TIME Crowdsourcing

World’s First ‘Crowdsourced Country’ Campaign Aims to Solve World Hunger

Jeremiah Heaton hopes to establish an agricultural research center on a slice of unclaimed land to help solve the world's food shortages

A U.S. farmer who professes to have established the “Kingdom of North Sudan” so his daughter could be a princess launched the world’s first “crowdsourced country” campaign Tuesday to nail down his claim.

Virginia resident Jeremiah Heaton is hoping to found a state-of-the-art agricultural research center on some 800 sq. mi. of ostensibly unclaimed land between Egypt and Sudan known as Bir Tawil.

The Kingdom of North Sudan, he says on the Indiegogo crowdfunding page, will be “a nation fully dedicated to researching and developing solutions for our current global food shortages and impending food crisis.”

Through the campaign, Heaton intends to fund some of the world’s top scientists to conduct research at the center and develop sustainable agriculture methods focusing on ways to improve food production using less water.

He’s even offering a range of incentives to garner donations for the project, which he estimates will cost $505.5 million over five years. For $25 you could have an honorary title in the new kingdom, or a knighthood for $300. Meanwhile, $1.5 million will give you naming rights for a future international airport or the capital city for $1.7 million.

You can even donate $2,500 to the campaign to “torment the king” by subjecting him to 48 hours of continuous Justin Bieber music.

Heaton began his wildly ambitious campaign after his 6-year-old daughter asked to be a real-life princess. Taking his daughter’s wish literally, he began searching for terra nullius, or unclaimed land, and found Bir Tawil in East Africa. On June 16, 2014, he visited the area and planted a homemade flag for his new country.

But to go any further with his plan, Heaton must receive legal recognition from Egypt and Sudan, the U.N. and other world bodies, which could prove tricky.

“There’s no way either Egypt or Sudan would let it happen,” Professor Paul Nugent, a former director of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh, told al-Jazeera.

TIME beverages

These Are the Top 5 Energy Drinks

Cans of Monster Beverage Corp. energy drink are displayed for sale at a convenience store in Redondo Beach, California, U.S.
Bloomberg—Getty Images

Rankings with buzz

Monster Beverage’s stock tanked on Monday before quickly turning itself around and ending the day up by more than 4% after the company released quarterly numbers that looked pretty terrible. While the energy-drink maker’s business slipped a bit, most of the drop in profits had to do with the company paying off its former distributors as it moves distribution to Coca-Cola, which has taken a big stake in Monster in order to get a toehold on the market as sales of traditional soft drinks continue to fall. Investors in the end seemed to realize that nothing actually looked any bleaker after all.

Monster reported $4.4 million in profits, compared with $95.2 million a year ago. Revenue was up, but only slightly, and a bit less than most analysts were expecting.

Despite all the short-term pain, Monster is banking on long-terms gains thanks to its relationship with Coca-Cola, which will soon own 17% of the company. That deal, announced last August, is expected to close in the current quarter. Monster is a close No. 2 to Red Bull in the market for energy drinks. While there are many small players in the market (including ones owned by big companies), Red Bull and Monster dominate, and it looks like a Battle Royale is shaping up between the two.

Market-share-wise, here’s how things break down according to the most recent figures available (2014) from Euromonitor International:

Red Bull – The original, launched in 1997, Red Bull enjoys about 43% of the market.

Monster – A 39% market share. The company clearly hopes to surpass Red Bull with Coke’s help, though Monster executives noted in their earnings call last week that both Red Bull and Rockstar have gained share recently.

Rockstar – A strong-but-distant No. 3, the independent Rockstar has about 10% of the market.

NOS – This Coke-owned brand is named after nitrous oxide, and is often sold in containers meant to look like nitrous tanks. Its market share is about 3%.

Amp – Owned by PepsiCo, Amp also has about 3% of the market.

 

TIME

Why We Can’t Get Enough of Gas-Station Pizza

Congress Allows Pizza To Be Considered Vegetable In School Lunches
Joe Raedle—Getty Images

The hottest new pizza places are convenience stores

Pizza chains these days are watching customers drive right by, then filling up on pizza when they fill up at the gas station.

Market research company the NPD Group says that the amount of pizza dough and crust shipped to convenience stores shot up by 27% in only a year. We’re collectively buying 20% more servings of pizza from these outlets than we were a year ago, while servings at traditional carry-out pizza chains are just treading water.

Convenience stores have ramped up their food offerings and gotten more aggressive at courting people outside their core customer base of young to middle-aged blue-collar men, says NPD Group restaurant industry analyst Bonnie Riggs.

“They’ve placed a lot of focus on food service and food ready for immediate consumption,” she says. “They’re competing directly with other fast food concepts now.”

Jeff Lenard, spokesman for NACS, the National Association of Convenience Stores, says fifth-biggest pizza seller in the country — behind Dominos, Pizza Hut, Papa John’s and Little Caesars, respectively — Casey’s General Stores, an Iowa-based convenience store chain.

According to NACS, convenience stores sold $40.6 billion worth of food prepared on-site, coffee and fountain drinks in 2014, an annual increase of around 10%. That’s roughly 20% of all sales, and prepared food makes up a growing percentage of the industry’s profits.

One way they’ve done this is by doubling down on the variety and quality of food they offer, Riggs says. Chains like Wawa and Sheetz are attracting millennials and women — people who wouldn’t typically think of a gas station pit stop as the time or place to grab a slice. “You go in some of those places, you would not think it’s a convenience store,” she says.

NACS data bears this out. Almost 60% of customers and 70% of millennial customers say they’d eat convenience store fare, and more than 40% customers think it’s possible to get fresh or healthy food just a few aisles over from the beef jerky and cell-phone car chargers.

Aside from the taste and nutrition factor, consumers today are chiefly concerned with food that’s even cheaper and faster than fast food. Riggs says that fast food outlets, to compete with the more upscale chains like Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill, have rolled out expanded menus and new concepts, which bogs down the whole “fast” part of fast food, and often costs more. “Consumers, especially millennials, are looking for a better experience. It’s a quick in and out,” she says.

TIME Autos

Google Blames Humans for Accidents Involving Its Self-Driving Cars

Google Self-Driving Car
Mark Wilson—Getty Images Google's Lexus RX 450H Self Driving Car is seen parked on Pennsylvania Ave. on April 23, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Its fleet has been involved in 11 accidents in six years

Car accidents can and do occur in self-driving vehicles, but you can’t just blame the computer, Google says.

The tech giant revealed in a post on Medium Monday that its fleet of autonomous vehicles have been involved in 11 minor accidents since first hitting the road six years ago. However, the company says the mishaps, which did not cause any injuries, were the result of human error.

“Even when our software and sensors can detect a sticky situation and take action earlier and faster than an alert human driver, sometimes we won’t be able to overcome the realities of speed and distance; sometimes we’ll get hit just waiting for a light to change,” Chris Urmson, the director of Google’s driverless cars program, wrote. “And that’s important context for communities with self-driving cars on their streets; although we wish we could avoid all accidents, some will be unavoidable.”

Seven of Google’s accidents involved being rear-ended, the company said. Two of the accidents were side-swipes, and one was a collision with a car rolling through a stop sign. Eight of the accidents occurred on city streets.

Google offered the additional data about its program following an Associated Press investigation that found three of Google’s driverless cars have been involved in accidents in California since September. An anonymous source told the AP that in at least one of the incidents, the car was in driverless mode when the accident occurred.

Google’s cars have driven a total of 1.7 million miles (combining manual and self-driven mileage), giving them an accident rate of about 6.5 per million miles traveled. That’s considerably higher than the 2.8 property-damage-only accidents per million miles traveled that involved passenger cars nationally in 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, Google is quick to point out that a large number of fender benders and other minor accidents are never reported to police, making it hard to compare Google’s record.

Google has invested heavily in autonomous car technology. It’s racing other tech companies, such as Uber, as well as traditional car manufacturers to bring the vehicles to market. Urmson has said that self-driving cars could be ready for widespread use by 2020.

TIME Workplace & Careers

Millennials Now Largest Generation in the U.S. Workforce

They surpassed Generation X earlier this year

Millennials have now surpassed Generation X to become the largest generation in the American workforce, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

Adults between the ages of 18-34 now make up one in three American workers, Pew reports. They outnumbered working adults in Generation X, who were 18-33 in the year 1998, in early 2015 after overtaking Baby Boomers last year.

The estimated 53.5 million millennials in the work force are only expected to grow as millennials currently enrolled in college graduate and begin working. The generation is also growing thanks to recent immigration, as more than half of new immigrant workers have been millennials.

The millennial generation as a whole, not just those in the labor force, is also expected to surpass the Baby Boom generation as the largest living generation in the U.S.

 

TIME Media

Meerkat Makes Big Hollywood Hire to Compete With Twitter’s Periscope

Director of Media for Tumblr Sima Sistani at Tumblr's 2014 Year In Review Party on December 10, 2014 in New York City.
Steve Mack—FilmMagic/Getty Images Director of Media for Tumblr Sima Sistani at Tumblr's 2014 Year In Review Party on December 10, 2014 in New York City.

Sima Sistani, formerly of Tumblr, has joined the startup as VP of Media

A version of this story first appeared in the May 22 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Meerkat has its camera focused on Hollywood. The hot live-streaming app has hired an executive to work with industry partners and content creators. Sima Sistani, formerly of Yahoo-owned Tumblr, has joined the startup as vp media, overseeing content, partnerships, business development and community. Sistani, who reports to Meerkat CEO Ben Rubin, is based at the 15-person company’s San Francisco headquarters and plans to build a small team of up to 10 who will work with partners to create content tailored to Meerkat.

Rubin explains that Meerkat is facilitating “a whole new type of content. It’s important for us to build a media team early so that we can educate partners about it.”

Meerkat saw explosive growth when it launched in February ahead of the South by Southwest festival and Hollywood quickly latched on. Jimmy Fallon has broadcast The Tonight Show monologue rehearsals using the app and Madonna even premiered her new music video on Meerkat, albeit with a few glitches. Today, Meerkat is said to have about 2 million subscribers. But it faces competition from Twitter-owned Periscope, which gained 1 million subs in its first 10 days. Both companies have ruffled feathers in Hollywood after users broadcast the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. Sistani says part of her role is educating users about ways to avoid copyrighted content. “People in our community know that’s not interesting content, and we wouldn’t promote it,” she says. “Ultimately we’re more of a participatory media platform.”

Sistani, a CAA alum, joined Tumblr in February 2014 as head of media. Over the last year she brokered deals to relaunch Pop network’s website on the Tumblr platform and introduced the new tool Fandometrics, centered around trending topics in pop culture and fan communities.

“On Meerkat, the social conversations are the content, and we can create awesome moments when the audience is part of the story,” says Rubin. “Sima will be great at that.”

Adds Sistani: “I’m really excited about the future of this medium. People talk about Meerkat as an overnight success, but the truth is that these guys have spent the last three years figuring out live-streaming.”

The company has also tapped Chloe Sladden as an advisor. The former head of media at Twitter will provide additional partnerships guidance to Meerkat, which already has close ties to Hollywood through an investor roster that includes Jared Leto, Universal Music Group, Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video Ventures, WME, CAA Ventures and UTA.

This article originally appeared on The Hollywood Reporter.

Read next: Periscope vs. Meerkat: Which Is the Livestreaming App For You?

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Congress

Obama Moves Closer to Inking Pacific Trade Deal

US President Barack Obama speaks about trade policy at Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, May 8, 2015 .
Brendan Smialowski—Getty Images US President Barack Obama speaks about trade policy at Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, May 8, 2015 .

President Obama may move closer to a career-defining Pacific Rim trade deal Tuesday that could permanently alter the balance of power between the White House and Congress on trade issues.

The Senate is expected to approve a bill to give the president “fast track” authority to make trade deals, reducing Congress’ role to approving or rejecting the entire deal. Members of Congress would not be allowed to filibuster a vote on a trade pact, add amendments, delete parts or otherwise tweak the final version of a trade deal.

If it passes, the bill would grease the skids for Obama to finish the Trans-Pacific Partnership, an unprecedentedly massive trade pact binding the U.S. and eleven other countries, including Japan, Australia and Chile, and governing 40% of the world’s GDP.

Most trade experts agree that if the fast track bill passes, it all but guarantees that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will too.

Supporters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership say getting the fast track bill passed is crucial since, without it, Congress could muddle up a document that has been delicately wrought in private negotiations for nearly a decade.

But critics of the deal, which includes an unlikely coalition of Tea Party Republicans and liberal Democrats, argue that passing the fast-track bill is akin to signing a blank check.

Conservative critics worry that the fast-track hands undue power to a president they already don’t trust. In an impassioned plea to supporters Sunday, Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions wrote that the fast-track bill marks a “consolidation of power in the executive branch,” by eliminating “Congress’ ability to amend or debate trade implementing legislation and guarantees an up-or-down vote on a far-reaching international agreement before that agreement has received any public review.”

Liberal Democrats, for their part, argue that the Trans-Pacific Partnership would be bad for working class Americans by shipping more decent jobs overseas. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has said that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will strip safeguards on the financial industry and establish a shadowy international legal system, wherein powerful corporates can sue countries through private tribunals. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has promised to filibuster it if it comes to that.

Meanwhile, Obama has launched an aggressive and unusually personal lobbying campaign to pass both the fast-track bill and the final trade deal. In past months, he has met with members of Congress in the West Wing, promised allies future political support, and publicly attacked members of his own party who have been critical of the deal.

On Saturday, Obama called his one-time top ally, Warren, “absolutely wrong” in her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. “The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else,” he said in an interview with Yahoo News on Saturday. “And you know, she’s got a voice that she wants to get out there. And I understand that. And on most issues, she and I deeply agree. On this one, though, her arguments don’t stand the test of fact and scrutiny.”

Warren responded Monday by arguing that Obama should release the full text of the agreement now in order to clear the air.

The Senate is expected to pass the fast-track bill tomorrow by a hair, although it’s hardly a slam dunk. The House, which has not yet scheduled a vote on the bill, is likely to put up more of a fight. The final language of the Trans-Pacific Partnership itself will be hammered out by negotiators in Guam this week and in the Philippines later this month.

TIME social networks

Facebook Has a New Way to Keep You Off Google

TIME.com stock photos Social Apps iPhone Facebook
Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME

It will let you find links without having to visit a search engine

Some mobile users on Facebook’s iPhone app are now being offered an “Add a Link” option when they post status updates. After selecting the button, users can type in keywords and see search results listing articles on a given topic that have already been shared on Facebook.

A company spokesperson said the option is simply a pilot for now.

The feature is another step in Facebook’s continued expansion of the uses of its massive trove of more than one trillion indexed user posts. Last year, the company made it easier for users to use keywords to pull up old posts about any topic, but the results often appear haphazardly and in seemingly random order. This new functionality seems to provide a more focused application of Facebook’s search feature by focusing on links to other content online.

The “Add a Link” option, if rolled out fully, could pose a threat to Google. If Facebook can keep people within its walls even when they’re looking for stories, it will have more opportunities to have them engage with more content, including ads in the News Feed. The company can also use the feature to nudge people toward sharing the kinds of “high-quality” articles that Facebook gives a preference to in the News Feed over meme images and similar content.

Read next: Check Out How Much Fancier Facebook’s New Digs Are

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TIME Video Games

Your ‘Candy Crush’ Obsession Is Worth Billions

FRANCE-INTERNET-GAME-CANDY-CRUSH
Philippe Huguen—AFP/Getty Images A person plays on his tablet with Candy Crush Saga games developed by British King Digital Entertainment, on March 6, 2014, in Lille, northern France.

Game makers mint a fortune off of a tiny sliver of gamers who spend upwards of $100 a month on in-app purchases

Roughly 97% of mobile gamers won’t spend a penny on in-app purchases this year, but the remaining 3% will shell out billions, according to new research that shows a tiny minority of gamers generate huge revenues for game makers.

Mobile gaming companies have lowered download prices and removed intrusive advertisements in a bid to get more gamers addicted to the sheer pleasure of advancing through their levels, the Wall Street Journal reports. The goal is to hook those elusive gamers who are willing to spend upwards of $100 a month in their favorite games to unlock new levels and enhance their powers.

Those big spenders may be exceedingly rare, but according to market research firm Swrve Inc., they single-handedly account for roughly two-thirds of revenue from in-app purchases.

Read more at the Wall Street Journal.

TIME Food & Drink

Starbucks Is Now Offering a Mini Frappuccino to Help Justify Your Indulgence

Starbucks

For now, it's only available through July 6

Lately it seems like Starbucks really wants you to have a ton of options when it comes to Frappuccinos. There’s the new S’mores Frap, which comes with or without a cookie straw, and the beloved birthday cake Frap.

The latest in Frap news is not a new flavor, but a new size: a mini 10-ounce option. (For comparison’s sake, a “tall” size is 12 ounces.) The petite size will be available now through July 6, the Associated Press reports.

Starbucks began testing the new size — which we’ll now refer to as the Babyfrap — last September in select markets. A Starbucks spokesperson said the Babyfrap managed to attract new customers while also getting existing customers to return more often.

Mostly, we think people will go for it because it’s pretty cute. Look at it! Aww, Babyfrap.

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