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Samsung squeezed a smart home hub into a WiFi router

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Samsung isn't content with simply unveiling the Galaxy S8 today. In addition to its latest flagship phone, the company is also showing off a new Gear 360 camera, a desktop dock and, interestingly enough, a router. The Connect Home Smart Wi-Fi System...
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mrobold
18 hours ago
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Orange County, California
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Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate claims global warming is happening because 'the Earth moves closer to the sun every year'

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Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner offered up some truly innovative explanations for global warming at an event for natural gas advocates in Harrisburg on Tuesday. Wagner, a Republican state senator, suggested at one point during his keynote address that humans' "warm bodies" could be responsible for the Earth's rising temperatures. "We have more people. You know, humans have warm bodies," Wagner said. "So is heat coming off?"

Later, after admitting he hadn't "been in a science class in a long time," Wagner hypothesized that global warming could also be due to the Earth's rotation. "...[T]he Earth moves closer to the sun every year — you know, the rotation of the Earth," Wagner said. "We're moving closer to the sun."

If Wagner were to return to a science class, he might be surprised to discover that the Earth's rotation happens daily, not annually, and that the Earth's proximity to the sun doesn't necessarily result in warmer temperatures. In fact, Huffington Post noted "the United States and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere experience winter when the Earth's yearly orbit brings it closest to the sun."

Wagner later clarified in a statement issued by his spokeswoman that he does believe in climate change and that he thinks "some of that change is certainly manmade." He did not, however, mention scientists' main culprit for global warming: greenhouse gases.

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mrobold
19 hours ago
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Orange County, California
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34 gangsters busted in plot to steal automaker Enzo Ferrari's corpse using helicopters, parachutes

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Italian state police have arrested 34 members of a Sardinian crime organization for attempting to steal the corpse of famous automaker Enzo Ferrari in order to blackmail his family, CNN reports. The gangsters' plot was extraordinarily complicated and involved helicopters and parachute regiment officers.

Ferrari died in 1988 at the age of 90. His body is entombed above-ground in the San Cataldo cemetery in Modena, in central Italy, where it rests behind an iron gate. His legacy lives on, as his company continues to build some of the world's fastest and most expensive cars.

Police learned of the plot to steal Ferrari's body during an investigation into arms and drug trafficking. More than 300 officers assisted in the case.

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mrobold
19 hours ago
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Orange County, California
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What America can learn from the French health-care system

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I have to make a confession: I lead a double life. You see, by profession, I'm an American policy wonk of the conservative persuasion, who spends a lot of time thinking and writing about the American health-care system; but in real life, I'm a French health-care consumer.

It's an interesting dichotomy. Progressive American policy wonks seemingly spend all their life praising the French health-care system. And yes, according to many international estimates, France has the best health-care system in the world. I often find much of this praise to be naive; but as a French health-care consumer, I have to admit the system has some pretty great features.

Let me give you a concrete example of something the French get right.

Yesterday morning, my 5-year-old daughter awoke with flu-like symptoms that quickly grew serious enough that I wondered if I should take her to the emergency room. If you're a parent, you know exactly this feeling of creeping paranoia. Thankfully, the French equivalent of 9-1-1 provides a helpful service: An operator will put you in touch with an actual doctor who will tell you whether your child has an emergency condition or not. The person who first took my call asked some basic questions and then patched me through to the doctor, who was friendly and competent, and already knew what I'd told my first point of contact. This is totally free, and helps unclog the emergency services for people with actual emergencies.

My American friends tell me similar hotlines do exist in the States, mostly served by private insurance operators, but that they're much less useful. For many of them, you're not talking to an actual doctor, you're talking to someone in a call center working off a form. These people never tell the caller anything definitive, most likely due to liability issues: If something seems benign but is actually deadly, that's lawsuit material. So they say noncommittal things like, "Well if you think it's an emergency, you should go to the emergency room," which sort of defeats the point of calling an expert to figure out if you should be going to the emergency room in the first place.

It turned out my daughter's condition wasn't an emergency, but I did need a house call. For this, I got in touch with SOS Médecins, which is basically Uber for doctor house calls. They don't actually have an app, but the idea is the same: Call them, and a doctor will show up on your doorstep within the hour, 24/7. Like Uber, the service is a platform that connects independent contractors with customers. Unlike Uber, SOS Médecins is a non-profit that was started in the 1960s, although it has now become so ubiquitous that many people assume it's a public service. The price of the service varies but it's typically only slightly more expensive than a typical doctor's visit, in the range of 50 to 100 euros; in France, the national insurance scheme pays a minimum rate for doctor's visits and if the price is higher, it may or may not be covered in full or in part by your private insurer, which most people have. (Yes, France has private health insurance.)

Some American startups are trying to become the Uber for health care, but they tend to be held back by red tape, high prices, and insurance regulations. So far they seem to have attracted venture funding but don't seem to have become ubiquitous.

The idea of a medical concierge — a primary caregiver who can eventually forward you to specialists and get you to do tests and so forth, but also help you navigate the health-care system more generally — seems like common sense, but do a little research and you'll find it's basically illegal. Doctors have a legal monopoly on prescribing many things, a practice that is an absolute racket. Also, insurers aren't too keen on the idea that patients would have an expert on their side who might reduce their information monopoly. In most cases in the U.S., concierge medicine is only for rich people, even though there's nothing intrinsically expensive about it. It's a subscription business model with an 80-20 rule (meaning most people wouldn't actually use it most of the time), which is exactly the sort of business model that tends to scale well. Indeed, if medical concierges were legal, they would probably be widespread, and cheap.

In the end, my daughter only had a stomach bug. But my main takeaway from the experience was that there are indeed many things that France gets right, and that, in order to improve the U.S. system, policymakers need to slash useless regulations that represent giveaways to entrenched industries that don't serve patients' interests.

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mrobold
1 day ago
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Orange County, California
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IKEA launches its own low-cost smart lighting range

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For many people, their first foray into the world of home automation begins with lighting. There's a good reason for this: smart bulbs easily fit into existing furnishings and can be operated using just a smartphone, which (mostly) everybody now owns...
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mrobold
1 day ago
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Orange County, California
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Ryan Murphy on state and local stimulus

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Ryan Murphy has a new piece at Mercatus that discusses the problem of estimating spending multipliers using regional data:

Even if the central bank is perfectly competent and offsets the effects of fiscal stimulus entirely (meaning the multiplier at the national level is zero), these statistical methods when applied to subnational data still calculate the fiscal multiplier to be greater than one. Under conventional assumptions and settings where central banks credibly target certain nominal variables, any multiplier greater than zero should instead be interpreted as one region taking aggregate demand and jobs from another. In other words, a multiplier of greater than zero in one area implies a multiplier less than zero in another.

Unfortunately, most researchers seem to be aware of this problem:

Research employing these methods is published in elite academic journals such as American Economic Review and American Economic Journal: Economic Policy. Very rarely does it seriously address the negative externality problem. If it does, it often implies that states engaging in fiscal stimulus will provide a positive spillover for neighboring states. When the problem is referenced, it is noted as a small caveat deep within the paper. For instance, one paper states in its abstract that $100,000 of public outlays corresponds to 3.8 job years (implying a multiplier greater than one). This article has been cited 133 times as of September 2016, according to Google Scholar. Within the paper, however, the authors write, “given that the results from this cross-state approach do not incorporate equilibrium effects, cross-state multipliers, or the response of the monetary authority, we interpret this multiplier as only suggestive of the national multiplier of policy interest.” This interpretation entirely undercuts their point.

Now that we have a new administration determined to pursue tax reform and infrastructure spending, it’s worth reviewing where monetary offset does and does not apply.  Pundits often confuse the supply-side with the demand-side, when talking about the “growth” effects of “stimulus”.  If the stimulus is demand-side, then monetary offset probably prevents any meaningful effects.  But supply-side policies can still create growth, even with monetary offset.

Infrastructure spending is purely a demand-side policy as long as the infrastructure is still under construction.  Thus one should not expect any immediate impact on growth from spending more on big projects such as highways, bridges and airports. Once an infrastructure project is complete, it may (and I emphasize ‘may’) boost aggregate supply, and hence real GDP growth.  In my view, the supply-side effects of the sort of infrastructure package we are likely to see will be very small.  That doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing, just don’t expect a dramatic boost to GDP growth.

As of now, the GOP is still claiming that it intends to pursue revenue neutral corporate tax reform.  In that case, there would be no demand-side effects, so there would be nothing for monetary policy to offset.  If the tax reform boosts the supply side of the economy, it may also boost real GDP growth.  As with infrastructure, the long run effect may be greater than the immediate impact, as tax reform is likely to lead to more business investment.  In my view tax reform could have a stronger supply side effect than infrastructure spending, albeit still fairly modest in absolute terms.

PS.  I saw that the new Vegas football stadium was approved today.  When these stadium projects are sold to the voters, there are promises of multiplier effects from the spending of tax dollars.  Good luck.

According to Wikipedia, Vegas is just as sensitive to preserving its heritage as Boston:

The stadium as proposed is a domed stadium with a clear roof and silver and black exterior and large retractable curtain-like side windows facing the Las Vegas Strip. There is a large torch in one end that would house a flame in honor of the late Al Davis.[37] MANICA Architecture confirmed on March 28th, 2017 that a full nude strip club would be included into the stadium to honor the heritage of Las Vegas.

Does this project in some strange way remind you of a certain American politician?

Update:  I guess that Wikipedia quote has been corrected.  Shame on me for being so gullible.

Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 5.40.39 PM

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mrobold
1 day ago
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Orange County, California
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