107 health care professionals busted for health care fraud

More than 100 people are charged in what authorities say is the largest one-day takedown ever for Medicare fraud. A federal health care fraud strike force conducted raids in seven cities, targeting more than $450 million in alleged false billing.

At a news conference in Washington, D.C., to announce the arrests, Attorney General Eric Holder said they “underscore the Justice Department’s determination to move aggressively in bringing to justice those who would violate our laws and defraud the Medicare program for their personal gain.”

The arrests are the latest in a three-year crackdown on health care fraud, which is estimated to cost taxpayers between $80 and $160 billion per year. Authorities recovered a record $4.1 billion last year.

The 107 people charged Wednesday include doctors, nurses and other health care professionals in seven cities: Miami, Tampa, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles and Baton Rouge.

In addition, the government has suspended payments to 52 provider organizations the individuals are associated with. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said the operation, including the arrests and the cutoff of payments, is part of an effort to get ahead of fraud instead of relying on the old “pay-and-chase” model.

“Now, we’re analyzing patterns and trends and claims data, instead of just going claim by claim,” Sebelius said.

Bravo. Nice to see one portion of Obama’s program for digital medical records being used to arrest the crooks gaming the system.

Pakistan rallies remember bin Laden — With friends like these….

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

Hundreds of supporters of Osama bin Laden rallied in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Quetta to pay tribute to former al-Qaeda chief on the first anniversary of his death.

Around 1,000 activists from the pro-Taliban Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam religious political party gathered on Wednesday in the city’s central Mezan square. They were carrying bin Laden posters, shouting “Long Live Osama” and torched a US flag…

“Osama was a hero of the whole Muslim world, he was the real mujahid [holy warrior],” Abdul Qadir Looni, a party leader said while addressing the rally…

Pakistani officials said security agencies had been ordered to be “extra vigilant” on Wednesday. Last year, the Taliban carried out a string of revenge attacks that included a suicide bombing on a police training centre that killed nearly 100 people…

Wednesday’s anniversary of one of the most humiliating episodes fro Pakistan caps a devastating year for the country.

Its reputation has been dragged deeper through the mud and its relationship with the US is as bad as ever, as questions about Islamabad’s intelligence failures or complicity with al-Qaeda remain unanswered.

A year after the al-Qaeda leader was found living with his three wives on the doorstep of Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point, the country is still accused of sheltering a string of the Washington’s most-wanted terrorism suspects.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Laden’s successor, is suspected to be in Pakistan, as is Afghan Taliban leader, Mullah Omar.

Sirajuddin Haqqani, the de facto leader of the Haqqani network blamed for last month’s assault on Western targets in Kabul, the largest co-ordinated attack by armed groups in 10 years of war, is based in the tribal belt on the Afghan border, as is Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud.

Last month, Washington offered $10m for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Hafiz Saeed, the Pakistani accused of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks, who lives openly in Pakistan.

No claims for any rewards, yet, BTW.

Infiniski offers built-to-suit shipping container houses

“It’s not because of Climate Change. It’s because I’ve never been able to leave food on my plate.” This is the motto of sustainable housing design firm Infiniski, whose dwellings are up to 80-percent comprised of reused, recycled and non-polluting materials. Among them are, you guessed it, shipping containers, but also railway tracks, forklift paletts and even old bottles. Though each house is tailored to the needs of the client, the one thing they have in common – in spite of the eye-catching design – is surprising affordability.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Infiniski is that, unlike other shipping container houses, its developed an adaptable process rather than a one-off design…”Depending on the project, Infiniski will use prefabricated steel modules, re-used maritime containers and/or wooden prefab modules,” which can be deployed to construct anything from family homes and residential blocks to hotels or offices.

The project pictured above is the Manifesto House built in 2009 over a period of 90 days in Curacaví, Chile. The 1700-sq ft house is built primarily from three reused shipping containers. The container at ground floor has been split and separated, with the containers on the upper level bridging the gap. By enclosing the resultant gap with thermally-efficient glass panels, the floor area is achieved despite using containers with a collective footprint of 970 sq ft…

…The house’s thermal performance is improved with the use of adjustable wooden solar shading made of wood from sustainable forest sources on one side, and making novel use of forklift pallets on the other. The idea here is that the pallets will open in winter allowing direct solar radiation on the container’s metal surfaces, providing a natural source of heating within. In summer they close to insulate the house from the unwanted source of heat.

This works well at Santa Fe’s latitude. There’s a shading structure using movable planks at Ghost Ranch.

Infiniski tells us the total cost of the project…was $105,000. It further claims that due to the “alternative energy systems” (presumably the natural heating and lighting systems) employed at the house, it’s 70-percent autonomous.

Built over six months in 2010, the Infiniski-designed Casa El Tiemblo in Avila, Spain, is a larger house 2050 sq ft in area. The house makes use of four shipping containers arranged in an L-formation with future extensions in mind. This house is also naturally heated, but complemented with a biomass boiler. In summer, the house exploits deciduous climbing plants shade rather than wooden shades. Its total cost was $186,000.

I get a small chuckle over “biomass”. The sawmill that supplies our home with slab waste just finished building a big addition to chip all waste into “biomass” to supply a couple of power generation plants in the eastern part of the state. I hope they continue to keep a few “spools” of slabs around for folks like us who also heat their homes with “biomass”.

Regular readers know I’m a big fan of reusing shipping containers. Even though the trade balance between the US and China has diminished significantly I doubt if our politicians will ever have the smarts to do a thorough job of rebuilding the export segment of our economy. So, shipping containers will continue to accumulate on our shores.

Yet another study warns that a Taser shot can be deadly

The electrical shock delivered to the chest by a Taser can lead to cardiac arrest and sudden death, according to a new study, although it is unknown how frequently such deaths occur.

The manufacturers, police chiefs and politicians don’t want to know, either.

The study, which analyzed detailed records from the cases of eight people who went into cardiac arrest after receiving shocks from a Taser X26 fired at a distance, is likely to add to the debate about the safety of the weapons. Seven of the people in the study died; one survived.

Advocacy groups like Amnesty International have argued that Tasers, the most widely used of a class of weapons known as electrical control devices, are potentially lethal and that stricter rules should govern their use.

But proponents maintain that the devices — which are used by more than 16,700 law enforcement agencies in 107 countries, said Steve Tuttle, a spokesman for Taser — pose less risk to civilians than firearms and are safer for police officers than physically tackling a suspect. The results of studies of the devices’ safety in humans have been mixed…

This is no longer arguable,” said Dr. Byron Lee, a cardiologist and director of the electrophysiology laboratory at the University of California, San Francisco. “This is a scientific fact. The national debate should now center on whether the risk of sudden death with Tasers is low enough to warrant widespread use by law enforcement…”

Which is way too rational for American politicians. The comparison between firearms and tasers is absurd in the first place. If you’re in a situation requiring deadly force to protect yourself or the public, a police officer should be using firearms. OTOH if you’re using a taser and deadly force isn’t requisite, then care and training should override snap shots, panicky use of a device which can be deadly.

The manufacturers have already made their decisions. What they offer becomes more powerful every year. Police departments aren’t especially interested in afflicting their ground troops with more learning. They have trouble enough getting high school graduates who can read and write. Try throwing decision-making into the mix – beyond self-preservation – and everyone is in trouble.

The fact remains that even the “occasional” death is too many. Training, better training had better happen or death by cop will continue to add statistics involving electrical shock.

Romney’s homophobe Party forces Gay spokesman to resign

Don’t worry about choosing between bigotry and kissing corporate butt!

A openly gay spokesman for presidential candidate Mitt Romney has resigned on his first official day of work, amid criticism by anti-gay conservatives.

Richard Grenell, recently hired to speak on foreign affairs for the presumptive Republican nominee, announced his departure on Tuesday. In a statement, Mr Grenell thanked Mr Romney for “his belief in me”.

The spokesman had previously deleted about 800 tweets and took down his personal website…

The Romney campaign said it was “disappointed” that Mr Grenell had resigned…Good grief. A sliver of ethics!

Mr Grenell was criticised quickly after he was hired.

Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis for the American Family Association, a group opposed to homosexuality, wrote a blog post on 20 April attacking Mr Romney’s choice, saying it sent a “message to the pro-family community: drop dead”.

Another writer in the conservative publication National Review argued that Mr Grenell’s apparent obsession with gay marriage could damage the Romney campaign.

Contributor Matthew Franck suggested that the spokesman would switch to the Obama campaign if the president included support for same-sex marriage in his convention speech…

“This is the kind of bigoted, anti-gay extremists a Romney administration would find itself held hostage to,” pro-Obama super PAC founder Bill Burton told the Post.

Uh, anyone surprised? I have repeatedly made it clear that questions of democracy, civil rights, science and society assure my vote for Obama this autumn. Not out of any great confidence in his ability to move the Democratic Party to new achievements in any way. But, what most democrats and progressives can be assured of is the slimy reactionaries and bigots in charge of the Republican Party deserve no support whatsoever.

I’m voting against the evil of two lessers.

Aung San Suu Kyi to take parliamentary oath

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi is due to take her seat in parliament, a month after her party won a sweeping victory in by-elections.

She and 42 members of the National League for Democracy (NLD) refused to take part in the swearing-in ceremony due to the wording of the oath. They had objected to swear to “safeguard” the constitution drafted by the old military government and wanted to change the wording to “respect”. But they later agreed to take the oath.

“The reason we accept (the oath), firstly is the desire of the people. Our voters voted for us because they want to see us in parliament,” Ms Suu Kyi said.

However, the constitution – which enshrines the armed forces’ role in politics – will continue to be the focus of political battles in Burma, reports the BBC’s Rachel Harvey in Burma’s capital Nay Pyi Taw.

Ms Suu Kyi’s parliament debut comes after a recent flurry of diplomatic activity, as the outside world seeks to support the reforms introduced by the new civilian-led government, our correspondent says.

On Tuesday, she met US Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for the first time. Mr Ban, who is on a three-day visit to Burma to encourage more democratic reforms, met Ms Suu Kyi at her house in Rangoon.

He said she had accepted an invitation to visit the United Nations headquarters in New York. And Mr Ban said that he welcomed and respected her decision to compromise over the oath in the interests of the greater good.

A real leader demonstrates flexibility for the greater cause of the people…I’m sure she’ll play a very constructive and active role as a parliamentarian,” he added.