Baseball Community Mourns the Loss of Cardinals’ Oscar Taveras After Fatal Car Crash
Oct31

Baseball Community Mourns the Loss of Cardinals’ Oscar Taveras After Fatal Car Crash

The U.S. baseball community, and the St. Louis Cardinals in particular, received a shock this past Sunday, October 26, when news broke that a car crash occurred in the Dominican Republic, killing the beloved outfielder Oscar Taveras. Taveras was 22 years old, and was regarded as “one of the most promising pieces of the organization’s future,” and “an elite prospect” in the baseball industry. Taveras was driving his 2014 Chevrolet Camaro in his home city of Puerta Plata, which is about 200 miles north of the Dominican Republic’s capital city of Santo Domingo. Reports of the crash state that Taveras was driving on a curved road when he lost control, causing the car to slam into a tree trunk. The Dominican Republic native was driving with 18-year-old girlfriend Edilia Arvelo, who also died in the crash. As of October 28, investigators have not been able to determine the exact cause of the accident, and have not been able to confirm if alcohol was involved. Reports have noted, however, that it had been raining and that the roads were fairly slick; a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority also told the Associated Press that investigators believe that Taveras was driving at a “very high speed.” To make matters worse, the negative effects of social media sharing features are starting to emerge: a gritty photo of Taveras’s post-accident body has been circulating through social media websites and making the grieving process for his friends and family even harder. Investigators are often able to identify certain details in a crash by examining the bodies — for example, it’s easy to figure out if the driver and/or passengers were wearing seat belts, and only about 3% of all fatal car crashes are too gruesome to yield a definitive answer. In Taveras’s accident, officials haven’t yet confirmed whether safety features (including seat belts) were used. To put it another way, seeing a picture of Taveras’s body shouldn’t have been necessary in order for fans to understand the horror of the crash. Although the St. Louis Cardinals have made no official condemnation of the photo’s circulation, it’s clear that the management and team are treading carefully on social media platforms regarding Taveras and Arvelo. It’s likely that the conversation will open up as more details about the crash emerge, but for the time being, many dedicated baseball fans are urging the community to focus on celebrating Taveras’s young career and on giving both families privacy and...

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According to OIG Audit, Texas HHS Claimed $30.3 Million in Fraudulent Charges in 2011
Oct31

According to OIG Audit, Texas HHS Claimed $30.3 Million in Fraudulent Charges in 2011

The Texas Department of Health and Human Services is in hot water after a new report released by the Office of the Inspector General. According to the OIG, the Texas HHS racked up at least $30.3 million in fraudulent charges during the 2011 fiscal year. The money was claimed from Federal Medicaid reimbursement for nonemergency medical transportation services, also known as NEMT. Every state is required by Federal Regulation to make sure that Medicaid beneficiaries have access to transportation to and from medical providers. In this model, transportation expenses are defined as the costs the state considers necessary to transport beneficiaries to medical examinations and treatment. The Texas HHS claimed total payments of $135.6 million to NEMT providers in the 2011 fiscal year. Prior audits had already discovered that the NEMT servicers hired didn’t always meet federal and state requirements, so the OIG conducted an additional investigation. From a stratified random sample of 90 claims (all of which were for contractor-based demand-response services) the OIG was able to determine that 70 claims included services that didn’t comply with regulations, and 23 had multiple deficiencies. An alarming 51 claims were for vehicles that couldn’t be verified as complying with state regulations or couldn’t be identified by vehicle type at all. In 19 claims, a child or children were transported in the absence of a parent or legal guardian, which is even more concerning when providers were unable to verify criminal history background checks, drug testing and driver history for 18 claims. The state has since disputed the claims of unaccompanied minors but has no documentation to disprove the charges. They’re claiming that Texas law during the audit period permitted authorized adults to accompany a child, but the OIG maintains that this claim is not accurate. Penalties for Medicaid fraud can be severe and often result in OIG exclusion. Health care providers are required to check individuals and entities for OIG exclusion if they bill Medicare or Medicaid, and they’re required to notify the OIG if they employ or contract such an individual. At that point the OIG can cut off payment for services rendered by that individual. At the moment, the OIG is recommending that the state refund the amount that was overpaid for fraudulent or non-compliant NEMT claims in 2011. They also advised the state to revise policies and procedures concerning NEMT...

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Square’s New Coffee Ordering App for Mobiles Includes ‘Arrival Prediction’ for Perfect Results
Oct31

Square’s New Coffee Ordering App for Mobiles Includes ‘Arrival Prediction’ for Perfect Results

It’s been clear for a while now that Americans love their coffee — in fact, 61% of the population drinks coffee every single day, according to research by the National Coffee Association. But recent app developments have made it even easier to get a morning caffeine fix. Square, the tech startup behind the mobile credit card reader that allowed countless small businesses to start accepting credit cards via their smartphones, announced a new feature earlier this month that lets consumers pre-order coffee, so that it’s hot and ready when they arrive at their local coffee shop. Since the quality of coffee is dependent on the beans being roasted, ground, brewed and consumed as closely in succession as possible, mobile pre-ordering has not been successful for coffee shops in the past. Johnny Brackett, a Square rep, acknowledged the problem in response to an inquiry by Mashable. “Remote ordering has been difficult to execute for coffee shops because it jeopardizes the quality of goods,” he said, referring to the problem that completed drinks would sit for a while before being picked up. But Square’s solution includes what its programmers call “arrival prediction,” which uses the customer’s current location and the prep time for the specific drink ordered to tell the barista when a drink should be started brewing. “We wanted to focus on building technology that would overcome this obstacle [of having the coffee ready too early], which we’ve now done,” Brackett continued. The feature is part of the Square Order app. Home Brewing Both convenience and cost have other coffee drinkers focusing on home brewing. A recently announced Starbucks contest will award 10 customers free coffee “for life” — one free drink per day for 30 years. But more than anything, the contest has highlighted the costs of stopping by a coffee shop on the way to work every day; the prize is equivalent to nearly $23,000, according to USA Today. Other coffee connoisseurs brew at home in order to more precisely control the variety, roast and coarseness of their favorite blends. “Local coffee business are extremely important; not only are you creating sustainability and jobs for the surrounding community, but you are also investing in your customers by giving them quality products,” says Ken Lathrop, President of Coffee Crafters. The National Coffee Association reports that Americans are paying more attention to the flavor of their coffee, with consumption of gourmet coffees up 3% from last year to a total of...

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Cardinals Outfielder Oscar Taveras and Girlfriend Killed in Car Crash
Oct28

Cardinals Outfielder Oscar Taveras and Girlfriend Killed in Car Crash

Oscar Taveras, an outfielder for the St. Louis Cardinals and a rising star of Major League Baseball, was killed in a car crash in his native Dominican Republic over the weekend, several major news outlets have confirmed. He was driving a new Chevrolet Camaro and heading from Jamao to Sousa, his hometown, located near Puerto Plata on the Atlantic Coast. His girlfriend, Edilia Arvelo, was also killed. Taveras was 22 and Arvelo 18. Cardinals Chairman Bill DeWitt Jr. said in a statement, “We are all stunned and deeply saddened by the tragic loss of one of the youngest members of the Cardinals family. … Oscar was an amazing talent with a bright future who was taken from us well before his time.” John Mozeliak, general manager for the Cardinals, echoed the sentiment. “I first met Oscar when he was 16 years old and will forever remember him as a wonderful young man who was a gifted athlete with an infectious love for life who lived every day to the fullest,” he said. Taveras debuted with the Cardinals just this season and played 80 games, batting .239. He had been ranked as the second- and third-best prospect by Baseball American, MLB.com and Baseball Prospectus in the past few years. Fatal Crashes at Home and Abroad Lieutenant Junior Lopez Reyes of the Puerto Plata police said that the cause of the accident was not yet clear. “We’re still investigating at the scene. We’ve had some heavy rainfall here lately. It might have contributed to the accident,” he said. Taveras is the first active MLB player to die since Greg Halman was stabbed to death by his brother in 2011. But he is not the only athlete to have a career cut short but a fatal crash. Olympic silver medalist Mbulaeni Mulaudzi was killed in a car crash in South Africa only a few days ago. According to data from the World Health Organization released last year, most countries are improving road safety and reducing traffic-related deaths, but poorer countries in particular still have a long way to go. The WHO data show that the Dominican Republic had 41.7 road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants in 2010, while the United States had only 11.6. However, the vast size of the U.S. means that total accident numbers in the country are extremely high; in 2012, there were 25,580 fatal auto accidents in the U.S., according to Statistic Brain. Another player for the Cardinals, Josh Hancock, died in a car crash in...

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Decrease in Growth Reported for eBay’s Marketplace Division Despite Overall Increase in Revenue
Oct28

Decrease in Growth Reported for eBay’s Marketplace Division Despite Overall Increase in Revenue

Online auction company eBay has faced challenges thus far in the payments business, in addition to dealing with a security breach. Now even eBay’s auction services have shown decreased revenue for the year. The company released an earnings report in mid-October, which showed that eBay earned $673 million last quarter. This represented a 2% decrease from the same period one year ago. However, despite overall revenue for the quarter rising 12% to $4.35 billion, analysts and investors underestimated the profit and revenue totals. The company had previously forecast the year’s revenues at $18 to $18.3 billion this year, but the expectation has lowered to $17.85 to $17.95 billion; shares in eBay stock fell more than 1% in after-hours trading. Although as many as 26% of American internet users have participated in some form of an online auction, that number may be holding steady. The online auction unit, eBay’s marketplaces division, saw a 9% increase in revenue over the past year, but the unit’s rate of growth is slowing. A report on eCommerce Bytes stated that the lack of growth in the marketplace was due primarily to the cyber attack, along with changes to Google’s algorithm that affected eBay’s search engine optimization. The increased revenue has been used to support eBay’s recent plan to split its online auction services from PayPal, which has seen significant growth. John J. Donahoe II, eBay’s CEO, used the earnings report to back up the decision in a statement: “Rapidly changing competitive environments in commerce and payments underscore the opportunities for eBay and PayPal, and highlight how each business will benefit from the focus and agility of being an independent company.” Analysts also commented that the split could give eBay the ability to find new ways to expand the marketplace and its payments business by merging with other companies. One analyst, Robert S. Peck from SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, pointed out the main challenge for the marketplace division. “There’s only so much demand for the auction style environment,” he said. The question for eBay, Peck said, is “How can you expand the market for fixed price items?” This is something that eBay’s biggest competitor, Amazon, has cornered. Although eBay offers some fixed-price “buy it now” items, it is mostly known for its online auctions. But Peck said that this may be a good thing for eBay, as many small businesses are wary of Amazon’s own competition with small and medium-sized merchants. “Many retailers don’t trust Amazon, so eBay can potentially swoop in and work with them there,” he said. The other competitors for eBay could still pose a threat, though. The Alibaba Group, a Chinese eCommerce...

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