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Posted: February 20, 2017 at 7:49 pm
A gambling researcher is calling on Canada’s provincial lottery corporations to enter the controversial business of daily fantasy sports, citing their ability to best regulate the activity that has been characterized as illegal gambling by some U.S. states.
Daily fantasy sports differs from the more familiar season-long game where fans act as managers for a roster of selected real-life players over the course of a season.
In DFS, fans select a roster of players who are competing on the same day. Those selections are then entered into contests against other fans’ fantasy rosters with the players’ real in-game stats determining the winners.
In this March 18, 2016 file photo, daily fantasy sports player Scott Burlingame poses with the Syde site on his smartphone at his home in Aldie, Va. (The Associated Press/Harry Hamburg)
While some competitions are free to enter, DFS becomes controversial due to the entry fees providers collect and the payouts they provide to winners.
“When you’re putting money down to win money and there’s a probability that you’re not going to win money, then that’s gambling,” said Prof. Jeffrey Derevensky of McGill University.
Derevensky is encouraging provincial governments to consider adopting DFS into their stables of online games, saying they’re best equipped to label the activity as gambling, and lend their expertise enforcing identity and age verification, self-exclusion programs and voluntary daily limits.
“Any form of fantasy should have those same kind of responsible gambling features built into their site,” said Derevensky.
He is one of many experts who assert that DFS is a form of gambling, but legal opinions aren’t as clear and vary widely between jurisdictions.
In Canada, the federal government has shown little interest in exploring the legality of DFS. And, even if it considered daily fantasy to be gambling, Ottawa has historically only prosecuted sites with servers in Canada, which most DFS providers do not have.
But in the U.S., industry leadersDraftKingsandFanDuel havefaced a more hostile legal environment and spent much of 2015 and 2016 fighting legal battlesfor their survival, as a number of states moved to shut them down as a form of illegal gambling.
This despite DFS branding being increasingly hard to miss with providers securing sponsorship deals with pro teams across all major sports and even entire leagues.
Logos of daily fantasy sports companies like FanDuel are easily found at many sporting events, including this NCAA college basketball game in New York state. (The Associated Press/Kathy Willens, File)
Currently, DFS is restricted in 10states while seven more have partial restrictions.
Somestates, including New York,Massachusetts and Virginia, have regulated DFS and require providers to pay registration fees and implement age-verification policies.
While the game may be labelled as fantasy, there is serious money at stake with an estimated 57.4million fantasy players in North America,according to theFantasy Sports Trade Association.
Those who play daily fantasy sports compile a roster of real-life players with pre-assigned values. (Yahoo Sports)
Derevensky says DFS represents an opportunity for Canada’s provincial lottery operators to add a new and growing product.
He’s scheduled to speak in Vancouver on Tuesday at the New Horizons in Responsible Gaming Conference, an event hosted by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation where experts share new research.
BCLC says its aware of DFS’ popularity, adding thatit’s seen double-digit growth in the amount wagered on sports compared to last year. But, spokeswoman Angela Koulyras says there are no immediate plans for BCLC to offerDFS on its site just yet.
“We recognize that DFS is growing in popularity and interest and we’re just keeping a close eye on it at this time.”
Those already in the businesssaythey’renot afraid of newcomers and stand by their product.
“We have competition everywhere. That’s what drives us,” said James Chisholm, DraftKings’s director of public affairs.
“No one has a greater incentive to ensure people who are playing our game are who they say they are than we do.”
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Posted: at 7:49 pm
News Legislation Florida Gambling Expansion Reaches Impasse Between State House and Senate
A new Florida gambling expansion bill is diametrically opposed to the wide-ranging gambling reform package proposed in the Senate by the influential lawmaker Senator Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton). Galvanos bill (SB 8) received unanimous backing from senators at its first hearing late last month.
Florida State Senator Bill Gavano (right) said that the bill that opposes his legislation in the House is healthy for the debate about whether to expand gambling in the Sunshine State, and how to negotiate with the Seminoles. (Image: AP file photo)
Its a political confrontation that one gaming lobbyist called the stand off at the OK Corral, although its unlikely to end quite as badly for the parties involved.
The new Proposed Committee Bill (PCB TGC 17-01), put together by the House Tourism & Gaming Control Subcommittee, seeks to rein in the opposing chambers push for slots and blackjack expansion. Among SB 8s objectives is the expansion of slot machines into eight counties where they have voter approval.
SB 8 would also permit parimutuel venues to run blackjack games (previously a preserve of the Seminole tribe, which operates seven casinos on tribal lands throughout the state).
The House bill broadly seeks to preserve the interests of the Seminoles, who have been at loggerheads with the state over their right to offer banked card games, namely blackjack, since the expiration of their compact in 2015.
PCB TGC 17-01 would allow the Seminoles again to be granted exclusivity on banked card games, this time in exchange for $3 billion in payments to the state over seven years.
In contrast, Galvanos bill would charge the Seminoles the same fee over that timeline, but for the right to offer craps and roulette, as well as blackjack. Meanwhile, the right to offer blackjack would expand to parimutuel venues.
PCB TGC 17-01 would also preserve the interests of racetracks in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, the only ones in the state where racetracks are permitted to operate slots. Galvanos bill, on the other hand, would allow decoupling at racetracks across the state, which means horse and dog racing operators would not be required to run live races and instead could offer other forms of gambling.
The House Bill would make decoupling a violation of the proposed compact with the Seminoles.
In December, a federal judge ruled that the Seminoles could continue to offer blackjack at their properties until 2030, because the state had previously violated the compact by allowing cardrooms and racetracks to offer banked card games and electronic blackjack at their premises.
The state gambling regulator, FDBPR, made a serious error of judgment in approving these games and the ruling puts the Seminoles in a strong bargaining position as negotiations over a new compact continue. Whether the tribe will prefer to preserve the status quo and their monopoly on blackjack, as the House bill proposes, or take a gambling on roulette and craps exclusivity, is anyones guess.
Either way, Galvano said he welcomed the competing legislation as a healthy development in a state where gambling reform bills have historically been given short shrift.
Its positive to see two bills, one in each chamber, moving this early in the process . . . in other words before session has even begun, the senator told the Sun Sentinel. So with these two bills out there, we all know what the playing field looks like, and theres time negotiate further with the Seminoles and [between] the chambers.
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Conservative leadership hopefuls argue drugs, euthanasia, and fiscal policy in Langley – Langley Advance
Posted: at 7:48 pm
Ajax-Pickering MP Chris Alexander, right, debates as ReginaQuAppelle MP and former House Speaker Andrew Scheer, left, and former Ontario MP Pierre Lemieux, centre, listen at the Conservative Party leadership debate in Langley on Sunday.
image credit: Katya Slepian/Black Press
by Katya Slepian Black Press
More than 500 people packed the hall at Darvonda Nurseries Saturday afternoon to hear a dozen candidates fight to lead the Conservative Party of Canada.
The Langley debate, the only one in the Fraser Valley, might have failed to bring in Kevin OLeary orDeepak Obhrai, but the 12 candidates there didnt shy away from the hard issues.
The three-hour debate was moderated by Conservative senator Yonah Martin.
Following a round of opening statements, the 12 candidates were broken up into four groups of three to debate one policy question each before answering audience questions.
The emphasis for the entire three hours was on the return to Conservative values, something the party feels is lacking both in Canadian society and Parliament.
Justin Trudeaus plan to legalize marijuana didnt go over well with the first trio.
We dont need to legalize marijuana, said Brad Trost, MP for Saskatoon-University. In a rare bit of criticism for past Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Trost admitted that the Conservatives should have done more to educate Canadians on the dangers of the drug.
Safe injection sites were also unpopular with both Milton MP Lisa Raitt and Trost.
We need to take legislative action to stop these things from spreading, Trost said.
One candidate broke from the crowd.
“I favour the safe injection sites, having lived in Vancouver and done volunteer work with First Nations youth and others in the Downtown Eastside and having listened to people on the ground, said Rick Peterson. Peterson, a Vancouver-based venture capitalist, was the only one on the stage with no political experience.
Smimcoe-Grey MP Kellie Leith vowed to interview every single person who crossed the Canadian border and send those who are there illegally back.
“We have laws about this. These individuals should be detained. We should talk to them about whether they really are refugees and if they arent they should be sent home, she said.
Leitch drew on her experience as a former surgeon when questioning the federal governments euthanasia legislation.
Wellington-Halton Hills MP Michael Chong appealed to social conservatives.
I believe in freedom of conscience, Chong said.
Former North Vancouver MP Andrew Saxton reminded the audience that he had voted against assisted dying.
I was concerned that people at their most vulnerable time would be making decisions that were irreversible, he said.
Trudeaus carbon tax was met with derision across the board.
Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant. Carbon dioxide exists naturally in the atmosphere, said ReginaQuAppelle MP and former House Speaker Andrew Scheer.
Scheer, former Ontario MP Pierre Lemieux, and Ajax-Pickering MP Chris Alexander all spoke out against the Liberals carbon tax, vowing to remove it if they took the top spot.
Beauce MP Maxime Bernier, Durham MP Erin OToole, andLvisBellechasse MP Steven Blaney all said they would reverse the Liberal deficit.
Cutting taxes was the popular choice across the board while some, like Peterson, advocated for getting rid of corporate taxes entirely.
Trost had one other idea.
“Let me offer a helpful suggestion where we can find $1 billion. Get rid of the CBC privatize it, he said. The Conservatives have tried to make cuts to CBC before the latest round launched the Save the CBC campaign in 2015.
Increased military spending, and particularly more ships for the Navy, received universal approval.
As a founding country in NATO, we should all be embarrassed that in the last generation, we have not made the two per cent commitment we pledged, said OToole. Alliance member nations pledge to spend two per cent of their GDP on defence funding.
And now we see [U.S.] President Donald Trump questioning NATO because of all the free riding countries like us.”
Lemieux spoke out against the untouchability of Supreme Court decisions.
The Supreme Court is almost sacrosanct. Youre not allowed to breathe a sigh of concern about the Supreme Court of Canada and thats wrong, said Lemieux.
The most controversial issues of our day abortion, euthanasia, prostitution they havent been decided by parliamentarians, they havent been decided by Canadians. Theyve been decided with the Supreme Court.
Lemieux believes that all of those issues should be up for debate. That includes abortion, which Harper did not touch during his time in office.
Trost and Blaney joined in on the debate, both saying that they were willing to use the notwithstanding clause which allows Parliament to override portions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Conservative Party will choose a new leader on May 27 in Toronto.
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Libertarian author Steven Greenhut will talk public employee pensions at Maui County Club – MauiTime Weekly
Posted: at 7:46 pm
And now for something fun: Steven Greenhut, a very intelligent and conscientious writerand one of my former editors from my time in Californiawill be on Maui this weekend to do a talk for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaiiabout public employee unions and pensions.
County public employees in the state of Hawaii make among the highest wages in the nation, even after adjusted for Hawaiis high cost of living, states the lecture notice. Steven Greenhut is the author of Plunder! How public employee unions are raiding treasuries, controlling our lives and bankrupting the nation. He will open the books on police and fire departments across the country, and show that the problems of pension spiking, overtime, and Cadillac benefits are also happening in Hawaii.
Greenhut is the Western Region Director for the R Street Institute, a columnist for the Orange County Register and a true libertarian. He opposes public employee unions, big public pensions, eminent domain (which he also wrote a book about), civil asset forfeiture, the drug war, militarized law enforcement and interventionist wars of all types, shapes and sizes.
Seriously, this will be a good talk. Greenhut will speak at 11:30am on Friday, Feb. 24 at the Maui Country Club (48 Nonohe Pl., Paia). The cost is $20, and it includes lunch. Click here for more information.
Photo courtesy Steven Greenhut
Posted: at 7:44 pm
I believe that words are important. We should be precise in our use of language and understand what it is we mean when we choose our words.
A word that does not, in my opinion, exemplify precision is used in political context. Tis word is liberal. It doesnt mean much these days. It is so particular to each individuals perspective of the world that it holds little universal value. It is a placeholder for deeper analysis of our beliefs, and it only manages to communicate a vague notion about which group we identify with, not the more nuanced reality of who we are.
I say this not to come off as pretentious but in an attempt to convince others that saying Im liberal provides an image that is unclear and misleading at best and deceitful at worst. This word is contaminated by various perceptions of its meaning. One person might say Im liberal and belong to a labor union. Another person might also identify as liberal but scoff at organized labor.
When people call themselves liberal, they assign themselves to one group or the other. The opposite in this scheme is typically conservative, and this word lacks meaning as well, but for now lets focus on the word liberal. One usually chooses to be liberal because of their parents or friends views but might not takethe time to investigate the deeper understanding of this label. What does liberal really mean? Do I share the same views as other liberals? Liberal divides us into in-groups and out-groups. Ultimately, I believe this word confines philosophical and political conversation into two camps and impedes introspection.
Let us explore this word and the philosophy behind it. Classical liberalism refers not to the policies espoused by the Democratic Party, some of which are wider freedoms for same-sex couples and a larger welfare state, but to political and economic freedom. This means a hands-off approach to the economy and to civil liberties. When one thinks of liberalism, one should think of figures like John Locke and Adam Smith. The actions of 20th century liberals like Franklin Delano Roosevelt would surely be seen as oppressive overreach by classic liberals. To call oneself a liberal today requires believing that the free market requires little to no government intervention. Most people dont mean that they are classically liberal.
Sure, words sometimes change in meaning. Today, some people use literally as an adverb that exaggerates a verb or noun. When used in this way, they mean something is figurative, not literal. But the word literally provides more hyperbolea stronger, bolder metaphor than to say figuratively. The problem is that one person sees literally as meaning exactly or strictly as the word suggests, but the other sees the word as an intensifier. The problem is that these people are playing different games with language.
This idea of a language game was formed by Ludwig Wittgenstein, an Austrian-British philosopher. He focused on language and communication throughout his life, specifically our failure to communicate. He believed that miscommunication occurs when people are playing different language games. These language games refer to the different ways we use words as tools in our communication with others. For instance, one type of game might involve discussing facts. The sentence The Gateway Arch is 630 feet tall deals with a game of facts. You never listen to what Im saying is a sentence that deals not with facts but expresses an emotion. One feels as though the other does not pay them enough attention.
These games are used for different purposes, and when two people are playing different language games and also do not recognize the differences in the games that they are playing, the meaning of the message is lost. When someone describes themselves with the vague adjective liberal or conservative, there is ambiguity as to what game they are playing and what they really mean when they use one of these words.
I believe that we should describe ourselves accurately and take more time to find out what it is we really believe rather than connecting ourselves with an in-group and an out-group. Todays version of liberal, even if you distinguish between social and the economic issues, is not descriptive enough to convey the complexity of ones views. Giving a language monopoly to this word sacrifices clarity for simplicity, but this simplicity reduces our meaning too far. Saying Im liberal only causes miscommunication.
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GridShare Targets Renewable Energy Crowdfunding under Reg CF, Plans International Expansion – Crowdfund Insider
Posted: at 7:23 pm
Gridshare is one of the newest Reg CF crowdfunding platforms to receive regulatory approval. While the number of Reg CF portals is growing, Gridshare is the first and only platform to target the specific vertical of renewable energy and Cleantech.
Originally launched as an accredited crowdfunding platform under Title II of the JOBS Act (Reg D 506(c)), GridShare wants to make investing in renewable energy projects accessible to a wider audience. Using Reg CF, any investor may help fund a solar or wind project typically alongside professional investors.
Founders Jack Jacobs and Jon Norling are leveraging their experience and contacts at Cleantech law partners to source promising deals and assure quality deal structure. They also intend to launch international offerings at some point in the near future.
GridShare has launched with several offerings includingEau Claire Solar, Floating Solar andGorge Windall three offering a debt investment under Reg CF.
Crowdfund Insider recently connected with Jacobs to better understand his vision for the future of GridShare and renewable energy crowdfunding. Our discussion is below.
Crowdfund Insider: Congratulations on receiving Reg CF approval. How long did the process take for you? And why did you decide to go with Reg CF?
Jack Jacobs: Thanks. Weve been refining the platform for a few years now, but the process for receiving approval from SEC and FINRA to operate as a Funding Portal was a 4-5 month process. We decided to focus on Reg CF in the United States because of the ability to reach ordinary, non-accredited investors using this exemption, which we believe offers issuers a relatively low-cost and easy method to access capital.
Crowdfund Insider:You previously launched as an accredited crowdfunding platform. Will you be doing side-by-side offers? (Reg D/Reg CF). Do you think the $1 million cap is sufficient for your issuers?
Jack Jacobs:At this point, we plan to focus on Reg CF offers in the United States and not plan to also offer Rule 506(c) or Regulation A+ Offerings.
Our affiliate, GridShare International, LLC, will be listing offerings in foreign jurisdictions that allow equity crowdfunding. With respect to the $1 million cap, we believe this is low, and support the $5 million cap proposed under the Fix Crowdfunding Act.
Because, however, most of the listings on GridSharesite will be project-specific offerings, and because issuers are typically combining the crowdfunding financing with other capital sources, such as tax equity investors or sponsor capital, we think the present cap of $1 million will allow us to continue to develop a robust deal pipeline.
Crowdfund Insider:Do you expect to see more debt offers on Gridshare?
Jack Jacobs:We absolutely do. The platform is really geared towards offerings of project-specific debt that is secured by assets. Also, because of the regulations related to tax credits and benefits for renewable energy, it is difficult to have crowd-based equity in the project companies. Therefore, secured debt financings will likely be the most common project-based offering on Gridshare. That being said, however, most issuers raising capital for venture Cleantech companies may seek to offer equity or debt that converts into equity.
Crowdfund Insider: How is deal flow? How are you sourcing issuers? And what types of Cleantech companies do you foresee listing on your platform?
Jack Jacobs:Deal flow is good! We have a ton of interest in the siteand are vetting numerous projects to determine which meet our rigorous listing standards.
Regarding sourcing, it has been a mix of organic (i.e., users posting their own projects) and us reaching our through our network to let people know about the capital raising opportunities on GridShare.
We expect to see a steady mix of project finance offerings and corporate offerings for clean technology companies.
Crowdfund Insider:Are there any tax exemptions issuers may take advantage of? What about for investors?
Jack Jacobs:While renewable energy and Cleantech companies are often eligible for tax benefits, GridShare was not designed as a site for tax-motivated investors. While our issuers structure their financings to maximize tax credits, at this point, the investors will receive monetary returns without additional tax benefits.
Crowdfund Insider: How did you decide to launch a platform for Clean Energy & CleanTech?
Jack Jacobs:We (myself and Jon Norling) are renewable energy develop and finance attorneys, and originally started the platform as a financing tool for our clients.
We started the platform soon after passage of the JOBS Act, when there was a need for lower cost of capital for renewable projects. By the time the SEC finally adopted the rules, however, lower cost capital was available to sponsors, but ordinary non-accredited investors were not able to participate in these investments. Thus, we decided to allow these ordinary investors to have access to the same type of project-finance investments available to institutional investors.
Crowdfund Insider: Any comments on how Reg CF could be improved for issuers? For investors?
Jack Jacobs:For issuers, it would be great if there was a broader array of entities able to serve as escrow agents for offerings, and if issuers could test the waters prior to committing to filing a Form C.
For investors, educating these folks is key to success of this market, and we hope the SEC and FINRA will continue their efforts to educate investors on what to look for when purchasing crowdfunded securities.
Crowdfund Insider: What are your expectations for platform growth for 2017?
Jack Jacobs:We anticipate steady growth in offerings and investments, and anticipate an increasing number of clean-technology offerings on the site. We expect that solar offerings will remain strong, but also hope to see other renewable technologies being listed as well.
Last, we think that our international division will grow significantly with the increasing interest in crowdfunding globally.
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Posted: at 7:20 pm
With humans on the cusp self-evolution, a new report emphasizes the need for a societal conversation that were not likely to have.
Last week, two developments in gene editing shifted this potent new technology from a possibility to more of a probability. Yet its likely that the news didnt register with most people. Despite the revolutionary potential of a tool that may soon make it possible for Homo sapiens to manipulate DNA and to self-evolve – for better or for worse.
The new technology goes by the funny-sounding name Crispr-Cas9 a method that has the power to cut and paste DNA, the basic code of life in humans and all other organisms, almost as simply as moving letters around on a word processor. Researchers expect to use Crispr-Cas9 to fix or improve DNA sequences linked to diseases like Huntingtons and some cancers. The method could also be used to bump up a persons smarts, height, or stamina, although not yet.
We have within our grasp the technology to change evolution, said Paul Berg, a genetics pioneer from Stanford, about Crispr-tech. This could change the course of biological life.
Discovered in 2012 by scientists in California and Sweden, Crispr-Cas9 moved closer to reality last Tuesday when the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) released a report about the ethics and the proper uses of Crispr-tech. The next day came a patent court ruling that decided who has the rights to commercially exploit some basic components of Crispr-Cas9.
The media dutifully carried the news in the usual this is an important science story manner, while experts weighed in on science blogs and websites. Crispr-Cas9, however, is so far not following the usual pattern of scientific and technological breakthroughs, which typically take decades or even centuries to perfect, and for society to absorb them.
For instance, it took us thirty or forty years to properly build and learn to use the Internet. Even with genetics, the pace has been one of mostly incremental discoveries over decades, with society very slowly absorbing the basics of the science, and what it means for real people beyond what they saw in Jurassic Park and Gattaca.
Gene editing, however, is not following the usual, slow-roll-out pattern of most new discoveries. Crispr-Cas9 is still in its early days, but scientifically is moving at warp speed, playing out in years rather than decades.
Invented just five years ago, the technology allows DNA to be edited with an ease and at a lower cost than previous versions of the technology. Last year, a Pennsylvania high school senior named Michael Zhang even won a prestigious Intel Science Talent Search award for a project using Crispr.
Crispr stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, a natural process used by bacteria to remember the DNA of invading viruses so that that they can identify and destroy similar intruders, aided by DNA-slicing enzymes. In 2012 Jennifer Doudna of the University of California at Berkeley and Emmanuelle Charpentier of Swedens Umea University demonstrated in Science how to co-opt this process and intentionally edit DNA in any organism by using a slicer enzyme called Cas9.
Since Doudnas and Charpentiers breakthrough, a Crispr frenzy has generated thousands of scientific papers in hundreds of labs around the world. It has inspired the formation of companies like Editas, Intellia, and CRISPR Therapeutics that expect the gene editing market to one day generate billions of dollars. (All three companies have issued IPOs in record time). Last November, doctors began the first human trials in China using Crispr for patients with aggressive lung cancer.
Crispr-techs rapid deployment has also launched a brisk debate among scientists and bioethicists. In 2015, 18 prominent scientists and experts in law and ethicsled by Nobel Laureate David Baltimore and Jennifer Doudna published a call in Science magazine for a moratorium on some uses of this technology. As I reported at the time:
The group, which met in Napa, California, last January  for a one-day summit, fretted about a possible slippery slope that might occur from using disease-curing applications that everyone wants, toward uses with less compelling or even troubling implications. They call on scientists to impose a voluntary stoppage while societal, environmental, and ethical implications of such activity are discussed among scientific and governmental organizations.
The group was particularly concerned about editing the germline cellsthe sperm and eggthat could pass alterations down to offspring. These are different than the somatic cells that make-up you and me and our organs and other body parts. They are not involved in reproduction, and wont impact progeny if edited.
Not surprisingly, the Crispr-rush has led to a battle over rival patents. Last week, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board issued a 51-page ruling that sided with one of the first parties to file early patents, the Broad Institute in Boston. They won against an even early filer, the University of California at Berkeley. At issue was Berkeleys claim to patent uses of Crispr-Cas9 in all cells, versus the Broad claiming a patent for use in certain cells, including human cells. If this sounds confusing, it is, indicating that the legal wrangling over Crispr is just beginning.
The National Academies of Sciences (NAS) issued a 243-page report prepared after the call for the moratorium in 2015, and a subsequent international summit on gene editing held in December, 2015, in Washington, DC, sponsored by the NAS.
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The report provides a detailed assessment of where the science is, and the ethical and societal issues. It lists a number of recommendations, most notably that in rare and limited cases, germline editing might be allowable to save lives, but only following much more research, according to the report, and only for compelling reasons and under strict oversight. One magazine called this a yellow light, although it does represent a big shift from traditional bioethics, which strictly forbade any modifications to the human germline.
The report is dense and written in academic-speak, but it does a good job of elucidating the science and the conundrums. It also cites polls suggesting that the public seems to be in favor of gene editing to treat grave illnesses and to save lives, but is very wary of using this technology for so-called “enhancement.”
Last weeks pronouncements are important in beginning to create a scientific and societal undergirding for Crispr-tech. Yet we still seem a long way off from a societal zeitgeist. Even Hollywood has yet to start spinning Crispr-inspired plotlines, at least that Im aware of.
Nor does the politics of the moment bode well for a proper public conversation about Crispr-techor really about any new and fast-moving scientific enterprise that confronts us with a species-level set of risks and benefits. A failure to elevate this discussion, however, could cause this inevitable and rapidly moving technology to overrun our ability to absorb the implications, and our ability to make intelligent decisions about the future of us, our children, and humanity.
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Posted: at 7:18 pm
Ubisoft has learned a thing or two about virtual reality.
The giant French video game publisher loves to experiment with new game platforms. Whenever a new one arrives, so do new Ubisoft games. With VR, Ubisoft has tried a number of things, and in October it launched its first VR game, Eagle Flight, a simulation game where you can fly above a future version of Paris as an eagle. After the game debuted, Ubisoft found that 73 percent of the game sessions were longer than 10 minutes, which went against the conventional wisdom about how VR was too uncomfortable for people to stay in it for very long.
Ubisoft also launched Werewolves Within, a VR version of the Werewolves tabletop game, where players try to figure out who among the villagers among them is a werewolf. And the company is working on Star Trek: Bridge Crew, where VR players take on the roles of a starships bridge crew.
David Votypka, creative director at Ubisoft Red Storm, and Chris Early, vice president of digital publishing at Ubisoft, gave a talk about the lessons the company has learned in VR at the Casual Connect Europe event in Berlin. I interviewed them after the talk about those lessons.
Heres an edited transcript of our talk.
Above: David Votypka (left) and Chris Early of Ubisoft at Casual Connect Europe.
Image Credit: Dean Takahashi
Chris Early: The theme of the talk is things weve expected about VR in the early days, in three categories. One was locomotion. VR makes people sick, so you cant do fast motion. Second was time in the headset. Weve heard a lot of things from headset makers, like seven minutes is what we should be designing for. The third is that VR is antisocial.
What weve discovered is the opposite is true in all three of these cases, in a lot of ways. For locomotion, Eagle Flight is the example. You fly at high speeds, turning, fast motion. The vast majority of people are very comfortable with it. A lot of it comes down to the techniques they use, like closing off peripheral vision. Since our peripheral vision is designed to detect things here, if you sense something whizzing by it triggers motion sickness. When the game detects that, it closes that off, and its a very effective technique.
GB: The research must have taken you a lot of time. When did you discover that?
David Votypka: The work was done at Ubisoft Montreal. They had the idea for a flying game because they were experimenting with Paris from the Assassins Creed universe. They started noticing that some things worked and some things didnt. One element that was bothersome was how fast things were going by.
Some of the research Olivia Palmieri did shes the producer on it was in the concept of horse blinders, or what happens when race drivers go really fast. They get that tunnel vision effect, which allows them to focus. Instead of creating a small hole you look through, they do it dynamically. When its displaying fast motion on the screen, it trims down the field of view, and then opens it back up again when theres nothing close by. You still have this wide vista, a panoramic field of view, until you get close to something. People dont even notice it.
Early: Thats the surprising part for me. When I first saw it, I was watching a monitor of someone playing. I assumed people would see it right away. But then I tried it in the headset and I wasnt even thinking about the effect. I didnt notice it at all.
GB: It sounds a bit like this foveated rendering technology theyre saying could reduce a lot of the graphics computing requirements.
Early: We could do that with foveated, probably, by just blurring it instead of blacking it out. It might be enough.
Votypka: To be fair, theyre still calculating the full screen. Its not a savings for us yet, because theyre trying to figure out where theres too much motion. Theyve already had to figure out that theres motion in that section, and then they black it out.
Early: Right. But rendering performancethis part doesnt have to be as high-res as that part. Back to time in the headset, seven minutes is what they were saying you should design for in the early days.
Votypka: With Eagle Flight, 73 percent of our session times are more than 10 minutes. Eagle Flight is a short-sequence thing. You go in and do a bit of a flight. The missions are maybe a minute or two at the most. But people stay in for a long time. A lot longer than we expected.
Above: Eagle Flight from Ubisoft Montreal.
Image Credit: Ubisoft
Early: In the social VR stuff weve seen about a third of our players playing for an hour to three hours. Very long sessions, longer than we expected, especially compared to that estimate of just seven minutes. Thats been really cool to see.
The third part is this idea that when you look at somebody in VR in their living room, it looks very antisocial. But when you get people in a shared environment together, when your physical traits and voice are networked, you get this social presence. Wow, Im here with other human beings. It becomes extremely social. Werewolves has been out for a little over two months and weve seen some amazing stories, from strangers playing together to how long people spend in the headset to how many friends they add. All sorts of very interesting things from what was, in a lot of ways, a social experiment. Its a multiplayer-only game. It requires VOIP to play. Its almost totally personality-driven. The gameplay systems are pretty simple. So much of it is just the players personalities.
All of these things were huge questions around shipping a game like that. For the players that are aware of it, weve had super positive feedback on all those aspects, which has been somewhatwe hoped, but we werent sure.
GB: Did you set out trying to ignore conventional wisdom?
Early: Social and VR were two things you just didnt think about together a few years ago. For me, VR goes back to the 90s. All the time Ive thought about it, I never thought about the social side until around 2014, when Michael Abrash from Oculus was at Carnegie Mellon giving a speech. He said, Theres a lot of open questions about VR. But one thing Im sure of is itll be the most social medium ever. Thats a pretty bold statement.
We had some multiplayer prototypes in Unity. When we got our DK2s we put on the headsets and got it running quickly. We sat across this table from each other where previously wed been sitting with a mouse and keyboard and monitor. We looked at each other across this warehouse environment and we could see each others head movements and so on. I thought, Okay, I feel like Im actually there with this person, not just looking at an avatar. That moment, it felt like there was something to this something thats not obvious, but once you try it, its evident how tightly connected people can be in VR. Its you, as opposed to just a pre-animated avatar.
Once that was proven, we started thinking about what kind of social games we could make. Werewolves was obviously our version of the original Mafia game. Theres been a lot of derivatives of that card game. We put in our own unique VR mechanics and gameplay rules. We went that direction because we wanted to focus on the social aspect, improving that with a well-known gameplay model. Social deduction is an interesting gameplay format for getting together around a table together.
GB: It seems like certain genres fit will here. The board game genre in genre matches well with social VR.
Early: Right. But you look at Star Trek Bridge Crew, which we still consider a social VR gameI call Werewolves an around-the-table format, while Star Trek is a crew experience. In that case youre all looking in different directions, seated in different places, more separated around the bridge. The around-the-table social connection isnt there. Weve designed it into the stations so you can work with each other. You still discuss with each other. But theres another action component to the game, going on missions and fighting Klingons as a crew. Its different gameplay from Werewolves, but its still social. A lot of different types of games can work in this social VR genre.
Posted: at 7:11 pm
According to our recent survey, more than 2/3 of landscaping business owners are primarily responsible for their marketing.
This challenge has a solution, and its marketing automation.
Routine activities can be automated to free you from working in your business so that you can invest more time working on it.
While there is a learning curve with the technology, the true challenge is taking the time to design what can be automated.
In other words, if your business does not have a written process in place for activities like following up on leads or upselling current customers, then clearly, thats where it needs to start.
Start thinking in terms of triggers and actions.
The phone rings (trigger) and your team answers (action). The buyer asks for a quote (trigger) and your team dispatches a representative to learn more (action).
Automation Formulas: Trigger > Action > Trigger > Action
Webcast, February 21st: Supercharge Your 2017 Recurring Revenue with Channel Partners
Organize everything and automate what you can.
#1. List the actions
What are the actions you want your buyers to take from their first contact with your business? List them, step- by-step.
#2. Test the sequence
How many of your recent customers have followed those steps? Patterns outside of your ideal flow may suggest disallowing these actions in the future.
The other option is to create multiple pathways to success.
Its important to be clear about the process steps that are inflexible. Often this involves legal issues or payment terms, but it can include anything in the buyers journey.
#3. Automate what you can
Lets face it, nowadays a website visit is replacing the telephone call.
Clicks to your website are triggers. You can use marketing automation to take action on them to send relevant information. And you can tag that interest to segment prospective buyers into categories. As they move through your funnel they will trigger new actions.
Every successful action should trigger another.
Take the time to automate what you can, even if thats only one step in your process. After you nail that give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate.
Youve saved some time! Now look for more ways to automate.
Marketing automation gets a bad reputation when its used to interrupt people to sell to them. But theres nothing wrong with selling when its done right.
The key is finding ways to use marketing automation to personalize.
For example, a sales transaction could trigger an email that offers an automated booking calendar such as ScheduleOnce that the buyer can use to independently book a time to meet with your company representative to address whatever issues there may be.
And that personalization just may trigger new business!
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Posted: at 7:07 pm
Mail-order brides have deep roots in American history, dating back to the colonial period.
By Marcia A. Zug February 2017
Modern mail-order brides are often stereotyped as young foreign women desperate to escape their homeland, but there was a time when mail-order brides were seen as strong pioneer women. There have been mail-order brides in America as long as there have been Europeans in America but the course of time has changed the perceptions of these women. In Buying a Bride: An Engaging History of Mail-Order Matches (NYU Press, 2016) author Marcia A. Zug traces the history of mail-order brides in America from colonial times to the present.
To find more books that pique our interest, visit the Utne Reader Bookshelf.
“As Catherine looks out across the water, she wonders what her life will be like when she reaches Virginia. She knows that conditions will be hard, but life in England was also hard. At least in the colony, there is the possibility of advancement. The Virginia Company has assured her and the other women that they will have their choice of marriage partners. They have promised that the men are wealthy, or at least will be with the womens help, and that the women will have a share of this wealth. Catherine knows it is a risk, but she has been assured she can always return home if she changes her mind. Regardless, Catherine expects to stay. There is little for her back in England. She will marry a colonist and help found a nation.”
The above thoughts illustrate what I believe one of the first mail-order brides might have felt as she traveled thousands of miles from England to settle in the Virginia colony. There is no actual record of the hopes and fears of these young women. Nevertheless, we do know that their arrival in 1619 was eagerly anticipated and desired.
Marriage was vital to the success of the colony. Wives were needed to create stable family units, produce and care for children, and cement Americas racial and cultural hierarchy. However, the difficulty was that few European women were interested in immigrating. In fact, female immigration to the colonies was so rare that when a group of forty women from La Fleche, France, began boarding a ship for Canada in 1659, the townspeople tried to prevent their departure because they were convinced the women were being kidnapped. Mail-order marriage helped resolve this problem. These women immigrated when others would not, and consequently, their presence was considered critically important.
The risks the early settlers faced were substantial. Most potential colonists had heard frightening accounts of disease and famine, and many of these stories seemed to indicate that women were particularly vulnerable. One horrific tale from Virginia involved a colonist who slue his wife as she slept in his bosome, cut her in pieces, powedered her & fedd upon her till he had clean devoured all her parts saveinge her heade. In the northern colonies, settlers such as the Puritans and the Quakers accepted these risks as the price of religious freedom, and as a result, these areas had little difficulty attracting large numbers of family groups. In contrast, the southern colonies, which lacked this religious draw, had a much harder time finding families willing to accept the dangers and hardships of colonial life. A handful of women came to the colonies shortly after the first male settlers arrived, but their numbers were small, and even fewer came with their children. Moreover, some families, like that of Sir Thomas Gates, sent their daughters back to England if their wives died. As early as 1609, a broadside (poster) produced by the Virginia Company of London demonstrated that the colonys governing body recognized the need to recruit women. The broadside was directed at family groups and specifically emphasized that both men and women were needed for the better strengthening of the colony. Nevertheless, despite such appeals, few families immigrated to the southern colonies. Instead, the majority of southern colonists were single men, primarily individual speculators and fortune hunters, who came to profit from Americas abundant land and natural resources and then return home. As colonial historian Julia Cherry Spruill has noted, these men were not interested in building permanent homes in Virginia or in cultivating lands to be enjoyed by future generations. They simply planned to make their fortunes and then return to England.
The transient nature of the southern population was problematic, and it quickly became clear that the lack of women was threatening the future of the fledgling colony. In 1614, the Virginia Companys lawyer, Richard Martin, spoke before the House of Lords and highlighted the threat posed by the colonys gender disparity. He informed the members, a significant number of whom had shares in the com- pany,that Virginia desperately needed honest laborers, with wives and children. He then recommended the appointment of a committee to consider ways to increase family immigration. Other members of the Virginia Company shared Martins immigration concerns. However, class politics ultimately prevented consideration of his proposal. Martin was only a lawyer and not a lord, so his requests, which went beyond legal advice, were considered presumptuous. One contemporary described his speech as the most unfitting that was ever spoken in the house. Consequently, not only were Martins appeals ignored, they resulted in punishment. The day after appearing before the House of Lords, Martin was arraigned for contempt. He was brought before Sir Randall Crew, the Speaker of the House, forced to kneel, and given following admonishment:
“The case was this a petition relative to the Virginia Company had been presented, and an order for the Council to appear, that he as their Attorney had represented himself with diverse Lords. That the House at first was disposed to listen to him with all due respect and love; that the retrospect of the Virginia Plantation was acceptable, for it had been viewed with the eyes of love. But afterwards, he has impertinently digressed, for it was not his place to censure and advise. The House had therefore brought him before them, and although many were his acquaintances, yet all now looked upon him with the eyes of judges, and not as private friends.”
After Martins censure, the issue of family immigration was dropped, but the lack of women remained a significant problem. Finally, in 1619, the Virginia Companys treasurer, Sir Edwin Sandys, who now controlled the company, decided to address the issue. He warned his fellow shareholders that if immediate action was not taken, the colonys gender imbalance would soon breed a dissolucon, and so an overthrow of the Plantation. Sandys recommended sponsoring the immigration of single women because he believed their presence would make the men more setled [and] lesse moveable and decrease the number of men who, because of the dearth of women, stay [in the colony] but to gett something and then return for England. This time, the recommendation to address the colonys female immigration problem was met with approval. After hearing Sandyss suggestion, Lord Francis Bacon, a founding member of the company, immediately expressed his public support declaring it time to plant with women as well as with men; that the plantation may spread into generations, and not ever pieced from without. Shortly after Sandyss request, the company began recruiting single women to marry the Jamestown colonists.
In the spring of 1620, ninety mail-order brides arrived in Jamestown. Their arrival was considered a success, and the next year Sandys requested funds to transport an additional one hundred women. By this time, the company was in financial difficulties and no longer had the necessary money. However, because Sandys insisted that more women were absolutely essential, the company agreed to raise the money by subscription. Due to these efforts, another fifty brides were sent to Jamestown. Altogether, the Virginia Company sponsored the immigration of 140 mail-order brides. The arrival of these women was intended to reduce the number of male colonists returning to England, but this was not the only reason female immigration was considered necessary. Despite the femaleless wasteland described by Sandys, the colony did not actually lack women. America was filled with indigenous women, and relationships between the male colonists and native women occurred almost immediately.
As early as 1608, after disease and starvation wiped out nearly a third of the original Jamestown colonists, a large number of the male survivors began taking Indian wives. By 1612, the Spanish ambassador to England reported that between 40 to 50 Englishman . . . had married Indian women. He also informed the company that nearly all of these men had abandoned the colony for their wives villages. Only two years earlier, the entire population of Jamestown consisted of sixty colonists. Consequently, the number of desertions described by the ambassador was shocking. Just as concerning was the fact that these desertions seemed unstoppable. Virginia Governor Dale had already decreed that deserters were to be hanged, some burned, some to be broke upon wheels, others to be staked and some to be shot to death. This law had little effect, and colonial men continued to leave the colony.
Desertions contributed to the already declining population, while also undermining the moral justification for the entire colonial endeavor. Virginia settlers had rationalized colonization by highlighting the supposed differences between themselves and the countrys native inhabitants. Captain John Smiths 1607 report on the native population of Virginia epitomized this trend, characterizing the local Indians as cruel, irrational, vengeful, treacherous, and barbaric. He also accused these tribes of Satanism. He described the Virginia Indians as devil worshippers who prayed to idols shaped with such deformity as may well suit with such a god and claimed they practiced child sacrifice. Such accusations seemed to confirm the English colonizers belief in their moral and religious superiority. However, intermarriage threatened these distinctions.
Britains recent colonizing venture in Ireland had demonstrated that settlers were extremely likely to adopt the customs and manners of native inhabitants with whom they intermixed. One typical report from the Irish colony bewailed the number of Englishmen who in small time have grown wild in Ireland, and become in language and qualities Irish. This report also noted the paucity of Irishmen who do in exchange become civilized and English. Virginias colonial leaders worried that marriage to Indian women would lead to similar results. Specifically, they feared that intermarriage would cause European men to abandon their civility and become indistinguishable from the heathen savages. This fear was then further exacerbated by the perceived sexual availability of Indian women. In John Smiths 1612 account of life in the early Virginia colony, he wrote about his visit to one of Powhatans (Pocahontass father) villages and noted that in any of these villages, an Englishman could expect a woman freshly painted red with pocones and oil to be his bed fellow. Smith also detailed his own experience. He claimed to have been greeted by 30 young women [who] came naked out of the woods (only covered behind and before with a few greene leaves), their bodies all painted, some white, some red, some black, some partie colour, but every one different. He then described being invited back to their lodging where they more tormented him than ever, with crowding, and pressing, and hanging upon him, most tediously crying, love you not mee? Similar, although less colorful, accounts were provided by colonist and company secretary William Strachey, who declared that the local women were most voluptious and eager to embrace the acquaintance of any Straunger.
In order to prevent desertions to the native villages and lessen the attractions of native women, colonial leaders described white/Indian relationships as religiously prohibited. In his 1609 sermon, the colonial Reverend William Symonds railed against the dangers of miscegenation. Symonds cited the biblical injunction that Gods people in Canaan keepe to themselves, and not marry nor give in marriage to the heathen, that are uncircumcized, and he warned that the breaking of this rule jeopardized ones chance for eternal salvation and risked all good succese of this voyage. Symondss religious admonishment did little to stem the flow of desertions, and even within the colony, some determined men found ways around this prohibition. The most famous intermarried colonist was John Rolfe. In his letter to Governor Dale seeking permission to marry Pocahontas, Rolfe acknowledged the heavie displeasure which almightie God conceived against the sonnes of Levie and Israel for marrying strange wives. Nevertheless, he argued that this concern was inapplicable to his own relationship, because Pocahontas was converting to Christianity and, thus, their marriage would actually be furthering Gods work and assisting with Rolfes owne salvation. Rolfes arguments were persuasive and earned Dales endorsement of the marriage.
By 1619, it had become clear that neither religious prohibitions nor capital punishment was a sufficient deterrent against intermarriage. The company, therefore, concluded that the best way to reduce desertions and ensure the colony remained racially and ethnically distinct was to provide colonial men with a viable marriage alternative to native women. Understandably, the women recruited to fulfill this important task were chosen with care. They were not prostitutes, criminals, or beggars. In fact, out of the thirty-eight women whose social status is known, eight had links to the gentry. According to the company records, four of the women were the daughters of gentlefolk; two others had uncles and one cousin (once removed) who were knights; and the eighth was described as the daughter of Mr. Gervase Markham, of the Nottinghamshire gentry. In addition, the company insisted that all the women had been received . . . upon good recommendation.