Saturday, April 30, 2016

Last Call For Zika Gets Real

A Puerto Rican man died from complications of the Zika virus earlier this year, the first reported death attributed to the disease in the United States.

The victim, a man in his 70s, died in February from internal bleeding as a result of a rare immune reaction to an earlier Zika infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Puerto Rico now has 683 confirmed Zika infections in its outbreak, which began in December; 89 are in pregnant women, according to Dr. Ana Ríus, the territory’s health secretary. Fourteen of those women have given birth, and all their babies are healthy, she said.

Seventeen patients have been hospitalized for Zika-related causes in Puerto Rico. Of those, seven had Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare form of paralysis that strikes about two weeks after an infection and, although frightening, is usually temporary.

The man who died was a resident of the San Juan area who fell ill withfever, rash and other typical Zika symptoms early this year, said Tyler M. Sharp, a C.D.C. epidemiologist working in Puerto Rico.

“That illness resolved,” Dr. Sharp said. “But very soon after, he had bleeding manifestations.”

He was hospitalized and died within 24 hours.

The condition that killed him, immune thrombocytopenic purpura, is similar to Guillain-Barré in that the Zika infection triggered his immune system to produce antibodies that attacked his own cells. In Guillain-Barré, they attack nerve cells, while in this case, they attacked the platelets, which cause the blood to clot.

The death was not described earlier because it took time to be sure Zika was the cause. “We had to check with family members, his personal physician and the doctors who managed him to be sure he didn’t have something else going on,” Dr. Sharp said.

I'm sure Republicans will get off their asses any time now and approve emergency funding to help fight this virus.  How many more people will die in the meantime, well, hey, it's just Puerto Rico, right?

Except of course the most likely point of entry into the mainland US will be in Southern states.  You might hear some concerns if things play out like they did Ebola in say, Texas a while back.

Clinton Goes Off

I thought that this Hillary Clinton interview with CNN was actually somewhat amusing.

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton says she has experience dealing with men who “get off the reservation” like GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

I have a lot of experience dealing with men who sometimes get off the reservation in the way they behave and how they speak,” Clinton told CNN Friday.“I’m not going to deal with their temper tantrums or their bullying or their efforts to try to provoke me,” she said. “He can say whatever he wants to me. I could really care less.”
That's exactly how Trump should be treated.

Trump has been attacking Clinton in recent weeks, from calling her “Crooked Hillary” to accusing her of using the “woman card” to get votes.

Trump escalated those attacks Thursday in an interview with the "Today" show, saying “without the woman’s card, Hillary would not even be a viable person to even run for city council positions.”

“I think the only thing she has going for her is the fact that she’s a woman,” he said. “She has done a terrible job in so many ways.”

He's such a dick.  Let him and his followers rot in the ashes of time.

Like A Kansas Tornado, Con't

Over in Brownbackistan, Kansas Republicans are facing a wipeout in November at the state level unless they find a way to plug the state's $290 million hole.  Things are so bad for Republicans across the country right now that state lawmakers are considering the unthinkable: eliminating GOP Gov. Sam Brownback's business tax exemptions.

Kansas lawmakers are moving forward with a bill to roll back the state’s income tax exemption for business owners, Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature policy.

The bill would repeal the exemption, which allows the owners of limited liability companies and other pass-through businesses to avoid paying any state income tax, on Jan. 1, 2017.

Rep. Mark Hutton, R-Wichita, said the bill is estimated to bring in about $220 million annually into state coffers.

“It’s a structural change we believe puts us on a stronger path,” Hutton said.

The state wouldn’t begin collecting the tax revenue until the 2018 fiscal year, which will start in July 2017, because of the delayed implementation. That means the bill won’t help the state out of its current $290 million budget hole.

“There’s a lot of people who want that vote,” Hutton said. “They believe it’s at least time to have the conversation.”

Read more here:

Kansas business groups and the Governor are predicting that anyone who votes for the rollback will face obliteration by voters.

“The Governor does not believe taxing our small business job creators is the way to grow the Kansas economy. An important component in attracting and retaining businesses is a stable regulatory and tax policy environment,” Eileen Hawley, Brownback’s spokeswoman, said Friday.

Hutton’s proposal drew strong opposition from business groups upon its unveiling.

“The business community is not the reason we’re in the current situation that we’re in. They only represented 29 percent of the tax relief in 2012 and yet they’re the ones that are being singled out,” said Mike O’Neal, president of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and a former speaker of the Kansas House, who oversaw the 2012 tax reforms.

O’Neal said that 20 percent of respondents to a recent poll of business owners conducted by the chamber said that the tax changes helped them stay in business. “So a vote in favor of this is basically a vote to shut down 20 percent of those people, who but for the tax reforms in ’12 would have gone out of business,” he said.

Once again, Brownback has already been re-elected and doesn't have to face voters anymore.  Kansas state lawmakers however do.

Will they go down with Brownback, the most unpopular governor in the country?

We'll find out.

Read more here:

The AirBnB Up There

Given the tech industry's absolutely dismal record on diversity, it's no surprise that business models based on the "sharing economy" come complete with all the internal biases of the people sharing them.  AirBnb is a perfect example, where people looking to stay a night or two are matched up with people who can rent out their homes for short term stays and owners can accept or reject people wanting to stay there.

Guess who has a problem getting a place to stay?

Quirtina Crittenden was struggling to get a room on Airbnb. She would send a request to a host. Wait. And then get declined. 
"The hosts would always come up with excuses like, 'oh, someone actually just booked it' or 'oh, some of my regulars are coming in town, and they're going to stay there,'" Crittenden said. "But I got suspicious when I would check back like days later and see that those dates were still available." 
In many ways Crittenden, 23, is the target audience for AirBnb. She's young, likes to travel, and has a good paying job as a business consultant in Chicago. So she started to wonder if it had something to do with her race. Crittenden is African American, and on AirBnb, both hosts and guests are required to have their names and photos prominently displayed on their profiles. 
Crittenden shared her frustrations on Twitter with the hashtag #AirbnbWhileBlack. She started hearing from lots of friends who had similar experiences. 
"The most common response I got was, 'oh yeah, that's why I don't use my photo.' Like duh. Like I was the late one," Crittenden said.

And of course it's not just her, racism is baked into the system because America is a racist nation, period.

Crittenden's story fits within a larger finding that racial discrimination on AirBnb is widespread. Michael Luca and his colleagues Benjamin Edelman and Dan Svirsky at Harvard Business School recently ran an experiment on AirBnb. They sent out 6,400 requests to real AirBnb hosts in five major American cities—Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Washington. 
All the requests were exactly the same except for the names they gave their make-believe travelers. Some had African American-sounding names like Jamal or Tanisha and others had stereotypically white-sounding names like Meredith or Todd. 
Luca and his colleagues found requests with African American sounding names were roughly 16 percent less likely to be accepted than their white-sounding counterparts. They found discrimination across the board: among cheap listings and expensive listings, in diverse neighborhoods and homogenous neighborhoods, and with novice hosts as well as experienced hosts. They also found that black hosts were also less likely to accept requests from guests with African American-sounding names than with white-sounding ones. 
Luca and his colleagues found hosts pay a price for their bias—when hosts rejected a black guest, they only found a replacement about a third of the time. In a separate study, Luca and his colleagues have found that guests discriminate, too, and black hosts earn less money on their properties on Airbnb.

So black hosts and black guests are discriminated against openly, and there's basically nothing that they can do.  There's a reason I don't use "sharing economy" services like Uber or AirBnb, because there's no protections there.  The fact that you can pick and choose who you let stay in your home is arguably the major selling point of being a host, as well as being able to pick a host as a guest.

People want to do that.  "I'm not staying in her home, it's probably dirty" or "I don't feel comfortable letting them stay here" happens a lot more than people will ever admit.

The larger problem is the tech world's idiotic insistence that the internet makes race invisible or irrelevant, when clearly the opposite is true.  And that's because the flawed business models are nearly all invented by white techbros who have never had to think a day in their lives about their privilege.

"I don't see color" doesn't work in reality, folks.  At best, these guys are clueless to the point of being unaware of the damage they are causing, at worst, they know damn well their business model allows people to "curate" who interacts with them for money in ways that would be legally actionable in traditional business arrangements, and gosh, maybe that's the point.

This has been repeated in too many ways for it to be coincidence, guys.
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