Just a typical week in American criminal justice

It’s kind of sad that Radley Balko even needs to have a feature of his column named “Police Raid Roundup.”  A couple highlights from this week really struck me:

  • The grandson of a New Hampshire woman who was shot by police during a drug raid says she was reaching for her 18-month-old grandchild when the police fired at her. The bullet ripped through her arm and lodged in her abdomen. Two of the woman’s daughters were arrested on drug charges during simultaneous raids, but neither lived with the woman. According to the grandson, the police then tore the woman’s home apart but did not find any contraband.
  • In a case we’ve been following here at The Watch, an Illinois judge just ruled that police in Peoria did not violate the Fourth Amendment when they raided a home to unmask the identity of the person who had been operating a Twitter account that parodied the town’s mayor. Let me reiterate to highlight the absurdity: A judge has ruled that the police did nothing wrong when they raided a home because someone making fun of the mayor on Twitter. [emphasis in original] …
  • Meanwhile, a federal judge in Utah has ruled that the government isn’t obligated to compensate you when the police damage your home during a mistaken raid. There’s nothing particularly unusual about this ruling. It’s consistent with a long line of qualified immunityrulings when it comes to these raids. But as with the previous item, it’s worth reiterating: The government can send armed men to raid a home, they can then raid the wrong home, and the government is under no obligation to compensate the people who were wrongly raided. [emphasis mine]

Yep, just your typical week of criminal justice in America.

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Photo of the day

Really cool set of NASA images from Big Picture:

This picture, taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), shows a galaxy known as NGC 6872 in the constellation of Pavo (The Peacock). Its unusual shape is caused by its interactions with the smaller galaxy that can be seen just above NGC 6872, called IC 4970. They both lie roughly 300 million light-years away from Earth. From tip to tip, NGC 6872 measures over 500,000 light-years across, making it the second largest spiral galaxy discovered to date. (ESA/Hubble & NASA / Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt)

Common Core math

Just came across this nice column in the USAToday that explains my own parental experience with common core math.  My son isn’t learning all the same algorithms that I did– he’s actually learning to understand math:

As a professional mathematician, I’m as firmly against fuzzy math as they come. Common Core lays the foundation for students to have a better grasp of mathematical concepts than present standards and sets higher expectations for teaching and learning.

If that doesn’t sound fuzzy, there’s a simple reason: It isn’t.

To appreciate the changes under way, and perhaps to understand the anxiety provoked by Common Core, it’s helpful to look at math before the core.

Too often, it has been “plug and chug” math. In this approach, math is a bunch ofmemorized rules that don’t make much sense. Follow the rules, and you will get the right answer. Do something different, and you’re likely to get it wrong. “Analytical thinking” consists of figuring out which rule to apply. There is limited need for originality, explanations, or even genuine understanding. Learning enough rules will allow you to solve the problems you are given. Do this for enough years, and you may firmly believe that this is what mathematics actually is. If your kids are asked to do something different, you may be up in arms…

Common Core saves us from plug-and-chug. In fact, math is based on a collection of ideas that do make sense. The rules come from the ideas. Common Core asks students to learn math this way, with both computational fluency and understanding of the ideas.

Learning math this way leads to deeper understanding, obviates the need for endlessrule-memorizing and provides the intellectual flexibility to apply math in new situations, ones for which the rules need to be adapted. (It’s also a lot more fun.) Combiningcomputational fluency with understanding makes for problem solvers who can genuinely use their math. This is what businesses want and what is necessary to use math in a quantitative discipline…

The higher expectations laid out by the Core have been endorsed by every major mathematical society president, including the American Mathematical Society and the American Statistical Association. They called the Common Core State Standards an “auspicious advance in mathematics education.”

But, the Tea Party knows this is bad for your kids because Obama.  Or something like that.  Meanwhile, NC’s wise leaders will ensure that my kids now have math standards that fit the unique mathematical needs of North Carolina (whatever they are).  Hopefully, though, as in other states the wiser heads will largely endorse Common Core standards under a different name and that should be enough to placate the Tea Party rubes.

Our dysfunctional health care system, part infinity

Really interesting story in the Times about how doctors are using new methods to try and get around typical insurance reimbursement and end up screwing patients and insurance companies and all of us (that is, when we allow somebody to actually get away with charging $117,000 to assist in a surgery yet their efforts are worth somewhere between 0 and $5000, we all pay in the form of higher medical costs.  It’s hard to summarize, but here’s the intro:

Before his three-hour neck surgery for herniated disks in December, Peter Drier, 37, signed a pile of consent forms. A bank technology manager who had researched his insurance coverage, Mr. Drier was prepared when the bills started arriving: $56,000 from Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, $4,300 from the anesthesiologist and even $133,000 from his orthopedist, who he knew would accept a fraction of that fee.

He was blindsided, though, by a bill of about $117,000 from an “assistant surgeon,” a Queens-based neurosurgeon whom Mr. Drier did not recall meeting.

“I thought I understood the risks,” Mr. Drier, who lives in New York City, said later. “But this was just so wrong — I had no choice and no negotiating power.”

In operating rooms and on hospital wards across the country, physicians and other health providers typically help one another in patient care. But in an increasingly common practice that some medical experts call drive-by doctoring, assistants, consultants and other hospital employees are charging patients or their insurers hefty fees. They may be called in when the need for them is questionable. And patients usually do not realize they have been involved or are charging until the bill arrives.

The practice increases revenue for physicians and other health care workers at a time when insurers are cutting down reimbursement for many services. The surprise charges can be especially significant because, as in Mr. Drier’s case, they may involve out-of-network providers who bill 20 to 40 times the usual local rates and often collect the full amount, or a substantial portion. [emphasis mine]

Yes, you read that right, 20-40 times the usual rate.

I think most doctors truly are good people who are in the profession because they want to help others.  But, boy, some are really after the money and the evidence is pretty clear in the article.  To wit:

The United States has more neurosurgeons per capita than almost any other developed country, and they compete with orthopedists for spinal surgery. At the same time, Medicare and private insurers have reduced payments to surgeons. The average base salary for neurosurgeons decreased to $590,000 in 2014 from $630,000 in 2010, according to Merritt Hawkins, a physician staffing firm.

To counter that trend, some spinal surgeons have turned to consultants — including a Long Island company called Business Dynamics RCM and a subsidiary, the Business of Spine — that offer advice on how to increase revenue through “innovative” coding, claim generation and collection services.

Some strategies used by surgeons, including billing large amounts for a second surgeon in the room or declaring an operation an emergency, raise serious questions. The indications for immediate spinal surgery, such as loss of bladder function or rapidly progressive paralysis, are rare. But insurers are more likely to reimburse a hospital or surgeon with whom they do not have a contract if a case is labeled an emergency.

Just so wrong.  I don’t often read the comments on articles, but this one was filled with all sorts of similar horror stories to the ones within the article.  Good on the state of NY for trying to address this problem.  But it is unfortunate that it has gotten so bad and most other states are lagging.  One thing I would have really liked was more international comparison.  I strongly suspect that countries with true national health care systems don’t have this problem.

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