Virginia voter ID law survives scrutiny
A three-judge panel in the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed that a Virginia requirement to present photo identification when casting a ballot is constitutional. The state copied the federal Help America Vote Act that requires photo ID for first-time voters who register by mail to vote in federal elections. Despite its foundation in federal law—and the Constitution’s grant of power for states to choose the “time, manner, and place” of holding elections—the Virginia Democratic Party nonetheless challenged the law as a violation of the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.
Pilots: Suicide, depression are my co-pilots
An anonymous survey of nearly 1,850 commercial airline pilots calculates that hundreds of currently flying pilots may be clinically depressed. Released by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the study is the first to describe airline pilot mental health—with a focus on depression and suicidal thoughts—that goes beyond information collected in aircraft accident investigations or regulated health examinations.
Generic drug price-fixing charges are tip of an iceberg
The Department of Justice lifted the curtain on a long-awaited price-fixing case that could rock major players in the generic drug industry, including Mylan and Teva Pharmaceuticals. It began with the unsealing of charges against Jeffrey Glazer, the founder and CEO of Heritage Pharmaceuticals of Eatontown, N.J., and his brother-in-law, Jason Malek. Glazer and Malek were accused of conspiring to fix prices, rig bids and allocate customers for doxycycline hyclate, an acne remedy, and glyburide, a diabetes medicine. The DOJ did not identify Glazer’s drug company by name, instead referring to it as “Company A” in court documents.
Ashley Madison adultery dating site is fined by FTC
The Federal Trade Commission took Ashley Madison behind the woodshed and gave her a $1.6 million spanking for letting the identification of 36 million customers to be lost in a data breach. The mid-2015 loss of data by the Toronto-based website created a media firestorm because it it identified customers of a computer dating service for people who were seeking extramarital affairs.
How taxpayers can prepare for 2016 taxes
The Internal Revenue Service reminded taxpayers there are certain financial transactions that need to be concluded by December 31 in order to derive benefits for their 2016 federal income taxes. For example, charitable contributions are deductible in the year made—not in the year paid–meaning a contribution charged to a credit card in 2016 is deductible from 2016 taxes, even if the charge isn’t billed until 2017. Also, taxpayers over age 70 have until December 31 to collect payments from their individual retirement accounts and workplace retirement plans.
Court overturns state-imposed divorce
The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a condition of a woman’s parole that was tantamount to a state-imposed divorce. Iowa parole authorities persuaded a judge to bar Cynthia Hobbs from having any contact with her husband after they drew a correlation between her parole infractions and her husband’s release from prison. The couple was sentenced to prison terms for identity theft and bank fraud. The appeals court concluded that banning all contact with her husband was a “sweeping restriction on her important constitutional right of marriage.”
Whistleblowers drive false claims docket
The Department of Justice collected $4.7 billion in settlements and judgments arising from False Claims Act cases during Fiscal Year 2016. More than half of the money–$2.9 million—was collected through lawsuits that were initiated by whistleblowers. During the last fiscal year, whistleblowers filed 702 lawsuits and they received $519 million as their share of the recovered funds. Also, DOJ said it collected more than $15.3 billion in criminal and civil fines during the last fiscal year. The largest fines were a $2.96 billion settlement with Goldman Sachs Group, $2.6 billion with Morgan Stanley & Co. and $1.2 billion with Wells Fargo in cases related to residential mortgage lending activities.
Companies face fine for woman who was killed by a robot
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is seeking a $2.5 million fine from an Alabama company that stamps metal parts for Hyundai and Kia vehicles, and two staffing agencies, in connection with the death of a 20-year-old woman by a robot machine. According to OSHA, the woman and several co-workers entered a robotic station to clear a sensor fault, and the robot restarted abruptly and crushed the woman inside the machine. An OSHA investigation led to 23 citations for willful, serious and other violations of federal workplace safety laws and regulations.
Colleges continue to rip-off students
A congressionally-mandated report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau raises concerns about college-sponsored credit cards that attach costly fees and risky features that create unnecessary debt for collegians. An analysis of 500 marketing deals between schools and large banks found that many have risky features that can add hundreds of dollars in annual fees. CFPB Director Richard Cordray said the report shows that “many schools are more focused on their bottom line than their students’ well-being.”
FDA affirms health warning for smokeless tobacco
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration denied a request from Swedish Match North America Inc. to remove the health warning label from its snus smokeless tobacco products. Sold under the General brand name, the products must display a warning that their use can cause gum disease, mouth cancer and tooth loss.
Rip ‘n Read is a daily compilation of press releases found on hundreds of websites that are maintained by the federal government, think tanks, watchdog groups and other national advocacy organizations. Press releases selected for this feature are, in the opinion of the editor, exceptionally newsworthy, interesting or just plain curious.
The press releases and documents linked to this report were posted on their websites on Wednesday, December 14