ORLANDO, Fla.

Judge blocks law requiring welfare applicant drug tests

A federal judge on Monday temporarily blocked Florida’s new law that requires welfare applicants to pass a drug test before receiving benefits, saying it may violate the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

Judge Mary Scriven ruled in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of a 35-year-old Navy veteran and single father who sought the benefits while finishing his college degree but refused to take the test. The judge said there was a good chance plaintiff Luis Lebron would succeed in his challenge to the law based on the Fourth Amendment, which protects individuals from being unfairly searched.

The drug test can reveal a host of private medical facts about the individual, Scriven wrote, adding that she found it “troubling” that the drug tests are not kept confidential like medical records.

WASHINGTON

U.S. pulls ambassador from Syria, citing personal safety

The Obama administration said Monday that it had called home the U.S. ambassador to Syria over concerns about his personal safety, prompting Damascus to pull its ambassador from Washington and signaling a dramatic deterioration in the already tense U.S.-Syrian relationship.

State Department officials accused President Bashar al-Assad’s government of backing a campaign of political smear and intimidation against Ambassador Robert Ford, who has led U.S. criticism of the Syrian regime.

Ford, a career diplomat, returned to the United States over the weekend and will remain until “the situation improves on the ground,” said Haynes Mahoney, the charge d’affaires at the embassy in Damascus. Hours later, the Syrian Embassy in Washington announced that its ambassador, Imad Moustapha, had been summoned back to Damascus for “consultations.”

Doctors divided over more in-depth cholesterol tests

For heart health, you’re supposed to know your numbers: Total cholesterol, the bad LDL kind and the good HDL kind. But your next checkup might add a new number to the mix: a count of particles that carry LDL through the blood.

Cardiologists are divided over the new approach. Proponents contend it might help them spot at-risk patients that regular checks might miss or get more information about how aggressively to treat them.

But so far, guidelines from major heart organizations don’t recommend these extra tests. They’re pricier than regular cholesterol exams, and it’s not always clear what the results mean.

“I see a lot of people being confused,” said Dr. Nieca Goldberg of New York University Langone Medical Center.

DETROIT

Man, 87, says he was forced at gunpoint to carry cocaine

An 87-year-old Indiana man arrested in Michigan with 104 bricks of cocaine in his pickup truck has told a judge he was forced at “gunpoint” to carry the load.

Leo Sharp of Michigan City, Ind., was released on bond Monday, three days after he was stopped for improper lane use on Interstate 94 near Chelsea, 60 miles from Detroit.

A criminal complaint signed by a DEA agent is thin on details, and there was no mention in court about Sharp’s destination.