- - Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the federal government cannot be sued for emotional distress after two agencies improperly shared a man’s medical records detailing his HIV status.

“We hold that the Privacy Act does not unequivocally authorize an award of damages for mental or emotional distress,” said Justice Samuel Anthony Alito Jr., who wrote the 5-3 opinion throwing out Stanmore Cooper’s lawsuit. “Accordingly, the act does not waive the federal government’s sovereign immunity from liability for such harms.”

The San Francisco man, who is HIV-positive, disclosed that information to Social Security officials to receive medical benefits, but withheld it from the Federal Aviation Administration. During a criminal investigation involving pilots’ medical fitness to fly, the Social Security Administration gave the FAA the medical records of some 45,000 Northern California residents who applied for licenses.

The FAA was investigating whether pilots were using one set of doctors to certify their fitness to fly while applying to Social Security for disability payments and using other doctors to support claims of illness and injury.


Campaign treasurer to plead in fraud case

SACRAMENTO — The Democratic campaign treasurer at the center of the largest political embezzlement case in California history will enter a plea to federal felony charges on Friday.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office filed a hearing notice late Wednesday in the case against former treasurer Kinde Durkee. It says her attorney, Daniel Nixon, has agreed to the plea hearing. He did not return telephone messages seeking comment.

Ms. Durkee is accused of embezzling more than $7 million from at least 50 political candidates and committees in a scheme that officials say lasted more than a decade. She is accused of transferring hundreds of thousands of dollars among the more than 700 bank accounts she controlled to pay for everything from visits to Disneyland to her mother’s care in a seniors’ home


Sen. Brown transferred to Pentagon National Guard

BOSTON — Republican Sen. Scott P. Brown has transferred out of the Massachusetts Army National Guard to a unit in Maryland, allowing him to work in a major position at the National Guard’s Pentagon office.

Mr. Brown told the Boston Globe he requested to be moved out of Massachusetts because the focus of news organizations and national Democrats on his National Guard record made it untenable to continue serving here. He was promoted to the rank of colonel in November.

Mr. Brown, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, is now the assistant to Col. Christian Rofrano, the chief counsel of the National Guard Bureau. Mr. Brown’s new duties require him to work two full days a month and up to two weeks during the summer, a schedule that applies to all National Guard members.

Mr. Brown has served in the National Guard for 33 years.


Lawmakers’ resolution condemns Syrian regime

A half-dozen senators are pushing a resolution condemning the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad for mass atrocities and human rights abuses against the nation’s people.

In introducing the measure, the Republican senators and Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman criticized President Obama for what they called a failure of leadership. The United Nations estimates that more than 9,000 Syrians have died in the ongoing violence.

Sen. John McCain, Mr. Obama’s 2008 presidential rival, asked how many more have to die before the United States takes a leadership role to end the slaughter.

The nonbinding resolution urges the president to work with Arab countries to provide Syrian rebels with the means to defend themselves, including weapons. It stops short of calling for airstrikes against Syria, as Mr. McCain has urged.


Losers to work out at the White House

The biggest losers are coming to the White House.

NBC says contestants on its “The Biggest Loser” series are whisked to the White House in a two-part makeover episode set to air Monday and April 10.

In the first episode, the contestants get a surprise video message from Michelle Obama inviting them to the White House, where they are reunited with family members after undergoing a makeover. In the second installment, they meet the first lady, who talks to them about healthy living. And then the contestants, their families and the first lady all work out together at the White House.

According to NBC, Mrs. Obama also challenges the contestants to see who can sign up the most participants for the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award.


Democratic campaign embraces ‘Obamacare’

President Obama’s re-election campaign has lifted an unofficial ban on using the opposition’s derisive term for his health care law.

Democratic activists have been chanting “We love Obamacare” in front of the Supreme Court this week during oral arguments.

And the campaign is selling T-shirts and bumper stickers that proclaim “I like Obamacare.” Lori Lodes, who supports the law, said the name “just rolls off the tongue much easier.”

But no presidential campaign makes such a move lightly. Mr. Obama’s campaign is trying to use the weight of his opponents’ rhetoric against them.

Deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter said the strategy “meets the voters where they are” and shows Mr. Obama cares.

From wire dispatches and staff reports



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