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Week in review – 3/30/12: New casinos getting closer

Justices question health care law

In three days of oral arguments on the constitutionality of the Obama administration’s health-care reform law, the split over the constitutionality of the individual mandate was very much in evidence as the justices of the Supreme Court grilled attorneys on both sides in an effort to define the limits of Congress’ power under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. The justices seemed stuck on a central issue: whether the law can function without its heart if the individual minimum coverage mandate is struck down.

Hospital settles with U.S.

Good Samaritan Hospital has agreed to pay $793,548 to settle claims it had rigged its billing system to falsely tack on malnutrition diagnoses in order to bill more from federal health programs. The agreement included no admission of wrongdoing by Baltimore-based Good Samaritan, part of the Columbia-based MedStar Health System. No lawsuit had been filed and, according to the settlement agreement, the deal was reached to “avoid the delay, uncertainty, inconvenience, and expense of protracted litigation.”

New plans for Brass Elephant

The new manager of the former Brass Elephant restaurant says it will soon reopen as a seafood and brunch specialty café called The Museum — and not as a night club as originally planned. “They are not going to change a thing,” Curry said, of the elegant décor of the historic building that once housed one of Baltimore’s most stylish restaurants. The plans for a night club had drawn neighborhood opposition.

New casinos getting closer

The state video lottery commission appears to be close to awarding the license for a proposed slots parlor at Rocky Gap Lodge and Golf Resort in Western Maryland, and is moving forward with its decision on a downtown Baltimore casino.

Custody case belongs in Japan

Maryland’s courts are closed to a Navy commander in his quest for custody of his 9-year-old daughter who has lived her whole life in Japan, the Court of Appeals has held. In a 7-0 decision, the high court said Maryland judges lack jurisdiction to hear Paul Toland’s plea for custody of Erika, who has lived with her maternal grandmother since her mother died five years ago. Decisions regarding Erika’s custody properly reside with the Japanese courts, which have awarded guardianship of Erika to the grandmother, Akiko Futagi, the high court held.

UM performs face transplant

After 15 years of wearing a mask and living as a recluse, a 37-year-old Virginia man disfigured in a gun accident got a new face, nose, teeth and jaw in what University of Maryland physicians say is the most extensive face transplant ever performed. Richard Lee Norris of Hillsville is recovering well after last week’s surgery, beginning to feel his face and already brushing his teeth and shaving, University of Maryland Medical Center officials say. He’s also regained his sense of smell.

Poll finds fracking concerns

A poll commissioned by Chesapeake Climate Action, a nonprofit group dedicated to fighting global warming, says 71 percent of Marylanders want hydraulic fracturing to be studied before it’s allowed for use in natural gas extraction in Western Maryland.

Tool company up for sale

Danaher Corp. and Cooper Industries Plc are reportedly seeking buyers for Sparks-based Apex Tool Group, a joint venture that makes hand tools for Sears Holdings Corp.’s Craftsman brand. Apex had net income of $134 million on sales of $1.46 billion last year, according to a Cooper regulatory filing. Apex employs 7,600 people, according to its website.

W.Md. seeks dental clinic

The Western Maryland Area Health Education Center wants to open a low-cost oral health clinic in Cumberland that would be based in the former Memorial Hospital building, vacated in 2010 when the Western Maryland Health System opened a new medical center. The Cumberland Times-News reported the government agency is working with dentists in Western Maryland, as well as areas in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, to establish the clinic and satellite offices.