A federal judge on Tuesday ordered tobacco companies to say in product warnings that the industry deceived the public about the dangers of smoking and manipulated tobacco products to increase addiction, The Wall Street Journal reports. The ruling, by U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler in Washington, came in the final phases of a long-running government racketeering case against leading cigarette makers. In 2006, Judge Kessler ruled that tobacco companies violated federal racketeering laws by engaging in a decades-long scheme to deceive the public about the dangers of smoking.She required cigarette makers to issue statements about the dangers of their products that would appear on television, in newspapers and on product packaging and retail displays. But the case has been tied up in court for several years. Among recent disputes, the Justice Department and the tobacco companies have been at odds over what the statements should say. On Tuesday Judge Kessler ordered the defendant tobacco companies to make corrective statements on five different topics, including the adverse health effects and addictiveness of smoking.
President Barack Obama signed legislation Tuesday that affords greater protection to federal employees who expose fraud, waste and abuse in government operations, the Associated Press reports. Capping a 13-year effort by supporters of whistle-blower rights, the new law closes loopholes created by court rulings, which removed protections for federal whistle-blowers. One loophole specified that whistle-blowers were only protected when they were the first to report misconduct. The whistle-blower law makes it easier to punish supervisors who try to retaliate against the government workers. The federal official who investigates retaliation said her office “stands ready to implement these important reforms, which will better ensure that no employee suffers retaliation for speaking out against government waste or misconduct.” The new legislation, however, would go beyond restoring protections, to expand whistle-blower rights and clarify certain protections. For example, whistle-blowers could challenge the consequences of government policy decisions.
Federal regulators investigating Google for a range of accusations of antitrust violations took a stand this week on how to handle a type of patent similar to ones in the Google case, but also exposed a rift between regulators on how to proceed. The disagreement focuses on whether the Federal Trade Commission can use its power to enforce rules against unfair competition in pursuing companies which ask for sales injunctions against rivals because of allegations that their so-called standard essential patents (SEP) have been infringed. SEPs ensure interoperability, and are normally expected to be licensed on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms, also known as FRAND terms. Those following the antitrust probe into Google have been searching for any hint on how the commissioners might rule regarding the search engine giant.
Lawyers for unions and school boards challenging Gov. Bobby Jindal’s statewide voucher program are making their pitch to a Baton Rouge judge that the program should be shut down. Two statewide teacher unions and 43 school boards say the voucher program using tax dollars to send children to private schools and other new education funding plans are unconstitutional. They argue it violates the Louisiana Constitution to pay for the programs through the public school funding formula, and they claim lawmakers didn’t follow the process for passing laws. Jindal and Superintendent of Education John White say the programs were funded and created in line with the constitution and state law. More than 4,900 students are enrolled in 117 private schools with vouchers.
The special panel created in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal is calling for a complete overhaul in the way Pennsylvania addresses child abuse, from expanding the list of those who must report abuse to toughening laws that it said have failed to protect children, Philly.com reports. A report issued Monday by the Pennsylvania Task Force on Child Protection recommends redefining what constitutes child abuse, expanding the definition of “perpetrator,” and enacting harsher penalties for those who fail to report abuse. The event that led to the creation of the 11-member task force in January: the arrest of Sandusky, a former assistant Pennsylvania State University football coach who is now serving a 30- to 60-year sentence for molesting 10 boys. Had the report’s recommendations been in place by the late 1990s, Heckler said, Sandusky would have been jailed long ago and more youngsters would not have been victimized.