Thursday, October 31, 2013

Zombie Walk 2013

(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush


As the days grow shorter the longer spells of darkness invite undead things to go bumptious in the night.

On this gloomy Saturday evening the reanimated amassed at the Farmers Market building in the main downtown parking lot.  Biting at the bit the somewhat chaotic grouping was finally organized into a shuffling stream that wandered about the streets.  Their walk terminated at the area of the ROTA Gallery and the Greenway/Westelcom Stage park where entertainment awaited both indoors and outdoors.  Munchies of the more acceptable kind were provided to distract the risen unholy from seeking fresh human brains for nourishment.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Across Space-Time


(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush

On a cold and overcast Sunday afternoon painter Courtney Lebow completes her Ganesh image for Hot Yoga Studio on Broad Street. (See previous post: Cold Day, Hot Yoga.)


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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cold Day, Hot Yoga

(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush


Atop scaffolding painter Courtney Lebow ignores the temp in the low 40s (F) as she creates a sign for Hot Yoga Studio at 1 Broad Street.  A senior-year art major at Plattsburgh State, she diligently works with the help of a digital projector sitting on her car's roof which provides an outline of her original drawing.  The chill-dried image features Ganesh, the Hindu god of wisdom and learning.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

MAS Involved In CIA Incident

(C) 2013 Luke T. Bush



If you write about governmental agencies and programs you end up wading deep in alphabet soup.  A person with lesser resolve would just give up, exclaiming "OMG!"  (Not to be confused with OMIG.)

This article will try to focus mainly on two initialisms: MAS and CIA.  Maybe that focus will make this piece QED for both writer and reader.

MAS is short for Medical Answering Services, LLC, a private company based in Syracuse that has been scheduling transportation to medical appointments for Clinton County Medicaid clients since September 1st.  Clients have encountered problems with MAS acting as a central contact/call center as noted in previous articles at this blog.

Doing a little background research I found that MAS ended up being involved in a CIA incident.

No, I'm not talking about the spy agency in Langley, Virginia.  CIA in this case refers to a Corporate Integrity Agreement that MAS signed after it encountered some trouble with a Medicaid probe back in 2009 while operating in Onondaga County.

Reporter Jim Kenyon of The CNY Central news site provided details on that probe in an article posted on January 22, 2010 headlined "Syracuse company stung by Medicaid probe."  The article summarized how The New York State Office of Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG) found through its investigation that MAS didn't have the authorization to bill Medicaid on the behalf of transportation vendors.

The article said MAS had to pay back $80,000 and also sign a Corporate Integrity Agreement.  A copy of the CIA can be found here.  The 27 page (plus three page Appendix) document (dated 12/18/2009) between MAS and the NYS Office of the Medicaid Inspector General is very detailed, covering areas such as training, written standards (Code of Conduct), and self disclosure (e.g., overpayments).

The CIA preamble states that the purpose of the agreement is "to promote compliance by MAS and its employees and agents with the requirements of the New York State medical assistance program."

Sounds reasonable.  Compliance to standards should be expected by any private company working with the state.  And what applied in 2009 should apply now.

Except that the CIA between MAS and OMIG expired on December 22, 2012.

So how did the Medicaid probe come about?  Were New York State officials keeping an eye on the henhouse?  Did an investigative reporter ask why the fox guarding the henhouse was coughing up feathers?  (Figuratively speaking, of course.)

No, the efforts of advocate/blogger Anne C Woodlen initiated the probe.  She encountered problems with both Medical Answering Services and Onondaga County officials.  The CNY Central article mentioned above includes a synopsis by Anne in which she discusses what she says were acts of retaliation by MAS and Onondaga County while she pushed the matter.

In a press release from the governor's office dated August 15, 2013, Governor Cuomo announced that MAS was expanding its operations in Syracuse, creating new jobs.  He praised MAS for saving state and local governments around $1 million per month in Medicaid expenditures – except, I must note, $80,000 at one point.  Odd: no mention by the guv of the CIA between MAS and OMIG.

Hopefully there won't be any more BS with MAS.

Related articles at this blog:

     "NYS Official Deflects Criticisms Of Private Company"

     "MAS Vendor Training Issue Addressed"

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Press-Republican: Beg ONE - GEd ONE LbEE!

(C) 2013  Luke T. Bush

(Click on image for larger view).

Act now!  Limited quantities of Cunus Houkr Roul ou Brois!

(Press-Republican print edition, Plattsburgh, NY: Monday, October 21, 2013 - Page A6, bottom.)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

MAS Vendor Training Issue Addressed

(C) 2013  Luke T. Bush


When is training considered to be adequate?

That is one of the issues raised since a private company took over last month with scheduling rides to medical appointments for Clinton County Medicaid clients.

WeCare Transport Service is a regional ambulette operator based in Malone, NY that is working with Medical Answering Services, LLC (MAS).  With the changeover to MAS WeCare found itself being criticized for problems not of its own making.

In her public email discussion circle advocate for the disabled Debra Buell stated that MAS didn't provide proper training to WeCare.

Transport vendors like WeCare were supposed to learn how to handle details such as billing procedures.  Aletha Vander Weil, owner of WeCare, posted a statement to Debra's email discussion group, saying that the training for her company wasn't that thorough.

Aletha said she and a MAS trainer were supposed to meet at a bank with a wifi connection but that didn't work out.  Instead the meeting took place at a McDonald's restaurant with the trainer showing handouts with screen shots of the online MAS application.

Describing the session Aletha wrote:

"The 'training' was not informative at all.  The 'training' covers basic how to log in, how to see the roster and how to attest.  Without knowing what to expect, how
the application works, how would one even have questions?  The trainer could not answer several questions and referred us to Wayne Freeman [MAS COO and owner]."

She added that the trainer spent around 20-25 minutes with the WeCare staff before leaving for another training session in Essex County.

Concluding her statement Aletha wrote:

"The definition of adequate could mean different things from one person to another – but we did not receive adequate training by my definition.  I have to add that I do not blame the trainer.  I believe she was doing what she was told to do with the minimal tools and time provided.  We are not the only new onboard vendors with the same feeling.  The trainer has been helpful when we have reached out to her since the training."

In an update via email to me Aletha said the training issue had been addressed:

"We have talked to Mr. Freeman from MAS and he offered more training if we needed it.  He was actually very helpful on a meeting phone call John and I had with him last week.  He resolved most of our business issues we have encountered since September 1st."

Apparently publicly raising issues with the MAS changeover is leading to attention to those problems.

Pro-active complaints do work.

     -- Links with articles/material related to this story:

"NYSDOH Defends Corporate Partner MAS, Rejects Clinton County"      

         "NYS Official Deflects Criticisms Of Private Company"

-- Comments can be posted below or emailed: .

NYS Official Deflects Criticisms Of Private Company

(C) 2013  Luke T. Bush


It's not often I see a New York State official responding to criticism of a private company working with the state.

In a recent public email an advocate for the disabled raised some issues regarding a change in the transportation services for Clinton County Medicaid clients.  A private company, Medical Answering Services, LLC (MAS), is now scheduling transportation rides through its telephone contact office.

In her initial email advocate Debra Buell listed the problems she and others have encountered with MAS.  She said that some wheelchair users were facing discrimination under certain circumstances when they had to use a taxi and were told to leave their manual wheelchairs behind, the type of chair that can be folded up for transport.

Among the contacts on Debra's public email list was Greg Allen, Director of the Division of Program Development & Management, Office of Health Insurance Programs, New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH), who responded to her email.   Debra had a counter-response and a copy of the exhange, "NYSDOH Defends Corporate Partner MAS, Rejects Clinton County," is posted at this link.

In his email response Greg discussed Debra's criticisms, including the situation with a client being required not to travel with a wheelchair.

He responded:  "In the past the transportation benefit lacked the centralized management capacity the MAS contract now affords.  Under the requirements of our contract which mirror State regulation, MAS is working cooperatively with those wheelchair users who typically travel in a sedan vehicle (taxi or friend) and have more mobility independence than others who require the higher mode of ambulette transport."

Debra countered: "This is another lovely thought that may be true for some persons in wheelchairs, but certainly not for the ones who are experiencing great distress at being asked to put themselves and their safety at risk by leaving their chairs."

She said that in some cases wheelchairs users were facing discrimination when NYSDOH didn't treat clients equally, a violation of federal law – Title VI.

She cited Title 34, Section 104.52 Health, welfare, and other social services, (a) General: In providing health, welfare, or other social services or benefits, a recipient may not, on the basis of handicap... Part (4): Provide benefits or services in a manner that limits or has the effect of limiting the participation of qualified handicapped persons...

With that citation in mind Debra stated: "[W]e find that asking persons who use wheelchairs for mobility to leave their chairs has the effect of limiting the participation of the client in an equitable manner. No one would 'hobble' an able bodied person to 'make it cheaper' to transport them."

Debra also challenged the idea that privatization of scheduling Medicaid rides would save money for taxpayers.

Responding to Greg Allen she wrote (with her own emphasis on key words): "I do not think any 'reasonable person', mathematician, accountant or auditor would EVER find it prudent or CHEAPER for a vendor from 90 minutes away to travel that distance to provide a one mile ride. In addition, this shows what GREAT LENGTHS this state and MAS will go to in transporting able bodied clients while simultaneously asking persons in wheelchairs to do exceptional and extraordinary things to ACCOMMODATE YOU (NYSDOH AND MAS)."

I emailed Greg to ask him a few questions pertaining to the issues Debra raised.  So far no response but I understand how busy he must be.

At this time I'm not aware of any direct response from MAS representatives about Debra Buell's criticisms.  Maybe Greg Allen said what they wanted to say.

-- Comments can be posted below or emailed: .

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Night For Poetry

Poet Tom Braga

By Luke T. Bush


Featured performer poet Tom Braga read selections from his various chapbooks Thursday evening at the ROTA Open Mic Poetry Night.  This event is held every two weeks at the gallery/studio at 50 Margaret Street starting at 8 PM sharp.  It is open to anyone who would like to share not only poetry but other forms of entertainment  such as songs and comedy.  For more info contact Poetry Coordinator Chris Ostuni at  The next Open Mic Night is scheduled for October 24 with local singer-songwriter Johnny America.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Author Preserves Adirondack History

Author Glenn Pearsall spoke Saturday afternoon at the Plattsburgh Public Library about his book, "When Men and Mountains Meet."  The nonfiction work covers events in the Adirondack wilderness after the American Revolution.  Glenn discussed the extensive historical research he conducted, including  traveling to various locations to examine primary sources of information.  He told the audience that he sees his role as helping to preserve historical details that might be lost over time.   10/5/13 

In ROTAtion: Juried Art On Display

Matt Loach (left) explains his photo engraving technique to an art patron at the opening of ROTA Gallery's Juried Art Show Saturday evening.

Matt uses analog, not digital, methods to create his works.  He previsualizes the image and then meticulously engraves it with a stylus on the emulsion side of a large film negative.  There isn't much tolerance for mistakes; he has to be careful with each line.  Then in the darkroom he makes his prints, using an additional method to create more depth.

The exhibit features a variety of works rendered in various media by local artists.  It will run for two weeks at the ROTA Gallery, 50 Margaret Street, downtown Plattsburgh.  The gallery is usually open daily (depending upon volunteer staffing) from 12 Noon to 5 PM.  More info at .  10/5/13

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Free Content Lampreys Are Just One Click Away

By Luke T. Bush  (C) 2013

In the old days you had to get out the magnifying glass to read the fine print before signing the contract.  In most cases you needed to lawyer to translate the legalese into common English.

Nowadays a click on your computer can be equivalent to signing it all away.

I was asked by someone to take some photos to be included in an article for a local magazine.  These images had to be top quality, hi res.  No problem with that – until I found out about the international corporation behind the local publication.

The Corporation didn't pay anything.  I was doing the work as a favor and I'm don't mind not being compensated as long as I retain the rights to my work.  I only grant "one time rights," i.e., you use it once and that's it.

The publication editor told me that I would maintain copyright to my work.  True, but...

I went to the Corporation Website and checked out the terms of submission.  I'm not an intellectual property lawyer or expert but I've done some research.  I didn't like what I read:

"You (the "Author") hereby irrevocably grant to the Corporation, its affiliates, and the Corporation Magazine (collectively the “Publisher”) the unrestricted, perpetual, worldwide right to use the Content freely in whole or in part in any manner or medium now known or hereinafter devised for any purpose, commercial or otherwise, without compensation."

What does this mean in common English?  I would be sharing all of my rights with the Corporation who could use them for other projects after the magazine was published.  I would get credit but no money for additional use of my work.  And if a new medium – let's say cyber-telepathic networking – came into existence, the Corporation would have the license to exploit my images with it also.

It would be giving them almost everything for nothing in return.  As one friend observed: "It's like someone says he wants just a sip from your milkshake.  You hand him the milkshake, he sucks it dry and gives back the empty container."

So I didn't irrevocably grant to the Corporation the right to unrestrictedly and perpetually screw me over.

If I did have something of great value – a big if, granted – the Corporation could go ahead and profit without giving me one penny.  Sure, they would credit my work but I don't need "exposure."  I've got the Web for exposure, thank you.

Apparently what is really going on is the Corporation isn't looking for an image to hit the jackpot (if it did, it wouldn't mind) but instead is gathering a lot of images that can be used in its own stock photo collection.  What might appear in its local magazine could end up anywhere else in the world in any other context such as a million dollar advertising campaign.

Sorry but parasites have exploited me before.  I refused to sign away my work to a greedy bunch of free content lampreys.

I found a recent hardcopy of the Corporation publication and it includes a statement about how you could be "a community contributor."   The magazine says it wants to be a place where community members can connect with one another.  If you want to join in on the community conversation, continues the statement, just email articles and photos to the address below.

The term "community contributor" makes it sound like you're giving or sharing something with your community but in fact you're helping a corporation make more money at no cost to them.  The mag includes plenty of paid advertising.  And not one penny for contributors?

In the past I've written how this content grab can occur with Websites run by other for–profit entities such as a newspaper or TV station.

If you happen to be the only person to document an incredible event – like a photo or video of a UFO sideswiping city hall – don't go online and click it away.  See a lawyer, especially an IP attorney.

Don't be a sucker with suckers.

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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

"No Takes"

PLATTSBURGH CITY, NY - Wed.  10/2/13

By Luke T. Bush  (C) 2013

Around 8 PM this evening there was an accident at the corner of Broad and Durkee streets.  I don't know who was at fault but from what I could tell from the aftermath a car and motorcycle had collided.  The city police and a city fire department ambulance were already on the scene.

Most evenings I go to Smooth Moves, the eatery/cafe that sits on the corner where the accident occurred.  It just happened I arrived some time after the collision.

I took out my camera and took a few shots, staying near Smooth Moves, out of the way from the activity.  I didn't use a flash; my lens and ISO setting allowed me to document the scene without one.

Someone was placed on a stretcher, apparently the motorcyclist.  I kept shooting, around twenty feet away from the EMTs.

At one point an EMT/firefighter spotted me.  He looked at me and ordered: "No takes."

Sorry but if the event is in public view and I'm not interfering with your work, I can take as many shots as I want.  There could have been a problem if it was like the old days with the Speed Graphic camera using the brilliant retina-burning flashbulbs.  That would've been a real distraction.  But as I mentioned before, I wasn't using a flash.

Anyway, I got my "takes."  Too late to stop me.

Recently I've had close calls with motorists who apparently are too distracted to notice me riding my bicycle, even with it equipped with lights for nighttime.  One afternoon years ago an inattentive driver operating an oversized pickup turned and knocked me over while I was on my bike.  I came somewhat close to being stuffed under his truck's engine.

As I said before I don't know who was at fault with this evening's accident.  By sharing my photos of the scene maybe someone will be more aware the next time they're driving a vehicle and there's a bicyclist or motorcyclist in the area.  And maybe the cyclists will also think about driving defensively, not recklessly.  I've seen both sides make mistakes.

Someday I'll might end up in an accident and people with still and video cameras will be recording the event.  There is no law stopping them from doing that.  So it goes.

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Park Bench Encounter

"Hey buddy, can you spare some of that sandwich?"

"Num, num, num - peanut butter!  Good stuff!"

"Got any more?  Huh, huh?"

(Too busy pigging out to speak.)

"What?  No more?"

"I'm outta here!"