Archive for Technology

Gaza Man

I confess that when I saw the term Gaza Man, I thought it referred to an evolutionary throwback, a subhuman species that lived in caves, walked semi-upright and ate leaves and dirt.

And I was right!

A new action game available on Google Play called “Gaza Man” allows players to take the role of Gaza gunmen shooting at Israeli soldiers with an assault rifle and RPGs.

The opening sequence to the game, produced by Bridgeview for Trading – a company that produces no results on Google search – shows Israeli soldiers arresting a young child, shooting his soccer ball and harassing a woman.

The creators of the game, according to its description on Google Play, “aim to stimulate the spirit of resistance against injustice in the young generation, and consider Gaza Man to be its first effort towards attaining this goal.”

‘Gaza Man’ is described in Google Play as: “more than just a game! It elevates the morale and the fighting spirit of its users. What the user experiences in the game can be translated from the virtual world of the game into the reality of his life in the Occupied Territories. This way, it helps to keep his will to achieve liberation alive, and helps to instil a deep dedication to the struggle against the occupier.”

Even ISIS has reportedly tried its hand at instilling its values into youth through a violent video game last September.

I don’t know the relationship between Google Play and Google, but this is why I use Bing whenever I can.

But why they didn’t call it Grand Theft Ottoman I’ll never know.

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Saying Less in More Words

I may not be the heppest cat in the bunch, but I’m not completely clueless. (Am not!)

But WTF is she saying?

KORI SCHULMAN, WH OFFICE OF ONLINE ENGAGEMENT: You could consume the speech in real time on whitehouse.gov, with enhanced graphics and polls and tailored information to your particular city or town and really get a personalized and unique experience. On top of that, everything was shareable so as people were engaging in the speech, they could share videos, photos, favorite lines across their social channels, not to mention the fact that you could watch live gifs of the speech if you were on tumblr.

Gifs and tumblr? What editor missed those typos?

Whatever, I’m glad everything was “shareable”. Even if so few actually took part in the “giffing” and “tumbling”:

Television viewership for President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night fell to a 15-year low, according to numbers from Nielsen.

The 1-hour, 15-minute speech drew an average of 31.7 million viewers on broadcast and cable networks, the audience tracking firm said.

The combined figure is down about 5% from last year’s State of the Union address, which clocked in at 33.3 million viewers.

This year’s count, which does not include people who streamed the event online, was the lowest since President Clinton’s final State of the Union in 2000. That speech pulled in just under 31.5 million viewers.

Nielsen’s combined tally included networks ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Al Jazeera America, Azteca, CNN, Fox Business Network, Fox News Channel, Galavision, MSNBC, MundoFox and Univision.

Fox News Channel topped cable news ratings for the speech with about 3.5 million viewers.

Yet again, Fox News represents, while the rest of the racist media disses The Nation’s First African American President (TNFAAP).

But maybe all you young kids were streaming gifs on tumblr. Or tumbling streams on gifter. I would have preferred either to the live TV presentation. At least on the computer I can have Mature Madames open in another window. Who needs gifs when you can watch gilfs?

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It’s There if You Want to Find It

And you’re telling me Lois Lerner’s emails are lost forever? What do you think I am, an a**hole?

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Sitting incongruously among the hangars and laboratories of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley is the squat facade of an old McDonald’s. You won’t get a burger there, though — its cash registers and soft-serve machines have given way to old tape drives and modern computers run by a rogue team of hacker engineers who’ve rechristened the place McMoon’s. These self-described techno-archaeologists have been on a mission to recover and digitize forgotten photos taken in the ’60s by a quintet of scuttled lunar satellites.

The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project (LOIRP) has since 2007 brought some 2,000 pictures back from 1,500 analog data tapes. They contain the first high-resolution photographs ever taken from behind the lunar horizon, including the first photo of an earthrise (first slide above). Thanks to the technical savvy and DIY engineering of the team at LOIRP, it’s being seen at a higher resolution than was ever previously possible.

“We’re reaching back to a capability that existed but couldn’t be touched back when it was created,” says Keith Cowing, co-lead and founding member at LOIRP. “It’s like having a DVD in 1966, you can’t play it. We had resolution of the Earth of about a kilometer [per pixel]. This is an image taken a quarter of a f***king million miles away in 1966. The Beatles were warming up to play Shea Stadium at the moment it was being taken.”

In 1966 Lois Lerner would have been joining the local chapter of SDS, I believe.

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When the Going Gets Tough…

The tough get coding:

Though rockets are flying around Israeli skies, 20 Jewish students from top universities and corporations around the world have traveled to Israel for a 10-week internship at large tech companies like Checkpoint, Google and PayPal, as well as at start-ups –and they’re getting involved in the tech side of the conflict.

While they may have signed up for the internships to advance their careers, participants in the Israel Tech Challenge have been making their own small contribution to the war effort.

The group of 20 came to Israel on July 14, a week into the Israeli air campaign in Gaza that opened Operation Defensive Edge, joining another group of 16 that arrived in June. Both the newcomers and the “veterans” have taken things in stride, said Toledano. “They didn’t overreact to the situation, and they’ve shown a good ability to cope with the situation. They didn’t panic when sirens went off in Tel Aviv, where most of them are working, and their motivation has not decreased.”

If anything, it’s increased, said Toledano, “Many of the participants had ideas about developing security related apps in the hackathon, and some have done so in the context of the theme of the event, which to develop apps and services to enhance safe living in urban areas.”

Among those apps is Notifi, developed by Futter and several colleagues during the Challenge’s June hackathon. Notifi checks your location and checks Twitter for messages on developing situations in your area. “The premise is that when there is a security incident — a protest, robbery, fire, etc. — people are going to tweet about it in real time,” said Futter. “Over 60% of tweets include geolocation information. We coordinate that information with sentiment analysis to determine how serious a situation is, and send appropriate warnings out to users. The app would work very well in Israel, or anywhere else.”

When it’s finished, that is. Futter and his team developed an alpha version of the app for the hackathon, but with their internship duties (Futter is working at Checkpoint) they haven’t had time to follow up. “I really hope we can find the time to finish it,” Futter said. “There’s a lot of unrest in Israel and the Jewish world in general, with anti-Semitic riots going on throughout Europe. A tool like this could help make life safer for large numbers of people.”

We’ve noted that when bad things happen to Jews, the bad things spread to everyone else (Islamic terrorism being a prime example). But when Jews do good things (this pogrom app being one minor example), the world entire benefits.

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The Filthy Rich

God bless ‘em:

Judging by the Forbes 400 list, the richest people in America have been getting richer very quickly. In 1982, the first year of the list, there were only 13 billionaires on it. A net worth of $75 million was enough to earn a spot. The 2013 list has nothing but billionaires, with $1.3 billion as the cutoff. Sixty-one American billionaires aren’t rich enough to make the list.

Many regard this as a serious problem, seeing the development of a plutocracy dominating the American economy through the sheer power of its wealth. The French economist Thomas Piketty, in his new book “Capital in the 21st Century,” calls for an 80% tax on incomes over $250,000 and a 2% annual tax on net worth in order to prevent an excessive concentration of wealth.

That is a monumentally bad idea.

The great growth of fortunes in recent decades is not a sinister development. Instead it is simply the inevitable result of an extraordinary technological innovation, the microprocessor, which Intel brought to market in 1971. Seven of the 10 largest fortunes in America today were built on this technology, as have been countless smaller ones. These new fortunes unavoidably result in wealth being more concentrated at the top.

But no one is poorer because Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, et al., are so much richer.

The last line bears repeating:

But no one is poorer because Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, et al., are so much richer.

The author reminds us that previous technological leaps forward—the clipper ship, the steam engine, the railroad, oil and steel—have produced their own stinkin’ rich. We lambasted them too (Robber Barons), but, monopolies aside, who was harmed by those achievements? Doesn’t the history of capitalism, warts and all, declare it the the winner and still champion of all economic systems? A show of hands, please: how many would wish no ships, trains, steam, oil, or steel because some Rockefeller or Carnegie got rich off them? Go back to the horse and buggy if you wish, but it is human nature to try to improve the buggy or breed a better horse, and to get rich doing so.

Just as the railroad, the most important secondary technology of the steam engine, produced many new fortunes, the Internet is producing enormous numbers of them, from the likes of Amazon, Facebook and Twitter. When Twitter went public last November, it created about 1,600 newly minted millionaires.

Any attempt to tax away new fortunes in the name of preventing inequality is certain to have adverse effects on further technology creation and niche exploitation by entrepreneurs—and harm job creation as a result. The reason is one of the laws of economics: Potential reward must equal the risk or the risk won’t be taken.

And the risks in any new technology are very real in the highly competitive game that is capitalism. In 1903, 57 automobile companies opened for business in this country, hoping to exploit the new technology. Only the Ford Motor Co.survived the Darwinian struggle to succeed. As Henry Ford’s fortune grew to dazzling levels, some might have decried it, but they also should have rejoiced as he made the automobile affordable for everyman.

And the fact that Henry Ford was a vile antisemite is beside the point!

Everyone benefits when someone gets unimaginably rich, and not just from their inventions or innovations. The names Ford, Rockefeller, and Carnegie—and Gates, Ellison, and Zuckerberg—are now associated as much with philanthropy as they are with capitalism.

But that’s my point: there is no difference. Even more than the church (an example of concentrated wealth that makes capitalism look like Leon Trotsky), capitalism is philanthropy. Regulate it, sure, but to eliminate it negates human nature and will lead to famines and wars like you’ve never seen.

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The Flubtastic Four

We’re very honored, but we don’t want to forget the little states without whose efforts we wouldn’t be where we are today: Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware—I’m sorry I can’t name them all—this award goes out to all of you:

Nearly half a billion dollars in federal money has been spent developing four state Obamacare exchanges that are now in shambles – and the final price tag for salvaging them may go sharply higher.

Each of the states – Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada and Maryland – embraced Obamacare and each underperformed. All have come under scathing criticism and now face months of uncertainty as they either rush to rebuild their systems or transition to the federal exchange.

The federal government is caught between writing still more exorbitant checks to give them a second chance at creating viable exchanges of their own or, for a lesser although not inexpensive sum, adding still more states to HealthCare.gov.

Their totals are just a fraction of the $4.698 billion that the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation calculates the federal government has approved for states since 2011 to help them determine whether to create their own exchanges and to assist in doing so. Still, the amount of money that now appears wasted is prompting calls for far greater accountability.

Horse, barn door, you get the point. But we don’t:

Massachusetts’ dual-track approach could require more than $120 million on top of the $170 million it has already has been awarded. That cost is nearly twice as much as if the state were to simply bail on its Connector, but officials seem to be banking in part on the Obama administration’s greater interest in helping the Massachusetts exchange – the once-pioneering model for Obamacare – survive.

You read right: we’d rather sink another $120,000,000 into a failed, fetid pit of a website than admit failure. That’s the kind of sticktoitiveness that made this country great. As Blutowski said in Animal House, “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

And we have you, the American taxpayer, to thank for our repeated opportunities for failure. You’re the best.

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Apartheid State Update

Spot the apartheid:

The USB flash drive is one of the most simple, everyday pieces of technology that many people take for granted.

Now it’s being eyed as a possible solution to bridging the digital divide, by two colourful entrepreneurs behind the start-up Keepod.

Nissan Bahar and Franky Imbesi aim to combat the lack of access to computers by providing what amounts to an operating-system-on-a-stick.

In six weeks, their idea managed to raise more than $40,000 (£23,750) on fundraising site Indiegogo, providing the cash to begin a campaign to offer low-cost computing to the two-thirds of the globe’s population that currently has little or no access.

The test bed for the project is the slums of Nairobi in Kenya.

As most of our readers would know, I employ the tag Apartheid State Update ironically when writing about Israel’s diversity or unique generosity to poor people around the world. So how does this story qualify?

Keep reading:

It will allow old, discarded and potentially non-functional PCs to be revived, while allowing each user to have ownership of their own “personal computer” experience – with their chosen desktop layout, programs and data – at a fraction of the cost of providing a unique laptop, tablet or other machine to each person.

[T]he pair have teamed up with LiveInSlums – a non-governmental organisation operating in Mathare – to introduce the flash drives to students and staff at WhyNot Academy.

Like other schools in East Africa, the school uses text books and chalk boards to teach.

Two years ago it was connected to the electricity supply.

During a visit to the school in March, Mr Bahar and Mr Imbesi decided to buy a router and a Sim card to hook the classrooms up to the internet.

Their solution involved hanging the router in a carrier bag nailed next to one of two plug sockets in the school.

It looked makeshift, but that didn’t prevent the children cheering when it was announced the academy had gone online.

“It makes it possible for anyone with a Keepod to use any computer and get the same experience,” says Mr Bahar.

“Each child will see their own files and apps appear in exactly the same way each time, without the need to remember lots of passwords.”

The amazement and excitement at seeing these old laptops come to life was palpable inside the classroom.

And the children stayed long after classes had ended to explore and set up their new devices.

Nice story, BTL, but still not seeing the connection to Israel.

Keep reading:

Keepod is never going to be a huge money-spinner, but the idea is that it will eventually support itself.

Mr Bahar and Mr Imbesi’s plan is for locally employed workers to buy the flash drives on the open market, install the operating system and a few essential apps, and then sell them on for a small gain.

The final price would be $7 (£4.15), delivering about a $2 profit on each device that would help cover wages and the further expansion of the project.

Still not seeing it? How about a picture?

Keepod is Hebrew for the word hedgehog. It is also a play on words, as it joins the English word “keep” with the Hebrew word “od”, meaning “everything”.

Hebrew? What does Hebrew have to do with this?

BTL, you don’t mean these two entrepreneurs are…?

I do:

If you ‘re reading this, you’re using a computer and know that frustration of being away from your machine, and not being able to access your precious files. Yes, there are useful innovations like Google’s Drive and other browser-based sharing programs, but what if you could keep your whole digital soul on you all the time?

Enter Keepod, the Israeli startup with a simple but revolutionary vision – to transfer all the computing from a PC to a disk-on-key, or in geek-speak, a USB flash drive.

Recently the company announced another project called KeepodUnite, in the context of activity for corporate social responsibility.

“Every year tens of millions of computers are tossed into the garbage in the United States alone,” explains Bahar. “These computers are good for us. We have formed a partnership that will enable us to bring such computers to the third world, to the five billion people who are still not connected to the Internet, with our part being a system of USB devices with the KeepodOS system on it.”

The second story is from Haaretz, last December. The first story, scrubbed of any reference to Israel, is from the BBC, yesterday. Heckuva job, BBC, rendering a story of Israeli philanthropy judenrein.

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Fine, Walk Then

Your loss, Professor Hawking:

An Israeli company has reinvented the wheel – literally.

Business Insider reports that Softwheel, a Tel Aviv company, has improved upon one of mankind’s most basic tools – adding maneuverability and stability for wheelchair uses and cyclists alike.

Softwheel’s “Selective Suspension Technology” is activated when a wheel encounters an impact above a certain threshold, according to the daily, moving the wheel hub to cushion the shock effect and lessening the impact for the rider.

The threshold can be pre-set by the user, who can change it at any time to adapt to the commute, according to PSFK.

The invention has been named as one of the “Top 7 Most Exciting Alternative Modes of Transport in Israel” by Israel21c and is expected to expand to other vehicles and applications, according to the news site.

Has it been a year since Stephen Hawking committed uncommitted committed to the boycott of all things Israeli?

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center, called Hawking’s boycott hypocritical.

“His whole computer-based communication system runs on a chip designed by Israel’s Intel team. I suggest that if he truly wants to pull out of Israel, he should also pull out his Intel Core i7 from his tablet.”

She suggested that he should also consult his academic contacts and the Intel engineers in Israel before deciding to boycott.

“He seems to have no understanding of this world.”

Ha! Put him at the event horizon of a black hole and Hawking could tell you where to buy the freshest cannoli. Put him on terra firma, however, and he’s at sea.

If this Israeli wheelchair comes equipped with GPS, perhaps it can point the greatest English mind in physics since Newton toward true north and not toward Mecca.

I beg your pardon! I shouldn’t belch, I know, but gosh if those tiny bubbles in my SodaStream beverage don’t make their way out one way or another.

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It’s Around Here Somewhere

The plane, boss, the plane!

What effing plane?

On Monday, Australian exploration company GeoResonance said they believed it may have located the wreckage more than 3,000 miles from where authorities have been looking off the western coast of Australia.

“We identified chemical elements and materials that make up a Boeing 777 … these are aluminum, titanium, copper, steel alloys and other materials,” Pavel Kursa from GeoResonance told Australia’s 7News.

“The wreckage wasn’t there prior to the disappearance of MH370,” Kursa’s colleague David Pope added, according to 7News.

Three thousand miles? That’s like losing your wallet in, say, Athol, Massachusetts and looking for it in Fresno, California. If it weren’t so tragic, I’d have to laugh.

PS: What’s that dot just below Java? Has anybody checked it out?

PPS: Sorry, just a speck of hoisin sauce on my screen. I regret the error.

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If You Like Your Privacy…

You’d best stay off Healthcare.gov:

[I]t’s not just myself that is just saying this website is insecure, it is also seven other independent security researchers that also looked at all of the research that I’ve done and came to the exact same conclusion. And these are folks that work really well in the industry. And they’re highly respected, have an extensive experience of working for the government. And, you know, if you read the testimony and you read what she had actually said, she said that it’s done end to end security testing. They don’t say what type of testing that is. It could have been an audit that just looks at paperwork. It could have been, you know, really rudimentary testing that looks for just basic things. But what is pretty evident right now is that the site itself is not secure.

[T]hey (inaudible) that there has been no successful hacks that they’ve been able to detect. If you look at — there’s November testimony by Congress that basically said that a third party company was contracted to build out what we call the security operations center, which is what would actually detect these types of attacks. As of November, it hadn’t even been started yet. So, if you look at how long these security operations centers take to put into play, it takes several months, if not years to actually implement and fully build the attacks out there. So, as of November we have no modern detection. And that, from my understanding, it’s still not happening to this date. So they’re accurate in their statement. They haven’t detected any attacks on the website, because they don’t have the capability to detect them.

There is a technique called — what we call passer reconnaissance, which allows us to query — look at how the website operates and performs.

It’s a rudimentary type attack that doesn’t actually attack the website itself, it extracts information from it without actually having to go into the system. Think of it this way. Think of something where you have a car and the car doors are open and the windows are open, you can see inside of it. That’s basically what they allow you to do. And there is no real sophistication level here. It is just really wide open. So, there is no hacking actually involved. And 70,000 was just one of the numbers that I was able to go up to. And I stopped after that. You know, and I’m sure it’s hundreds of thousands, if not more and it was done within about a four-minute time frame. So, it’s just wide open. You can literally just open up your browser, go to this and extract all this information. Not actually having to hack the website itself.

A teenager in Russia developed the malware to hack into Target and Nieman Marcus—some virgin commie accessed as many as 70 million records. And you feel confident that Moe, Larry, and Curly in HHS have this thing locked up tight? Go ahead, it’s your bankruptcy.

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Eye Candy From Israel

Readers Jeanette and Yerushalimey sent us some pretty cool news from Israel.

Jeanette’s story:

Women have proudly served in the IDF since the very beginning. Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, wrote an impassioned letter to religious communities outlining the necessity of women serving and protecting Israel. Since then, women have taken increasingly high-level positions in the IDF. These female Israeli soldiers challenge stereotypes through the work they do every day.

Just two examples:

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First Sgt. Monaliza Abdo is an Arab-Israeli woman who proudly served her country as a combat soldier. She wasn’t required to enlist, but her determination to protect Israel motivated her to volunteer. As a fighter on Israel’s southern border, she rose through the ranks to become a commander, teaching soldiers how to combat terrorism and other threats. Just a few weeks ago, she honorably completed three years of service – one more than the required number for Israeli women.

Lt. Amit Danon was the Israeli national champion in rhythmic gymnastics when she enlisted in the IDF. After embarking on her path as a soldier, she decided to leave her previous life behind and became a combat officer in the mixed-gender Caracal Battalion. Lt. Danon now leads other soldiers as platoon commander.

Six other pretty neat stories at the link. Before I move on to Yerushalimey’s story, can I just mention to any fashion designers in our readership that the military look is molten hot on women? Take it to the bank.

Yerushalimey’s story:

University’s Professor Zeev Zalevsky created a contact lens that, when attached to electrodes, creates sensations in the retina of the eye that can be translated into images. The contact lens receives signals from a regular “off the shelf” camera or smartphone, which the wearer either holds or wears. When a blind person wearing the fitted contact lens looks at an object or points the camera towards it, the camera converts the image into electronic Braille by sending tactile sensations to the retina. The communication system between the camera and the lens operates by Radio Frequency Identification, or RFID.

Although still in the prototype stage, the system has been successfully tried out on animals. One of the results of those studies shows that the animals could actually see their way through an obstacle course in the dark. Nighttime vision is one of the challenges that Zalevsky hopes to overcome next. He speculates that by connecting an infrared camera to a transponder delivering sensations to the contact lens, wearers would be able to see in the dark.

Okay, maybe other bloggers would have led off with the miracle of sight over pictures of hot chicks firing automatic weapons. You’re welcome to read those blogs. We go to the important stuff eventually.

Maybe I’m the weird one (ahem), but I kind of like being an ally of a country like Israel. Those were the days.

News like this daily at Good News From Israel.

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The HealthCare Games

There are many challenges, and only the strong—and politically connected—survive:

Just because you’ve picked an Obamacare insurance policy doesn’t mean you’ve got coverage.

If you want to be insured come Jan. 1, you have to pay your first month’s premium by your insurer’s due date, often Dec. 31.

Sounds simple enough, but federal officials and insurers are concerned that many consumers don’t realize they have to take this last step and will remain uninsured. What’s more, those who don’t pay by then may have their Obamacare applications terminated, forcing them to re-enroll via healthcare.gov for coverage that will begin later in 2014.

The tight deadline and continuing errors with consumers’ applications being sent to insurers also risk leaving some folks* uncovered. Obama administration officials are advising consumers to check with their insurer of choice to make sure it received their application and payment and that coverage will begin Jan. 1.

[* “Folks” copyright Barack Hussein Obama. Used with permission.]

This is not exactly news to anyone who’s been reading. Which is to say it’s news to almost everybody. In the real world, good intentions and meaning to get around to it do not a binding contract make. A cancelled check does.

And therein lies the problem:

While the Obama administration has reported that more than 100,000 Americans picked plans in October, the first month of open enrollment, it’s not known how many of them have paid.

One insurer, Physicians Health Plan of Northern Indiana, has received payments from only about 20% of applicants, nearly all using the firm’s online portal, said Jim Brunnemer, the chief financial officer. It is sending invoices and email reminders to those who haven’t yet sealed the deal. If payment isn’t made by New Year’s Eve, PHP has been told by federal officials that it must void the application.

Another complication is that insurers also don’t have a lot of time to process applications and send out ID cards. The timeline, particularly over the holiday week, will prove “challenging” for some companies, one industry executive said.

This is what happens when government butts into private affairs and private enterprise. The namesake of ObamaCare is, in essence, doing to the insurance industry—and to “folks”—what Martin Bashir wanted to do to Sarah Palin.

The process is being further complicated by the fact that insurers are receiving applications from healthcare.gov that contain errors, such as missing data. Some applications aren’t getting through, so insurers don’t know to follow up with these folks*. Both of these problems are slowing down the enrollment process.

Unbelievable. Say “Ahh”, folks*.

[* “Folks” copyright Barack Hussein Obama. Used with permission.]

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