TIME Internet

Google’s Nuttiest Project Is Making Big Progress

Google Internet Balloon
Jon Shenk—AP Google has been testing balloons which sail into the stratosphere and beam Internet down to Earth.

Project Loon is getting a lot more sophisticated

Project Loon, Google’s ambitious plan to deliver Internet access to remote places via balloons, is becoming more than just a moonshot. At its annual I/O developers conference, the company told Bloomberg that it has had two key breakthroughs with Loon recently that could help it scale to achieve its goal.

Initially launching a single balloon required a dozen employees. Now Google has built a 50-ft.-(15-m)-tall, cube-shaped contraption called the Autolauncher, which can send balloons airborne every 15 minutes with the aid of just four people.

Secondly, Google has increased the range the balloons can travel and still carry an Internet connection. The company has developed technology to transfer Internet signals from balloon to balloon, which will allow the balloons to travel up to 497 miles (800 km) away from a ground station that’s connected to the Internet. Previously the balloons could only travel 50 miles (80 km) from a ground station and maintain an Internet signal. With the new innovation, Google will be able to cover the entire region of West Africa using only about eight ground stations.

Though Loon is still in an experimental phase, the advancements mean it may reach commercial deployment sometime in 2016.

TIME Business

‘Puff, The Magic Dragon’-Themed Restaurants Might Actually Happen

Peter Yarrow Performs At Barnes & Noble
Joe Corrigan—Getty Images Puff the Magic Dragon children's book is seen here at Barnes & Noble, 86th & Lexington on July 1, 2009 in New York City.

And merchandise

Steven Schussler, the businessman behind The Rainforest Café restaurant chain, has announced that his company Schussler Creative has acquired the worldwide licensing rights to develop restaurants and merchandise inspired by the eponymous 1963 hit by American folk singers Peter, Paul and Mary, according to a news release.

Written by Peter Yarrow and Lenny Lipton, the song also inspired an animated TV program and children’s book.

No word on whether these stores or restaurants will open in Colorado or Washington, where marijuana is legal for recreational use.

(h/t Grub Street)

TIME justice

Feds Say No Evidence Black Man Found Hanged in Mississippi Was Murdered

Investigators rule out the possibility of hate crime prosecution for the death of Otis James Byrd

Investigators concluded that there was no evidence that a 54-year-old black man who was found hanging from a tree in Port Gibson, Mississippi was the victim of homicide, the Justice Department announced on Friday.

Officials with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division met with Byrd’s family on Friday to convey the news that the investigation would conclude without charges of a federal hate crime.

“After a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced federal prosecutors and FBI agents determined that there was no evidence to prove that Byrd’s death was a homicide,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

“Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights statute, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that an individual willfully caused bodily injury because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity or disability.”

TIME wine

Nobody Knows If This $18,000 Wine Is Any Good

Getty Images

The pricy 70-year old bottle of French wine may be undrinkable

A bottle of wine sold at a London auction for $18,000 on Thursday. The problem is it might taste pretty bad.

The Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1945, one of the rarest wines in the world, was sold by auctioneer Bonhams to a private collection in Europe, Bloomberg reported. Individual glasses of the French red wine would sell for $1,500, the news service said.

The bottle sold for less than it could have, however, because of concerns that it may be undrinkable, Richard Harvey, Bonhams’ global head of wine, told Bloomberg. The wine, from the Medoc region, is believed to have oxidized because of some space found between the wine and the bottom of the cork. According to the article:

Had it been in better condition, the 70-year-old bottle, part of a vintage described by critic Michael Broadbent as the “Churchill of wine,” could have fetched twice the 10,000-pound ($15,000) to 15,000-pound range Bonhams had estimated in its sale catalog.

But regardless of its taste, the wine is a collector’s item because of its historical significance. A “V” printed on the label is said to celebrate the Allies’ victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
TIME Soccer

Soccer World Reacts to Sepp Blatter’s Re-Election

FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks after he was re-elected at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 29, 2015.
Ruben Sprich—Reuters FIFA President Sepp Blatter speaks after he was re-elected at the 65th FIFA Congress in Zurich on May 29, 2015.

Many seem disappointed that Blatter will remain head of FIFA

FIFA president Sepp Blatter was elected to a fifth term Friday despite a sprawling criminal investigation of the soccer federation currently underway in the U.S. that has already led to the arrest of more than a dozen FIFA executives.

Blatter, who has not been accused of wrongdoing, was heavily favored to win re-election even after the arrests were made Wednesday. However, many in the soccer community expressed dismay that the man who led FIFA during the period under scrutiny could still be elected so easily.

Here’s a sampling of how people reacted to the news on Twitter

U.S. soccer president Sunil Gulati, who voted against Blatter:

ESPN reporter Darren Rovell:

Former English soccer star Gary Lineker:

New York Times columnist Juliet Macur:

Former English soccer star Stan Collymore:

Sports Illustrated soccer writer Grant Wahl:

American singer Josh Groban:

Sports journalist Jim Rome:

SportsCenter anchor Max Bretos:

Soccer journalist Richard Buxton:

TIME Congress

What Does This Mysterious C-SPAN Call to Dennis Hastert Mean?

“Hello, Denny"

A C-SPAN caller’s mysterious question to Dennis Hastert last year has taken on a new meaning in light of recent allegations that the former House Speaker illegally paid $3.5 million in hush money to an unidentified resident of Yorkville.

The call was placed during a 2014 interview on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”

“Hello, Denny,” said the caller, who identified himself as Bruce. “Do you remember me from Yorkville?”

The caller then laughs and hangs up the phone, and the interview moves on without further comment. Footage of the call garnered newfound attention after a federal grand jury indicted Hastert on Thursday for allegedly paying an acquaintance in his hometown of Yorkville hush money over “prior misconduct.”

TIME world affairs

Now That Americans Love Soccer, We Can Referee It

Switzerland Soccer FIFA Raids
Ennio Leanza—AP A man walks next to the FIFA logo at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, on May 27, 2015.

Zocalo Public Square is a not-for-profit Ideas Exchange that blends live events and humanities journalism.

How FIFA corruption charges and new U.S. fans could alter the pitch for the world's most popular sport

Not too long ago, Americans couldn’t care less about the world’s most popular sport. Now we care so much we’re trying to clean up the sport’s international governing body. Hence the breathtaking corruption charges brought on Wednesday by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch against a number of FIFA’s top executives, several of whom were extradited to the United States by Swiss law enforcement.

The news comes at a time when soccer is rapidly integrating into American culture, and America is integrating into the global sport. I spent Memorial Day weekend with my 10-year-old son at a soccer tournament in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and was struck by the extent to which this hallowed crossroads of American history was populated by foreign insignia. Young players from Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland swarmed about town with their families wearing jerseys and hats of Manchester United and Barcelona, or the German and Brazilian national teams.

This sports fandom without boundaries drove home for me the degree to which the world’s top sport has infiltrated our culture. For a long time, soccer reigned supreme as a youth sport, but that didn’t translate into a widespread fan base for professional soccer, foreign or domestic. It seemed as if soccer here was condemned to remain child’s play.

But NO more. Just look at the numbers. Last year’s World Cup final in Brazil between Argentina and Germany was watched by an estimated 26.5 million people in the United States. That number dwarfs the 15.5 million viewers on average who watched the 2014 NBA Finals, or the 14.9 million viewers on average who watched the World Series the previous year. The average viewership for all 64 World Cup matches on ESPN was up 39%, compared to 2010. Just imagine what will happen the day the U.S. team makes the World Cup final.

There is a poignant TV commercial airing these days that depicts kids on every continent, some in very humble circumstances, playing ball while wearing Manchester United jerseys and introducing themselves as “My name is … and I play for Manchester United.” Then it cuts to the tunnel in the club’s Old Trafford stadium as the stars line up to come onto the field, wearing the kids’ names on their jerseys. The ad captures the global reach of the game but it’s also a testament to the American takeover of the game.

The ad is for Chevy, after all.

In the recently concluded second season of its three-year deal to air the English Premier League, NBC and NBCSN viewership of the games increased 9% from its first year. This means NBC will face formidable competition from FOX and ESPN later this year when the next three-year rights deal is awarded. The Premier League sells rights to its games in some 80 countries (and saw its domestic haul within Britain for the 2016 to 2019 rights spike 70 percent, to $8 billion), and it may only be a matter of time before more people on this side of the Atlantic watch matchups like Arsenal-Manchester United than do those back in the mother country.

European teams naturally view the United States, alongside Asian markets, as great growth opportunities, sending their squads to play preseason friendlies over here to stoke interest and develop their followings. In another intriguing hint of things to come, Manchester City established its own Major League Soccer club this season, the New York FC franchise.

Soccer’s recent success in America is a little unsettling both to folks here wedded to an extreme vision of American exceptionalism, and to folks elsewhere who’d prefer to leave one facet of global popular culture untainted by U.S. influence. But the rest of us should celebrate the convergence; it’s good, in so many ways, to play with the rest of the world. And this includes taking a more assertive role in the stewardship of the world’s game, as the federal assault on FIFA corruption makes clear.

If you remain skeptical about soccer’s ascendancy in America and America’s ascendancy within soccer, call me in 2022. That’s the year the U.S. will win its first World Cup, which will be played in this country after a reformed FIFA reverses its absurd (and, apparently, corrupt) decision to award it to Qatar. It will also be a time when we can celebrate a “world champion” team, without that title having an ironic ring to it.

Andrés Martinez is the editorial director of Zócalo Public Square and a professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Google

Gmail Just Hit a Pretty Major Milestone

Jewel Samad—AFP/Getty Images Google's lead designer for "Inbox by Gmail" Jason Cornwell shows the app's functionalities on a nexus 6 android phone during a media preview in New York on October 29, 2014.

It's closing in on 1 billion users

Google’s Gmail, already the most popular email service around, just notched member No. 900 million, the company announced at its annual I/O developers conference this week.

Gmail doubled its number of users in the last three years, USA Today reports. The announcement was made by Sundar Pichai, Google’s senior vice president of products.

The news comes as Google is publicly launching Inbox, a version of Gmail designed for mobile phones. Over three-quarters of Gmail users log into their email accounts from their phones.

Google’s Pichai recently spoke with Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky about the company’s business strategy and being patient.

TIME Companies

See Uber’s Stunning New Sci-Fi Headquarters

Ride-hailing company Uber, among the most valuable private companies in the world, is planning a futuristic two-building headquarters in San Francisco, Calif.

TIME Drones

Passenger Plane Barely Dodges Drone Above New York

Near-collision occurred on the way to LaGuardia Airport

A passenger airliner had to take evasive action to avoid hitting a drone in the skies above New York Friday morning.

Shuttle America Flight 2708 reported climbing 200 feet to avoid an unmanned aircraft on the way to LaGuardia Airport, according to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration.

The drone was reportedly operating in the area near Prospect Park in Brooklyn at an altitude of 2,700 feet. The FAA said it would investigate the near-collision, but didn’t provide any information on who was operating the drone.

The FAA is in the process of drafting rules to regulate how drones can operate in public airspace. Currently the organization’s guidelines for hobbyists warn against flying above 400 feet or within five miles of an airport. But Prospect Park is some ten miles from New York JFK, its nearest airport.


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