March 3, 2017

Posted by orrinj at 5:28 PM


Forget Obamacare -- AI is driving the real health care transformation (ALEX TURKELTAUB, ROAM ANALYTICS, MARCH 3, 2017, Venture Beat)

Three key trends have converged to make AI-driven health care a necessity. First, the Affordable Care Act has fueled the industry's focus on value over volume. We simply cannot afford to treat patients under the old model of "provide as much care as possible, regardless of the costs." We need to get the right intervention to the right patient at the right time, while avoiding as much as possible doing things that add no value and cost a lot of money.

Second, the advent of electronic health records and the associated explosion in data has made it ever more important to learn what the data is telling us, and respond with new models of care.

And finally, the realization that treating "the whole patient" -- not just isolated conditions, but attempting to improve the overall welfare of patients who often suffer from multiple health challenges -- is the new definition of success, which means predictive insights are paramount.

In the emerging reimbursement environment, pharmaceutical and medical device companies will have to offer solutions instead of widgets -- they will be paid based on the value their products deliver, value that is tied to a complete solution for a particular patient's condition that improves outcomes and promotes both health and wellness. Providers, whether large hospital systems or individual doctors, will need to optimize patient pathways and drive to best outcomes; otherwise they will not get paid. And payers will make coverage decisions based on outcomes rather than clinician and patient requests.

As Republicans are finally realizing, the question of whether America will have universal health coverage has already been decided.  It's the shape of the system that remains to be determined and where conservative principles--decreasing consumption and increasing personal savings--can still prevail.

Posted by orrinj at 3:47 PM


Posted by orrinj at 3:40 PM


How Rank-and-File Republicans Overruled Trump on Sessions Recusal (John T. Bennett, 3/03/17, The Hill)

What made Sessions' recusal remarkable was that Trump, whom a top aide once said "will not be questioned," was overruled by mostly rank-and-file Republicans.

The White House was set to weather the storm created when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that it would be "easier" if Sessions recused himself. But, in what became a pattern among GOP leaders, he told "Fox & Friends" he was "not calling on him to recuse himself."

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., gave Sessions cover when he told reporters that if the attorney general was not the subject of an ongoing probe, "I don't see any purpose or reason to doing this."

But other members stirred.  At 8:14 a.m. Thursday, Utah GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, tweeted that Sessions "should clarify his testimony and recuse himself." [...]

Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, said in a statement that Sessions "is a former colleague and a friend, but I think it would be best for him and for the country to recuse himself from the DOJ Russia probe."

He wasn't out on a limb.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C, told reporters that if the Justice Department is looking into Trump campaign contacts with Russia -- which it has not confirmed -- his former Senate colleague should not be involved.

"You've got an attorney general who is my dear friend, who was closely involved with the presidential campaign," Graham said. "If there's credibility to the allegations of inappropriate contacts between a foreign government and the campaign, in my view, for the good of the integrity of the system, somebody should pursue that. Not Jeff Sessions. "You don't want somebody involved in the campaign deciding whether or not there's a crime in the campaign," the former Air Force lawyer said.

Florida Republican Rep. Brian Mast ramped up the pressure when he became one of the few GOP members to use the other "r-word."

"Jeff Sessions needs to immediately clarify his Senate testimony and recuse himself from any investigation into Russian ties," Mast said. "If he cannot commit to ensuring this process is completed with full transparency and integrity, he should resign."

Then there was the nudge from Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa.

"When we spoke earlier this afternoon, between votes on the Senate floor, I suggested, as I did with Attorney General Lynch after she met with President [Bill] Clinton on her airplane, that his recusal may be the best course of action," Grassley said in a Thursday afternoon statement. "He indicated that he had been consulting with the professionals at the department, and that he agreed."

...we'd rather be governed by the Congress than by Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 3:21 PM


California jobless rate drops to 5.1%, as the state continues to outpace national growth (Natalie Kitroeff, 3/03/17, LA Times)

The California economy started 2017 on a strong note, with employers in January adding 9,700 jobs and the jobless rate dropping to 5.1%, according to data released by the Employment Development Department.

January was a banner month for the country -- which gained a net 227,000 new jobs. But California continued its years-long trend of outpacing the national economy in job growth, piling on jobs at a year-over-year rate of 2%, faster than the national rate of 1.6%.

Posted by orrinj at 3:15 PM


White House: Keystone exempt from 'Buy American' requirements (BEN LEFEBVRE, 03/02/17, Politico)

The Keystone XL Pipeline will not be subject to President Donald Trump's executive order requiring infrastructure projects to be built with American steel, a White House spokeswoman said today.

Posted by orrinj at 3:04 PM


This company 3D-printed an adorable house in 24 hours (Rachel Kaser, 3/03/17, Next Web)

A 3D-printing company managed to build a star-shaped house on-site in just one day.

The cheery yellow dwelling is tiny -- just 400 square feet -- and circular in layout. The company -- San Francisco-based Apis Cor --  built the house from a concrete mixture which it says lasts around 175 years. [...]

Complete costs for the house's construction? $10,134.

Posted by orrinj at 2:58 PM


Sen. Jeff Sessions backs Donald Trump on Russia policy (Mary Troyan, 8/15/16, USA Today)

"I think an argument can be made there is no reason for the U.S. and Russia to be at this loggerheads," Sessions said. "Somehow, someway, we ought to be able to break that logjam."

Other GOP leaders - and President Obama's administration -- say there are plenty of valid reasons for the loggerheads.

In addition to annexing Crimea in Ukraine, Russia sent military aid to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country's civil war; provided asylum to Edward Snowden, who is wanted on espionage charges; is widely believed to be responsible for the hacking of Democratic National Committee computers; and has sharply restricted freedoms for independent journalists. And the head of NATO has accused Russia and Assad of "weaponizing migration" in an effort to destabilize Europe.

Yet Trump - and Sessions - insist  a Trump presidency can and should de-escalate tensions between the two world powers.

It is a contrast from Sessions' 19-year Senate record of calling Russia an untrustworthy adversary to be dealt with via massive military strength, not negotiation.

In a Montgomery speech in March 2014, for example, he called for international scorn toward Russia for its aggressive actions in Ukraine and, before then, Georgia.

"I believe a systematic effort should be undertaken so that Russia feels pain for this," Sessions said then. "Because if you don't act now to make some sanctions against Russia then why will they believe in the future that we're going to impose sanctions or do anything aggressive if they move forward to take all of Ukraine, all of Georgia?"

Trump Takes on The Blob (SUSAN B. GLASSER March/April 2017, Politico)

Up in New York at the United Nations, new Ambassador Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, had asked a bunch of the career officials to stay on, and they had started giving her briefings on how to talk tough to the Russians about their takeover of Ukrainian territory and other matters, I was told. Then the minders from the Trump "beachhead team" at Foggy Bottom found out about it; no way, they said, overruling Haley: They're out.

Posted by orrinj at 12:33 PM


California Nonprofit May Have Violated Tax Law By Donating to Anti-Muslim, Far-Right Dutch Candidate (Lee Fang, March 3 2017, The Intercept)
THE DAVID HOROWITZ FREEDOM CENTER, a controversial California-based nonprofit that sponsors virulently anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant campaigns in the U.S., has quietly played a prominent role in financing Dutch far-right nationalist Geert Wilders's People's Party for Freedom (PVV). The PVV's platform calls for an end to Muslim immigration and the closing down of mosques and Islamic schools in the Netherlands -- and polls suggest it may win the largest number of seats in the Netherland's parliamentary elections this month.

By providing grants to the PVV, the Freedom Center, which operates as aa 501(c)3 nonprofit, may have violated IRS tax rules that prohibit tax-exempt charitable groups from funding overt political campaign activity.

Former IRS tax officials who spoke to The Intercept also note that the Freedom Center failed to disclose the grants to Wilders's political party in its annual tax return, another potential violation of the law. Nonprofit groups' tax returns are public documents.

Posted by orrinj at 12:25 PM


To make better computers, researchers look to microbiology (Eva Botkin-Kowacki, MARCH 2, 2017, CS Monitor)

Computer engineers have created some amazingly small devices, capable of storing entire libraries of music and movies in the palm of your hand. But geneticists say Mother Nature can do even better.

DNA, where all of biology's information is stored, is incredibly dense. The whole genome of an organism fits into a cell that is invisible to the naked eye.

That's why computer scientists are turning to microbiology to design the next best way to store humanity's ever-increasing collection of digital data.

With every new app, selfie, blog post, or cat video, the hardware to store the world's vast archive of digital information is filling up. But, theoretically, DNA could store up to 455 exabytes per gram. In other words, you could have 44 billion copies of the extended versions of all three of The Lord of the Rings movies on the tip of your finger. 

Posted by orrinj at 12:11 PM


When the Fed screws up, recessions follow (Christopher Matthews, 3/03/17, Axios))

Early 80s: These two recessions were triggered by Fed Chair Paul Volcker's extreme interest-rate increases aimed at taming one of the worst bouts of inflation in modern American history.

Early 90s: Fed funds rates were also rising in the months leading up to the recession; but one can also argue the culprit was the runup in oil prices that resulted from the Gulf War, sapping spending power and consumer confidence.

Early aughts: The Federal Reserve began raising rates as the dot com bubble expanded during the late nineties, and raised rates steadily from the winter of 1999 through the fall of 2000 in an attempt to cool an overheating economy. By March 2001, the economy was in recession.

The Great Recession: The housing bubble was certainly a culprit of the 2008-2009 recession, but many blame the Federal Reserve as well. Bush Administration monetary economist Scott Sumner thinks the Fed should have moved much more quickly to lower interest rates in the months leading up to the recession, and could have possibly avoided the recession altogether if they had.

Once Volcker, Thatcher and Reagan broke inflation in the early '80's, the subsequent hikes have been into the teeth of deflation, which is always disastrous.  Of course, the economy is so strong and the rate hikes so nakedly political, rather than ideological, that the Fed has been able to bail immediately and only the 2008 recession may be measured as one eventually. And even that would have been avoided had the House GOP not rebelled against the Bush bailout.

Posted by orrinj at 7:22 AM


Iowa Pol's Bio Changed After 'Sizzler U' Discrepancy Emerges (CORKY SIEMASZKO, 3/02/17, NBC)
An Iowa lawmaker who is pushing a controversial bill that caps the number of Democrats that state universities can hire as professors claimed on a government website that he got a "business degree" from the "Forbco Management school."

But State Sen. Mark Chelgren's alleged alma mater is actually a company that operated a Sizzler steak house franchise in southern California and he doesn't have a "degree," Ed Failor, a spokesman for the Iowa State Republicans, told NBC News.

Running a restaurant is probably as good a preparation as getting an MBA.

Posted by orrinj at 7:00 AM


George W. Bush Isn't Mad at Will Ferrell, His TV Counterpart (GIOVANNI RUSSONELLO, MARCH 3, 2017, NY Times)

George W. Bush carefully avoided taking any shots at President Trump on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" on Thursday. But the 43rd president did set himself apart from the 45th in one conspicuous way: He laughed at himself.

While Alec Baldwin's impersonation of Mr. Trump on "Saturday Night Live" seems to have gotten under Mr. Trump's skin, Mr. Bush fondly remembered Will Ferrell's take on him.

"I had dinner with Lorne Michaels, the head of 'Saturday Night Live,' and he said, 'I put a great speechwriter on you, and he came up with "strategery."' And I said, 'Wait a minute, I said "strategery."' And he said, 'No, you didn't say "strategery."' I said, 'I damn sure said "strategery."' He said, 'We invented it.' I said, 'Well, let me ask you this: Did he come up with 'misunderestimate?'"

Posted by orrinj at 6:44 AM


How much longer can Republicans defend Trump over Russia? (Paul Waldman, Mar. 3rd, 2017, The Week)

We should say that it's possible that Sessions' conversations with the ambassador were perfectly innocent, even if one has to wonder why he would deny that they had occurred if that were the case. And it's possible that there was nothing wrong with Michael Flynn's contacts with the ambassador, or the money he got from Russian state television. And there may be a reasonable explanation for why Trump campaign officials suddenly softened the Republican platform's language about Russia during the GOP convention. And there may be nothing wrong with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort's work for a pro-Russian strongman in Ukraine, or with Trump associate Roger Stone's contacts with WikiLeaks about hacked DNC emails, or with the Russian ties of Trump Cabinet members like Rex Tillerson and Wilbur Ross. And maybe Trump's people had absolutely nothing to do with all the Russian hacking that was meant to help him get elected. And perhaps no Republicans were involved in the Russian hacking of Democratic congressional candidates, even though Republicans, including a PAC with ties to none other than Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, then used the information from the hacks to attack their opponents (bet you forgot about that one).

Might it even be possible that there's nothing more to be learned about Trump and Russia, that there are no secrets lying within this web of denial and obfuscation, that it's all above board and ethical? Sure -- anything's possible. But given everything that we do know, that seems rather unlikely.

So imagine you're a Republican member of Congress. You already had to make a whole bunch of moral compromises to get behind this president. But you decided it was worth it, both because there are so many conservative initiatives you'd like to see a Republican president sign, and because you despised Hillary Clinton so deeply.

But now every day, you have to decide anew: How far am I willing to go to protect this president and this administration? The answer for any politician is: only as far as it remains to my advantage, both in terms of the policies I want and my own political survival.

But the pressure is growing. 

...where the average congressman considers what's in it for him if, having run ahead of Donald in his district, he defends the president over stuff he disagrees with personally, when a weakened Executive will just transfer more power to the Republican majority on the Hill? It is cold political calculus that is fatal to Donald.

Posted by orrinj at 6:31 AM


5G, which promises blistering download speeds, is coming soon (Edward Baig, 3/03/17, USA TODAY)

What pretty much everyone agrees on is that this next generation of wireless, when it finally does arrive, will have a broad impact  beyond fast phones -- from self-driving cars to remote surgery.

"5G is the enabler of what I would call the connected society that today's current technology wasn't engineered to handle," John Stankey, CEO of the AT&T Entertainment Group.

Laxdal of Ericsson places 5G into three broad categories. The first is what he calls "critical" machine tech communications, where you're remotely controlling something that needs to be precisely and securely managed over the air. This could be remote control surgery, remote control mining, self-driving vehicles.

A second category is for practically every other connected machine or thing: wind turbines, jet engines, connected water, connected vineyards.

And the third is mobile broadband. Indeed, all the experts expect apps to emerge that will exploit the increased broadband on your phone, for business use and for play. Think augmented reality, virtual reality, game and entertainment.

Posted by orrinj at 6:11 AM


At some point, Patriots need to pay up (Karen Guregian, March 03, 2017, Boston Herald)

The Patriots are going to have to overpay if they want to keep their best free agents.

Why would anyone ever have to overpay for completely fungible goods?

Posted by orrinj at 6:03 AM


Jeff Sessions was a leading Russia hawk. Then he signed on with Donald Trump. (Sarah Wildman  Mar 2, 2017, Vox)
[W]hat makes the apparently friendly meetings so remarkable isn't simply that they are now at the center of another Trump-Russia scandal. It's that Sessions, for nearly 20 years, was considered among the most reliably hard-line of Russia hawks in the Senate.

That position began to change as the Alabama senator moved closer to candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 election cycle. By the time he was fully a member of the Trump team, Sessions had changed his messaging on Russia so notably that it became a point of reportorial interest, with USA Today noting that his "tough talk about the threat Russia poses to the U.S. and its allies in Europe" had "undergone some revisions."

The news of Sessions's meetings with the Russian ambassador raises serious ethical and legal question because it directly contradicted his own testimony in January during his Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for attorney general.

But it also raises a set of broader and more explosive questions: What changed for Jeff Sessions when he entered Trump's orbit that turned him from a Russia hawk into someone eager to do business with the Kremlin? And what does all this coziness between Trump administration surrogates and Moscow mean for US policy, the election, and the country?

There's a lot of that going around : folks on the right who suddenly approve of Putin and/or cuddling with him after years of denouncing him.

Posted by orrinj at 5:18 AM


Chance the Rapper, Christianity, and Blackness (Ernest Ezeugo, 3/02/17, New America)

Sitting on a barstool in front of Jamila Woods, Donnie Trumpet, the Social Experiment, and an all-black church choir, Chance gave a performance of "Sunday Candy" that was slower and more deliberate than the mixtape version. He told us of his grandmother and her love, of Christmas dinners, and of Sundays at church, all wrapped in the harmonies of Jamila Woods and the church choir's refrain. The link between Chance's grandmother and religion--the clear theme of the performance--carried the rapper to the end of the song, where he stood up began freestyling to the musical collective's now spirited improvisation. It was at this point during the performance that he name-dropped Jason Van Dyke, an officer charged with the murder of Laquan McDonald, before finishing an impressive flow and bringing an end to the performance.

You don't have to read between the lines to get the point: Chance wasn't afraid to go onto a stage as wildly popular as SNL's and be his authentic self--and this included rapping about his Christianity.

The performance did more than signal the trajectory of Chance's musical evolution: It gave us insight into his unique brand of Christianity. It isn't the stuff of coffee shop devotionals and megachurches. It's not practiced in weekday young adult services. It isn't hipster holiness, either; it doesn't aspire to be cool or convenient, but vital. It looks like a grandmother, descended from slaves, at a black church in her Sunday best. And it's precious and resilient in the same way an heirloom is. Chance's religion is inextricably linked to blackness through family and community, and to an enduring hope through the uniquely black suffering that necessitates it.

In Chance's music, the themes of Christianity, blackness, and hope/joy take many forms. Sometimes they are bound together brilliantly in a single line like in "How Great" ("Good God, the gift of freedom/Hosanna Santa invoked and woke up slaves from Southampton to Chatham Manor"). Other times one of the themes stands out above the others, like in the joyful anthem "No Problem." But seldom are they ever separated.

That last part is important. Like a number of other rap artists who have brought Christianity to the forefront of their art, Chance finds his songs co-opted by mainstream Christian thought, particularly by young Christians who appreciate that he is unafraid to praise God in front of large audiences. But this praise is often absent of depth, crumbling when it is confronted with nuance. For example, the idea of rejecting rap as art but loving what Chance does is flawed--if you don't like rap and its complexities, his message isn't made for you. If you find yourself reflexively saying "actually, all lives matter" any time someone says that black lives matter, or asking "well, what about black-on-black crime" whenever someone talks about police brutality, but then cheer on Chance because he mentioned God at the Grammys, you're deluding yourself. Of course, just because it is not made for everyone does not mean that everyone can't acknowledge it. But giving Chance's Christianity nuance is important for whom it reaches.

Mainstream Christian writers and magazines tend to celebrate Chance's gospel as a phenomenon of evangelism that has seeped its way into spaces where it has not traditionally been welcome. The truth, however, is that Chance's gospel is just as powerful for an increasing number of Christian millennials finding it harder and harder not to join their religiously unaffiliated peers. The complexity of Chance's Christianity puts it at odds with the shifting--and arguably deteriorating--landscape of mainstream Christian thought. For disenchanted Christian millennials--specifically those of color--Chance's profound faith is a reminder that there is a place where we belong, because it was made for us, labored over for us, bled over for us, no matter what the rest of it looks like.

Posted by orrinj at 5:10 AM


Report: Pence used a private email account as governor (Al Jazeera, 3/03/17)

Vice President Mike Pence used a private email account to conduct public business as Indiana's governor, according to public records obtained by the Indianapolis Star.

The newspaper reported on Thursday that emails provided through a public records request show that Pence communicated with advisers through his personal AOL account on homeland security matters and security at his residence during his four years as governor.

The governor also faced email security issues.

Pence's AOL account was subjected to a phishing scheme last spring, before he was chosen by Donald Trump to join the GOP presidential ticket.