National briefs: Alaska’s U.S. Rep. Don Young fined

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WASHINGTON — The House Ethics Committee ordered Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, to pay a nearly $60,000 fine for a 12-year run of taking inappropriate trips financed by corporations and lobbyists, using campaign funds for personal use, and accepting other inappropriate gifts.

The findings against Young brought to a close a series of federal investigations and ethics panel probes that have spanned at least seven years, including an investigation into an Alaska energy firm and its ties to the state’s senior elected officials.

Young was never charged by federal investigators. Instead, the case moved into the hands of the Ethics Committee, which reviewed 150,000 pages of documents provided by Young and the Justice Department.

The case went on so long, with some evidence just not available, that an investigative subcommittee — evenly split among Republicans and Democrats — could not effectively determine whether Young took the improper gifts as part of an unethical bid to help those who financed the gifts.

VA execs get bonuses

WASHINGTON — About 65 percent of senior executives at the Veterans Affairs Department got performance bonuses last year despite widespread treatment delays and preventable deaths at VA hospitals and clinics, the agency said Friday.

More than 300 VA executives were paid a total of $2.7 million in bonuses last year, said Gina Farrisee, assistant VA secretary for human resources and administration. That amount is down from about $3.4 million in bonuses paid in 2012, Ms. Farrisee said.

The totals do not include tens of millions of dollars in bonuses awarded to doctors, dentists and other medical providers throughout the VA’s nearly 900 hospitals and clinics.

Gen. Sinclair to retire

WASHINGTON — Brig. Gen. Jeffrey A. Sinclair, whose extramarital relationship with a junior officer led to charges of sexual assault before the case crumbled earlier this year, would be demoted by two ranks, to lieutenant colonel, and allowed to retire, the Army said on Friday.

The action means that Gen. Sinclair, a former deputy commander for U.S. forces in southern Afghanistan who has served 28 years in the Army, will be eligible for retirement benefits, including pay, but at a lower level. He had potentially faced life in prison and registration as a sex offender but pleaded guilty to lesser counts in March.

Same-sex family leave

WASHINGTON — The Labor Department issued a proposed rule Friday stating that any employee is eligible for leave to care for a same-sex spouse under the Family and Medical Leave Act regardless of whether they live in a state that recognizes their marital status.

“Under the proposed revisions, the FMLA will be applied to all families equally, enabling individuals in same-sex marriages to fully exercise their rights and fulfill their responsibilities to their families,” said Labor Secretary Thomas Perez.

Farmers start out later

WASHINGTON — Many retirees turn to farming as a way to keep active and earn an income — or at least to supplement Social Security. The White House’s 2013 Economic Report of the President notes that “the average age of U.S. farmers and ranchers has been increasing over time.”

One-third of beginning farmers — defined by the federal government as having been in business fewer than 10 years — “are over age 55, indicating that many farmers move into agriculture only after retiring from a different career.”


Compiled from wire services


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