Month: September 2020

Hundreds in US Charged in $6B Medical Fraud Schemes

The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday announced charges against 345 people for committing over $6 billion in medical fraud. Those charged include more than 100 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who filed fraudulent claims to federal health care programs and private insurers, according to the Justice Department. The bulk of the fraud — $4.5 billion — was connected to telemedicine, which has surged during the pandemic. For example, the Cleveland Clinic went from averaging 5,000 telemedicine visits a month before the pandemic to 200,000 visits just in April, the Associated Press reported. “Telemedicine can foster efficient, high-quality care when practiced appropriately and lawfully. Unfortunately, bad actors attempt to abuse telemedicine services and leverage aggressive marketing techniques to mislead beneficiaries about their health care needs and bill the government for illegitimate services,” U.S. Health and Human Services Deputy Inspector General Gary Cantrell said in a statement. “Unfortunately, audacious schemes such as these are prevalent and often harmful.”  FILE – The U.S. Department of Justice headquarters building is seen in Washington, July 13, 2018.According to the Justice Department, some telemedicine company executives allegedly paid doctors and nurse practitioners to order unnecessary medical equipment, medical tests and pain medications without interacting with a patient or with only a brief telephone conversation with a patient they had never seen.  “Durable medical equipment companies, genetic testing laboratories, and pharmacies then purchased those orders in exchange for illegal kickbacks and bribes and submitted false and fraudulent claims to Medicare and other government insurers,” according to a statement from the Justice Department. In addition to telemedicine fraud, other defendants were charged with more than $845 million worth of fraud related to substance abuse facilities, and more than $806 million was connected to other health care fraud, including the illegal distribution of opioids. “This nationwide enforcement operation is historic in both its size and scope, alleging billions of dollars in health care fraud across the country,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt said in a statement. “These cases hold accountable those medical professionals and others who have exploited health care benefit programs and patients for personal gain.” 
 

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Zimbabwe Officials Blame Bacterial Disease for Elephant Deaths

Zimbabwe parks authority officials say they suspect a bacterial disease called hemorrhagic septicemia is behind the recent deaths of at least 34 elephants in the northwestern part of the country.The elephant deaths, which began in late August, come soon after hundreds of elephants died in neighboring Botswana in mysterious circumstances. Authorities subsequently blamed the deaths on toxins produced by another type of bacterium.FILE – A combination photo shows dead elephants in Okavango Delta, Botswana, May-June, 2020. (Photographs obtained by Reuters)Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority Director-General Fulton Mangwanya said Tuesday they have discovered 34 dead elephants, but suspect more may be found.  The elephants were found lying on their stomachs, suggesting a sudden death.Mangwanya said the dead elephants were discovered in an area between the Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls in west-central Zimbabwe, suggesting to him the outbreak has been isolated.Mangwanya said postmortems on some of the elephants showed inflamed livers and other organs. Samples have been sent to the UK and South Africa to confirm the type of disease.Experts say that Zimbabwe’s current elephant population could be close to 90,000.Elephants in Botswana and parts of Zimbabwe are at historically high levels — roughly half of the continent’s 400,000 elephants, according to estimates — but elsewhere on the continent, especially in forested areas, many populations are severely depleted, researchers say. 
 

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German Chancellor Imposes New COVID-19 Restrictions

After consulting with Germany’s 16 regional governors, German Chancellor Angela Merkel Wednesday announced new restrictions on the size of gatherings to prevent the country’s coronavirus infection figures from accelerating.At a Berlin news briefing following her virtual meeting with the governors, Merkel said she wants to act regionally and address the virus where it is surging rather than shut down the whole country, which she said should be avoided at all costs.  “In order to achieve this, we must have minimum standards for certain frequencies of infections,” said Merkel.The German chancellor said in places where there are more than 35 new infections per 100,000 residents recorded in a week, the number of people attending gatherings at public or rented facilities should be limited to 50 and no more than 25 should attend events in private homes.She said that where infections hit at least 50 per 100,000 residents, those figures should be cut to 25 and 10 respectively.Merkel said she expects the rate of infection to rise as the change in weather means more people will spend time inside in the coming months. She said the number of daily infections could rise to 19,200 in three months if the rate of infection continues as it has over the past three months.  “This underlines the urgency for us to act,” said Merkel.The chancellor also discouraged travel to high risk areas in Europe in the coming months, saying staying in Germany was a good option. She said low risk European nations such as Italy might be a good option, noting the number of COVID-19 cases are very low there now and “they are acting very carefully.”Johns Hopkins University reports Germany has over 289,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and just over 9,450 deaths.

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Washington Mural Pays Tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Many Americans are mourning the death of Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Makeshift memorials to the popular liberal justice have sprung up all over the country.  One of them at the site of a  large mural dedicated to the justice in September 2019. Anush Avetisyan has the story, narrated by Anna Rice.VIDEOGRAPHER: Andrey Degtyarev

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Robot Arms Perform Tests to Detect COVID-19

The world recently reached a tragic milestone of one million known deaths linked to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.  Experts say more testing is key to combating the virus’s spread.  A biotech company in Taiwan has developed a robot capable of conducting thousands of COVID tests each day, making it possible to safely revive the economy.  VOA’s Arash Arabasadi has more.Camera: Reuters
Producer: Arash Arabasadi     

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COVID-19 Deaths Surpass 1 Million

The COVID-19 death toll has climbed to more than one million people worldwide.  And because of a recent surge of infections in many countries including in Europe and the United States, more coronavirus deaths are expected in the coming months. But there are also signs that death rates are dropping and people who contract the virus now are faring better than those infected early on.  VOA correspondent Mariama Diallo has more.Produced by:  Bakhtiyar Zamanov   

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Transgender People Still Criminalized in 13 UN Member States, Report Finds

At least 13 United Nations member states still criminalize transgender people, while others use morality and indecency laws to crack down on the trans community, a report showed on Wednesday.Nigeria, Oman and Lebanon are among the nations with explicit anti-trans laws, according to the latest Trans Legal Mapping Report by LGBT+ rights group ILGA World.The research details trans legislation and policies in 143 U.N. member states and 19 other jurisdictions.Many other countries apply “seemingly innocuous” regulations covering offenses such as “public nuisance, indecency, morality [and] loitering” to police trans communities, the report said.However, at least 96 U.N. member states now have provisions for legal gender recognition, according to the research.Violations of trans rights occurred across the world, said ILGA World’s director of programs Julia Ehrt.”Some of the more shining nations when it comes to legal gender recognition are based in the global south, such as Argentina,” she added.Eight years ago, Argentina joined a handful of countries that let trans people change their gender on official identity documents without physical or psychological tests.In Britain, there has been a ferocious debate in recent years over reforming the 2004 Gender Recognition Act, pitting some feminists against parts of the trans community.The British government launched a consultation two years ago on overhauling the law to allow “self-ID” in England and Wales — a reform opponents said could allow predatory men access to women-only spaces such as toilets.”In the UK, the debate is particularly fierce when you compare it with other debates in European states and I think [it] has, in a certain way, been exported to many of the other Commonwealth countries,” Ehrt said.The report also highlighted some positive developments for trans people over the past two years.Nine countries have taken steps to make it easier for people to change their name and gender classification on official documents such as birth certificates since 2018.British lawmaker Crispin Blunt, chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT+ Rights, said the government’s decision to scrap the “self-ID” proposal meant it was “a particularly wretched time in the UK.””Britain continues to claim global leadership on LGBT+ rights but has just decided not to update its own processes,” Blunt said.”Now 25 nations, with more to follow, show us a better example of how to respect the basic human rights of trans and gender diverse people,” he added.

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Ghanaian Oncologists Want More Focus on Colon Cancer

By the time a patient comes to Dr. Clement Edusa with colon cancer, it is often too late.The medical director of the Sweden Ghana Medical Center will see cancer that has been misdiagnosed and spread, as the patient has sought out other treatments, including some from ill-equipped small clinics or herbalists.Edusa said while Ghana does not see many cases of colon cancer, as lifestyles change, he expects to see an increase, and there need to be systems in place to provide detection and affordable treatment.“Definitely, there is going to be an increase,” Edusa said. “But don’t forget that apart from that, you need to have a structure in place to do the screening. So, if you don’t have a national program which sort of pulls in the people to do the screening, you won’t get it early. So, you will have an increase in numbers and people coming late, and of course, more fatalities.”FILE – Chadwick Boseman poses in the press room at the American Music Awards on Nov. 24, 2019, at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.While fans have been mourning the loss of American actor Chadwick Boseman, who died of colon cancer a month ago, a beloved actor and preacher in Ghana also met this fate this year.Bernard Nyarko’s son Gideon said his dad’s illness was gradual. By the time he got his colon cancer diagnosis, doctors could do little, as it had spread.“He went to the hospital, but they were not able to diagnose the main source of his illness,” Nyarko said. “They were linking it to other sorts of illnesses. It was later that we discovered it was colon cancer. That was 2019.”When Gideon saw images of Boseman’s weight loss, he saw the similarities of how his own father looked toward the end.Gideon Kankam Nyarko with his late father, Ghanaian actor Bernard Nyarko who died this year of colon cancer. (Courtesy of Gideon Kankam Nyarko)He hopes both his father’s case and that of Boseman will create awareness of the need for early detection and better training in health services.Some organizations in Ghana have taken up this mantle.Cancer Support Network Ghana tries to get cancer survivors to speak out to encourage others to go for screenings, to ultimately lower fatality rates in Ghana, said oncology nurse Eric Brobbey.“People think that when you have this cancer you’re going to die, but there are people who have lived for many years, Brobbey said. “So, when they come out to share their stories, it encourages others to also seek treatment.”Ibrahim Rauf of the Zurak Cancer Foundation works to increase cancer awareness in low-income communities, in Accra, Ghana, Sept. 26, 2020. (Stacey Knott/VOA)Ibrahim Rauf from the Zurak Cancer Foundation focuses on low-income communities, advocating prevention, education and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.“The lifestyles that expose people to cancers kind of run through, regardless of which cancer you are referring to,” Rauf said. “So, we might not be heavily focused on colon cancer now, but then we believe the awareness we are creating is giving people the opportunities to adopt lifestyles that save them from it.”The ultimate hope is that more people will be aware of the signs and risks of cancers, including colon cancer, and that eventually all screenings, diagnoses and treatments will be funded by the government. 

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Amazon Launches Trial of Pay-by-Palm Device

Need to pay for some groceries? No problem, just wave your palm. That could be the new mode of payment at Amazon Go stores if current trials of its new technology in Seattle, Washington, are successful.   The technology, known as Amazon One, is a “free, contactless service that lets you use your palm to pay, enter or identify yourself,” according to its website. The product, which is undergoing trials at two Go stores in Seattle, will allow customers to enter their credit card details and cell phone number and scan their palm or palms for distinct details such as “surface area, lines and ridges as well as subcutaneous features such as vein patterns” on a biometric device. The individual palm details are then used to create a customer’s unique palm signature, and Amazon is counting on that to protect customer information. The e-commerce company assures customers that the Amazon One device does not store information. “We treat your palm signature just like other highly sensitive personal data and keep it safe using best-in-class technical and physical security controls,” according to the website.  Once sign-up is complete, customers can purchase goods and services with their palm prints by hovering over the payment device. It will also allow customers to use their palms as a form of ID, which allows them to enter Go stores without a code. If customers change their minds about using the service, Amazon says it will completely delete their information. “Amazon will permanently delete your palm signature from Amazon’s systems after completion of any remaining transactions,” the website says. “Your Amazon One ID will also be automatically deleted if you do not interact with an Amazon One device for two years.” Amazon says it hopes to replicate the technology in all of its Go stores after its pilot use in Seattle and that it looks forward to other retailers signing up for the service.  

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Reggaeton Redemption: Balvin, Bunny Top Latin Grammy Nods

At last year’s Latin Grammy Awards, popular reggaeton and Latin trap musicians such as J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Ozuna were dismissed in the show’s top categories. This year, they dominate.
Balvin scored a whopping 13 nominations for the 2020 Latin Grammys, including two nominations for album of the year and two for record of the year. The Latin Academy announced Tuesday that Bad Bunny and Ozuna are behind Balvin with nine and eight nominations, respectively.
Balvin has a chance to win his first album of the year prize — a category with 10 contenders — thanks to his fifth solo album “Colores” and “Oasis,” his collaborative project with Bad Bunny. Other nominees include Bad Bunny’s sophomore release “YHLQMDLG” as well as albums from Ricky Martin, Carlos Vives, Jesse & Joy, Kany García, Natalia Lafourcade, Camilo and Fito Paez.
For record of the year, which also has 10 nominees, contenders include popular hip-hop-flavored Latin songs that have dominated the Latin music charts and earned hundreds of millions plays on streaming services, with some even reaching the billion-mark on YouTube, including Karol G and Nicki Minaj’s global hit “Tusa” and “China” by Anuel AA, Daddy Yankee, Karol G, Ozuna and Balvin. Other nominees include Balvin’s “Rojo” and Bad Bunny’s “Vete.”
“Tusa” is the sole Latin trap nominee in the song of the year category, where 11 tracks are in contention. It’s a departure for Karol G, who didn’t receive a single nomination last year and was part of the group of uber-successful Latin trap and reggaeton artists who were dissed in top categories like album, song and record of the year.
This year, the Colombian performer who was named best new artist in 2018 has four nominations, including two shared with Minaj. Karol G’s fiance, Puerto Rican rapper-singer Anuel AA, marked a major breakthrough this year as a first-time nominee. He scored seven nominations, including a bid for best new artist.
“Over the last year, we continued engaging in discussions with our members to improve the awards process and actively encouraged diverse Latin music creators to join and participate,” Latin Academy President and CEO Gabriel Abaroa Jr. said in a statement, calling this year’s nominees “a group that reflects the constant evolution of Latin music.”
As a result of last year’s debacle social media exploded as Latin artists posted images of the Grammy logo with a large red “X” across it, with words on the image reading in Spanish: “Without reggaeton, there’s no Latin Grammys.” Balvin even skipped the live show and Bad Bunny, who won best urban music album during the telecast, told the audience: “With all due respect, reggaeton is part of the Latin culture.”
To honor Latin rap and reggaeton performers, the Latin Grammys added new categories this year, including best reggaeton performance and best rap/hip-hop song.
Balvin’s 13 nominations includes several categories where he will compete with himself: Outside of album and record of the year, he’s a double nominee in the best urban music album, best urban fusion/performance and best reggaeton performance categories. Ozuna and Bad Bunny will also compete with themselves in several categories.
Others who scored multiple nominations include Juanes, Martin, Alejandro Sanz, Camilo, Carlos Vives, Kany García and Residente, the most decorated winner in the history of Latin Grammys. Rosalía, who won album of the year last year and became the first solo female performer to win the top honor since Shakira’s triumph in 2006, earned four nominations this year.
Apart from Minaj’s two nominations, other popular American artists who will compete for awards include rapper Travis Scott (best short form music video for “TKN” with Rosalía); jazz master Chick Corea and his Spanish Heart Band (best Latin jazz/jazz album for “Antidote”); DJ-producer Diplo (best urban song for “Rave de Favela” ); and rapper Tyga (best reggaeton performance for “Loco Contigo” with DJ Snake and Balvin). Justin Bieber’s right-hand songwriter, Jason Boyd aka Poo Bear, earned an album of the year nomination for his work on Jesse & Joy’s “Aire (Versión Día).”
The 21st annual Latin Grammy Awards will air live on Nov. 19 on Univision. The nominees in the 53 categories were selected from more than 18,000 entries. Songs and albums released between June 1, 2019 through May 31, 2020 were eligible for nomination.
 

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