Daily Archives: 2022-09-07

Government cannot mandate HIV drug coverage, rules Texas judge

Source: The Week: Most Recent Home Page Posts

Article note: "private, religious corporations" is a _really_ revolting phrase.

U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor has ruled that the Affordable Care Act's mandate for free coverage of HIV prevention drugs violates the religious freedom of a Christian-owned company, Bloomberg reports.

Braidwood Management Inc. had challenged the provision requiring it to cover Truvada and Descovy, a pair of widely-used pre-exposure prophylactic drugs more commonly known as PrEP. Thousands of Americans — especially gay and bisexual men — take PrEP daily as a preventative measure against HIV.

In their initial complaint, the plaintiffs argued that the ACA mandate "forces religious employers to provide coverage for drugs that facilitate and encourage homosexual behavior, prostitution, sexual promiscuity, and intravenous drug use." O'Connor ultimately sided with the plaintiffs, claiming the defendants did not show a "compelling interest in forcing private, religious corporations to cover PrEP drugs with no cost-sharing and no religious exemptions."

The suit was led by attorney Jonathan Mitchell, the former Republican solicitor general of Texas who is known for his efforts to restrict abortion access in the state. Mitchell believes that the entire preventive services mandate under the ACA is invalid because those who manage the list are too empowered to not have Senate confirmation, Bloomberg writes.

At this time, it's unclear whether O'Connor's ruling will be nationally endorsed; still, it could have a major impact on access to preventative care and important free health services for Americans. "It's a disappointing decision because it has broader implications for harm for folks that are just trying to work and live and access health care," attorney Shelley Skeen told NBC News.

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Ethersweep: An Easy-To-Deploy Ethernet Connected Stepper Controller

Source: Hack a Day

Article note: Ooh, I've been thinking about a little board integrating an AMS5600 magnetic encoder and TMS220x driver to build cheap hybrid stepper servo things, apparently it's pretty achievable. I'm less interested in the Ethernet comms, though that part would also be more interesting if it spoke EtherCAT.

[Neumi] over on Hackaday.IO wanted a simple-to-use way to drive stepper motors, which could be quickly deployed in a wide variety of applications yet to be determined. The solution is named Ethersweep, and is a small PCB stack that sits on the rear of the common NEMA17-format stepper motor. The only physical connectivity, beside the motor, are ethernet and a power supply via the user friendly XT30 connector. The system can be closed loop, with both an end-stop input as well as an on-board AMS AS5600 magnetic rotary encoder (which senses the rotating magnetic field on the rear side of the motor assembly – clever!) giving the necessary feedback. Leveraging the Trinamic TMC2208 stepper motor driver gives Ethersweep silky smooth and quiet motor control, which could be very important for some applications. A rear-facing OLED display shows some useful debug information as well as the all important IP address that was assigned to the unit.

Control is performed with the ubiquitous ATMega328 microcontroller, with the Arduino software stack deployed, making uploading firmware a breeze. To that end, a USB port is also provided, hooked up to the uC with the cheap CP2102 USB bridge chip as per most Arduino-like designs. The thing that makes this build a little unusual is the ethernet port. The hardware side of things is taken care of with the Wiznet WS500 ethernet chip, which implements the MAC and PHY in a single device, needing only a few passives and a magjack to operate. The chip also handles the whole TCP/IP stack internally, so only needs an external SPI interface to talk to the host device.

Talking about firmware for a moment, to ease deployment, the network configuration is handled by DHCP, although some control over MAC address assignment is promised for the future. All control is via UDP over ethernet, and again the basic functionality is there, but some niceties such as motor synchronisation and state querying are again subject to further releases. Hardware design is implemented in KiCAD and FreeCAD, with Arduino covering the firmware and host control side in python. You can read all about it on the Ethersweep project GitHub, what is there not to like?

If you thought you’d seen this stepper-mounted driver setup before, you’d be correct, here’s a Hackaday Prize 2017 Entry for a CANBUS controlled driver. We also saw this on Dummy: the obscenely well made robot arm by [Zhihui Jun], which if you missed it, then do circle back and take a look, you won’t regret it!

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IRS to explore free electronic tax filing system

Source: The Week: Most Recent Home Page Posts

Article note: In any sane country, it would already exist, and would work by displaying an already-filled-out tax form with a prompt to submit any necessary adjustments before accepting. We need to shut down some lobbying by high level tax cheats and paid-tax-prep companies to make it happen, which at this point might be a bloody process because they have metastasized.

The Internal Revenue Service will be taking a step toward making electronic tax filing more straightforward and accessible by studying a free option for taxpayers, reports The Washington Post.

The government tax agency will use $15 million from the $80 billion allotted in the Inflation Reduction Act to explore a free tax filing system. This platform could provide American taxpayers with another option to file taxes beyond relying on expensive private tax preparation companies. While the IRS does provide free e-filing options, the service is barely used due to its restrictions on qualifying returns. 

Tax preparation services have been dominated by corporations for years, forcing Americans to spend money to file obligatory taxes yearly. Democrats sought to address that issue with the passing of this bill that requires the IRS to study an in-house free option for e-filing, the Post reports. Current and former IRS officials point to a lack of funding to explain why the government agency hasn't put a real effort into developing its e-filing system, writes the Post. This means taxpayers have relied on companies such as Intuit's TurboTax and H&R Block, often incurring multiple fees. 

Experts believe creating a government system will give Americans reliable free options while increasing the efficiency of the IRS.

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