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Snow is coming: When it arrives and how much to expect – WPIX 11 New York

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WPIX 11 New York
Snow is coming: When it arrives and how much to expect
WPIX 11 New York
NEW YORK — After a weekend of relief, the winter weather is back, bringing snow and near-freezing temperatures to the tri-state as the week begins. Snow arrives Monday afternoon into night and will fall mostly east of New York City. It’s expected to

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Amazon isn’t going to be your health care savior

An announcement Tuesday morning that three of the richest, most powerful companies in the United States are launching a new effort to break the health insurance industry’s stranglehold on the economy was greeted with great excitement.

The new firm is the brainchild of Berkshire Hathaway tycoon Warren Buffett, JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. Their goal is to break the age-old cycle of ever-rising health care costs in the United States, where people pay more to access health care but derive worse health outcomes than in many other countries.

It’s an age-old problem no company or policy has solved yet. The idea that three powerful, deep-pocketed companies are going to tackle it is understandably energizing.

But the effort is no vast sea-change to the heavily financialized way modern health insurance practices alter people’s relationship to their own bodies. The vague announcement says far more about how political and economic power has shifted in our new gilded age than it does about the future of medical care.

“The three companies, which bring their scale and complementary expertise to this long-term effort, will pursue this objective through an independent company that is free from profit-making incentives and constraints,” the trio’s press release said.

They’ll use “technology solutions” to deliver “simplified, high-quality and transparent healthcare at a reasonable cost.” Though the firm will start out serving only the three men’s companies, Dimon said the goal is to “create solutions that benefit our U.S. employees, their families and, potentially, all Americans.”

That is so vague a statement of purpose that it defies wonky analysis. It is impossible to make credible, specific predictions without knowing the ultimate shape of the blurry hydra the trio promise to summon. The new health care company could deliver positive if only marginal change for working-class families – the people who hustle for pennies in Bezos’ tidily exploitative warehouse empire – but none of them would be revolutionary.

Health insurance as legal gambling on human life

The sheer size of the firms involved provides the most obvious potential improvement over the status quo. With a combined market value measured in the trillions of dollars, the joint effort stands a good chance of bullying its way to better deals on prescription drug prices, for example. That would convey a raft of savings on basics like birth control or asthma medicine and on pricier, less common needs like cancer medicine.

The statement’s murky invocation of “technology solutions” invites similar guesswork. Under the current system, most individuals face an arduous bureaucratic process to find a specific doctor for an appointment that suits their schedule. If the new firm can de-clutter the sorting process that insurers offer to customers, that might make people happier with their health care overall.

But while brute-force negotiating power and vague “technology solutions” might disrupt the current price of medical care or streamline the navigation of the existing system, that is about all the change this proposed company can deliver. It will operate inside the same system people hate, working to bend the cost curve but not challenging the deeper policy assumptions underlying the market-based health care system Americans have been taught to accept.

No firm can change the fundamentally exploitative nature of a privately-managed, profit-driven health insurance economy by participating in it.

The private system of people buying limited coverage from an insurer to hedge against the risk of illness is deeply ingrained in U.S. society and economics. It is an ugly system. Companies are allowed and encouraged to treat the health and wellbeing of individual humans as a commodity to be traded for profit — amounting to human life being traded in a futures market, as leftist health economics wonk Tim Faust likes to describe the current system.

A futures market is essentially an opportunity for people with money to wager on faraway outcomes. The price of your insurance coverage is a reflection of a profit-motivated company’s wager on how much your future health is likely to cost them. It’s a big casino, where who wins or loses is based on people’s lives rather than cards or horses.

Keep the roulette table, move the chairs

The futures-market health care casino is a fixture of American economic life. Anything that suggests it might be possible to make a truly radical break from it sends traditionalists into a panic.

“There’s a fear that if you make getting health care cheap or affordable or even free, people might use it. And that’s hard to make a profit off of,” as Faust put it in a speech in Houston in the summer of 2017.

This fear is evident in the frenzied mainstream analysis of Tuesday’s news. Everyone is wringing hands about how the new players might shake up the way profits from the health care casino get divvied up, with much coverage noting that health insurer stocks dipped. The fear pops up in Reuters’ write-up in the form of an analyst saying the announcement “might spoil the strong investor sentiment towards managed care.”

But the fact that investors are pondering whether to move into or out of a given stock based on this news — rather than full-on bailing from the industry — reveals the con here. They have all correctly intuited that the betting window is going to remain open — it’s just a matter of figuring out how to change your strategy.

The Faustian fear gets a different voice in the New York Times, this time from an insurance coverage negotiator named Ed Kaplan. Kaplan “said larger insurers were frustratingly inefficient when it came to fixing problems like people visiting the emergency room when they did not need to,” the Times reports. “There should be a way to avoid things like that, but they’re not really innovating,” Kaplan told the paper.

Overuse of emergency rooms is a symptom of the current system. Poor people who can’t afford good coverage end up getting last-resort treatment where they can afford it – often urgent cares and emergency rooms.

The “way to avoid things like that,” then, is to decouple human health care from corporate profit-taking.

At a glance, it may sound like that’s these plutocrats are setting out to do. The press release does promise “an independent company that is free from profit-making incentives and constraints,” after all.

But that’s a dodge. The new standalone firm may not worry about profit or loss on its own books. But the firms backing it want to improve their own health insurance cost picture – or, better put, to drive up their own profit margins. The entire new, not-for-profit enterprise will be hitched to bottom-line concerns elsewhere. Whatever money they can save by their disruption will eventually be captured as profit by the finance and tech behemoths.

A fraying society ruled by business

There’s a case to be made for such pragmatically-minded doing-well-by-doing-good corporatism. The Democratic Party establishment has been making it endlessly for decades. After all, if some private bigshot wants to put their money to work for something socially beneficial, who is the government to discourage them? But that only makes sense if you’ve first ruled out more virtuous outcomes as politically impossible. Anyone who likes the idea of a Bezos-led health care superpower nonprofit should talk to the people organizing behind the Medicare-for-All banner.

One often-forgotten part of the argument surrounding Obamacare back in 2009 and 2010 involved the role of employers in ensuring access to medicine for workers. Criticizing the iniquities that result when a person is dependent on their job to afford insurance was a bipartisan sport. Leaders warned of “job-lock” artificially hemming in workers’ lives and choices. The way insurance is priced for individuals rather than employers generally forces people to grovel for the chance to land among the poker chips on the industry’s casino table.

Berkshire Hathaway, JPMorgan Chase, and Amazon have about 800,000 employees between them. To whatever extent the new effort delivers better outcomes for consumers of medical care – separately from the core business objective of lowering costs for the three titans – those workers will grow far more tightly bound to their bosses.

And if Dimon’s dream of expanding the firm’s offerings to the broader public comes true, the immense financial returns of having solved the cost-curve riddle will go to his new non-profit firm rather than to the public. The haves and the have-nots will slide further apart, and the finance and tech industries will take another lurch forward in their quest to replace representative democracy and its institutions as the true power governing people’s material quality of life.

In that sense, at least, Tuesday’s announcement is consistent with the accelerating social dissolution that’s defined American life for years.

The institutions of democratic society and federalist governance used to enforce clear constraints on the private economy’s howling drive for profit maximization. Corporations paid a healthy share of overall taxes as a result (a share since replaced, thanks to corporate tax avoidance, by the taxes workers pay). Unions ensured that those who worked weren’t doomed to die poor. It wasn’t old-fashioned decency that made sure a sensible share of economic profits got spent serving working-class interests. It was antitrust law, tax law, consumer regulation, and the organizing work of unions and community-based non-profits that kept the reins on capitalism.

Now, however, the power of those old institutions has eroded. Governments all across the federalist structure kowtow to corporate demands for tax relief and race each other to the bottom to lure, for example, Amazon’s second headquarters. Regulations get hollowed out or under-enforced by veteran ideologues who move freely from industry to government and back again. If you’re rich enough to have to think about how to manage interest earnings from your investments, this is a great system for you. If you’re anyone in the bottom 90 percent of the population as sorted by earnings or wealth, the institutions that used to stand up to monied power in your name are asleep at the switch.

In such a society, the tech-based disruption of health insurance’s sticky-handed chokehold on working people’s material well-being may be dramatic. People are thirsty for reasons to believe the future might get brighter, and the idea of supergenius tech bros and uber-savvy wealth managers turning their talents on one of late-stage capitalism’s major villains is understandably inspiring.

But when working people glance up to check who’s ruling their relationship to their own bodies in the future Bezos et al promise today, they will see something very familiar: A rich white guy in a nice suit lighting a cigar with a flaming hundred-dollar bill.


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Why George Orwell called Salvador Dali a “disgusting human being”

In 1944 George Orwell wrote an essay called “Benefit of Clergy,” in which he calls Salvador Dali a “disgusting human being.” Josh Jones of Open Culture explains why:

The judgment may seem overly harsh except that any honest person would say the same given the episodes Dali describes in his autobiography, which Orwell finds utterly revolting. “If it were possible for a book to give a physical stink off its pages,” he writes, “this one would.” The episodes he refers to include, at six years old, Dali kicking his three-year-old sister in the head, “as though it had been a ball,” the artist writes, then running away “with a ‘delirious joy’ induced by this savage act.” They include throwing a boy from a suspension bridge, and, at 29 years old, trampling a young girl “until they had to tear her, bleeding, out of my reach.” And many more such violent and disturbing descriptions.

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Why Criticism Is Better Than Compliment

Think back to the last time you received a compliment and the last time you were criticized. No doubt, when you received the compliment, you felt good – and when you received the criticism, you felt upset and wanted to reject it.

You shouldn’t be surprised by your reaction to the negative comment, as it’s a human’s survival mechanism to avoid being criticized. Clearly, we don’t want to be seen as failures, so we’d rather shut our eyes and cover our ears than have to take any criticisms from others.

However, there’s a serious problem with this approach. Namely, by doing our utmost to avoid being criticized, we allow ourselves to travel on a never-ending highway of mediocrity.

Without receiving negative feedback and criticisms from others, our growth and opportunities become stunted. And in the long term, we’re not only liable to fail – but to fail badly.

The Microsoft KIN is an example of how lacking criticisms leads to a great failure. Launched in 2010, this smartphone was a major failure despite its $1 billion development and marketing costs. Unbelievably, the phone only lasted on the market for 48 days. The problem? Microsoft failed to do comprehensive testing of the smartphone with the target demographic. It was only after the phone went on sale that it became blatantly obvious that most 15 to 30-year-olds preferred Androids, BlackBerrys and iPhones to the Microsoft KIN.[1]

If criticism and feedback had been received by the target demographic while the phone was in development, Microsoft could have avoided the huge embarrassment and financial loss that occurred. As the story above demonstrates, early criticism is a necessary factor for future success.

Excessive praise weakens your motivation

I believe that criticism is better than compliments. But why do I think that? Well, let me give you a metaphor that will explain my rationale.

Picture in your mind praise being a type of health food. Now, no one would argue that healthy nutrition is a bad thing. However, what’s good for you in small or measured dosages can be bad for you if you take too much of it. You may be surprised to hear this even applies to your water consumption.[2] And your fruit consumption too.[3]

Clearly, too much food or drink – no matter how healthy they may be – can make us ill. For optimum health, we need a balanced intake of healthy food and drink.

It’s the same with compliments. Receiving them from time-to-time is a good thing, but if they’re all you ever hear, then they’re likely to have a negative impact on your ability to achieve things in life.

Excessive compliments take us away from our original motivation of simply enjoying an activity. We start doing the activity purely for the sake of receiving ego-satisfying praise.

However, enough time being stuck in the latter, means we become imprisoned by praise. Without the expectation of praise, our motivation to complete things begins to be lost.

As an example of this, think back to a time when you were learning a new sport. If your coach only praised you, then you’d have missed out on being shown what things you were doing wrong. And as a consequence, your ability to learn and refine your techniques would have be diminished.

Criticism encourages growth

Just to be clear, I’m not talking about trolls or abusive comments, I’m talking about constructive criticism, which I like to think of as ‘healthy criticism’. Feedback that helps to make you stronger.

If you always think you’re right but don’t get feedback from anyone else, how do you know for sure that what you’re doing is any good? Listening and acting on honest views will tell you precisely what you’re doing well – and what you can do better.

This type of feedback forces you to evaluate your actions and the way you work. If you use constructive criticism wisely, it can guide you away from bad practices and move you towards good ones.

The right kind of criticism is honest feedback that will benefit you.

Grow strong through the power of criticism

Now that you’re familiar with the benefits of constructive criticism, let’s delve into several ways that you can use it to boost your productivity and success in life.

Criticism is generally more actionable than compliments.

For example, imagine you’re learning to play guitar, and in your first public performance your tutor says: “You did well.” Now, while these might be welcome words to your ears, they’re not as useful in helping you improve as: “Your timing needs some work.” With this piece of advice, you have specific guidance on how to quickly improve your performance skills. (You might need to spend hours playing alongside a metronome.)

Actively seek criticism by asking for feedback.

This could be in the form of a question.

Continuing the guitar playing example, you might ask your tutor (or other people who heard your performance): “What could I have done better?” You could also ask very specific questions. For instance: “Did my playing in the introduction sound in tune?”

Let’s be honest, most people don’t know how to give feedback – they typically offer vague comments filled with emotions. By asking specific questions, you’ll gain valuable feedback that will help you learn and develop quickly.

However, asking questions should also be to gain useful feedback, not to show you have doubts about your abilities and skills.

Take criticism with patience.

When you take criticism, I strongly recommend the following:

  • Be quiet and listen. Try to listen to as many perspectives as possible to get a full picture and more points of view.
  • Ask clarifying questions. Aim to understand what the other person means when they criticize you. Don’t make an initial judgement that they’re wrong. Understand first, then start to process their opinions.
  • Ask for suggestions to improve, but always refer back to your goals. After clarifying the problem, seek for suggestions, but don’t just try to satisfy others’ needs. Instead, refer back to your goals to see how improvements can align with your original intentions.
  • Take control of the process. Pick the right person. Typically, this would be someone who is honest, impartial but wants the best for you.

Rapid feedback is important.

Speed is also important when it comes to receiving feedback.

The sooner you get feedback from others, the faster you’ll know what to improve before going ahead with your plans or work. For example, if you’re planning on setting up your own business, ask some interested friends to provide feedback on your ideas. Do this before you launch your business, and you’ll save yourself valuable time learning the long and hard way.

Seek criticism instead of praise

The Power of Positive Thinking author Norman Vincent Peale said it well,

The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.

How true that is.

Fortunately, you now have the keys to help you move away from seeking praise – to instead, seeking constructive criticism. And once you start putting these keys to use, you’ll unlock the doors to a whole new way of learning, developing and succeeding.

Reference

The post Why Criticism Is Better Than Compliment appeared first on Lifehack.