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Inside Politics: New Hampshire governor vetoes bill inspired by Salinger

- - Wednesday, June 13, 2012

CONCORD, N.H. — New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch has vetoed a bill motivated by J.D. Salinger's family to prevent inappropriate commercial exploitation beyond a person's death.

The bill would have extended the state's "common law right to control the commercial use of one's identity" for 70 years beyond someone's death. It was sponsored at the request of Salinger's heirs. They said they were offended by the use of "The Catcher in the Rye" author's image and name on items such as coffee mugs.

Salinger, who died in 2010 and rarely spoke to the media, spent the second half of his life in the remote community of Cornish.

Mr. Lynch said Tuesday the bill potentially would have a "chilling effect" on legitimate journalistic and expressive works protected by the state and federal constitutions and had no exceptions to the right to control one's identity.

SENATE

Obama choice to lead NRC pledges collegiality

President Obama's nominee to head the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said she will work to restore harmony at an agency marked by discord in recent years.

Allison Macfarlane, a geologist named last month to lead the NRC, said she will push to make the agency more open, efficient and transparent.

Appearing at a Senate hearing Wednesday, Ms. Macfarlane also pledged "a strong commitment to collegiality at all levels," saying an agency empowered to protect public safety, such as the NRC, "requires a respectful working environment to assure its integrity."

If confirmed by the Senate, Ms. Macfarlane would replace Gregory Jaczko, who announced his resignation last month after a tumultuous three-year tenure in which he came under fire for an unyielding management style that fellow commissioners and agency employees described as bullying.

SENATE

Farm-bill reforms reflect regional divide

Senate passage of a half-trillion-dollar farm and food bill depends in part on resolving a dispute over subsidies between Southern rice and peanut growers and Northern corn and soybean producers.

But that regional divide was less in evidence Wednesday, as senators narrowly voted to maintain price supports and quotas for sugar producers ranging from Florida to Montana.

Still, the five-year farm-policy bill also makes dramatic changes in how farmers are protected from financial and natural disasters and, as in all major changes, some see themselves as losers. The bill ends $5 billion a year in direct payments to farmers whether or not they actually plant a crop and programs that reward farmers when prices fall below a targeted level.

Instead, the government would offer a new "shallow loss" program to aid farmers when revenues fall between 11 percent and 21 percent less than five-year moving averages and would put greater emphasis on subsidized crop insurance. Farmers' regular crop insurance would pay for losses of more than 21 percent.

Corn and soybean growers, which are more subject to natural disasters and rely on crop insurance, welcome the change. Rice and peanut growers, more affected by price fluctuations, say that for them the new safety net is inadequate.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

Bishops say government started birth-control fight

ATLANTA — The nation's Roman Catholic bishops on Wednesday promised steadfast opposition to President Obama's mandate that birth control be covered by health insurance and thus subsidized by the church, calling it one of many threats to religious freedom in government.

Bishops insisted repeatedly that they had no partisan agenda. They said they were forced into action by state and federal policies that they say would require them to violate their beliefs in order to maintain the vast public-service network the church has built over a century or longer.

"It is not about parties, candidates or elections as others have suggested," said Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, chairman of the bishops' religious-liberty committee. "The government chose to pick a fight with us."

The meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Atlanta is its first since dioceses, universities and Catholic charities filed a dozen federal lawsuits over the rule. The church teaches that contraception is always immoral and that supporting it financially, even under government order, also is wrong.

COURTS

Judge dismisses lawsuit over Guatemala STD study

A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against U.S. officials by Guatemalans who had been subjected to sexually transmitted diseases by U.S. researchers in the 1940s.

The suit, on behalf of the victims and their heirs, came after revelations that Guatemalan prisoners, mental patients, soldiers and orphans had been deliberately infected without their consent. The researchers were studying the effects of penicillin.

U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton acknowledged that the study was a "deeply troubling chapter in our nation's history." But he ruled that federal law bars claims against the U.S. government based on injuries suffered in a foreign country.

Guatemalan officials said last year that they have found 2,082 people were involved in the experiments to infect subjects with syphilis, gonorrhea or chancroid. U.S. officials put the figure at 1,308 subjects.

PENTAGON

Panetta orders review of mental-health system

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Wednesday he has ordered all branches of the military to conduct an extensive review of mental health diagnoses amid criticism of how the services treat the men and women suffering the invisible wounds of the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Under questioning from a Senate panel on Wednesday, Mr. Panetta disclosed that he had asked the Air Force and Navy, which includes the Marine Corps, to follow the lead of the Army in launching an independent study of how it evaluates soldiers with possible post-traumatic stress disorder.

Mr. Panetta's answer marked the first time that the Pentagon chief had said publicly that he had requested the review by all the services.

The Army review was prompted in part by reports that the forensic psychiatry unit at Madigan Army Medical Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state may have reversed PTSD diagnoses based on the expense of providing care and benefits to members of the military.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports