Software developer, cyclist, photographer, hiker, reader.I work for the Library of Congress but all opinions are my own.Email: chris@improbable.org
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The Deal

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I guess I am in a significant minority on the left, but I don’t see this government shutdown deal as a capitulation or sellout at all. What I see is the following:

A) CHIP is a huge policy win for Democrats. You might say that Republicans had to deal with this anyway. No they didn’t. It’s a party of nihilists who don’t care if children die. Taking CHIP off the table for 6 years is a positive win.

2) Taking CHIP off the table undermines Republican leverage for the next battle. They have no policy position that Democrats must vote for going forward.

3) The deal is only for a few weeks. On February 8, if the Republicans have not dealt with Dreamers, then Democrats can shut the government down again, this time with the very clear narrative that Mitch McConnell is a liar and that they gave Republicans a chance to fix the problem and they are all lying liars who lie.

4) Despite the incredibly inhuman injustice of our immigration policy, no Dreamers will be deported before February 8.

Now, if February 8 comes and Democratic senators back off of a confrontation to protect Dreamers, that’s really bad. But this gives another few weeks to ratchet up the pressure on them and on Republicans to get this done.

I don’t see a downside here. But then I am just a neoliberal shill who apologizes for the Democratic Party.

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wreichard
19 hours ago
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The Democrats blinked. Sorry.
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mareino
19 hours ago
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Washington, District of Columbia
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acdha
7 hours ago
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The main thing I wish the more strident activists had to answer was what alternative could have actually worked. There are a lot of things which I’d like to have happened but the only likely path forward is getting control of at least the House. This seems like about as much as you can hope for without much leverage and high levels of unity in the opposition.
Washington, DC

This woman got billed $4,000 one day before her surgery. In the US, that’s completely legal.

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A day before a long-scheduled surgery, Aminatou Sow got an unexpected phone call: Her hospital wanted her to pay her share of medical bill before the operation took place.

Sow has a $4,000 deductible, and the hospital representative asked for that entire amount upfront. The representative suggested that she provide a credit card number that could be charged.

Sow, who hosts the Call Your Girlfriend podcast, recounted the experience on Twitter:

The hospital representative she spoke with warned her she might not be able to get the surgery if she didn’t pay upfront, Sow told me over email.

Sow had expected to pay her deductible this year. She knew the surgery was expensive. She just didn’t think it would happen like this, with a call 18 hours before surgery requesting payment with little warning — and tethering that upfront payment to her ability to get medical care.

Her experience is, frustratingly, a relatively common one in the American health care system. Doctors are increasingly asking patients to prepay their medical costs. This even happened to me recently: In January, I received a bill for a small medical procedure that won’t happen until June — six months away.

As NPR reported two years ago, some doctor offices are even exploring keeping their patients’ credit cards on file — something akin to a bar tab, except instead of drinks, people are buying medical care.

This can, as Sow points out, leave low-income patients in a bind if they don’t have the cash on hand for an upfront payment, especially when they only learn of the costs hours before a scheduled surgery.

And with deductibles on the rise, the costs that patients are expected to pay are on the rise too. The average deductible for Americans who receive insurance at work is now $1,478 — 63 percent higher than it was in 2011, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Deductibles in the individual market are typically much higher, more in the range of Sow’s $4,000 deductible. And that plan is still expensive: Sow told me she pays a monthly premium of $668 for her coverage.

These high deductibles are, in part, what’s driving hospitals to increasingly ask patients to pay their bills in advance. They’re worried about providing services and never getting paid, now that patients — rather than insurance companies — are responsible for a good chunk of their payment.

Patients could try to protest the upfront payment, but they have little leverage. Those who have coverage through federal government programs like Medicare can refuse upfront payment. The rules for private health insurance that covers most working-age Americans aren’t nearly as clear-cut. And the situation often leaves patients with little leverage, if any, when needed medical care is on the line.

Have you had a recent trip to the emergency room? Vox is running a year-long medical billing series about emergency bills. Learn more and share yours at erbills.vox.com.

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bibliogrrl
1 hour ago
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Chicago!
hannahdraper
5 hours ago
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Washington, DC
chrisamico
7 hours ago
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Boston, MA
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acdha
7 hours ago
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People who complain about European tax rates rarely acknowledge how different the picture looks when you factor in how much less they pay for better care
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Here’s why the epidemic of malicious ads grew so much worse last year

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Enlarge / A tech support scam pushed by Zirconium displays the authenticated URL of Microsoft, making it easy for some people to trust. (credit: Confiant)

Last year brought a surge of sketchy online ads to the Internet that tried to trick viewers into installing malicious software. Even credit reporting service Equifax was caught redirecting its website visitors to a fake Flash installer just a few weeks after reports of a data breach affecting as many as 145.5 million US consumers.

Now, researchers have uncovered one of the forces driving that spike—a consortium of 28 fake ad agencies. The consortium displayed an estimated 1 billion ad impressions last year that pushed malicious antivirus software, tech support scams, and other fraudulent schemes. By carefully developing relationships with legitimate ad platforms, the ads reached 62 percent of the Internet's ad-monetized websites on a weekly basis, researchers from security firm Confiant reported in a report published Tuesday. (Confiant has dubbed the consortium "Zirconium.") The ads were delivered on so-called "forced redirects," in which a site displaying editorial content or an ad suddenly opened a new page on a different domain.

Confiant CTO Jerome Dangu wrote the following in an email:

These forced redirects are a technical mechanism that can be leveraged to deliver a variety of malicious attacks, from those targeting businesses (affiliation fraud), to those targeting individual users (phishing scams, malicious downloads, fake updates etc.)... At a minimum, these forced redirects often make a website unusable for an everyday user, [and] at worse [visitors] are being directly attacked. People need to understand where the issues are coming from (often the website owner gets blamed, even as they themselves are a victim, too) and what the new risks are for them in an ad supported Internet.

Confiant said that most of the fake ad agencies have their own websites, Twitter accounts, and executive profiles on LinkedIn. One such agency called out in the report is known as Grandonmedia, whose website urges visitors to "Buy Website Traffic visitors to our loyal customers!" The Facebook profile for its CEO displays what appears to be a stock business photo, as did an earlier version of the CEO's LinkedIn profile

The agencies also rely on machine-generated content posted from its accounts on Facebook and Twitter. Grandonmedia bots issued content including "Lasting relations with reliable partner is the key to success in online marketing" and "Do you want to involve on your online profits? Don't hesitate to get in touch." Grandomedia officials didn't respond to messages seeking comment for this post.

Underscoring how much work organizers put into the Zirconium, each ad agency operates with a completely different set of IT tools, including TLS servers, domain registration, and ad-serving code. The purpose of the ad agencies is to develop trusted relationships with legitimate ad platforms. The ample supply of agencies allows one agency to step in and resume operations of a fellow agency once the forced redirects it pushes come to light. So far, only 20 of the 28 have actually been used. Tuesday's report lists the names and URLs of all 28 of the allegedly fake agencies. Confiant declined to name the 16 ad platforms that unwittingly forged relationships with the agencies.

"Zirconium's concept is to build independent marketing brands from scratch, en-masse," Tuesday's blog post said. "The vast majority [of fake agencies] went live in March/April 2017 according to Twitter account creation dates. At the date of this writing, eight remain unused, ready to be leveraged when the ones currently exploited dry out."

To evade detection, the servers hosting the ads perform forced redirects very selectively. Before redirecting a user, the servers attempt to fingerprint the individual's browser by taking stock of the user agent, the visiting IP address, the number of CPUs, and whether the computer is able to use WebGL. The fingerprint helps servers identify machines that may be used by security researchers so they don't experience the redirects. Zirconium relies on servers at beginads[.]com as its central gateway to manage ad demand. The fraudulent ads can be surprisingly effective. The one posted above uses a technique first described by Malwarebytes to display the authenticated URL of Microsoft in a tech-support scam.

Use of forced redirects has increased for three reasons: 1) Browser makers have grown more resistant to drive-by exploits, 2) the use of the often-exploited Adobe Flash for ads has declined, and 3) security companies have gotten better at detecting exploit code in online ads.

While not as effective as malvertising exploits that install ransomware and other types of malware with no social engineering required, forced redirects remain an appealing alternative that's also cost-effective. Until publishers and ad platforms better organize to stamp out groups like Zirconium, the redirects are likely to remain a common Internet menace.

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Let’s Skim NYMag’s Glenn Greenwald Profile And See How Stupid It Is

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Big news happened this weekend, bet you think we’re talking about the government shutdown, nah bro, we’re talking about a human interest piece about noted journalist Glenn Greenwald in New York Magazine, oh yeah, that’s the shit, let’s see how much it sucks:

Nope. Or if he somehow does know more than Mueller, we’d reckon that means he’s somehow complicit in the Trump-Russia conspiracy on the WikiLeaks side of things, in which case … nah, Mueller still knows more.

This post should be over, but it’s not. (Kind of like a common Glenn Greenwald article!) So we will summarize:

Glenn Greenwald lives in Brazil.

Glenn Greenwald really likes this one restaurant that serves bunches of meat and beer, even though Glenn Greenwald doesn’t really like meat and beer.

Glenn Greenwald knows the Russia hoax is a big Russia hoax, everybody agrees, they all say “NO COLLUSION, NO COLLUSION, YOU ARE THE COLLUSION,” it was just an excuse the Democrats made up for losing an election they should have won.

Glenn Greenwald thinks everybody is doing “McCarthyism” to poor sweet innocent and good brained Donald Trump.

Glenn Greenwald thinks even if Robert Mueller finds big Trump-Russia conspiracies it’s no big, because WHAT ABOUT ESTABLISHMENT DEEP STATE?

Glenn Greenwald “rolled his eyes” when he found out Steve Bannon called Don Jr. a big treason doer, and also he thinks the fact Robert Mueller is 4 for 4 on indictments/guilty pleas from Trump people is a big nothingburger.

Glenn Greenwald thinks it’s cool if Don Jr. and Julian Assange do Russia conspiracies together.

Glenn Greenwald wants to DRAIN THE SWAMP. (At least the Democrats.)

Glenn Greenwald gets mad when people call folks like him Kremlin assets (even if they are unwitting assets) if they don’t believe Russia, a hostile foreign power with a long history of meddling in elections, fucked with the American election to help Donald Trump win. Why they say that?

WHAT ABOUT AMERICAN MEDDLING?

WHAT ABOUT?

WHAT ABOUT?

Glenn Greenwald does not get to go on MSNBC no more :(

Glenn Greenwald used to be friends with Rachel Maddow but they are not friends no more :(

Glenn Greenwald thinks the problem that led to the dissolution of his friendship with Rachel Maddow was … Rachel Maddow.

WHAT ABOUT ESTABLISHMENT DEEP STATE RACHEL MADDOW?

Glenn Greenwald says Matthew Yglesias and Ezra Klein are just a buncha nincompoops.

“Reached for comment,” Rachel Maddow, Matthew Yglesias and Ezra Klein had absolutely no interest in responding to Glenn Greenwald.

It’s OK because Glenn Greenwald gets to go on Fox News now. :)

It’s also OK because Glenn Greenwald has new friends and they are Tucker Carlson and Mike Cernovich. :)

Glenn Greenwald drives a Mitsubishi Outlander.

10 out of 10 Glenn Greenwalds drive one of these fancy dan automobiles.

Glenn Greenwald did part of this interview right before he was supposed to go on the Tucker Carlson Independent Good Thinking Journalism Show but oh no the gate to the parking garage was locked and oh no the person working there had gone home and oh no Glenn Greenwald started to freak out and oh no Glenn Greenwald was wearing shorts and a polo shirt and oh no, “How can I go on Fox News dressed like this?”

Don’t worry, Glenn Greenwald found a shirt and tie but didn’t change out of his shorts because LOL Glenn Greenwald just fooled all you viewers at home, by not wearing pants!

Glenn Greenwald does not like everything his new BFF Tucker Carlson says on TV, but he’ll be strong because WHAT ABOUT DUMBOCRAP RACHEL MADDOW?

Glenn Greenwald invited the New York Mag journalist to his house, whereupon the journalist stepped in dog shit.

Glenn Greenwald lives in a gated community.

When the journalist LOLed at him for living in a gated community, Glenn Greenwald seemed “wounded” and tried to explain his way out of it. Hey, at least the house is owned by Glenn Greenwald now, and not the “hedge-fund pig” who used to own it, says Glenn Greenwald. STICK IT TO THE MAN, GLENN.

Glenn Greenwald makes a half million dollars a year to be a blogger.

“In person,” NYMag says, Glenn Greenwald doesn’t suck as much as you’d think.

Glenn Greenwald was a real shit in high school.

And in college.

And in law school.

And all the times after that. (Ever read this New Republic thing about what Greenwald, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden really believe? Bookmark it.)

Alex Pareene, long ago Wonkette, former Gawker person, says Greenwald is the shittiest at writing headlines.

Glenn Greenwald loves Twitter so much sometimes he stays in bed all day playing on Twitter, hey, that sounds like somebody else we know.

Glenn Greenwald would have been excited when his friend’s Edward Snowden documentary won an Oscar, except for how Oscars host Neil Patrick Harris MEAN GIRLED Glenn Greenwald by saying Snowden couldn’t attend the Oscars “for some treason,” HAHA, GET IT? Neil Patrick Harris is a fucking delight. According to NYMag, even Edward Snowden “thought it was funny,” so we don’t know what’s so far up Glenn Greenwald’s ass, except maybe everything.

Glenn Greenwald’s dogs molest each other in the dining room.

Glenn Greenwald is too good at tennis to play you in tennis, he’d dunk on you too hard.

Glenn Greenwald is happy to suck at his job, even though The Intercept co-founder Jeremy Scahill and other journalists there are actually pretty good.

Glenn Greenwald doesn’t think the story The Intercept broke with info from NSA leaker Reality Winner, which showed Russians directly hacking into American voting systems and vendors, is a very good story.

Glenn Greenwald thinks America is bad and Russia is good, you know, because of the lack of corruption and gay-friendly society over yonder, we guess.

Glenn Greenwald is A Idiot.

Follow Evan Hurst on Twitter RIGHT HERE.

Did you like this post? Did you know we’re ad-free? You should probably give us some money.

[New York Magazine]

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paulkruchoski
6 hours ago
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this x1000
wreichard
1 day ago
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I appreciate not having to read the original. I like Trump better than Greenwald anymore.
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“Get Out of Jail Free” Cards

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In the movies I’ve seen people who try to get out of a traffic ticket by telling the police officer they made a donation to the policeman’s ball, but those were comedies. I had no idea that not only does this exist there are official cards. In fact, the police in New York are livid that the number of cards is being limited:

The city’s police-officers union is cracking down on the number of “get out of jail free” courtesy cards distributed to cops to give to family and friends.

Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association boss Pat Lynch slashed the maximum number of cards that could be issued to current cops from 30 to 20, and to retirees from 20 to 10, sources told The Post.

The cards are often used to wiggle out of minor trouble such as speeding tickets, the theory being that presenting one suggests you know someone in the NYPD.

The rank and file is livid.

“They are treating active members like s–t, and retired members even worse than s–t,” griped an NYPD cop who retired on disability. “All the cops I spoke to were . . . very disappointed they couldn’t hand them out as Christmas gifts.”

A Christmas gift of institutionalized corruption.

Here’s another article on these cards which just gets all the more stunning.

First, there are tiers of cards. Silver cards are the highest honor given to citizens. It’s almost universally honored by officers, and can also help save money on insurance. Gold PBA cards are only given to police officers and their families. You’d be hard-pressed finding a cop who won’t honor a gold card.

Gold and silver cards! It gets better. You can buy these cards on eBay. Here’s a gold New Jersey card on sale for $114. A silver “family member” shield goes for $299. Some of these are probably fake. The gold and silver are rare but remember, cops get 20 to 30 regular cards so you can see why they might be upset at losing them.

The regular cards have become more common as NYC hires more police. The union may in fact be trying to bump up its monopoly profit by restricting supply.

The cards don’t just go to family members. The rot is deep:

Union officials say the cards are also public relations tools and tokens of appreciation handed out to politicians, judges, lawyers, businessmen, civil service workers and members of the news media.

A retired police officer on Quora explains how the privilege is enforced:

The officer who is presented with one of these cards will normally tell the violator to be more careful, give the card back, and send them on their way.

…The other option is potentially more perilous. The enforcement officer can issue the ticket or make the arrest in spite of the courtesy card. This is called “writing over the card.” There is a chance that the officer who issued the card will understand why the enforcement officer did what he did, and nothing will come of it. However, it is equally possible that the enforcement officer’s zeal will not be appreciated, and the enforcement officer will come to work one day to find his locker has been moved to the parking lot and filled with dog excrement.

He’s not kidding. Here is what seems like a real police officer on a cop chat room (from Mimesis law)

It’s important for me to get in touch with shield [omitted] and ask him why he felt it necessary to say “I’m not even going to look at that” to my PBA card and proceed [sic] to write a speeding ticket on the Bronx River Parkway yesterday afternoon to my fukking WIFE!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ll show him the courtesy he so sorely lacks by not posting his name on a public forum.

Any help would be appreciated.  Please inbox me.

I will find you.

I find these cards especially odious as more and more police are funding themselves through fines and forfeitures. Discriminatory taxation increases the tax rate. It’s one rule for the ruler and another for the ruled.

The cards are not a secret but I agree with my colleague Mark Koyama who remarked:

Sometimes you find out something about the country you live in that makes it appear little better than a corrupt, tinpot, banana republic.

The post “Get Out of Jail Free” Cards appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

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skorgu
22 hours ago
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What surprises me is that this surprises people. PBA cards have been well known in my circles since the 80s.
karmakaze
7 hours ago
Someone in my circles has had one of the gold ones since the 80's (though he no longer lives in state).
wmorrell
1 day ago
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Police are just another gang, part 8179.
duerig
1 day ago
Too often, people in power are held to a lower standard than others. But in a just society, they must be held to a higher standard instead. Whether it is cops and traffic tickets or bosses and workplace romance. The price of power should be increased scrutiny and decreased freedom of action.
hannahdraper
9 hours ago
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Washington, DC
mareino
19 hours ago
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Washington, District of Columbia
popular
21 hours ago
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StunGod
23 hours ago
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Of course this is a thing. We don't have equal justice, we have discretionary justice for sale.
Portland, Oregon, USA, Earth
JimB
23 hours ago
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You have to hope that this is fake news. Corruption is bad news.

A randomly generated, totally novel enzyme rescues mutant bacteria

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Proteins are chains of amino acids, and each link in the chain can hold any one of the 20 amino acids that life relies on. If you were to pick each link at random, the number of possible proteins ends up reaching astronomical levels pretty fast.

So how does life ever end up evolving entirely new genes? One lab has been answering that question by making its own proteins from scratch.

Way back in 2016, the same lab figured out that new, random proteins can perform essential functions. And those new proteins were really new. They were generated by scientists who made amino acid sequences at random and then kept any that folded into the stable helical structures commonly found in proteins. These proteins were then screened to see if any could rescue E. coli that were missing a gene essential to survival.

Three proteins succeeded, which indicates that they compensated for the missing gene’s essential function. But they did not do so by acting as a catalyst (meaning they weren’t enzymes).

In a recent paper in Nature Chemical Biology, however, the lab is reporting that one newer protein has acted as a catalyst.

The E. coli used in these experiments lacked the ability to use the iron provided in their medium because of the deletion of a gene that normally provides this function. So the experiments were a test to see if a randomly generated protein would be able to catalyze reactions with iron. The three proteins that had passed this test in 2016, however, simply altered gene activity so that the iron became available through other pathways.

To generate the recent enzyme, the researchers took one of the proteins that already rescued the mutant E. coli and subjected it to random mutagenesis. This ultimately produced an iron-releasing enzyme. Just like the natural enzyme, this synthetic one has a chiral preference for its substrate, meaning that it can only work with one structural form of the molecule and not its mirror image.

But its similarities to the native enzyme end there. The amino acid sequence of this synthetic enzyme bears no relation to the bacterial enzyme it replaces. This made figuring out how it works very difficult. Usually this is done by comparing the protein in question to similar ones from other species: clearly not an option here. The researchers also tried to crystallize it, which would let them figure out its structure, but no deal.

So they started mutating amino acids one by one to see which mutations rendered the enzyme inactive. This told them that the original amino acid that had been replaced must be important. This method revealed five particular amino acids that comprise the likely active site. When software that predicts protein structures was given the protein’s amino acid sequence and told that these five had to be close together, it spit out one structure that seemed the most likely.

And just like the amino acid sequence, the structure looked so totally different from the native enzyme’s that the researchers think the enzyme must work through a completely new mechanism.

The scientists made this enzyme not using any kind of rational design or strategy; they were just tooling around with random amino acid sequences and having bacteria determine if they could do what they wanted. In a completely contrived case of convergent evolution, the researchers made a protein that does not share a sequence, structure, or even mechanism with the one evolution hit upon—yet it performs the same function. A thousand-fold slower than the natural one, but it might get better if given further time to evolve.

Nature Chemical Biology, 2018. DOI: 10.1038/NCHEMBIO.2550 (About DOIs).

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satadru
2 days ago
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Wow.
New York, NY
jepler
2 days ago
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Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
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