Why Amazon and friends’ plan could be a major disrupter of health care system


Besides being large employers themselves, Warren Buffett knows insurance through his Gen Re reinsurance company. Amazon has taught everyone how to shop far better online than in stores, and JPMorgan has had extensive experience with Health Savings Accounts, which are tax-sheltered savings accounts paired with high-deductible insurance polices that eligible people can use to pay for health care costs. They know the elements of the past playbook individually.

Carl Sagan’s Syllabus & Final Exam for His Course on Critical Thinking (Cornell, 1986) | Open Culture


Though some of his examples (the language of cigarette advertisements, for instance) may look dated now, the course’s core principles have only grown more useful, and indeed necessary, with time — as Sagan, who wrote darkly of "the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media," surely knew they would.

Why We Forget Most of the Books We Read – The Atlantic


Books, shows, movies, and songs aren’t files we upload to our brains—they’re part of the tapestry of life, woven in with everything else. From a distance, it may become harder to see a single thread clearly, but it’s still in there.

Macron’s pledge to wipe out coal is just as meaningless as Trump’s plan to revive it – The Conversation

Coal-fired power plants are disappearing in the U.S. for two reasons.

First, fracking has unleashed enormous quantities of natural gas. This has driven the price power plants pay for gas down dramatically. At the same time natural gas prices have been falling, coal prices have been rising.

This is making natural gas and other alternative energy sources more attractive. For example, the cost of solar and wind power has fallen steadily over the past decade, making those sources more competitive.

Second, it costs more to operate a coal-fired plant than one that runs on natural gas. Coal has to be crushed and washed, and the residue cleared from power plant boilers. These are steps that are not needed for natural gas and renewable fuels.

If you thought colleges making the SAT optional would level the playing field, think again – The Conversation


From the article:

We found no changes in low-income and underrepresented student enrollment after the colleges went test-optional. Instead, we found an unintended consequence of these efforts: Test-optional policies led to an increase in the number of applications overall. That necessarily forced the colleges to become more selective. That’s because more applications typically mean more rejections. More rejections make it look like the colleges are being more selective. That appearance of selectivity enables a college to claim a higher spot in college rankings that view selectivity as a good thing. This all creates a perverse incentive for colleges to go test-optional that has nothing to do with expanding access for students from low-income families.

We also found a 25-point increase in the reported SAT scores of enrolled students. This increase may be driven by higher-scoring students being more likely to submit scores to bolster their applications. Meanwhile, lower-scoring students keep their scores to themselves. This results in higher average scores being reported to the federal government and magazines that publish college rankings. Thus, it appears as though by increasing competition for a limited number of seats on campus and increasing the SAT scores used to generate college rankings, test-optional policies may actually threaten the very access goals they were designed to achieve.

Reaching rural America with broadband internet service


Rural Americans want faster, cheaper internet like their city-dwelling compatriots have, letting them work remotely and use online services, to access shopping, news, information and government data.

With an upcoming Federal Communications Commission vote on whether cellphone data speeds are fast enough for work, entertainment and other online activities, Americans face a choice: Is modest-speed internet appropriate for rural areas, or do rural Americans deserve access to the far faster service options available in urban areas?

A Popular Algorithm Is No Better at Predicting Crimes Than Random People – The Atlantic


Caution is indeed warranted, according to Julia Dressel and Hany Farid from Dartmouth College. In a new study, they have shown that COMPAS is no better at predicting an individual’s risk of recidivism than random volunteers recruited from the internet.

Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life | RAND


This report explores the causes and consequences of Truth Decay and how they are interrelated, and examines past eras of U.S. history to identify evidence of Truth Decay’s four trends and observe
similarities with and differences from the current period. It also outlines a research agenda, a strategy for investigating the causes of Truth Decay and determining what can be done to address its causes and consequences.