Put Me In, Roach
June 10, 2022
It’s time to play… Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader (if that 5th grader read a TON of news). Test your knowledge of recent world news with this short quiz. Submissions must be made by 12pm EST Monday, 6/13. The winner, announced Wednesday, will win bragging rights for the week as well as a free Daily Pnut t-shirt.
“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” – Jiddu Krishnamurti
A Bill Of Health
A 2016 study from the Health Care Cost Institute revealed prices for the same medical procedures can vary by huge amounts – even within the same state. In California, for example, the average price for a knee replacement was under $40,000. But having the procedure done in Sacramento would have cost $57,000. This report looked at prices paid by people with private insurance and found those prices could vary “more than threefold in certain instances.” Medical costs can be paid by private insurance companies, directly by employers or by patients, and by government-funded systems like Medicare or Medicaid. Hospitals, and sometimes doctors and clinics, negotiate different rates with different payers. A 2015 study showed some hospitals mark up charges as much as 1,000%.
Publicizing standard charges for a hospital’s items and services as a way to empower consumers and decrease healthcare costs was first introduced in 2010 in the Affordable Care Act, during the Obama administration. The Public Health Service Act, Section 2718(e) even mandates that hospitals make public a list of “standard charges for items and services provided by the hospital.” But as often happens in Washington, implementation got bogged down. The Trump administration put out a rule requiring hospitals to post their prices for procedures online starting January 1, 2019. But health care advocates warned the new requirement could actually confuse consumers. A health insurance company executive in New York said almost no one pays the charges indicated on the price list – it’s like the manufacturer’s suggested retail price sticker on a new car. The real prices are negotiated with insurance companies, and they’re not published.
The latest Hospital Price Transparency regulation went into effect on January 1, 2021, with pure intent: to make the hidden costs of services like X-rays or colonoscopies clear to patients before they enter the hospital. Hospitals are required to list the cash prices for services they provide in two forms on their websites: one easily accessible for patients, with a cost estimator for the 300 most common services, and another that’s machine-readable, essentially a spreadsheet. But a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Tuesday shows hospitals are largely ignoring the law, still keeping patients in the dark. (NBC News, nortonrosefullbright.com, cms.gov.)
Justice Not Served
- Two British citizens, Aiden Aslin, 28, and Shaun Pinner, 48, were captured along with a Moroccan national while fighting in the Ukrainian army in Mariupol. The Britons say they were serving in the Ukrainian Marines, making them active-duty soldiers covered by Geneva conventions on prisoners of war.
- But a court in Russian-controlled East Ukraine treated the men as “mercenaries” and charged them with “terrorism.” After a days-long closed process described as a “disgusting Soviet-era show trial,” the three men were sentenced to death. U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the men were “prisoners of war” and the sentence was “a sham judgment with absolutely no legitimacy…”
- On Wednesday, the state-run news agency RIA Novosti ran footage of the men pleading “guilty” to the charges against them. A pro-Russia official in Donetsk said that the men would have one month to appeal their sentence and if an appeal was accepted, they could receive life or a 25-year prison sentence instead of the death penalty. (Guardian)
Hack In Action
- U.S. security agencies warned Tuesday that Chinese government-backed hackers have breached “major telecommunications companies,” among a range of targets worldwide, by exploiting known software flaws in routers and other popular network networking gear. “[T]hese devices are often overlooked by cyber defenders, who struggle to maintain and keep pace with routine software patching of Internet-facing services and endpoint devices,” said the advisory from the FBI, the National Security Agency, and U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.
- The agencies’ statement did not identify the hacking victims, but aimed instead at defensive measures to help organizations running the devices made by Cisco, Fortinet, and other vendors shore up their networks. An FBI spokesman said China “conducts more cyber intrusions than all other nations in the world combined.” The attackers are using vulnerabilities in software that are already known, meaning a fix is available, rather than a fancy hacking exploit that hasn’t been discovered. Although China routinely denies culpability, hacking allegations have been a significant source of friction in the U.S.-China relationship. (CNN)
Additional World News
- Ukrainian journalist confronts Russia’s Sergei Lavrov with grain theft claim (Guardian)
- Nuclear watchdog censures Iran over uranium traces – diplomats (BBC)
- Belgian king reiterates regrets for colonial past in Congo but no apology (Reuters)
- EU lawmakers endorse ban on combustion-engine cars in 2035 (AP)
- Menendez: Mexican president ‘tried to blackmail President Biden’ (The Hill)
- China, Russia defend N Korea vetoes at UN General Assembly (Al Jazeera)
Policing The Police
- Following an extensive investigation by the AP, the Justice Department announced Thursday it was opening a sweeping civil rights probe of Louisiana State Police amid mounting evidence the agency has a pattern and practice of ignoring violent behavior by officers, mostly against Black men. The Assistant Attorney General who oversees the Justice Department’s civil rights division said, “we received information of the repeated use of excessive force, often against people suspected of minor traffic offenses who are already handcuffed or are not resisting.”
- The federal action is the first against a statewide law enforcement agency in over two decades, and comes over three years after white troopers were captured on long-withheld body-camera video beating, stunning, dragging, and ultimately killing a Black motorist, Ronald Greene, on a rural road near Monroe. Dozens of current and former troopers said such beatings were countenanced by a culture of impunity, nepotism, and outright racism. (AP News)
All Riot On The Western Front
- Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley was arrested Thursday morning over his role in the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol last year. Kelley was arrested at his home in Allendale and faces four misdemeanor charges. Kelley is among at least three other public officials who have been charged for allegedly participating in the Capitol riot. Couy Griffin, an Otero, New Mexico county commissioner, was found guilty of one misdemeanor charge in March after a one-week bench trial.
- Kelley’s arrest affidavit notes that he has a history of pushing to overturn the last presidential election. Authorities said Kelley was previously a featured speaker at a November 2020 “Stop the Steal” rally at the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, where he indicated “that those attending the rally should stand and fight, with the goal of preventing Democrats from stealing the election.”
- Kelley is one of five candidates for the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer in November. Five other Republicans were disqualified because they had fraudulent signatures on their petitions. (ABC News)
Additional USA News
- Christina Pushaw, Ron DeSantis spokeswoman, belatedly registers as agent of Georgian politician Mikheil Saakashvili (WaPo, $)
- Amid border surge, Biden admin plans to send migrants to cities deeper inside U.S., starting with L.A., say internal documents (NBC)
- Two Democrats vote against advancing gun legislation (The Hill)
- The latest House-Senate GOP split: How to respond to Jan. 6 hearings (Politico)
- A U.S. woman pleads guilty to leading an all-female ISIS battalion (NPR)
- Harris to announce nearly $2B in private investment to help stem migration (The Hill)
- DOJ announces team to investigate response to the Uvalde school massacre as a dad says ‘schools are not safe anymore’ (CNN)
Put Me In, Roach
- The Albany City Court in upstate New York was closed for fumigation Tuesday after hundreds of live cockroaches were released during an altercation that broke out at an arraignment for four people arrested at the State Capitol. The cockroaches were apparently brought into the courthouse in plastic containers.
- Court officers arrested a 34-year-old woman in the audience for charges related to the altercation, including disorderly conduct, obstructing governmental administration and tampering with physical evidence. On the plus side, it could have been snakes. (AP News)
- Placing new limits on the interior of neutron stars (Ars Technica)
- Five planets will line up in the sky in June. Here’s how to see it. (CBS)
- Lil Nas X Has Doubled Down On His Response To His BET Awards Snub (BuzzFeed)
- New unusual repeating fast radio burst detected 3 billion light-years away (CNN)
- The Mars rover accidentally adopted a pet rock (Salon)
- Smartphones must have common charging port by 2024, E.U. says (WaPo, $)
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