Does Private Equity Investment in Healthcare Benefit Patients? Evidence from Nursing Homes
summary of a study by National Bureau of Economic Research:
The past two decades have seen a rapid increase in Private Equity (PE) investment in healthcare, a sector in which intensive government subsidy and market frictions could lead high-powered for-profit incentives to be misaligned with the social goal of affordable, quality care. This paper studies [PDF] the effects of PE ownership on patient welfare at nursing homes. With administrative patient-level data, we use a within-facility differences-in-differences design to address non-random targeting of facilities. We use an instrumental variables strategy to control for the selection of patients into nursing homes.
Our estimates show that PE ownership increases the short-term mortality of Medicare patients by 10%, implying 20,150 lives lost due to PE ownership over our twelve-year sample period. This is accompanied by declines in other measures of patient well-being, such as lower mobility, while taxpayer spending per patient episode increases by 11%. We observe operational changes that help to explain these effects, including declines in nursing staff and compliance with standards. Finally, we document a systematic shift in operating costs post-acquisition toward non-patient care items such as monitoring fees, interest, and lease payments.
Spotify Expands To 80 New Markets, Targeting 1 Billion Customers
introducing its audio service in 80 markets across Asia, Africa and the Caribbean in coming days, expanding the company's potential market by some 1 billion people. From a report:
The steps announced Monday will nearly double Spotify's geographic footprint and add regions where streaming music is in its infancy. The company already operates in 93 countries or territories. Spotify is seeking to build on its head start as the leading audio service in the West to become the dominant player globally. While the company already has more than 345 million users, fewer than 20% come from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, where most of the world's people live. The Stockholm-based company has been slower to expand globally than Netflix or Google's YouTube, partly because of the complexity of securing music rights. But its timing coincides with growing potential in markets across Africa and Asia. Where the music industry was once U.S.-centric, many of the most popular acts in the world right now hail from India, Nigeria, South Korea and Latin America.
Microsoft Word is Getting Text Predictions Next Month
Microsoft is planning to
add text predictions to Word in March. From a report:
The new feature will work similarly to Google Docs' Smart Compose option, using machine learning to predict what words an author will need to speed up document creation. Microsoft originally announced a beta of text predictions last year, but it's now on the Microsoft 365 roadmap to reach all Word users on Windows next month. Word will highlight grayed-out predictions when users are writing a document, and the suggestions can be accepted using the Tab key or rejected by hitting Escape. Text predictions can also be completely disabled by Word users.
NASA's Mars Perseverance Rover Provides Front-Row Seat to Landing, First Audio Recording of Red Planet
New video from
NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover chronicles major milestones during the final minutes of its entry, descent, and landing (EDL) on the Red Planet on Feb. 18 as the spacecraft plummeted, parachuted, and rocketed toward the surface of Mars. A microphone on the rover also has provided
the first audio recording of sounds from Mars. From a report:
From the moment of parachute inflation, the camera system covers the entirety of the descent process, showing some of the rover's intense ride to Mars' Jezero Crater. The footage from high-definition cameras aboard the spacecraft starts 7 miles (11 kilometers) above the surface, showing the supersonic deployment of the most massive parachute ever sent to another world, and ends with the rover's touchdown in the crater. A microphone attached to the rover did not collect usable data during the descent, but the commercial off-the-shelf device survived the highly dynamic descent to the surface and obtained sounds from Jezero Crater on Feb. 20. About 10 seconds into the 60-second recording, a Martian breeze is audible for a few seconds, as are mechanical sounds of the rover operating on the surface. "For those who wonder how you land on Mars -- or why it is so difficult -- or how cool it would be to do so -- you need look no further," said acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. "Perseverance is just getting started, and already has provided some of the most iconic visuals in space exploration history. It reinforces the remarkable level of engineering and precision that is required to build and fly a vehicle to the Red Planet."
Clubhouse Chats Are Breached, Raising Concerns Over Security
A week after popular audio chatroom app Clubhouse said it was taking steps to ensure user data couldn't be stolen by malicious hackers or spies, at least
one attacker has proven the platform's live audio can be siphoned. From a report:
An unidentified user was able to stream Clubhouse audio feeds this weekend from "multiple rooms" into their own third-party website, said Reema Bahnasy, a spokeswoman for Clubhouse. While the company says it's "permanently banned" that particular user and installed new "safeguards" to prevent a repeat, researchers contend the platform may not be in a position to make such promises. Users of the invitation-only iOS app should assume all conversations are being recorded, the Stanford Internet Observatory, which was first to publicly raise security concerns on Feb. 13, said late Sunday. "Clubhouse cannot provide any privacy promises for conversations held anywhere around the world," said Alex Stamos, director of the SIO and Facebook's former security chief. Stamos and his team were also able to confirm that Clubhouse relies on a Shanghai-based startup called Agora to handle much of its back-end operations. While Clubhouse is responsible for its user experience, like adding new friends and finding rooms, the platform relies on the Chinese company to process its data traffic and audio production, he said.
Spotify HiFi is a Lossless Streaming Tier Coming Later this Year
An anonymous reader share a report:
Spotify is going hi-fi. Well, "HiFi." It's taken longer than competitors like Tidal and Amazon Music, but today, the leading subscription music service announced a new lossless streaming tier that will allow listeners to get the most from their digital music library. The news came at the company's Spotify "Stream On" virtual event. Spotify HiFi will be available later this year and "will deliver music in CD-quality, lossless audio format to your device and Spotify Connect-enabled speakers, which means fans will be able to experience more depth and clarity while enjoying their favorite tracks." Spotify has done small tests of higher-quality streaming in the past, but now it's going to launch the feature more widely -- with the caveat that it'll be available only "in select markets." Pricing is yet to be announced. Higher-quality streaming has apparently been among the top requests from its customers; as it stands today, Spotify tops out at 320kbps audio.
Apple Is Going To Make It Harder to Hack iPhones With Zero-Click Attacks
Apple is going to make one of the most powerful types of attacks on iPhones much harder to pull off in an upcoming update of iOS. From a report:
The company quietly made a new change in the way it secures the code running in its mobile operating system. The change is in the beta version of the next iOS version, 14.5, meaning it is currently slated to be added to the final release. Several security researchers who specialize in finding vulnerabilities in and crafting exploits for iOS believe this new mitigation will make it much harder for hackers to take control of an iPhone with a technique known as a zero-click (or 0-click) exploit, which allows a hacker to take over an iPhone with no interaction from the target. Apple also told Motherboard it believes the changes will impact 0-click attacks.
"It will definitely make 0-clicks harder. Sandbox escapes too. Significantly harder," a source who develops exploits for government customers told Motherboard, referring to "sandboxes" which isolate applications from each other in an attempt to stop code from one program interacting with the wider operating system. Motherboard granted multiple exploit developers anonymity to speak more candidly about sensitive industry issues. Like the name suggests, zero-click attacks allow hackers to break into a target without needing the victim to interact with anything, such as a malicious phishing link. This means that the attack is generally harder for the targeted user to detect. These are generally very sophisticated attacks. These attacks may now become much rarer, according to several security researchers who look for vulnerabilities in iOS.
WhatsApp To Switch Off Messages For All Who Reject New Terms
WhatsApp users who do not accept its
updated terms and conditions by the 15 May deadline will be
unable to receive or send messages until they do so. From a report:
Their account will be listed as "inactive". And inactive accounts can be deleted after 120 days. Calls and notifications will still function for "a short while" but, TechCrunch reported, probably only a "few weeks". WhatsApp announced the update in January. And there was a backlash among many users who thought it meant the company was planning to change the amount of data it shared with its parent company, Facebook. It later clarified this was not the case. And the update was aimed at enabling payments to be made to businesses.
Avalanche Warnings Are Issued in Northwest
Two avalanche warnings have been issued for parts of Washington and Oregon as heavier-than-usual rainfall and snowfall is
expected to hit part of the West Coast through Monday. From a report:
One of the warnings, a Level 4 on a scale of 5, said there was a high avalanche danger for parts of North Cascades National Park by the Canadian border, extending south through Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and into parts of Gifford Pinchot National Forest, which is about 140 miles southeast of Seattle. The warning was in effect until Monday evening and also covered part of Mount Hood National Forest, which is about 70 miles east of Portland, Ore. A separate, Level 5 warning, indicating extreme danger, also covered smaller parts of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, about 80 miles west of Moses Lake, Wash. That warning, which said heavy snow, strong winds and warming temperatures could create avalanche conditions, was also in effect until Monday evening.
The warnings were issued by the Northwest Avalanche Center, which said at least 30 people in the United States had been killed in avalanches so far this season. That's the highest number of fatalities since the 2015-16 season, according to the center. The warnings came as parts of the Pacific Northwest braced for heavier-than-usual precipitation as a result of an "atmospheric river," the National Weather Service said on Twitter. That type of weather event -- "a long river of moisture" that can hover over concentrated areas for a period of time -- is expected to lead to very heavy rainfall or, in higher elevations, intense snowfall, said meteorologists at the Weather Service in Seattle. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration described such events as "rivers in the sky." This one extends about 3,000 miles, from the coast of British Columbia to the coast of Hawaii, said Dustin Guy, a Weather Service meteorologist. Though Seattle may see only about half an inch of rain, coastal areas and mountain regions can expect up to three inches, said another Weather Service meteorologist, Matthew Cullen. In high-elevation places, like the Cascade Mountains, one to two feet of snow may fall in elevations above 4,000 feet, he said.
Anthony Levandowski Closes His Church of AI
first church of artificial intelligence has
shut its conceptual doors. From a report:
Anthony Levandowski, the former Google engineer who avoided an 18-month prison sentence after receiving a presidential pardon last month, has closed the church he created to understand and accept a godhead based on artificial intelligence. The Way of the Future church, which Levandowski formed in 2015, was officially dissolved at the end of the year, according to state and federal records. However, the process had started months before in June 2020, documents filed with the state of California show. The entirety of the church's funds -- exactly $175,172 -- were donated to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. The nonprofit corporation's annual tax filings with the Internal Revenue Service show it had $175,172 in its account as far back as 2017. Levandowski told TechCrunch that he had been considering closing the church long before the donation. The Black Lives Matter movement, which gained momentum over the summer following the death of George Floyd while in police custody, influenced Levandowski to finalize what he had been contemplating for a while. He said the time was right to put the funds to work in an area that could have an immediate impact. "I wanted to donate to the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund because it's doing really important work in criminal justice reform and I know the money will be put to good use," Levandowski told TechCrunch.
Way of the Future sparked interest and controversy -- much like Levandowski himself -- from the moment it became public in a November 2017 article in Wired. It wasn't just the formation of the church or its purpose that caused a stir in Silicon Valley and the broader tech industry. The church's public reveal occurred as Levandowski was steeped in a legal dispute with his former employer Google. He had also become the central figure of a trade secrets lawsuit between Waymo, the former Google self-driving project that is now a business under Alphabet, and Uber. The engineer was one of the founding members in 2009 of the Google self-driving project also known as Project Chauffeur and had been paid about $127 million by the search engine giant for his work, according to court documents. In 2016, Levandowski left Google and started self-driving truck startup Otto with three other Google veterans: Lior Ron, Claire Delaunay and Don Burnette. Uber acquired Otto less than eight months later.
Ghana Scientist Tries Gene Editing To Create Healthier Sweet Potatoes
The Cornell Alliance for Science seeks to build "a significant international alliance of partners" to "correct misinformation and counter conspiracy theories" slowing progress on climate change, synthetic biology, agricultural innovations, and other issues.
wooloohoo shares their article about research on Ghana's first gene-edited crop — a high-yielding sweet potato with increased beta carotone content.
"For sweet potatoes, we want to look at how we can use the CRISPR-Cas9 system to increase beta carotene," said Samuel Acheampong of the University of Cape Coast's Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, who has been working on the project for the past year. "Beta carotene is a big deal for us because as animals, when we eat beta carotene, our cells are able to convert them into vitamin A."
The World Health Organization estimates that between 250,000 and 500,000 children in developing nations go blind every year as a result of vitamin A deficiency, making it the world's leading preventable cause of childhood blindness. Some 50 percent of them die within a year of losing their sight. Respiratory illnesses and infectious and diarrheal diseases in children also have been linked to vitamin A deficiency. Acheampong is using CRISPR-Cas9 to knock out the genes responsible for the production of an enzyme in the sweet potato that converts beta carotene into other products. This will leave higher beta carotene content in the crop, which when consumed by humans will allow them to produce vitamin A. Sweet potato is a very popular vegetable in Ghana, making it ideal for a biofortification effort of this kind...
Additionally, Acheampong is researching how to increase the size of the crop's storage roots. "I'm looking at a set of genes which affects the transport of sugars in plants. So I'm trying to use the CRISPR genome editing to knock out some sets of genes so that there will be more flow of sugars in the crop, which will definitely lead to increase in the yield...."
He estimates it will take him up to five years to complete his research before any conversation can begin around putting the product in the hands of farmers. "Getting it to the market may take a long time, depending on regulations, etc.," he said.
In another article, The Alliance for Science cites a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing who argues "it is
unlikely that genome editing-based next generation breeding will completely displace conventional approaches; only when combined with other technologies, such as high-throughput phenotyping, genomic selection and speed breeding, can we guarantee the widespread implementation of genome editing in agriculture."
"This multidisciplinary approach will advance plant breeding to help secure a second Green Revolution in order to meet the increasing food demands of a rapidly growing global population under ever-changing climate conditions."
Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter Agree to Australia's Misinformation-Fighting Code
A handful of technology giants operating in Australia have agreed on a code of practice that aims to stem disinformation on their respective platforms. All signatories — Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Redbubble, TikTok, and Twitter — have committed to the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation. They have also committed to releasing an annual transparency report about their efforts under the code...
[The Code] provides seven guiding principles, with the first aimed at protecting freedom of expression. "Signatories should not be compelled by governments or other parties to remove content solely on the basis of its alleged falsity if the content would not otherwise be unlawful," the code said. Another is centred on protecting user privacy and notes that any actions taken by digital platforms to address the propagation of disinformation and misinformation should not contravene commitments they have made to respect the privacy of Australian users...
"Empowering users" is another principle, that is to enable users to make informed choices about digital media content that purports to be a source of authoritative current news or of factual information. Signatories also commited to supporting independent researchers and having policies and processes concerning advertising placements implemented.
Experian Challenged Over Massive Data Leak in Brazil
Experian may be in trouble again — this time in Brazil.
ZDNet reports on "the
emergence of a leak that exposed the personal data of more than 220 million citizens and companies, which is being offered for sale in the dark web."
After receiving feedback from Experian over a massive data leak in Brazil, São Paulo state consumer rights foundation Procon described the company's explanations as "insufficient" and said it is likely that the incident was initiated in a corporate environment...
Security firm PSafe discovered the incident, which exposed all manner of personal details, including information from Mosaic, a consumer segmentation model used by Serasa, Experian's Brazilian subsidiary. Following the emergence of the leak in January, Procon notified the credit bureau, and asked the company for a confirmation of the incident, and an explanation of the reasons that caused the leak, the steps taken to contain it, how it will repair the damage to consumers impacted and the measures taken to prevent it from happening again...
Contacted by ZDNet, Serasa Experian did not answer to requests for comment on Procon's response to its feedback.
The agency's demands for answers follow calls from the Brazilian Institute for Consumer Protection for urgent measures to investigate and punish those responsible for exposing the population's data, as well as improved citizen information and transparency.