected every year — and that figure is just for the United States.

What's the biggest time suck in digital teaching?

Fri, 2014-06-13 14:28
<a href="http://marketplaceapm.polldaddy.com/s/logging-in">View Survey</a>

Priceline negotiates reservations

Fri, 2014-06-13 13:57

Travel website Priceline just bought OpenTable for $2.6 billion. OpenTable, if you don’t know it, is an online restaurant reservation site. That might sound like kind of an odd move for Priceline, but it’s all about the future of travel… or, actually the past.

Remember travel agents?

You'd go to them before you booked at trip and they'd help you plan your itinerary and be able to give you insider tips, like the cool neighborhood to stay in or a cute bistro you should try. "The travel agent is making a comeback," says Steve Cohen, Vice President of Research at MMGY Global. Cohen says baby boomers and millennials are gravitating back to travel agents and away from DIY online bookings, because they're putting convenience and expertise ahead of pure price consideration.

To compete now, says Cohen, travel sites have to be a place where customers can research and plan their entire trip. "A very large percentage of travelers like to have most of their vacation planned before they ever get there," he says.

Right now on most travel sites, you can book a flight, hotel and rental car, but that’s still missing most of the trip and the money. "As much as 60 percent of a traveler’s  budget is spent in their destination," says Henry Harteveldt, founder of Atmosphere Research Group. "Dining, shopping, entertainment, things like that. The online travel companies are saying, 'We've done a pretty good job tackling that 40 percent, let’s see how much of the rest of the budget we can sink our teeth into."

And they’re well positioned to do exactly that. Priceline already knows where its customers are going and when. With OpenTable, it will know what they like to eat. "They can start to make recommendations," says  Douglas Quinby, Vice President of Research at PhoCusWright, a travel industry research group. "Well, we see that you like Italian, there's a fantastic 4-star Italian place that's got seating available on this night and we know you’re going to be in New York."

Perhaps most importantly profit-potential-wise, travel sites know where you live during the rest of the year. "It really turns them into this lifestyle utility that also could be used at home," says Harteveldt. "Something like, here’s a great new store that opened in your city."

Harteveldt points out we travel, on average, three times per year, but we explore the cities and towns we live in all year.

By Max Bernstein

With Friday's announced $2.6 billion acquisition of OpenTable, Priceline adds another frontier to its vast booking empire. Priceline Group already owns booking websites kayak.com, booking.com, rentalcars.com, agoda.com, and, of course, priceline.com (well known for its commercials with William Shatner.)

When one company in an industry is purchased by an outsider, it can sometimes lead to interest or inquiry into the potential acquisitions of rivals. Here are some companies who 1) saw their stock prices initially boosted by Priceline's announced purchase of OpenTable, and 2) also have the financial muscle behind them to snap up some competitors:

Online review sites

Yelp is the 800-pound gorilla of review sites, valued at $4.5 billion since going public last year. But it has competitors like TripAdvisor, Citysearch and Local.com that all perform similar functions, but are not nearly as popular.

Some analysts suggest Yelp should consider buying one of them. Especially since Priceline's snatching up of OpenTable makes it less likely that Yelp will be acquired by a bigger company. Not that Yelp's finances were hurt by the news: shares in the company were up.

Coupon and deal sites

Same goes for Groupon, the massive discount coupon site. But Groupon has competition from smaller players like LivingSocial, ScoutMob, Savored and Happy Hours.

Electronic payment services

PayPal also saw an uptick in stock price after the OpenTable acquisition was revealed. The peer-to-peer payment system owned by eBay used to be the only one on the block, but now PayPal has a rival in Square. Smaller competitors like PayDragon, TabbedOut and BarTab are making inroads as well.

Food delivery services

Who you order your food from could be considered as personal as, well, food. A merger of big players already occurred in this business in May 2013, when GrubHub and Seamless announced that they were merging. That company's stock was initially way up on the news and is a giant among similar services like Delivery.com and Eat24.

[h/t Mashable] 

ISIL gets rich in attack on Iraq's cities

Fri, 2014-06-13 13:57

 

 

The insurgent group ISIL (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) has been wreaking military havoc across Northern Iraq. In recent days the Sunni group has taken the major oil-trading hub of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, as well as Tikrit, and is moving south toward Baghdad.

All of that military action is causing jitters in financial markets around the world, as well as driving up world oil prices. Another financial impact from ISIL’s rapid advance—the group is getting a lot richer.

Reports from the region, quoting the Iraqi provincial governor, say ISIL fighters raided Mosul’s central bank as they took the city. They may have stolen $425 million or more. They reportedly looted other banks’ vaults of cash and gold bullion as well.

“For this organization, this is a major windfall,” said Rick Brennan, a retired Army officer and senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. Brennan said that will buy a lot for ISIL: “arms, ammunition, paying for foreign fighters, increasing salaries. It enables them to transform themselves from just an insurgent group, to almost having a small army, which is something that we haven’t seen before.”

ISIL is rumored to pay its fighters well, to provide death benefits to the families of fallen soldiers, and to pay both more, and more regularly, than the armies of Iraq and Syria, said Austin Long, a professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, who was an advisor to the U.S. military in Iraq.

“Every war takes finance, and they’re quite good at extracting finance to fund their war,” Long said of ISIL, whose activities he’s been following since the mid-2000s.

“These guys are good businessmen, they made a lot of money from seizing various legal and illegal enterprises,” said Long. “They kept very good, detailed records. They had very sophisticated ways of not only taxation, but also stealing cars and reselling them in Kurdistan, where they knew they could get better prices.”

ISIL forces have overrun oil pipelines and export facilities in Iraq and Syria, and smuggling that oil is one source of revenue for the group. But ISIL is still not considered capable of attacking or seizing Iraq’s major oil fields, which are defended by the Iraqi government in the South, and the Kurds in the north.

And Raad Alkadiri, senior director at UpStream Research/IHS Energy, says that even with hundreds of millions of dollars at its disposal, ISIL would be hard-pressed to actually operate oil production facilities, or find the technical workers it would need to do so. And even if ISIL could get significant oil-pumping and refining underway, the group would not easily find customers in the region or outside it, who would be willing to transport or purchase any oil it tried to export.

Weekly Wrap: Conflict in Iraq

Fri, 2014-06-13 13:50

The Wall Street Journal's Sudeep Reddy and Redfin's Nela Richardson sit down with Kai to discuss this week's events for our Weekly Wrap:

Conflict in Iraq

"The makrets clearly don't care. The markets clearly haven't cared about a whole lot for a while... They're certainly on the watch for any trouble out there. You've seen potential trouble in Iraq, you've seen potential trouble in Syria, you've seen potential trouble in Russia and Ukraine, and the markets have been able to brush that off pretty easily...though it's clear that this situation is worse and doesn't have a very clearly outcome any time soon," says Reddy.

Rising oil and gas prices:

"We've seen gas prices be basically pretty stable and high and now with this uncertainty they're about to become unstable and higher," says Richardson.

Eric Cantor's defeat:

"The environment is certainly marginally worse. The big question is whether anything will get done in 2015," adds Reddy.

Debt limit:

"We lost a deal maker... There are three potential scenarios: there's a 'good' solution where the debt ceiling is extended with the budget, there's a 'will do' sollution where it's just extended for short term, and then theres this catastrophic -- not a solution -- where you see this kind of thing where markets go crazy and we don't know what happens next," says Richardson.

Future of price-rises:

"Growth. It takes growth to produce some price increases and we just haven't seen it," adds Richardson.

Online poker could get a second chance in U.S.

Fri, 2014-06-13 13:01

Amaya Gaming, a Canadian company, is buying Oldford Group, the parent of popular sites like PokerStars. Amaya is the smaller of the two, but it’s the acquirer. And, one of the biggest selling points for the $4.9 billion deal is that many top officials from Oldford will be leaving the combined company completely. 

This could bring sites like PokerStars back to the U.S., and bring back memories of the era from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, when online poker was a free for all, and sites like PokerStars were making players like Chris Carlson rich. 

“I started making so much money from playing online that I left my really paying, secure job to play professionally. And, I played most of my hands at PokerStars,” he says. 

But in 2006, the Justice Department said a 1960s era law banned many online gaming transactions. Sites like PokerStars started operated in a kind of gray market. And, started crossing some lines, such as, “incorrectly coding the transactions so they were not obvious to the credit card issuers as gambling transactions,” says Mark Hichar, chairman of the gaming law practice group at Hinckley Allen.

PokerStars allegedly labeled some as golf purchases. There’s another way to put this, he says, “Fraud and money-laundering.” 

That was the accusation against top officials at PokerStars and other sites on a day in 2011 that became known as Black Friday. PokerStars quickly left the U.S. Popularity in online poker plummeted. 

Later that year, the Justice Department ruled that states can legalize online gambling, after all. New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada did, but kept PokerStars out, while its officials remain indicted or under suspicion. That’s why it’s a big deal they’re leaving the combined company.

“Given that this deal basically results in the removal of all those entities from PokerStars as a corporate entity, it seems as if New Jersey regulators won’t have any objection to PokerStars now entering the market,” says Christopher Grove, editor of Online Poker Report, who adds this deal could be the start of a new era of online poker in the U.S.

Fido, your big day at the office is here

Fri, 2014-06-13 12:34

Here's an extended look at the Marketplace Datebook for the week of Jun 16:

We begin with Monday, everyone's favorite day of the week. In Washington, the Federal Reserve reports on industrial production for May.

The State Department hosts a two-day "Our Ocean" conference on protecting the vast bodies of water that cover almost three quarters of our planet.

And in Michigan on June 16th, 1903, Ford Motor Company was incorporated.

Start thinking about broccoli, beets and carrots. Tuesday is Eat Your Vegetables Day. Don't argue with me.

The Commerce Department tells us how many new homes were built in May.

On Wednesday, a Senate Committee holds a hearing on "Aggressive E-Cigarette Marketing and Potential Consequences for Youth."

The Federal Reserve wraps up a two-day meeting on interest rates and the economy.

Then we slow down on Thursday ... maybe wear something fetching for World Sauntering Day.

Just in time to ruin your summer fun, "Jaws" was released to movie-going audiences June 20, 1975.

And finally, Friday is Take Your Dog to Work Day. Yeah, do that. (And don't go into the water.)

"Ivory Tower" and the crippling cost of college

Fri, 2014-06-13 12:10

College tuition is more expensive than ever. In fact, the cost of tuition has risen 1,120 percent since 1978. That's higher than any other good or service during that time. Nevertheless, just under 70 percent of 2013 high school graduates started attending some form of college this past fall.  

Andrew Rossi is the director and producer of a new documentary called "Ivory Tower" that examines the cost of higher education in America. He says the reason college is so popular even though the sticker price keeps rising is that for now, it's keeping its financial promise.

"Higher education is still an engine of social mobility, even as it has grown so expensive. Those who have a college degree actually make in their median lifetime earnings about a million dollars more than those who just have a high school diploma. And that's a really powerful statistic that helps drive the continued demand."

But the average student now graduates with more than $25,000 in loans to pay off, and the nation's graduates owe a cumulative $1.2 trillion. Rossi says the cost is unsustainable, and its a symptom of the corporatization of higher education.

"In an effort to compensate for a reduction in state funding, in an effort to bring students and their student loan dollars to their campuses, many institutions are behaving like big businesses rather than treating their students as pupils. " 

Many of the subjects in Rossi's film argue that the system is unsustainable and headed for a crash, and it could bring down much more than colleges. 

"One of the most devastating consequences would be a sort of macroeconomic one. When young people are saddled with that kind of burden they decide not to form a family, not to buy a house, not to buy a car. It's not just about the constriction of life choices in terms of career and happiness, but it has broader macroeconomic effects on the country."

To hear the full, unedited interview, visit Marketplace's education page "Learning Curve."

How to pronounce 'GIF'

Fri, 2014-06-13 10:48

President Barack Obama, as you might have heard, did a town hall thing on Tumblr this week. In the process he met Tumblr founder David Karp and they, it seems, did a fist-bump of which a gif was created. Except when the president mentioned it, he did so mistakenly. 

Here at Marketplace, we've already settled the burning question of how you pronounce these three little letters: G I F.

The guy who invented the graphics interchange format, which lets images on your computer screen move, kind of like animation, got a Webby lifetime achievement award in May of 2013.

Steve Wilhite is his name. He's had a stroke, so he can't speak. But you can check out the video of his acceptance presentation last night, in which he laid down the law.

It's 'jif,' people, like the peanut butter.  Speaking of which, even the peanut butter maker got in on the debate.

Soccer stickers: "I have a lot of Greece but I need Nigeria."

Fri, 2014-06-13 10:37

Of the millions of fans around the world now glued to the World Cup, my favorite is an endlessly mischievous 4-year-old in Brooklyn. My godson. He and his equally impish 7-year-old brother have been so excited for the World Cup that a game of full-speed kids vs. grownups soccer (pardon me: football) nearly had me wobbling for days after.

The boys are American soccer nuts with a Colombian dad, a mother with Brazilian relatives and a grandmother who grew up in Messi's hometown in Argentina. So they could be loyal to any of those teams.

But the real object of their devotion is a book of stickers that lists all the players, stadiums and even mascots.  They are on a mad dash to collect all the stickers and fill their books. Every morning, almost the first thing that comes out of their mouths is what stickers they need, and whether there's any possibility to get them that day.

"See? I have a lot of Greece," the 7-year-old explains to me. "But I need Nigeria. Don't have a lot of them."

Long pause with studied, plaintive gaze directed at his mother, "When can we get more?"

The Panini sticker book album has become the must-have item for kids (and a LOT of adults) who are following the World Cup. With spots for players, stadiums and mascots, it would take 640 stickers to complete your album… if you magically bought packs of stickers with every player you needed. But of course it never works that way (as my godson with multiple Lionel Messi stickers can attest).

In the U.S., a pack costs $0.99, but of course, you probably need somewhere close to 1,400 packs to get a complete set. Why?

Well, The Economist broke down the amazing "stickernomics" recently, explaining just how nuts people can get about securing the ones they need (a note to that correspondent: I know a child who will trade you a Messi).

There's a rapid sticker trade on the internet, and in stores that sell Panini stickers, too.

Upper 90, a store in Brooklyn devoted to soccer, is sticker central. You can bring in your "extras" – that is, the players you already have – and trade them for the extras they have on hand. My two favorite fans have done it twice, "with great success," reports their mother.

The stickers are such a hot item that the Guardian reported a heist of 300,000 stickers in Brazil.

Mind-boggling, when you think about all the other economic stories around the World Cup.

But I can assure you, that to two small boys I know, a complete set would be absolutely priceless.

LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images

A peddler shows Panini's collectible stickers for the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 album, in Bogota, on April 28, 2014.

 

Donald Rumsfeld on Iraq

Fri, 2014-06-13 10:31

Following a series of attacks in which the radical Islamist group "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," seized major cities in Iraq and threatened the country's capital of Baghdad, President Obama aknowledged in an address Friday that the situation demanded U.S. assistance for the Iraqi government.

In light of the situation, we are reminded of our 2013 interview with former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who oversaw military operations for the Bush Administration for much of the Iraq War.

Original interview posted May 16, 2013:

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld published his memoir, “Known and Unknown” in 2011. His latest book, “Rumsfeld’s Rules” suggests he still has lessons to share after a lifetime in politics and business.

The book is a collection of advice that he started collecting through a habit taught to him by his schoolteacher mother. He has about 300 or so in the book.

“If I didn’t know a word she’d say, 'Well write it down and look it up,'" he says. "Then I started writing down various other thoughts and rules and anecdotes.”

The anecdotes Rumsfeld recounts are pulled from his time in office with the Bush, Reagan and Nixon administrations.

Here are three of many Rumsfeld Rules you can find in the book, and the stories behind them:

It’s easier to get into something than it is to get out.

“I thought of that when I was President Reagan’s Middle East envoy and we had 241 Marines killed in Beirut, at the airport. And I concluded then that the United States has to be careful about putting ground forces in because we’re such a big target. And I also, over the years, came to the conclusion over the years that the United States really wasn't* organized, trained and equipped to do nation-building.”

Rumsfeld says this was on his mind as the United States entered Afghanistan and Iraq, but there was "mission creep."

“When you do something, then someone wants you to do something else and then something else and over time, the mission, historically, creeps into something else that was initiated at the outset.”

But in the end, “it’s not easy for countries to evolve and grow, but I think that both of those countries are a whale of a lot better off today than they were before.”

“I’ve been mistaken so many times, I don’t even blush for it anymore.” – Napoleon 

“You see things that don’t turn out the way you hoped.”

Monitor progress through metrics.

“I think that history over time will probably be a better judge than you or I, but I’ve been struck by the amount of criticism that the Bush administration has received and President Bush personally and the attempts to assign blame to him and I think it’s probably not going to sort out that way.”

He says President Bush’s decision to enter Iraq is “something that over time will be better understood.”

 

AUDIO EXTRA: Kai Ryssdal asks Donald Rumsfeld about a reputation for not tolerating dissent.

Marriage and money: Tips before you walk down the aisle

Fri, 2014-06-13 09:05

We often hear about how money issues in a marriage can be a major catalyst for divorce. Whether it's differences in spending habits, debt loads or credit scores, diverging beliefs and habits can be a huge red flag in a relationship.

A 2009 study by Jeffrey Dew, faculty fellow at the National Marriage Project and an assistant professor of Family, Consumer, and Human Development at Utah State University, found that couples who argue about money once a week were 30 percent more likely to  divorce over time than couples who reported disagreeing about finances just a few times per month.

"The best time [to talk about money] is when you're getting along, when you're in the romantic stage, " says relationship expert Andrea Syrtash "[That's] the very time when you should broach it because you'll probably be more open to listening to each other."

Skirting the issues is a big no-no according to Syrtash.

"Put everything on the table because so much of effective relationships is about managing expectations. You need to go in with your eyes wide open," she says. She says, adding that addressing financial differences also means not skimping on the details. "That doesn't just mean learning about your partner's history and partner's finances.  It's about exposing your own vulnerabilities around this."

Once you have gone through the exercise of coming clean, you may find that you and your partner think differently about money. But, she says that compromise is key.

"That's what partnership is about. You come in with different perspectives and you find common ground," she says. "And where you don't find common ground, the hope is that you'll have ultimately the same core values."

As far as protecting oneself from financial ruin caused be a future spouse, there's always a prenuptial agreement. Syrtash says that while they're not for everyone, prenups are not reserved for the rich and famous.

"For many people, if you earn wildly different salaries [or] if you come from a broken home and marriage feels a little bit overwhelming, they feel more secure having this practical approach should, god forbid, things not work out," she says.

In the end, as with most things concerning love and money, it all comes down to communication and cooperation.

Sweeping the World Cup office pool

Fri, 2014-06-13 08:52

No one won the $1 billion offered by Warren Buffett and mortgage company Quicken Loans during this year’s March Madness, but that’s not going to stop hopeful American workers from throwing a few bucks into their World Cup office pool.

The tournament is underway and the fate of your bracket is likely sealed, but what are the odds that you actually chose that elusive perfect pick?

It turns out that choosing brackets for the World Cup is a lot more complicated than most other matches.

Josh Levin, the executive editor of Slate and host of their sports podcast Hang Up And Listen, says building a perfect bracket for the World Cup is more challenging than the NCAA for one big reason.

“The bracket transmogrifies based on who wins in the group stage,” he says. “In the NCAA bracket, you know that if Duke wins in the first round, then they're going to play a certain team in the second round. In the World Cup, if Brazil wins first in its group then it’s on the left side of the bracket. If they finish second in the group they'll be on the right side of the bracket.”

Yes, he just used the word transmogrifies in a sentence. “So you kind of need to predict how teams are going to do in space and in time,” Levin says.

The hands down favorite to win the competition, with backing from FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, is the home team of Brazil. Silver’s Soccer Power Index developed for ESPN puts Brazil at a 45 percent chance of winning.

“There is an algorithm based on past performance, he looks at how teams have done in the World Cup on home soil,” says Levin.

“It considers the fact that Brazil has not lost a competitive game at home since 1975, which is something you'd probably want to factor in. And also Brazil just has a really, really strong team.”

So if you, Josh Levin, and the rest of your office pick the Brazilians to sweep the World Cup then your decisions in the earlier rounds are really going to matter.

“It could come down to the person who picked Columbia to get out of Group C as opposed to Ivory Coast or the prescient prognosticator who had Uruguay making it to the semifinals,” says Levin.

“So you've got to pay close attention to those early round picks.”

Don't have cable and want to watch the World Cup?

Fri, 2014-06-13 08:34

While only about 3 percent of Americans claim men’s soccer as their favorite sport, the 2014 World Cup seems to have compelled some non-fans to pay attention.

For the next month, as 32 soccer teams face off in Brazil, people from around the globe will be glued to their TV screens. Most of them will be able to watch the games for free. But if you're part of an ever growing contingency of Americans known as "cord cutters," those who have boldly cancelled their cable subscriptions in favor of streaming content on the internet, you’re going to have to get a little more creative.

Four years ago, over 24 million Americans tuned in to watch the World Cup. (No small potatoes, but still a paltry figure when compared to the 111.5 million people who tuned in to watch this year's Super Bowl.) Since then, cord-cutting has increased by 44 percent, from 5.1 million to 7.6 million households.

If you live in one of those homes, the bad news is ABC is only broadcasting a handful of the matches for free on broadcast TV, and won't be putting any of them online. Most of the games will be shown on ESPN, meaning you'll need a cable subscription if you want to watch. (If you do have cable, you can use the WatchESPN digital video service to stream games.)

That is -- if you want to watch in English.

Spanish language broadcast network Univision may be your saving grace. Univision is streaming the first 56 matches at its website (Google's Chrome browser can translate the site if you can't read Spanish) and Univision will broadcast games after the quarterfinals on TV. Univision pulled in two times the number of viewers as ESPN during the 2010 Cup.

For the more savvy internet users among you, the thing all the cool kids are doing to watch this World Cup is to use a VPN, or virtual private network. VPNs essentially fool a streaming service that is restricted to a certain country into thinking you live there. Tunnelbear, VyprVPN, and Unotelly are all popular and easy to use VPNs.

And, of course, there’s always the old fashioned way: Knock off work early, head to your local bar, plop down on a stool, order a drink, look up at the TV and enjoy. This might not be the most healthy or economical way, but it could be the most fun. But as they say in the commercials, please drink responsibly.

Still not satisfied? Deadspin has put together an exhaustive list, game-by-game, or where you can watch each match online.

Things your dad likes: Tools, electronics, crackers

Fri, 2014-06-13 08:06

Father's Day is coming up, and while your dad probably said that all he wants is a pair of socks or a new tie for a gift, he's really got his eye on that awesome chainsaw or that shiny new smartphone, that is, if you go off of the findings from research organization YouGov, which has a survey of the best perceived brands by fathers. Power-tool maker Craftsman took the top spot, among other home improvement and technology brands.

According to YouGov's BrandIndex survey, household brand Clorox made the biggest leap in positive perception, taking the sixth place on the list, which is possibly indicative of the more active role fathers are taking in household responsibilites. Also moving up into the top 10 was cracker brand Ritz, reminding us of or dads' continued snacking needs as it joins on the list tech companies like Samsung, Sony and Amazon, and the media brands YouTube and the History Channel.

Moving out of the list compared to last year were Cheerios, Johnson & Johnson and M & Ms.

YouGov on their survey methods:

YouGov BrandIndex filtered their entire 1,100+ brand universe for respondents who identified themselves as men age 18 and over with children under 18 years old. The firm then ranked them using their flagship Index score, which measures brand health by averaging sub-scores on quality, satisfaction, impression, value, reputation and willingness to recommend. The scores reflect surveying over the past 30 days.

See the full list in the graphic below.

 

PODCAST: Open sourced electric cars

Fri, 2014-06-13 03:00

Elon Musk announced that Tesla would be opening up its patents for other companies to use. This open source policy could be a shrewd move for the company -- the more there is a culture around electric cars, the better chance they have of actually selling electric vehicles. Plus, President Obama makes his first visit to a Native American reservation as president. Also, with the U.S. market for fish being made up of 90 percent imports, its problematic that one third of that fish is caught illegally. More on the issues involved in combating illegal fishing.

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