Using big data to help ordinary people

I subscribe to a newsletter from Dick Tofel, the head of the investigate journalism outfit ProPublica, and the latest one featured how they have created easy-to-use databases for people researching or navigating the ghastly health care system in the US.

Last week, we updated our tool tracking the performance of more than 4,700 emergency rooms around the country, which we now call ER Inspector. This news app lets you look up emergency room wait times and problems each facility has encountered since 2015. The underlying data is collected by the federal government, but it’s very hard to find or to sift. You can use ER Inspector to show you results from the facilities nearest to you, sort the data by state and rank all of the emergency rooms included on each of these dimensions. It’s an extraordinary collection of information, and it required about six weeks of news apps developer Lena Groeger’s time to update and extend.
[Read more…]

Global student strike on climate change

This graphic pretty much tells the story of global warming.

Source: Ed Hawkins/Guardian

Students around the world staged a strike today to urge governments to take action on climate change to stop global warming. The Guardian has a live blog of the strikes. You can see photos of striking students around the world such as this one below.

Photograph: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

[Read more…]

Yesterday’s Democratic debate

I have been busy on a tight deadline with the book proofs and creating an index. These are two crashingly boring tasks, requiring close attention to detail and the only thing that keeps me going is because of my desire to make the end product as free from errors as possible. But as a result, I just could not spare the two hours or so to watch the first night of the second round of debates. So this post is based on second-hand information, so read at your peril!

However, from what I could read after the debate, it seemed to consist of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren staking out and reinforcing their progressive visions on major issues, while John Hickenlooper, Steve Bullock, Tim Ryan, and John Delaney tried to dismiss those as unrealistic and election losers. Trying to straddle the space in-between were Pete Buttigieg, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, and Marianne Williamson. The impression was that O’Rouke needed a big night to boost his campaign and remain viable but he did not achieve it.

[UPDATE: Robert Mackey describes how Warren and Sanders effectively swatted away the right-wing framing of the questions that looked to him like a planned ambush by CNN to discredit especially their health care plans that threaten the private health insurance industry. Mackey’s piece is well worth reading.

Rolling Stone magazine also had a good breakdown of each person’s performances in the debate.]
[Read more…]

More Saudi Arabian atrocities

That country’s barbarism is well documented. But Mehdi Hasan writes that it continues to sink even lower, now threatening to execute someone for an offense that was committed when he was just ten years old.

IN 2011, as Arab Spring protests swept across the Middle East, demonstrations also kicked off in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province. Members of the kingdom’s repressed Shiite minority took to the streets, calling for equal rights and a fairer distribution of oil revenues. The protesters included a group of around 30 kids on bicycles. As a video released last week by CNN shows, those children were led by a smiling 10-year-old in flip-flops named Murtaja Qureiris.
[Read more…]

Theresa May’s final humiliation

Theresa May has become a pathetic punching bag, pummeled for one failure after another, the biggest of course being her utter messing up of the Brexit process. She leaves office ignominiously on Friday, June 7 but the British public will have one last chance to give her a raspberry when she hosts Donald Trump for a three-day state visit beginning today for which hundreds of thousands are expected to protest, including flying the Trump baby blimp.

[Read more…]

The cruel and inhumane US (in)justice system

The absurdly disparate sentences that are issued in the US legal system is vividly on display in the case of Michael Thompson, aged 68, who has served 25 years of a 40- to 60-year sentence in a Michigan prison. Tana Ganeva describes his case.

In 1994, Thompson sold 3 pounds of pot to a police informant. Michigan legalized pot in 2018, laying the groundwork for a profitable legal industry, making it that much harder for him to understand why he’s still behind bars. “You know after 25 years, you don’t feel nothing no more. You just feel numb,” he said.
[Read more…]

The Pacific Ocean is big. Like, really, really big

Because of the way that flat maps are drawn with the Atlantic Ocean in the middle and the Pacific Ocean split and placed at the left and right extremes, it is easy to not realize how big the latter ocean is. Google maps now shows maps on a spherical basis and if you zoom out, you get a view of how the ocean covers pretty much half the globe. You see the Americas on the right edge, Asia on the left edge, and only Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea form the major land masses.

[Read more…]