Monday, February 19, 2018

February 19, 2018 -- A Quick Run Around the Web


The last several weekends have been too wet to go shooting. Well, not too wet to actually do some shooting, but too wet to get to the place I typically go shooting. But, after a windy week where we didn't get much precipitation, I decided to give it a try, and found the road (a glorified cattle trail, to be honest) to be passable. It was cold--temperature was about 28 degrees (F) plus a constant strong wind. Based on the various flags I passed on my drive, the wind was at least 20 mph. (Here is a nice tip for estimating wind speed using a flag: "Estimate the angle between the bottom of the flag and the pole if the flag is extended. Divide the estimated angle by 4 to get the wind speed in miles per hour. For example, if you estimate the angle to be 45 degrees, the wind speed is approximately 11 miles per hour (18 kilometers per hour). This is the method used by United States Army sharpshooters"). Needless to say, I was not shooting any great distance, and had to switch to a kneeling position for some of my shots because my body was swaying too much because of the wind. I used my Riflecraft shooters sling on this outing and was very happy with it. Since it was too windy to put up target stands, I was just shooting at a couple of reactive steel targets--the types that look like large jacks
Anyway, on to some articles:
            Americans consume about 46% of the world’s brand name drugs but supply 70% of patented drug makers’ profits. France, Norway, the United Kingdom, Japan, Canada, Italy, and other government-run health systems buy the identical drugs at bargain prices — usually half what Americans pay. These state-run health systems often threaten to exclude a drug from their country entirely, even if it could save lives, until they extract a deep discount. Norway barred Roche’s breast cancer drug Perjeta, until the company slashed the price far below what Medicare pays.
              These foreign governments know, when push comes to shove, a manufacturer will sell for a price that barely covers the cost of production, rather than not sell at all. That leaves American consumers stuck paying exorbitant prices to cover the sunk costs of researching and developing a new drug.
                So many have fled to neighboring Colombia for health and other reasons that its president, Juan Manuel Santos, announced last week that his country would beef up security along the 2,205-kilometer border. Just last month, Santos had reiterated Colombia's longstanding offer of "humanitarian support in the matter of food and medicines," and his criticism that "the Venezuelan government has refused because they do not want to accept the serious crisis they have on their hands."
                  Colombia's foreign ministry estimates that roughly 600,000 Venezuelans have arrived in the country, straining the health system.
          • Deep dreams: "The Dark Secret at the Heart of AI"--MIT Technology Review. A lengthy article, but worth the time. The gist of it, however, is that the most successful AI systems have been developed using artificial neural networks that are capable of learning. And they have been pretty successful at learning difficult tasks and spotting patterns that have eluded humans. The problem, however, is that the scientists, engineers, and programmers that have developed these systems don't really know how they work. Yes, the systems have learned how to perform tasks, and deliver useful results, but the developers don't know how these neural networks think; that is, the processes and considerations that they use to get from the raw data to the final conclusion or result. And this could be a problem if the systems make a mistake--the developers won't know how to debug it.
          • Antipathy toward homosexuals is a consequence of the disgust response: "Gays Getting Parasites From R***ming"--Anonymous Conservative. AC cites an article in which the author complains of having to be treated for Giardia and Entamoeba histolytica, two parasites that are transmitted via fecal matter. The amazing thing about this is, notwithstanding the author's repeated infections and infecting his "boyfriend", that he has not considered changing the behavior that led to the infections. Rather, he is upset that a medical clinic that caters to LGBT has not done enough to warn the gay community.
          Update (2/20/2018): Edited the headline of the last article to avoid offense by adding asterisks.

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