A comparison of restrictive voting and health care policies

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Voting policy and health care policy face many of the same challenges — achieving universal uptake, efficiently registering millions of eligible users, and ensuring access for vulnerable populations. It’s no surprise, then, that recent legislative efforts to suppress access to voting share a lot in common with policies that limit access to health care services.

From complicated registration processes and ID requirements to exclusion of incarcerated populations, comparing voting policy with health care policy can reveal patterns in how we regulate access to basic human rights and lend insight into how to combat unduly restrictive legislation.

Here, I’ll discuss four…


Bridging the gap between math and code

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Motivation

There are many pedagogical resources that explain the theory behind the Cox model. There are also many resources that provide guidance on applying the Cox model using existing statistical software packages for survival analysis. However, there are few sources that bridge the gap between theory and practice by explaining the programmatic implementation of the Cox model. …


Approaches to rationing in pandemic and non-pandemic scenarios

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The NEJM recently published guidelines for healthcare rationing during COVID-19 that center on four values:

1. Maximizing benefit: Save as many lives or life-years as possible. If patient A will survive 3 years after treatment and patient B will survive 5 years after treatment, treat patient B.

2. Promoting and rewarding instrumental value: Prioritize those who saved or will save lives. If patient A is a doctor and patient B is a legal aid, prioritize patient A to receive a ventilator.

3. Treating people equally: If patient A and patient B have similar prognosis, randomly decide who receives treatment first.


Tones are what makes Chinese different (and harder) than most other languages. So how do you practice your tones in the most effective way possible?

To improve your tones, you need to build muscle memory in your vocal cords and in your mouth. Just like singers do vocal exercises to train their vocal cords, language learners need to do speaking drills that maximize the number of spoken “reps” and improve the mind-mouth connection.

In this article I’m going to show you three different spoken language workouts that you can do to improve your tones. There are two important prerequisites:

  1. I’m…

Most people think that the hardest part about Chinese is learning tones, but in reality, many of the Sounds in pinyin are just as, if not more difficult to perfect then tones. Here, I’m going to go over 6 of the most difficult and most commonly mispronounced sounds in Chinese, and show you how to pronounce them like a native speaker.

  1. sh/ch/zh
  2. x/j/q
  3. the “r” sound
  4. fo/po/bo/mo
  5. –un/-en

The key to mastering pronunciation in any language

Before we get into each of the sounds, I want to share the secret to mastering pronunciation in any language: muscle memory. Whenever we want to train our body to…


Most people think that native speakers are hard to understand because they speak fast. This is true, but it’s not the whole story. Natives do often speak fast, but they also speak with relaxed pronunciation.

Relaxed pronunciation is a language learner’s worst nightmare. It’s what makes English speakers pronounce “want to” as “wanna” and “have to” as “hafta”, and is especially common when speaking quickly and casually. Most language learners are never explicitly taught the rules of relaxed pronunciation, which can make understanding native speech nearly impossible. Imagine you’re learning English and someone said to you, “dijoo wanna goda the…


Most people think that native speakers are hard to understand because they speak fast. This is true, but it’s not the whole story. Natives do often speak fast, but they also speak with relaxed pronunciation.

Relaxed pronunciation is a language learner’s worst nightmare. It’s what makes English speakers pronounce “want to” as “wanna” and “have to” as “hafta”, and is especially common when speaking quickly and casually. Most language learners are never explicitly taught the rules of relaxed pronunciation, which can make understanding native speech nearly impossible. Imagine you’re learning English and someone said to you, “dijoo wanna goda the…


If your main goal is to read or write Chinese, then yes, you definitely have to learn characters. But what if your goal is speaking? Do you really need to learn how to read all of those complicated characters?

Just like children learn to speak before they learn to read, learning to speak Chinese before learning how to read characters will help you quickly reach spoken fluency and also accelerate the pace at which you learn Chinese. Chinese characters can be written using pinyin, a transliteration system that perfectly maps the sounds of Chinese to English letters. If your main…


Watching TV or movies is often one of the first ways that people try to learn a new language. But is watching TV the best way to improve your language skills?

TV and movies are the pinnacle of authentic native speech-they combine slang, fast back-and-forth dialogues, idiomatic expressions, and poor enunciation. If you’re at a high enough level to deal with these challenges, foreign TV can really take you to the next level-it’s perfect for applying active learning techniques like audio dissection, shadowing, substitution, and prediction (see below). …


Many people trying to learn a new language believe that immersion-specifically living in a foreign country-is the best way to become fluent. But there are many reasons why living in a foreign country may not make you fluent:

1. You’re not speaking the language enough to build muscle memory

2. The range of conversations you have in the language is limited

3. You’re over the age of 14

4. You can’t understand what natives say

5. Natives prefer to speak to you in English

6. You’re not putting in additional hours to study the language

Before going into details…

Akshay Swaminathan

Data scientist, global health researcher, language learner

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