National digest: News in brief from around the nation

A 16-year-old makes his way past security and construction to spend more than an hour at the spire of the World Trade Center. (Reuters)
March 20, 2014
SOUTH CAROLINA
Affordable Care Act survives bid to halt it

State lawmakers failed to derail implementation of President Obama’s signature health-care law in the state when a measure was defeated in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Last year, the state House passed an amendment that nullified the law by calling for criminal penalties for anyone who sought to enforce it. Late Wednesday night, however, senators voted 33-9 to defeat the amendment regarding the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

The amendment would have banned state agencies from helping to carry out the health-care law and prevented state agencies from implementing it. It would have required health-care navigators who help people sign up for health insurance to be licensed by the state.

Republican supporters argued that they wanted to prevent the federal government from “commandeering” state resources to make the law work. But Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell (R), the Senate president, said efforts to nullify the law would invite a federal lawsuit against the state.

— Reuters

CALIFORNIA
State is primary U.S. target for cybercrime

California is the top target in the United States for international criminal enterprises that operate from havens in Eastern Europe, Africa and China, says a report released Thursday.

Along with trafficking in drugs, guns and people, criminals are also turning to cybercrime to target wealthy, innovative businesses and financial institutions in the state, the report by the state attorney general says.

The Los Angeles region is particularly vulnerable to digital piracy, Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) said, because it produces much of the nation’s movies and other mass-market media.

Harris said the 181-page report says California leads all states in the number of computer systems hacked or infected by malware; victims of Internet crimes and identity theft; and the size of financial losses suffered as a result of online crimes.

— Associated Press

ILLINOIS
Court throws out eavesdropping law

The state Supreme Court declared one of the nation’s toughest eavesdropping laws unconstitutional, saying Thursday that the law was so overly broad that it would technically make the recording of screaming fans at a football game a crime.

The ruling is the final defeat for the Illinois Eavesdropping Act, which had made it a felony for someone to record a conversation unless all parties involved agreed. The 1961 law violates free speech and due process protections, the court decided in unanimous decisions in two related cases focused on audio recordings.

State legislators will now have to draft new rules in a very different privacy environment from what existed five decades ago.

The Illinois law had suffered earlier defeats, including in 2012, when the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a provision that barred anyone from video recording police officers doing their jobs in public. Thursday’s decisions mean lawmakers in Springfield will have to ensure the statute complies with court findings.

— Associated Press

Teen eludes security, climbs atop WTC building: A teenage thrill-seeker slipped through a fence, eluded a security guard and climbed to the top of 1 World Trade Center, authorities said Thursday as concerns swirled about the audacious breach at what is supposed to be one of the world’s most secure sites. Justin Casquejo, 16, from New Jersey, spent about two hours early Sunday atop the symbolic and as-yet-unfinished 1,776-foot tower, authorities said.

100 suspected illigal immigrants found in Houston house: U.S. immigration authorities on Thursday were interviewing more than 100 people presumed to be in the country illegally after they were discovered crammed into a small house in south Houston. Five men also were in custody, two of whom were arrested after driving from the home on Wednesday. Authorities suspect it was a so-called stash house, a place where smugglers hide people they have brought into the country illegally and keep them until they or their family members pay a ransom.

Con Edison pays N.Y. gas explosion survivors: Con Edison has made compensation payments to 87 survivors and residents displaced by the fatal building explosion last week in New York City. The utility says it began making the payments last Thursday, a day after the blast. This week, federal investigators found a leak in the gas main near one of the two East Harlem apartment buildings that were leveled. Eight people were killed and more than 60 were injured.

— From news services

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