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IRS Reforms Free File Program, Drops Agreement Not to Compete With TurboTax – Good for them, and this comes after ProPublica investigations on some shady things Intuit (the makers of TurboTax) has done. This is a good time for a reminder that the reason taxes are hard to do is Intuit and H&R Block and others lobby to prevent the government from doing the work for you. I’ll Share My Salary Information if You Share Yours – a reminder that I’m happy to share my salary, and doing so helps others and also makes you feel less weird about things! How one medical checkup can snowball into a ‘cascade’ of tests, causing more harm than good – it’s easy to think “what’s the harm in running a test?”, but there can in fact be harm depending on the situation. (thanks David!) The Millennium Bug Was Not a Hoax – I assume this is a thing that software people generally know (even if, like me, you started working after Y2K), but just in case… Did FIFA Accidentally Confirm a World Cup Bribery Scandal? – Yes, and it’s why the US isn’t hosting the World Cup in 2022. (although we are jointly hosting with Canada and Mexico in 2026!) Female scientists’ pages keep disappearing from Wikipedia – what’s going on? -sigh. Also, the focus on “notability” is kind of weird for a giant encyclopedia with essentially unlimited space. Installing air filters in classrooms has surprisingly large educational benefits – The subheadline says it all: “$1,000 can raise a class’s test scores by as much as cutting class size by a third.” Crazy! The medications that change who we are – well, that’s frightening…
I created my own deepfake—it took two weeks and cost $552 – Amusing deepfake video of putting Data’s face on Mark Zuckerberg’s body. (although the effect is honestly kind of subtle) I learned a lot about how deepfakes work, and my main takeaways were: Deepfakes are good but not great right now, and you can tell it’s fake if you look carefully. They’re going to get better soon. We will need to learn not to blindly trust videos, just like we don’t blindly trust screenshots of emails or tweets since they’re easily faked. Researchers Explore A Drug-Free Idea To Relieve Chronic Pain: Green Light – sounds totally fake but there’s some evidence it can help migraines! Mystery Math Whiz and Novelist Advance Permutation Problem – crazy that the best upper and lower bounds on this problem were provided by a science fiction author (who was a math major, to be fair), and an anonymous 4Chan poster! Texas Set To Implement Tough Surprise Billing Law After Loophole Gets Shot Down – great! For Her Head Cold, Insurer Coughed Up $25,865 – Wow. In this case the insurer paid everything without complaining, but given that the lab with the crazy high prices is probably owned by the doctor’s office, this stinks to high heaven. The advice in the article is to ask where the doctor is going to be sending tests off to and if you really need those tests, which strikes me as a pretty high burden to put on patients! Chinese Restaurants Are Closing. That’s a Good Thing, the Owners Say. – Neat! Yay immigration!
A charity dropped a massive stimulus package on rural Kenya — and transformed the economy – GiveDirectly is great! (thanks David!) Why Child Care Is So Ridiculously Expensive – yeah, we’re lucky to be able to afford a good daycare for our kids, but it is quite expensive (over $1000/month per kid, although that goes down as the kids get older), and the government really needs to step in. Making Impeachment Matter: Democrats need to face up to their constitutional duty without fear. – really interesting look at the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, and why moderation or “both sides”ism isn’t necessarily right. Sometimes one side is entirely right! The I.R.S. Sent a Letter to 3.9 Million People. It Saved Some of Their Lives. – an unintentional controlled experiment shows that having health insurance saves lives! America’s Air Quality Worsens, Ending Years of Gains, Study Says – very possibly because the Clean Air Act is not being enforced like it was before, say, 2016… Where the Frauds Are All Legal: Welcome to the weird world of medical billing – medical billing really is a mess, even beside the total lack of price transparency… Britain’s Secret War With Russia – Kudos to Britain for pushing back against Russia. Merck cyberattack’s $1.3 billion question: Was it an act of war? – a fun question for insurers in these modern times! The “Great Cannon” has been deployed again – China’s weaponizing the Great Firewall to try to take down Hong Kong protest-related sites.