By Walt Hickey
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I’m going to level with you: when I saw a story about “ghost networks of psychiatrists” my first thought was that, yeah, it had been a moment since I checked in on the CBS prime time block, but that sounds about right. But in reality, it’s a pervasive issue that insurers have that they must be aware of, namely that their purported networks of plan-covered psychiatrists are typically phantoms or outright fictions. One study called 360 psychiatrists on the Blue Cross Blue Shield in-network provider lists in Houston, Chicago, and Boston. They called every number twice, and they were unable to make an appointment with 74 percent of providers on the lists. Some weren’t taking new patients, some didn’t take Blue Cross, some were the numbers for McDonald’s locations. That figure rises to 83 percent for pediatric psychiatrists.
Google has a problem, namely that fake businesses attempting to trade on the good name of other local companies are buying up ads on Google Maps to drive business on behalf of unscrupulous buyers. It’s estimated that there are 11 million falsely listed businesses on a given day, according to those who track such things, with a majority of the fakes for what’s known in Google parlance as “duress verticals,” or basically any business you call when you’re having a bad time and need a fix immediately, like car repair, attorneys, movers, plumbers, and presumably exorcists. They don’t mention it, but given all those phantom psychiatrists I’m hearing about they must be necessary. Google says it removed over 3 million false business listings last year, but it’s whack-a-mole, and dedicated firms that work this angle make it a thorny problem to get around.
The Kattegat Strait plays host to 80,000 ships per year, providing an entrance to the Baltic Sea from the North Atlantic. Denmark and Sweden control the strait, and in order to improve ship safety they will redraw the main shipping route through Kattegat, adding a new branch 20 kilometers east of the existing route. This presents a natural experiment for marine biologists who eager to see how this changes life for the other inhabitants of the Strait, as supertankers or frigates make noises of roughly 160 decibels under the waves. Given that researchers rarely get a chance to move international shipping lanes, researchers are eagerly sinking microphones throughout the area to find out just how much of a difference the noise makes.
Because of a human penchant to initiate civilization near water, we’ve got a problem when the seas begin to rise and low-level metropolises become susceptible to storm surges and, should the problem grow worse, flooding overall. By 2040, the seawalls needed to mitigate storm surges in all coastal cities with over 25,000 residents will cost $42 billion, and covering all cities would drive the cost up to $400 billion. New York’s seawall would cost $2 billion. A Jacksonville seawall — we’d obviously call it The Blake Bortles Memorial Offensive Line to guarantee local support — would cost $3.5 billion, but on a per-resident basis that’s nearly a steal. In Galveston, their $1.1 billion seawall costs a highest-in-the-nation $21,282 per resident.
With pot becoming legal, we now need to turn to the agricultural impact of the cash crop. A marijuana plant requires 22 liters of water per day during growing season, and now that marijuana is legal we can estimate that to grow all that legal marijuana it takes something on the order of 3 billion liters per square kilometer of greenhouse-grown plants. Some of these are “trespass grows,” when an illegal farmer grows weed on a clear-cut part of tribal lands or national forests, and an estimated 14,000 such grows exist in Humboldt County, California alone.
The latest data shows Americans used more energy in 2018 than ever before, consuming 101.2 quadrillion BTU, up from the previous record set in 2007 of 101.0 quads. Wind use was up 7.6 percent and solar use was up 22 percent year over year, accounting for 0.18 quads apiece, double the renewable energy production of 2008. Solar has seen a 48-fold increase in that period, and combined they now produce more energy than hydroelectric power.
Walmart agreed to pay $282 million and a subsidiary pleaded guilty to a federal crime, as part of a sweeping Department of Justice investigation into bribes and payoffs made to business partners and middlemen capable of interceding with governments on the retailer’s behalf. The fine for greasing palms from India to Brazil is actually considerably less than the $600 million prosecutors were seeking during plea negotiations in the waning days of the Obama administration. Walmart spent about $900 million on lawyers and investigators to get to the heart of the problem.
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Last Sunday, I spoke to Christine Zhang and Christina Tkacik of the Baltimore Sun, who wrote the wonderful story “Old Bay gets all the credit. Meet J.O., the seasoning that crab houses use.” Be sure to check it out, it’s one of my favorite service journalism pieces of the year. Christine can be found on Twitter and is one of my favorite data journalists, Christina can also be found on Twitter and covers the Baltimore food scene.
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