Obamacare causes insurance company to lose money

Finding out what’s in it: For the first time in 15 years, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Carolina will lose money in 2015 due to Obamacare.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the state’s largest health insurer, said Friday that it posted its first financial loss in 15 years as a result of insuring high numbers of older and sicker people under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The Chapel Hill organization signed up 257,704 people under the federal health care law, which requires insurers to provide coverage regardless of a customer’s health condition. New enrollees last year swelled Blue Cross’s covered membership to 3.91 million people, and boosted revenue by 25 percent to an all-time high of $8 billion.

But steep medical claims – for hip and knee replacements, heart procedures, specialty drugs and other costs – drove up medical claims from $5 billion in 2013 to $6.4 billion in 2014. Blue Cross also paid $156 million in ACA-related fees, a new cost for the company.

Federal subsidies under Obamacare are supposed to cover these loses, but then we must ask where is the bankrupt federal government going to get this money? In the end, someone is going to go bankrupt and we will all be worse off.

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SpaceX has another successful commercial launch

The competition heats up: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched its first two-satellite payload to geosynchronouse orbit on Sunday.

The satellites were unusual in that they both have replaced all their chemical engines with ion engines, thus saving weight and cost.

While the satellites will need six to seven times longer to reach the desired orbit, the cost savings is enormous. “The advantage of that, of course, is you don’t carry liquid chemical fuel, which is very heavy,” Betaharon said. “This particular satellite, each of them weigh around 2,000 kilograms. Typically, if you get a satellite like that from other manufacturers, or even from Boeing using chemical propulsion, they would weigh something around 3,500 to 4,000 kilograms, or in some cases maybe more. That’s why, because it’s lower mass, we managed to put two of them on one rocket, which right away reduces your launch costs in half.”

When ABS and Eutelsat signed up for Falcon 9 launch services several years ago, the rocket cost about $60 million. “We paid under $30 million for each satellite, which is almost unheard of,” Betaharon said.

More information about the new satellite designs can be found here.

Nonetheless, the combined weight of the two satellites plus the need to get them to geosynchronous orbit forced SpaceX to forgo another attempt to land its first stage vertical. The rocket needed the fuel to get the satellites where they had to go.

California bans Christian clubs at its colleges

Modern fascism: Christian clubs at California colleges have been banned because the clubs insist that their elected leaders must be Christians.

Leaders of Cru, formerly known as Campus Crusade for Christ, as well as the two other Christian clubs at San Luis Obispo that were derecognized – InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and Chinese Christian Fellowship – have insisted that they couldn’t allow any non-Christians to be leaders.

“We have no issue with anybody of any kind of race, religion coming to our weekly meetings and being a part of who we are,” San Luis Obispo Missionary Leader Jamey Pappas said. “It’s a question of who’s going to be leading our students in a Bible Study, mentoring them individually, or deciding what kind of content goes into our weekly meeting, and we want people who agree with what we’re about.”

More evidence that the concept of freedom of association is dead in America, and with it freedom itself. The result here is that it is impossible to have a religious organization on these campuses. (Note that the Islamic clubs have joined with the Christian clubs to fight the policy.)

Since I have no doubt that atheist and gay clubs accepted this policy knowing that college administrators will look the other way if they discriminate because they are considered “politically correct,” I think these religious clubs should test the policy for real. Pick an atheist club and swamp it with religious members so that a religious person gets elected as leader. We will quickly find out that the real intent of these policies has nothing to do with preventing discrimination but to squelch the freedoms of traditional American values in favor of new ideologies.

Small satellite industry predicted to blossom

The competition heats up: An industry study now predicts that more than 500 small satellites, including nanosats, cubesats, microsats, and minisats, will be launched in the next five years.

Note however this important detail, highlighted below:

75% of the 510 satellites to be launched during the next five years will be for government civil and defense agencies. Growth in government demand will be stronger than in the commercial world where a total of 130 satellites are expected. “Large constellation projects such as those announced in 2014 by OneWeb and by SpaceX in association with Google have not been included in our forecasts/scenarios for launch by 2019,” said Rachel Villain, Principal Advisor at Euroconsult and Editor of the report. “Large constellation projects could, however, represent a very significant component of launches over the following five year period (2020-2024).” [emphasis mine]

Even though the predicted launches represent a two-thirds increase per year compared to the previous decade, this launch rate does not include the big private constellations that appear almost certain to fly. In other words, all signs point to the possibility that we are about to see a real boom in the space industry.

Senate RINOS whine about the House’s refusal to give Obama what he wants

Well ain’t that a shame: Republicans senators McCain, Graham, Flake, and Kirk are fuming over the House’s refusal to settle the Homeland Security budget issues and give Obama what he wants.

GOP senators say it’s time to move on to other issues, such as the budget, trade legislation, and regulatory and tax reform. They must defend 24 seats in the 2016 election and worry that voters could soon start to question their ability to govern unless they can move forward with a more substantive agenda. The fight over President Obama’s executive actions on immigration brought that agenda to a standstill in February, as the threat of a homeland security shutdown thwarted other priorities.

“I just think we ought to move on to other things. I’m not sure how it helps for the American people to have the perception that Republicans in the Senate and Republicans in the House are at odds with each other,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). “We have a lot of initiatives I think we could show the American people we can work together on,” he added.

This idiot thinks that achievement is passing a budget, no matter how stupid or illegal. McCain also thinks that the public wants Obama’s agenda fulfilled. Meanwhile, elections tell us a completely different story. I hope the conservatives in the House continue to make these guys squirm.

What infuriates me the most is that McCain and Flake are my senators. McCain I’ve known as a back-stabbing RINO for more than a decade, but Flake had been a decent congressman who had been instrumental in squelching a lot of pork from the budget. Once elected as a senator, however, I have discovered him to be as bad as McCain.

Fly-by close-up of Comet 67P/C-G


close-up of Comet 67P/C-G

More cool images! Rosetta’s navigation camera has taken another very amazing close-up of Comet 67P/C-G, snapped during the February 14 fly-by.

The cropped section above focuses on the transition between two regions, the generally smooth area called Imhotep on the right and the more mountainous and rugged area called Khepry on the left. Go to the link for the full image, which also includes an interesting description of the engineering problems of doing these close fly-bys.

Methane does exist in the Martian atmosphere

The uncertainty of science: Curiosity has confirmed the presence, and fluctuation, of methane in the local Martian atmosphere.

SAM [Sample Analysis at Mars, one of Curiosity’s instruments] has been detecting basal levels of methane concentration of around 0,7 ppbv, and has confirmed an event of episodic increase of up to ten times this value during a period of sixty soles (Martian days), i.e., of about 7 ppvb. The new data are based on observations during almost one Martian year (almost two Earth years), included in the initial prediction for the duration of the mission (nominal mission), during which Curiosity has surveyed about 8 kms in the basin of the Gale crater.

Since methane has a short life expectancy, something must be doing something to generate it.

The Honey Trees – Moon River

An evening pause:

Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way

Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waiting, round the bend
My Huckleberry Friend, Moon River, and me

Hat tip Edward Thelen.

Homeland funding bill fails

Good! A large number of conservative Republicans combined with most House Democrats to defeat a cobbled-together three week funding bill for Homeland Security.

As of midnight tonight many Homeland employees will either be furloughed, or have to work without pay (if their job is deemed essential).

The Republican leadership continues to brainwash itself into thinking a government shutdown will hurt them at the ballot box, when all the evidence from recent elections says exactly the opposite. After the 2013 shutdown the press screamed “Republicans did it!” as if it was a bad thing but the voters rewarded the Republicans one of its biggest landslides in almost a century in 2014. If anything, shutting the government down appeared to help the Republicans win elections. The public wants the government brought under control. Moreover, every shutdown helps prove how useless and unneeded that government is, the exact position conservatives have been touting for decades.

Let Homeland Security shut down. We didn’t need it for more than 225 years, and we don’t need it now.

Update: Congress has hurriedly passed a seven-day funding bill for Homeland Security.

The AP story linked above does the usual media hatchet job of spinning the story to make it all sound like the Republicans caused all the problems. As far as I am concerned, the failure here is the fact that not enough Republicans stood firm. A majority did, but we are still stuck with that handful of fake Republicans, such as Hatch, McCain, Flake, and Graham, that screw conservatives every time.

A cold Pacific causing the lack of warming?

The uncertainty of science: Global warming scientists have concocted another explanation among dozens for the refusal of the climate to warm since 1998: a cold Pacific!

Where’s the heat? Greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, continue to be pumped into the atmosphere, but sometime around 1998, the rise in Earth’s average temperatures slowed, deviating from the rates predicted by models. Scientists have proposed that what some call “the pause” could be the result of a number of factors, including heat storage in deep ocean waters to unexpectedly high amounts of aerosols in the stratosphere helping deflect solar rays back into space. Now, a new study suggests that natural cycles in the Pacific Ocean are the culprit.

Since the end of last El Niño warming event of 1997 to 1998, the tropical Pacific Ocean has been in a relatively cool phase—strong enough to offset the warming created by greenhouse gas emissions. But, this is just a temporary balm: When the switch flips and the waters turn warm again, the researchers say, Earth will likely continue warming.

“What this study addresses is what’s better described as a false pause, or slowdown,” rather than a hiatus in warming, says climate scientist Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, University Park. Some climate change deniers have taken encouragement from the pause, saying they show warming predictions are flawed, but Mann, a co-author on the study, notes that “there have been various explanations for why [the slowdown is happening], none of which involve climate models being fundamentally wrong.” [emphasis mine]

Does no one at the journal Science notice the outright stupidity of the first two paragraphs above? In the first it is posited that all the climate heat we haven’t been seeing could be stored in the oceans. In the second it is posited that a cold Pacific Ocean has offset the warming, thus causing the lack of climate warming.

If the oceans are storing the extra heat, how is it possible for the Pacific to be unusually cold?

We should not be surprised by this stupidity, however. The third paragraph shows that Science is depending on Michael Mann for its climate expertise, a global warming activist who was exposed as a fake scientist, a fraud, and a dishonest corrupter of data in the climategate emails. That this journal still goes to him for his opinions tells us quite a lot about the lack of objectivity at Science. Their use of the word “denier” for scientists who raise questions about global warming also tells us that the journal hasn’t the faintest idea how science works. The very heart of the scientific method demands skepticism. To instead equate skeptics with those who deny the genocide committed by the Nazis suggests that much of the so-called science published by Science is not science but propaganda.

India plans 2015 test flight of reusable suborbital spaceplane

The competition heats up: The new head of ISRO, India’s space agency, announced Thursday that India will test fly a prototype suborbital spaceplane sometime in 2016.

The description makes me think this prototype is similar to Europe’s IXV, which was half scale and designed only as a test vehicle.

Investigators say 32,000 Lerner IRS emails have been recovered

Transparency! The Treasury investigators told a House committee on Thursday that they have been able to recover 32,000 emails by IRS official Lois Lerner that IRS officials had sworn were lost forever.

[Timothy Camus, a Treasury deputy inspector general for tax administration,] said it took investigators two weeks to locate the computer tapes that contained Lerner’s emails. He said it took technicians about four months to find Lerner’s emails on the tapes. Several Oversight Committee members questioned how hard the IRS tried to produce the emails, given how quickly independent investigators found them.

In other words, IRS officials lied to Congress when they said these emails were unrecoverable and couldn’t be found.

Unfortunately, the investigators have not yet gone through these emails in detail, and were not yet prepared to reveal what was in them. For that show we will have to wait a bit longer.

Update: During his testimony Camus also said that they are considering a criminal investigation into whether there was a real cover-up.

The IRS’s inspector general confirmed Thursday it is conducting a criminal investigation into how Lois G. Lerner’s emails disappeared, saying it took only two weeks for investigators to find hundreds of tapes the agency’s chief had told Congress were irretrievably destroyed. Investigators have already scoured 744 backup tapes and gleaned 32,774 unique emails, but just two weeks ago they found an additional 424 tapes that could contain even more Lerner emails, Deputy Inspector General Timothy P. Camus told the House Oversight Committee in a rare late-night hearing meant to look into the status of the investigation.

“There is potential criminal activity,” Mr. Camus said.

Camus also said that when his investigation went to the software people to try to get the tapes, they discovered that IRS officials had never talked to them, demonstrating clearly that IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was lying when he said the agency had searched high and low for the tapes and discovered them lost.

Jet lag is worse on Mars

Research and actual experience has found that adjusting to the slightly longer Martian day is not as easy as you would think.

If you’re on Mars, or at least work by a Mars clock, you have to figure out how to put up with the exhausting challenge of those extra 40 minutes. To be exact, the Martian day is 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35 seconds long, a length of day that doesn’t coincide with the human body’s natural rhythms. Scientists, Mars rover drivers, and everyone else in the space community call the Martian day a “sol” to differentiate it from an Earth day. While it doesn’t seem like a big difference, that extra time adds up pretty quickly. It’s like heading west by two time zones every three days. Call it “rocket lag.”

Inspector General to report tonight on Lois Lerner email recovery

Transparency! The inspector general for the Treasury Department is scheduled to testify this evening before a House committee on his investigation into the IRS’s effort to recover emails of Lois Lerner that the IRS said were forever lost.

“House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz remains concerned the IRS potentially mislead the American people about its efforts to recover former Director Lerner’s emails. The IRS has claimed under oath that most of her emails from a key time period were destroyed by a crashed hard drive, that back-up tapes were erased, and were therefore unrecoverable,” a statement from the Committee says. “Through their ongoing efforts, the Inspector General’s office has discovered that the back-up tapes do exist, the data on them was never erased, and the emails are in fact recoverable.”

Should be quite interesting.

Fired for using the wrong word

Fascists: A student government representative was removed from his position at George Mason University because he used the word “illegal” in writing about his opposition to giving illegal immigrants state tuition aid.

GMU’s student body president, Philip Abbruscato, released [an] official message on Sunday boasting of the school’s “thousands of unique voices” and the student government’s “variety of backgrounds, cultures, ideologies, academic interests, and more.” Abbruscato also said that “demeaning” remarks from members of GMU’s student government would “not be tolerated at any level regardless of belief,” and removed Paglia from his position on Feb., 20. “While we all live in a society that permits us to express our opinions, we must also recognize that we live with the consequences of their impact on those we represent. [emphasis mine]

In other words, according to this fascist, you have freedom of speech as long as you don’t say anything that he disagrees with.

Earth’s other moon

Link here.

What you might not know is that the moon is not the Earth’s only natural satellite. As recently as 1997, we discovered that another body, 3753 Cruithne, is what’s called a quasi-orbital satellite of Earth. This simply means that Cruithne doesn’t loop around the Earth in a nice ellipse in the same way as the moon, or indeed the artificial satellites we loft into orbit. Instead, Cruithne scuttles around the inner solar system in what’s called a “horseshoe” orbit.

Second spacewalk in ISS reconfiguration completed

On Wednesday astronauts successfully completed the second spacewalk in NASA’s long term reconfiguration of ISS to accomodate two privately-built commercial manned spacecraft.

The reconfiguration will continue on Sunday with the third EVA for this crew.

The spacewalk had one minor issue that could be a cause for concern for future American spacewalks: The suit of one of the astronauts had a small water leak within it. While this problem was minor and not a threat to the astronaut, it is reminiscent of the more serious spacesuit leak that occurred in 2013 that almost drowned an Italian astronaut. Finding the cause of that leak took almost a year to track down, and though solved even now raises concerns. To have another water leak inside a suit, even a minor one, suggests that the design of the American suit has a design flaw that they are having difficulty correcting.

The brightest spot on Ceres has a partner

Ceres' double bright spots

Cool images! Dawn’s newest images have revealed that the brightest spot on Ceres, shown on the right in a cropped version of the full image, has a dimmer companion.

“Ceres’ bright spot can now be seen to have a companion of lesser brightness, but apparently in the same basin. This may be pointing to a volcano-like origin of the spots, but we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make such geologic interpretations,” said Chris Russell, principal investigator for the Dawn mission, based at the University of California, Los Angeles.

The spots are still too small for Dawn’s camera to resolve. That they are inside what looks like a crater is very puzzling. If they are water-ice, why are they so bright and distinct? One one think the ice would pile up along the crater wall, but then, that’s what we think based on our experience here on Earth with wind, rain, and our heavy gravity. Ceres is cold, has no atmosphere, and a tiny gravitational field. Every geological process will proceed in a different manner.

Russians confirm plan to leave ISS in 2024

The competition heats up: Russian space managers have confirmed that they have endorsed a plan to leave ISS in 2024, when they will assemble their own space station using new modules as well as a significant number of the modules attached to ISS.

On February 24, 2015, the Scientific and Technical Council, NTS, at Roskosmos, the main planning body at the agency led by a newly appointed chairman and the former head of the agency Yuri Koptev, formally endorsed the Russian participation in the ISS program until 2024. It would be followed by the separation of Russia’s newest modules from the ISS to form the new national space station. As previously reported on this site, the initial configuration of the station would include the Multi-purpose Module, MLM, the Node Module, UM, and the Science and Power Module, NEM. Notably, the original Russian ISS component — the Zvezda Service Module, SM — was not included in the plan, thus ensuring that its propulsion capabilities would be available for deorbiting of the outpost at the end of its operational life.

Whether ISS will be functional with just the Russian Zvezda module is not clear. NASA engineers now have about a decade to figure this out and to fix it.

In general the break up of the partnership running ISS will be good for space exploration. The competition between nations will spur development and innovation. It will also free each nation from the shackles of the partnership. The Russians in particular have wanted to utilize ISS for more daring and longer expeditions to research interplanetary travel, and were stymied by NASA’s bureaucracy. Once they start doing this sort of thing on their own station NASA will feel obliged to follow.

Obviously, competition between nations carries risk. As long as there is some agreed to framework for claiming territory on other planets (something that the U.N. treaty does not allow), the nations will be able to compete peacefully. Without that framework, however, will leave room for disagreement and conflict.

It is thus essential that the space-faring nations sit down and work out this framework, and do it as soon as possible before each nation has vested interests in space that are already in conflict with each other. Above all, this new framework has got to abandon the U.N. space treaty with its rules that forbid the claiming and controlling of territory by nations in space. Those rules were never realistic, and literally guarantee that nations will eventually end up at war with each other as they fight to determine who owns what in space.

Christian florist tells her side of the story

Watch the video of her television interview below the fold. As she says,

It’s not about the money. It’s about freedom. It’s about my eight kids and our 23 grandchildren and the future. There’s not a price on freedom. You can’t buy my freedom. It’s me now, but tomorrow it’s going to be you. You gotta wake up. [emphasis mine]

She added,

They are talking about bullying me into doing something that is against my faith. They can’t do that.

She also makes it very clear that she and the gay couple are friends, and that she has provided flowers for them many times in the past. And when she declined to do arrangements for their marriage, she provided them alternative recommendations so they wouldn’t be deprived of service, though not from her. And it appears that this gay couple never sued her. It was the ACLU and the Washington attorney general that sued.
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What every conservative politican should answer when asked a stupid gotcha question by a journalist

“You want my opinion? My opinion is that you’re not very good at your job and your boss should send someone else to do this. If you want to know about what they said, go ask them. If you’d like to talk to me about the issues or anything I said, feel free. Next question.” [emphasis in originial]

Read it all. It makes perfect sense, to demand better from these reporters. And it works! I remember listening to Margaret Thatcher as she did this to an NPR reporter back around the time of the Falklands War. Very quickly the reporter got focused on asking intelligent questions, and the interview for Thatcher turned out to be resounding success.

Louisville Leopard Percussionists – Zeppellin

An evening pause: To quote the youtube webpage, “The Louisville Leopard Percussionists began in 1993. They are a performing ensemble of approximately 55 student musicians, ages 7-12, living in and around Louisville, Kentucky. Each student learns and acquires proficiency on several instruments, such as marimbas, xylophone, vibraphone, drum set, timbales, congas, bongos and piano.”

Hat tip Diane Zimmerman

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