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China says new bird flu cases found in central province Henan, the first cases found in the region and bringing the total number nationwide to 51

China says new bird flu cases found in central China

BEIJING — Two people in the central Chinese province of Henan have been infected by a new strain of avian influenza, the first cases found in the region and bringing the total number nationwide to 51, Xinhua state news agency said today.

4 HOURS 28 MIN AGO

BEIJING — Two people in the central Chinese province of Henan have been infected by a new strain of avian influenza, the first cases found in the region and bringing the total number nationwide to 51, Xinhua state news agency said today. Read more of this post

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What Analytics And Big Data Can Learn From Lego

4/11/2013 @ 11:19AM |2,291 views

What Analytics And Big Data Can Learn From Lego

By Kurt Bilafer, APJ Regional Vice President, Analytics, SAP 

Lego recently became a hot topic of conversation with my son, a huge Star Wars Lego fan.  Lego is the fourth-largest toy company in the world, and here at SAP (and the Bilafer household), we have aspecial relationship with the brand.  In Singapore there is a Lego exhibit at theArtScience Museum where artist Nathan Sawaya uses Legos as his creative medium.  I asked around the office if anyone had been to the exhibit and one of my co-workers shared a more personal story – he lamented the fact that thousands of Lego blocks were gathering dust in his basement – the result of acquired sets for his three sons, culminating in dozens of Lego sets and completed projects.

As an analytics guy, this reminded me of Rebrickable, a Website for Lego enthusiasts.  Users input Lego set IDs and their current inventory of Lego pieces and voila!  – an analytics engine crunches the data and makes recommendations on new Lego creations they can build.  This means a second life for old, forgotten Lego sets and more importantly, saves me from having to rebuild the same sets with my son every weekend.

After the euphoria on finding this site wore off, I started to think about how this was a great example of Big Data.  Most consumers might not realize this is a real use case for big data – they simply use the Rebrickable solution to solve a problem. Read more of this post

The naivety of US investors stands out in a new academic study that highlights their sometimes dismal decisions about investments

April 14, 2013 3:07 am

Many US pension investors are gullible

By Ellen Kelleher

The naivety of US investors stands out in a new academic study that highlights their sometimes dismal decisions about investments.

Research from two University of Pennsylvania professors shows the mistakes Americans commit when they move money into their 401k retirement plans are numerous. They range from under-investment and making poor choices about how to diversify portfolios, to paying expensive fees to pick up underperforming mutual funds.

The study by Profs Jill Fisch and Tess Wilkinson-Ryan, to be published soon in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, is the latest exposé of Americans’ terrible investing habits.

It follows a study by the regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commission, of financial literacy levels in the country last year, which came to the pessimistic conclusion that many US investors fail to understand concepts such as inflation, diversification, investment costs and compound interest.

Almost as unsettling, investors taking part in the Penn study found it difficult to identify and avoid inferior mutual funds. The results also reveal that “naive” diversification strategies drove many of their decisions about which mutual funds to buy. “Our study raises particular concern that investors and employers as well do not understand what they are supposed to do in investing for retirement,” write Profs Fisch and Wilkinson-Ryan. Read more of this post

Check Here to Tip Taxi Drivers or Save for 401(k); The broadest lesson is that for better or for worse, default rules and settings have a great deal of power. Businesses and governments need to think hard about them

Check Here to Tip Taxi Drivers or Save for 401(k)

By Cass R. Sunstein  Apr 9, 2013

If you have recently been in a taxi in New York City, you may have noticed a credit-card touchscreen, which suggests three possible tips. For rides of more than $15, the suggested amounts are usually 20 percent, 25 percent or 30 percent. You can give a larger tip, a smaller tip or no tip at all, but it’s easiest just to touch one of the three conspicuous options.

The touchscreen makes everything simpler. It also raises an intriguing question: Do the suggestions affect the average tip? Behavioral economists would offer a clear prediction: Because people don’t like to do even a little bit of extra work, the suggestions will matter a lot, and the average tip will increase significantly.

The prediction has turned out to be right, with one important qualification: There’s a backlash effect, with more customers giving no tip at all. This natural experiment illuminates human behavior in a lot of diverse settings, and it has implications for business and for public policy as well.

The instructive study has been done by Kareem Haggag of the University of Chicago and Giovanni Paci of Columbia University, who have compiled data on more than 13 million New York taxi rides. Using the standard social-science jargon, Haggag and Paci describe the suggested percentages as “defaults,” in the sense that they establish what customers will do if they don’t exert extra effort. Read more of this post

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