Critical condition. Iranian doctors refused to treat pastor Saeed Abedini and sent him back to prison to suffer yesterday. Abedini, an Iranian-American Christian jailed for his faith, was taken to a hospital for tests a little over a week ago. His health has deteriorated from the prison’s poor conditions and the beatings he has received during nearly 18 months of incarceration. The Iranian government may have allowed Abedini’s hospital visit to save face during a diplomatic visit from the European Union. “As soon as (the diplomat) departed Iran, Pastor Saeed was informed that he would be moved back to prison without receiving any real treatment,” wrote Jordan Sekulow of the American Center for Law and Justice, which represents Abedini’s family in the United States.
Crimean questions. Days ahead of this Sunday’s referendum on joining Russia, Crimea is a land in limbo. A majority of residents, many of them ethnic Russians, welcomed Russian troops who came to establish control after Ukraine’s revolution. But instability in the area has led to the formation of paramilitary “self-defense” groups that are little more than armed gangs terrorizing residents. Reports of robbery and kidnapping of Ukrainian supporters have escalated. International leaders say the referendum is a sham. German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Parliament today that, “the territorial integrity of Ukraine is not up for discussion.” Russia feels the same, it just doesn’t count Crimea as part of the Ukraine. The ballot for Sunday’s election presents two choices, both of which would give Crimea a greater degree of autonomy.
Safety delay. The U.S. government is questioning why General Motors (GM) waited so long to recall cars it knew were unsafe. Problems with the ignition switch in the Saturn Ion led to deadly crashes as early as 2004. GM left out the Ions in a recall of 1.6 million cars announced Feb. 13, but added them in two weeks later. Two congressional committees and the Justice Department are investigating the recall and are expected to scrutinize the Saturn Ion because of crash deaths in that vehicle. The faulty ignition switches cause the cars to shut off unexpectedly, disabling many safety features, while they’re being driven. Four people died in crashes in Saturn Ions as a result. GM dealers will start repairing recalled cars in April. Meanwhile, the company has advised owners to use only one key with nothing attached to it in the ignition switch.
Time and a half. President Barack Obama will use his pen to expand the number of workers who get paid overtime. Obama intends to sign a presidential memorandum today directing the Labor Department to propose new overtime rules. The rules would allow overtime for salaried workers who make more than $455 a week and for employees who are designated as management but have minimal supervisory duties. The rules do not require congressional action but could take more than a year to implement. The White House said the change is a matter of fair pay, but conservatives and small business owners argue it will stifle job growth. Obama has also proposed raising the minimum wage, which, critics say, would further stress small businesses.