When questioning executives of the contractor behind the problem-plagued health care website during a House hearing Thursday, Rep. Steve Scalise brought up a popular, user-friendly site for comparison.
“It’s been reported over $500 million of taxpayer money [was] spent to build this website, more money, by the way, than it cost to build Facebook,” the Republican from Louisiana said, citing a Digital Trends piece that reported the social network surpassed $500 million in spending costs six years into its existence. “Facebook gets 700 million users a day. Seven hundred people use that — million people use that site every day, and it works.”
The thing is, HealthCare.gov isn’t anything like Facebook. Never mind that the two serve very different purposes — the former to sign up uninsured Americans for health plans, the latter to fuel your fear of missing out. A lot more goes into the health care site than into Facebook, including 10 times as many lines of code, as this graphic by Orange, Calif.-based web developer Alex Marchant shows. The size of the federal website’s code base, 500 million lines, surpasses that of Facebook, Windows XP, Linux, and Google Chrome.
(Courtesy of Alex Marchant)
The website must communicate with a host of different databases. It links up with a number of federal agencies, including Health and Human Services, the Social Security Administration, and the Treasury Department. It interacts with state-run online health exchanges. And it connects with outside health insurance companies. All that communication, which requires a great deal of code to build and carry out, can overwhelm the entire system. “The more you have to ask another database for information, the more it can get overwhelmed,” computer scientist Jonathan Wu told Reuters earlier this month.
While Facebook hosts various apps and games, it’s ultimately a single application, as Wired explains, not even an operating system, such as Windows. When the site launched in 2004, it only welcomed a few hundred users, not the millions that the Obama administration encouraged to sign up, all at the same time. Over time, the social network expanded its platform to accommodate a growing number of users. The health care website, it appears, is building in reverse. In the days and weeks aheads, the lines of code will only get longer.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”