26 July 2017

Ahhh ……… The Glories of the Free Market

Hospitals have had problems with staffing their emergency rooms, and have taken to contracting with a company called EmCare.

The result has been exorbitant fees charged by out of network doctors:
Early last year, executives at a small hospital an hour north of Spokane, Wash., started using a company called EmCare to staff and run their emergency room. The hospital had been struggling to find doctors to work in its E.R., and turning to EmCare was something hundreds of other hospitals across the country had done.

That’s when the trouble began.

Before EmCare, about 6 percent of patient visits in the hospital’s emergency room were billed for the most complex, expensive level of care. After EmCare arrived, nearly 28 percent got the highest-level billing code.

On top of that, the hospital, Newport Hospital and Health Services, was getting calls from confused patients who had received surprisingly large bills from the emergency room doctors. Although the hospital had negotiated rates for its fees with many major health insurers, the EmCare physicians were not part of those networks and were sending high bills directly to the patients. For a patient needing care with the highest-level billing code, the hospital’s previous physicians had been charging $467; EmCare’s charged $1,649.

“The billing scenario, that was the real fiasco and caught us off guard,” said Tom Wilbur, the chief executive of Newport Hospital. “Hindsight being 20/20, we never would have done that.” Faced with angry patients, the hospital took back control of its coding and billing.

Newport’s experience with EmCare, now one of the nation’s largest physician-staffing companies for emergency rooms, is part of a pattern. A study released Monday by researchers at Yale found that the rate of out-of-network doctor’s bills for customers of one large insurer jumped when EmCare entered a hospital. The rates of tests ordered and patients admitted from the E.R. into a hospital also rose, though not as much. The use of the highest billing code increased.

………

In the study, the researchers examined nearly nine million visits made to emergency rooms run by a variety of companies between 2011 and 2015, using data from a single insurance company that does business in every state. In exchange for access, the researchers agreed not to identify the insurer. Insurers and health care providers typically sign contracts forbidding them to reveal the prices they have agreed to, and the national trends in surprise billing detected by the Yale team are consistent with a broader study by government researchers.

The new data suggests that EmCare, part of publicly traded Envision Healthcare, did not sign contracts with the insurance company and was able to charge higher prices.

Fiona Scott Morton, a professor at the Yale School of Management and a co-author of the paper, described the strategy as a “kind of ambushing of patients.” A patient who goes to the emergency room can look for a hospital that takes her insurance, but she almost never gets to choose the doctor who treats her.
This actually highlights a flaw in Obamacare:  Whatever protection you have goes away when you get out of network services.

The larger picture is that for-profit healthcare is inefficient and morally bankrupt.

Adventures in Inventive Protests

Protesters in Minneapolis have put up street signs warning people that the local police are easily startled:
Joe Morino brought an incredulous friend to see the orange street sign he just spotted in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis.

The official-looking metal sign read: “WARNING: TWIN CITIES POLICE EASILY STARTLED.” It featured a graphic silhouette of a police officer, a gun in each raised hand, shooting in both directions.

“There’s a side of truth to the sign,” Morino said after snapping a picture of it. “That tells you there is something wrong with the system.”

The sign, which was still up at 8 p.m. Sunday, was one of at least two seen in the Twin Cities Sunday.

A photo of the same sign, reportedly near the corner of Snelling and University avenues in St. Paul, circulated Sunday on social media. A Facebook post said that sign later was removed.

Each was screwed into upright metal posts in the same fashion as conventional street signs.

The signs reference the killing of Justine Damond just over a week ago by Minneapolis police officer Mohamed Noor. Noor’s partner, Matthew Harrity, told the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension that he heard a loud sound right before Noor fired his gun, hitting Damond.
Do not underestimate the power of mockery.

Worst Defense Attorney Lawyers Ever

Today in complete moral and intellectual bankruptcy, counsel for the psychologists designed the CIA torture program are attempting to defend themselves against a civil suit by comparing themselves to the manufacturer of Zyklon-B, whose product was used in Nazi death camps:
As the recently departed White House press secretary demonstrated earlier this year, making comparisons to the Nazi regime’s murderous use of poison gas is rarely a good idea. That’s one reason it was so surprising that ahead of a crucial court hearing this week, defense lawyers for the two psychologists behind the CIA’s torture program compared their clients to the contractors who supplied the Nazis with Zyklon B, the poison gas used at Auschwitz and other concentration camps to murder millions of Jews and other prisoners in the Holocaust.

Psychologists James Mitchell and John “Bruce” Jessen were the architects of the CIA’s torture program. Now, in a groundbreaking lawsuit, three survivors and victims of the torture program are seeking to hold Mitchell and Jessen accountable.

This Friday in federal court in Spokane, Washington, Mitchell and Jessen’s lawyers will argue that they can’t be held responsible for their actions. In an extraordinary legal filing, Mitchell and Jessen claim they aren’t legally responsible to the people hurt by their methods because they “simply did business with the CIA pursuant to their contracts.”

A key part of Mitchell and Jessen’s argument hinges on the claim that poison gas manufacturers weren’t held responsible by a British military tribunal for providing the Nazis with the gas because the Nazi government, not contractors, had final say on whether to use it. They argue that they are like a corporate gassing technician who was charged with and acquitted of assisting the Nazis because “even if [Mitchell and Jessen] played an integral part of the supply and use of” torture methods, they had no “influence” over the CIA’s decision to use them and can’t be accountable.

In fact, the Nuremberg tribunals that judged the Nazis and their enablers after World War II established the opposite rule: Private contractors are accountable when they choose to provide unlawful means for and profit from war crimes. In the same case that Mitchell and Jessen cite, the military tribunal found the owner of a chemical company that sold Zyklon B to the Nazis guilty — even though only the Nazis had final say on which prisoners would be gassed.

The military tribunal made clear that “knowingly to supply a commodity to a branch of the State which was using that commodity for the mass extermination of Allied civilian nationals was a war crime, and that the people who did it were war criminals for putting the means to commit the crime into the hands of those who actually carried it out.”
There is a saying among lawyers, "When the facts are on your side, pound the facts. When the law is on your side, pound the law. When neither is on you side, pound the table."

These sadistic psychologists are pounding the table here.

OK, This is Very Weird

It appears that a group of Congressional aides, most of them working for Debbie Wasserman Schultx in some capacity, and all of them originally from Pakistan, have been under criminal investigation, and one of Wasserman Schultz's aides was arrested trying to catch a flight to Pakistan: (Background stories going back to February here and here)
Imran Awan, a House staffer at the center of a criminal investigation potentially affecting dozens of Democratic lawmakers, has been arrested on a bank fraud charge and is prevented from leaving the country while the charge is pending.

A senior House Democratic aide confirmed Awan was still employed by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) as of Tuesday morning. But David Damron, a spokesman for Wasserman Schultz, later said that Awan was fired on Tuesday.


Awan pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to one count of bank fraud during his arraignment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Awan is accused of attempting to defraud the Congressional Federal Credit Union by obtaining a $165,000 home equity loan for a rental property, which is against the credit union’s policies since it is not the owner’s primary residence. Those funds were then included as part of a wire transfer to two individuals in Faisalabad, Pakistan.

Awan was arrested Monday evening at Dulles International Airport in Virginia before boarding a flight to Lahore, Pakistan. His wife, Hina Alvi, had earlier left the country for Pakistan, along with their children. Federal agents do not believe Alvi has any intention of returning to the U.S., according to a court document.

………

Awan, a longtime IT staffer who worked for more than two dozen House Democrats, has been at the center of a criminal investigation on Capitol Hill for months related to procurement theft. Several of his family members, also IT staffers at the time, were implicated in the ongoing investigation.

………

Alvi, another House staff member involved in the Capitol Hill investigation, left the country with their three daughters, headed for Pakistan, in March, according to an affidavit filed in the Awan case. Alvi had “numerous pieces of luggage” and more than $12,000 in cash, FBI agent Brandon Merriman wrote in the affidavit.
(emphasis mine)

The stories of he investigation at Politico go back to early February, which means that, unlike the claims made by Mr. Awan's lawyer, any investigation almost certainly began under the Obama administration.

There are also allegations of equipment and data theft, and these people worked for Democratic members of Congress for years.

This is f%$#ing weird, and I'm wondering if this is organized crime or some sort of ISI operation gone pear shaped.

Quote of the Day

%$#F% You, John McCain
The Rude Pundit
The whole thing is epic, but the following line bears a special note:
Besides, he gave us Sarah Palin, whose stupidity, vapidity, and cruelty arguably paved over the gravel road and made the ride easier for Donald Trump.

A Mixed Day for Voter Suppression

First, a Federal judge has ruled that Trump's voter suppression commission is not required to do a privacy review, allowing them to request data and make no real effort to protect personal data from hackers or other nefarious entities.

It appears that the judge found it irrelevant that the commision had already doxxed people who had made comments.
A federal judge on Monday allowed President Trump’s voting commission to go forward with seeking voter data from 50 states and the District, ruling that the White House advisory panel is exempt from federal privacy review requirements, whatever additional risk it might pose to Americans’ information.

The ruling averted a public setback for a president who has claimed that widespread fraud cost him the popular vote in November. The commission’s request for the voting information of more than 150 million registered voters remains controversial, with many state leaders from both parties voicing objections about its potential to reveal personal information, suppress voter participation and encroach on states’ oversight of voting laws.

The panel’s June 28 letter to the states requested that they turn over “publicly-available voter roll data,” including names, addresses, dates of birth, party registrations, partial Social Security numbers and voting, military, felony and overseas histories, among other data.
In related news, another Federal Judge just just approved sanctions against commission co-chair Kris Kobach for lying to the court:
A federal judge on Tuesday denied Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s request to reconsider a magistrate judge’s sanctions, finding Kobach has shown a pattern of misleading the court in a voting-rights case.
In a ruling issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson refused Kobach’s request to reconsider a $1,000 fine issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge James O’Hara, as well as O’Hara’s order that Kobach submit to a deposition in an ongoing case between the secretary of state and the American Civil Liberties Union over Kansas’ requirement of proof of citizenship for registered voters.

O’Hara sanctioned Kobach for misleading the court regarding the nature of voting-policy documents he was photographed with in a November meeting with President Donald Trump. The top sheet of the documents visibly showed suggested policy changes to the National Voter Registration Act which had been requested by the ACLU. After a review, O’Hara ordered Kobach to hand over the documents after finding them relevant to the case.

Kobach fought the order, arguing they were protected by Trump’s executive privilege and attorney-client privilege since an attorney in Kobach’s office had seen them. When he did hand them over, he marked the documents as confidential, a classification the ACLU is currently trying to overturn in an effort to make them public.

In her ruling, Robinson used three examples of Kobach’s previous behavior to chide him for habitually making misleading statements.
Heck of a commission there, huh.

Tweet of the Day



This is an inspired way to get ordinary folks to lobby their congressmen.

Linkage


Here is a PSA, Stop Emo Shaming: (I'm not gonna stop, but I am a bad person.)


25 July 2017

Cue New Labour Whining

Jeremy Corbyn has been saying that local constituencies should be able to select candidates by themselves, and the New Labour MPs who have been trying to overthrow him are having a freakout.

First, if you shoot at the king, don't miss, second, if your local constituency hates your flabby white ass, it's your own fault:
Jeremy Corbyn has opened the door to deselections of MPs critical of his leadership, by saying that it is a matter for local parties.

The Labour leader was asked about local activists' threats to overthrow Labour MPs they see as hostile to him.

Mr Corbyn told the BBC's Andrew Marr show: "I don't quite see why people should go to the party leader and say we want to influence what is happening in a constituency.

"The whole point of a democracy is that people decide."

………

The Labour leader was asked about reports that Tony Blair had personally intervened to prevent him being deselected by activists in his Islington North constituency when he was a backbencher.

Hilary Armstrong, who served as chief whip for five years of Mr Blair's premiership, recalled in an interview how Mr Corbyn's constituents had expressed concern that he was a serial rebel - voting against his party some 500 times - and tried to have him removed.

………

Talk of mandatory reselection of MPs was rife last year in areas where Momentum, the group of Corbyn supporters, was strong in local parties.

But Theresa May's decision to call an election at short notice meant the idea had to be dropped, and sitting MPs allowed to stand again.

………

Mr Corbyn said in 2015 when he became leader: "I wish to make it absolutely crystal clear that I do not support any changes to Labour's rules to make it easier to deselect sitting Labour MPs."

But last year, following a wave of resignations from his frontbench, he backed a "full and open selection process" in every seat.

Under the current rules, MPs can already be deselected if they lose a "trigger ballot" of the local party and affiliated groups.

The Labour leader's allies have called for a change in the rules, such as a requirement that 75% of members must support an MP for them to be reselected.
The Blairites are terrified because they realize that they are about as popular as a case of the clap, and if reselection (basically a local party caucus) were made routine, a lot of them would lose their jobs.

My heart bleeds borscht for those back-stabbing ratf%$#s.

They were actively trying to sabotage Labour in the last election in an attempt to take Corbyn down.

Drip, Drip, Drip

Something odd is going on in New York.

For reasons that are not clear to me, people are starting to go after Governor Andrew Cuomo, and I have no clue as to why.

Case in point, the CEO of the Western New York Fair just revealed that a Cuomo staffer attempted to delay cleanup at the fair after a tornado, because Cuomo wanted a telegenic platform for Cuomo to give a speech:
Call it a collision of politics and good old Western New York can-do attitude.

The cleanup after the tornado that struck the Erie County Fairgrounds was well under way Thursday afternoon when an aide to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo asked that the cleanup be delayed -- until after the governor arrived, fair CEO Dennis Lang said.

"I said, 'You're kidding, right?'"

Lang said he told a Cuomo aide who asked him to keep debris in the area where the press conference would be held. "I just turned around and walked away."

Lang said he did not know the name of the man who asked for a delay.

"After the ceremonial service was over, I haven't seen any of them, nor do I expect to see any tomorrow and the day after tomorrow," Lang said of state officials and National Guard, who were at the governor's news conference.

Cuomo's office denied it requested the cleanup be delayed.
This sort of request is actually not that uncommon, but it is notable that someone is calling out the Cuomo administration about this.

We're also seeing the finger on the New York City Subway problems being pointed at him. (IMNSHO correctly) 

It's long overdue, but I am unclear as to why it is happening now.

If anyone among my reader(s) has some analysis, please contact me.

I See What is Going On Here………

I have previously noted that Trump's new Communications Director Anthony "Mooch" Scaramucci bears a scary reselblance to the Boneitis guy from Futurama.

Well, the good folks at The Daily Show noticed something else, that Scaramucci's body language Parallels are rather striking: (The whole video is worth a watch, but the specific clip starts at 9:12)


At first, I found it profoundly creepy, and then I realized what it was, an exercise in sucking up to Trump.

He almost certainly practiced in front of a mirror, as a way to make "The Donald" feel comfortable.

I've actually found myself doing something similar occasionally, when I am dealing with Asian professionals.

I tend to mimic their body language that they use to show that I am listening attentively.

Mooch has simply taking it to an outrageous level, and he has almost certainly done so in a far more conscious and practiced way.

What it reveals is that Mr. Scaramucci is a remarkably accomplished and devoted suck up.

He's perfect for the Trump administration.

24 July 2017

Lipstick on a Pig

In an Op/Ed in the New York Times, corporatist Senator Chuck Shumer pretends to be populist while rolling out the latest Democratic Party slogan, "A Better Deal."

I'm a lifelong Democrat, and as I watch them vigorously recruit Blue Dogs and New Dems as candidates in 2018, I have little faith in them actually prosecuting policies that will actually promote a better life for the bottom 99%.

They are still to busy chasing rich people as candidates and donors.

I'm Surprised. He Is So Considerate of Women


Blake Farenthold (R-TX)
Blake Farenthold is upset that Republican women Senators have concerns about the latest incarnation of Trumpcare, so wants to shoot them:
Texas Representative Blake Farenthold wants to take some female Republican senators out back and shoot them for not repealing the Affordable Care Act and killing thousands of their fellow citizens.

Farenthold says it’s “absolutely repugnant” that the GOP-led Senate hasn’t acted on repealing the health care law, singling out “some female senators from the Northeast.”

Farenthold, in a radio interview with 1440 Keys, said the Senate has failed to show the courage to repeal Obamacare. The Senate is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to move ahead on legislation they haven't even released for review by the Senators voting on it.

Still, the fact that Farenthold doesn't know what is or isn't in the legislation didn't stop him from blaming the female Senators, who actually may have a problem with the wanton murder of thousands of Americans by robbing them of access to affordable health care.

“If it was a guy from south Texas, I might ask him to step outside and settle this Aaron Burr-style,” he blustered.
What a lovely fellow.

His mother should have drowned him at birth.

Quote of the Day

Any fascist regime deficient in either the means, the will, or the aptitude to censor, jail or terminate non-compliant members of the press & judiciary is doomed to fail.
gaia's voluptuous anvil
Cause for optimism.

Seriously, Get Your Head Out of Your Ass

The New York Times just published an Op/Ed titled, :‘Make It So’: ‘Star Trek’ and Its Debt to Revolutionary Socialism," that should never have made past the editors.

It conflates the original series and later incarnations over things like the existence of money, see the mention of prices in credits in The Trouble with Tribbles, and the statement that there is no money in the Federation in TNG & DS9.

Furthermore, the original was if anything a manifestation of John F. Kennedy's decidedly capitalistic "New Frontier."

The basic theory espoused in the article, that SF is frequently social commentary with socialist overtones, is so obvious as to be banal, but the execution, cloaked in layers of academic jargon, is incoherent and inaccurate.

Fail.

United Strikes Again

United notified passengers that they could not check check comic books in as luggage if they were flying to Comic Con in San Diego, because ……… Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The TSA released a statement that United Airlines had f%$#ed up: (Also here)
Don’t worry Comic-Con fans, you don’t have to remove your comic books from your checked luggage, despite what a Sunday photo circulated on Twitter suggests.

The dust-up began after a person named Adi Chappo tweeted the above, tagging United Airlines, which responded on Twitter:





But by Monday, the Transportation Security Administration was saying that no such restriction existed.



Lorie Dankers, a TSA spokeswoman, told Ars on Monday morning that she was mystified as to how United could get this policy wrong. “I don’t know how United went ahead and stated a TSA policy incorrectly,” she said. “I can say that TSA has advised in the past that if people bring several of the same type of item, it can alarm the checked baggage screening, but there is no prohibition on bringing things that are not a security threat. In this case, comic books are not a security threat and we encourage travelers to bring them if they so choose.”
Seriously, they make big bank on checked bags, so it takes a special type of incompetence to do this.

They are both inconveniencing the customer and losing money on the deal.

Adventures in Lame

I really got nothing to say that isn't in the headline:
Jason Chaffetz Wishes Congress Would Ask Chelsea Clinton Why She Did Benghazi
Please don't make me defend Hillary Clinton,

Linkage


Here is a very good animation of the functioning of the J-58 bypass turbojet used on the SR-71:

23 July 2017

Consider the Source

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) says that Democrats, not Russia, are to blame for Hillary Clinton’s loss to President Trump.

“When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — [James] Comey, Russia — you blame yourself,” Schumer said in an interview Saturday with The Washington Post.

“So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”Last year, much of the Democrats’ strategy hinged on criticism of Trump in hopes that the many controversies swirling around the GOP presidential candidate would damage down-ballot Republicans, a plan which largely failed.

In May, Clinton blamed former FBI Director Comey and Wikileaks for her election loss.
Hillary Clinton and her campaign apparatus never could ever explain why she was running for President, beyond that it was somehow her turn, which gave us ads where she wasn't mentioned, and Donald Trump as President.

Unfortunately, while Schumer has acknowledged that the election loss was the Democrats fault, the solution that he and Pelosi have put forward is a study in obtuseness, seeing it all as an issue with messaging, with no need to adjust policy:
“When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in an interview previewing the new plan. “So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) agreed, explaining in a separate interview that the new focus “is not a course correction, but it’s a presentation correction.”

But outside of Washington, some progressives worry that a focus on messaging has convinced Democrats that their policies were in no need of a rethink, while voters were crying out for more.
(emphasis mine)

Much like the Bourbon kings following Napoleon, "They have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing," could be the motto of the Democratic Party establishment.

The idea that everything is just ducky and can be fixed through better advertising is a dangerous delusion.

Bluck Fair

It appears that Tony Blair is doing the rounds with rich donors to stand up a "Moderate" political party if Corbyn actually tries to have Labour act like Labour:
A number of high-profile names have been linked to a new centre-left party dedicated to blocking Brexit.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has reportedly held talks with a number of wealthy individuals including Hull City owner Dr Assem Allam, who donated £700,000 to Labour under Ed Miliband.

Last November, emails revealed than Virgin boss Branson was willing to bankroll a campaign to derail Brexit, which had also received the backing of a host of businesses, communications firms and celebrities including Bob Geldof.


Branson has donated to former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg’s pro-EU Open Reason think tank, which he founded with fellow Remainer and multi millionaire Innocent drinks boss Richard Reed. Billionaire businessman George Soros is also a donor.

Labour MPs Chukka Umunna and David Lammy’s names were linked to the breakaway party, which also had the backing of Sir Clive Cowdery, an insurance millionaire who founded the Resolution Foundation think tank.

A source close to Sir Clive said: “There had been high-level discussions about funding a specific group that would be anti-Brexit and anti-Corbyn - a breakaway third party pushing a progressive agenda. A splinter group, if you like.

As true today as it was 40 years ago.
There already is such a party, it's called the Liberal Democrats, and they are in 4th place in the Parliament, with 12 seats out of the 650 in Parliament.

The Liberal Party, the Lib-Dem's ancestor, last won an election on its own more than a century ago.

Seriously, this whole "Slightly Silly Party" schtick was done to death by Monty Python in the 1970s.

Blamestorming Commencements

I have mentioned that Governor Andrew Cuomo's hostility to mass transit in general, and to the New York City Subway in particular, is responsible for the current sorry state of the Subway.

Now, he is trying to fob the blame off on the Mayor of New York, and Bill de Blasio is having none of it:
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio fired back Sunday at state and transit officials who have been trying to pin the subway’s problems on him.

“The state of New York is responsible for making sure our subways run,” Mr. de Blasio said, “period.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief Joseph Lhota have spent the past several days suggesting subways are the city’s responsibility and the city should be paying more.

Mr. de Blasio begged to differ, saying the MTA has spent its money on projects unrelated to the subways at the state’s direction, and left other funds languishing.

“The state of New York has used the MTA as a piggy bank,” he said. “They need to spend the money on what matters.”

But Mr. Lhota late Sunday said the mayor’s comments were “completely disingenuous knowing that the MTA is set to present its 30-day overhaul plan this week. We know we have a problem and our job now is to fix it.”

………

The governor has more sway than the mayor over the MTA’s budgeting, leadership and other personnel, and Mr. Cuomo has directed the agency to fund and finish a number of his pet projects, like the Second Avenue subway.

But amid a recent rash of subway delays and derailments, and growing crowds underground, the governor has been pinning the problems on the mayor. “It’s the city’s legal obligation to be funding it,” Mr. Cuomo said last week.

The mayor office also distributed a “fact sheet” Sunday showing that the city already pays more than two-thirds of the MTA’s $15 billion operating budget through taxes, fares, and other means.

Recent polls show more New Yorkers hold the governor accountable for the MTA, but they want a bigger investment in the subways from both the state and the city.
Cuomo's attempt at deflecting the blame is really kind of pathetic.

Aircraft Carrier Fail

The first in class Gerald Ford aircraft carrier has just been commissioned, unfortunately, it's not ready for combat, and won't be for a very long time, because the US Navy is deferring essential testing to the second ship in the class:
Three years late and costing $12.9 billion, the USS Gerald R. Ford finally gets commissioned today at Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia. The latest aircraft carrier to join the American fleet has been burdened with—and this may shock you, considering we are talking about defense spending—cost overruns and significant delays. Despite being commissioned, it will be at least four years before the carrier will be able to deploy and truly become part of the fleet.

Many challenges remain for the carrier as substantial amounts of construction and testing remains to be completed. In fact, one significant problem to be solved involves launching and recovering aircraft, which is the sole reason aircraft carriers exist.

………

Incorporating many significant changes over its predecessors, the Ford-class will have newly designed catapults and arresting gear, a redesigned and smaller island superstructure that is farther aft, a larger flight deck, new radar systems, quicker weapons elevators and 300 percent more electrical capacity from newly designed nuclear reactors.

The problem is that many of these systems are immature and have not been able to perform up to expected levels. The San Diego Union-Tribune described the construction of the Ford as “a monument to the Navy’s and defense industry’s ability to justify spending billions on unproven technologies that often deliver worse performance at a higher cost.” Despite the lip service presented by Navy and industry officials, the construction of the Ford has been something of a disaster.


To be fair, no modern warship is ready to sail off to war the day after being commissioned. Tests need to be completed and the ships need to be put through their paces to discover any abnormalities or deficiencies that may not have been discovered during builder trials, when the ship is put to sea under the watchful eye of the company that constructed the ship.

The Ford is a special case, however. So many systems are deficient and remain unresolved that the Navy does not expect the carrier to reach IOC, or initial operational capability, until 2020 at the earliest.

Once commissioned it is expected the Navy will run the Ford through a series of tests between March and November of 2018. After that, it is hoped the Navy will put the carrier through full ship “shock trials”, though language placed in the House Armed Services Committee annual defense bill last month has given the Navy an out on conducting the test. Instead, trials would be conducted on USS John F Kennedy, the second carrier in the new class.

By skipping these tests on the Ford, Navy officials hope to make the carrier available sooner for overseas operations. It was reported back in late 2015 that conducting the tests would delay the carrier’s first deployment by two years as the Navy fixed what was broken.

………

Two recent reports have highlighted the difficulties with the Ford, which is designated CVN 78. The first report was issued in December 2016. The Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DTO&E) for the Department of Defense issued a stinging report that highlighted the many problems the ship was facing as it neared being delivered delivery.

Again, the issue here is all this unproven new tech. According to the report, “Poor or unknown reliability of the newly designed catapults, arresting gear, weapons elevators, and radar, which are critical for flight operations, could affect CVN 78’s ability to generate sorties, make the ship more vulnerable to attack, or create limitations during routine operations. The poor or unknown reliably of these critical subsystems is the most significant risk to CVN 78. Based on current reliably estimates, CVN 78 is unlikely to be able to conduct the type of high-intensity flight operations expected during wartime.”

………

The second report that was released earlier this month by the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, on Navy Shipbuilding was another harsh rebuke of the Navy’s decision to accept the Ford “from the shipbuilder in incomplete condition.”

As it stands now, according to the GAO, the Navy will spend at least an additional $779 million to complete construction of the ship and conduct tests that are required to validate the design. The GAO also echoed the earlier report in addressing the fact that the carrier will not have the necessary certifications to conduct aviation operations, navigation and cybersecurity protection and added that upon delivery the Ford will have “significant incomplete construction” where work on 367 compartments was deferred.
This should be the first example used in any definition of. "Hollow force."

Have I mentioned lately that our current system of defense procurement is seriously f%$#ed up?

Throw Your Amazon Echo out the Window Now


Such a good idea to give access to every conversation in your room to Russian hackers:
The data is also kept in the event it’s request by law enforcement, however Amazon fought police over what it saw as an overly broad request for audio logs on a murder suspect last year. (The company relented in April of this year and handed over the logs when the suspect voluntarily said he was willing to provide them.)

Amazon does not hand this data over to developers, The Information says, because such a move would undermine Amazon’s commitment to user privacy. However, because Google, which makes the most popular Echo competitor currently on the market, does give developers access to this data, Amazon’s Echo and Alexa divisions feel they are at a disadvantage, the report states. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its data-sharing policies for the Home speaker.

For instance, some developers fear that without audio logs of requests, like those related to a food delivery order, they won’t know exactly what went wrong if the order is ultimately incorrect and the customer unhappy. According to The Information, Amazon does give some data over to a select few “whitelisted” developers, though how that system works is unclear.
Amazon is considering granting third-party app developers access to transcripts of audio recordings saved by Alexa-powered devices, according to a report from The Information today. The change would be aimed at enticing developers to continue investing in Alexa as a voice assistant platform, by giving those app makers more data that could help improve their software over time. Amazon’s goal, according to The Information, is to stay competitive with more recent entrants in the smart speaker market, like Apple and Google.


Amazon declined to comment on its future plans for Alexa data-sharing policies. However, a company spokesperson told The Verge, “When you use a skill, we provide the developer the information they need to process your request. We do not share customer identifiable information to third-party skills without the customer’s consent. We do not share audio recordings with developers.”

As it stands today, Amazon records audio through Alexa devices like the Echo home speaker and the new Echo Look camera and Echo Show monitor, however only after a “wake word” like “Hey Alexa” is used to prime the software. These devices send these audio clips to an Amazon-owned server where they’re analyzed to produce a near-instantaneous response from Alexa, but where they’re also stored so Amazon can improve its digital assistant through artificial intelligence training techniques.

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Amazon does not hand this data over to developers, The Information says, because such a move would undermine Amazon’s commitment to user privacy. However, because Google, which makes the most popular Echo competitor currently on the market, does give developers access to this data, Amazon’s Echo and Alexa divisions feel they are at a disadvantage, the report states. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on its data-sharing policies for the Home speaker.

For instance, some developers fear that without audio logs of requests, like those related to a food delivery order, they won’t know exactly what went wrong if the order is ultimately incorrect and the customer unhappy. According to The Information, Amazon does give some data over to a select few “whitelisted” developers, though how that system works is unclear.
Yeah, throw out Google Home as well.

Orwell in a f%$#ing box.