Yahoo touched off a debate about the effectiveness of telecommuting when it told employees last week that they may no longer work from home. The policy change was made, according to the company's internal email, to enhance workplace collaboration.
You've heard of a bullseye. What about a ball's-eye? A Carnegie Mellon post-doc student and Japanese researchers have come up with a way to get smooth video from inside a spinning football.
Kris Kitani at CMU's Robotics Institute says regulation footballs may not be able to include the technology but the system might be cool for TV coverage of games or for training.
The trick: Stabilizing the image on a football that can rotate at a nausea-enducing 600 rpm. Don't miss the side by side comparison of the stabilized and unstabilized video from a tossed ball below.Video of BallCam - Video Stabilization for Spinning Cameras (GoPro Hero 2)
If the massive budget cuts known as "sequestration" come to pass, federal workers aren’t the only ones who will get a pay cut. Some of the hardest hit will be those who can afford it least -- the long-term unemployed.
After state unemployment insurance benefits run out, usually after 26 weeks, the federal benefits kick in. Those generally last for an additional 37 weeks, paid for with federal money.
Under sequestration, that extension would get a serious haircut.
“That’s going to translate into an 11 percent reduction in benefits,” says Maurice Emsellem, policy co-director at the National Employment Law Project. “It’s going to have a devastating impact on about two million unemployed workers who are receiving federally-funded benefits.”
Over the course of the fiscal year, Emsellem says a total of four million workers could be impacted. And the cuts will also reduce the funds that pay state employees to administer the program.
Sherri Summitt of Unionville, Indiana, relies on long-term unemployment benefits. She says her state administrators are under enough pressure already.
“Any time you call, you get no answers. You speak to people with no experience,” says Summitt.
It could have been worse.Until yesterday, Indiana threatened to suspend the federal program altogether. Now it plans to pay the long-term unemployment benefits at least through March 9th.
The Supreme Court is expected to take up same-sex marriage in March, and the business community has something to say about it. Yesterday, more than 200 employers signed onto a "friend of the court" brief making the business case for marriage equality. Today lawyers are expected to file a similar brief.
If you scan down the list of companies signing on to the documents, one industry stands out: Tech -- big deal tech, like Apple, Facebook and eBay.
So, why do it?
“I think it’s a mix of idealism and pragmatism,” says Stanford law professor Jane Schacter. Idealism, she says, in that a lot of these companies support marriage equality, plain and simple. And, says Schacter, “I think on the pragmatic side, they’ve made the calculation that for a number of reasons this is actually good for their business.”
One reason, companies in states like California -- that don’t allow same sex marriage -- are at risk of losing employees to states that do.
But it’s also a reflection of how much things have changed culturally.
“Opinion has shifted enough in the last couple of years that they are more worried alienating people by not taking a position than they are by taking a position,” says Harvard professor Michael Klarman.
But whether or not it matters to the court, we’ll have to wait and see.
We're just a day away from the sequester -- the $85 billion worth of federal spending cuts due to kick in Friday. Unless Washington changes its mind, some federal workers stand to lose as much as 20 percent of their pay.
Erika Townes is a nurse at Andrews Air Force base in Maryland. She makes less than $50,000 a year, and has been fighting foreclosure. So when Townes heard she might have to take unpaid leave one day a week because of sequestration, her first thought was, "Will I keep my house? What bills will I be able to pay?"
“With the sequestration, now we’re talking about full-on juggling," Townes says. "Let me put something on this, let me put something on that.”
Ironically, Townes could lose her job if she runs up too much debt, trying to make up for the sequester pay cut. Her job requires a security clearance. She has to maintain a certain credit rating to keep her clearance and her job.
“The Department of Defense is not going to say, oh well, you know, sequester, that’s OK," she explains. "That’s not how it works.”
Since borrowing could put their jobs in jeopardy, Defense Department workers will have to turn to other sources of aid if they’re forced to take unpaid leave. The union office on Andrews Air Force base has prepared packets of information on local shelters, food banks and counseling services.
Octavia Hall, president of the local branch of the American Federation of Government Employees, says the sequester would lop 20 percent off of her members’ paychecks when their take-home pay is barely enough to cover their bills, as it is.
“Take home, $900," she says. "For two weeks. So cancel 20 percent off of that.”
That 20 percent pay cut would ripple through the economy. Stephen Fuller, an economist at George Mason University, says the sequestration cuts would shave one percentage point off of economic growth this year. He says an economy that’s been staggering anyway will be punch drunk after sequestration.
“You can have a good time without getting smashed," he says. "And the sequester is getting smashed and it will have enormous short term consequences that won’t achieve any purpose.”
Fuller says those consequences won’t be felt immediately if sequestration kicks in. Federal workers have to be given at least 30 days notice of any unpaid leave.
Erika Townes says that’ll give her time to think up a plan B, and maybe start looking for a second job.
Three years after an earthquake destroyed much of Haiti's capital, it's clear that only a fraction of the $9 billion pledged in international relief reached the country. Most of what did arrive went to short-term relief, instead of rebuilding people's homes.