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2007 Changes Widen Tax Brackets, Expand Benefits
Lawyer News | 2006/11/09 18:04

WASHINGTON — Personal exemptions and standard deductions will rise, tax brackets will widen and income limits for IRAs will increase in 2007, thanks to inflation adjustments announced today by the Internal Revenue Service.

By law, the dollar amounts for a variety of tax provisions must be revised each year to keep pace with inflation. As a result, more than three dozen tax benefits, affecting virtually every taxpayer, are being adjusted for 2007. Key changes affecting 2007 returns, filed by most taxpayers in early 2008, include the following:

  • The value of each personal and dependency exemption, available to most taxpayers, will be $3,400, up $100 from 2006.
  • The new standard deduction will be $10,700 for married couples filing a joint return (up $400), $5,350 for singles and married individuals filing separately (up $200) and $7,850 for heads of household (up $300). Nearly two out of three taxpayers take the standard deduction, rather than itemizing deductions, such as mortgage interest, charitable contributions and state and local taxes.
  • Tax-bracket thresholds will increase for each filing status. For a married couple filing a joint return, for example, the taxable-income threshold separating the 15-percent bracket from the 25-percent bracket will be $63,700, up from $61,300 in 2006.

In 2007, for the first time, inflation adjustments will raise the income limits that apply to the retirement savings contributions credit, contributions to a Roth IRA and deductible contributions to a traditional IRA where the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work.  



BP Settles Suit Over 2 Refinery Deaths
Business Law Info | 2006/11/09 17:56

The world's third largest publicly traded oil company BP Plc, agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by a woman whose parents died in a Texas refinery explosion, woman's lawyer said.

Though the terms of the agreement were confidential, BP set aside $1.6 billion to resolve the claims.

The London based BP, has acknowledged safety shortcomings at the plant, and settled about 1,000 suits, including all death claims except the two filed by Eva Rowe, 22. She lost both her parents in the explosion and has refused to settle unless BP agrees to change safety procedures and equipment.

Roddy Kennedy, who heads BP's press office in London, said he couldn't comment on the reported settlement. BP will pay money to community groups as part of the settlement, attorney Brent Coon said.

If if the trial had gone forward, BP faced unlimited damages and harm to its reputation. The March 23, 2005, explosion killed 15 and injured hundreds at its Texas City, Texas, refinery led to more than 1,300 suits against BP, a record fine from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and a finding by another safety agency that the company endangered workers by cutting costs.

The evidence to be introduced, including an internal study showing the company ignored safety problems at the Texas City refinery, could have produced sizable punitive damages. The trial was set to begin with jury selection today.

Breaking Legal News.com
Sheryl Jones
Staff Writer



Abortion ban fails in South Dakota
U.S. Legal News | 2006/11/08 17:36

South Dakota voters Tuesday rejected a controversial law banning most abortions  passed by the state legislature earlier this year. With 818 out of 818 precincts reporting Wednesday, the final unofficial results for Referred Law 6 were:

NO 185948 56%
YES 148666 44%

The abortion ban, seen as a direct challenge to the US Supreme Court's abortion precedents, was placed on the South Dakota ballot after an advocacy group gathered more than 37,000 signatures on a petition to force a referendum. The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit had already upheld a preliminary injunction against the law's enforcement pending a lawsuit.



Google Bombs Used in US Election
U.S. Legal News | 2006/11/07 19:30

Voting began last night for the U.S. mid-term election to select 33 senators and 435 congressmen. But this time many candidates chose to campaign with their fingers, rather than on their feet.

Thanks to "Google Bombing," or "Google Washing," an attempt to influence the page ranking in search results by clicking on certain articles or Web sites purposely and repeatedly, candidates' supporters can influence the kind of exposure their opponents get in the online world.

Since the 2004 U.S. presidential election, this new campaign tactic has become another major means for election campaigning along with the "old school" television advertisements.

It's the same kind of attack method, but a bit more subtle.

The new method became so popular that the term "Google Bombing" was introduced in the New Oxford American Dictionary in May 2005.

This is how it works: Depending on how many times a link is clicked in Google, its page rank goes up, and when the same words are searched, the search engine automatically generates on top of the list the page that was visited most often.

Taking advantage of this function, "Google Bombers" purposely click away on the same negative articles on candidates their choice is competing against, so that when voters log on to find out more information on candidates, they are met with unpleasant stories.

One famous example is on the U.S. President George W. Bush. You type in "miserable failure" and you are directed to many results linking you to the president.

It is unclear where those words came from but its first public application related to the Bush administration was by Dick Gephardt, who claimed during a discussion, "This president is a miserable failure on foreign policy; and on the economy. And he's got to be replaced."

The mid-term election is not an exception for manipulating Google data.

If you google George Allen, a Republican U.S. senator from Virginia who is running to keep his seat, many negative articles such as "Allen Quip Provokes Outrage, Apology" show up right below the link to his official Web site.

Google, one of the most powerful search engines, has responded that it will not alter the results (or other Google bombed results) because it wished to preserve the integrity of its search engine.

As for the new tactic's effectiveness, Chris Bowers, who is an author of the popular liberal blog MyDD.com and conceived of the Google Bombing project aimed at 70 Republican candidates, cast doubts.

"I think Internet users are very smart and most are aware of what a Google Bomb is," he said in an interview with the New York Times. "And they will be aware that results can be massaged a bit."



Sex Offender Ordered to Wear "Sex Offender" T-shirt
Court Feed News | 2006/11/06 17:50

Delaware Superior Court Judge Jan Jurden ordered a man who twice exposed himself to a 10-year-old girl at his workplace to wear a T-shirt with the words: "I am a registered sex offender" in bold letters, a prosecutor said.

Russell Teeter, 69, who pleaded guilty to two counts of indecent exposure, also was sentenced to 60 days in jail.

Deputy Attorney General Donald Roberts said Teeter had at least 10 prior convictions dating back to 1976 for exposing himself to children and had been diagnosed as a compulsive exhibitionist. Roberts requested the unusual T-shirt punishment because he was concerned about Teeter exposing himself to children at the gardening business he runs with his wife. "This is a unique way to let his customers know that he is a sex offender," Roberts told Reuters.

Teeter, will have to wear the T-shirt at work for 22 months after he gets out of jail. He has 30 days to appeal the sentence. Teeter's attorney could not immediately be reached for comment.

Breaking legal News.com
Robin Sheen
Staff Writer



Employee of U.S. Military Contractor Pleads Guilty
Business Law Info | 2006/11/06 17:41

WASHINGTON - (USDOJ) A former employee of a construction company that has contracts with the U.S. Air Force in Iraq, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan to a one-count criminal information, the Department of Justice announced today.

Samir F. Mahmoud, 56, of Bloomfield, Mich., pleaded guilty to charges of making a false statement stemming from an investigation into possible violations of the Anti-Kickback Act. U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen set a sentencing date for February 2, 2007.

According to the information filed in September 2006, on July 17, 2006, Mahmoud was interviewed by special agents from the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regarding allegations of illegal payments and gifts offered to company employees in exchange for promised assistance in obtaining, retaining or altering the Air Force contracts and subcontracts associated with the reconstruction of Iraq. During the interview Mahmoud willfully made materially false statements in that he denied providing gifts to other company employees when he had offered and provided things of value to at least one company employee.

The maximum sentence for a charge of making a false statement is up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

In October 2006, Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty announced the formation of a National Procurement Fraud Task Force designed to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in contracting activity for national security and other governmental programs. The Procurement Fraud Task Force chaired by Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division includes the FBI, the U.S. Inspectors General Community, the Executive Office of the United States Attorneys and others.

The case was prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Nathaniel Edmonds and Stacey Luck of the Criminal Division's Fraud Section.



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