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Today's Links: November 27, 2012

OPINION

SPENCER ACKERMAN: "Pentagon: A Human Will Always Decide When a Robot Kills You"
"The Pentagon wants to make perfectly clear that every time one of its flying robots releases its lethal payload, it’s the result of a decision made by an accountable human being in a lawful chain of command. Human rights groups and nervous citizens fear that technological advances in autonomy will slowly lead to the day when robots make that critical decision for themselves. But according to a new policy directive issued by a top Pentagon official, there shall be no SkyNet, thank you very much."

MATTHEW YGLESIAS: "Why Are Hotel Rooms So Expensive?"
"There’s not a single reason why hotel rooms are so much more expensive on a per night basis than ordinary housing. But one place to start is taxes. Local tax codes tend to treat homeowners relatively favorably. There are some ideological and substantive reasons for this, and also crass politics. Homeowners, as a class, are more likely to be stable long-term members of their community who vote in city council elections. A hotel guest is just the reverse—a transient who can’t vote. So in addition to the underlying commercial real estate taxes that are probably higher than what’s levied on residences, hotel guests need to pay sales taxes and special excise taxes."

MEGAN MCARDLE: "Why Can't Walmart Be More Like Costco?"
"With depressing regularity, you see pundits and activists asking 'Why can't Walmart be more like Costco', which is a little like asking why Malcolm Gladwell can't be more like Michael Jordan. I mean . . . um . . . where do I even start?  [...] Costco has a more highly paid labor force--but that labor force also brings in a lot more money.  Costco's labor force, paid $19 an hour, brings in three times as much revenue as a Walmart workforce paid somewhere between 50-60% of that. [...] This is not because Costco treats its workers better, and therefore gets fantastic productivity out of them, though this is what you would think if you listened to very sincere union activists on NPR.  Rather, it's because their business model is inherently higher-productivity."

NEWS

LIBEL - Libel Case That Snared BBC Widens to Twitter
"As many as 10,000 Twitter users reportedly face the threat of legal action because of comments posted on the Internet or forwarded to others in which they referred to a BBC report wrongly linking a former Conservative Party official to the sexual abuse of a child. "

GUNS - Gun-related violent crimes drop as sales soar in Va.
"Gun-related violent crime in Virginia has dropped steadily over the past six years as the sale of firearms has soared to a new record, according to an analysis of state crime data with state records of gun sales."

ANTITRUST - Supreme Court hears antitrust complaint against hospital merger in Albany, Ga.
"The justices heard arguments in the federal government’s claim that two private corporations used a public hospital authority to complete a deal that left one company as the owner of the only two hospitals in Albany, Ga. The Federal Trade Commission says the deal violates federal antitrust law."