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News 03.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 03.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@hertz.und.blut
News 03.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 03.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@meanderingmacaron

Space Is Very Big. Some of Its New Explorers Will Be Tiny.

Last year, two satellites the size of cereal boxes sped toward Mars as though they were on an invisible track in space. Officially called MarCO A and MarCO B, they were nicknamed Wall-E and EVE, after the animated robots from the Pixar movie, by engineers at NASA.

They were just as endearing and vulnerable as their namesakes. The satellites, known as cubesats, were sent to watch over NASA’s larger InSight spacecraft as it attempted a perilous landing on the surface of Mars at the end of November.

Constellations of small satellites like the MarCOs now orbit Earth, used by scientists, private companies, high school students and even governments seeking low-budget eyes in the skies. But never before had a cubesat traveled 90 million miles into space.

On Nov. 26, as the InSight lander touched down, its status was swiftly relayed back to Earth by the two trailing cubesats. The operation was a success, and the performance of the MarCO satellites may change the way missions operate, enabling cubesats to become deep space travelers in their own right.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

News 03.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Inside Airbnb’s ‘Guerrilla War’ Against Local Governments

News 03.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

“READ MY LIPS: We want to pay taxes,” Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s global head of public policy, told the nation’s mayors in 2016. In the years since, the home-sharing site has repeated the declaration in press releasesop-edsemails, and on billboards. On its website, Airbnb says it is “democratizing revenue by generating tens of millions of new tax dollars for governments all over the world.”

But when Palm Beach County, Florida, a popular tourist destination, passed an ordinance in October 2018 requiring Airbnb and other short-term rental companies to collect and pay the county’s 6 percent occupancy tax on visits arranged through their sites, Airbnb sued.

Palm Beach County tax collector Anne Gannon wasn’t surprised. “We knew we were going to get sued,” she says. “That’s what they do all over the country. It’s their mode of operation.”

Gannon has been cajoling, threatening, and ordering Airbnb to collect taxes for its hosts since 2014. Five years, three lawsuits, and millions in unpaid occupancy taxes later, she’s still trying. “All we want them to do is pay their taxes,” she says. “They absolutely don’t want to pay their taxes the way we want to collect them. That’s the bottom line.”

Similar dramas are playing out around the country. From Nashville to New Orleans to Honolulu, Airbnb is battling local officials over requests to collect occupancy taxes and ensure that the properties listed on its site comply with zoning and safety rules. In the past five months alone, the company has spent nearly $1 million to overturn regulations in San Diego and has sued Boston, Miami, and Palm Beach County over local ordinances that require Airbnb to collect taxes or remove illegal listings. Elsewhere, Airbnb has fought city officials over regulations aimed at preventing homes from being transformed into de facto hotels and requests from tax authorities for more specific data about hosts and visits.

Airbnb is engaged in “a city-by-city, block-by-block guerrilla war” against local governments, says Ulrik Binzer, CEO of Host Compliance, which helps cities draft and enforce rules for short-term rentals, sometimes putting it at odds with hosting platforms. “They need to essentially fight every one of these battles like it is the most important battle they have.”

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

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The Truck Stop Killer

In the summer of 1985, somewhere near Martinsburg, Pennsylvania, the body of a young woman was pulled from a truck-stop Dumpster. I had just hitched a ride and was sitting in a nearby truck waiting for the driver to pay for gas so we could leave. When they found her, there was shouting. A man from the restaurant ran out and started yelling for everyone to stay away as a small crowd gathered around the Dumpster in the rain. Word filtered back that the dead girl was a teenage hitchhiker. I remember thinking it could be me, since I was also a teenage hitchhiker. Watching the driver of my truck walk back across the wet asphalt, a second thought arose: It could be him. He could be the killer. The driver reached the cab, swung up behind the wheel, and said we should get going. He said he didn’t want to get caught up in anything time-consuming. Stowing his paperwork, he released the brake. Neither of us said anything about the dead girl. As we pulled away, I looked once more in the side mirror. They were stringing crime tape around the Dumpster just as another state trooper rolled into the lot.

Read the rest of this article at: GQ

News 03.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Stepping Into the Uncanny,
Unsettling World of Shen Yun

News 03.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Just as it is impossible for me to articulate with any certainty the moment I entered adulthood or began to believe that human life on Earth would not last past the twenty-second century, I cannot tell you when I first became aware of Shen Yun. The most pervasive forms of local advertising often feel like this—like nursery rhymes or urban legends, or something implanted in your most tender consciousness by a social version of natural law. When Texans hear the name Jim Adler, their souls reply with “Texas Hammer.” Michiganders know that God filled the sky around the Detroit airport with clouds and with billboards for Joumana Kayrouz. New Yorkers know the Cellino & Barnes hotline better than they know their Social Security numbers. And, for many Americans who live in or around the ninety-six cities where the Shen Yun Performing Arts troupe is set to perform this year, the words “Shen Yun” conjure an indelible yet incomprehensible image: a flat, bright shade of lilac, a woman leaping in the sky with a fan-shaped white skirt and billowing pink sleeves, and the enigmatic phrase “5,000 Years of Civilization Reborn.”

Shen Yun has lived in the pink fluffy insulation of my mind for a while now. Last year, the ads were goldenrod yellow, like dehydrated urine, and they said “Reviving 5,000 Years of Civilization.” The year before that, the ads (“Experience a Divine Culture”) were green. The year before that, the Shen Yun poster featured two women dancing, wearing birthday-cake-frosting colors, and for months I sat in the subway reading but in no way processing the phrase “Absolutely the No. 1 show in the world.” These posters were so uncanny and contentless that the easiest explanation for their existence was that my brain had simply glitched and invented Shen Yun the way John Nash invented his roommate in “A Beautiful Mind.” Shen Yun was a Baader-Meinhof object: once I saw it, I started to see it everywhere. Shen Yun greeted me silently at the bus stop and loomed over highway exits, following me around on the physical plane of existence the way anything you shop for on the Internet starts to follow you around online.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

The Fertility Doctor’s Secret

News 03.20.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The first Facebook message arrived when Heather Woock was packing for vacation, in August 2017. It was from a stranger claiming to be her half sibling. She assumed the message was some kind of scam; her parents had never told her she might have siblings. But the message contained one detail that spooked her. The sender mentioned a doctor, Donald Cline. Woock knew that name; her mother had gone to Cline for fertility treatments before she was born. Had this person somehow gotten her mother’s medical history?

Her mom said not to worry. So Woock, who is 33 and lives just outside Indianapolis, flew to the West Coast for her vacation. She got a couple more messages from other supposed half siblings while she was away. Their persistence was strange. But then her phone broke, and she spent the next week and a half outdoors in Seattle and Vancouver, blissfully disconnected.

It was only when she got home and replaced her phone that she saw the barrage of messages from even more half siblings. They had found her on Facebook, she realized, after searching for the username linked to her Ancestry.com account. Her husband had given her a DNA test for Christmas because she was interested in genealogy. Her heritage turned out to be exactly what she had thought—Scottish, with English, Irish, and Scandinavian mixed in—and she never bothered to click on the link that would show whether anyone on the site shared her DNA.

Apparently she did have relatives on Ancestry.com—and not just distant cousins. The people now sending her messages said they were Cline’s secret biological children. They said their parents had also been treated by Cline. They said that decades ago, without ever telling his patients, Cline had used his own sperm to impregnate women who came to him for artificial insemination.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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