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Antitrust Division Announces Merger Review
U.S. Legal News | 2006/12/15 10:34

WASHINGTON-- The Antitrust Division announced today that it is amending its 2001 Merger Review Process Initiative in order to further streamline the merger investigation process to improve the efficiency of the Division's investigations while reducing the cost, time and burdens faced by parties to transactions that are reviewed by the Division.

"Efficient merger enforcement" reaching the right answers as quickly as possible with the least burdens necessary  "is one of our top priorities," said Thomas O. Barnett, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department's Antitrust Division. "The amendments to the Division's already successful Merger Review Process Initiative are part of our ongoing efforts to reduce enforcement burdens, while at the same time preserve our ability to conduct thorough investigations and protect consumers from anticompetitive transactions."

The goal of the 2001 Merger Review Process Initiative was to help the Division identify critical legal, factual and economic issues regarding proposed mergers more quickly; facilitate more efficient and more focused investigative discovery; and provide for an effective process for the evaluation of evidence.

The amended initiative is the culmination of an extensive internal review of the Division's best practices for investigating mergers and acquisitions, as well as an analysis of the progress the Division has made since first launching its initiative.

The amendments announced today include a voluntary option that will enable companies to reduce significantly the duration and cost of merger investigations. The new option would limit the document search required by a Division information request, known as a "second request," to certain central files and a targeted list of 30 employees whose files must be searched for responsive documents. This option will be made available to parties to most transactions that are reviewed by the Division, and will be conditioned on certain timing and procedural agreements that, among other things, protect the Division's ability to obtain appropriate discovery should it decide to challenge the deal in federal district court.

The Division is also changing its model second request to reduce compliance burdens further. For example, the default search period, which is currently three to four years depending on when the request is issued, will be reduced to two years prior to the date of the request's issuance. The changes also include other limitations that will reduce the volume of materials that companies must collect, review, and produce in response to a second request.

The 2001 initiative enabled the Division to deploy its investigative resources more efficiently and effectively and reduce the investigative burden placed on parties to transactions that are reviewed by the Division. Largely as a result of the initiative, in an increasing number of matters the Division has been able to focus its investigations on discrete dispositive issues. The result has been an improvement in how quickly the Division is able to close investigations into transactions that prove not to be anticompetitive, which enables the Division to focus its resources more effectively on those transactions that do threaten competition. The number of days that pass from the opening of a preliminary investigation to the early termination or closing of the investigation, on average, has fallen from about 93 days to 57 days since the initiative was first announced.



Annan urges US to uphold rule of law principles
U.S. Legal News | 2006/12/12 23:23

Outgoing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday urged the US not to abandon "its own ideals and objectives" in the war against terrorism, stressing that "human rights and the rule of law are vital to global security and prosperity." In his last speech as secretary-general, delivered at the Truman Presidential Library in Missouri, Annan also pushed UN Security Council reform, saying that the body's membership "reflects the reality of 1945, not of today's world."

During his remarks, Annan outlined five lessons he learned during his 10-year leadership of the United Nations, including "that both security and development ultimately depend on respect for human rights and the rule of law."

Annan said:

Although increasingly interdependent, our world continues to be divided "not only by economic differences, but also by religion and culture. That is not in itself a problem. Throughout history human life has been enriched by diversity, and different communities have learnt from each other. But if our different communities are to live together in peace we must stress also what unites us: our common humanity, and our shared belief that human dignity and rights should be protected by law.

That is vital for development, too. Both foreign investors and a country's own citizens are more likely to engage in productive activity when their basic rights are protected and they can be confident of fair treatment under the law. And policies that genuinely favor economic development are much more likely to be adopted if the people most in need of development can make their voice heard.

In short, human rights and the rule of law are vital to global security and prosperity. As Truman said, "We must, once and for all, prove by our acts conclusively that Right Has Might." That's why this country has historically been in the vanguard of the global human rights movement. But that lead can only be maintained if America remains true to its principles, including in the struggle against terrorism. When it appears to abandon its own ideals and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused.

And states need to play by the rules towards each other, as well as towards their own citizens. That can sometimes be inconvenient, but ultimately what matters is not convenience. It is doing the right thing. No state can make its own actions legitimate in the eyes of others. When power, especially military force, is used, the world will consider it legitimate only when convinced that it is being used for the right purpose "for broadly shared aims" in accordance with broadly accepted norms.

No community anywhere suffers from too much rule of law; many do suffer from too little" and the international community is among them. This we must change.

The US has given the world an example of a democracy in which everyone, including the most powerful, is subject to legal restraint. Its current moment of world supremacy gives it a priceless opportunity to entrench the same principles at the global level. As Harry Truman said, "We all have to recognize, no matter how great our strength, that we must deny ourselves the license to do always as we please."



DOJ to Monitor Elections in New Orleans
U.S. Legal News | 2006/12/10 16:21

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department announced that on Dec. 9, 2006, it will monitor the congressional runoff election in New Orleans, La., to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.

The Department monitors will watch and record activities during voting hours at polling locations in the city. A Civil Rights Division attorney will coordinate the federal activities and maintain contact with local election officials.

Each year, the Justice Department deploys hundreds of federal observers from the Office of Personnel Management, as well as departmental staff, to monitor elections across the country. In 2004, a record 1,463 federal observers and 533 Department personnel were sent to monitor 163 elections in 105 jurisdictions in 29 states. This compares to the 640 federal observers and 103 Department personnel deployed in 2000. On Nov. 7, 2006, the Department deployed an unprecedented number of federal personnel to monitor the midterm election, sending more that 500 federal observers and more than 350 Justice Department personnel to 69 jurisdictions in 22 states "more than double the total sent on Election Day in 2002" the previous record for a midterm election.



ACLU to Congress- Investigate Rumsfeld Immediately
U.S. Legal News | 2006/11/10 17:31

NEW YORK -- The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded Donald Rumsfeld's resignation from his post as Defense Secretary, and called on Congress to investigate the gross abuse of power committed under his watch.

"Donald Rumsfeld's resignation is a step in the right direction," said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director. "Rumsfeld is responsible for the torture and abuse of detainees in U. S. military custody and must be held accountable for the failures that occurred on his watch. He has placed the blame on junior military members and has been nothing but derelict in his duty. Congress must initiate an immediate and exhaustive investigation into his six-year-long record of unlawful activity, violations of the rule of law and complicity in the executive branch abuse of power."

As a result of the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released detailing the torture and abuse of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay. In March 2005, the ACLU and Human Rights First filed the first federal lawsuit naming Rumsfeld and other top U.S. officials in the ongoing torture scandal in Iraq and Afghanistan that has tarnished America's reputation. A hearing in that case, Ali v. Rumsfeld, is scheduled for December 8. In June 2006, the Supreme Court in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld ruled that the Bush administration policy on detention, orchestrated by Rumsfeld, was illegal.

The ACLU has also filed a lawsuit to uncover details of Pentagon surveillance of peace groups and law-abiding Americans who have attended anti-war protests. The documents obtained by the ACLU reveal that the Pentagon shared information on activists with other government agencies through the Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) database, which was intended to track groups or individuals with links to terrorism.



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."



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