Bargain Hunting in Hong Kong’s Haunted Real Estate

An app tracks the locations of grisly deaths to help users land a discount on their next apartment—or avoid the building altogether.

As if the skyrocketing rents and ever-shrinking size of Hong Kong’s apartments aren’t frightening enough, apartment hunters can now use an augmented-reality app to seek out the “haunted” flats of the city.

According to the South Morning China Post, the startup Spacious has taken a cue from the popular Pokemon Go app to let users explore their surroundings through their smartphone cameras. This particular app, however, lets users point their phones at a building in order to see information about available units, including dimensions, price—and any grisly murders or untimely deaths that took place there.

The incidents are unnerving: a couple killed themselves and their pet dog inside their Sha Tin apartment by burning charcoal. Near the bustling shopping district of Causeway Bay, a man strangled his wife to death in their home after failing to save the relationship.

Not to mention the multiple accounts of students and workers jumping out of windows or hanging themselves due to stress and mental illness. This is, after all, a city in which mental illness and suicide are sensitive topics that are rarely spoken about in public. It was only in March, after a string of suicides among students ages 11 to 22, that the government announced that they would send psychologists to more than a thousand schools to help administrators identify at-risk behavior.


Each ghost icon offers a short description of an untimely death. (Screengrab/Spacious.hk)

Each death is documented, along with the name of the neighborhood and building where it occurred, and marked by a ghost emoji on Spacious’s map. These properties, according to the handful of sites like Spacious that maintain these databases, can be found all over Hong Kong. They’re known as hongza, which translates to “brutal house” in Cantonese, and records go as far back as the 1970s.

For apartment hunters who don’t want a ghostly encounter, it helps to know which buildings to avoid altogether. For others, keeping track of these unfortunate incidents is a bargaining chip to get real estate companies to lower prices. In one of the more extreme cases, according to Spacious CEO Asif Ghafoor who spoke with Channel News Asia, a unit in a luxurious tower in Wan Chai was listed with at least 30 percent discount after police found the bodies of two murdered women in 2014. In typical cases, untimely deaths have led to a 10 to 15 percent decrease in rents.

The app and the various databases that are sold to renters and real estate agents play on the fear of ghosts and the idea that it’s ominous to live in a setting of a murder or suicide. As CNN reported in 2013, since the databases usually only list the building rather than the particular unit, they can lower the price of all the neighboring apartments by thousands. And though property owners have lodged complaints against the databases, the government has taken little action.

But the stigma these homes carry may not be entirely a curse. The founders behind Spacious particularly cater to expatriates and Millennials, who aren’t as superstitious as Hong Kong’s older generations. According to Vice, the ghost map gets used 5,000 times a month. In fact, the spooky appetite has been so strong that Spacious is planning to take its service to neighboring cities of Shanghai and Taipei—old beliefs be damned.

For Chinatown’s Oldest Residents, a Mobile Market Brings Back the Bok Choy

The initiative helps ease the challenge of buying fresh Asian produce.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—By the time 83-year-old Lee Qi Qi and her neighbor, Dick Wong, 82, arrive the farmer’s market in front of their Wah Luck House apartments on Sixth and H Street, the place is packed. A crowd of 20 to 30 of Chinatown’s elderly Chinese-American residents brace the chilly morning. They pick through the crates of peppers, onions, and bok choy that workers from Arcadia Farms—a Virginia-based nonprofit that brings local produce to low-income communities through mobile markets—have neatly arranged on folding tables. Bilingual signs help the patrons, who mainly speak Mandarin and Cantonese, navigate the varieties.

Lee takes a shopping basket and heads straight for the sweet potatoes, picking them up one at a time and giving each a gentle squeeze to make sure it’s firm. Wong, meanwhile, goes for the crates of apples. He’s examines each one, careful not to pick any that seem bruised.

“Today’s the last day for the market,” Wong says in Cantonese, “so we’re here to buy as much as we can so that we don’t have to go so far for groceries the next time.” He adds that they eat pretty simple meals, usually some combination of poultry or fish, vegetable soup, and rice. But getting those ingredients can be quite a trip: For him and the other residents in Chinatown, the closest full-service Asian supermarket is nearly an hour drive away in Falls Church, Virginia.


On the last day of the market, Lee Qi Qi, who lives in the affordable housing complex Wah Luck House, sorts through the box of apples. (Emily Jan/The Atlantic)

Every Wednesday morning since June, the Arcadia staff has rolled up in front of the 153-unit affordable housing complex with a truck full of fruits and vegetables. The market carries your typical carrots, garlic, and eggs. But for this location, they also make sure to stock up on things like bok choy, napa cabbage, and scallions—produce that is especially popular but hard to find for the roughly 300 Chinese-American residents still living in D.C.’s Chinatown.

This particular stop in Chinatown is the result of a partnership between Arcadia Farms and Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of Asian and Pacific Island Affairs (MOAPIA). “What you see is part of our initiative to make sure we have local, viable, and culturally sensitive produce options for our residents,” says David Do, executive director of MOAPIA.

Most of the market’s shoppers pay with food stamps and other vouchers offered through city and federal programs. When it’s time to check out, Wong pulls out a small stack of checks and vouchers that include ones from the Produce Plus and the federally funded Seniors Farmers Market Nutrition programs. He’s been saving them over the last few months, and will have to use them all before they expire at the end of November, when the fiscal year ends.

While there’s a good-sized crowd out here this morning, Jo Panero from the mayor’s office says that it’s only a tiny fraction of who usually shows up. The Produce Plus vouchers are usually handed out during market hours, and the scene can get fairly chaotic. Since today is the last day, she says, many residents have already used up their benefits.


The signs are written in English and Chinese for Chinatown’s Chinese residents, very few of whom speak English. (Emily Jan/The Atlantic)

The D.C. metropolitan area has an abundance of Asian supermarkets, with at least 20 different stores in the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs. But the last full service supermarket in Chinatown closed in 2005, according to the Washington Post, shortly after a $200 million neighborhood revitalization effort began bringing touristy chain restaurants and swanky bars to the area.

Xiang Li Zeng, another Wah Luck House resident, who’s come out to buy napa cabbage for dumplings, still remembers what Chinatown was like over 20 years ago. He recalls the Da Hua supermarket—the one that closed in 2005—and the dozens of Chinese restaurants that were eventually pushed out by developers. Today, an Asian supermarket—which requires plenty of space—just wouldn’t earn enough profit to keep up with Chinatown’s skyrocketing rents.

Most of the former Chinese-American population has flocked to neighboring suburbs in Maryland and Northern Virginia, taking with them businesses that would have otherwise helped maintain the cultural heritage of Chinatown. For the Asian Americans left in the area, that means buying staple ingredients like rice, fish sauce, and sesame oil—as well as produce like Chinese broccoli, daikon radish, and lotus roots—requires an hours-long trip to the Great Wall Supermarket in Falls Church, Virginia. And while the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association provides a bus that goes there once a month, it can only carry 50 residents at a time. A few, like Lee, have adult children who can drive them, but for most, catching that bus is their best bet.


A Mandarin-speaking Arcadia staff helps Lee and her neighbor Dick Wong sort through their vouchers during checkout. (Emily Jan/The Atlantic)

The idea for a farmer’s market in Chinatown was born out of a forum in September 2015, when residents voiced their complaints about poor access to healthy foods. A recent health needs report by MOAPIA found that of the 187 people surveyed, roughly half were over the age of 65. And the two most prominent health conditions—high blood pressure and high cholesterol—were related to diet and nutrition.

“I thought, why don’t we have sensible options here, right outside the door of some of the residents?” Do says, adding that turning that vision into reality took eight months of negotiations with various organizations and agencies. He considers his team lucky to collaborate with Arcadia Farms. “I told them at the beginning that I wanted the napa cabbage, I wanted the bok choy, and they said, ‘Yeah, we can do it,’” he recalls.

Do acknowledges the mobile market program, whose season wrapped in October, has its limits. Despite its popularity in Chinatown, MOAPIA just doesn’t have the budget to keep the farmer’s market running in the winter months—arguably when the residents need it most.


The mobile market stops right in front of the Wah Luck House, where more than half of D.C.’s low-income Chinese community lives. (Emily Jan/The Atlantic)

The coveted Produce Plus vouchers present another problem: Some residents are outside as early as 3 a.m. to wait in line for them. Do says his team is trying to find an alternative way to distribute them so they can decrease the wait time. Whatever the solution, they have to be mindful that it doesn’t violate the first-come, first-served mentality many of the residents have.

In the meantime, the residents will have to go back to relying on their children or the monthly bus to Virginia. The mayor’s office is also working with the neighborhood Safeway to stock up on some Asian vegetables, but the success of that initiative will depend on how frequently Chinese American residents shop there.

Do says they’re aiming even higher next year, starting with a push to increase the city’s Produce Plus budget from $500,000 to $1 million. That would give the residents more to spend. At $4 a head for the napa cabbage and $2 a pound for carrots, the vouchers might not go far enough for some residents. He also hopes to increase his team’s budget to keep the market open longer. Judging by the weekly lines, he says, it’s clear that there’s a demand for them.

What Daily Life Looks Like at Different Income Levels

A new website tracks global wealth stratification through photographs of household items.

In Vietnam, a family living on $266 a month locks the front door of their three-bedroom home with a rusty padlock. It’s not unlike the one that shutters the entrance to the house of an Indian family living on $245 a month, or a Nepalese family with $201.

Locks are just one type of household object that the new website Dollar Street is documenting to create a snapshot of global wealth stratification. Anna Rosling Rönnlund, the cofounder of the Sweden-based Gapminder Foundation, developed the project in 2014; since then, her team of photographers has traveled to 200 homes in 50 countries. They spend at least a day in each home, interviewing the family and taking pictures of household objects—from stoves to toothbrushes to toilets to telephones—that fall into the 135 categories that Dollar Street uses as points of comparison.


The stove of a Romanian family earning $163/month, left, and a Jordanian family earning $7,433/month, right. (Roland Zsigmond and Zoriah Miller for Dollar Street)

In a 2015 TEDxStockholm talk, Rosling Rönnlund described how photos and snapshots are often used to create “fairytale” images of other countries, capturing stereotypical scenes of poverty and wealth, and ignoring the vast array of incomes and lifestyles in between the two extremes. People in other countries, Rosling Rönnlund says, are often portrayed as exotic or unknowable. “This has to change,” she says. “We want to show how people really live.”

On Dollar Street, Rosling Rönnlund imagines all the households in the world arranged by income level along a single residential road. Rather than relying on geographic boundaries to inform our understanding of other countries, she says, we need “a visual framework that we can use to understand the socioeconomic reality of the world.” Each family’s monthly income serves as their “address”; the block spanning the global median of $250 to $390 a month contains households from Rwanda, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bolivia, Indonesia, Thailand, and India.


A plate of food for a family in Malawi earning $30/month, left, and for a Mexican family earning $6,342/month, right. (Zoriah Miller and Daniela Ortiz for Dollar Street)

Speaking to Fast Company, Fernanda Drumond, a project manager for the Gapminder Foundation, says Dollar Street breaks down stereotypes by showing myriad similarities across countries. “If you look at wealthy families in the United States and compare [them] to wealthy families in Mexico, and wealthy families in China or India, you’re going to see that they’re very similar,” she said. While the similarities are striking, they also display a decidedly western preference: A wealthy Ukranian family displays the latest iPhone; the TV of a Chinese family earning over $10,000 a month broadcasts an NBA game.


Toothbrushes belonging to a Swedish family earning $2,223/month, left, and the toothbrush of a Rwandan family earning $251/month, right. (Moa Karlberg and Johan Ericksson for Dollar Street)

Through Dollar Street, Rosling Rönnlund hopes to humanize the differences often understood only through statistics. During her TEDxStockholm talk, Rosling Rönnlund plays a video of families at all income levels brushing their teeth. It’s an activity that everyone does, but a motorized toothbrush in Sweden, at the higher end of the income spectrum, looks very different than a woman in Malawi, who brushes her teeth with her fingers.

Differences between cultures and income brackets run much deeper than can be fully expressed through a collection of photos, even the vast array that Dollar Street currently contains. But Rosling Rönnlund emphasizes that Dollar Street is still a work in progress. She has over 30,000 images to sort through, and envisions the site growing even larger into a collaborative platform, where families can submit their own household photos. “We want it to be possible for you to compare all nations, all cities, and all suburbs to see the diversity within the world,” she says. “It’s when we can start comparing across country borders that we start to see interesting patterns.”

H/t Fast Company

Are Black Voters in North Carolina Suppressed or Depressed?

So far, polling numbers from North Carolina are surprisingly low. What’s going on?

It’s been a full week since early voting began in North Carolina. The state has been in the spotlight throughout the campaign season for its massive Moral Monday demonstrations and controversial anti-LGBTQ bathroom bills. It’s also notorious for passing an extremely restrictive voter ID law and gerrymandering its districts to create apartheid-like voting conditions . Some thought that North Carolina’s hard-right turn from 2010 to 2014 would rouse voters most heavily burdened by the conservative measures mentioned above. So far, that hasn’t been the case, according to polling statistics analyzed by the North Carolina-based data group insightus.

Voter turnout for African Americans in North Carolina is currently well below what it was at the end of the first week of early voting in 2012. White voters, meanwhile (and Republican white voters especially) have been outperforming their 2012 turnout rates. There are many possible explanations for this, says William Busa, insightus’ president and founder, but the data doesn’t favor any single one.

“Are some voters left feeling a little leery by the loose talk of ‘poll watchers’ in ‘certain areas?” asks Busa. “Are there other, more subtle, voter suppression effects at work? Or is it just that 2012 offered voters a black candidate to vote for, and 2016 doesn’t? Perhaps some combination of all of the above?”  


(insightus)

One of those “subtle voter suppression” effects can be found in the roughly dozen-and-a-half counties that each decided to make only one polling location available for the first week of early voting (October 20-27). Voter turnout rates in those counties, which Busa refers to as “rogues,” have been well below turnout figures in 2012’s first week of early voting. Guilford County, for example, had 16 polling places in 2012; last week, it had only one. Four of the state’s ten largest counties, with the largest African-American populations in the state, all elected to open just one polling place for the first week of early voting. And all of those “rogue” counties have suffered from low voter turnout.


(insightus)

It should be noted that Arizona’s Maricopa County also dropped a number of polling locations for this year’s primary elections and encountered numerous problems and lawsuits for that decision.

Another likely barrier for black voters: Hurricane Matthew, which slammed North Carolina’s eastern coast cities in early October, displacing thousands and compromising their access to voter registration. Writes Busa about this on the insightus blog:

North Carolina’s African American population slopes from high in the east (a legacy of that region’s sprawling antebellum plantations) to very low in the west, and that accident of history placed large numbers of black and poor voters in harm’s way from the destructive flooding following Hurricane Matthew, from which the region is still recovering. The 31 eastern counties under federal disaster declaration at this time are home to 440,000 black voters – 30% of all registered African Americans in the state. This seems the most likely explanation for the profound decline in black voting we’ve seen so far this year (just 82% of 2012’s performance to date). And, in turn, this goes a long way toward explaining Democrats’ relatively poor performance so far, given that African Americans account for about 45% of all Democrats in North Carolina.

For African Americans, North Carolina voter landscape was already troubled, well before the hurricane. Black voters had been targeted by North Carolina’s extremely restrictive photo voter ID law, which Republicans passed in 2013. African Americans are less likely than white voters to possess the types of photo ID that were allowed for voting purposes. The law also truncated the time period for early voting—a voting method that black voters relied on more heavily than white voters. However, a federal court struck down this law down in July for possibly intentionally discriminating against African Americans.

With that law overturned, the early voting time period was restored and voters do not have to show photo ID. But not all county supervisors have been complying fully—hence the maneuver to reduce polling places during the first week of early voting.

Meanwhile, other complications have surfaced for black voters since the election started. Just today, the lawyers representing the North Carolina NAACP sued the state over its purging of thousands of voters from the rolls so close to Election Day. “The Tar Heel state is ground zero in the intentional surgical efforts by Republicans  … to suppress the vote of voters,” NC NAACP president Rev. William Barber said in a statement.

And it’s not just black voter performance that’s down. According to insightus, women voters—and Democratic women voters in particular—have also not been turning out at 2012 rates—a surprising finding given that the current options include Hillary Clinton, the first major-party woman presidential candidate, and Donald Trump, who’s been accused of a medley of inappropriate actions and remarks towards women.

Overall voter turnout has started ticking up in the second week of early voting, according to insightus, but Republican voters are still outperforming Democratic voters.

“The statewide picture is complicated by those counties that cut back dramatically to just a single [polling] site per county for week one,” Busa says. “As expected, those counties’ numbers are way down so far. How that will impact waiting lines and turnout in week two, when every county finally has its full complement of sites open, remains to be seen.”

The Big Green Payoff From Bigger Urban Forests

Trees clean and cool the air, but just how much depends on where you are, a new report finds.

Plant a tree in a city, and it pays off in dividends. You’ll get carbon sequestered, pollutants and rainfall absorbed, a provision of oxygen, shade and cooling, and psychological boosts to boot. Especially as climate change worsens heat waves (already the world’s leading weather-related cause of death), and as growing urban populations generate more harmful fine particulate matter, trees are one of the single best infrastructure investments cities can make, and an emerging body of scientific literature proves it.

In fact, a major new report by the Nature Conservancy concludes that trees are essentially the only cost-effective solution addressing both deteriorating air quality and rising urban temperatures. Some of the world’s largest cities could dramatically improve public health by those standards by investing just $4 per capita in their canopies, it finds. Crunching some numbers on how additional street trees (coniferous or leafy—palms don’t count here) could reduce pollution and heat inside the world’s 245 largest cities, the report shows that the residents of ultra-dense, ultra-populated, and ultra-polluted metropolises of Southeast Asia would see especially high ROIs, since the trees’ benefits would spread to so many people per square mile, and since material costs are comparatively affordable.


(The Nature Conservancy)

In Beijing, for example, levels of PM2.5—microscopic particles emitted by cars, factories, and heating systems that are easily breathed into human lungs and are estimated to cause 3.2 million deaths per year globally—have been known to exceed 600 micrograms per cubic meter in multiple locations. (The World Health Organization has declared a “safe” daily average of PM2.5 to be 25 micrograms per cubic meter.) Tree leaves can absorb anywhere between 7 to 24 percent of these particles in a range of roughly 100 meters, the Nature Conservancy reports.

The new study estimates that for an annual additional investment of $2.9 million in street trees, 2.2 million Beijing residents could see a reduction in PM2.5 greater than 1 microgram per cubic meter per 24-hour period. Most people would see a far greater reduction, exceeding 10 micrograms per cubic meter. And more than 2 million people would also feel a reduction of 1.5° C (2.7° F) in summertime air temperatures.


(The Nature Conservancy)

Other dense, highly polluted cities in the global south, such as Jakarta and Hong Kong, would see similarly high returns-on-investment. Tree planting could be even more cost-effective in poorer cities like Dhaka and Karachi.

In North American and European cities, average ROI tends to be a little lower since the air is cleaner by global standards. But targeted plantings can still serve up meaningful, localized reductions in harmful pollutants, the report finds. For example, in Los Angeles—a city challenged by heat, drought, and regular temperature inversions that trap pollution near the ground—the median ROI of tree planting is fairly moderate by global standards. But, the authors write, there are a handful of denser neighborhoods, such as in central Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Long Beach, where a boost to the canopy would be especially effective. For an additional annual investment of $6.4 million in street tree planting, they estimate that more than 400,000 people could enjoy summertime temperatures cut by at least 1.5° C and a reduction in PM2.5 greater than one microgram per cubic meter.


(The Nature Conservancy)

Even without accounting for the numerous additional benefits urban trees provide, these reductions demonstrate trees’ potential to reduce mortality rates connected to heat waves and particle pollution, says Rob McDonald, the report’s lead author and the lead scientist for the Global Cities program at the Nature Conservancy. Still, greening up a city shouldn’t be mistaken for a complete answer to sweltering heat waves and unbreathable air. “Tree planting is not a solution for an entire planet trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he says.

Instead, trees should be thought of as surprisingly powerful tools for cities as they’re dealing with climate-related health concerns. “Cities often think about tree planting budgets totally separately from their health budgets,” he says. “We want cities to see the link between the two.” That’s especially critical as urban development replaces green space: The report states that 26 percent of the cities in consideration saw a decline in forest cover between 2000 to 2011.

A full ranking and analysis of the cities can be found here. Below is an interactive that contains a mapping tool which lets readers explore which neighborhoods in their cities could see the greatest benefits from a larger urban forest.

Narrative lifelogging gets a stay of execution as the company considers restarting production

Narrative Clip This was certainly unexpected. For any number of reasons. A day before the planned shutdown of cloud-based storage service, lifelogging startup Narrative — or, rather, a group of former employees — has snatched itself from the jaws of death. In an email sent to Narrative users, the company announced the launch of “New Narrative,” rising like the proverbial phoenix or one… Read More

Narrative Clip This was certainly unexpected. For any number of reasons. A day before the planned shutdown of cloud-based storage service, lifelogging startup Narrative — or, rather, a group of former employees — has snatched itself from the jaws of death. In an email sent to Narrative users, the company announced the launch of “New Narrative,” rising like the proverbial phoenix or one… Read More

Watch an artist turn typical cash into the $5 ‘Bill’ Murray

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Done in charcoal pencil, the transformation is pretty impressive. Could Bill Murray be the new face of the five dollar bill?  Read more…

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Done in charcoal pencil, the transformation is pretty impressive. Could Bill Murray be the new face of the five dollar bill?  Read more…

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Ride-Hailing’s Racial Reckoning

Researchers find that Uber and Lyft may not be as race-blind as many hoped.

When ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft first emerged, many hoped that, in addition to the greater convenience, users would have access to a taxi alternative that’s less prone to racial discrimination. African Americans have long struggled with racism when trying to hail a cab: Comedian Hannibal Buress jokes about it, Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams talk about it on the podcast 2 Dope Queens, and ESPN’s Doug Glanville has written about it in The Atlantic. In 2012, Latoya Peterson, who’s now at ESPN’s The Undefeated, wrote of Uber that ”[t]he premium car service removes the racism factor when you need a ride.” In 2014, Jenna Wortham, a staff writer for the New York Times Magazine, agreed that ride-hailing services ushered in a quality of life improvement in a Medium post. But she also raised concerns about whether the discrimination was gone or just less obvious:

It’s also not entirely clear that Uber’s system is completely foolproof. Because drivers can reject riders for any reason, you have no way of knowing whether it’s because of your rating, your name (from which race can often be inferred), or the neighborhood you’re in.

Turns out, Wortham was on the money. A new working paper in the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that for African Americans, these trips are by no means discrimination-free. A black man calling an Uber in Boston is three times as likely have his request cancelled than a white man.

The researchers found no such racial discrepancies among Lyft users in Boston—but that doesn’t necessarily mean there was no racism involved. Lyft drivers can see the names and pictures of riders before they accept, while UberX drivers cannot. “We surmise, that given that names and photos are visible to the driver prior to acceptance, any discrimination occurs prior to accepting the initial request.”

The researchers, who hail from the University of Washington, MIT, and Stanford University, conducted their controlled trials in two cities. In Seattle they got a set of diverse research assistants to take Lyft, Uber, and Flywheel rides along pre-determined, randomly assigned routes. In Boston, they asked these assistants to use “white sounding” and “distinctively black” names (as defined in a 2004 Harvard study on racial disparities in test scores) in their Lyft and Uber profiles, and then do the same. Working with a total of 1,500 resulting rides across the two cities, they analyzed the wait and travel times, cancellation rates, cost, and rating given to the rider.

In Seattle, they found that African-American riders were likely to face a 29 to 35 percent longer delay in having their requests accepted by UberX drivers. For Lyft, the “effect was too imprecise.” But again, the researchers pointed out that Lyft drivers can veto riders they don’t want to serve to begin with based on names and faces they see on their screens.

In Boston, they found that African American UberX riders overall were twice as likely to have their requests cancelled. Most of these canceled rides were in sparsely populated areas,“perhaps because drivers in those areas self select to reduce their interaction with African Americans.”

The researchers didn’t find any evidence for discrimination among Flywheel riders. They mulled over why in the paper:  

There are two plausible explanations. The first is that the Flywheel service does not include photos of travelers in their profiles and so cannot present these to drivers. Therefore racial discrimination would have to be based on the names of riders. While some of the names of our African American [Research Assistants] may have provided drivers with a signal of race, we did not design the experiment to specifically test for this. Second, Flywheel works with existing taxi drivers. It is possible that the subset of taxi drivers who opt into using it are less inclined to discriminate than those who do not opt in. Perhaps taxi drivers inclined to discriminate find it easier to do so by looking at would-be passengers on the street.

Another finding seemed to indicate gender discrimination: For women riders in Boston, rides tended to be longer and more expensive, even though they had the same origin and destination as male counterparts. “The additional travel that female riders are exposed to appears to be a combination of profiteering and flirting to a captive audience,” the authors note in the paper.

In a statement emailed to Bloomberg, Rachel Holt, Uber’s head of North American operations, said, “Discrimination has no place in society, and no place on Uber. We believe Uber is helping reduce transportation inequities across the board, but studies like this one are helpful in thinking about how we can do even more.” Meanwhile, Adrian Durbin, a spokesman for Lyft, said, “Because of Lyft, people in underserved areas—which taxis have historically neglected—are now able to access convenient, affordable rides.”

There’s independent evidence for the claim that ride-hailing services are indeed seen as a benefit for communities of color, and Uber has pointed to its own studies to show how it offers better service than cabs in lower-income neighborhoods in New York, L.A., and Chicago. But this research doesn’t dispute either point. What it says is that Uber and perhaps Lyft haven’t yet designed their platforms and practices to sufficiently to weed out racism—and that needs to happen if they’re really committed to serving all Americans.

‘Grand Tour’ hosts Clarkson and May talk self-driving cars, swearing and Uber

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Jeremy Clarkson and James May, former hosts of BBC 2’s Top Gear program, are consummate car-guys. And they reinforced that fact during a recent chat at a Hollywood hotel ahead of the debut of their new car show, Grand Tour, on Amazon.

More than bemoan the death of “interesting” mass-market cars, the two greying Brits analyzed the merits of self-driving cars, crossovers and — of all things — swearing on TV.

Though they admit there’s nothing much the Grand Tour can do that Top Gear couldn’t, based upon their enthusiasm, witticisms and chemistry, I am confident the new show will be as pleasurable (if not more so) as Top Gear. Read more…

More about Uk, Jeremy Clarkson, Grand Tour, Cars, and Tv Shows

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Jeremy Clarkson and James May, former hosts of BBC 2’s Top Gear program, are consummate car-guys. And they reinforced that fact during a recent chat at a Hollywood hotel ahead of the debut of their new car show, Grand Tour, on Amazon.

More than bemoan the death of “interesting” mass-market cars, the two greying Brits analyzed the merits of self-driving cars, crossovers and — of all things — swearing on TV.

Though they admit there’s nothing much the Grand Tour can do that Top Gear couldn’t, based upon their enthusiasm, witticisms and chemistry, I am confident the new show will be as pleasurable (if not more so) as Top Gear. Read more…

More about Uk, Jeremy Clarkson, Grand Tour, Cars, and Tv Shows

Sortkwik keeps your fingers from feeling like desiccated leather

sortkwik

I bought this amazing clear pink substance called Sortkwik so I could have more control of playing cards for magic tricks, as I have naturally dry hands. It has a bit more viscosity than Chapstick. It’s meant for people who need to leaf through lots sheets of paper and don’t like the idea of licking their thumb. You just swipe your fingertips over the stuff, rub your fingers together for a few seconds, and you are ready for action. I now use it all the time because I hate the feeling of dry fingers and it’s not greasy or smelly like lotion. A 3-pack is $7.

sortkwik

I bought this amazing clear pink substance called Sortkwik so I could have more control of playing cards for magic tricks, as I have naturally dry hands. It has a bit more viscosity than Chapstick. It’s meant for people who need to leaf through lots sheets of paper and don’t like the idea of licking their thumb. You just swipe your fingertips over the stuff, rub your fingers together for a few seconds, and you are ready for action. I now use it all the time because I hate the feeling of dry fingers and it’s not greasy or smelly like lotion. A 3-pack is $7.