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Silence Breakers named Time magazines Person of the Year

first_imgNEW YORK, N.Y. – The “Silence Breakers” — those who have shared their stories about sexual assault and harassment — have been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.Numerous women have spoken out publicly since October about sexual misconduct by dozens of high-profile men in entertainment, media, business and sports. Time praised those who have given “voice to open secrets, for moving whisper networks onto social networks, for pushing us all to stop accepting the unacceptable.” The magazine’s cover features Ashley Judd, Taylor Swift, Susan Fowler and others who say they have been harassed.Time’s announcement was made Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” show, where longtime host Matt Lauer was fired last week amid harassment allegations. “Today” host Savannah Guthrie acknowledged Wednesday that this year’s winner hits “close to home” and mentioned Lauer by name.Women who spoke out, initially against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and then others, helped to spawn the #MeToo movement, with millions of people telling stories of sexual misconduct on social media.The tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts began after actress-activist Alyssa Milano followed on a suggestion from a friend of a friend on Facebook and tweeted: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” The hashtag was tweeted nearly a million times in 48 hours. #MeToo was actually founded by activist Tarana Burke a decade ago to raise awareness about sexual violence. Milano has said she wasn’t aware of Burke’s contributions when she made her initial tweet and has since publicly credited her.Milano and Burke appeared together Wednesday on the “Today” show.“This is just the start. I’ve been saying from the beginning it’s not just a moment, it’s a movement,” Burke said. “Now the work really begins.”“As women, we have to support each other and stand together and say, ‘That’s it. We’re done. No more,’” Milano said. “It’s vital to me that we really set in some actionable things that we can do to continue this momentum.”Wednesday’s winner differed slightly from how it was described the shortlist of finalists, which mentioned only the #MeToo movement. Time has made such changes before. The 2014 winner, “The Ebola Fighters,” was listed as “Ebola Caregivers” in the shortlist.German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Time’s 2015 Person of the Year, said through a spokesman that this year’s winners should be thanked for “having the courage to break the silence on sexual assaults and for the worldwide discussion that they have launched.”The two runners-up for Person of the Year were Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump, himself accused of sexual misconduct by numerous women. He has denied any wrongdoing.Trump, Person of the Year in 2016, tweeted recently that the magazine had told him he “probably” would be named again if he agreed to an interview and photo shoot. Trump added that he “took a pass.” Time has disputed his account.___This story has been corrected to show that Time magazine’s Person of the Year is the silence breakers. The #MeToo movement is a part of that group.last_img read more

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Artificial intelligence to fuel a new cybersecurity race say experts

first_imgMONTREAL – Technological advances in artificial intelligence are fuelling a new race between hackers and those toiling to protect cybersecurity networks.Cybersecurity is always a race between offence and defence but new tools are giving companies that employ them a leg up on those trying to steal their data.Whereas past responses to cybercrimes often looked for known hacking methods long after they occurred, AI techniques using machine learning scan huge volumes of data to detect patterns of abnormal behaviour that are imperceptible to humans.Experts expect machines will become so sophisticated that they’ll develop answers to questions that humans won’t clearly understand.David Decary-Hetu, assistant professor of criminology at the University of Montreal, says defenders have an edge right now in using artificial intelligence.“But who knows what’s going to happen in a few years from now,” he said in an interview.“The main issue is that if you’re defending a system you have to be good 100 per cent of the time, but when you’re attacking the system you only have to be successful once to get in.”Decary-Hetu said a growing list of corporate and government officials, including Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz, who say infiltrations are their top worry have a very good reason to fear.The Bank of Canada warned in its semi-annual review released this month that the high degree of interconnectedness among Canadian financial institutions means any successful cyberattack could spread widely throughout the financial system.Reports suggest cybercrime costs the Canadian economy between $3 billion and $5 billion a year, including ransom paid to foreign criminals.Hacks of Sony Pictures, Uber, Ashley Madison, Yahoo and multinational retailers have sparked unsettling headlines about security of personal information.One of the latest to face scrutiny is global credit-reporting firm Equifax. Hackers accessed the personal information, including names, social insurance and credit card numbers, as well as usernames, passwords and secret question/secret answer data of 19,000 Canadians and 145.5 million Americans.Current detection systems tend to only recognize improper activity based on past events, often long after the damage is done.An example of this is Equifax, which discovered the breach in July, months after hackers first infiltrated the system. It only notified the public in early September.Niranjan Mayya, founder and CEO of Toronto-based Rank Software, said it takes on average 143 days for a breach to be detected.The challenge is growing as the number of connected devices in the world continues to soar.“Clearly the old style techniques of looking at cybersecurity threats and having people go through each threat aren’t working anymore, so automated means of detecting threats has become more and more important,” he said.David Masson, Canadian manager for U.K.-based Darktrace, said artificial intelligence will help to keep up with threats by quickly identifying and stopping attacks by picking up on subtle markers that identify bad behaviour.He said his company’s systems map a customer’s entire network, including every user and device, to discern even the slightest deviations as they emerge.Masson said AI is needed to keep up with threats by automating defence responses to growing machine-on-machine attacks launched by sophisticated hackers.“You’re kind of looking at a cyber arms race,” he said in an interview.“If you want to keep up with this threat and put the advantage back in the hands of the defenders you’re gonna have to use AI.”Ontario-based utilities company Energy+ Inc. said installed Darktrace technology alerted it to a user going to a malware site in Russia and uploading undisclosed sensitive data to a third-party cloud provider that its existing security was unable to catch.Some observers temper the current exuberance about AI, saying it’s not a silver bullet and these are nascent days for the technology.Receptiviti CEO Jonathan Kreindler says the hype around artificial intelligence has accelerated and has almost become a branding exercise for some companies that aren’t even offering truly leading edge technology.“The term AI is now being applied to any sort of algorithmic reasoning unfortunately,” said Kreindler.His firm uses AI to scour writings for unconscious use of language to understand the psychological state of company insiders who are responsible for 80 per cent of cybersecurity issues.Canada’s largest IT company, CGI Group, said artificial intelligence is a growing field of interest for customers, although the average client is in the fairly early stages of considering AI adoption in cybersecurity.CGI cybersecurity expert Andrew Rogoyski said that still puts them one step ahead of most hackers, who are typically interested in stealing data using the cheapest tools possible.Rogoyski added that he expects a strengthening of defensive mechanisms might force hackers to also adopt innovative techniques such as AI.“There’s a race, it’s been going on for 20 years plus and the race just keeps evolving. We keep leapfrogging each other,” he said.last_img read more

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VW wants to storm car market with massmarket electric model

first_imgFRANKFURT — Automaker Volkswagen says it will invest 44 billion euros ($50 billion) in developing autonomous and electric cars and expand the appeal of battery-powered cars by selling its upcoming ID compact for about what a diesel-powered Golf costs.Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch told a news conference Friday that the company’s plans for the next five years aim to make Volkswagen “a worldwide supplier of sustainable mobility.”Poetsch says the company is in talks with Ford about possible co-operation in making light commercial vehicles.Volkswagen is converting three of its German plants from internal combustion to battery car production as it pivots away from diesel vehicles in the wake of its emissions scandal. It says it will increase the number of electric models from six now to more than 50 by 2025.The Associated Presslast_img read more

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Business Highlights

first_img___Police raid Deutsche Bank offices in money laundering caseBERLIN (AP) — German authorities have raided Deutsche Bank’s headquarters amid suspicions that its employees helped clients set up offshore companies that were used to launder hundreds of millions of euros. About 170 police officers, investigators and prosecutors swooped on the bank’s offices in Frankfurt and premises in nearby Eschborn and Gross-Umstadt.___Fed officials express caution about pace of future hikesWASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve officials earlier this month appeared on track to raise its key interest rate again in December, but they signalled that the pace of future rate hikes might need to slow given emerging risks to the economy. Minutes of the Fed’s Nov. 7-8 meeting show that Fed officials expressed concerns about a variety of threats, including the impact of tariffs, a slowing global economy and tightening financial conditions amid falling stock prices.___US pending home sales fell 2.6 per cent in OctoberWASHINGTON (AP) — Pending home sales sank in October. Higher mortgage rates have worsened the affordability of home ownership and dampened enthusiasm among would-be buyers. The National Association of Realtors says that its pending home sales index fell 2.6 per cent last month to 102.1. The index based on contract signings has tumbled 6.7 per cent from a year ago.___US consumer spending up strong 0.6 per cent in OctoberWASHINGTON (AP) — Consumers boosted their spending in October at the fastest pace in seven months, while their incomes rose by the largest amount in nine months. Both are good signs for future economic growth. The Commerce Department says consumer spending rose a sharp 0.6 per cent last month. It was the biggest increase since a similar gain in March and was three times faster than the 0.2 per cent September performance.___Cruise control: GM’s No. 2 exec to run self-driving car unitSAN FRANCISCO (AP) — General Motors is transferring its president from Motor City to Silicon Valley to run its self-driving car operations and pursue an attempt to cash on the automaker’s bet that robotic vehicles will transform transportation. Dan Ammann, currently GM’s second highest ranking executive, will become CEO of the company’s Cruise Automation subsidiary at the beginning of next year. He will replace Cruise co-founder Kyle Vogt, who will become chief technology officer.___Trump’s new NAFTA faces skeptics in now- Democrat-led HouseWASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump spent more than a year browbeating the leaders of Canada and Mexico into agreeing to a rewrite of North American trade rules. And on Friday, those two nations are set to sign the pact at the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Now, Trump faces what could prove a more formidable foe: His own Congress.___In China, your car could be talking to the governmentSHANGHAI (AP) — Automakers selling electric vehicles in China send a constant feed of information about the location of cars to the government — potentially adding to the rich kit of surveillance tools available to the regime as President Xi Jinping steps up the use of technology to track Chinese citizens. More than 200 manufacturers, including major global brands, transmit position information and dozens of other data points to monitoring centres, often without car owners’ knowledge, The AP has found.___Puerto Rico completes its first debt restructuring dealSAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico has completed its first debt-restructuring deal since the government announced it was bankrupt more than three years ago, giving creditors overall $550 in new bonds for each $1,000 they had held. The agreement announced Thursday was finalized with creditors holding more than $4 billion in debt issued by the now-defunct Government Development Bank. It’s not clearhow much the agreement will affect some $70 billion in other debt still outstanding.___Army wants Microsoft’s HoloLens headsets for battlefieldWASHINGTON (AP) — Virtual- and augmented-reality headsets haven’t had much traction in the consumer market, but they’re finding a place on the battlefield. The U.S. Army says it has awarded Microsoft a $480 million contract to supply its HoloLens headsets to soldiers. Microsoft says the technology will provide troops with better information to make decisions.___California regulators question utility’s safety commitmentSAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California regulators have ordered the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. utility to significantly improve its “safety culture” after questioning the safety qualifications of top executives. The California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday ordered the company to implement 60 recommendations made by an independent consultant hired to examine Pacific Gas & Electric’s safety practices.___The S&P 500 index shed 6.03 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 2,737.76. The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended down 27.59 points, or 0.1 per cent, to 25,338.84. The Nasdaq composite slid 18.51 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 7,273.08 as tech stocks dipped. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks lost 5 points, or 0.3 per cent, to 1,525.39.Benchmark U.S. crude rose 2.3 per cent to finish at $51.45 a barrel in New York. Brent crude edged up 1.3 per cent to $59.51 a barrel in London. Wholesale gasoline jumped 4.1 per cent to $1.45 a gallon. Heating oil edged up 0.3 per cent to $1.84 a gallon. Natural gas slipped 1.1 per cent to $4.65 per 1,000 cubic feet.The Associated Presslast_img read more

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Nominations open today for upcoming municipal election

first_imgLast month, Fort St. John mayor Lori Ackerman and Dawson Creek mayor Dale Bumstead both confirmed that they would be running for re-election again this year.Nomination papers for the City of Fort St. John can be downloaded at www.fortstjohn.ca/municipal-elections or can be picked up at City Hall.  For residents who wish to run as a director in the Regional District, nomination papers can be picked up at the Regional District offices in Fort St. John, Dawson Creek and Chetwynd.The deadline to officially register as a candidate is 4:00 p.m. on Friday, September 14th. FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – The nomination period for the upcoming municipal elections in B.C. has officially begun.The nomination period started this morning at 9:00 a.m. and closes at 4:00 p.m. on September 14th.As of 2:00 p.m. Tuesday only incumbent Lori Ackerman had submitted her nomination package in the mayoral race. Ackerman was re-elected mayor by acclamation during the last municipal election in 2014, winning the mayor’s chair during the 2011 election by 60 votes over Don Irwin.Three candidates had so far declared themselves to be running as councillors in Fort St. John as of 2:00 p.m.: incumbents Larry Evans and Gord Klassen.Evans finished third in 2014’s election with 1,181 votes and 57 percent of votes cast while Klassen finished fifth with 1,016 votes, or 49 percent.Becky Grimsrud has also submitted nomination papers for this year’s election, her third attempt at running for a seat on City Council.Grimsrud lost her bid for City Council in 2014 when she received 662 votes. In last year’s by-election to fill the seat vacated by Peace River North MLA Dan Davies, Grimsrud finished second to Lilia Hansen with 242 votes to Hansen’s 256.The City released nomination packages for the October 20th election at the end of July but was not able to officially accept packages until this morning.last_img read more

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High air fares to weigh heavy on passenger traffic growth

first_imgNew Delhi/Mumbai: Expensive air fares as a result of capacity constraint and high fuel prices are expected to further decelerate India’s passenger growth numbers, experts opined. Even though, there has been a growth in passenger numbers on a year-on-year (YoY) basis, the traffic on a sequential level has shown a negative trend. As per the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) data, on a YoY basis, growth rate in February stood at 5.62 per cent to 1.13 crore, while it was 9.10 per cent in January and 11.03 per cent in December 2018. Also Read – Thermal coal import may surpass 200 MT this fiscalEven data from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) showed a similar trend. The growth rate of India’s domestic air passenger volume — measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) — slowed in February to 10 per cent from a rise of 12.4 per cent in January. Industry observers blamed the downward sequential growth trend on high air fares. According to experts, since March 14, passengers had to shell out high fares as several airlines cancelled operations for a number of reasons, including grounding of Boeing 737-MAX aircraft. Also Read – Food grain output seen at 140.57 mt in current fiscal on monsoon boostDuring this period, some sectors continued to see a rise of more than 100 per cent in case of last minute bookings. “Indian aviation has seen a capacity constraint due to multiple reasons over last couple of months. The immediate impact of this reduction noted on fares was an average of 15-20 per cent hike in price,” said Sharat Dhall, COO (B2C) of Yatra.com. “While that acted as a deterrent for people who were looking to book air tickets in short notice, however, the traffic was not seen to be affected as the fares did moderate for people booking in advance,” Additionally, oil marketing companies increased the price of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) which is also expected to buoy air fares. “High ATF, grounding of several flights and a tough operating environment have further impacted the domestic sector crisis and will impact passenger growth for the month of March,” said Aloke Bajpai, CEO and Co-founder, ixigo. “However with unused Jet slots now being allocated to other airlines, an increase in capacity will help in normalisation of fares before the peak summer travel season.” In a recent note, ratings agency Fitch said that Indian aviation market has seen a sharp increase in airfares in the last few months due to tight supply, which has been worsened by the suspension of the 737 MAX aircraft. “Fitch expects the growth in revenue passenger kilometres (RPK), which decelerated to 12.4 per cent in January (2018: 19.9 per cent), to weaken further until supply increases,” the rating agency said in a note. In addition, the note said that Jet Airways, which along with its subsidiary JetLite had the second-largest share of the domestic market until January, has been steadily losing market share as it has been forced to shrink its operating fleet due to financial troubles. “Market leader IndiGo cancelled around 30 flights per day (2 per cent of total) from around the middle of February until March, with industry participants highlighting pilot shortage as a key reason,” the note said. “SpiceJet was then forced to ground its 737 MAX jets, which form around 15 per cent of its fleet.”last_img read more

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Indias safety check

first_imgThe government’s decision to suspend cross LoC trade between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) in view of potential misuse of trade routes by Pakistan related elements is a good safety measure. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) yesterday evening imposed the suspension with immediate effect following reports of illegal weapons, narcotics and fake currency being funnelled into the country through these routes. MHA’s decision comes in the wake of NIA’s ongoing probes which have unravelled how LoC trading channels are operated by individuals closely associated with banned organisations fuelling terrorism and separatism. To this extent, it is likely that these operators are working at the behest of such banned outfits and pumping in illicit weapons to spread terror. Considering how India already retracted the most preferred nation (MFN) status following the Pulwama incident, apprehensions exist that LoC trade corridor might be extensively used to evade higher duty. MFN was certainly a boon for the trade relations between neighbouring countries and its absence must have certainly left Pakistan’s export of common goods to a standstill. The LoC trade, meant to facilitate the exchange of goods of common use between local populations across the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir, is allowed through two trade facilitation centres located at Salamabad in Baramulla district and Chakkan-da-Bagh in Poonch district. As per the government’s order, trade at both the centres have been suspended indefinitely while the government prepares stringent regulatory and enforcement mechanisms in place. Prior to this, trade and travel between the two sides were suspended following heavy Pakistani shelling along the LoC on April 1 which led three fatalities in Poonch while 24 others, including five security personnel, were injured. However, it had resumed on Tuesday with trucks carrying common goods across LoC into India. But NIA’s probe must have facilitated an insightful review of the decision which has now closed all trade facilities with Pakistan. It may be argued as to why this was not the case since the day India went on a diplomatic offensive against Pakistan. In all likelihood, the LoC trade routes may have been utilised to detrimental extents already. Reports received by MHA cite how “the trade has changed its character to mostly third party trade and products from other regions, including foreign countries, are finding their way through this route”. This means that a narrow corridor to India has been available for unscrupulous and anti-national elements to exploit. It would be interesting to see how Pakistan reacts to this development since earlier MFN and now this means Pakistan has to bear the full brunt of the incursions caused by terror outfits operating from its soil. While many may opine that this is detrimental to the relations between two nations, it is to be noted how this is the least concerning when it comes to relations. Presence of JeM on Pakistani soil was a single largest breach of trust that Pakistan has not been able to justify since it had claimed that JeM was banned back in 2002. India is wary of the potential threat to its territories, especially with the ongoing elections. But this threat could not have developed overnight. The timing of the decision attracts curiosity more than it garners apprehension. This sort of threat has been suspected for years as pointed out by Omar Abdullah and acknowledging it the state’s demand for truck scanners at trade points was floated but did not materialise. MHA’s decision cannot be criticised despite what the dissenting politicos such as Omar Abdullah or Mehbooba Mufti may feel. In a bid to safeguard borders from unforeseeable threats, the order puts several traders’ businesses in turmoil. This suspension also adds to the Pakistan policy of current dispensation which has so far projected a different outlook against Pakistan compared to the previous governments. Modi’s national security narrative gets another addition but his commitment towards mending relations with Pakistan certainly takes the back seat. What remains to be seen is whether this trade suspension helps curb whatever apprehensions MHA has cited as per NIA’s probe or does it only surface as a bold statement to reiterate Modi’s ‘nation first’ approach. As much as these safeguards would be appreciated in the light of what happened in Pulwama, it remains to be seen how they are handled to benefit the locals who have been at the receiving end of the Centre’s policies and notifications.last_img read more

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Country wants pure PM not chaiwala Mayawati

first_imgLucknow: Launching a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BSP supremo Mayawati on Tuesday said the country will not be “deceived” by “dual characters” any more and it now wants only a PM, not a “chaiwala or chowkidaar”. “The country has already seen a number of leaders in form of sevak (servant), mukhya sevak (chief servant), chaiwala (tea vendor) and chowkidaar (watchman), who indulge in misleading the people. But, the country now needs a pure Prime Minister who can run the country in accordance with welfare spirit of the Constitution…The public has already been fooled by people of dual character, and will not be fooled any more,” she said at a press conference here Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss account details under automatic exchange framework The BSP chief said the BJP government is a sinking ship. “The boat of Narendra Modi government is sinking, and everyone knows this. The biggest example of of this is that the RSS is also deserting them (Modi government). I cannot spot them (RSS workes) anywhere in the election doing hard work (for the BJP) with their ‘jholaa’ (bags) thanks to the non-fulfilment of promises and the intense resentment of the people. As a result of this, Modi is sweating.”last_img read more

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Bored With Balance In Baseball 2016 Could Be Your Year

The arrival of spring training brings with it a number of treats. If you’re a fan, it’s the hope that this might be the year your team wins the World Series. If you’re Yoenis Cespedes, it’s a cavalcade of rides that would make Birdman jealous. And for number crunchers, it’s a fresh batch of projections, ripe for statistical exploration.Those projections — generated by algorithms such as Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA1Which, I’m obliged to say, was originally developed by FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver. — endeavor to predict the performance of each major league player and team in the coming season. That’s a tough job, and often a thankless one; if a projection system makes headlines at all, it’s usually for drawing the ire of a scorned team or fan base. (Never underestimate how quickly World Series joy can turn into anger when the computer calls for a sub-.500 record!) But projections are also invaluable because they provide a statistical snapshot, frozen in time, from which we can learn to become more accurate in the future, and suss out potential trends in the game.And this year, PECOTA’s projections spat out something that may prove even more noteworthy than, say, the last-place finish they predict for the defending champion Kansas City Royals. The numbers suggest that MLB’s brief era of balance may soon be over. For the last decade or so, the spread of wins in PECOTA’s projection2As measured by the standard deviation. has been trending downward. That meant the algorithm was forecasting win totals with less variability and more parity. With most teams clustered around 81 wins — a .500 record — it was becoming more difficult to make precise predictions about each team’s finish. Partly for this reason, team-level projections had their most inaccurate season since (at least) 1996.31996 is the earliest year for which we have archival projection numbers. Factors like health and midseason trades, neither of which PECOTA can reliably predict, dominated any differences in talent among teams when it came to determining the outcome of the season.This year, however, PECOTA is projecting a much larger spread in talent. The standard deviation of its forecast win totals is the highest it’s been since 2013, when (perhaps not coincidentally) its predictions were much more accurate. Since a wider spread in team records implies greater confidence about which teams will be good or bad, it’s fair to wonder what’s driving this newfound certitude after such a bad year for the stats.Part of PECOTA’s confidence is based on improvements to the algorithm. For the first time, it’s incorporating the effect of pitch framing, or the ability of individual catchers to quietly improve the odds of a called strike through their receiving skills. A pitching staff’s projected earned run average can go up or down depending on the sleight of a catcher’s glove. So teams with good framers, such as Yasmani Grandal of the Los Angeles Dodgers, will see their projected ERA drop, while those with poor receivers, like the Philadelphia Phillies’ Carlos Ruiz, will allow higher ERAs.But the wider distribution of predicted wins hasn’t been driven completely by tweaks in the algorithms. Las Vegas’s over/under lines tell a story similar to PECOTA’s, forecasting their widest spread in win totals since 2013. Savvy bettors have known about pitch framing for years, so clearly some other factor is driving the change. And the reason may be as simple as a few great teams coming out of rebuilding mode — and several bad ones entering it — at the same time.Fully five teams project to win 90 or more games this season, compared with only three last year and two the year before. Some are to be expected, like the always-dominant-in-the-preseason Dodgers, and others have risen on the basis of defense (Tampa Bay) or pitching (Cleveland). But some, like the Chicago Cubs and New York Mets, simply represent the recent maturation of prospect-heavy farm systems.For instance, PECOTA thinks the defending NL champion Mets will win 90 games, largely on the strength of a young, flamethrowing rotation projected to add about 13 wins above replacement.4With assistance from the good framing of catcher Travis d’Arnaud, of course. And the Cubs figure to win oodles of games no matter which source you use for your projections: PECOTA has them down for 94 wins, while FanGraphs’ projections are even more rosy, calling for 97 victories. Only two other teams in the last four years were projected by PECOTA to win 95 or more games: the 2014 and 2015 Dodgers.5In reality, those L.A. teams won 94 and 92 games, respectively. (By comparison, there were six such teams in the four years before 2014.) Chicago has overwhelmed the projection systems’ conservative streak by following their breakout 97-win season with the best offseason of any MLB team, plus enough reserves of youth, depth and prospect firepower to procure extra wins at the trade deadline if necessary.The common thread is the transition from “building” to “built.” Graduating many of their most promising players to the majors in the last year or so, the Cubs and Mets are now seeing them play some of the best ball in decades. The concentration of so much young talent on so few teams, during an era where young players are more valuable than they’ve been in many years, has clearly played a role in the widening of win projections this season.And at the other end of the spectrum, two teams are predicted to win fewer than 69 games: the Phillies and the Atlanta Braves. After failing to reach .500 these past few seasons, both teams have recently hired new general managers with long-term mandates. The new GMs (Matt Klentak in Philadelphia and John Coppolella in Atlanta) have embraced rebuilding as the new way of things, trading skilled veterans such as Andrelton Simmons to restock their minor league systems with prospects. In particular, the Phillies appear to be in for a rough year, with the worst win total projection of any MLB team since the Houston Astros in 2013. Like the Cubs and Mets at the top of the scale, these rebuilding teams are widening the spread of records at the bottom.Any time teams deliberately move away from .500, in either direction, we should see a more variable league. Projections like PECOTA may be getting more accurate thanks to additions like catcher framing, but a lot of the spread in predicted wins comes down to the old-fashioned distribution of talent across the major leagues. And in a welcome change from recent seasons, this year should give us a handful of great teams battling for playoff spots, instead of a mass of mediocrity. read more

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