Giant red balls invading Britain

Giant red ball in Barcelona

Giant red balls are about to invade Britain. The huge spheres have already been spotted around the world, squeezed between buildings or perched on bridges. They are the work of New York artist Kurt Perschke, who places the 15-foot inflatable ball in unexpected locations. He has so far visited several cities around the world, including Chicago, Barcelona, Taipei and Abu Dhabi, and will tour Britain this summer.

Brits, of course, will be getting big balls this summer in Poland and Ukraine – when they try once again to be competitive in European Championship Football. Har.

Texas healthcare providers set new record — accused of $375 million in Medicare, Medicaid fraud

Sarah Saldaña, US Attorney with a history of fighting corruption

The owner of a Texas medical service provider was among seven people indicted in a massive health care fraud scheme that allegedly bilked Medicare and Medicaid of nearly $375 million…

The federal indictment accused Jacques Roy, a doctor who owned Medistat Group Associates in DeSoto, Texas, of leading a scheme that billed Medicare for home health services that were not medically necessary or were not done. Also indicted were Roy’s office manager as well as the owners of three home health agencies. A federal indictment unsealed Tuesday accuses the agencies of using Roy to rack up millions of dollars in false claims…

Roy had “recruiters” finding people to bill for home health services, said U.S. Attorney Sarah Saldana, the top federal prosecutor in Dallas. Some of those alleged patients, when approached by investigators, were found working on their cars and clearly not in need of home healthcare, she said.

Medicare patients qualify for home health care if they are confined to their homes and need care there, according to a federal indictment.

Saldana said Roy used the home health agencies as “his soldiers on the ground to go door to door to recruit Medicare beneficiaries…”

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also announced the suspension of an additional 78 home health agencies associated with Roy. The agencies were collecting about $2.3 million a month, said Peter Budetti, CMS’ deputy administrator for program integrity.

Until recently, HHS could not effectively track data to identify the kind of fraud now linked to Roy, who was billing beneficiaries “off the charts” for more than five years, officials said…The department is now beefing up its data analysis and tracking other cases, Levinson said. It has also established task forces in several U.S. cities to track Medicare fraud…

Digitizing and interconnecting medical records is one of the programs vehemently opposed by Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats early days in the Obama administration. I wonder how many of the thieving cruds in this case are stalwarts of Texas conservative politics?

Health care fraud is estimated to cost the government at least $60 billion a year, mainly in losses to Medicare and Medicaid. Officials say the fraud involves everything from sophisticated marketing schemes by major pharmaceuticals encouraging doctors to prescribe drugs for unauthorized uses to selling motorized wheelchairs to people who don’t need them.

Again, the clownshow run by nutballs ranging from Mike Huckabee to Ron Paul says these are the corporate gangsters we should trust with running healthcare in the United States. Anyone see any of the vaunted “self-regulating” leaders in insurance and healthcare ever turn over a fraudster?

Folks in Colorado will vote on legalizing recreational marijuana

Colorado voters will decide whether to legalize possession of limited amounts of recreational marijuana…

The initiative, known as Amendment 64, makes Colorado the second state to put a measure to allow recreational marijuana on the Nov. 6 ballot. Washington state put similar measure on the ballot last month…

Mason Tvert, co-director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, one of the measure’s chief proponents, said the campaign would use the next eight months to build a “broad base of support” across the state. “Coloradans have a chance to make history this November, and we believe they are ready to do just that…”

The measure would legalize possession of as much as 1 ounce of marijuana for adults age 21 and older. It would also let people grow as many as six marijuana plants in their home.

Specially regulated stores would be permitted to sell marijuana, but communities would have a right to ban such businesses.

State lawmakers would create a special marijuana tax, with the money going to education.

Decriminalizing marijuana is overdue. I expect similar measures to pass in any sensible state or nation – sooner or later. That doesn’t mean I think rational thought and reflection has suddenly affected every American. Or that our politicians have ceased to base their perpetual re-election campaigns on anything more than the lowest common denominator of education and perception.

It’s just that damned near everyone in this neck of the prairie smokes a little weed, considers it roughly akin to having a beer with supper. And rightly so. Most of the hypocrite fundamentalists who get their rave on over the topic are just as likely to watch their Saturday NASCAR fix on television – roach clip in hand or bong on the living room table next to their bible. Enough people realize the agitprop agin ganja is nothing more than garden variety crap for Sunday morning at church – and the real world needs to get on with living in the present.

Young woman in famous tsunami photo looks for renewal

Click on photo to enlarge

The young Japanese woman clutches a beige blanket tight around her shoulders as she stares into the distance. Behind her hulks twisted metal and splintered wood left by the tsunami that devastated Ishinomaki, her hometown.

The photograph, taken by Tadashi Okubo at the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, was picked up by Reuters and other agencies around the world, becoming an iconic image of the March 11 disaster that killed 20,000 people.

The woman’s name is Yuko Sugimoto. She is now 29 years old.

When the photo was taken, around 7 a.m. on March 13, she was looking in the direction of her son Raito’s kindergarten, which was partly submerged and surrounded by piles of debris. Nearly two days after the quake she had yet to find the four-year-old.

“At that point, I thought there was only about a 50 percent chance he was alive,” she recalled recently. “Some people told me the children at the kindergarten were rescued, but others told me that somebody had seen the children all swept away by the tsunami…”

Reunited with her husband the next day, the two began making the rounds of evacuation centers — first by car, then by bicycle as fuel ran out. Her husband found a boat and paddled his way towards the kindergarten, but found no one there.

It wasn’t until the next day that the couple heard that their son and other children had been rescued by the military from the roof of the kindergarten the morning after the tsunami.

“When I saw Raito in the corner of a room, the next moment I was weeping so hard I couldn’t see anything,” Sugimoto said.

She hugged him and checked his hands, his feet, every bit of his body. She even checked his smell, to be certain it really was him. Holding him tight, she said “Thank goodness, thank goodness,” over and over.

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Osama bin Laden was routinely in touch with Pakistan spy agency

Osama bin Laden was in routine contact with several senior figures from Pakistan’s military intelligence agency while in hiding in the country, according to a large cache of secret intelligence files.

The disclosure was contained in e-mails from the private US security firm, Stratfor, which were published by WikiLeaks website on Monday after being obtained by the Anonymous hacking group.

Stratfor provides analysis of world affairs to major corporations, military officials and government agencies and was once likened by an American business magazine to a “shadow CIA”.

According to one of the e-mails, the firm was shown the information papers collected from bin Laden’s Abbotabad compound after the US special forces attack last May that resulted in his death.

The e-mail, from a Stratfor analyst, suggested that up to 12 officials in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency knew of the al-Qaeda leader’s safe house.

The internal email did not name the Pakistani officials involved but said the US could use the information as a bargaining chip in post raid negotiations with Islamabad.

American officials have always believed it was impossible for the ISI not to have known that Bin Laden was sheltering in a garrison town so close to Islamabad. Pakistan has repeatedly dismissed the charge.

Plausable deniability is pretty difficult under these circumstances. Not that it’s ever bothered the United States or the Brits. Plausable deniability is only for mild political confrontation and tepid challenges from the Press media.

The Nightman cometh — snowboarding in the dark in an LED suit

Night snowboarding usually equates to grueling pre-dawn slogs up backcountry routes or short, icy turns under stadium-like lights at small resorts. has put a new spin on those traditional forms of night riding. In this stunning piece of film, a unique LED suit is employed to turn the subject into a powder-slashing apparition.

Nowness describes itself as “the digital leader in luxury storytelling,” explaining that it attempts to convey inspiring stories of contemporary culture and lifestyle across many genres. In putting together a snow sports film, the site turned to filmmaker Jacob Sutton, a photographer and filmmaker more at home in fashion than sports. Sutton decided that he wanted to take an original approach to snowboard filming, something that’s getting more and more difficult to do in a genre that’s become overcrowded with film crews.

“I wanted to approach snowboarding in a more textural aesthetic way that felt more emotive and expressive,” Sutton explained on Facebook. “I was really drawn to the idea of a lone character made of light surfing through darkness.”

The one-of-a-kind LED light suit was designed by Flat Cat Productions. Because it was highly experimental, bespoke suit, it required a lot of testing to get right. In fact, an estimated 300 man hours were expended building, testing and fine-tuning the suit. In the end, they used strips of LED lighting powered by nickel-metal hydride batteries.

With the suit ready, Arctec pro snowboarder William Hughes got in front of Sutton’s lens in Tignes, France. Over the course of three nights, Sutton used a Red Epic video camera and snowmobile to capture footage of Hughes lighting the night like a human torch.

Lovely stuff. I’ve spent some special time at night in the snow, alone.