Published: Tuesday 8 January 2013
Texas has been embroiled in a Medicaid fraud scandal for the past couple of years.

 

A leading Republican in the Texas legislature, who says she’s outraged by allegations that corporate dental chains put profits ahead of patients, has introduced a bill that would allow the state to regulate chains and forbid them from forcing dentists to meet revenue quotas.

A joint investigation by the Center for Public Integrity and PBS Frontline last summer found that two of the largest dental chains owned by private-equity firms, Aspen Dental Management and Kool Smiles, put pressure on its dentists to meet production goals, prompting complaints of overbilling and unnecessary treatments.

Both companies deny this. And a coalition of dental chains in Texas contends that their dentists have total control over patient care. But the chief sponsor of the bill remains skeptical.

“Several reports, including the Frontline program, have uncovered outrageous activities involving the illegal enticement of patients, especially among our Medicaid providers and often involving dental service organizations,” said Republican Sen. Jane Nelson, who chairs the Senate’s Health & Human Services committee.

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Published: Wednesday 14 November 2012
“Southeastern utilities are spotlighted in the report as those with the highest number of coal-fired units that are ripe for retirement.”

Today the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released the report Ripe for Retirement: The Case for Closing America’s Costliest Coal Plants, which highlights the financial uncertainty of many coal plants around the nation. It turns out that the Southeast is home to a staggering number of inefficient and uneconomic coal plants.

As of  May 31, a total of 288 coal-fired generating units representing 41.2 gigawatts (GW) of capacity across the U.S. have been scheduled for closure. Many of the owners of these on-the-way-out coal-fired units based their decision to close up shop on economic grounds. Now that there are many cleaner, lower-cost alternatives for electric generation, coal plant owners are concluding that paying for costly upgrades to keep their outdated coal plants running is a bad investment.

UCS’ new report bolsters these ideas as they have identified up to 353 coal-fired electric utility generating units, many with multiple ...

Published: Friday 2 November 2012
Published: Tuesday 16 October 2012
The Koch mailer is one of several recent examples of executives warning that employees may lose their jobs if Republicans do not win in November.

The Koch brothers’ $60 million pledge to defeat President Obama — along with their political network’s $400 million spending — make them two of the most influential conservatives this election.

Not content with their unprecedented influence in politics, the Kochs have also taken to influencing the votes of their employees. According to In These Times, Koch Industries sent 45,000 mailers to employees at Koch subsidiary Georgia Pacific, urging votes for Romney and other conservative candidates. The letter warns ominously of “consequences” for the workers if Republicans lose. 

The Koch mailer is one of several recent examples of executives warning that employees may lose their jobs if Republicans do not win in November. Here is an excerpt ...

Published: Monday 3 September 2012
“Black liquor, a byproduct of the paper-making process, is an alcoholic sludge that paper mills use to fuel their operations.”

What do you call a mix of "black liquor," biofuels, diesel, and a generous splash of tax subsidies? If you have Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho shake this cocktail vigorously and serve it in a golden goblet provided by corporate lobbyists, I've got the answer: Koch Brothers Moonshine.

Black liquor, a byproduct of the paper-making process, is an alcoholic sludge that paper mills use to fuel their operations. Fine — creative, even. But then, the paper giants turned from creative to cabal, teaming with Crapo and other practitioners of the legislative black arts to turn their sludge into a slick tax loophole.

In 2007, Crapo and a covey of corporate lobbyists quietly made their "liquor" eligible for a subsidy meant to help wean America off oil by encouraging the production of a biofuel-gasoline mix to power cars and trucks. Not so fine. One, vehicles can't use mill sludge as a fuel. Two, rather than mixing biofuel into their sludge, the paper-makers add diesel! So these sneaks are siphoning billions of dollars from a clean fuels program by making a dirty fuel dirtier.

Who's profiting from this load of moonshine? Right at the top are the infamous, far-right-wing Koch brothers. These secretive, multi-billionaire political extremists have long been financing everything from dozens of corporate front groups to the tea party in their relentless effort to impose their plutocratic agenda on our country. One major way they pay for this onslaught is by tapping directly into the blatant corporate welfare of the black liquor loophole. The Koch industrial empire includes Georgia Pacific, one of America's largest paper-makers — and it's the happy recipient of as much as a billion bucks a year from this perverted biofuel subsidy.

A dirty windfall from a dirty fuel is underwriting dirty politics. The whole thing stinks.

Published: Saturday 18 August 2012
In June, South Carolina officials indicated in federal court filings that they will quickly implement the law before the November election if it is upheld.

 

Raymond Rutherford has voted for decades. But this year, he doesn’t know if he’ll be able to cast a ballot.

The Sumter, S.C., resident, 59, has never had a government-issued photo ID because a midwife’s error listed him as Ramon Croskey on his birth certificate. It’s wrong on his Social Security card, too.

Rutherford has tried to find the time and money to correct his birth certificate as he waits to see if the photo voter ID law is upheld by a three-judge U.S. District Court panel, scheduled to convene in Washington, D.C., in late September.

In June, South Carolina officials indicated in federal court filings that they will quickly implement the law before the November election if it is upheld. Voters without photo ID by November would be able to sign an affidavit explaining why they could not get an ID in time.

South Carolina’s photo voter ID law is similar to a series of restrictive election measures passed by Republican-controlled state legislatures in states of the former Confederacy, including Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee and Virginia. North Carolina’s General Assembly failed to override Democratic Gov. Bev Perdue’s veto of a photo voter ID bill. 

Thirty-seven states have considered photo voter ID laws since 2010. In November, five states — Georgia, Indiana, Tennessee, Kansas and Pennsylvania — will vote under new strict photo voter ID laws. A judge soon could decide whether the Pennsylvania law violates the state constitution, as voting rights advocates claim.

Supporters argue the laws are important protections against in-person voter impersonation fraud, but civil rights organizations and election historians see evidence of a more sinister legacy. Obtaining certificates of birth, marriage and divorce needed to get a proper photo ID can be an obstacle ...

Published: Tuesday 24 July 2012
“In these so-called ‘non-strict photo ID states’ — Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Idaho, South Dakota and Hawaii — individuals are requested to show photo ID but can still vote if they don’t have one.”

Voter IDs laws have become a political flashpoint in what's gearing up to be another close election year. Supporters say the laws — which 30 states have now enacted in some form — are needed to combat voter fraud, while critics see them as a tactic to disenfranchise voters.

 

We've taken ...

Published: Thursday 28 June 2012
“The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), representatives of the European Union and CBRN experts are launching a joint CoE, which seeks to improve policies and unite countries across the globe against CBRN risks.”

Reducing the risks associated with chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats is the goal of a new multi-country initiative known as the Centres of Excellence (CoE).

The United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI), representatives of the European Union and CBRN experts are launching a joint CoE, which seeks to improve policies and unite countries across the globe against CBRN risks.

In response to increasing concerns over criminal misuse of CBRN materials and the threat of industrial catastrophe among other risks, CoEs are being set up in Kenya, Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Georgia, Uzbekistan and the Philippines, and will draw on input from more than 60 countries around the world.

Currently, many countries would find themselves isolated in the event of a crisis. CoEs aim to develop partnerships between regions to share the risks of CBRN incidents and improve their capacity to protect civilian populations, explained Francesco Marelli, UNICRI CBRN programme manager.

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Published: Monday 18 June 2012
Georgia lawmakers, for instance, have been planning to stash nearly $100 million from the settlement into their state’s general fund.

 

Several states have been taking their share of the $25 billion foreclosure fraud settlement that was crafted in February with the nation’s five biggest banks and, instead of using the money for its intended purpose of providing foreclosure relief to troubled homeowners, have used it to bolster other areas of their budgets. Georgia lawmakers, for instance, have been planning to stash nearly $100 million from the settlement into their state’s general fund.

As Kate Little, president of the Georgia State Trade Association of Nonprofit Developers wrote today, that money did indeed wind up in the state’s general budget, where it will be spent on corporate giveaways — economic programs meant to entice companies to move to Georgia — rather than helping homeowners:

According to Georgia’s Attorney General Sam Olens, the state’s Constitution requires such funds to be deposited in the general fund with the General Assembly responsible for determining how to allocate the money.

Gov. Nathan Deal and the General Assembly decided in the waning days of the 2012 session to divide the money between the Regional Economic Business Assistance (REBA) and the One Georgia Authority.

That means that none of the funds will go to address foreclosures, even though Georgia has consistently ranked in the top five of states across the country with the highest rates of ...

Published: Monday 11 June 2012
“Often, the animus is internalized within the psyches of the official operatives of the state who are given carte blanche to harass and oppress minority groups, political dissidents, and enemies of the state, real and imagined.”

 

 

My parents modest, single-level, brick home stands on property that was once part of a sprawling estate owned by the Candler family, Atlanta's Coca-Cola patricians. Built during the post-war, 1950s building boom, the small house is situated in a deep ravine that once served as the grounds of the Candler's private zoo. On the hilltop above, the point of highest elevation in the Atlanta metro area, the Candler family, in the tradition of the powerful and elite, laid claim to the highest ground. 

 

In the 1960s, and apropos to the era, in an odd twist of historical circumstance, the grounds of the estate -- earlier endowed to the state of Georgia by the heirs of the Candler fortune -- were appropriated for development as a state mental health institution, a sprawling complex of modernist structures, housing those committed for treatment for issues related to psychological disorders.

 

Emblematic of the decade of the 1960s, the highest ground in the city became the site of a madhouse. Aptly, as opposed to emanating from its traditional source i.e., insular precincts of privilege and power, in the 1960s, spontaneous upwelling of cultural madness were more egalitarian in nature…seemingly, a development that the corporate and governmental elite found so troubling that they swore that they would never again abide similar types of cultural phenomenon--instigated by underling upstarts who (apparently) forgot their social station--to rise unfettered. Consequently, the swift and brutal repression the Occupy Wall Street movement has endured in its struggle against the present structures of calcified psychopathology known as the corporate state.       

 

Yet, cultures must allow for creative chaos. Otherwise, stultifying social structures tend to engender a sense of powerlessness among the populace, creating a pervasive sense of nebulous ...

Published: Sunday 27 May 2012
“States have diverted $974 million from this year’s landmark mortgage settlement to pay down budget deficits or fund programs unrelated to the foreclosure crisis, according to a ProPublica analysis.”

This post has been updated to clarify Virginia’s use of its settlement funds.

States have diverted $974 million from this year’s landmark mortgage settlement to pay down budget deficits or fund programs unrelated to the foreclosure crisis, according to a ProPublica analysis. That’s nearly forty percent of the $2.5 billion in penalties paid to the states under the agreement.

The settlement, between five of the country’s biggest banks and an alliance of almost all states and the federal government, resolved allegations that the banks deceived homeowners and broke laws when pursuing foreclosure. One part of the settlement is the cash coming to states; the deal urged states to use that money on programs related to the crisis, but it didn’t require them to.

ProPublica contacted every state that participated in the agreement (and the District of Columbia) to obtain the most comprehensive breakdown yet of how they’ll be spending the funds. You can see the detailed state-by-state results here, along with an interactive map. Many states told us they’ll be finalizing their plans in the coming weeks. We’ll be updating our breakdown as the results come in.

What stands out is that even states slammed by the foreclosure crisis are diverting much or all of their money to the general fund. In California, among the hardest hit states, the governor has proposed using all the money to plug his state’s huge budget gap. And Arizona, also among the worst hit, has diverted about half of its funds to general use. Four other states where a high rate of homeowners faced foreclosure during the crisis are spending little if any of their settlement funds on homeowner services: Georgia, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Maine.

Overall, only about $527 million has been earmarked for new homeowner-focused ...

Published: Friday 18 May 2012
“On May 1, after a day of May Day activities on the streets and avenues of Manhattan, my wife and I and a troop of other OWS celebrants marched into Zuccotti Park to jubilant exhortations of “welcome home” from a throng of fellow occupiers.”

 

On May 1, after a day of May Day activities on the streets and avenues of Manhattan, my wife and I and a troop of other OWS celebrants marched into Zuccotti Park to jubilant exhortations of "welcome home" from a throng of fellow occupiers. The next day, my wife and I boarded a southbound Amtrak train to join family gathered at my dying father's bedside to bid him farewell.  

 

May in Georgia: In this age of climate chaos, the local flora comes to bloom a full month earlier than in decades past. This season, magnolias and hydrangeas blossomed in early May. Their petals opened to the world as my father's life is fading. The magnolia petals have grown heavy; his body is shrinking. Soon he will drift from this world carried by the scent of late spring blossoms.

 

In our once laboring class neighborhood, McMansions blot out the late spring sun. In the arrogant shadow of these shoddily constructed, bloated emblems of late capitalism, the neighborhood's remaining 1950's single level, brick homes seem to recede…fading like memory before the hurtling indifference of passing eras.

 

In late spring, veils of pollen merge with shrouds of Atlanta traffic exhaust. Timeless nature has awakened as the noxious capitalist certainties underpinning the aberration known as the New South are dying.

 

Hospice has arrived in the home of my father.

 

A death vigil has begun, as well, for our culture. 

 

Lost, starving, wailing into a void of paternal abandonment, my father, left on the doorstep of a Baptist church adjacent to an Indian Reservation in rural Missouri, arrived into this keening world. Now, he is refusing to eat and is wailing, once again, into an abyss of helplessness…His bones, eaten by cancer, and his bowels seized up by the side effects of opiates, he is starving himself to death.

 

He ...

Published: Friday 20 April 2012
“All told, nearly a million prisoners are now making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing, while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73 per day.”

Sweatshop labor is back with a vengeance. It can be found across broad stretches of the American economy and around the world.  Penitentiaries have become a niche market for such work.  The privatization of prisons in recent years has meant the creation of a small army of workers too coerced and right-less to complain.

Prisoners, whose ranks increasingly consist of those for whom the legitimate economy has found no use, now make up a virtual brigade within the reserve army of the unemployed whose ranks have ballooned along with the U.S. incarceration rate.  The Corrections Corporation of America and G4S (formerly Wackenhut), two prison privatizers, sell inmate labor at subminimum wages to Fortune 500 corporations like Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T, and IBM.

These companies can, in most states, lease factories in prisons or prisoners to work on the outside.  All told, nearly a million prioners are now making office furniture, working in call centers, fabricating body armor, taking hotel reservations, working in slaughterhouses, or manufacturing textiles, shoes, and clothing, while getting paid somewhere between 93 cents and $4.73 per day. 

Rarely can you find workers so pliable, easy to control, stripped of political rights, and subject to martial discipline at the first sign of recalcitrance -- unless, that is, you traveled back to the nineteenth century when convict labor was commonplace nationwide.  Indeed, a sentence of ...

Published: Saturday 3 March 2012
“ALEC is far from the only way that wealthy corporate interests corrupt our political system, but, thanks to a lot of recent investigative work, it’s become one of the most visible.”

Remember Wisconsin’s union-busting Budget Repair Bill, the one that brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets of Madison—and was then partially reproduced in Ohio and other states? What about Arizona’s SB-1070 READ FULL POST 3 COMMENTS

Published: Friday 2 March 2012
Newt Gingrich tended to business in his old stomping ground of Georgia.

While Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum flew to Washington state ahead of its Republican presidential caucuses Saturday, Newt Gingrich tended to business in his old stomping ground of Georgia.

Gingrich represented Atlanta suburbs in the House of Representatives for 20 years, ending in 1999. His business these days is trying to keep his presidential campaign alive in what's been shaping up lately as a two-man race for the Republican nomination that doesn't include him.

"I have to win Georgia, I think, to be credible in the race," Gingrich candidly told the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce on Thursday morning. "But if I win Georgia, the following week we go to Alabama and Mississippi, and I think I'll win both of those and we have a good opportunity to win Kansas," which votes March 10.

Gingrich is pinning his hopes for a third comeback in this primary cycle on a Southern strategy. His only victory so far came in South Carolina. His camp thinks that winning Georgia on Tuesday could slingshot him to Southern victories the following Tuesday in Mississippi and Alabama, and they in turn could serve as a springboard into later contests in delegate-rich Texas and elsewhere.

Gingrich leads in Georgia by 9 percentage points, according to an average of recent state polls compiled by the website ...

Published: Wednesday 19 October 2011
On Monday, Mayor Kasim Reed issued a second extension for Occupy Atlanta to stay in the park for three more weeks.

As the Occupy Movement spreads like wildfire across the United States and around the world, protests in the U.S. South are facing unique challenges.

Occupy protests have sprouted up in countless cities across the U.S. South, including Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia; Columbia, South Carolina; Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Miami, Florida; and New Orleans, Louisiana, to name just a few. 

In Atlanta, Georgia, the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement, the city government has struggled with the question of how to respond to the Occupy protesters who have literally taken over downtown's Woodruff Park with tents and an encampment that has no end in sight. 

On Monday, Mayor Kasim Reed issued a second extension for Occupy Atlanta to stay in the park for three more weeks. 

“Civil disobedience is an appropriate form of expression, provided that it is peaceful, non-violent and lawful,”he said in a statement. 


“As of today, the Occupy Atlanta protesters continue to assemble in a peaceful, non-violent fashion in Robert W. Woodruff Park. Therefore, I have extended the Executive Order allowing Occupy Atlanta to remain in Woodruff Park after the park closes... through the adjournment of the next Atlanta City Council meeting on November 7, 2011,” he said. 

In contrast, other cities such as Boston, Massachusetts and New York have seen mass arrests of protesters. 

However, this temporary resolution in Atlanta was not achieved through a smooth process. 

Occupy Atlanta began its occupation of Woodruff Park on Friday, Oct. 7. The movement consists of several hundred activists, the majority of whom are young, disenchanted college-age activists who have little or no experience in progressive politics. 

This came across when on Oct. 7, Democratic Congressman John Lewis, a hero of the Civil Rights Movement, visited Occupy ...

Published: Wednesday 28 September 2011
“Davis, one of more than 3,200 prisoners on death row in the U.S., had faced three prior execution dates and with each one, global awareness grew.”

On Sept. 21 at 7 p.m., Troy Anthony Davis was scheduled to die. I was reporting live from outside Georgia’s death row in Jackson, awaiting news about whether the Supreme Court would spare his life.

Davis was sentenced to death for the murder of off-duty Savannah police officer Mark MacPhail in 1989. Seven of the nine nonpolice witnesses later recanted or changed their testimony, some alleging police intimidation for their original false statements. One who did not recant was the man who many have named as the actual killer. No physical evidence linked Davis to the shooting.

Davis, one of more than 3,200 prisoners on death row in the U.S., had faced three prior execution dates. With each one, global awareness grew. Amnesty International took up his case, as did the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Calls for clemency came from Pope Benedict XVI, former FBI Director William Sessions and former Republican Georgia Congressman Bob Barr. The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, in granting a stay of execution in 2007, wrote that it “will not allow an execution to proceed in this state unless ... there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused.”

But it is just that doubt that has galvanized so much global outrage over this case. As we waited, the crowd swelled around the prison, with signs saying “Too Much Doubt” and “I Am Troy Davis.” Vigils were being held around the world, in places such as Iceland, England, France and Germany. Earlier in the day, prison authorities handed us a thin press kit. At 3 p.m., it said, Davis would be given a “routine physical.”

Routine? Physical? At a local church down the road, Edward DuBose, the president of Georgia’s NAACP chapter, spoke, along with human rights leaders, clergy and ...

Published: Thursday 22 September 2011
At 10:04 p.m. the victim’s mother, Anneliese MacPhail, got a call from the Georgia attorney general's office saying the stay was denied, paving the way for the execution.

One of the most controversial death penalty cases in Georgia's history ended Wednesday night as the state executed Troy Anthony Davis, a convicted cop killer who adamantly maintained his innocence.

Davis, found guilty of murder in the 1989 shooting of Columbus High graduate Mark A. MacPhail, was pronounced dead at 11:08 p.m.

The waiting game played out from Columbus to the state prison in Jackson where police in riot gear stood guard as Davis supporters gathered.

Early in the day it appeared Davis' appeals had run out, but then the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the case, delaying the execution that had been set for 7 p.m. Wednesday.

At 10:04 p.m., MacPhail's mother, Anneliese MacPhail, got a call from the Georgia attorney general's office saying the stay was denied, paving the way for the execution.

Twice during the delay, MacPhail was interviewed live by CNN's Anderson Cooper.

"I would like to close this book," she told Cooper. She said the ordeal has been "hell."

In Jackson, outside Georgia's death-row prison, crowds protesting Davis' execution cheered upon hearing the high court had agreed to review the case. But the upswell in enthusiasm followed tense moments during which at least three protesters across the street from the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Prison got arrested as the crowd there grew unruly.

After that, an army of corrections officers in riot gear deployed in front of the prison gate. The law enforcement presence later swelled as two convoys of Georgia state patrol cruisers, lights flashing and sirens blaring, pulled up on the north side of Georgia Highway 36 to seal off access to the prison. In the media area separated from the road by a fence, a prison representative told reporters they had five minutes to decide whether to stay in the secured area or leave. If they left, they would not be allowed back in.

Hundreds of ...

Published: Tuesday 20 September 2011
Davis is now set to be executed by lethal injection on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.

Shortly before our broadcast ended, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles announced it rejected clemency for Troy Anthony Davis. The Board has the sole authority to stay the execution under Georgia state law. Davis is now set to be executed by lethal injection on Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Davis was convicted for the 1989 killing of an off-duty white police officer. Since then, seven of the nine non-police witnesses have recanted their testimony, and there is no physical evidence tying Davis to the crime scene. Amnesty International, the NAACP and numerous other groups have called for clemency. Former FBI Director William Sessions is among those calling for a closer examination of whether Davis is guilty, joining a list that includes Pope Benedict XVI, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. We speak with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, civil rights leader and founder of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, who has been a vocal supporter of the campaign to spare Davis’s life. We also speak with Mary Schmid Mergler, senior counsel for the Constitution Project’s Criminal Justice Program, who assembled statements from a former Georgia Supreme Court justice, congressman and prosecutors, as well as a former Texas governor, who urged the Supreme Court, and now the Georgia pardons board, to halt Davis’s execution and commute his death sentence to life in prison.

AMY GOODMAN: A life-or-death decision is expected today in the high-profile case of Georgia death row prisoner Troy Anthony Davis. His execution is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Wednesday. After a daylong hearing on Monday from supporters and detractors, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles announced it will take more time to consider whether to grant Davis clemency. The board allowed ...

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