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Comment Re:I am curious if people think this is good or ba (Score 1) 164

Like others have said, the issue is complicated. However, I think in balance that this action at the state level is bad. In many areas, the primary issues with AirBNB are twofold: it bypasses hospitality regulation when it is in fact part of the hospitality industry, and it disrupts the residential rental market in the area. Both of these are legitimate concerns for any area, though for different populations. For the first, it's a similar issues as with Uber and Lyft: regardless of what libertarians and others like to claim, regulations on insurance and such such for professional organizations exist largely to protect consumers as well as companies. Someone renting a room or a property through AirBNB almost certainly doesn't have the necessary insurance to protect a renter in the event of an incident nor to protect themselves in the case of a bad tenant. Further, without any kind of health or safety inspection, the quality and safety of the rentals are extremely suspect; yes, some of that is handled by word-of-mouth and ratings, but the average person doesn't know the finer points on pool treatment and the like. The latter is a bigger issue in some places than in others, but that doesn't mean it isn't a valid concern. San Francisco, for example, is notorious for its high housing costs, and AirBNB is just making it worse by taking a percentage (however small) of potential properties off the rental market. While other areas of California aren't as bad, many still have a similar housing crunch. These properties are not zoned for short-term rental and were granted development permits with the explicit intent of providing long-term housing; AirBNB essentially negates that permit process. Since permits are all handled at the local municipal level, it seems counter-intuitive to have the state step in and essentially tell municipalities what they can or cannot permit. I cannot say if the same issues exist in Indiana, but the principle isn't any different. While the state has a vested interest in keeping regulatory environments similar for the entire state, it's hard to argue that the municipalities are doing anything to hinder AirBNB *as it was meant to be used by its creators*; instead, the state is supporting behavior that AirBNB itself as well as the municipalities are against. That makes it rather hard to justify.

Comment Re:How does their current level compare to 1970's (Score 5, Informative) 145

The highest PM2.5 in Los Angeles is estimated (it wasn't measured back then) to have been about 100 ppm (from the LA times last year: http://www.latimes.com/world/a...). In recent times, the max was 79, and the daily average is 18 or so. That puts Beijing at 2.5x the worst LA has ever seen and about 15x worse than LA on any given day.

Comment Re:What's the difference? (Score 2, Informative) 367

You're applying the logic backwards. Contractors do not receive benefits *because they are contractors*. The definition of a contractor according to the state of California: " 1. Whether the person performing services is engaged in an occupation or business distinct from that of the principal; 2. Whether or not the work is a part of the regular business of the principal or alleged employer; 3. Whether the principal or the worker supplies the instrumentalities, tools, and the place for the person doing the work; 4. The alleged employee’s investment in the equipment or materials required by his or her task or his or her employment of helpers; 5. Whether the service rendered requires a special skill; 6. The kind of occupation, with reference to whether, in the locality, the work is usually done under the direction of the principal or by a specialist without supervision; 7. The alleged employee’s opportunity for profit or loss depending on his or her managerial skill; 8. The length of time for which the services are to be performed; 9. The degree of permanence of the working relationship; 10. The method of payment, whether by time or by the job; and 11. Whether or not the parties believe they are creating an employer-employee relationship may have some bearing on the question, but is not determinative since this is a question of law based on objective tests." Uber pretty clearly violates 1, 2, most of 3, 6, and 7. Arguments can be made on others. A follow-up states: "Even where there is an absence of control over work details, an employer-employee relationship will be found if (1) the principal retains pervasive control over the operation as a whole, (2) the worker’s duties are an integral part of the operation, and (3) the nature of the work makes detailed control unnecessary. (Yellow Cab Cooperative v. Workers Compensation Appeals Board (1991) 226 Cal.App.3d 1288)" In this case, designating drivers as contractors is explicitly to get around legal requirements, such as needing to insure the drivers as commercial operators, being responsible for criminal actions of drivers during rides, paying employment taxes, etc. Some of those requirements are specifically created for exactly this kind of business activity (namely, taxi service), so in effect Uber wants to operate in a privileged position in an existing business environment for the reasons of "because". This is roughly analogous to so many companies designating IT workers (especially programmers) as "salaried exempt" in order to get around overtime laws. That went on for years until a few high-profile cases (specifically IBM) finally scared employers into obeying the law. Employers - or contract negotiators - don't get to decide these things unilaterally.

Comment Re:Contact your Congresscritters (Score 1) 413

Ironically, it was Boehner and the GOP who voted to link TPA to TAA; only 8 Dems voted for that rule change, and it only passed by two votes. So, I'm not at all sure why they did it, as both the rule change that stalled TPA and TPA itself passed by similar margins with all but a few votes coming from the GOP. They deliberately set this up to depend on TAA, which less than half of the GOP voted for. Unless there was some arcane requirement somewhere, I'm at a loss as to their reasoning.

Comment Re:This assumes some sort of causal relationship. (Score 1) 137

... a flaw which is explicitly pointed out early on in the paper and stated pretty plainly, but that would take actually reading it to know. I'm actually kind of interested in this. We've got a few data sets we do that have highly-correlated variables, and I'll be curious to apply one or two of the methods here (once I figure them out - I'm not a statistician, my boss is) to see if there's any difference in the noise between them. Won't tell me anything definitively, but could suggest which if any might be more likely to be causal. That in turn would suggest future avenues of study.

Comment When they start off with screwing up the name... (Score 1) 156

... it severely lessens my anticipation of the movie. It's "the Battle of Five Armies" as stated in the book - there's no second "the". Might seem minor, but there are far more than 5 armies in Middle Earth, so the second "the" is misleading. Plus, the way Tolkien wrote it flows better - and he was a language specialist, after all. Changing the name, even in this minor way, just seems really asinine and/or egotistical to me.
Image

NHS Should Stop Funding Homeopathy, Says Parliamentary Committee 507

An anonymous reader writes "Homeopathic remedies work no better than placebos, and so should no longer be paid for by the UK National Health Service, a committee of British members of parliament has concluded. In preparing its report, the committee, which scrutinizes the evidence behind government policies, took evidence from scientists and homeopaths, and reviewed numerous reports and scientific investigations into homeopathy. It found no evidence that such treatments work beyond providing a placebo effect." Updated 201025 19:40 GMT by timothy: This recommendation has some people up in arms.
Games

StarCraft II Beta To Begin This Month 182

mrxak writes "It's official; Activision Blizzard's much-anticipated sequel to 12-year-old StarCraft is going to enter closed beta 'this month,' according to company President Mike Morhaime during an investor conference call. This comes in the wake of the SC2 beta forums showing up briefly on Battle.net. If you've got a Battle.net account, it's probably not too late to opt-in for upcoming Blizzard beta tests."
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Jetman Attempts Intercontinental Flight 140

Last year we ran the story of Yves Rossy and his DIY jetwings. Yves spent $190,000 and countless hours building a set of jet-powered wings which he used to cross the English Channel. Rossy's next goal is to cross the Strait of Gibraltar, from Tangier in Morocco and Tarifa on the southwestern tip of Spain. From the article: "Using a four-cylinder jet pack and carbon fibre wings spanning over 8ft, he will jump out of a plane at 6,500 ft and cruise at 130 mph until he reaches the Spanish coast, when he will parachute to earth." Update 18:57 GMT: mytrip writes: "Yves Rossy took off from Tangiers but five minutes into an expected 15-minute flight he was obliged to ditch into the wind-swept waters."

Comment Something smells funny... (Score 1) 439

... and I don't mean the gamers.

I know I live in Southern California and, thus, the demographic is slightly skewed, but I'm having trouble thinking of *any* gamer I know IRL who is obese or depressed; yes, most are probably at the higher end of "average", but they're not obese.

Also the paragraph:

Both male and female video game players spend more time than nonplayers seeking friendship and support on the Internet, the study found, "a finding consistent with prior research pointing to the willingness of adult video-game enthusiasts to sacrifice real-world social activities to play video games."

Well, yes. Soemone who spends time playing games is going to seek out other people who spend time playing games; the most logical place to do so is in the game. I bet if you studied sports enthusiasts, you'd find they sacrifice non-sports-related social activities to meet people who play and/or talk about sports. Whether it takes place in person or digitally is really secondary. In the days when arcades were everywhere, you had most of these gamers meeting up in the "real-world" there; it's simply that, now, we do most of our gaming at home instead of in arcades. The method of communication is simply less important than the target or subject.

The whole thing sounds a little odd, though that could just be the reporter's summary and not the actual data.

Comment Re:How about "Robots Only" (Score 1) 224

And I bet not a single one of those astronauts from Columbia, or Challenger, or the Apollo program would have changed his or her mind about going if you told them that. Every person who has ever strapped his- or herself to the top of one of those Roman candles knew what the risks were - and they went anyway. Not for fame or fortune, not for wealth or power, not even for scientific discovery. They went because it's what we do: we explore, we discover, and we push further. Life grows, advances, adapts - or it dies. As a species, we must continue to grow, to advance, to adapt - or we may as well fire off all those nukes and kill ourselves now, because that'll be the result in the end. Sending robots is a first step, but it's not the goal: the goal is shifting the limits on humanity, gaining new insight, new experience, and new perspective on both the universe and ourselves - and then finding the next frontier and pushing into that. That's not something that can be written on a profit/loss statement or presented at a congressional hearing, but it's something felt by every one of us who knows instinctively that when we look at the sky at night, we're looking out, not up.

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