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The [Thursday] Papers

"Every day, Larry Roark logs on to his 2002 Dell desktop computer in Tampa, Fla., and searches the cosmos for aliens," Cynthia Dizikes writes for the Tribune.

"A retired insurance analyst, Roark spends hours online poring over pictures of radio waves taken from space, scouting for any unusual ripples or blips that could be Earth's first interstellar 'how do you do.'

"Since the Adler Planetarium's Search for Extraterrestrial Life website,, launched earlier this year, an eclectic army of some 56,000 amateur astronomy buffs have joined in the hunt from personal computers around the world."

Cool. But here's the passage that really caught my eye:

Kevin Dorner, an IT technician living in Toronto, spends his lunch breaks identifying signals and considers himself a permanent part of the so-called SETIzenry.

"It is something that needs to be done," said Dorner, 43. "I am convinced that something has to be out there."

His longtime girlfriend does not agree. She would rather he focus on Earth-related problems, like poverty or pollution. But, Dorner said, she also knows that things could be worse than dating an extraterrestrial enthusiast.

"A lot of people just go hang out in bars for fun," Dorner said. "So she's at least happy I'm not doing that."

Yes, who would hang out in bars for fun when you could be home sitting in front of a computer analyzing radio waves from space?!

Also, those of us who like to hang out in bars for fun know that the aliens are already here.

North Shore Report
How gauche.

Virtual Judge
"An Illinois law aimed at leveling competition between online and offline retailers while collecting more state sales taxes is unconstitutional, a Cook County judge said Wednesday," the Tribune reports.

"Cook County Circuit Judge Robert Lopez Cepero said in court Wednesday that the Illinois law violated the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, which limits who a state can tax, and that the law conflicted with the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act, which prohibits some types of Internet-related taxes."

Wait a minute. Cook County judges are allowed to issue constitutional opinions? I didn't think that's what the Democratic Party paid them for.


While I'm happy about the ruling - which is one of many around the country that may one day congeal into a Supreme Court case - the judge who made it shouldn't even be on the bench.

In 1994, Robert Lopez Cepero was a lawyer in private practice who won a seat on a subcircuit as a Democrat. He was endorsed by both the Sun-Times and Tribune.

Things apparently didn't go well for Mr. Cepero. In 2000, the Tribune reported this:

Circuit Judge John E. Morrissey, who earlier this year recused himself from two controversial cases because of a disparaging remark he made about defense lawyers, is among a handful of judges who received poor ratings from some in an alliance of city and state bar associations.

Morrissey received four Not Recommended votes out of a possible nine among the members of the Alliance of Bar Associations for Judicial Screening. The group released the results of its judicial retention review Wednesday.

Also receiving four Not Recommended votes are Circuit Judges Robert Lopez Cepero and Amanda Toney.

The Sun-Times was also on the case:

Illinois Supreme Court Justice Charles Freeman and most of the record 77 judges whose names will appear on the November ballot are "qualified" to be retained, the Chicago Bar Association said Wednesday. Chicago's largest lawyers' group deemed 71 of the judges qualified. The association called six judges "not recommended": Cynthia Brim, Rodney Hughes Brooks, Robert Lopez Cepero , Aubrey F. Kaplan, David G. Lichtenstein and Amanda S. Toney.

No matter; Cepero retained his seat. They all do.


In 2006, Cepero again received a vote of no confidence.

"Judge Robert Lopez Cepero hears technical motions in the civil division downtown," Jonathan Lipman wrote for the Daily Southtown (link mine). "The council says there are 'many reports' that he issues 'unclear and inconsistent orders and opinions.'"

In fact, the Chicago Council of Lawyers had this to say about Cepero in its evaluations that year:

Hon. Robert Lopez Cepero has sat in the First Municipal District since his appointment and later election in 1994. He currently hears the Calendar X Jury Motion Call. He has previously heard the Municipal Jury Trial call, matters brought under the Forcible Detainer statute, and collection cases involving Post Judgment Remedies. Prior to his appointment, Judge Lopez Cepero spent ten years in private practice as a solo practitioner representing small and mid-sized businesses in civil matters. Judge Lopez Cepero has a good understanding of the law, but there are many reports that he often is short-tempered and has issued unclear and inconsistent orders and opinions. The Council finds him Not Qualified.

And now he's interpreting the commerce clause!

God bless America.

Bedside Manners
"Accretive Health Inc., the Chicago-based medical debt collection company, routinely pressured patients in Minnesota hospitals to pay for services before treatment was given, going so far as to collect at a patient's bedside and in some cases leading patients to decide to skip treatment, according to a report from the Minnesota attorney general," AP reports.

"The report accuses Accretive of misusing private patient information and creating 'high-pressure, boiler room-style sales atmospheres" in which employees were coached to aggressively collect debt.'"

The New York Times News Service reports the story this way:

"Hospital patients waiting in the emergency room or convalescing after surgery could find themselves confronted by an unexpected visitor: a debt collector at bedside.

"One of the nation's largest medical debt-collection companies is under fire in Minnesota for having placed its employees in emergency rooms and other departments at two hospitals and demanding that patients pay before receiving treatment, according to documents released Tuesday by the Minnesota attorney general."


Accretive's offices are at 401 N. Michigan Avenue.


From company founder and CEO Mary Tolan's bio:

Ms. Tolan has received several honors and awards, including being named a Distinguished Alumni of the University of Chicago, an award recipient of E & Y Entrepreneur of the Year and Crain's Top 40 Under 40.

She serves on the Council for the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, and on the Board of Trustees for the University of Chicago and Loyola University as well as on the Board of the Lyric Opera.

Ms. Tolan received a bachelor of business administration degree from Loyola University and a master of business administration from the University of Chicago.


Here's Tolan talking about her passion for her clients:

Accretive: Mary Tolan Interview


And here's Crain's positively loving her in 2008:

Accretive Health, a $250-million Chicago company built from scratch in four years, counts on a glitzy board that includes former Secretary of State George Shultz and Hollywood mogul Edgar Bronfman Jr.

But the real force behind the company is CEO Mary Tolan, who grew up in Palos Heights, the first of seven kids of a milk distributor and an EKG technician.

After a two-decade climb at Accenture Ltd., the 47-year-old Ms. Tolan made herself one of Chicago's most successful, if least well-known, entrepreneurs.

"My objective is just to be a happy, confident capitalist," says the devotee of Ayn Rand's and Milton Friedman's free-market gospel, which she applies with a combative, survival-of-the fittest management style.

"She can be demanding, challenging and kick your ass pretty good sometimes," says Rich Gillette, an Accretive vice-president.

Accretive, which helps hospitals boost revenues by qualifying more patients for insurance reimbursements, is growing 50% annually and could go public as soon as next year. Headquartered on Michigan Avenue with about 350 staffers, it's scouting the area for a place to put a 500-employee claims-processing center.

"She did a startup off a piece of paper," says J. Michael Cline, managing partner at New York-based Accretive LLC, one of two private-equity firms that bankrolled Ms. Tolan. The other is Robert Bass' Oak Hill Capital Partners.

Accretive Health eschews the traditional fee-based approach of many health care consultants, instead taking over revenue collection for hospitals and medical practice groups and splitting improved results with clients.

Oh, and there was this:

Accretive moves fast, calling patients before they arrive at the hospital to discuss their insurance coverage. "Most (outside firms) start the collection process 30 days after patient discharge," says Michael Zimmerman, a Milwaukee-based industry consultant who is exploring a joint venture with Accretive to commercialize its approach for smaller hospitals.


Last year Crain's named Tolan one of its Women to Watch.



Like I said, the aliens are already here.


The Beachwood Tip Line: Discharged.


Posted on April 26, 2012

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