TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 16

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. There are no winners in a currency war, either. Here’s why the U.S. is carrying the burden of the global recovery.

By Mark Gilbert in Bloomberg News

2. Despite slow and censored Internet and the weakest mobile phone penetration in Latin America, Cuba is the land of opportunity for daring tech investors.

By Ramphis Castro in Re/code

3. Anyone with a smartphone can become a mobile environmental monitoring station.

By Brian Handwerk in Smithsonian Magazine

4. Permanent, easily accessible criminal records are holding back too many Americans. It’s time to “ban the box.”

By Ruth Graham in the Boston Globe

5. Autism Village is an app that helps families find autism-friendly businesses.

By Olga Khazan in The Atlantic

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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 weather

36 Runners Taken to the Hospital as Heat Wave Hits Los Angeles Marathon

30th LA Marathon held in USA
Mintaha Neslihan Eroglu—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images The 2015 Los Angeles Marathon held in Los Angeles on March 15, 2015

One man suffered a heart attack as temperatures hit record-breaking levels

More than 30 runners in the Los Angeles marathon were hospitalized Sunday, as a sudden heat wave swept the California city.

The race even began half an hour before its scheduled start time so runners wouldn’t bear the brunt of the brutal heat, NBC News reported.

Temperatures in L.A. hit 88ºF at their highest point, 20 degrees above the average and 3 degrees above the city record for the day set in 1978.

A total of 36 people, including a 61-year-old man who suffered a heart attack just before the end of the race, were taken to the hospital, while another 150 were treated on the sidelines.

[NBC]

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Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME weather

It’s Official: Boston Had Snowiest Winter Ever

Fenway Park Buried By Heavy Snowfall
Jessica Rinaldi—Boston Globe/Getty Images A piece of heavy equipment is used to clear snow from the warning track at Fenway Park in Boston, Mass. on Feb. 9, 2015, as yet another winter storm brings mounting accumulation.

Topped 108.6 inches on Sunday night

Boston’s miserable winter is now also its snowiest season going back to 1872.

The official measurement of 108.6 inches at Logan International Airport Sunday night topped a season record of 107.9 inches set in 1995-96, according to the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass.

The final 2.9 inches came in a snowstorm that was relatively tame after a record-setting monthly snowfall of 64.9 inches in February.

The worst previous single month was January 2005 when 43.3 inches fell.

This official winter snowfall, measured from December through February this year, was 99.4 inches. That was the snowiest for the winter period, beating 91.5 inches in 1993-94.

The season snowfall record is measured from July 1 through June 30, and takes in autumn and spring.

Forecasters note snow can still mount up this year. March 1993 had 38.9 inches, and March 1916 had 33.

TIME weather

Massive Cyclone Ravages South Pacific Island Nation

Reports that dozens died in Vanuatu

(WELLINGTON, New Zealand)—Residents in cyclone-ravaged Vanuatu hunkered in emergency shelters for a second straight night Saturday after venturing out to find their homes damaged or blown away by the powerful storm, aid workers said.

Packing winds of 270 kilometers (168 miles) per hour, Cyclone Pam tore through the tiny South Pacific archipelago early Saturday, leaving a trail of destruction and unconfirmed reports of dozens of deaths.

Power remained out across Vanuatu later Saturday and people on many of the outer islands had no access to running water or outside communications, said Chloe Morrison, a World Vision emergency communications officer in the capital, Port Vila.

Morrison said communications have been so problematic that her aid group hasn’t yet been able to account for many of its own 76 staff on the islands and authorities have been unable to assess the extent of the damage.

“I can say that for anybody who wasn’t in a secure shelter last night, it would have been a very, very tough time for them,” she said.

Vanuatu has a population of 267,000 spread over 65 islands. About 47,000 people live in the capital.

Morrison said authorities did a good job Friday moving thousands of people in Port Vila into 23 evacuation centers. With the winds and rain easing Saturday, many people stepped out only to find that their homes were missing a roof or had disappeared, and were forced to return to the shelters.

Teetering trees and downed power lines in Port Vila have made many areas hazardous, Morrison said, adding that she had heard reports of entire villages being destroyed in more remote areas.

“It’s still really quite dangerous outside. Most people are still hunkering down,” she said.

The U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, estimated that 54,000 children were among those affected by the cyclone.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the impact and scope of the disaster caused by the cyclone wasn’t yet clear, but he feared the damage and destruction could be widespread.

“We hope the loss of life will be minimal,” Ban said during the World Conference on Disaster Risk and Reduction in Japan. The U.N. said it was preparing to deploy emergency rapid response units.

The president of Vanuatu, Baldwin Lonsdale, who was attending the conference, told participants, “I do not really know what impact the cyclone has had on Vanuatu.”

“I am speaking to you today with a heart that is so heavy,” he said. “I stand to appeal on behalf of the government and the people to give a helping hand in this disaster.”

Morrison said the first priority was to ensure people had adequate food, drinking water and shelter. Beyond that, she said, there would need to be a long and concerted rebuilding effort in the months ahead.

She said the winds peaked between about midnight Friday and 1 a.m. Saturday.

A westward change of course put populated areas directly in the path of Cyclone Pam. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said there were unconfirmed reports of 44 deaths in Vanuatu’s northeastern islands after Pam moved off its expected track.

New Zealand on Saturday pledged 1 million New Zealand dollars ($734,000) to help with relief efforts. Australia was preparing to send a crisis response team to Vanuatu if needed, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said.

“There are destructive winds, rain, flooding, landslides, sea surges and very rough seas and the storm is exceedingly destructive there,” she said. “We are still assessing the situation, but we stand ready to assist.”

The small island nation, located about a quarter of the way from Australia to Hawaii, has repeatedly warned it is already suffering devastating effects from climate change with the island’s coastal areas being washed away, forcing resettlement to higher ground and smaller yields on traditional crops.

Scientists say it’s impossible to attribute single weather events like Cyclone Pam to climate change.

The cyclone has already caused damage to other Pacific islands, including Kiribati and the Solomon Islands. Authorities in New Zealand are preparing for Cyclone Pam, which is forecast to pass north of the country on Sunday and Monday.

TIME weather

Cyclone Bears Down on the South Pacific

Left to right: Tropical Cyclone Olwyn in the Indian Ocean heading south for landfall near Learmonth on the west coast of Australia, Tropical Cyclone Nathan meanders northeast of Cooktown, Queensland, Australia in the Coral Sea, Tropical Cyclone Pam tracks due south heading for the islands of Vanuatu in the southern Pacific Ocean and Tropical Depression 3 heads west-northwest towards Guam in the northern Pacific Ocean on March 11, 2015.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration /EPA Left to right: Tropical Cyclone Olwyn in the Indian Ocean heading south for landfall near Learmonth on the west coast of Australia, Tropical Cyclone Nathan meanders northeast of Cooktown, Queensland, Australia in the Coral Sea, Tropical Cyclone Pam tracks due south heading for the islands of Vanuatu in the southern Pacific Ocean and Tropical Depression 3 heads west-northwest towards Guam in the northern Pacific Ocean on March 11, 2015.

Wind speeds have reached 165 mph

A category 5 cyclone is pummeling the island nation of Vanuatu, a storm set to be one of the worst in that country’s history.

Wind speeds have reached 165 mph, fast enough to destroy homes according to the National Weather Service. Flooding and landslides may also occur. This is only the 10th category 5 cyclone to hit the region since 1970.

Vanuatu, population 224,000, is on red alert, and the center of the storm is expected to hit early Saturday morning local time.

[Weather Channel]

TIME weather

Mountain Climbers Discover Frozen Corpses on Mexican Peak

Aereal view of the Citlaltepetl volcano or Pico de Orizaba, the highest mountain in Mexico and the third highest in North America in Veracruz State, Mexico on June 1, 2014.
Alfredo Estrella—AFP/Getty Images Aereal view of the Citlaltepetl volcano or Pico de Orizaba, the highest mountain in Mexico and the third highest in North America in Veracruz State, Mexico on June 1, 2014.

The bodies could be the victims of a 1959 avalanche that killed three people

Mountain climbers in Mexico stumbled onto a scene from The Walking Dead this week after they found two corpses sticking out of a glacier on Mexico’s tallest peak.

Inclement weather prevented officials from digging out the remains of the bodies on the Pico de Orizaba volcano, the Weather Network reports, but a second attempt was made Friday.

Authorities believe the bodies could be the victims of a 1959 avalanche that killed three people and that a third corpse could be in the area. Many relatives of other missing climbers have contacted officials about identifying the bodies since the climbers’ shared their discovery. Clothing that may have been preserved in the ice could help forensic experts determine the identities of the deceased climbers.

[Weather Network]

TIME Aviation

Plane Skids Off Snowy NYC Runway, Stops Feet From Icy Bay

A Delta plane skidded off a runway and crashed through a chain-link fence at LaGuardia Airport

(NEW YORK) — A Delta jetliner landing at LaGuardia Airport in a driving snowstorm Thursday skidded off a runway and crashed through a chain-link fence, its nose coming to rest just feet from the roiling waters of an icy bay.

Six people were hurt in the midday accident, which authorities say came just minutes after the runway had been plowed. It was a near-tragic reminder of what pilots have long known about LaGuardia: Its relatively short runways and waterfront location leave little room for error, especially in bad weather.

Passengers said the plane landed hard and then took a sharp turn toward the fence on the edge of the runway.

“It felt like fishtailing in a car,” Charles Runel said. “But in a much larger car.”

Some tweeted photos of the crashing waves just outside the plane’s windows.

“I’m just thankful we didn’t go into the water,” said Malcolm Duckett, one of 130 people aboard Flight 1086 from Atlanta, which came to a stop atop a berm on the edge of Flushing Bay.

The plane’s wings appeared to be damaged in the crash landing, which authorities said also caused a leak of fuel that was quickly stopped.

Snowfall had dropped visibility to a quarter-mile at the time of the crash, and winds were blowing at 9 mph.

The runway had been plowed minutes before, and two other pilots had reported good braking conditions, said Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport. It appeared the pilot did everything he could to slow the aircraft, he said.

“The plane did not make contact with the water,” Foye said. “Happily, that was not a risk today.”

LaGuardia, known for its disconcertingly close proximity to the bay, is one of the most congested airports in the United States. It’s also one of the most difficult at which to land: Its close proximity to three other busy airports means pilots have to make a series of tight turns to line up with its runways while also going through their landing checklists.

The Delta flight was landing on LaGuardia’s main runway, which is about 7,000 feet long and 150 feet wide. On the right side of the runway are a taxiway and terminals. On the left, where the plane ended up, are the berm and the bay.

LaGuardia’s two runways are “reasonably short” but still safe, said former US Airways pilot John M. Cox, who’s now CEO of consultancy Safety Operating Systems.

At airports with longer runways, pilots glide a few feet above the runway and gently touch down. At LaGuardia, Cox said, “you put the airplane on the ground and stop it.”

There’s no rule about how much snow or ice leads to a runway closing. Instead, the Federal Aviation Administration requires airports to measure runways during winter storms to assure planes can safely brake: A specially equipped vehicle races down the runway with a computer checking braking action, and if the runway fails the test it must be closed.

On Flight 1086, passengers said there was a surreal calm as the plane bounced and slid off the runway, but some children started crying after it came to a stop. It was only then that everyone realized how close they had come to plunging into freezing saltwater.

Passengers were told to exit over the broken right wing because the door out the back was too close to the water. They climbed off the plane dressed in their heavy winter coats and scarves and tromped through several inches of snow.

“As we walked across the runway, it was covered with so much snow that I was wondering: Who decided it was safe to land here?” said passenger Jane Kaufman, of Gainesville, Florida.

Among the passengers was New York Giants tight end Larry Donnell, who said he felt blessed to be safe afterward.

“We were all shocked and alarmed when the plane started to skid, but most importantly, as far as I know, all of the passengers and flight crew were able to exit the plane safely,” he said by email.

Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines Inc. said the passengers were bused to a terminal.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending an investigator to retrieve the plane’s flight data and cockpit voice recorders and to document damage to the plane.

TIME Environment

El Niño Arrival Too Late for California Drought

"Too little, too late and too weak to provide much relief for drought-stricken California"

El Niño has finally arrived, but the precipitation brought by the weather event is unlikely to alleviate California’s severe drought, officials said Thursday.

“After many months of watching, El Niño has formed,” said Mike Halpert, an official at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. “Unfortunately, this El Niño is likely too little, too late and too weak to provide much relief for drought-stricken California as California’s rainy season is winding down.”

El Niño, a cyclical phenomenon that lasts several years, begins with warming in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and eventually affects weather around the world. In the United States, it can lead to storms along the West Coast and affect hurricanes and other tropical storms. Tropical storm activity could be reduced due to El Niño, but it’s too soon to know for certain, the NOAA said.

Forecasters have been waiting to declare the start of El Niño for nearly a year. The late arrival may make El Niño-related storms “weak in strength” with “fairly low influence on weather inclement,” Halpert said.

TIME weather

‘Last Hurrah’ Winter Storm Hitting Mid-Atlantic, Extending to East Coast

Plucky Bostonians are saying bring it on, we want the record!

Millions of people in 28 states faced winter weather on Thursday as a late-season storm swept across North America.

Drivers in Kentucky were left stranded on the road as snow piled around them on Interstate 65. A snowy runway at New York’s LaGuardia Airport caused an airplane to skid off the road and the city of Washington was effectively a ghost town, thanks to piles of snow that shuttered federal government operations.

Temperatures were significantly colder than average — anywhere from 10 to 30°F — across the region.

The governors of Alabama, Mississippi, West Virginia and New Jersey all declared states of emergency on Thursday, the Associated Press reports. But at long last, one of the worst winters in recent memory may be relenting, according to Mike Halpert, deputy director of the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center.

He told the Associated Press the storm “might be winter’s last hurrah.”

But in Boston, a city two inches away from breaking its all-time snow record, some residents said bring it on.

“I want the record. We earned the record,” said Erin O’Brien, professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

TIME weather

Snow, Ice, Floods to Pummel U.S. in Final Winter Storm

Storm will move from Kentucky to New York City

Around 47 million Americans were under a severe weather watch Wednesday as a winter storm threatened to pelt Kentucky, the Ohio Valley and southern Plains with ice and record-setting snow before moving toward New York City and Washington, D.C.

Heavy rain was forecast to freeze as what is expected to be the last major system of the winter moved toward the East Coast after pounding the Rockies and northern Texas on Tuesday.

In Kentucky, rain heavy enough to cause flooding was expected to turn into snowfall of up to 10 inches late Wednesday — five times the average March snow for Louisville and just short of the all-time March record of 12 inches…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

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