Approval of 'Enlist Duo' Weed Killer Criticized

   Washington, D.C. – 10/26/2014 - Officials with the Environmental Working Group said on October 15 that they were “deeply disappointed” that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had decided to approve a toxic weed killer known as Enlist Duo, despite overwhelming opposition from the scientific and public health community.
   Enlist Duo, manufactured by Dow AgroSciences, a subsidiary of Dow Chemical Company, is a toxic combination of the herbicide 2,4-D and glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. The EPA’s decision means Dow can sell Enlist Duo in conjunction with its new genetically engineered products, 2,4-D-tolerant corn and soybean seeds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently approved Dow’s application to market these seeds.
   Dow has announced plans to start marketing Enlist Duo in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
   “The EPA ignored science pointing to the serious health risks – especially to children – associated with 2,4-D,” said Mary Ellen Kustin, EWG’s senior policy analyst. “Giving a chemical company the green light to bring a known harmful weed killer to market for use on millions of acres of crops puts public health and the environment in danger.”
   Last summer, 35 doctors and scientists warned the EPA against expanding the use of 2,4-D, highlighting links between pesticide exposure and health problems such as suppressed immune function and greater risk of Parkinson’s disease. Later, 50 members of Congress asked EPA and USDA to reconsider their approval of the 2,4-D-tolerant seeds and weed killer.
The USDA estimates that use of 2,4-D will triple by 2020, compared to current usage. EWG research shows that more than 480 elementary schools nationwide are within 200 feet of corn and soybean fields that could be sprayed with 2,4-D.
   “Children who are most vulnerable and susceptible to these toxic weed killers will have an increased risk of being exposed to a defoliant linked to cancer and Parkinson’s disease,” added Kustin.
   In addition to toxicity concerns, increasing the use of weed killers could further escalate the evolution of “superweeds” resistant to known herbicides.
   “This continued arms race between chemical companies and superweeds is a threat to sustainable farming and public health,” added Kustin. “EPA’s decision to up the ante of Roundup by approving Enlist Duo is unconscionable.”
   Source: Environmental Working Group

Man Pleads Guilty In Health Care Fraud Case

  (DOJ) - 10/23/2014 - A Florida managing member of a shell company pleaded guilty today in federal court in Tampa, Florida, for his role in a multi-million dollar health care fraud and money laundering scheme.
    Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley III of the Middle District of Florida, Acting Special Agent in Charge Derrick Jackson of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General’s (HHS-OIG) Miami Regional Office and Special Agent in Charge Paul Wysopal of the FBI’s Tampa Field Office made the announcement.
    Gregory J. Sylvestri, 44, formerly of Lake Worth, Florida, pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida to two charges related to money laundering of health care fraud proceeds. His sentencing date will be set by the court at a later date. In his plea agreement, Sylvestri agreed to the forfeiture of a $60,000 platinum and diamond engagement ring that he purchased with health care fraud proceeds.
    According to his plea agreement, from June 2010 through April 2014, Sylvestri’s co-conspirators submitted over $12 million in fraudulent claims to Medicare through three purported health clinics, Cornerstone Health Specialists of Lakeland, Florida, Summit Health Specialists P.L. of Tampa, and Coastal Health Specialists LLC of Lakeland and Melbourne, Florida. These fraudulent claims included claims resulting from illegal kickback arrangements and claims for radiology, audiology, neurology and cardiology services that were never rendered. In fact, some of the services were purportedly provided to Medicare beneficiaries who had died before the supposed date of service. Medicare paid over $2,500,000 in reimbursement on the fraudulent claims.
    Sylvestri admitted that he and his co-conspirators used bank accounts for the clinics and shell companies, including his shell company, BONB LLC, aka BioScan, to conceal and disburse the fraud proceeds.
    Four other defendants were indicted in this case on health care fraud and money laundering charges. In addition to Sylvestri, one of the other defendants has pleaded guilty. The remaining three defendants are scheduled for a jury trial in April 2015. An indictment is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
   This case is being investigated by HHS-OIG and the FBI and was brought as part of the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, under the supervision of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Florida. This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Christopher J. Hunter of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.
    Since its inception in March 2007, the Medicare Fraud Strike Force, now operating in nine cities across the country, has charged nearly 2,000 defendants who have collectively billed the Medicare program for more than $6 billion. In addition, the HHS Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, working in conjunction with the HHS-OIG, are taking steps to increase accountability and decrease the presence of fraudulent providers.
   Source: Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force

U.S. Small Businesses See Employment Gain

   MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - (BUSINESS WIRE) - 10/2/2014 - Intuit Inc. (Nasdaq:INTU) issued its monthly Small Business Employment and Revenue Indexes on Oct. 1. Here are topline results from each of the reports:
   Small businesses added 10,000 new jobs in September, making for more than 715,000 jobs added since March 2010.     Hourly small business employees saw a 0.1 percent decrease in monthly compensation, with average monthly pay reaching equivalent of $2,753, down $3 from August.
    Hourly employees worked an average of 108.3 hours in September, down approximately 24 minutes or 0.4 percent from August’s revised figure.
   Findings come from the monthly Intuit Small Business Employment and Revenue Indexes and are based on data from Intuit Online Payroll and QuickBooks Online Payroll, covering the period from Aug. 24 – Sept 23.
   Revenues per small business grew by 0.3 percent in August, roughly 3.1 percent when annualized. Real estate revenues have grown steadily over the past five months, reflecting an increase in home sales. This index is based on data from QuickBooks Online, covering the period from Aug. 1 – 31.
    “Small business coped with additional demand in August by having its existing work force work more. In September, small businesses hired additional people and paid them more, but asked them to work less. In sum, this makes for two months of mild gains in the small business labor market,” said Susan Woodward, the economist who works with Intuit to create the Small Business Employment and Revenue Indexes. “Small business added 10,000 jobs this month after a flat previous month. We are continuing to see signs of a warming labor market. “Despite last month’s flat employment for small business, there are other signs of further employment recovery. Hours worked were up sharply in August, but down in September; compensation was up in August due to more hours being worked, while the hourly wage remained flat. That gain was only partially lost this month, and the percent of workers working full-time was sharply up last month and reversed this month. In both months the hiring rate was up.”   Geographically, all states tracked individually by the Intuit saw hours worked decline, with the exception of Nebraska. The northern prairie states, around the Great Lakes, and those in New England saw employment declines, with Michigan and Idaho seeing the biggest declines. Utah had the biggest gain.
   The real estate rental and leasing industry saw the biggest rise in revenue among the industries tracked, posting a 0.7 percent increase. The accommodation industry posted the only decrease in revenue per business, with a decline of 0.02 percent for the month.
    “The two industries that had the biggest expansion in revenues per business recently are the two that experienced the biggest hit during the recession: real estate services and construction,” Woodward said. “Real estate services revenues rose 0.7 percent in August; this is an annual rate of 8.2 percent. These figures are seasonally adjusted, so this is not just late-summer home buying.”