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New York Wants to Subpoena 15,000 Users After Airbnb Refused to Settle

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Airbnb might lose the fight of its life —or at least the trust of its customers —the very same week that it officially closed a deal for $450 million in venture capital. The New York Post reports that state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will go forward with a subpoena “to identify users who are illegally renting out apartments.”Read more…

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Veep Recap: Children Are of No Value

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Veep ventures to some dark territory this week. First we get a glimmer of hope: Selina has values! She has, like, actual political priorities. There are things that she cares about, things of substance, of depth, things that affect the normals! One of those things is universal child care, which … More »

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Chris Christie is still trying to force a pipeline through the New Jersey Pinelands

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In January, on the heels of the embarrassing revelation that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s (R) staffers created a traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge to punish an obscure political rival, Christie and his allies were handed a defeat. The New Jersey Pinelands Commission rejected a proposed 22-mile natural-gas pipeline that would go through a national reserve of forests and wetlands. Though Christie went so far as to bully a commissioner who was skeptical of the pipeline into recusing himself from the decision, that wasn’t enough to secure approval. But now the pipeline is back. The state’s leading power brokers want the commission to reconsider and are pressuring commissioners to change their votes, working both behind the scenes and through public statements and symbolic votes in county and town legislative bodies. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported, “A growing number of elected officials from Gov. Christie to lawmakers including Senate President Stephen Sweeney (D., Gloucester) have joined county freeholders and township officials in support of the project. They are considering ways of returning the issue to the Pinelands Commission, possibly as a ‘compelling public need’ for energy security and scores of jobs.” The promise of merely “scores” of jobs in a state with 8.9 million residents is a clue that job creation is not the real issue. One of Christie’s top cronies is involved in the proposal. The law firm of David Samson, whom Christie appointed as chair of the Port Authority, represents Rockland Capital, owners of the power plant that the Pinelands pipeline would supply with natural gas. As Wayne Barrett noted in the New York Daily News, “Christie … was so eager to help Rockland that his [Department of Environmental Protection] and Board of Public Utilities (BPU) decided to support the pipeline, paid for by rate increases, despite that the fact that … it would run underground through 15 miles of the million-acre Pinelands, the country’s first natural preserve and a United Nations Biosphere Reserve.” (Samson resigned from the Port Authority last month after the Bridgegate debacle and media reports that he is under federal investigation for lobbying for companies with business before the Port Authority.) The B.L. England power plant, which would be served by the pipeline, currently burns coal. Christie’s Democratic predecessors had forced it to sign agreements to reduce its pollution or switch to natural gas. The Christie administration gave it a reprieve until 2015. Switching from coal to gas could be beneficial to the climate — when burned, gas emits roughly half the CO2 that coal does (though that’s not so impressive compared to wind or solar). But in practice, natural gas drilling operations and pipelines often leak methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas, which can neutralize any climate benefit. And beyond climate change, the pipeline would pose obvious threats to the local environment. Environmental critics say the proposal has such strong backing because the beneficiaries, such as Samson, are politically connected. “It’s not the jobs, it’s the power,” says Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. Tittel also speculates that Christie, seeking support from anti-environment conservatives in the Republican presidential primary, is trying to bolster his pro–fossil fuel bona fides. “The governor had been pro-wind until he went national,” says Tittel. “This [project] is in the middle of an area that was set aside for big wind farms. Cheap gas power will kill offshore wind.” The Christie administration did not respond to a request for comment. Environmentalists and neighbors would like to see the B.L. England plant shut down. Ironically, climate change, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, makes its shoreline location especially precarious. “The power plant is in an area that floods with storm surges,” notes Tittel. And the plant is a blight on the shore. “It’s a big ugly smokestack in a scenic area, Ocean City, which is a tourist hub,” Tittel says. If you decommissioned the plant, Tittel argues, you could create more jobs with development of condos, hotels, and restaurants in the area. (Although any development in a future flood plain could be risky, power plants are especially vulnerable to a storm surge, as all of Lower Manhattan learned when it lost power for days after a transformer station on the East River got hit during Superstorm Sandy.) Unfortunately, New Jersey politicians are notorious for making these types of decisions on the basis of cronyism rather than empiricism. Christie’s latest heavy-handed tactic was to veto 5 percent raises for the Pinelands Commission staffers.Filed under: Article, Business & Technology, Climate & Energy, Politics

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Nato suspends Russia co-operation

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Nato suspends all practical civilian and military co-operation with Russia over the annexation of Crimea, describing it as a grave threat to European security.

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Warmer temperatures can lead to warmer tempers, UN report to say

Top scientists are saying that climate change will complicate and worsen existing global security problems

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Slovakia elects Andrej Kiska as president

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Landslide victory for millionaire-turned-philanthropist deals blow to prime minister Robert Fico ahead of 2016 general electionAndrej Kiska swooped in out of the blue to clinch Slovakia’s presidency by a landslide, dealing a heavy blow to the credibility of the prime minister, Robert Fico, ahead of a general election in 2016.A non-aligned centrist who made his fortune in the consumer-credit business, Kiska, 51, will be Slovakia’s first president since independence in 1993 without a past in the Communist party.

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New political party tries to woo Hungary’s Roma community

With elections looming on April 6, a new party is trying to win over Hungary’s largest ethnic minority, the Roma, a community scarred by deep poverty and racism and disillusioned by traditional politics. “Until now, the Roma have never had credible…

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Menopause: nature’s way of saying older women aren’t sexually attractive?

The theory that mothers become infertile so that they can help care for their grandchildren is under attack, raising questions about female identity Sitting at my desk today is a benefit made possible by my mother-in-law. She is taking care of my son, leaving me free to do other work and ideally,…

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Far right National Front party poised for electoral breakthrough in France

<!– google_ad_section_start –> France on Sunday held a second round of voting in local elections that are set to result in a breakthrough by the far right and trigger a reshuffle of the beleaguered Socialist government. <!– google_ad_section_end –>

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Netanyahu slams UN rights council’s censure of Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday slammed a UN rights body for a string of resolutions condemning the Jewish state despite a wave of rights abuses elsewhere in the region. “At the end of last week, the UN Human Rights Council condemned…

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Evaluating teachers based on student performance is ‘punitive measure that demoralizes teachers’

What is the policy of evaluating teachers on their students’ performance really about? Ostensibly, it is designed to improve public schools by holding teachers accountable. However, by failing to take into account several factors…

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Chris Christie woos conservative mega donor Sheldon Adelson at Vegas GOP forum

Six minutes into a speech yesterday to the Republican Jewish Coalition that marked the opening of his comeback tour, Gov. Chris Christie received a sign. Sheldon Adelson, the GOP mega donor whose bankbook can launch a presidential campaign…

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Same-sex couples can now marry in England, but 20 percent of Brits wouldn’t go to the wedding

Gay couples across England and Wales said “I do” Saturday as a law authorizing same-sex marriage came into effect at midnight, the final stage in a long fight for equality. Following the first marriages amid a supposed race to wed, Prime Minister David…

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Franciscan monks try Internet crowdfunding to restore St Francis of Assisi’s home in Rome

Crowdfunding and medieval history are coming together in Rome as a group of Franciscan monks take to the Internet to drum up funds to restore a dusty cell said to have been used by St Francis of Assisi himself. Located in the trendy Trastevere district…

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