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Nissan Altima Hybrid Qualifies for Tax Credit
Lawyer News | 2007/01/15 19:01

WASHINGTON -- The Internal Revenue Service has acknowledged the certification by Nissan North America, Inc., that its 2007 Nissan Altima Hybrid vehicle meets the requirements of the Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit as a qualified hybrid motor vehicle.

The credit amount for the hybrid vehicle certification of the 2007 Nissan Altima Hybrid is $2,350.

Consumers seeking the credit may want to buy early since the full credit is only available for a limited time. Taxpayers may claim the full amount of the allowable credit up to the end of the first calendar quarter after the quarter in which the manufacturer records its sale of the 60,000th vehicle. For the second and third calendar quarters after the quarter in which the 60,000th vehicle is sold, taxpayers may claim 50 percent of the credit. For the fourth and fifth calendar quarters, taxpayers may claim 25 percent of the credit. No credit is allowed after the fifth quarter.



Pentagon admits spying on citizens within US
Legal Career News | 2007/01/14 21:20

The CIA and the American military have been accessing the banking and credit records of hundreds of American citizens suspected of ties to terror groups, the New York Times reported Sunday. Since 9/11, the two US government arms have been using little-known provisions of the Right to Financial Privacy Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the National Security Act  to issue a version of a "national security letter" to domestic banks, credit companies, and other financial corporations. The letters request certain financial information but are generally "noncompulsory" as the CIA and the military have no domestic enforcement authority. The FBI has also issued thousands of similar letters since Sept. 11. All three groups claim increased powers to probe the banking records of American citizens under the Patriot Act, passed in the wake of 9/11.

Democrats and civil liberties groups like the ACLU have expressed serious concern over these and other domestic spying techniques, especially as exercised by government agencies focused abroad. The military and the CIA contend that such intelligence is invaluable in finding leads and strengthening other operations. The ACLU has won two suits against the FBI  related to national security letters.



Tampa law firm faces contingency fees lawsuit
Headline News | 2007/01/14 00:49

A Tampa law firm that has garnered millions of dollars in neglect and abuse settlements and lawsuits against nursing homes in Florida and around the country is now on the defense end of a suit that contends the firm knowingly violated Tennessee law regarding contingency fees.

The lawsuit against the firm, Wilkes & McHugh, was filed in December in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Tennessee.

Plaintiff Debbie Howard hired the firm several years ago to sue a Memphis nursing home in the death of her grandmother for medical negligence, according to the 38-page complaint.

The class-action claim states Wilkes & McHugh engaged in an unlawful scheme to collect 40 percent or 45 percent in contingency fees of settlement amounts, although Tennessee law caps fees to 33 and 1/3 percent in medical malpractice cases. The complaint says the law firm charged the higher and unlawful contingency fee to hundreds of clients in Tennessee.

“Although it has never actually tried any of these nursing home lawsuits in Tennessee, defendant Wilkes & McHugh has reaped tens of millions of dollars in legal fees from settlements ... paid by nursing home defendants to their Tennessee clients during the Class period,” according to the complaint.



10 Nazi SS members convicted in Italy
Legal World News | 2007/01/13 18:48

An Italian military court Saturday convicted 10 former SS soldiers and acquitted 7 others in the 1944 killing of more than 700 people in Marzabotto, a small town in nothern Iraly. The slaughter, which took place south of Bologna, is considered the worst killing of civilians in Italy during World War II. All of the men on trial were tried in absentia and are believed by many to be living in Germany. Each of the convicted men received life sentences for murder.

The massacre was committed by retreating German troops from September 29, 1944 to October 5, 1944. During that time, the SS soldiers killed mainly women, children and elderly in a supposed hunt for resistance fighters.



Justice Department Hit With Hiring Freeze
Legal Career News | 2007/01/13 18:10

Three US Justice Department agencies - the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the FBI - are freezing or slowing recruitment efforts largely as a result of a lack of increased funding from Congress' failure to approve requested 2007 budget increases for the Justice Department. The DEA and ATF have said they are freezing the hiring of new employees, even though both agencies anticipate large numbers of unfilled positions this year. The FBI has slowed its hiring but will continue to hire for positions deemed essential. As the agencies await a decision by lawmakers if, and whether, to increase funding, they will continue to operate based on their 2006 budgets. But increased costs across the board, including an imminent increase of the federal minimum wage, make working with last year's budget unreasonable.

The 2006 budget shows that last year the FBI received $5.7 billion in federal funding while the DEA received $2.4 billion. The DEA said it would be unable to sustain employment at its current level if Congress does not allot an additional $95 million, and ATF officials say they need $71 million more in order to maintain its 4,900 employees. Observers say that the failure to approve 2007 budgets for the DOJ agencies could impede efforts to counter both violent crime and terrorism. While other agencies are feeling the burden of the lack of budget approval, Congress has already approved budgets for the military and for homeland security.



Bush signs legislation to protect phone records
Law & Politics | 2007/01/13 08:48

President Bush Friday signed into law new federal legislation seeking to protect traditional, wireless, and internet phone calling consumers by preventing phone companies from selling their private phone records without customer authorization and criminalizing attempts to obtain those fraudulently. The Telephone Records and Privacy Protection Act of 2006 passed the Senate in December in response to the Hewlett-Packard corporate spying scandal that broke this past summer.

The Act prohibits "making false or fraudulent statements" to phone company employees in an effort to obtain confidential phone records. It also forbids "accessing customer accounts through the Internet" without authorization. Those who contravene the Act can face up to 10 years in prison.



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