- The Washington Times - Monday, March 17, 2008

Snoops punished

The UCLA Medical Center will fire some employees and discipline others for snooping at the confidential medical records of Britney Spears, who was hospitalized recently in its psychiatric ward.

The Los Angeles Times reported that more than 13 employees, none of whom are doctors, would be fired. Twelve others, including several doctors, will be otherwise disciplined for looking at Miss Spears’ computerized records. Such snooping is a violation of state and federal medical privacy laws, and the state’s Department of Public Health opened an investigation of the hospital, the newspaper reported.

This is not the first time the hospital has had to punish employees for looking at Miss Spears’ records. Several employees were fired after they were caught snooping after Miss Spears gave birth to her first son, Sean Preston, in September 2005.

Miss Spears was admitted to the hospital twice in January under a state law allowing patients to be held against their will for up to 72 hours for evaluation if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others. Leading up to the hospitalizations, Miss Spears had been behaving bizarrely. She shaved her head, was seen in public without underwear, ran over a celebrity photographer’s foot and attacked a vehicle with an umbrella.

Forbidden kiss

Richard Gere is free to go back to India — and he may have a new reason to book a trip.

India’s Supreme Court suspended an arrest warrant Friday against Mr. Gere, wanted for purportedly breaking public obscenity laws by kissing Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty at a public AIDS awareness event last year.

“Gere is allowed to come and leave. He can’t be arrested,” said Anil Grover, an attorney for Miss Shetty, after attending the court proceedings.

Hindu hard-liners claimed the pair had offended the sensibilities of India’s traditionally conservative culture and filed three cases against Mr. Gere and Miss Shetty last year. Shortly afterward, Mr. Gere, 58, apologized but also said the whole controversy was manufactured by a small hard-line political party.

The Buddhist actor and longtime Tibetan supporter is a frequent visitor to India, promoting health issues and the cause of Tibetan exiles, tens of thousands of whom live in India.

As rioting erupted Friday in Tibet’s capital of Lhasa, Mr. Gere said the protests, led by Buddhist monks, weren’t unexpected.

“I’m saddened, but I can’t say I’m surprised,” the actor told Associated Press. “You can’t repress the people to the extent that Tibetans have been repressed for the last six decades now and not expect that at some point it will explode.”

French honor

Two-time Grammy winner Dee Dee Bridgewater was honored Friday with an award from France’s prestigious National Order of Arts and Letters.

The 57-year-old jazz singer, who has spent many years of her life in France, was named a commander in the order — one of its highest ranks and one she shares with two other Americans, director Clint Eastwood and choreographer William Forsythe.

After the Culture Ministry honored Miss Bridgewater, the singer, who won a Tony in 1975 for her performance as Glinda the Good Witch in the musical “The Wiz,” performed “J’ai Deux Amours,” a song made famous by Josephine Baker.

Compiled by Kevin Chaffee from wire reports.

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