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12 crazy facts about chickens, and then some

Thu, 2015-02-12 13:49

In his book "Why Did the Chicken Cross the World?" author Andrew Lawler trace's poultry's path from a few small forests to nearly every dinner table in America. 

Here's some stuff from the book that blew our minds:

1. At any given time, 20 billion chickens are alive and squawking on our planet. That's three for every human, and more than all the cats, dogs, pigs, cows and rats combined.

2. The only country without live chickens is Vatican City. The only continent without them is Antarctica.

3. Under federal law, chickens are not considered livestock, or even classified as animals, if they are raised for food. 

4. Though it can barely fly, the chicken has become the world's most migratory bird, in food form. One bird can be parceled out to half a dozen countries or more. For example: The feet go to China, the legs to Russia, wings to Spain, intestines to Turkey, bones to Amsterdam for soup and breasts to America.

5. In Ancient Greece, sacrificing a cock to Asclepius (the god of medicine) was a common practice of a sick person who wanted to get well. Today when we’re sick we eat chicken soup. Chicken does indeed have healing properties: The meat contains cysteine, an amino acid that is related to the active ingredient in a drug used to treat bronchitis. A 2011 study by an Iowa physician determined that people with viral illnesses who ate chicken soup recovered faster than those who didn’t.

6. Chicken bones found in western South America indicate that Polynesians reached the New World at least 100 years before Columbus, and that they were raising chickens first too. Pre-Columbian chickens means that Old World and New World humans met sometime after the end of the Ice Age and before Columbus.

7. Roosters have no penises. Instead, a male chicken fertilizes the female’s eggs by inverting its cloacae (the single-lane end of the urinary and digestive tracts) and pressing it against hers. “Biology can’t explain why our favored slang word for the male organ refers to a bird that lacks one,” Lawler writes.

8. Roosters are randy, maybe that’s why: “Male chickens prefer new partners to familiar ones. Scientists call this salacious behavior the 'Coolidge effect,'" Lawler writes. “During separate tours of a chicken farm by President Calvin Coolidge and his wife in the 1920s, Mrs. Coolidge remarked on a rooster that was busy mating. She was told that this behavior took place dozens of times daily. ‘Tell that to the president when he comes by,’  she said cooly. When the message was relayed, the president asked if the rooster mated with the same hen. He was told no, that the male preferred a variety of partners. ‘Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge,’ he responded.”

9. In 2007, a scientific team extracted a protein from a 68 million-year-old tyrannosaurus rex and found it to be identical to one that exists in the chicken. Let’s see if “Jurassic World” updates its dino-DNA video.

10. Chickens called "bilateral gynandromorphs" that contain distinctively male and female parts on separate sides of their bodies. This has occasionally led to chickens that look like roosters but can lay eggs. They inspired the mythological creature known as the basilisk, a rooster said to lay an egg that would hatch into a chicken with a lizard or dragon body.

11. Thank Charles Vantress next time you sit down to a chicken dinner. He won the “Chicken of Tomorrow” contest in 1951, sort of an X-prize for bigger-breasted poultry. To compete with pork and beef, A&P supermarkets helped organize the contest that challenged farmers, scientists and breeders to come up with “breast meat so thick you can carve it into steaks.” Nearly every chicken we eat today is a descendant of the Vantress.

12. Today the average American eats around 70 pounds of chicken a year, five times the 1950 amount. The chickens have also gotten much bigger. Before the “Chicken of Tomorrow” took hold, a broiler required an average of 70 days to reach the average weight of 3.1 pounds, with 3 pounds of feed needed per pound of bird. In 2010, only 47 days were needed to make a 5.7-pound bird that required less than 2 pounds of feed.

Caltech's little engineers that could

Thu, 2015-02-12 11:13

On a recent crisp winter morning at the child-care center at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif., a group of educators gathered to plan their big teaching initiative for the year ahead.

“One of the questions was: How are we going to make engineering work in an infant space?" says Monica Dolan, an early educator who works with infants at The Children's Center, as Caltech's child-care center is officially known.

The center has always focused on teaching through science and math principles – after all, it is attached to Caltech – but diving into engineering curriculum for little ones was new.

“Usually when you think of engineering you're usually creating something,” says Dolan. “Coming up with the ideas, the blueprints.”

While infants aren't about to sketch a blueprint, they can create – with some assistance. Teachers use a lot of big cushion-y blocks to create structures the babies can climb on. It’s part of a strategy to get all children to learn through basic engineering principles, Dolan says.

“If you can start with the infants, then we can take those skills and build upon them every year,” she says. “So if at infant age, if they are already good at stacking and balance, then in the toddler yard they may already be using scales.”

In the next yard, teacher Seadra Chagolla and her toddlers are building a train. They scour the yard for materials to make carriages and find empty crates.

“It would fall under 'engineering' for them because they are thinking about something they want to create and figuring out different ways to create it on their own,” says Chagolla. 

Then a classic engineering problem strikes: resource scarcity. The crates run out and there are still 2-year-olds without a seat on the train. The toddlers solve it by finding chairs to create the needed train carriages.

Yard time is over, and back inside, Chagolla quiets the toddlers with a story.

“Young Iggy Peck is an architect and has been since he was 2, when he built a great tower in only an hour with nothing but diapers and glue.”

It’s deliberate here. From story time to free play, everything is geared toward age-appropriate learning through engineering principles, Chagolla says.

“Because they’re between 2 and 3, they’re still acquiring a lot of language and so there’s a lot of ideas that they have that are nonverbal," she says.

But not speaking doesn't mean they don’t get complex concepts. Toddlers here know and verbalize concepts like stability and balance because they are constantly named and reinforced.

In the preschool classroom, 4- and 5-year-olds are building straw rockets using just three items: fat straws, thin straws and tape.

Teacher Veronica Dayag engages the 4-year-olds like college students. “So I want to see if you can get your straw rockets to shoot all the way from where you’re sitting to the other side of the room," she says.

She asks them to start by sketching a blueprint, but doesn’t give them any other instructions. Each one uses tape, plus the big and little straws, and through trial and error figures out how to turn the materials into a rocket that shoots across the room.

Using engineering curriculum with small children optimizes what new research shows are the capabilities of small children’s brains, says Carrie Lynne Draper, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) director at Caltech’s Children’s Center.

What this really is about is a process that is natural to children,” she says.  “To get them to ask, to create, to test their ideas. Believe it or not, in the grown-up world that’s called the "engineering design process.'”

But it’s not just preschool advocates who believe an engineering education can start young. The strategy has support at the top end of the education pipeline, too. Gregory Washington, dean of the School of Engineering at the University of California, Irvine wants more women, black and Latino engineers in the field, and he says starting young is key.

“If you’re starting at preschool, you’re right about right in order to prepare kids to be ready as inventors and as problem solvers,” he says.

Average Costco customer makes six figures

Thu, 2015-02-12 09:37

American Express CEO Ken Chennault held an unscheduled call with analysts today to warn everybody that AmEx's credit-card partnership with warehouse retailer Costco is going to expire next year.

AmEx shares lost 6.5 percent as a result.

Most interesting factoid of the whole story?

The average Costco customer has an income of $100,000 a year.

This might hurt a bit: The downside of Ukraine's IMF loan

Thu, 2015-02-12 09:37

Two major developments regarding Ukraine were announced Thursday. The first is a fragile ceasefire with the pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine, and the second is an expanded loan program from the International Monetary Fund. 

"If you asked me which of the two deals are more important, it' s probably the IMF deal, because the IMF deal is more likely to stick," says Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a research and consulting firm.

The package requires difficult reforms to combat corruption, reduce public spending and – most critically – reform the country's energy sector. Many of these conditions will have to be met up front, and approved by Ukrainian legislators, says Anders Aslund, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a former economic adviser to Russia and Ukraine.

The most difficult conditions concern reforming the state-owned natural gas company and reducing its generous subsidies. Those subsidies keep gas for residential heating cheap, but also cause the company to lose about $4 billion a year, according to Thierry Bros, senior analyst for European gas and energy markets for Societe Generale. 

Who benefits when Expedia buys the competition?

Thu, 2015-02-12 09:37

Expedia announced Thursday that it's acquiring rival travel company Orbitz for $1.6 billion. This comes on the heels of Expedia buying Travelocity a few weeks ago, and leaves Priceline as its only major competitor in online travel booking.

Expedia already has significant bargaining power with airlines and hotels to negotiate things like fees and access to inventory.

“They’ve got a lot of customers at their disposal, a big share of the market, so they can command supplier’s attention in a way that smaller players cannot," says Doug Quinby, vice president of research with research firm Phocuswright.

Thursday's news shouldn’t affect consumers’ travel costs one way or the other, says Rich Maradik, founder of nSight Travel, a market research firm. "In the end this just puts more pressure on hotels, and squeezes their profits,” he says.

Quiz: Living close to the community

Thu, 2015-02-12 07:37

Less than 25 percent of community colleges provide on-campus housing, but the number of schools with dorms is growing, according to the American Association of Community Colleges.

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'Fifty Shades' of merchandising

Thu, 2015-02-12 07:18

For a movie about a salacious, secretive, and to some, potentially shameful subject such as S&M, it sure feels like "Fifty Shades of Grey" is well out of the closet — or really, the dungeon.

Even the film's sequels are already being planned. Fandango, the online ticket company, says it’s setting a record, pre-selling more tickets than any other R-rated movie has.

And while it would seem the risque nature of this film could make selling spin-off merchandise a little more difficult than most, there is a lot of it for sale. It seems like there are as many variations of merchandise for the new film as there are Pantone color chips — and don't worry, for the graphic designer fan of the soon-to-be-released film, there's something for you too.  However, the question remains:  Who's buying?

If you were planning to crack open a bottle of "Fifty Shades of Grey"-branded White Silk or Red Satin on opening night, Paul Katz, a manager at L&P Wines and Liquors in Brooklyn, says perhaps you should reconsider. The wine has hardly been a best-seller, he says, with the bottles on store shelves mostly gathering dust.

"If you like the label you can get it," Katz says, "You’re taking on your own risk."

He hasn't read the book, and his wife was responsible for the store's purchase, he says. And when he calls to check if she had read the book — turns out she’d read all three — he found himself planning to make another purchase, again to please his wife.

“Do you want to go to the movie – to see it?” Katz says into his cellphone.

  

Another ticket sold. But there’s going to a movie, in the privacy of a darkened theater, and then there’s buying tie-in merchandise.

“I’m trying to be discrete,” says Kristi Faulkner, a co-founder and president of the martketing consultancy Womenkind, of the "Fifty Shades" merchandise. “But Target is selling them – who knew? Who could believe that?”

Indeed, Target is selling "Fifty Shades of Grey" adult devices – the kind with batteries. However, as Faulker points out, there’s a dichotomy between the book and its wider brand.

“So many people read these books digitally, privately, and yet these products are being sold in the most public way,” she says. “Are you going to throw your 'Fifty Shades of Grey' electronic device into your cart with your laundry detergent and your diet soda and your baby food and your pampers? Is that really going to happen?”

While the answer may be unclear, Faulkner says all this "Fifty Shades" merchandise is doing something. She calls it "permission marketing." After all, a "Fifty Shades of Grey" T-shirt could make a taboo subject like S&M a little more approachable.

Sometimes a gift is really a gift for the giver.

“Men are notorious for buying lingerie and things for themselves,” she says. “It’s an opportunity for guys – guys who didn’t read the book but want to benefit from the ideas, so to speak,” Faulkner says.

Which may be what purchasers of the Vermont Teddy Bear Company’s "Fifty Shades of Grey" bear have in mind. Innocently fuzzy, at first glance the bear looks like any typical teddy until you spot his tiny mask and handcuffs.

 

The \"Fifty Shades of Grey\" bear, from Vermont Teddy Bear.

Courtesy:The Vermont Teddy Bear Company

 

While only 20 percent of Fifty Shades readers were male, 54 percent of the bear’s buyers are men, says Bill Shouldice, president and CEO of the Vermont Teddy Bear Company.

But Jenn Drexler, a senior vice president with Insight Strategy Group, wants to make it clear that Mr. Bear, and most of the "Fifty Shades" merchandise work mainly as gag gifts.

“It’s one of those flip things where you can’t believe you live in a world where this can happen – so it’s so awesome,” she says of the bear.

And, FYI, the Vermont Teddy Bear company says so far this is its best-selling Valentine’s Day bear, but what may be good for the licensee may not always be good for the licensor.

“You have to wonder when does licensing crossover into value for the brand,” Drexler says. “When it goes into gag gifts?”

While the "Fifty Shades" brand is paid a royalty based on the sales of the bears,  Drexler notes that if people aren't putting the teddy bear on their beds, or their baby in a onesie that says “9 Months ago mommy read 50 Shades of Grey” – it won’t do much for the "Fifty Shades" brand.

 

A \"Fifty Shades of Grey\" onesie for sale at Inktastic.com

Inktastic.com

 

“They’ll get wallet share, but I don’t think they’re going to get heart,” she says.

When consumers love a brand, Drexler says, they’ll go as far as to have it tattooed — think Harley or Jack Daniels — but “I don’t know if anyone is doing a 'Fifty Shades' tattoo any time soon.”

The problem with this particular brand is it’s one women like to keep private.

“There’s a reason women weren’t getting together and talking — like 'I’ve always wanted to be tied up.' Like, that’s not replacing Oprah’s book club anytime soon,” Drexler says.

What title to read was up for discussion at a recent Brooklyn book club meeting. All the women in attendance are moms and while most were OK with the "Fifty Shades of Grey" baby clothes, host Megan Schade was not.

“I realize because it betrays my own Victorianism," she says. "In the sense that, how else does baby get here than by two people having sex? And that’s what this shirt is referring to."

Book club members Elizabeth Nelson, Renata Segura, Megan Schade and Jen Hanssen check out the \"Fifty Shades of Grey\" teddy bear.

Sally Herships/Marketplace

The wine, while deemed a flop, was also approved as a potential gag gift.

“It tastes like a wine cooler," says Elizabeth Nelson, another book clubber. “Very inoffensive. It’s probably what people who like the book, like to drink.”

“I don't think this wine was made for drinking,” Schade says, “It was made as a gift. It's a giving wine."

But the bear seemed to stir up the most discomfort.

"Poor Mrs. Bear," Schade says.

"Not OK," says club member Renata Segura. "Is this for a child or a grownup?"

"I see a crazy cat lady having that teddy bear," Nelson says.

But once some basic facts were established — that the bear is a stuffed toy intended for adult play only, and that it costs $89.99 — Seguara decided she wanted the bear, but only if she didn't have to foot the bill.

“If somebody gives it to me for free, not my husband buying it for me with my money, with our money, “ she says. “Maybe from somebody else, but not from my bank account."

Expedia buys Orbitz – what it means for you.

Thu, 2015-02-12 03:00

Expedia is going to buy rival Orbitz for about $1.3 billion.

The boards of both companies have approved the deal. Orbitz shareholders still have to give it the thumbs up. Assuming that happens, what’s in it for consumers?

You might be thinking you'll have to pay more for airline tickets. After all, the online travel site business is consolidating. Expedia bought Travelocity late last month.

“Certainly, there is one less independent choice, and anytime that happens, let’s face it, that’s not likely to push prices down for consumers,” says Seth Kaplan, managing partner of Airline Weekly.  

Kaplan says it might be a bit harder to find good deals. 

But not much, because Expedia still has lots of competition, from airline websites to more innovative sites like Hipmunk and HotelTonight.   

Kaplan says Expedia isn’t buying up its rivals to hike airfares. It’s trying to gain leverage with airlines, which don’t like allocating tickets to third party sites like Expedia. They’d rather sell their tickets themselves.

“Expedia, if it’s bigger, can go to airlines and say, 'Look, we control that many more millions of customers, and so you have to care what we think,'" he says.

Kaplan says Expedia wants lots of plane tickets to sell, because that’s what consumer buy first. Then we move on to rental cars and vacation packages, which are marked up more. That’s where Expedia makes its money. 

Expedia buys Orbitz - what it means for you.

Thu, 2015-02-12 03:00

Expedia is going to buy rival Orbitz for about $1.3 billion.

The boards of both companies have approved the deal. Orbitz shareholders still have to give it the thumbs up. Assuming that happens, what’s in it for consumers?

You might be thinking you'll have to pay more for airline tickets. After all, the online travel site business is consolidating. Expedia bought Travelocity late last month.

“Certainly, there is one less independent choice, and anytime that happens, let’s face it, that’s not likely to push prices down for consumers,” says Seth Kaplan, managing partner of Airline Weekly.  

Kaplan says it might be a bit harder to find good deals. 

But not much, because Expedia still has lots of competition, from airline websites to more innovative sites like Hipmunk and HotelTonight.   

Kaplan says Expedia isn’t buying up its rivals to hike airfares. It’s trying to gain leverage with airlines, which don’t like allocating tickets to third party sites like Expedia. They’d rather sell their tickets themselves.

“Expedia, if it’s bigger, can go to airlines and say, 'Look, we control that many more millions of customers, and so you have to care what we think,'" he says.

Kaplan says Expedia wants lots of plane tickets to sell, because that’s what consumer buy first. Then we move on to rental cars and vacation packages, which are marked up more. That’s where Expedia makes its money. 

PODCAST: Radio Shack bonuses

Thu, 2015-02-12 03:00

If you're going to demand a raise, are you going to do it when the economy is down, or are you going to do it now? Why striking when the going is good can be a smart move. Plus, Radio Shack wants to pay big bucks in retention bonuses to some key executives and high level staff. How is the bankrupt electronics device retailer justifying this expense and how likely is it that the bankruptcy court will allow it? We'll also talk about technology that is helping to elongate careers and kick-start second careers as workers age.

Workers strike while the economy is hot

Thu, 2015-02-12 03:00

Ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach will stop loading and unloading ships today and over the long weekend. The terminal operators and shippers say the union is orchestrating a work slowdown during labor talks. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union denies this.

Meanwhile, there are strikes at nine U.S. oil refineries. They started after contract negotiations expired. Why strike now?

“Workers tend to strike more frequently when the economy’s doing better and less frequently when the economy’s not doing well,” says Harry Katz, a professor of labor relations at Cornell University.

Katz says this trend goes back to the late 1800s. Workers are in a stronger bargaining position during good economic times.  

“Workers feel, accurately, that firms generally are earning more profits and have more to lose," he says. "So workers feel they have greater likelihood of success if they strike during good times.”

And they’re right, he says. Workers get better strike settlements when the economy’s strong. With higher wages, and better benefits, work rules and job security.

 

 

 

Mercedes rolls into Atlanta

Thu, 2015-02-12 02:00

Mercedes-Benz USA is leaving New Jersey, where it has been headquartered since the early 70's, for the Atlanta metro region. People in Atlanta like to say that good, old-fashioned southern hospitality lured Mercedes to the city of Sandy Springs, where the automaker will set up shop in 2017.

Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Stephen Cannon said the move also made financial sense. Atlanta’s low cost of living and low taxes appeal to Mercedes’ employees, and those the company hopes to recruit. Georgia’s business friendly policies including low taxes and low wages for entry-level workers, have helped the state lure an impressive number of large companies over the past several years.

Georgia, however, is still contending with one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. And despite the presence of new corporate players, many of the jobs being created are low-wage jobs.

Click the media player above to hear more.

Back to the Future's self-drying coat? Not yet.

Thu, 2015-02-12 02:00

This week’s piece of "Back to the Future" technology we're exploring appears after one of those classic 80's movie stunts that is not even remotely believable. Even if you put aside all of the futuristic technology surrounding Marty McFly as he jumps off his hoverboard and into a pond to avoid the group of hoodlums bearing down on him with implements of destruction, the fact that all he has to do is take a dive to completely get out of trouble and alter the future feels out of date. Back then it was in good company—"The Goonies," "Adventures in Babysitting," and "Gremlins," all required such suspension of disbelief. 

The self-drying jacket though? Back in 1989, you might be convinced that would be a thing by now. In the 1980's, scientists were coming up with the theory of the multiverse, and synthetic fabrics like polyester and spandex were in fashion. Why not a jacket with a computer voice that dried itself whenever you got soggy? Seemed legit. Fast forward to present day, where our ideas about wearable technology are much more complex, while our solutions to staying dry are a little more straight forward. At least that's the impression you'll get when you talk to Rebeccah Pailes-Friedman, a designer and fabric technology expert at Pratt Institute. 

"The self-drying jacket doesn't really exist at this moment," says Pailes-Friedman, who has worked on wearable technology for NASA and is a fellow at the Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator. "I think that there are really exciting technologies that are happening—technologies where water will just be repelled by the fabric and never really absorbed, so the jacket will never actually get wet." 

Pailes-Friedman says some of the most exciting things happening with fabric in the real 2015 have to do with making garments that actually conduct electricity. Think about having some extra integrated circuits in your shirt that add computing memory or even give a charge to your mobile device. Another big area is of course health-monitoring garments that do a lot of the things your Fitbit or your smart watch would do, but in a less visible way.

Marty's jacket also shrinks a few sizes so that it fits him better. Any chance of that happening any time soon? Pailes-Friedman is skeptical, but she says there are garments that can change the way they fit—inflating a jacket with air for insulation, or a hood squeezing closer to your face to create an air-tight space around your head, for instance. She likes to think of garments and clothing as much more than fashion statements.

"Your garment is a tool that you wear," she says. "It has a lot of functions. It can be aesthetic. It can regulate your body temperature. It can be no-wash, so it never has to be washed. There are so many things that fabrics can do."

Just not blow-dry themselves or go from an XL to an L. Yet. 

RadioShack's $3 million in executive retention bonuses

Thu, 2015-02-12 02:00

Electronics chain Radio Shack filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last week. Now, as the shuttering and/or sell-off of thousands of Radio Shack stores to new owners proceeds, the company has asked permission from the bankruptcy court to pay $3 million dollars in retention bonuses to eight top executives and another thirty senior managers.

Salesman Jacob Wolley, at one of the stores to be closed in Portland, Oregon, is not too upset about the proposed bonuses.

“Of course, the first person to keep money is the top guy,” he says. “I’m just hoping that I get my paid vacation and everything that’s owed to me and I won’t feel sore.”

Finance professor Jarrad Harford at the University of Washington says companies going through bankruptcy, as well as their creditors, want knowledgeable, skilled managers to stick around through the bankruptcy, instead of jumping ship for new jobs. Although he readily admits: “The optics are never good when you’re asking to set aside extra money to pay the managers.”

Steve Odland, former CEO of Home Depot and now president of The Committee for Economic Development, a Washington think-tank, predicts the bankruptcy judge will go along with the bonus plan.

“This is the group that needs to deal with the liquidation and repositioning of the company,” says Odland. “It’s a very standard process, and this is not a big amount.”

Odland says the hope is these managers will maximize value for creditors and shareholders through the bankruptcy, and keep some stores open for Radio Shack workers.

Asking fans to help build a stadium

Thu, 2015-02-12 02:00

For people from Detroit, the corner of Michigan and Trumbull is about as iconic as it gets. Professional baseball has been played there dating back to 1896, and was home to the Detroit Tigers for decades.

The stadium was torn down a few years ago, but now a developer is hoping to pull off a grand real estate experiment by asking the public to invest in more than just the next mixed-use downtown project.

Click the media player above to hear more.

'You've got mail' (and a spunky dial-up business)

Thu, 2015-02-12 01:30
$19.2 million

How much Wisconsin governor and presidential hopeful Scott Walker raised from outside his state amid a recall election in 2012. The New York Times' Upshot reports that number, and the recall election he won, as key to his chances looking toward the Republican primary. Walker's donors tend to be more conservative than those of key rival Jeb Bush. Plus Walker has attracted plenty of small donors, which were important to President Obama's 2012 campaign.

2 hours

How long the third season of "House of Cards" was available Wednesday on Netflix's site before being taken down. Not due to be released on Netflix until Feb. 27, the series was mistakenly put on the site due to a bug

8 percent

The vacancy rate at American malls last year, up from 5.4 percent in 2006. Bloomberg has analyzed hundreds of malls and thousands of stores, compiling their findings into six graphs, showing the state of the slowly-dying behemoths, and the people who shop at them.

 

6 out of 12

In an investigation by Wired Magazine, six out of 12 surveyed day-care facilities affiliated with tech companies had below-average vaccination rates, and therefore do not have enough vaccinated children to realize "herd immunity." Pixar had the lowest immunization numbers, with less than 50 percent of employees' children receiving vaccinations.

$602.5 million

How much AOL made last year from its old but still active dial-up Internet business, which still boasts 2.2 million subscribers. Quartz reports AOL has done an excellent job retaining that business, while making more on a per-subscriber basis each year.

2.5 million

Average nightly viewers of "The Daily Show" in 2012, a ratings peak over the past six years. The show was at its most popular during election season, the Washington Post points out, which will likely turn Jon Stewart's departure just ahead of 2016 into a headache for Comedy Central.

You've Got Mail (and a spunky dialup business)

Thu, 2015-02-12 01:30
$19.2 million

That's how much Wisconsin Governor and presidential hopeful Scott Walker raised from outside his state amid a recall election in 2012. The New York Times' Upshot reports that number, and the recall election he won are key to his chances looking toward the Republican primary. Walker's donors tend to be more conservative than those of key rival Jeb Bush. Plus Walker has attracted plenty of small donors, which were key to President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign.

2 hours

That's how long the third season of House of Cards was available on Netflix's site on Wednesday before being taken down. Not due out until February 27th, the series was mistakenly put on the site due to a bug

8 percent

The vacancy rate at American malls last year, up from 5.4 percent in 2006. Bloomberg has analyzed hundreds of malls and thousands of stores, compiling their findings into six graphs, showing the state of the slowly-dying behemoths, and the people who shop at them.

 

6 out of 12

In an investigation by Wired Magazine, 6 out of 12 surveyed day care facilities affiliated with tech companies had below-average vaccination rates, and therefore do not have enough vaccinated children to effect "herd immunity." Pixar had the lowest immunization numbers, with less than 50 percent of employees' children receiving vaccinations.

$602.5 million

That's how much AOL made last year from its old but still active dial-up Internet business, which still boasts 2.2 million subscribers. Quartz reports AOL has done an excellent job retaining that business, while making more on a per-subscriber basis each year.

2.5 million

The average nightly viewers of "The Daily Show" in 2012, a ratings peak over the past six years. The show was at its most popular during election season, the Washington Post points out, which will likely make Jon Stewart's departure just ahead of 2016 a headache for Comedy Central.

Why 3-wheeled cars never caught on

Wed, 2015-02-11 12:34

 In a piece for WIRED Magazine, Jordan Golson breaks down the history of the three-wheeled car.  

It is taken as gospel that vehicles should have an even number of wheels. Two, four, even six. But that hasn’t kept more than a few people from thinking three was the magic number.

 From the very earliest days of motoring, engineers have toyed with three-wheeled automobiles. In fact, the Benz Patent Motorwagen, generally considered the first motorcar, rolled on three wheels. Since then, the idea has come and gone, usually adopted by lovable, slightly eccentric boutique automakers like Morgan Motors or startups like the dearly departed Aptera Motors, although big players like Toyota have played the game too. (For the sake of this discussion, we’ll focus on cars, which we’ll define as having side-by-side seating and at least some semblance of an enclosed body.)

 But four wheels work just fine, so why take one away?

 “Car companies are always looking to sell something that’s different,” Golson says.  

 According to Golson, three-wheelers have plenty of setbacks too.

 “People typically buy their cars so they can haul around their families and their stuff, and a three-wheeled car doesn’t really do that very well,” he says.  

 So why were three-wheeled cars like the Reliant Robin so popular in England 30 years ago?

“They were popular because they were taxed as motorcycles,” says Golson. “So they were cheaper to own, and you only had to have a motorcycle license to ride them.”

Three-wheeled cars of old weren’t the safest either.

“You basically have as much protection as you would on a motorcycle, which is to say, none,” Golson says.  “It has all the bad parts of a motorcycle, and it has all the bad parts of a car.”

Don't expected a resurgence of the three-wheeled car any time soon. But that doesn’t mean four wheels is the pinnacle of car formats.

“If the car companies can figure out a way to solve a problem that no one else has solved you might see one that’s really popular,” says Golson. “But until they do that, the demand just isn’t there.”

Is that Greek's finance minister or an action film star?

Wed, 2015-02-11 12:18

Greece’s new finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, has bounded onto the political stage not like a finance minister at all.  He's more like an action movie star.

With his bald head, athletic build and feisty manner, Varoufakis reminds some of the Bruce Willis of "Die Hard" fame. One German newspaper called Varoufakis “a sex icon, roaring around Athens in his motorbike leathers, radiating the sort of classical masculinity you usually find only in Greek statues.”

Varoufakis may not relish this kind of press. He is a serious academic economist who has held senior university teaching posts in Greece, the United States, the U.K. and Australia. Long before his election last month, he fought a passionate campaign against the deep cuts in public spending that Germany and other European creditor nations imposed on Greece as a condition of the country’s $280 billion bailouts.

As a left-winger, Varoufakis believes in big government. Indeed, he describes himself as a Marxist. But Professor Monojit Chatterji, his doctoral supervisor at the UK’s University of Essex, says we should take that description with a pinch of salt.

“People are scared of him because of this Marxist label that he bandies around,” says Chatterji. “It’s almost done deliberately, in order to say to people: ‘Look here, I am a Marxist but you know I’m really a cuddly toy.’”

In spite of his seriousness, Varoufakis seems not to be averse to game playing. Hardly surprising, his academic specialty is game theory, the study of strategic decision-making. Computer games giant Valve Corp. hired him for his game-theory expertise.

That could now stand him in good stead.

“It’s not a bad background to have when you’re entering a period of intense negotiation,” says James K. Galbraith, a University of Austin professor who is a friend and former colleague.

But Galbraith rejects the claim that Varoufakis is playing the so-called “madman strategy,” making crazy demands and threatening to bring down the euro to extract greater concessions from Greece’s creditors.

“That’s not true," Galbraith says. "There’s absolutely nothing mad or for that matter opaque about the position taken at this stage by the Greek government.”

Galbraith describes Varoufakis as one of the most interesting intellectuals on the planet who has energy, charm, intelligence and magnetism in abundance. Will these qualities be enough to win over Varoufakis’ key adversary in the debt negotiations, German Chancellor Angela Merkel?

Professor Chatterji recalls one of the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s favorite phrases: “Thatcher used to say: ‘The lady is not for turning.' I think about Merkel one might say: ‘This lady is not for charming.’”

Dietary update: Cholesterol-rich foods aren't so bad

Wed, 2015-02-11 09:42

The government is set to withdraw warnings about cholesterol. According to the Washington Post, those dietary guidelines that we all know and love, the ones that provide rules for school lunches and nutrition advice and the same guidelines that tell us to limit our cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams a day are about to see a big change that could whip up business for the egg industry.

If we were writing a blockbuster movie about the egg industry – just bear with me – the villain would be cholesterol.

“It certainly has been an issue that has been on every single agenda, topic for every single meeting we’ve had in egg industry over the last 30 years,” says Kevin Burkum, a senior vice president of the American Egg Board. “Cholesterol is really the reason the American Egg Board was invented," he says.

In 1976, there was an egg crisis. American’s consumption of eggs had plunged from around 400 eggs a year in the 1940s to about half that a few decades later, and egg producers were concerned.

Phil Lempert, editor of Supermarketguru.com, says the industry still hasn't completely recovered: “Fast forward to 2012, and it’s down to 250 eggs.”

After years of mixed messages about nutrition, even if the government does publish new guidelines extolling the virtues of eggs, it could be tough to persuade consumers that the product is actually considered healthy again, Lempert says.

“Because what we’ve seen before – whether it’s about obesity, or heart disease, or cholesterol, or sodium or sugar – is lots of confusion. This message has to be really clear," he says.

And heard, says Mark Cotter, CEO of the Food Group, a food marketing firm. If the government publishes new dietary guidelines they probably won’t have much affect on their own, he says.

“To be quite frank, the understanding of the dietary guidelines, in terms of awareness, is under 10 percent – in the country,” he says.

It’s up to the egg industry, says Cotter, to sell itself. Last year, egg sales increased by half a billion dollars, according to Burkum.  Consumers, he says, are already embracing the egg.

“The incredible edible egg – even more incredible,” he says.

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