FYIs: Oscar Campaigning, Google Glass, and why Medical Bills are Killing Us


Today’s FYI list includes lots of visual and audio content. Browse through and see what caught our attention in this week’s news!

We spent our President’s Day smiling at this quirky animated history of the American presidency. For a moment toss out everything you know about American politics and ask : “What would you do if you had to invent the President?” Surely, there’s plenty of answers to that one –but before you take a stab at it take a look at the video, and then tell us what you think!

In other news this week, the Oscar ballot officially closed on Tuesday, after endless months of campaigning and promotion to grab the attention of the 6,000 Academy voter members.  So how exactly do filmmakers lobby Oscar voters, and does such campaigning carry any significant weight? This BBB piece focuses on just that.

The Academy – no doubt fearful of potential damage to its well-guarded image – last year tightened campaigning rules. Limiting the number of post-nominations screenings and outlawing hospitality are just two examples of stricter control. But there is an argument that some winners are born, not made. Academy voters take notice of what the various critics groups find worthy but they also have their own particular tastes.Films such as Lincoln that tackle weighty issues and tap into patriotism are favoured, says Wendy Mitchell, editor of Screen International.

In this week’s “All Tech Considered” NPR’s Steve Henn dives into the growing 3D printing industry, which is starting to faces some tough challenges on the intellectual property front.  The story highlights a new popular website called Thingverse which is a platform for people to create and share 3D printing plans.  Recently, Moulinsart, the company that owns the rights to the cartoon Tintin, served Thingiverse with a Millennium Digital Copyright Act takedown notice. “The company insisted that the site remove printing designs of Tintin’s cartoon moon rocket,” explains Henn. Is the era of benign neglect on Thingiverse coming to an end? As Michael Weinberg, a lawyer at Public Knowledge, puts it:

The technology is coming whether we like it or not. And so, as a CEO of one of these companies, you can spend a lot of time and money trying to sue it out of existence — and sue the genie back into the bottle — or you can spend that same time and money and apply it toward finding a way to use the technology to your advantage.

Also in tech, Google released a new promotional video about Google Glass. The Atlantic writes:

Until today, Google hadn’t said much about its (possibly creepy) artificial intelligence glasses or what they will actually, you know, do. But the release of a new (definitely extreme) promotional video for Google Glass starts to give us an idea, beyond the fashion shows and the daredevil stunts (though they remain), of how this particular gadget of the future might be put to use.

Next on our FYI list is a story about the ethics of photojournalism. Last week, Swedish photographer Paul Hansen received the prestigious 2012 World Press Photo prize.  The photo shows the funeral procession of two Palestinian children who were killed by a missile attack in Gaza.

Is photo manipulation unethical?

As Designboom reports,  the entry, awarded the first prize in the news category, “is currently at the centre of a debate surrounding the practice of image manipulation in documentary photography”:

The sophisticated reworkings of Hansen flirt with the limits of alteration – the perfect framing, high saturation and artificial lighting all examples of creating an  idealized artistic aesthetic. a warm lighting cast on the left side of the men’s faces illustrate this point more specifically – as the buildings line the street they effectively create a tunnel, rendering this type of illumination impossible in reality.

When asked about the image’s possible controversy, Hansen said it truthfully portrays the situation:

You can see that they’re dead, but it’s not gruesome in any other way besides emotion…The ability to portray something in a manner that doesn’t make the reader turn away takes conscious balancing, Hansen said, adding that it’s something for which he strives.

Now on to some other hot topics: immigration and healthcare.

This New Yorker piece is a must-read. Author James Surowiecki effectively debunks the long-held myth that immigrants steal jobs and that more immigration will be bad for American workers and for the U.S. economy. Surowiecki  writes:

A host of studies have found that immigration has actually boosted wages for native-born American workers as a whole, and that while immigration has had a negative impact on the wages of one group—men without a high-school education—that impact has been surprisingly small. Taken as a whole, in fact, the numbers clearly suggest that immigration reform would be a genuine boon to the U.S. economy.

And finally, in this controversial TIME cover story, Steven Brill breaks down patient medical bills to see exactly how and why we are overspending, where the money is going and how to get it back. After seven months of analyzing hundreds of bill from hospitals, doctors, and drug companies and medical equipment manufacturers, Brilll concludes that:

The healthcare market is not a market at all. It’s a crapshoot. Everyone fares differently based on circumstances they can neither control nor predict. They may have no insurance. They may have insurance, but their employer chooses their insurance plan and it may have a payout limit or not cover a drug or treatment they need. They may or may not be old enough to be on Medicare or, given the different standards of the 50 states, be poor enough to be on Medicaid. If they’re not protected by Medicare or protected only partially by private insurance with high co-pays, they have little visibility into pricing, let alone control of it. They have little choice of hospitals or the services they are billed for, even if they somehow knew the prices before they got billed for the services. They have no idea what their bills mean, and those who maintain the chargemasters couldn’t explain them if they wanted to. How much of the bills they end up paying may depend on the generosity of the hospital or on whether they happen to get the help of a billing advocate. They have no choice of the drugs that they have to buy or the lab tests or CT scans that they have to get, and they would not know what to do if they did have a choice. They are powerless buyers in a sellers’ market where the only consistent fact is the profit of the sellers.

That wraps up our list of tidbits for the week –tell us what you think and what stood out to you in this whirlwind of topics and debates.

About Sona Makker

Sona is a first-year law student studying technology law at Santa Clara University. She’s an advocate for online privacy, digital rights, and public access to the public domain. If she’s not arguing with her siblings over whether This American Life is better than Radiolab, you’ll probably find her whipping up vegetarian dishes, or attempting to do a headstand in yoga class.
Posted in: FYI, Immigration, Internet, Policy, Society