The owner of a New York City condominium apartment that sold for $100.5 million recently received a property tax reduction of $360,000 last year — and is likely to keep receiving reductions over as many as 25 years, based on "Section 421-a" benefits the state enacted to encourage "affordable" housing in the most desirable parts of New York City. The tax abatements are available to developers that promise to create units in the same zones that are "affordable" to families making under about $40,000 annually, but in recent years, the "millionaire" units (with tax breaks) have outnumbered the affordable units by about 11-1, according to a February New York Times report, costing the city over $1 billion a year in revenue.
The job of the researcher
California State University Los Angeles researcher Marc Kubasak spent about 2,500 hours (sometimes 12 hours a day) training 40 brain-damaged rats to walk on a treadmill, after sewing little vests to tether the critters, suspended, to a robotic arm. His work paid off, though, according to the February Popular Science magazine, as doctors in Poland and University College London used his procedures to help a man with a damaged spine. (In the middle of the project, Kubasak developed a rodent allergy and was forced to wear a body suit every day with a respirator.)
In March, the U.S. patent office approved Google's application covering robot software that mimics human personalities (voice, mannerisms) using a variety of moods (happiness, fear, surprise) with a notable use that family members might employ it to continue to "interact" with a deceased loved one. One disquieting possibility might allow them to impose actions the person would never do while alive.
A curious woman, inspired by her own mother's attachment to her unlaundered pillowcases following the death of her dad, has partnered with France's Universite du Havre to produce a person's bottled scent by processing old clothing. A September rollout is planned, with the probable retail price of about $600.
Democracy in action
Just west of Ferguson, Mo., is Kinloch (pop. 299), where newly elected Mayor Betty McCray was unable to start work on April 23 because the losing incumbent administration locked her out of City Hall ("impeaching" her for "voter fraud" in the April 7 election, despite St. Louis County election officials having already certified her victory). Of McCray's two predecessors, one was once also locked out of office by police, and the other had to go to court to get his mayoral job back after admitting that he had missed child-support payments.
Patrick Moore, the controversial ex-Greenpeace campaigner who years later turned against the environmental group's program, walked out of an interview in March for a French documentary in which he assured viewers that Monsanto's Roundup weed killer was safe for humans. "You can drink a whole quart of it, and it won't hurt you," he told the interviewer, who then offered Moore a swig of Roundup. "I'd be happy to, actually," Moore reportedly said, but then quickly changed his mind. "No, I'm not an idiot." At that point, Moore declared, the interview was "finished."
Two March instances of gleaning insight and using it to buy stock "options" were executed so quickly (1 to 3 seconds each) that experts consulted for a Slate.com analysis said they couldn't possibly have been made by human securities traders. Their conclusion: A robot so intelligent exists that it can "read" a news wire report, "analyze" it for hints whether to place bets on a company's future price, and execute the order — before human traders even finish reading the news report. Profits on the seconds-long trades: $2.4 million on one and "between $1 million and $2 million" on the other.
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