The Nunes Memo

The US House, as authorized by the president, released the controversial memo by Rep. David Nunes (R-CA) today despite protests from our nation’s intelligence services claiming that omissions of fact render it as nothing but partisan propaganda.  Nunes, the supposed author of the document, has NOT read the underlying investigative documents upon which he claims his memo is based.  Sadly, Speaker Ryan, second in line to the presidency, believes it’s appropriate to promote Nunes’ propaganda to “the base.”  The Democratic rebuttal may or may not be released dependent of the whims of the man occupying the oval office and whether he thinks it appropriate for the American People to have that information.

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In Ferguson, DOJ Probe Only Confirms What Community Has Long Known

‘What the DOJ has memorialized on paper, we will memorialize in action.’
—Tory Russell, Hands Up United

"Hands up!" sign displayed at a Ferguson protest. (Photo:  Jamelle Bouie/flickr/cc)
“Hands up!” sign displayed at a Ferguson protest. (Photo:  Jamelle Bouie/flickr/cc)

 

— by Sarah Lazare, staff writer

A Department of Justice probe into the now-notorious Ferguson Police Department confirmed Wednesday what residents of this majority-black city in Missouri have long charged: racism is endemic throughout the local “justice” system—manifesting in everything from traffic stops to predatory court fines to physical attacks.

Now, the activists whose sustained protests put Ferguson in the global spotlight are responding to the revelations with observations of their own. They say the abuses documented in the DOJ’s 102-page review are not new information to municipal residents; they are not unique to Ferguson; and, ultimately, they constitute a call-to-action.

“What the DOJ has memorialized on paper, we will memorialize in action,” said Tory Russell, cofounder of Hands Up United, which was formed shortly after the August fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

Russell continued in a public statement:

Ferguson is just a symptom of an international problem, one that is fueled by social, economic, and racial inequality, by a lack of access to education, resources, employment, and one that wont go away until we take an introspective look at ourselves as a nation and as a global community facing daily flashpoints between the privileged and the repressed.

“Ferguson is a microcosm of how marginalized communities interact with the state, but also a spark that inevitably stokes that flames of justice in the hearts and minds of people of all creeds peppered throughout this country.” —Tory Russell, Hands Up United

The DOJ, is an organ in these systems of inequality.  The same CS gas that police used to disperse our assemblies in Ferguson, is the same CS gas, manufactured here in the US with support from US taxpayers, that is used to disperse assemblies in the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  For those of us on the receiving end of this gas our struggles are intertwined.

Moreover, our socio-economic systems appear to thrive in (or at the very least, understand) the chaos of flashpoints between the haves and have-nots.  What is harder, for everyone to understand to and address, is how to challenge the predicate series of systemic injustices that fuel and fertilize these flashpoints.

Ferguson is a microcosm of how marginalized communities interact with the state, but also a spark that inevitably stokes that flames of justice in the hearts and minds of people of all creeds peppered throughout this country.

Additionally included in the press statement were remarks by Tef Poe, also a cofounder of Hands Up United, who said:

While we should not diminish the significance of the DOJ’s findings, and the prospect of subsequent attempts to reform policing in Ferguson and St. Louis, we also need to remain cognizant to the fact that Ferguson is but a microcosm of repressive and violent community-police interactions nation-wide.

Today the DOJ’s report has validated that traffic stops in Ferguson disproportionately target people of color and Ferguson courts have become sources of revenue – straying away from their purpose of protecting our communities. We who live this, every day, having been slapped with exhaustive series of tickets, or bench warrants, for our minor infractions, or due to simple mistakes, already knew this.

“This is not news for those of us who have felt a baton in our back or a boot on our neck— moreover, the incidents Ferguson Police choose not to document are perhaps the most frightening and hardest for us to forget.” —Tef Poe, Hands Up United

In incident reports filed by Ferguson Police, detailed in the DOJ report, nearly all of the situations wherein police used force were against people of color. This is not news for those of us who have felt a baton in our back or a boot on our neck— moreover, the incidents Ferguson Police choose not to document are perhaps the most frightening and hardest for us to forget.

To see what we have been saying and living for decades validated by the Department of Justice is not insignificant, but these problems are like a cancer—whether the symptoms spread through a body or a whole community, they cannot be addressed piecemeal. To isolate and exemplify Ferguson, is to infatuate over the finger while the organs of our State and the soul of our Country continue to metastasize.

To begin to address this cancer we must first begin by viewing it as such.  This cancer is one that saturates everything—like smoke lingering on your clothes after a night out—and it is not reserved for a specific demographic.  This smoke lingers on our clothes inasmuch as it lingers on Darren Wilson’s blood stained uniform —the only difference is that we’re ready to change that. ”

Organizers with Millennial Activists United, a youth-led, grassroots coalition in the St. Louis area, put it succinctly:

The DOJ’s release of the report, which coincided with its announcement that it will not prosecute Wilson for shooting Brown, prompted protests on Wednesday against racial disparities. Numerous eye witnesses say that police arrested those who gathered to demonstrate, sparking renewed outrage among local organizers, including the network Ferguson Action:

Raven Rakia pointed out in The Nation on Thursday that police practices in Ferguson, and local resistance, have nation-wide implications.

“The flames of Ferguson following Michael Brown’s death captured the country’s attention, and brought the Justice Department to town,” wrote Rakia. “But what of all the other small and big cities across the United States engaging in the same practices? If we are to look towards Ferguson as a lesson, changes may come only following a sustained grassroots movement from those directly affected.”


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HHS/AG Recovering Health Care Fraud $$$

Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services announce record-breaking recoveries resulting from joint efforts to combat health care fraud

Government Teams Recovered $4.2 Billion in FY 2012

WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today released a new report showing that for every dollar spent on health care-related fraud and abuse investigations in the last three years, the government recovered $7.90.  This is the highest three-year average return on investment in the 16-year history of the Health Care Fraud and Abuse (HCFAC) Program.

The government’s health care fraud prevention and enforcement efforts recovered a record $4.2 billion in taxpayer dollars in Fiscal Year (FY) 2012, up from nearly $4.1 billion in FY 2011, from individuals and companies who attempted to defraud federal health programs serving seniors and taxpayers or who sought payments to which they were not entitled.  Over the last four years, the administration’s enforcement efforts have recovered $14.9 billion, up from $6.7 billion over the prior four-year period.  Since 1997, the HCFAC Program has returned more than $23 billion to the Medicare Trust Funds.

These findings, released today in the annual HCFAC Program report, are a result of President Obama making the elimination of fraud, waste and abuse, particularly in health care, a top priority for the administration.

The success of this joint Department of Justice and HHS effort was made possible by the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), created in 2009 to prevent fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs and to crack down on individuals and entities that are abusing the system and costing American taxpayers billions of dollars.  These efforts to reduce fraud will continue to improve with new tools and resources provided by the Affordable Care Act.

“This was a record-breaking year for the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services in our collaborative effort to crack down on health care fraud and protect valuable taxpayer dollars,” said Attorney General Holder.  “In the past fiscal year, our relentless pursuit of health care fraud resulted in the disruption of an array of sophisticated fraud schemes and the recovery of more taxpayer dollars than ever before.  This report demonstrates our serious commitment to prosecuting health care fraud and safeguarding our world-class health care programs from abuse.”

“Our historic effort to take on the criminals who steal from Medicare and Medicaid is paying off: We are gaining the upper hand in our fight against health care fraud,” said Secretary Sebelius. “This fight against fraud strengthens the integrity of our health care programs and helps us fulfill our commitment to our seniors.”

About $4.2 billion stolen or otherwise improperly obtained from federal health care programs was recovered and returned to the Medicare Trust Funds, the Treasury and others in FY 2012.  This is an unprecedented achievement for the HCFAC Program, a joint Justice Department and HHS effort to coordinate federal, state and local law enforcement activities to fight health care fraud and abuse.

The administration is also using tools authorized by the Affordable Care Act to fight fraud, including enhanced screenings and enrollment requirements, increased data sharing across the government, expanded recovery efforts for overpayments and greater oversight of private insurance abuses.

Since 2009, the Justice Department and HHS have improved their coordination through HEAT and increased the number of Medicare Fraud Strike Force teams to nine.  The Justice Department’s enforcement of the civil False Claims Act and the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act have produced similar record-breaking results.  These combined efforts coordinated under HEAT have expanded local partnerships and helped educate Medicare beneficiaries about how to protect themselves against fraud.   In FY 2012, the two departments continued their series of regional fraud prevention summits, and the Justice Department hosted a training conference for federal prosecutors, FBI agents, HHS Office of Inspector General agents and others.

The strike force teams use advanced data analysis techniques to identify high-billing levels in health care fraud hot spots so that interagency teams can target emerging or migrating schemes as well as with chronic fraud by criminals masquerading as health care providers or suppliers. In July, Attorney General Holder and Secretary Sebelius announced the launch of a ground-breaking partnership among the federal government, state officials, leading private health insurance organizations and other health care anti-fraud groups to share information and best practices to improve detection of and prevent payments to scams that cut across public and private payers.

In FY 2012, the Justice Department opened 1,131 new criminal health care fraud investigations involving 2,148 potential defendants, and a total of 826 defendants were convicted of health care fraud-related crimes during the year.  The department also opened 885 new civil investigations.

The strike force coordinated a takedown in May 2012 that involved the highest number of false Medicare billings in the history of the strike force program.  The takedown involved 107 individuals, including doctors and nurses, in seven cities, who were charged for their alleged participation in Medicare fraud schemes, involving about $452 million in false billings.  As a part of the May 2012 takedown, HHS also suspended or took other administrative action against 52 providers using authority under the health care law to suspend payments until an investigation is complete.

Strike force operations in the nine cities where teams are based resulted in 117 indictments, informations and complaints involving charges against 278 defendants who allegedly billed Medicare more than $1.5 billion in fraudulent schemes.  In FY 2012, 251 guilty pleas and 13 jury trials were litigated, with guilty verdicts against 29 defendants, in strike force cases.  The average prison sentence in these cases was more than 48 months.

The new authorities under the Affordable Care Act granted to HHS and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) were instrumental in clamping down on fraudulent activity in health care.  In FY 2012, CMS began the process of screening all 1.5 million Medicare-enrolled providers through the new Automated Provider Screening system that quickly identifies ineligible and potentially fraudulent providers and suppliers prior to enrollment or revalidation to verify the data.  As a result, nearly 150,000 ineligible providers have already been eliminated from Medicare’s billing system.

CMS also established the Command Center to improve health care-related fraud detection and investigation, drive innovation and help reduce fraud and improper payments in Medicare and Medicaid.

From May 2011 through the end of 2012, more than 400,000 providers were subject to the new screening requirements and nearly 150,000 lost the ability to bill the Medicare program due to the Affordable Care Act requirements and other proactive initiatives.

The Department of Justice and HHS also continued their successes in civil health care fraud enforcement during FY 2012.  The Justice Department’s Civil Division Fraud Section, with their colleagues in U.S. Attorneys’ offices throughout the country, obtained settlements and judgments of more than $3 billion in FY 2012 under the False Claims Act (FCA).  These matters included unlawful pricing by pharmaceutical manufacturers, illegal marketing of medical devices and pharmaceutical products for uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Medicare fraud by hospitals and other institutional providers, and violations of laws against self-referrals and kickbacks.  This marked the third year in a row that more than $2 billion has been recovered in FCA health care matters.  Additionally, the Civil Division’s Consumer Protection Branch, working with U.S. Attorneys’ offices, obtained nearly $1.5 billion in fines and forfeitures, and obtained 14 convictions in matters pursued under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

The HCFAC annual report is available at www.oig.hhs.gov/publications/hcfac.asp.  For more information on the joint DOJ-HHS Strike Force activities, visit: www.StopMedicareFraud.gov/.

For more information on the fraud prevention accomplishments under the Affordable Care Act visit:www.healthcare.gov/news/factsheets/2012/02/medicare-fraud02142012a.html.

Texas Voter ID Law, Which Accepts Gun Licenses But Not Student IDs, Challenged In Court

— By Aviva Shen on Jul 6, 2012 at 5:25 pm

On Monday, the Department of Justice and the Texas Legislature will square off in court over Texas’ contentious voter ID law. A three-judge U.S. District Court panel will hear the case, which could challenge the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Texas is one of nine states that must get any changes to their election law cleared by the DOJ under the Voting Rights Act due to a history of discrimination. Texas flunked the test; as Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez wrote in his letter to the Director of Elections, “According to the state’s own data, a Hispanic registered voter is at least 46.5 percent, and potentially 120.0 percent, more likely than a non-Hispanic registered voter to lack this identification.

The law, SB 14, requires voters to show one of a very narrow list of government-issued documents, excluding Social Security, Medicaid, or student ID cards. Gun licenses, however, are acceptable.

The DOJ found that Texas’s SB 14 will “disenfranchise at least 600,000 voters who currently lack necessary photo identification and that minority registered voters will be disproportionately affected by the law.”

As of the 2010 Census, non-Hispanic whites have become the minority in Texas, shrinking to 45.3% of the population from 52.4%, while Latinos accounted for 65% of Texas’s population growth over the past decade.

But Latinos are not the only people hurt by the restrictive bill. People who want to vote but don’t have an ID will have to pay a fee to get one, like Jessica Cohen, whose story ThinkProgress documented in November. After she lost her identification during a robbery, the only way to get a voter ID was to pay a fee to Missouri officials in order to obtain her birth certificate.

On Monday, Texas will defend the law as a necessary measure to prevent voter fraud. Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) argued that “Texas has a responsibility to ensure elections are fair, beyond reproach and accurately reflect the will of voters.” But the San Antonio Express-News reported that fewer than five “illegal voting” complaints involving voter impersonations were filed with the Texas Attorney General’s Office from the 2008 and 2010 general elections in which more than 13 million voters participated.

The Texas voter ID law isn’t the first the DOJ has had to combat. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder noted,

“The past two years have brought nearly two dozen new state laws and executive orders, from more than a dozen states, that could make it significantly harder for eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.”


This material [article] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. Source: http://thinkprogress.org/election/2012/07/06/512245/texas-voter-id-law-which-accepts-gun-licenses-but-not-student-ids-challenged-in-court/