March 4, 2011
General Motors Corp is recalling nearly 1.5 million Buick, Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Pontiac mid-sized cars due to a potential leak of engine oil that could cause an engine fire.
The recall applies to the 1997-2003 Buick Regal; 1998-2003 Chevrolet Lumina, Monte Carlo and Impala; 1998-99 Oldsmobile Intrigue; and 1997-2003 Pontiac Grand Prix, GM said in a filing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
A total of 1,497,516 vehicles, all equipped with a 3.8 liter engine, are involved in the recall.
GM said some of the vehicles have a condition in which drops of engine oil may be deposited on the exhaust manifold under hard braking.
A bill that was the subject of a 5½-hour hearing Tuesday would sharply curtail the powers of the Texas Medical Board if it becomes law.
Backers argued that it would bring much-needed transparency and provide greater fairness to doctors whom, some say, the board is persecuting. They especially raised concerns about practitioners of alternative medicine and those who treat conditions such as autism.
Opponents, however, said the legislation would leave patients more vulnerable to bad doctors and make it difficult for patients to complain about physicians in a state where the Legislature has made it harder to sue for malpractice.
In the end, the House Public Health Committee said it would amend House Bill 3816, which also would disclose the names of some complainants to doctors and create an advisory committee to oversee the board. The committee didn’t specify what it might change.
“I don’t want to make a mistake,” said chairwoman Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham.
The mission of the board, which licenses and disciplines doctors in Texas, is to protect the public.
“This bill does not keep faith with the people of Texas,” said Melinda Fredricks of Conroe, who served on the medical board from 2003 to 2008. She said the state passed a tort reform law in 2003, and “as a trade-off, we toughened the medical board,” which had been criticized as being too lax. Fredricks was the last to testify among two dozen people.
A data-storage company has agreed to pay the General Services Administration $128 million to settle a whistleblower complaint about its federal contracting, according to a securities filing by the company.
The Justice Department alleges that the company, NetApp Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., made false statements to the GSA about the discounts it was giving other customers and failed to extend proper discounts to the government.
As part of the settlement, NetApp admitted to no wrongdoing. “The Agreement reflects neither an admission nor denial by NetApp of any of the claims alleged by the DOJ, and represents a compromise to avoid continued litigation and associated risks,” NetApp said in its Monday filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Roger Goldman, an attorney for the company, declined to comment.
The agreement represents the largest settlement involving the GSA’s federal supply procurement program, according to a news release issued on behalf of Ashcraft & Gerel, the D.C. law firm representing the whistleblower in the case.
Article: Washington Post
Dozens of aspiring parents and the women they hired to be surrogate mothers filed a class action lawsuit this week against a Modesto-based surrogacy agency that abruptly shut its doors and stopped returning phone calls, leaving hundreds of thousands of client dollars unaccounted for, according to the allegations.
The lawsuit, filed Monday in Alameda County Superior Court, alleges breach of contract and fraud and names Surrogenesis USA and its escrow company, Michael Charles Independent Financial Holding Group.
The plaintiffs, who have also taken their complaints to the FBI, claim that they gave Surrogenesis as much as $100,000 each in exchange for assistance finding surrogate mothers.
In some cases, surrogates midway through their pregnancies said they had stopped receiving payments. In one instance, a couple sent the agency $90,000 one week before it closed its doors, and were provided no services, Sherman Oaks attorney Ted Penny said.
“The money is gone,” said Penny, who is representing more than 60 couples. “We know the bank at which the money was being kept, and they say that the account is now empty.”
Penny said he and the couples have repeatedly tried to reach Surrogenesis executives, including Tonya Collins, owner and chief executive. Collins’ contact numbers have been disconnected. Her criminal defense attorney has said he will not comment on the matter because it is under investigation.
Among those filing suit, Penny said, “the most common couple is the couple that had saved for years to do this and feels absolutely betrayed — is really angry — and feels stymied in this effort of child bearing. . . . It’s like losing the opportunity to have a child all over again.”
Article: LA Times
Chuck Stauffer’s insurance covered the surgery to remove his brain tumor. It covered his brain scans. And it would have paid fully for tens of thousands of dollars of intravenous chemotherapy at a doctor’s office or hospital.
But his insurance covered hardly any of the cost of the cancer pills the doctor prescribed for him to take at home. Mr. Stauffer, a 62-year-old Oregon farmer, had to pay $5,500 for the first 42-day supply of the drug, Temodar, and $1,700 a month after that.
“Because it was a pill,” he said, “I had to pay — not the insurance.”
Pills and capsules are the new wave in cancer treatment, expected to account for 25 percent of all cancer medicines in a few years, up from less than 10 percent now.
The oral drugs can free patients from frequent trips to a clinic to be hooked to an intravenous line for hours. Fewer visits might save the health system money as well as time. And the pills are a step toward making cancer a manageable chronic condition, like diabetes.
But for many patients, exchanging an I.V. bag for a pill is a lopsided trade because the economics and practice of cancer medicine have not caught up with the convenience of oral drugs.
Start with the double ledger of drug insurance. Drugs that are infused at a clinic are typically paid for as a medical benefit, like surgery. Pills, though, are usually covered by prescription drug plans, which are typically much less generous; for expensive cancer pills, patients might face huge co-payments or quickly exceed an annual coverage limit. Sometimes, as in Mr. Stauffer’s case, a single insurer is involved.
Article: NY Times
The District government has filed a lawsuit alleging that five companies defrauded at least 30 Washington area congregations of hundreds of thousands of dollars through a computer equipment scam that has spread to at least 20 states.
D.C. Attorney General Peter Nickles, in a 16-page affidavit, alleges that agents for the companies offered the churches free computer kiosks to enhance their outreach. What the churches actually received was inexpensive computer equipment that often did not work. The kiosks, located in church foyers, were to serve as electronic bulletin boards for announcements and community activities and would pay for themselves through paid advertisements.
But the suit alleges that congregations unknowingly signed leases obligating them to pay tens of thousands of dollars for faulty equipment. After the kiosks were installed, Nickles said, church accounts were drained by unauthorized withdrawals and unlawful collection practices.
“They didn’t go after rich people,” Nickles said. “They went after African American churches who really need the funds to help the poor and the needy, and we are not going to put up with this.”
Named in the suit are United Leasing Associates of America of Brookfield, Wis.; Balboa Capital of Irvine, Calif.; Chesapeake Industrial Leasing of Baltimore; Television Broadcasting Online of the District; and the Urban Interfaith Network of Oxon Hill. The suit also names Willie Perkins of the District and Michael J. Morris of Waldorf.
Balboa and United Leasing vehemently denied the allegations. The other companies did not respond to telephone inquiries, and Perkins and Morris could not be reached to comment yesterday.
Article: Washington Post
After a 19-year-old Orange County, Calif., man killed two neighbors in 2005, the victim’s survivors sued the murderer’s psychiatrist, accusing him of causing the rampage by giving his client an unstable mix of antidepressants. A trial court judge said the case could proceed.
But on Thursday, Santa Ana, Calif.’s 4th District Court of Appeal ordered summary judgment for the doctor, saying that the patient had a pre-existing mental disorder that “necessitated” treatment.
“As early as 2001, [William] Freund had exhibited violent tendencies toward his parents,” Justice Raymond Ikola wrote. “And when he later became [the doctor's] patient, he already suffered from Asperger’s syndrome and the consequent frustration about his extreme social problems.
“[The doctor] did not create Freund’s painful mental disorder and his traumatizing social isolation,”
Justices David Sills and Richard Fybel concurred.
The ruling in Greenberg v. Superior Court (Smith), G040605 (pdf), is based on an event widely discussed in psychiatric and online mental-health circles. Freund, a lonely teenager whose affliction was a form of autism that impairs one’s social skills, had posted messages in 2005 at WrongPlanet.net — a Web site for the Asperger’s and autism communities — saying he wanted to kill himself and had bought a shotgun with which he intended to cause a lot of damage.
On Oct. 25, 2005 — four days after he got his weapon — Freund went to his only friend’s house, in Aliso Viejo, Calif., a town of about 40,000 people in Orange County, and killed his friend’s 22-year-old sister, Christina Smith, and her father, Vernon, 45. Wearing a cape and paint-ball mask, Freund went back to his house and took his own life.
Consumers who buy minicars to economize on fuel are making a big tradeoff when it comes to safety in collisions, according to an insurance group that slammed three minimodels into midsize ones in tests.
In a report prepared for release on Tuesday, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said that crash dummies in all three models tested — the Honda Fit, the Toyota Yaris and the Smart Fortwo — fared poorly in the collisions. By contrast, the midsize models into which they crashed fared well or acceptably. Both the minicars and midsize cars were traveling 40 miles per hour, so the crash occurs at 80 m.p.h.
The institute concludes that while driving smaller and lighter cars saves fuel, “downsizing and down-weighting is also associated with an increase in deaths on the highway,” said Adrian Lund, the institute’s president.
“It’s a big effect — it’s not small,” he said in a telephone interview.
Yet the institute did not quantify how many more highway deaths might be expected statistically from any increase in the use of minicars.
Dave Schembri, president of Smart USA, said the crash type chosen, a head-on collision, was a tiny fraction of accidents. He countered that the Smart Fortwo, with front and side airbags and electronic controls meant to help a driver avoid skidding, was very safe.
Article: NY Times
Lawsuit alleges that Sonic restaurant franchisee discriminated against job applicant with speech impediment
A Sonic restaurant franchisee in New Iberia violated federal law by discriminating against an applicant because of her disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit filed this week.
According to the lawsuit, in October 2006, Gravlee’s Sonic of New Iberia, Inc. denied Shanna Proctor employment as a car hop or cook because she has a speech impediment.
The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The agency is seeking a permanent injunction prohibiting the company from engaging in disability discrimination, as well as back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a lawsuit Monday against an El Segundo investment firm, accusing its owner of operating a $23-million Ponzi scheme that targeted Latino investors from seven states.
Clelia A. Flores and her company, Maximum Return Investments Inc., attracted about 150 investors from 2006 to 2008 by offering returns of 25% a month, the lawsuit alleged.
Instead of profiting in real estate, banking, and oil, silver and gold exploration as she promised, Flores used money from new investors to make “interest” payments to old investors, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit accused Flores of diverting $3.5 million for personal use, including a $443,000 down payment on a $1.9-million home in El Segundo. She also used investor money to pay for a lavish party at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Marina del Rey, the SEC alleged. The catered party included a rented boat and free hotel rooms for guests and was intended to celebrate the company’s “alleged success,” according to the SEC.
Neither Flores nor her attorney could be reached for comment. SEC officials would not say whether a criminal investigation was underway.
The lawsuit, which seeks restitution and penalties from Flores, was filed at the federal courthouse in Los Angeles.
Article: LA TimesNewer Posts »