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We Can Solve This: Climate Change

We Can Solve This: San Francisco Leads the Way – Climate Change
Source: Climate Reality Project
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

This video reminds us just how possible it is to make negative climate change a thing of the past and how much we are already doing. As one of the largest (United States) producers of waste in the world, it makes us proud to see just how proactive San Francisco is. It is a beautiful city with good reason. Already many stores in the area have begun to make reusable bags a thing of the present while encouraging people to bring their own bags. On the Norfolk State University campus one can already see water fountains with refillable stations for water bottles like the one featured in the video. We have already invested in stainless steel water bottles made to last and with environmentally friendly materials (not plastic). In fact, many of the inititives to reduce waste are also a cost savings to both the consumer and the company as we move towards sustainable, realistic and options that are friendly to the environment that we live in.

In fact, these green solutions offer countless benefits: solar panels (which Prince Charles himself uses) as well as green roofs provide cost savings a responsible use of natural resources and fresh air not to mention the many other benefits green spaces offer humans. Recycling is nice. A nice way for tweens and teens to earn a little extra cash by turning recycled items in to establishments that still pay for these materials. The benefits are truly endless and a means that are sustainable. We could not be more excited about the example San Francisco offers to other cities and we are not far behind.

What are some ways that you contribute to the health of our environment? Do you have a water bottle? How often do you use it? We have been know to bring our water bottles to restaurants. Its not mainstream yet, but just wait.

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Electric Cars: Tesla in Norfolk

Tesla Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

A Tesla is a beautiful car (piece of machinery) made by a true engineer at heart. So, when you see a Tesla it is pretty hard to miss. And when you see a Tesla electric charging station it is even harder to miss. They are definitely unique structures that stand out. We have one right in Norfolk at the Janaf Shopping Center not far from the Walmart. Norfolk, VA, USA may have its climate change challenges, but it is also a dynamic and progressive city with several positive climate change initiatives that we will be talking about. We are super excited to be living in the city that we believe is a jewel among many jewels in the state of Virginia.

We are still driving vehicles that are not electric. But, we have been doing out homework. It is reported that most electric cars costs comparably more in the beginning. But, over time we hear that the savings in maintenance and to power (electric vs. gas) yields a savings that adds up over time. Additionally, FuelEconomy.gov reports that there are also possible tax breaks for having a electric vehicle. We will continue doing our research and hope that our next vehicle can be electric. As the technology grows there continues to be more options for consumers new and used.

Do you own an electric vehicle? How long have you had it? Do you plan on buying an electric vehicles? What other benefits have you identified? What adjustments did you have to make when you purchased your first electric vehicle?

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Parsley and Marigold Plants

Parsley and Marigold Plant Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

In addition to the garden, we kept a few plants in their pots for transportation to other homes. While we were planning to keep dill around, dill went to another home and we kept the parsley plant. Initially the parsley plant scarcely produced enough leaves for one meal. Since we have been harvesting parsley on a regular basis (about every 3 weeks) she has yielded a large enough harvest that we can clip enough leaves for a full meal and leave about a third of the leaves behind for continued photosynthesis / growth. We have been harvesting and eating from our parsley plant since the summer.

She is a prime example of how one can have a small kitchen garden right from their porch or from inside their home. Many people live in ares where they have a yard or no yard at all and thus are urban gardeners. So, we want you to know that it is possible. Not only is it possible, it is a nice fresh treat produced by your own hands. It is food and you know the source. You know that your foods were grown responsibly. We grew her without pesticides or any other chemicals. Her seeds may not have been organic. Nonetheless, she was grown organically and has continued to grow and thrive.

Speaking of growing organically, marigold is right next to her. She has not yet blossomed. We started the marigold plant late in the season to ward off ants. Marigold is a perfect Organic Remedy for pests such as ants who can carry your plants right off before you get to eat them. We like having marigold around because she discourages ants from coming around the house and around the plants. The pumpkin is a little treat we picked up from the local grocers as a Halloween decoration.

If you have never had a garden before or only had the occasional house plant or two, grow kits are a great way to get your feet wet and to learn the wonderful world of growing something. The good news is that if you have had the occasional house plant, you probably know more than you think you do. Herbs are a great way to get started too. They are easy to grow as small or as big as you want. They often have less resource demands. They typically need less water than say a tomato plant that will need a lot of space and more water.

What type of area do you live in, rural or urban? We have seen people grow pineapples right in their homes. What do you think you can grow in your space? What would you like to grow in your space?

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Moving indoors

Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

I don’t think I have ever met a plant that didn’t love being outside. However, its not every plant that can be exposed to the outside elements during a frost and still survive. Having experienced cold climates, typically its only the evergreens that can thrive during the winter without some type of shelter or aid. In fact, there are a few farmers who will tell you that they can produce a harvest in the midst of winter. However, these farmers are typically using some type of greenhouse or frame to shield their plants from the winter elements in some form or another. As we come upon the winter months this conversation is important because we are at a time where one should be making plans to move their outdoor plants inside or making winter plans for their garden.

Speaking of which, the following are a few tips for planning for your plants during the winter months:

  • Assess your plants needs
    • what are its light needs
    • what type of nutrients will its soil need
    • what will be its water needs
    • what will be its drainage needs
    • what will be its fresh air needs
  • based on your plants needs
    • where will you place the plant indoors
    • how will you provide for all of its needs

You have probably been feeding its soil the proper nutrients all along and this should not change much. One major thing to consider is where to place your plant indoors so that it will get the amount of sunlight it will need. Grow lights are a great resource that inside growers take advantage of when the light source is not as much as they need. Also, you may have allowed your plant to drain into soil or onto your patio or porch. Now that the plant will be inside do you have trays to catch any access water. During the winter months people sometimes let in as little fresh air as possible. But, your plants will want the fresh air. They breathe like people do and need fresh air also. Remember to monitor how your plants are doing with the temperature change. They do not want to frost but they don’t want to be in a sauna either. At least moist plants. Succulents and cacti would probably beg to differ. Different plants do have different needs.

What plants are you planning on bringing indoors? I have seen people with plants over 20 years old. That is fantastic. Some people have an amazing way with plants! Are there any plants that can be left outdoors? What is your biggest concern with bringing your plant(s) indoors?

Share your comments with the community by posting them below. Share the wealth of health with your friends and family by sharing this article with 3 people today. As always you are the best part of what we do. Keep sharing!

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Hearty fufu

Cooking fufu
Source: Ndudu by Fafa
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Fufu is one of my favorite dishes. Its a hearty staple that goes with almost any dish like rice or potatoes. I prefer it made with sweet potatoes. What are your favorite cultural or international dishes? Where is the dish from? What do you like about it?

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Cooking: from Garden to Kitchen

Kitchen Garden and Cooking
Source: NParks SG
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

Have you started your garden? What is in your garden? What have you cooked from your garden?

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HHS Turning up the HEAT on Healthcare Fraud Charges

medical fraud shidonna raven garden and cook

Source: Policy Med

HEALTHCARE REFORMHHS-OIG By Thomas Sullivan Last Updated May 5, 2018

Since the health care reform debate began almost two years ago, the Obama Administration has identified fighting fraud committed against public health care programs as a top priority. Both the Recovery Act and Affordable Care Act include significant provisions to fight health care fraud. Among many other changes, the ACA amended the False Claims Act’s public disclosure provision and strengthened the provisions of the federal health care Anti-Kickback Statute.

One of the main reasons for this is because the Obama Administration largely asserted during the debate that significant reductions in health care fraud and abuse could help pay for part of the health care reform legislation.

These goals were further expressed in President Obama’s FY 2011 budget, which included $561 million in discretionary resources to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), an increase of $250 million. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius acknowledged that this increase would strengthen the Medicare and Medicaid program integrity activities, with a particular emphasis on fighting health care fraud in the field, increasing Medicaid audits, and strengthening program oversight while reducing costs. 

Such an investment against fraud and abuse claims to help save $9.9 billion over ten years. According to HHS, the additional funding will better equip the Federal government to minimize inappropriate payments, pinpoint potential weaknesses in program integrity oversight, target emerging fraud schemes by provider and type of service, and establish safeguards to correct programmatic vulnerabilities.

Additionally, the HHS budget will install a set of new program integrity proposals that will give HHS the necessary tools to fight fraud by enhancing provider enrollment scrutiny, increasing claims oversight, improving Medicare’s data analysis capabilities, and reducing over-utilization of Medicaid prescription drugs. These proposals will claim to save approximately $14.7 billion over 10 years.

Consequently, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has been busy trying to reach that goal, securing more than $3 billion in civil settlements and judgments in cases involving fraud against the government in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2010. Announcing this accomplishment, Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, announced in a press release that this total includes $2.5 billion in health care fraud recoveries—the largest in history—and represents the second largest annual recovery of civil fraud claims.

West also mentioned that the amounts recovered under the False Claims Act since January 2009 have eclipsed any previous two-year period with $5.4 billion in taxpayer dollars returned to federal programs and the Treasury. Of that total, $4.6 billion were under the False Claims Act from health care providers and others in the industry, a two-year health care fraud record. DOJ also secured 25 criminal convictions. Since 1986, when Congress substantially strengthened the civil False Claims Act, recoveries now total more than $27 billion.RELATED POSTS

The largest fiscal year 2010 False Claims Act recoveries came from the pharmaceutical and medical device industries, which accounted for $1.6 billion in settlements, including the $669 million from Pfizer Inc., $302 million from AstraZeneca, and $192.7 from Novartis Pharmaceutical Corporation. These numbers may appear to be deceptive however, as some have predicted that the era of big pharma settlements may be ending. For example, many companies such as Pfizer have entered into lengthy corporate integrity agreements that span over the next several years.

While it is certainly important for revenue purposes that DOJ continues to successfully prosecute wrongful acts of companies, the agreements these companies have entered into require more of an oversight role than investigative, to ensure compliance with the agreement. Without large settlements, the DOJ might not be able to sustain its ‘profitability’ of fraud collections. For example, without a large settlement like Pfizer’s, DOJ’s claims may not cover the $500 million plus the government put in. In other words, if the administration is to continue such efforts, they will first have to recover $500 million to break even.

Much of the success for recovering this money stems from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) creation of a new interagency task force, the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT). On May 20, 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius created HEAT to increase coordination and optimize criminal and civil enforcement, which they argue results in higher quality health care at a more reasonable price. DOJ and HHS also assert that HEAT is used as a tool to protect the Medicare Trust Fund for seniors and the Medicaid program for the country’s neediest citizens.

West further acknowledged the role of HEAT by recognizing that Since January 2009, the Civil Division, together with the U.S. Attorneys’ offices, commenced more health care fraud investigations, secured larger fines and judgments, and recovered more taxpayer dollars lost to health care fraud than in any other two-year period.” Most of the cases resulting in recoveries were brought to the government by whistleblowers under the False Claims Act, the federal government’s primary weapon in the battle against fraud.

In 1986, Senator Charles Grassley and Representative Howard Berman led successful efforts in Congress to amend the False Claims Act to revise the statute’s qui tam (or whistleblower) provisions, which encourage whistleblowers to come forward with allegations of fraud. Since 1986, recoveries in qui tam cases have exceeded $18 billion, and relators (whistleblowers) have obtained more than $2.8 billion in awards. They were awarded $385 million in 2010.

Impact of Settlements

Ultimately, while the success of the DOJ is clear, how much this will continue down the road depends on a number of factors. Nevertheless, it is important that the DOJ and HHS continue to work with companies on solutions to prevent fraud, waste and abuse to reduce costs and improve efficiency in the health care system. While the recoveries may help to pay for some of the provisions in health care reform, it is more important that the companies maintain their trust and integrity with the public by adhering to their agreements and making a concerted effort to prevent fraud and abuse.

How much of your tax dollars do you think go towards health care fraud (unnecessary procedures, over billing etc.? How much of your health insurance premium dollars do you think goes towards paying for fraudulent procedures and over billing? Do you look at your insurance bill? Does your insurance company send you a copy of your medical charges?

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US coronavirus stimulus went to some healthcare providers facing criminal inquiries

Source: CNBC
PUBLISHED SAT, MAY 2 2020 6:07 AM EDT

The exterior of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC.

Eager to bolster the healthcare system during the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. government last month sped $30 billion in stimulus payments to most healthcare providers that billed Medicare last year.

That speed resulted in taxpayers’ money flowing to some companies and people facing civil or criminal fraud investigations, according to defense lawyers and others representing more than a dozen firms and people facing such inquiries.

The disclosures about such payments have prompted outrage among some congressional Democrats, who say they highlight the problems with how stimulus funds have been distributed.

“I have an enormous amount of frustration with the way the Trump administration is distributing these dollars, and examples like these magnify the consequences of the White House’s efforts to limit transparency and stonewall oversight,” Senator Ron Wyden, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, told Reuters.

Henry Connelly, a spokesman for House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, added: “It is alarming to see the Trump administration giving precious taxpayer dollars to unscrupulous entities while so many hospitals and health care workers on the frontlines of the battle against coronavirus are desperate for resources.”

The Department of Health and Human Services, which sent the payments, told Reuters it transmitted funds to all medical providers who submitted billings in 2019 to Medicare, the federal health insurance program for elderly and disabled Americans, unless they had already been excluded from participating.

It declined to respond to the criticism from Wyden and Pelosi’s office and did not respond to specific questions from Reuters about the payments.

Katherine Harris, a spokeswoman for the HHS Office of the Inspector General, said her office oversees the program but declined to comment on the specific distribution of funding.

“While we cannot comment specifically on any work other than what has been publicly announced, I can tell you that we regularly perform reviews of the department’s administration of programs, including the distribution of funding,” Harris said.

Reuters was unable to independently determine what portion of the stimulus payments went to entities and individuals involved in civil and criminal actions with Medicare.

In an email to funding recipients seen by Reuters, HHS asked providers to sign a lengthy attestation that stipulates they have been or will be treating patients suffering from COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

If providers do not respond within 30 days, HHS said it will assume they have accepted the government’s terms and conditions. It said in a statement it “has mechanisms in place to recoup funds and address fraudulent activity.”WATCH NOWVIDEO05:53CARES Act, Fed response insufficient given headwinds: Chief economist

The funds came from the $2.3 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress to blunt the economic toll of the pandemic, which has killed more than 64,000 Americans and thrown at least 30 million people out of work.

Unlike the portions of that package intended to help small businesses, which required companies to apply for it, some of the healthcare funding was initiated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and showed up as a surprise in the bank accounts of many healthcare providers.

Reuters interviewed six defense lawyers and others representing more than a dozen healthcare providers facing civil or criminal inquiries who received the money, including a pain medicine doctor who recently settled a civil false claims case, and an operator of an assisted living facility who is planning to plead guilty to healthcare fraud.

“The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing,” said Joel Hirschhorn, an attorney who represents the pain medicine doctor and the operator of the assisted living facility.

The lawyers who spoke to Reuters declined to identify their specific clients, citing confidentiality rules.

The surprise deposit of funds has led attorneys to scramble to warn clients to be ready to return the money.

“There is no such thing as a windfall from the government,” said Sam J. Louis, a former prosecutor who is now a partner with the law firm Holland & Knight, whose law firm issued an alert to clients warning them of the potential of legal liability in taking the funds.

Some former federal prosecutors say it would not have been difficult for HHS to weed out these providers first.

“If fraudulent providers, either convicted or under investigation, are receiving CARES Act bail-outs automatically, without any vetting, then shame on the government,” said Paul Pelletier, one former prosecutor.

However, defense lawyers stressed that people charged with crimes are innocent until proven guilty, and they are not usually barred from billing Medicare until well after they are convicted of a crime. People facing criminal healthcare charges usually agree to stop billing Medicare as a condition of their bond, they added.

Another pool of practitioners eligible for the cash infusions include doctors who have lost their medical licenses or licenses to prescribe highly addictive drugs, said Ron Chapman, a lawyer in Miami.

HHS declined to say what portion of the $30 billion went to providers facing criminal or civil inquiries.

It said it distributed funds to more than 315,000 provider billing organizations reaching over 1.5 million healthcare providers.

In fiscal year 2019, investigations by the HHS inspector general’s office led to 747 criminal actions and 684 civil actions.

In the midst of the pandemic health care fraud is alive and prevalent while many suffer economically across the globe. How has the pandemic effected you financially? Do you think pandemic aid could have been better spent? How many people do you think lost or missed work? How many industries and small business have been impacted or closed due to COVID 19?

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10. The Stanford Prison Experiment

Source: Mental Floss
This content is age restricted. This video could not be secured and may become available. Please enjoy the associated article from Mental Floss below.

The Stanford Prison Experiment
Source Mental Floss
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

In 1971, Philip Zimbardo of Stanford University conducted his famous prison experiment, which aimed to examine group behavior and the importance of roles. Zimbardo and his team picked a group of 24 male college students who were considered “healthy,” both physically and psychologically. The men had signed up to participate in a “psychological study of prison life,” which would pay them $15 per day. Half were randomly assigned to be prisoners and the other half were assigned to be prison guards. The experiment played out in the basement of the Stanford psychology department where Zimbardo’s team had created a makeshift prison. The experimenters went to great lengths to create a realistic experience for the prisoners, including fake arrests at the participants’ homes.

The prisoners were given a fairly standard introduction to prison life, which included being deloused and assigned an embarrassing uniform. The guards were given vague instructions that they should never be violent with the prisoners, but needed to stay in control. The first day passed without incident, but the prisoners rebelled on the second day by barricading themselves in their cells and ignoring the guards. This behavior shocked the guards and presumably led to the psychological abuse that followed. The guards started separating “good” and “bad” prisoners, and doled out punishments including push ups, solitary confinement, and public humiliation to rebellious prisoners.

Zimbardo explained, “In only a few days, our guards became sadistic and our prisoners became depressed and showed signs of extreme stress.” Two prisoners dropped out of the experiment; one eventually became a psychologist and a consultant for prisons. The experiment was originally supposed to last for two weeks, but it ended early when Zimbardo’s future wife, psychologist Christina Maslach, visited the experiment on the fifth day and told him, “I think it’s terrible what you’re doing to those boys.”

Despite the unethical experiment, Zimbardo is still a working psychologist today. He was even honored by the American Psychological Association with a Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Science of Psychology in 2012.

Does this occur in prisons? Did it begin to occur before or after such experiments? Is any of this behavior acceptable and to be considered real health care?

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5 Unethical Unauthorized Medical Experiments

5 Worst Medical Experiments
Source: This is genius
Shidonna Raven Garden and Cook

What are the worst medical experiments you know of? Why do you think these medical experiments occur? What should be the consequences for such experiments?

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