National / International News

Low-pay workers 'mis-sold' insurance

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 05:31
The government is to investigate claims by Labour's shadow business secretary that some of Britain's top employment agencies mis-sold insurance to thousands of workers.

African-American hosts on Airbnb may make less on listings

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-23 05:30

For many people, the rise and expansion of the “sharing economy” or “peer economy,” has made life cheaper and easier. The companies that facilitate this economy have allowed us to rent everything from apartments, to cars, to designer handbags. Proponents of the shared economy argue that it is both democratic and democratizing, but some companies may be replicating problems that exist in the traditional economy, according to research from two Harvard Business School professors who looked into Airbnb, a company that connects people looking to rent out a room, apartment or house, with those looking for a place to stay. 

Airbnb is popular for a number of reasons. In large cities, it’s often cheaper to rent a room in someone’s apartment than to stay in a hotel room. And for people who are turned off by spartan, cookie-cutter hotels and motels, staying in a real “home” is a plus. Renting from a stranger can be scary, but on Airbnb.com, a user profile comes with pictures of the property that’s open for rent, and often, plenty of detailed user reviews. Host profiles also come with a picture, and Airbnb requests that photo clearly shows the host's face.  

Ben Edelman, who co-authored a working paper entitled Digital Discrimination: The Case of Airbnb.com, wondered if the profile photo might open the door to discrimination, and wanted to examine, “the possibility that certain disfavored minorities, for example, African-Americans, might find it hard to rent their properties on Airbnb. If you’re a black person, you might find that you can’t get as good a price as [on] a similar property rented by another user.” 

Edelman and his co-author compared Airbnb listings in New York City, focusing on apartments of the same size, in the same neighborhood, that had similar reviews. They found that African-American hosts were asking for about sixteen dollars less per listing. 

Airbnb declined an interview with Marketplace, but issued the following statment: "We are committed to making Airbnb the most open, trusted, diverse, transparent community in the world and our Terms of Service prohibit content that discriminates. The data in this report is nearly two years old and is from only one of the more than 35,000 cities where Airbnb hosts welcome guests into their homes. Additionally, the authors made a number of subjective or inaccurate determinations when compiling their findings." 

Edelman isn’t accusing Airbnb of discrimination but wonders if the host photos have to be so prominent. 

“When you make a reservation to stay at the Marriott, you don’t have to attach a picture of yourself,” Edelman said. 

Tony Greenwald, a professor of psychology at the University of Washington who studies bias said African-American Airbnb hosts may be lower their asking price believing or knowing that their racial identity is a liability. Greenwald points out that African-Americans face bias in housing, employment, police profiling and other areas. 

Toni Blackman, an Airbnb host who rents out her two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn admits that she thinks she’s likely to earn less than a counterpart who is not Black.

“I’m also a dark-skinned African-American who is an artist,” Blackman said. “I’m combatting those two stereotypes.”

When asked if it works both ways, if she sometimes chooses from potential renters based on their photos, Blackman laughed.

“That’s a very real question,” she said. “Some friends of mine were joking about it. We all do Airbnb. I have a couple Black American girlfriends, White girlfriends, a Jewish girlfriend. We were all sitting there laughing, because we do.”

Plans for new 'people-powered' net

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 05:29
YouTube would become WeTube under new plans to decentralise the internet and power it in the same way Bitcoins are mined.

Kenya athletes threaten boycott

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 05:23
Some of Kenya's top athletes threaten to stop representing their nation at international competitions like the Olympics over new tax laws.

Berlusconi 'witness tampering' probe

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 05:13
Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is to be investigated for alleged witness-tampering in an underage prostitution trial.

VIDEO: Coogan and Brydon take Trip to Italy

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 05:11
Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon take the sequel to their 2010 adventure, The Trip to Italy, to the Sundance Film Festival.

Many Missing After Massive Fire At Seniors' Home In Quebec

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 05:08

Flames tore through a seniors' residence early Thursday in a town about 280 miles northeast of Montreal. At least three people were killed. Early reports from officials on the scene indicated that as many as 30 more people had not been accounted for in the hours immediately after the blaze.

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Deadly bird flu cases surging

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 04:56
A surge in cases of the deadly new strain of bird flu in China is being reported.

Warning after Gower beach landslide

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 04:54
There is a warning for visitors to take care after a cliff landslide at a beach which has been voted one of the most beautiful in Europe.

'Lost opportunities' in boy's care

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 04:48
A hospital where four-year-old Sean Turner died after heart surgery "lost opportunities" to help him but did not fail in its basic care, a coroner says.

Stan Collymore quits Twitter - agent

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 04:47
Stan Collymore's Twitter account has been deleted, the ex-footballer's agent confirms.

VIDEO: Coast storm reveals ancient remains

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 04:43
Recent storms have forced a stretch of the Welsh coastline back to reveal artefacts dating back up to 6,000 years.

Paisley Jr 'in difficult position'

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 04:42
DUP leader Peter Robinson says he recognises Ian Paisley Jr is "in a difficult position" following a documentary that focused on his father's departure as party head.

1,500 UK forces jobs to be cut

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 04:40
Some 1,500 personnel are to lose their jobs in the armed forces' final round of job cuts since the 2010 defence review, the defence secretary says.

Pension fees cap delay confirmed

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 04:28
Pensions minister Steve Webb confirms the government is delaying the introduction of a cap on pension charges for "at least" a year.

Day in pictures: 23 January 2014

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 04:26
24 hours of news photogs: 23 January

In Ukraine, Protesters Warn They'll Go 'On The Attack'

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-23 04:25

The clashes with security forces turned deadly Wednesday. Two demonstrators were reportedly shot and killed. The body of another was later found. Protesters have been demanding that President Viktor Yanukovych hold early elections. They've given him one more day to agree.

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Mother stabbed to death in Australia

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 04:22
A woman, believed to be from Northern Ireland, has been found dead in Australia.

US spying illegal, panel advises

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 04:22
The bulk collection of phone data by the US government is illegal and has had "minimal" benefits, an independent US privacy watchdog says.

Wawrinka reaches first major final

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-23 04:21
Stanislas Wawrinka beats Tomas Berdych in their Australian Open semi-final to reach his first Grand Slam final.

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