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Comment: Re:Elude observation? (Score 1) 150

by amorsen (#49632893) Attached to: 17-Year-Old Radio Astronomy Mystery Traced Back To Kitchen Microwave

They did not spend millions of dollars looking for the microwave oven, and they knew all along that the signal was man-made. Figuring out precisely which item made it is the kind of thing that gets you in the newspapers, so they did a little PR stunt.

Their usual work changes our understanding of the universe but does not have a chance to make it into the mainstream news. Can you begrudge them their 15 minutes of fame?

Comment: Re:Never happen (Score 1) 434

by Overzeetop (#49632831) Attached to: The Medical Bill Mystery

If they do (and it's unlikely as there's a *lot* of legacy that stays in the tax code regardless of changes for future options), having a Roth is no worse than having a regular savings account. Actually, its better because all of the gains and dividends are tax free while they're in the account. Worst case is you roll it into a non-retirement account and pay taxes on the gains, probably on an extended time frame for capture.

Comment: Re:Seventeen years? (Score 1) 150

Yeah, but it always happened when they were gone...it was like those god damned aliens *waited* until lunch time to pull their stunt, and no matter how fast the scientists rushed to get back - sometimes not even waiting until the food was done - it always happened right before they got back. ;-)

(btw - I naturally didn't rtfa, but if they worked odd shifts from time to time it would have show up occasionally during non-work hours, throwing them off.)

Comment: Re:Vaginosis/Vaginitis Plus (Score 2) 434

by tlambert (#49630475) Attached to: The Medical Bill Mystery

This is trivial, given that there are only a couple of federated diagnostic testing services in her area.

Looks like a bacterial infection of some kind, although they also checked for Pappilomavirus, two other STDs, and a fungal yeast infection, BVAB2, and strep.

87481 SureSwab ®, Vaginosis/Vaginitis Plus
87481 SureSwab ®, Bacterial Vaginosis/Vaginitis

87491 SureSwab ®, Vaginosis/Vaginitis Plus
87491 SureSwab ®, CT/NG, T. vaginalis
87491 Chlamydia/Neisseria gonorrhoeae, T. vaginalis, Qualitative, TMA and HSV 1/2 DNA, Real-Time PCR, Pap Vial
87491 Chlamydia/N. gonorrhoeae and T. vaginalis RNA, Qualitative, TMA, Pap Vial

87798 SureSwab ®, Trichomonas vaginalis RNA, Qualitative, TMA
87798 SureSwab ®, Vaginosis/Vaginitis Plus
87798 SureSwab ®, CT/NG, T. vaginalis
87798 Trichomonas vaginalis RNA, Qualitative, TMA, PAP Vial
87798 Chlamydia/N. gonorrhoeae and T. vaginalis RNA, Qualitative, TMA, Pap Vial
87798 Chlamydia/Neisseria gonorrhoeae, T. vaginalis, Qualitative, TMA and HSV 1/2 DNA, Real-Time PCR, Pap Vial

MEDICAL DIAGNOSTIC LABORATORIES, L.L.C.
105 Chlamydia trachomatis
127 Group B Streptococcus (GBS)
164 Bacterial Vaginosis Associated Bacteria 2 (BVAB2)

These are probably not test codes that she should have published, given their sensitive nature.

I do agree with her assertion that medical billing is kind of terrible.

On the other hand, they intentionally make billing and coding as difficult as possible so that the doctors office has to correctly code it to the insurance companies liking before they are obligated to pay. Usually a medical office will try a couple of times, and then give up if they don't hit pay dirt, and just send the bill to the patient, and let them argue with the insurance company long enough to damage their credit for non-payment, or pay it out of pocket to save their credit.

HMOs are absolutely the worst for this, followed by PPOs.

I would have much preferred a single payer system, like Richard Nixon wanted (he was the first president to propose a national health care system), rather than the TARP III bailout for the insurance companies which we ended up getting with the ACA.

Comment: Re:Problem, Reaction, Solution... (Score 1) 176

by IamTheRealMike (#49630085) Attached to: French Version of 'Patriot Act' Becomes Law

You hardly need to be mentally ill to reach this conclusion. Sure, it's not like there's a grand master plan nailed to a wall somewhere. But to conclude governments helped create this situation all you need to do is read about the background of the attackers. Their radicalisation started due to the US invasion of Iraq. When the attackers tried to go to Iraq to fight against the occupation they were arrested and thrown in prison, where they met a radical Islamist.

No war? Probably the chain of events that led to the attack would never have happened. Our governments will continue to be in denial about this because politicians feel they should be able to engage in arbitrary foreign "policy" (i.e. invasions, occupations, picking winners in regional conflicts) without any kind of repercussions or blowback at all. When reality refuses to go along with this notion they claim it's an outrage and the solution is to record more telephone calls.

From the article:

The Buttes-Chaumont group’s jihadi aspirations were directly linked to the second Iraq war in 2003. They would sit in apartments watching footage of the US-led invasion. “Everything I saw on TV, the torture in Abu Ghraib prison, all that, that’s what motivated me,” one of Kouachi’s friends told their trial.

But under Jacques Chirac, France had refused to intervene in the Iraq war and the young cell’s stance wasn’t really a movement against the French state. It was more a rage directed against the US. Some of the group stated that jihad wasn’t done in France. The focal point was fighting a foreign invader in Iraq.

“They were the pioneers of French jihadiism,” said Jacques Follorou, a journalist at Le Monde and author of the book Democracy under Control, the Posthumous Victory of Bin Laden, about security issues

A bit later in the same article ....

Kouachi, who scraped a living delivering for El Primo Pizza on the other side of the ring-road that serves as a moat around Paris, was arrested in January 2005 on his way to catch a flight to Damascus, believed to be ultimately heading for Iraq ..... He got a relatively light prison sentence, three years with 18 months suspended, as there was little hard evidence against him except a plane ticket for Damascus.

After his arrest while trying to fly to Damascus in 2005, Kouachi was on remand in the notorious Fleury-Mérogis prison south of Paris, a super-size decaying concrete mega-jail, which is Europe’s largest prison ..... He added that when the young men were arrested and held on remand before their case in 2008, prison gave them access to a universe never known before. “If the Butte-Chaumonts was an informal school of jihad, prison was the superior diploma.”

....

One of the prisoners involved in publicising the terrible conditions [in the prison] was Amédy Coulibaly. He was an armed robber on his third sentence, this time for robbery, receiving stolen goods and using false number plates. Coulibaly met Kouachi inside the prison and they became close during seven months on the same wing – prisoners from similar backgrounds and affinity were kept together on the same blocks, which allowed them to convene. Less than a decade later, Coulibaly joined the Kouachis in last week’s terrorist attacks .... In prison together, Kouachi and Coulibaly found not only friendship but a mentor who radicalised them

Comment: Re:They don't often don't even know (Score 1) 434

by Overzeetop (#49629973) Attached to: The Medical Bill Mystery

I asked about a procedure with my ENT a while back. He actually didn't know the total cost (though it was fairly common). He thought his fees would be in the 2k range, but he didn't know what the hospital would charge for a few hours of a room, operating theater, and support. So I called the hospital - and they didn't know either.

Comment: Re:Not law yet (Score 1) 176

by IamTheRealMike (#49629929) Attached to: French Version of 'Patriot Act' Becomes Law

I also use Gandi but only for DNS. As far as I can tell there's not much useful that intelligence agencies could do with that, except get IPs of ISP resolvers that are looking up the names. So I will probably leave things be for now. But I wouldn't buy any other more critical services from them. Shame - seems like a good company.

Comment: Re:the rigamarole is political, not diplomatic (Score 5, Informative) 156

by IamTheRealMike (#49629885) Attached to: Extreme Secrecy Eroding Support For Trans-Pacific Partnership

Yep. These things don't seem to be as complex as you'd imagine.

When the Doha round failed at the WTO, lots of trade negotiators gave up. They thought it was hopeless. Eventually they narrowed the scope dramatically and produced a new deal (the Bali round) on reducing red tape imposed on importers/exporters. It was one of those "negotiators up until early hours of the morning, multi-day cramfest" kind of things. So I figured it'd be some horribly complex document I'd need years of legal training to understand.

Lol, nope. The agreement is here. The requirements are unbelievably trivial. Some of the things agreed to are, for instance, that import rules should be available on the internet, and if they change whilst a ship is sailing, the rules at the time of departure apply not the time of arrival. Other rules specify that when governments make decisions they should actually be issued in writing, and ports should do customs inspections on perishable goods before non-perishable.

The mind-numbing obviousness of what was agreed is sad. Reading it is quite depressing as it makes you realise how hopelessly inept and corrupt some countries must be.

Apparently one of the reasons the Doha round failed was an inability to agree on what units to use when weighing things. I mean seriously, wtf?

These things don't seem to justify the elaborate theatre that goes into them.

Comment: Re:What has been leaked is not encouraging either (Score 1) 156

by IamTheRealMike (#49629753) Attached to: Extreme Secrecy Eroding Support For Trans-Pacific Partnership

Yes. It has to be this way. Otherwise investor-state dispute settlement is meaningless.

ISDS gets a bad rap. Let's review why it's there. In the best case, governments are elected by local citizens. In the worst case they're just totalitarian dictatorships who stick around until they get overthrown in a revolution. In both cases, governments still care more about their local people than foreigners, who typically have no power at all.

In a world that gets ever more connected and in which peopl rely on "foreigners" ever more, this can cause big problems. Governments are strongly incentivised to be nice to foreigners until they're invested deeply enough in a country that they can't easily get out, and then start whacking them / exploiting them / taxing the bejeezus out of them / generally changing the rules of the game after it's started and screwing them over. For example, what stops a government just seizing a foreign companies factories and then selling it to a local competitor? Well, nothing. What incentivises them to do that? Money. Power. Lots of things, really. That company will slowly pull out of the country and other companies would be put off from investing in the first place, but that's a slow and largely invisible process that local citizens won't notice. On the other hand beating up foreigners and claiming they're yukky and inferior is always a good way to score political points.

There's a nice idea floating around that governments and regulators are never unfair and only ever act against companies that deserve it. Only people who have never watched the regulatory process in action would really believe this, but even if you do, consider that many countries are not as saintly as your own. Arbitrary confiscation of assets is a real problem in large parts of the world. There's always some nice sounding excuse, of course - the dirty foreigners weren't up to our exacting local standards, or they were playing the system, or whatever. Sometimes the complaint may be legitimate, but sometimes it's just opportunism.

Regardless, the end result is the same: less foreign investment, which is another way of saying, less international collaboration on complex projects. We like international collaboration, don't we? Integrated economies are less likely to declare war on each other. We like the advanced technology it enables, like smartphones with components from dozens of countries around the world. We like the wealth it generates.

So .... ISDS. The idea is simple. Governments are free to change the rules of the game after it's started in any arbitrary or unfair way they like. They can continue to treat foreign companies as disposable assets. But .... they have to pay for it. If a company starts on a 4-year factory construction project with a 10 year payoff horizon, and after two years the local government decides that a new 95% tax should be applied to that precise industry whereas before there was none, then this is confiscation of assets and under the treaty, the state has to compensate the investor. This should (in theory) radically reduce the risk of foreign investment by smoothing out unpredictable business environments, and thus lead to more investment/collaboration.

If ISDS didn't at least try to include potential future earnings then it'd be much less effective, because the risk would still be very large. If the factory was nationalised and the business was relying on it as part of its business plan, then it'd potentially get a chunk of money for the physical assets but now it's got to start all over again and is four years behind its competitors, potentially fatally wounding it.

ISDS has plenty of downsides as well. Notably, that local citizens rather like being able to tax and seize stuff from foreigners - it looks a lot like free money which is a short term pleasure hit, whereas the long term rot of becoming an unattractive place to do business is much harder to reason about. So ISDS is always a rather hard sell in democracies, for similar reasons as political fixes to climate change are ...

Comment: Re:nonsense (Score 5, Interesting) 434

by IamTheRealMike (#49629603) Attached to: The Medical Bill Mystery

Health care is socialism, even in the USA, so pussyfooting around and pretending it's not just gets you the worst of all worlds.

It's inherently the case that medical care is socialist because in any civilised society, the idea that someone dies of a preventable illness just because they're poor is unacceptable. Wealth comes and goes, illness is random. Even rich people would not accept stepping over bodies of people who just dropped dead in the street because they couldn't get basic medical care. Even rich people would not accept their child being infected with TB because they happened to wander into a ghetto of poor people where disease was rampant, and even rich people do not accept the idea that if in a couple of decades when their awesome corporation has been outcompeted in the market, bought by a competitor and they were then fired, that they might be left to rot at home, being eaten by a treatable cancer.

The moment a society accepts that someone who turns up at ER with an injury gets treated even if they can't afford it, that country has accepted a socialist idea. America has accepted that idea, which is why hospitals have to provide emergency care to even uninsured people and they pay for it by effectively taxing people who need other kinds of work. At that point you don't have a free market any more - free markets are not defined by customers who cannot negotiate and governments that step in to pay whatever price is demanded at the last second. So you might as well go all-in and just get it over with.

People often argue that this would result in no accountability and the like, but the example of the UK seems to show otherwise. The NHS (national health service) is always a huge factor in elections. Politicians fight over who is best for the NHS constantly. In America politicians try and motivate voters by painting their opposition as weak on the war on terror. In the UK they motivate voters by claiming the opposition is engaged in a war on the NHS. Yes, the accountability is very top down and hardly local - it's a flawed system in many ways. But at least the UK calls a spade a spade.

The usual arguments as to why

Comment: Re:Never happen (Score 3, Insightful) 434

by Overzeetop (#49629385) Attached to: The Medical Bill Mystery

MSAs (medical savings accounts) already exist, but are limited to people who choose HDHPs (high deductable health plans, with special limits) and to about $3k/yr for singles and $6k/yr for families. It's your money, going pre-tax into your savings/investment account and able to be withdrawn for medical uses tax free. It's not federal government.

What we need is a way to ensure that services are not billed to private clients (individuals) for more than large corporate clients (insurers). If I pay cash for a procedure, I shouldn't be charged 5-10X what I would be charged if I were insured.

Comment: Re:Teamsters (Score 1) 200

by Overzeetop (#49629135) Attached to: Self-Driving Big Rigs Become a Reality

"Mind you, I'm not advocating that we halt technological progress, but we're coming up on a time when there just aren't going to be enough jobs to go around, and the economy is going to have to adjust for that in a way that rewards people who work but doesn't starve people who want to work but can't find jobs."

I've been saying this for years (decades, really). In the 1970s it was said we'd all be working a 10 hour work week. Except that humans are regularly willing to trade 40-50 hours a week in return for [more] pay [than their peers] and as a result the number of jobs is dropping. Couple that with the ability of computers and robotics to take over a large swath of jobs at the "bottom" of the workforce and there's going to be a reckoning at some point.

We cannot command nature except by obeying her. -- Sir Francis Bacon

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