- The Washington Times - Monday, June 14, 2010

NORTH CAROLINA

Lawmaker apologizes for reaction to camera

RALEIGH | A congressman from North Carolina is apologizing for his response when two young men approached him with a video camera in Washington and asked whether he supports President Obama’s agenda.

Rep. Bob Etheridge, a Democrat, said in a statement that he regrets his reaction.

In the video posted Monday, Mr. Etheridge swats at a camera and repeatedly asks the two men to identify themselves. They say they are students. He then grabs one by the wrist and later by the back of the neck.

The video was posted Monday on websites owned by Andrew Breitbart, the conservative Web entrepreneur who also released video of workers for the community organizing group ACORN counseling actors posing as a pimp and prostitute.

Mr. Breitbart won’t name the students who recorded the video, saying he wants to protect them. He said they don’t work for him and weren’t paid.

MEDICARE

Action urged on doctors’ pay

Medicare officials are hitting the pause button on a hefty cut in doctors’ pay required by law unless Congress acts.

President Obama urged lawmakers over the weekend to move quickly to stave off the 21 percent cut, required by a 1990s deficit reduction law that Congress has routinely waived in the past.

Medicare said Monday that it will hold claims through Thursday, giving lawmakers four more days to act. The House has approved a fix, which is pending in the Senate. The cut was technically required as of June 1, but Medicare has been holding claims in hopes that lawmakers will resolve the issue.

Doctors are not getting paid for services they provided as of June 1, but when they do, they’ll receive the full amount.

WHITE HOUSE

Employers on notice over health care costs

The Obama administration has a message for employers who want to keep bureaucrats from rewriting the rules for company medical plans: Don’t jack up costs for workers, and you won’t have to worry about interference from the new health care law.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was announcing a new regulation that spells out how health care plans that predate the overhaul law can avoid its full impact.

It was meant to deliver on President Obama’s promise that people who like their current health coverage can keep it. The rule sets limits likely to become increasingly important as medical costs keep rising.

Workplace coverage is the mainstay of the nation’s health insurance system, and will remain so under the new law.

AGRICULTURE

Food inspector banned from China

The Agriculture Department has banned a leading American inspector of organic foods in China because of conflicts of interest.

The Organic Crop Improvement Association of Nebraska used Chinese government employees to inspect farms and food processing facilities that are state-controlled.

Some of the products inspected by the association were used to manufacture store brand products for Whole Foods Market, the nation’s largest organic retailer. A spokeswoman for Whole Foods said the grocer dropped the association last year.

The decision to ban the food inspectors follows consumers’ shaken confidence about the safety of food and other products exported from China.

WHITE HOUSE

Nations warned on human trafficking

The Obama administration on Monday warned that more than a dozen states, including perennial rogues Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Myanmar, of possible sanctions for failing to do enough to fight human trafficking.

The State Department’s 10th annual review of global efforts to eliminate the trade in human beings and sexual slavery put 13 countries on notice that they are not complying with minimum international standards and could face U.S. penalties.

Other nations receiving failing grades were the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Kuwait, Mauritania, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Another 58 countries were placed on a “watch list” that could lead to sanctions unless their records improve.