News

Is the US Finally Ready to Get Serious About Biodefense?

Biological and other disaster threats - whether accidental, driven by forces of nature, or intentional - pose fairly grave risks to the United States and the world. Situational awareness has been a conspicuous topic ever since the 9/11 attacks and the anthrax scare that followed shortly thereafter. Since then we have experienced numerous disasters: health impacts of major weather events such as hurricanes and earthquakes, new virus outbreaks like Ebola in Africa, raging wildfires on the West Coast (I live in California), and the ever-present threat of pandemic flu which a hundred ago infected some 500 million people across the globe and killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide, according to the Center for Disease Control and Preparedness (CDC). But since the initial flurry of public health preparedness funds in the ensuing several years after the 9/11 attacks, this topic has not had a high priority at CDC nor the funding necessary to implement it successfully.

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Fax Is Not a Machine, It Is a Technology

Once more I am listening to a presentation on interoperability. These always get a little uncomfortable - especially in the early going - because I can almost predict where the presenter will go horribly wrong and do a complete disservice to the audience (generally somewhere between slides 3 and 8). This time it was slide 6 where the speaker inserts stock picture of a decrepit old fax machine with paper cascading off a desk and onto the floor. This comes along with the typical lecture on everything that is wrong with "fax". With the lemmings in the audience nodding/snickering along, the speaker proceeds to misinform and mislead the group. Cringe-worthy really. What's misleading? Pretty much everything he says.

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The Business of Healthcare Is Business

Hmm, that headline doesn't seem right, does it? I mean, shouldn't the business of healthcare be, well, health? Or, at least, caring? Actually, shouldn't the business of healthcare be patients? After all, everyone in healthcare says it's all about patients. Everyone says they're patient-centered, whatever that means. But think about this: who in healthcare gets paid for you to be healthy? Or, conversely, who in healthcare doesn't get paid when you get sick, or when you don't improve under their care? Whether we planned it or not, whether we admit it or not, or whether we like it or not, our healthcare system is a business that has become about making money.

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How Open Source Hardware Increases Cybersecurity

Hardware hacks are particularly scary because they trump any software security safeguards-for example, they can render all accounts on a server password-less. Fortunately, we can benefit from what the software industry has learned from decades of fighting prolific software hackers: Using open source techniques can, perhaps counterintuitively, make a system more secure. Open source hardware and distributed manufacturing can provide protection from future attacks...security is one of the core benefits of open source. While open source is not inherently more secure, it allows you to verify security yourself (or pay someone more qualified to do so). With closed source programs, you must trust, without verification, that a program works properly.

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Open Source Goes Corporate: Can Open Healthcare Be Far Behind?

If you aren't in IT, you may have missed the news that IBM is acquiring Red Hat, a leader in the open source Linux movement, or that, a couple days prior, Microsoft closed on its acquisition of GitHub, a leader in open source software development. Earlier this year Salesforce acquired Mulesoft, and Cloudera and Hortonworks merged; all were other open source leaders. I must confess, I had never heard of some of these companies, but I'm starting to believe what MarketWatch said following the IBM announcement: "open source has truly arrived." What exactly that means, especially for healthcare, I'm not sure, but it's worth exploring. IBM is paying $34b for Red Hat.

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Three Reasons the US is Not Ready for the Next Pandemic

One hundred years after the Great Influenza pandemic of 1918, global health leadership stands at a crossroads. The United States continues to expand its policy of isolationism at a time when international cooperation in health could not be more important. The state of pandemic preparedness and the necessary steps for protecting the people throughout the world was the topic of The Scowcroft Institute for International Affairs' 2nd Annual White Paper. As pandemic policy scholars, with two of us spending the majority of our career in the federal government, we believe that it is essential to prepare the country and the world for the next pandemic. It is not a matter of if, but when, the next disease will sweep the world with deadly and costly consequences.

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Imagining a Future American Culture of Health

One of the most thought-provoking articles I've read lately is Tom Vanderbilt's Why Futurism Has a Cultural Blindspot in Nautilus. In it, he discusses how our technological visions of the future seem to do much better on predicting the technology of that future than they do the culture in which they will be used. As he says, "But when it comes to culture we tend to believe not that the future will be very different than the present day, but that it will be roughly the same. Try to imagine yourself at some future date.... Chances are, that person resembles you now."

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6 Ways Programmers from Underrepresented Countries Can Get Ahead

Becoming a programmer from an underrepresented community like Cameroon is tough. Many Africans don't even know what computer programming is-and a lot who do think it's only for people from Western or Asian countries. I didn't own a computer until I was 18, and I didn't start programming until I was a 19-year-old high school senior, and had to write a lot of code on paper because I couldn't be carrying my big desktop to school. I have learned a lot over the past five years as I've moved up the ladder to become a successful programmer from an underrepresented community. While these lessons are from my experience in Africa, many apply to other underrepresented communities, including women.

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3 Reasons Why the US is Vulnerable to Big Disasters

During the 2017 disaster season, three severe hurricanes devastated large parts of the U.S. The quick succession of major disasters made it obvious that such large-scale emergencies can be a strain, even in one of the world’s richest countries. As a complex emergency researcher, I investigate why some countries can better withstand and respond to disasters. The factors are many and diverse, but three major ones stand out because they are within the grasp of the federal and local governments: where and how cities grow; how easily households can access critical services during disaster; and the reliability of the supply chains for critical goods. For all three of these factors, the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction. In many ways, Americans are becoming more vulnerable by the day.

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Challenges to Expect When Open Sourcing your SaaS Business

In my previous article, I walked through scenarios to help you determine whether to open source your SaaS solution, and discussed the cost-benefit analysis that goes along with this decision. From an open source point of view, there's no point in just chucking code over the wall, slapping on an open source license, and calling it a day. You want to create an inviting community where people want to collaborate and spend time-even socialize!-with you. Chucking code over the wall accomplishes nothing, besides giving others insight into how you do things. Although that may be interesting and beneficial for them, you don't get much benefit unless you create the pathways of collaboration and communication that unlock a thriving community. Thus, you have an inherent interest in doing this The Right Way™.

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