Featured Story

Three Charged in Billion-Dollar Medicare Fraud Scheme

Saturday, July 23, 2016
Three people have been charged in an unprecedented $1 billion health care fraud scam, accused of using dozens of Miami nursing homes to bilk the taxpayer-funded Medicare and Medicaid programs. Authorities said Philip Esformes, who ran 30 nursing homes and assisted living facilities, joined with two conspirators and a complex network of corrupt doctors and hospitals to refer thousands of patients to their facilities even though the patients did not qualify for the services.   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • One-Third of Recovering Hospital Patients in U.S. Suffer Harm from Rehab Care

    Friday, July 22, 2016
    Almost a quarter of the harmed patients had to be admitted to an acute care hospital, at a cost of about $7.7 million for the month analyzed. The physicians who reviewed the cases for the OIG say substandard treatment, inadequate monitoring, and failure to provide needed care caused most of the harm. Almost half the cases, 46%, were related to medication errors, and included bleeding from gastric ulcers due to blood thinners and a loss of consciousness linked to narcotic painkillers.   read more
  • Lawsuit Accuses U.S. Army of Denying Diabetes Treatment for Children on Army Bases

    Thursday, July 21, 2016
    The American Diabetes Assn has been working to change Army policy since 2010, and says numerous families across the nation are affected. "The U.S. Army's policy is discriminatory and completely out of step with current practices relating to caring for children with diabetes," ADA's Hagan said. "This discriminatory policy provides little choice for parents who are effectively forced to pull their children out of the U.S. Army's high-quality programs or face jeopardizing their lives," said Smith.   read more
  • After 7 Years, U.S. Health Agency at Loss for Extending Patient Privacy Law to Booming Health Tech Industry

    Wednesday, July 20, 2016
    HIPAA requires tight security over personal health information. Apps and wearables may not have the same protections. A study looked at 600 of the most commonly used health apps and found that fewer than a third had privacy policies. Many apps connect to third-party websites without users’ knowledge and send data in unencrypted ways that potentially exposed personal information. Many people do not read an app’s privacy policy, leaving them open to having their information used in myriad ways.   read more

Unusual News

  • Snowden’s New Mission: Protecting Journalists from Dangers of Trackable Smart Phones

    Friday, July 22, 2016
    Snowden said he was concerned that cellphones and smartphones serve as tracking devices that automatically create electronic dossiers that give third parties, including governments, detailed information on location. As an example of the dangers of location data, he cited the mortar attack in 2012 by the Syrian government that killed Marie Colvin, an American journalist who was reporting in Homs, Syria, for The Sunday Times of London.   read more
  • Federal Judge Opens Door to Gender-Neutral Passports

    Thursday, July 21, 2016
    Government lawyers argued that moving beyond two gender choices for passports would upend officials' ability to verify identities and backgrounds because of reliance on drivers' licenses and birth certificates issued by states offering only male and female gender options. Judge Jackson appeared exasperated at times, saying the State Dept. needs to catch up to a new era in which gender identification is not as clear as it was in the past. "A lot of things are changing in our world," Jackson said.   read more
  • Philadelphia Experiment on Treating Gunshot Victims Could Impact Trauma Care Nationwide

    Tuesday, July 19, 2016
    Philadelphia hospitals will conduct an experiment that asks: When gunshot victims are being rushed to the ER, could paramedics do more to save them by doing less? It's an approach that could change practices at trauma centers across the country. And everyone in Philadelphia could become a study subject, though the biggest effect will probably be in the most violent neighborhoods — poor, mostly black sections where people are skeptical of essentially being experimented on.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Taxpayers Subsidize Junk Food

    Wednesday, July 20, 2016
    While government recommends people fill their plates with fruits and veggies to help prevent obesity, only a fraction of its subsidies support the production of fresh produce. The vast majority of subsidies go instead to commodity crops that are processed into many of the foods that are linked to the obesity crisis. “The subsidies damage our country’s health and increase the medical costs that will ultimately need to be paid to treat the effects of the obesity epidemic,” said a USPIRG report.   read more
  • State Laws Target Life Insurance Companies that Soak Up Money Earmarked for Beneficiaries

    Friday, July 15, 2016
    State actions are forcing companies to locate heirs and pay them the money they are owed. The laws follow years-long audits and multi-state investigations of the top 40 insurance companies that revealed many of them held on to benefits, even when they knew the person insured had died. "This is something that shocked me," said Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, whose office pushed for legislation. "We think it's important that the last wishes of the deceased are honored."   read more
  • For First Time in 50 Years, Federal Bill Seeks Limits on Debt Collection Seizures

    Thursday, July 14, 2016
    “Every day, some Americans are having every penny in their paychecks garnished,” Cummings said. “Congress should not sit on the sidelines and watch our constituents be kept in a cycle of poverty.” “It really does put people into complete turmoil,” said Martha Bergmark, executive director of the nonprofit Voices for Civil Justice. “It’s a rolling disaster” with potential consequences in every aspect of a low-income debtor’s life, she said.   read more

Controversies

  • Climate Change May Turn Trees from Carbon Fighters into Carbon Producers

    Friday, July 22, 2016
    The findings indicate that climate change is already pushing many forests toward the tipping point — where a forest can suddenly go from being a climate ally to actually producing carbon. Being rapidly exposed to higher temperatures forests have never experienced and are not evolutionarily prepared for hampers growth and makes trees more vulnerable to stress. Projections suggest that the tipping point for many forests may be reached as early as 2050.   read more
  • NBA Moves All-Star Game from North Carolina to Protest Anti-LGBT Law

    Friday, July 22, 2016
    The NBA on Thursday dealt a blow to the economy and prestige of North Carolina by pulling February’s All-Star Game to protest a state law that eliminated anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people. The move was among the most prominent consequences since the law was passed in March. The decision by the NBA comes after its commissioner, Adam Silver, had strongly hinted that such a move might be coming and again thrusts the league into the middle of social issues now gripping the nation.   read more
  • Gun Enthusiasts Find Ways to Skirt Facebook Gun Sales Ban

    Friday, July 22, 2016
    “I just started to search for gun sales, and sure enough, Facebook was full of them,” said one user. Some try to skirt the ban by advertising other products for sale, such as baby powder, next to rifles. Other users did little to hide their intentions. A post on a firearms Facebook page recommended that those who wanted to sell guns or ammunition write the caliber and model numbers using code words, rely on external sites to share photos and make deals through private messages.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • U.S. Military Urges Release of Guantánamo Detainee Who Wrote Bestselling Book Detailing Abuse

    Thursday, July 21, 2016
    Slahi was subjected to interrogation approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Slahi wrote of extensive sleep deprivation, beatings, dousings with ice water, and of being shackled in a freezing cell. He denied involvement with terrorism and was never charged with a crime. He was accused of working on chemical and biological weapons for Al Qaeda, but documents showed that intelligence officials decided he “was probably misidentified” and had merely been a bookkeeper and translator.   read more
  • Wall Street Profits from Tax Avoidance Deals that Harm Danish Taxpayers

    Friday, July 15, 2016
    Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and other banks have profited for years by arranging short-term loans of stock in Danish companies, a maneuver that has deprived Denmark of substantial tax revenues. With the banks’ help, stock owners avoid paying Danish authorities the dividend taxes they would otherwise owe. The lost revenue is significant: It equals roughly 1.1% of the budget deficit of the Danish government last year, or about 70 Danish crowns ($10) for each resident.   read more
  • Ireland, Beneficiary of U.S. Corporate “Inversion” Deals, Celebrates Huge Jump in GDP

    Wednesday, July 13, 2016
    In the U.S., officials have derided “inversion deals,” which allow a U.S. company to move its headquarters overseas to cut its tax bills. In Ireland, they are celebrating them. The Irish government Tuesday revised the country’s economic growth rate in 2015 to 26.3% from a preliminary estimate of 7.8%. Ireland’s economy has been on the upswing since the country repaid its bailout, and at play was the magic of those inversion deals and other sleights of finance.   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • Paraguay’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Germán Rojas?

    Sunday, July 17, 2016
    With the 2013 election of Horacio Cartes as Paraguay’s president, Rojas was made Minister of Finance. His tenure there was seen as successful, with Rojas being named Finance Minister of the Year in 2014 for his stewardship of the country’s finances. He was also made chairman of the boards of governors of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Rojas left the ministry in early 2015, saying it was for personal reasons, but more likely because of differences with Cartes over tax reforms.   read more
  • Austria’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Wolfgang Waldner?

    Saturday, July 16, 2016
    He joined the Foreign Service in 1981 and his first U.S. assignment came in 1983, when he was named cultural attaché at the embassy in Washington. Waldner then served briefly as personal secretary to Foreign Minister Alois Mock before being named in 1988 to lead the Austrian Cultural Institute in New York, a post he held until 1999. Waldner did take time out to work on the successful 1992 and 1998 presidential campaigns of Thomas Klestil.   read more
  • Fiji’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Naivakarurubalavu Solo Mara?

    Sunday, July 10, 2016
    Mara was sent overseas again in 2008 as counselor in the Fiji embassy in Brussels, but returned home the following year to become the ministry’s Permanent Secretary. In 2011, Mara was made High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, with concurrent responsibilities as ambassador to Germany, Denmark, Israel, Ireland and the Holy See.   read more

Featured Story

Three Charged in Billion-Dollar Medicare Fraud Scheme

Saturday, July 23, 2016
Three people have been charged in an unprecedented $1 billion health care fraud scam, accused of using dozens of Miami nursing homes to bilk the taxpayer-funded Medicare and Medicaid programs. Authorities said Philip Esformes, who ran 30 nursing homes and assisted living facilities, joined with two conspirators and a complex network of corrupt doctors and hospitals to refer thousands of patients to their facilities even though the patients did not qualify for the services.   read more
Latest News

Top Stories

  • One-Third of Recovering Hospital Patients in U.S. Suffer Harm from Rehab Care

    Friday, July 22, 2016
    Almost a quarter of the harmed patients had to be admitted to an acute care hospital, at a cost of about $7.7 million for the month analyzed. The physicians who reviewed the cases for the OIG say substandard treatment, inadequate monitoring, and failure to provide needed care caused most of the harm. Almost half the cases, 46%, were related to medication errors, and included bleeding from gastric ulcers due to blood thinners and a loss of consciousness linked to narcotic painkillers.   read more
  • Lawsuit Accuses U.S. Army of Denying Diabetes Treatment for Children on Army Bases

    Thursday, July 21, 2016
    The American Diabetes Assn has been working to change Army policy since 2010, and says numerous families across the nation are affected. "The U.S. Army's policy is discriminatory and completely out of step with current practices relating to caring for children with diabetes," ADA's Hagan said. "This discriminatory policy provides little choice for parents who are effectively forced to pull their children out of the U.S. Army's high-quality programs or face jeopardizing their lives," said Smith.   read more
  • After 7 Years, U.S. Health Agency at Loss for Extending Patient Privacy Law to Booming Health Tech Industry

    Wednesday, July 20, 2016
    HIPAA requires tight security over personal health information. Apps and wearables may not have the same protections. A study looked at 600 of the most commonly used health apps and found that fewer than a third had privacy policies. Many apps connect to third-party websites without users’ knowledge and send data in unencrypted ways that potentially exposed personal information. Many people do not read an app’s privacy policy, leaving them open to having their information used in myriad ways.   read more

Unusual News

  • Snowden’s New Mission: Protecting Journalists from Dangers of Trackable Smart Phones

    Friday, July 22, 2016
    Snowden said he was concerned that cellphones and smartphones serve as tracking devices that automatically create electronic dossiers that give third parties, including governments, detailed information on location. As an example of the dangers of location data, he cited the mortar attack in 2012 by the Syrian government that killed Marie Colvin, an American journalist who was reporting in Homs, Syria, for The Sunday Times of London.   read more
  • Federal Judge Opens Door to Gender-Neutral Passports

    Thursday, July 21, 2016
    Government lawyers argued that moving beyond two gender choices for passports would upend officials' ability to verify identities and backgrounds because of reliance on drivers' licenses and birth certificates issued by states offering only male and female gender options. Judge Jackson appeared exasperated at times, saying the State Dept. needs to catch up to a new era in which gender identification is not as clear as it was in the past. "A lot of things are changing in our world," Jackson said.   read more
  • Philadelphia Experiment on Treating Gunshot Victims Could Impact Trauma Care Nationwide

    Tuesday, July 19, 2016
    Philadelphia hospitals will conduct an experiment that asks: When gunshot victims are being rushed to the ER, could paramedics do more to save them by doing less? It's an approach that could change practices at trauma centers across the country. And everyone in Philadelphia could become a study subject, though the biggest effect will probably be in the most violent neighborhoods — poor, mostly black sections where people are skeptical of essentially being experimented on.   read more

Where is the Money Going?

  • Taxpayers Subsidize Junk Food

    Wednesday, July 20, 2016
    While government recommends people fill their plates with fruits and veggies to help prevent obesity, only a fraction of its subsidies support the production of fresh produce. The vast majority of subsidies go instead to commodity crops that are processed into many of the foods that are linked to the obesity crisis. “The subsidies damage our country’s health and increase the medical costs that will ultimately need to be paid to treat the effects of the obesity epidemic,” said a USPIRG report.   read more
  • State Laws Target Life Insurance Companies that Soak Up Money Earmarked for Beneficiaries

    Friday, July 15, 2016
    State actions are forcing companies to locate heirs and pay them the money they are owed. The laws follow years-long audits and multi-state investigations of the top 40 insurance companies that revealed many of them held on to benefits, even when they knew the person insured had died. "This is something that shocked me," said Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs, whose office pushed for legislation. "We think it's important that the last wishes of the deceased are honored."   read more
  • For First Time in 50 Years, Federal Bill Seeks Limits on Debt Collection Seizures

    Thursday, July 14, 2016
    “Every day, some Americans are having every penny in their paychecks garnished,” Cummings said. “Congress should not sit on the sidelines and watch our constituents be kept in a cycle of poverty.” “It really does put people into complete turmoil,” said Martha Bergmark, executive director of the nonprofit Voices for Civil Justice. “It’s a rolling disaster” with potential consequences in every aspect of a low-income debtor’s life, she said.   read more

Controversies

  • Climate Change May Turn Trees from Carbon Fighters into Carbon Producers

    Friday, July 22, 2016
    The findings indicate that climate change is already pushing many forests toward the tipping point — where a forest can suddenly go from being a climate ally to actually producing carbon. Being rapidly exposed to higher temperatures forests have never experienced and are not evolutionarily prepared for hampers growth and makes trees more vulnerable to stress. Projections suggest that the tipping point for many forests may be reached as early as 2050.   read more
  • NBA Moves All-Star Game from North Carolina to Protest Anti-LGBT Law

    Friday, July 22, 2016
    The NBA on Thursday dealt a blow to the economy and prestige of North Carolina by pulling February’s All-Star Game to protest a state law that eliminated anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people. The move was among the most prominent consequences since the law was passed in March. The decision by the NBA comes after its commissioner, Adam Silver, had strongly hinted that such a move might be coming and again thrusts the league into the middle of social issues now gripping the nation.   read more
  • Gun Enthusiasts Find Ways to Skirt Facebook Gun Sales Ban

    Friday, July 22, 2016
    “I just started to search for gun sales, and sure enough, Facebook was full of them,” said one user. Some try to skirt the ban by advertising other products for sale, such as baby powder, next to rifles. Other users did little to hide their intentions. A post on a firearms Facebook page recommended that those who wanted to sell guns or ammunition write the caliber and model numbers using code words, rely on external sites to share photos and make deals through private messages.   read more

U.S. and the World

  • U.S. Military Urges Release of Guantánamo Detainee Who Wrote Bestselling Book Detailing Abuse

    Thursday, July 21, 2016
    Slahi was subjected to interrogation approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Slahi wrote of extensive sleep deprivation, beatings, dousings with ice water, and of being shackled in a freezing cell. He denied involvement with terrorism and was never charged with a crime. He was accused of working on chemical and biological weapons for Al Qaeda, but documents showed that intelligence officials decided he “was probably misidentified” and had merely been a bookkeeper and translator.   read more
  • Wall Street Profits from Tax Avoidance Deals that Harm Danish Taxpayers

    Friday, July 15, 2016
    Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and other banks have profited for years by arranging short-term loans of stock in Danish companies, a maneuver that has deprived Denmark of substantial tax revenues. With the banks’ help, stock owners avoid paying Danish authorities the dividend taxes they would otherwise owe. The lost revenue is significant: It equals roughly 1.1% of the budget deficit of the Danish government last year, or about 70 Danish crowns ($10) for each resident.   read more
  • Ireland, Beneficiary of U.S. Corporate “Inversion” Deals, Celebrates Huge Jump in GDP

    Wednesday, July 13, 2016
    In the U.S., officials have derided “inversion deals,” which allow a U.S. company to move its headquarters overseas to cut its tax bills. In Ireland, they are celebrating them. The Irish government Tuesday revised the country’s economic growth rate in 2015 to 26.3% from a preliminary estimate of 7.8%. Ireland’s economy has been on the upswing since the country repaid its bailout, and at play was the magic of those inversion deals and other sleights of finance.   read more

Appointments and Resignations

  • Paraguay’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Germán Rojas?

    Sunday, July 17, 2016
    With the 2013 election of Horacio Cartes as Paraguay’s president, Rojas was made Minister of Finance. His tenure there was seen as successful, with Rojas being named Finance Minister of the Year in 2014 for his stewardship of the country’s finances. He was also made chairman of the boards of governors of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. Rojas left the ministry in early 2015, saying it was for personal reasons, but more likely because of differences with Cartes over tax reforms.   read more
  • Austria’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Wolfgang Waldner?

    Saturday, July 16, 2016
    He joined the Foreign Service in 1981 and his first U.S. assignment came in 1983, when he was named cultural attaché at the embassy in Washington. Waldner then served briefly as personal secretary to Foreign Minister Alois Mock before being named in 1988 to lead the Austrian Cultural Institute in New York, a post he held until 1999. Waldner did take time out to work on the successful 1992 and 1998 presidential campaigns of Thomas Klestil.   read more
  • Fiji’s Ambassador to the United States: Who Is Naivakarurubalavu Solo Mara?

    Sunday, July 10, 2016
    Mara was sent overseas again in 2008 as counselor in the Fiji embassy in Brussels, but returned home the following year to become the ministry’s Permanent Secretary. In 2011, Mara was made High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, with concurrent responsibilities as ambassador to Germany, Denmark, Israel, Ireland and the Holy See.   read more