Congress Is About to Ban the Government From Offering Free Online Tax Filing. Thank TurboTax. — ProPublica

From the article:

A bill supported by Democrats and Republicans would make permanent a program that bars the IRS from ever developing its own online tax filing service.

Source: Congress Is About to Ban the Government From Offering Free Online Tax Filing. Thank TurboTax. — ProPublica

You might be shocked to know in other countries, the tax agency in charge just calculates your taxes, often through an online portal, and it’s done. No Turbotax, not weird process with a third party that you pay. It’s done.

The only reason we don’t do that is the twin issues of the US government cutting funding to the IRS, and the tax company lobby. Intuit, H&R Block, Turbo Tax, etc have dumbed 6.6 million bucks not lobbying just last year. They are a constant lobby source.

Corporations once again have thrown enough money at our buyable representatives to make life worse for Americans.

HUD Charges Facebook With Housing Discrimination – Consumer Reports

From the article:

Facebook has been charged by the Department of Housing and Urban Development with violating the Fair Housing Act, because the company’s advertising platform lets real estate agents target potential renters and home buyers using such factors as race, religion, gender, and disability status.

“Facebook is discriminating against people based upon who they are and where they live,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a statement. “Using a computer to limit a person’s housing choices can be just as discriminatory as slamming a door in someone’s face.”

The complaint alleges that Facebook’s ad platforms (PDF) allow advertisers to target housing ads too narrowly, excluding members of demographic groups in violation of the Fair Housing Act. That includes “a map tool to exclude people who live in a specified area from seeing an ad by drawing a red line around that area.” HUD had filed a formal complaint against Facebook last August after a two-year investigation.

Source: HUD Charges Facebook With Housing Discrimination – Consumer Reports

I’m happy about this because these anti-discrimination laws are on the books for a reason.

Also, who is the kind of person that figures out Facebooks ability to discriminate in advertising for housing, and then excitedly starts crafting discriminatory ads? I mean, what the fuck?!

 

Citing transphobic policies, 172+ googlers call for removal of Heritage Foundation from Google’s “Advanced Technology External Advisory Council” / Boing Boing

From the article:

more than 170 googlers have signed an open letter demanding that the company reverse its decision to add Heritage Foundation president Kay Coles James to its Advanced Technology External Advisory Council (ATEAC), an advisory body that provides moral guidance on AI and other technologies.

The open letter cites the Heritage Foundation and James’s personal advocacy for transphobic, racist, and anti-immigrant policies, noting that these views “directly contravene Google’s stated values” and should have no place on an external ethics advisory body, and that other members of the Council have quit in protest.

Source: Citing transphobic policies, 172+ googlers call for removal of Heritage Foundation from Google’s “Advanced Technology External Advisory Council” / Boing Boing

This is not the only anti-LGBTQ thing that Google is doing, according to LGBTQNation: 

Microsoft, Apple and Amazon swiftly deleted the Living Hope Ministries app when they learned of its hateful content. Google, however, has dug in its heels and won’t budge. Even the threat of being downgraded on the Human Rights Campaign’s coveted Corporate Equality Index has surprisingly not yet influenced Google’s poor decision.

It’s difficult to know precisely why Google is standing by this toxic app. The company arrogantly refuses to address critics and is running one of the most remarkably inept public relations debacles I’ve witnessed in 30 years.

In spite of questions being asked by prominent politicians and journalists, not to mention 142,000 people who have signed a petition, the company remains mum. It is fair to ask, what exactly is this company hiding? Why are they so afraid of talking to the media, lawmakers or LGBT advocates about their decision?

What the fuck, Google?

“Happy to Do It”: Emails Show Current FAA Chief Coordinated With Ex-Lobbyist Colleagues on Policy — ProPublica

From the article:

As he moved through the agency’s ranks, the now-acting FAA Administrator Dan Elwell exchanged dozens of emails with lobbyists and other industry players discussing everything from rolling backing back consumer protections to airport privatization.

Source: “Happy to Do It”: Emails Show Current FAA Chief Coordinated With Ex-Lobbyist Colleagues on Policy — ProPublica

How fucking morally bankrupt a person is Dan Elwell? Incredibly. He was an airline lobbyist. I fucking hate lobbyists.

Once again, ProPublica hits it out of the park with this. The FFA should be protecting us from industry, not bending over for it.

Medicare’s Uncapped Drug Costs Hit Elderly Hard : Shots – Health News : NPR

From the article:

Unlike many private health plans, Medicare has no cap on out-of-pocket expenses for prescription drugs in Part D. As the cost of specialty drugs rises, some Medicare patients owe thousands of dollars.

Source: Medicare’s Uncapped Drug Costs Hit Elderly Hard : Shots – Health News : NPR

I saw this first hand when Medicare started up its Part D when I was a nurse in 2003. I literally sat down with elderly patients, and we sorted the medications they could do without and not die, or be so uncomfortable they felt like dying.

It is a travesty built on the unregulated costs the pharmacological industry is able to raise in a predatory manner, and the reluctance of our political representatives to institute legislation to protect our most vulnerable populations.

They did close what is called the “donut hole” which was if you were sick enough, and needed enough meds, there would be a stop in coverage. After a few thousand dollars of medications, it was thought you should pay your own, until you were “really sick” because folks that used more meds should pay more. This belies the reality that folks on more meds are probably too sick to have many resources left.

So now, they just don’t have a cap on drug coverage like any other sane insurance plan. They still pay 25% of their meds, and with the way drug companies price things? Jesus, that can cost.

The article dicsucxcs a man taking Copaxone that costs $75,000 annually. The patient will have to pay $5100 before it drops to $295 a month. I mean, I guess if you have MS and the med helps, but are poor? You just do without.

 

 

Wireless vulns in Medtronic’s implanted defibrillators allow remote shocks, shutdown, denial-of-service battery attacks and data theft / Boing Boing

From the article:

Medtronic is the most notorious maker of insecure medical implants in America, with a long history of inserting computers into people’s bodies with insecure wireless interfaces, toolchains and update paths, and nothing has changed.

In a new CERT advisory — scoring 9.3/10 for severity! — we learn that remote attackers can hijack a Medtronic implanted defibrillator and administer potentially lethal shocks, shut down lifesaving features, and put the device into a high power-consumption mode that drains the battery. A separate attack allows attackers to steal sensitive patient data from the device.

Source: Wireless vulns in Medtronic’s implanted defibrillators allow remote shocks, shutdown, denial-of-service battery attacks and data theft / Boing Boing

Just what the ever-loving-fuck is this? You have to have a defibrillator put into your body because your health is so at risk that you need that safeguard, and the damn company is so bad at their job you can get remotely hacked and potentially killed by some random person.

This is criminal negligence.

Jenny McCarthy’s Autism Charity Has Helped Its Board Members Make Money Off Dangerous, Discredited Ideas

This is a deep dive article into the conflict of interest and the grift that is this charity. Hell, I hate most charities as an auditor because money just seems to disappear into pockets with them. I just audited a small charity drive where we have thousands of dollars of discrepancies and nobody can prove the child recipients all got what they say they got. Don’t even ask me about those Firefighter boot drives with all that free floating cash, and no accountability.

This article is a bigger sort of charity problem. It shows how the charity sells products to vulnerably desperate parents of autistic children, raking in cash. it’s a money maker, as none of these treatments are real actual treatments. It’s all snake oil sales.

Take a read if you want to see how folks make unscrupulous money off others.

Source: Jenny McCarthy’s Autism Charity Has Helped Its Board Members Make Money Off Dangerous, Discredited Ideas

A detailed analysis of American ER bills reveals rampant, impossible-to-avoid price-gouging / Boing Boing

From the article:

For more than a year, Vox’s Sarah Kliff has been investigating hospital price-gouging in America, collecting hospital bills from her readers and comparing them, chasing up anomalies and pulling on threads, producing a stream of outstanding reports on her findings.

In her latest installment, Kliff digs deep into the famously bizarre world of ER bills and points out some of the most egregious ways in which these are rigged.

For example, if you are injured and also financially precarious, you might travel to a more distant ER just to be sure that the hospital you’re visiting is in-network for your insurer, but that means nothing. “In-network” ERs often staff “out-of-network” doctors, and there is no way to find out whether the doctor treating you is covered by your insurer until you get the bill: one of Kliff’s readers got bills for $8,000 from an out-of-network surgeon who treated his broken jaw at an in-network hospital.

And much of the care you receive at an ER is subject to bizarre price gouging: one of Kliff’s readers was charged $238 for two drops of the generic eyedrop ofloxacin which retails for $15/vial; the routine pregnancy test that ERs administer to women of childbearing years can cost up to $465, enough to buy 84 pregnancy kits at the pharmacy; and one Seattle hospital charged $76 for a squirt of generic neosporin. Not all hospitals gouge on all drugs, and many of these drugs are not being administered for urgent health problems — a halfway honest hospital could advise a patient, “We charge $238 for this eyedrop, why don’t you pick up a bottle for $15 next door and administer it yourself?”

Source: A detailed analysis of American ER bills reveals rampant, impossible-to-avoid price-gouging / Boing Boing

I worked at an insurance company for a hot minute, while trying to get out of nursing. I couldn’t do it because the disconnect from the price gouging bullshit to how it would impact people’s lives was astounding.

My boss bought a new Jetta with a bonus for “saving the company money”. That was code for denying claims. I’m not even kidding.

It was so bad, when I was literally dying from Grave’s Disease because I had a thyroid storm on my own without medical intervention, I refused to go to the ER. We were destitute with me not working and my husband finishing his last quarter at college, and I knew we could never dig ourselves out of the costs for an uninsured ER visit that ws literally just a fishing expedition to figure out what was wrong with me. In hindsight, this was a terrible choice because people die of heart attacks during thyroid storms. Yah ‘Murica, where a nurse could not get medical insurance and nearly dies because of it.

The most telling part of the article is that after journalists discuss specific bills, the hospitals reverse them. This is an article that should be in everyone’s reading list if they deal with the US medical system.

Workplace discrimination is illegal, yet it persists. Here’s why. – Vox

From the article:

Each year, the EEOC and its state and local partner agencies close more than 100,000 cases — but workers receive some form of assistance, such as money or a change in work conditions, only 18 percent of the time. Employees seeking help are even less likely to get it now than when Law went to the agency.

No group of workers alleging discrimination — age, gender, disability, or otherwise — fares well. Race claims, however, are among the most commonly filed and have the lowest rate of success, with just 15 percent receiving some form of relief, often compensation.

Source: Workplace discrimination is illegal, yet it persists. Here’s why. – Vox

This is not shocking. When you complain to HR, they were there to protect the company, not you. When you file a discrimination case, it is very unlikely it will go through, unless it’s so egregious that they can’t do anything else.

I worked for an agency in the DoD, and filed a discrimination case against a woman who waited until I went out for surgery related to my being transgender. She sent emails to my other supervisors stating I was “crazy” because the surgery was going to make me crazy. She talked to my audit client that we work for, outing me and telling them I was not to be trusted for my work. (They didn’t believe her because I do good work.)

I called the Federal number, and filed, and the guy on the phone literally spent an hour telling me he could not help me, and would find nothing on this if I pursued it. I tried in house, and my investigator was a super conservative Mormon guy who literally told me if she didn’t say one of ten phrases on his list, it wasn’t harassment or discrimination.

I left, because fuck that. I don’t have to work in that kind of toxic discriminatory sludge pile of shit.

I have heard of so many folks encountering the same across the board in the US. This article does a good job of illustrating this.