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Businesses

Obamacare Could Help Fuel a Tech Start-Up Boom 671

dcblogs writes "The arrival of Obamacare may make it easier for some employees to quit their full-time jobs to launch tech start-ups, work as a freelance consultant, or pursue some other solo career path. Most tech start-up founders are older and need health insurance. 'The average age of people who create a tech start-up is 39, and not 20-something,' said Bruce Bachenheimer, who heads Pace University's Entrepreneurship Lab. Entrepreneurs are willing to take on risks, but health care is not a manageable risk, he said. 'There is a big difference between mortgaging your house on something you can control, and risking going bankrupt by an illness because of something you can't control,' said Bachenheimer. Donna Harris, the co-founder of the 1776 incubation platform in Washington, believes the healthcare law will encourage more start-ups. 'You have to know that there are millions of Americans who might be fantastic and highly successful entrepreneurs who are not pursuing that path because of how healthcare is structured,' said Harris"
Earth

What the Insurance Industry Thinks About Climate Change 385

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Joseph Stromberg reports at the Smithsonian that if there's one group has an obvious and immediate financial stake in climate change, it's the insurance industry and in recent years, insurance industry researchers who attempt to determine the annual odds of catastrophic weather-related disasters say they're seeing something new. 'Our business depends on us being neutral. We simply try to make the best possible assessment of risk today, with no vested interest,' says Robert Muir-Wood, the chief scientist of Risk Management Solutions (RMS), a company that creates software models to allow insurance companies to calculate risk. Most insurers, including the reinsurance companies that bear much of the ultimate risk in the industry, have little time for the arguments heard in some right-wing circles that climate change isn't happening, and are quite comfortable with the scientific consensus that burning fossil fuels is the main culprit of global warming. 'Insurance is heavily dependent on scientific thought,' says Frank Nutter, president of the Reinsurance Association of America. 'It is not as amenable to politicized scientific thought.' A pronounced shift can be seen in extreme rainfall events, heat waves and wind storms and the underlying reason is climate change, says Muir-Wood, driven by rising greenhouse gas emissions. 'The first model in which we changed our perspective is on U.S. Atlantic hurricanes. Basically, after the 2004 and 2005 seasons, we determined that it was unsafe to simply assume that historical averages still applied,' he says. 'We've since seen that today's activity has changed in other particular areas as well—with extreme rainfall events, such as the recent flooding in Boulder, Colorado, and with heat waves in certain parts of the world.' Muir-Wood puts his money where his mouth is. 'I personally wouldn't invest in beachfront property anymore,' he says, noting the steady increase in sea level we're expecting to see worldwide in the coming century, on top of more extreme storms. 'And if you're thinking about it, I'd calculate quite carefully how far back you'd have to be in the event of a hurricane.'"
Government

Letter to "Extended Family" Assures That NSA Will "Weather This Storm" 286

An anonymous reader writes "The National Security Agency sent a letter to its employees, affiliates and contractors to reassure them that the NSA is not really an abusive and unchecked spying agency engaged in illegal activity." Whatever you think of the commentary, you can read the original, attached to the linked story.
Education

Why Are Some Hell-Bent On Teaching Intelligent Design? 1293

Funksaw writes "Here's an op-ed by first-time politician, long-time Slashdotter Brian Boyko, where he talks about his experiences testifying at the Texas Board of Education in favor of having real science in science textbooks. But beyond that, he also tries to examine, philosophically, why there is such hardened resistance to the idea of evolution in Texas. From the article: '[W]hat is true is that evolution tests faith. The fact of evolution is incontrovertible and supported by mounds of empirical evidence. Faith, on the other hand, is fragile. It is supported only by the strength of human will. And this is where it gets tricky. Because to many believers, faith, not works, is the only guarantee that one can pass God's litmus test and gain access to His divine kingdom. To lose one's faith is to literally damn oneself. So tests to that faith must be avoided at all costs. Better to be a philosophical coward than a theological failure.'"
Earth

Dialing Back the Alarm On Climate Change 490

An anonymous reader writes "A leaked copy of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has made the rounds and the good news is that the predicted temperature rise expected as a result of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide is lower than predicted in 2007. From the article: 'Admittedly, the change is small, and because of changing definitions, it is not easy to compare the two reports, but retreat it is. It is significant because it points to the very real possibility that, over the next several generations, the overall effect of climate change will be positive for humankind and the planet. Specifically, the draft report says that "equilibrium climate sensitivity" (ECS)—eventual warming induced by a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which takes hundreds of years to occur—is "extremely likely" to be above 1 degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit), "likely" to be above 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.4 degrees Fahrenheit) and "very likely" to be below 6 degrees Celsius (10.8 Fahrenheit). In 2007, the IPPC said it was "likely" to be above 2 degrees Celsius and "very likely" to be above 1.5 degrees, with no upper limit. Since "extremely" and "very" have specific and different statistical meanings here, comparison is difficult.'"
Biotech

New Research Could Slow Human Aging 180

schliz writes "A team of scientists from Japan and New Zealand have helped baker's yeast live 50% longer than usual by artificially stabilizing a genetic sequence called ribosomal DNA. The study's authors say that rDNA is a 'hot spot for production of the aging signal.' Because rDNA genes are very similar in yeast and humans, they say their experiment is a first step towards anti-aging drugs."

Comment Re:The Principle of Disparate Impact (Score 1) 452

You cannot take the legal doctrine of disparate impact and apply it carte blanche to every other aspect of human relations. It is not a general principle, and should not be misused as such. To claim otherwise is entirely novel and requires far more than a bare assertion of its new definition.
Crime

Could Technology Create Modern-Day 'Leper Colonies'? 452

theodp writes "Back in the day, leprosy patients were stigmatized and shunned, quarantined from society in Leper Colonies. Those days may be long gone, but are our mapping, GPS, and social media technologies in effect helping to create modern-day 'Leper Colonies'? The recently-shuttered GhettoTracker.com (born again as Good Part of Town) generated cries of racism by inviting users to rate neighborhoods based on 'which parts of town are safe and which ones are ghetto, or unsafe'. Calling enough already with the avoid-the-ghetto apps, The Atlantic Cities' Emily Badger writes, "this idea toes a touchy line between a utilitarian application of open data and a sly wink toward people who just want to steer clear of 'those kinds of neighborhoods.'" The USPTO has already awarded avoid-crime-ridden-neighborhoods-like-the-plague patents to tech giants Microsoft, IBM, and Google. So, when it comes to navigational apps, where's the line between utility and racism? 'As mobile devices get smarter and more ubiquitous,' writes Svati Kirsten Narula, 'it is tempting to let technology make more and more decisions for us. But doing so will require us to sacrifice one of our favorite assumptions: that these tools are inherently logical and neutral...the motivations driving the algorithms may not match the motivations of those algorithms' users.' Indeed, the Google patent for Storing and Providing Routes proposes to 'remove streets from recommended directions if uploaded route information indicates that travelers seem to avoid the street.' Even faster routes that 'traverse one or more high crime areas,' Google reasons, 'may be less appealing to most travelers'."
The Military

Making a Case For Cyberwar Against Syria 203

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Jason Healey writes at Defense One that if the Obama administration conducts military strikes against Syria, as now seems likely, it should use military cyber weapons at the earliest possible moment to show 'that cyber operations are not evil witchcraft but can be humanitarian.' Cyber capabilities could first disrupt Syrian air defenses directly or confuse military command and control, allowing air strikes to proceed unchallenged. A cyber strike might also disable dual-use Syrian critical infrastructure (such as electrical power) that aids the regime's military but with no long-term destruction as would be caused by traditional bombs. Last, it is possible the U.S. military has cyber capabilities to directly disrupt the operations of Syria's chemical troops. Healy writes that one cyberweapon that should not be used is covert cyber operations against Bashar Assad's finances. 'Both of his immediate predecessors declined such attacks and the world economy and financial sector are already in a perilous state.' Before the American-led strikes against Libya in 2011, the Obama administration debated whether to conduct a cyberoffensive to disrupt the Qaddafi government's air-defense system, but balked, fearing that it might set a precedent for other nations, in particular Russia or China, to carry out such offensives of their own. This time should be different in Healey's view. 'By sparing the lives of Syrian troops and nearby civilians, an opening cyber operation against Syria could demonstrate exactly how such capabilities can be compliant with international humanitarian law,' writes Healey. 'America should take this chance to demystify these weapons to show the world they, and the U.S. military in general, can be used on the battlefield in line with humanitarian principles.'"
Robotics

Technologies Like Google's Self-Driving Car: Destroying Jobs? 736

Nerval's Lobster writes "For quite some time, some economists and social scientists have argued that advances in robotics and computer technology are systematically wrecking the job prospects of human beings. Back in June, for example, an MIT Technology Review article detailed Erik Brynjolfsson (a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management) and a co-author suggesting that the evolution of computer technology was "largely behind the sluggish employment growth of the last 10 to 15 years." Of course, technological change and its impact on the workforce is nothing new; just look at the Industrial Revolution, when labor-saving devices put many a hard-working homo sapien out of economic commission. But how far can things go? There are even arguments that the technology behind Google's Self-Driving Car, which allows machines to rapidly adapt to situations, could put whole new subsets of people out of jobs."

Comment Re:"Slowdown" = Stop (Score 1) 510

You might have noticed that the press release was dealing with predictions, not the past record. If I was a serious opponent, I could try pointing out that it states "we will continue to see temperatures like those which resulted in 2000-2009 being the warmest decade in the instrumental record dating back to 1850," but that isn't inconsistent with global warming ending in 1998. http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/media/pdf/q/0/Paper2_recent_pause_in_global_warming.PDF does argue that global warming stopped, although in 2000, not 1998.

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