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US Rep’s Lawyer: Giving Illegal Tape To Media Not Wrong October 31, 2006

Posted by notapundit in Congress, US News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–A lawyer for Democratic Rep. Jim McDermott told a federal appeals court Tuesday that McDermott should not be punished for giving reporters access to an illegally taped telephone call involving House Republican leaders.

In arguments that evoked other press freedom cases, lawyer Christopher Landau said McDermott had merely received the tape from a Florida couple and therefore had done nothing wrong.

A finding against McDermott could chill the news media’s ability to gather information on important public issues, Landau said.

“It’s hard to overstate the impact of the case on the media,” he said.

Lawyers for 18 news organizations – including ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, The Associated Press, The New York Times and The Washington Post – have filed a brief backing McDermott, a Democrat from Washington state who gave reporters a recording of a 1996 call involving the then Republican leader of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled against McDermott in March. The 2-1 opinion upheld a lower court ruling that McDermott had violated the rights of Rep. John Boehner, who was heard on the 1996 call. Boehner was then a Gingrich lieutenant and is now House majority leader.

The full nine-member appeals court canceled the ruling this spring and heard new arguments in the case on Tuesday. A ruling is expected next year.

White House: Senator Kerry Owes US Troops In Iraq An Apology October 31, 2006

Posted by notapundit in Congress, Politics, US News, White House.
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WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–The White House said Tuesday that Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., should apologize to U.S. military personnel for saying that people who aren’t successful at school “get stuck in Iraq.”

“This is an absolute insult. And I’m a little astonished that he didn’t figure it out already,” White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

At a rally Monday for California Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides, Kerry said, “if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

A video of Kerry making the remarks has been posted on the Internet Web site YouTube.

Snow, speaking at his daily briefing, said the remarks fit into a pattern for Kerry, referring to comments he made last year on CBS television accusing U.S. soldiers of “terrorizing” children in Iraq.

“What Senator Kerry ought to do first is apologize to the troops,” Snow said of Monday’s comments. “And Senator Kerry not only owes an apology to those who are serving, but also to the families of those who’ve given their lives in this.”

By Henry J. Pulizzi, Dow Jones Newswires

US Rushing To Deploy Anti-Roadside Bomb Vehicles October 31, 2006

Posted by notapundit in Military News, US News.
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NEW YORK (Dow Jones)–The U.S. is rushing to the battlefront vehicles specially designed to defeat roadside bombs, many of them made by Force Protection Industries (GRPT), USA Today reported Tuesday.

The Pentagon said the number of the South Carolina-based company’s Buffalo and Cougar V-shaped vehicles in Iraq is classified, but public records show the military has bought almost 300, the newspaper reported. The Buffalo vehicles cost $750,000 apiece, about five times the cost of an armored Humvee, USA Today reported.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Armed Services Committee, pushed the Pentagon to buy the Buffalo and Cougar, the newspaper reported.

The vehicles’ V-shaped hull disperses the force of an explosion and helps keep the vehicle from flipping over, the company maintains, the newspaper reported.

The Pentagon’s Joint IED Defeat Organization is spending nearly $3.5 billion this year to combat roadside bombs, known as improved explosive devices.

Force Protection said nobody inside a Buffalo has been killed in Iraq or Afghanistan despite encountering thousands of IED blasts, USA Today reported.

Other companies marketing V-shaped vehicles include AM General, the maker of the Humvee. That vehicle is made by Otokar, a Turkish company. Also, Oshkosh Truck (OSK) has joined with ADI of Australia to market the Bushmaster armored vehicle, and Blackwater, a private security firm, has developed the Grizzly, which it will send to Iraq soon, USA Today reported.

Supreme Court May Not Rule Broadly In Philip Morris Case October 31, 2006

Posted by notapundit in Judiciary.
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WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–The U.S. Supreme Court may not rule broadly in Altria Group Inc.’s (MO) challenge to a $79.5 million punitive damages award by an Oregon jury in a lawsuit brought by a smoker’s widow.

At oral arguments Tuesday, several justices said they were contemplating sending the case back to the Oregon court system because they can’t tell if lower courts properly handled instructions to the jury on how Altria’s Philip Morris unit could be punished financially.

“I guess we could leave it up to them…remand it to them to fix the instructions,” Justice Antonin Scalia said, suggesting the high court may send the case back without a substantial ruling. “That would give you another chance at Oregon,” Justice David Souter added.

Several justices appeared concerned about whether the Oregon jury had properly punished Philip Morris for considering the reprehensibleness and potential harm the company’s actions might have on other Oregon smokers. The Supreme Court has ruled that such punitive damages are allowed but that juries can’t punish a company for actual harm to non-parties to a lawsuit.

Court watchers are searching for clues on how new Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. or Justice Samuel Alito might rule in the case since their views are largely unknown on punitive damages. However, both Roberts and Alito were relatively quiet compared with the other justices, who peppered attorneys with questions about the jury instructions. Chief Justice Roberts, in the few questions he did ask, indicated he wasn’t inclined to depart significantly from recent Supreme Court precedent limiting punitive damages awards.

Andrew Frey, the New York attorney who represented Philip Morris, struggled to overcome the court’s skepticism over whether the jury was properly told how to rule in the case. At the end of the arguments session, he appeared prepared for a possible remand in the case, telling the court that “you ought to say at a minimum they were wrong” if the lawsuit is sent back for further deliberations.

The lawsuit against Philip Morris was brought by Mayola Williams, a smoker’s widow in Oregon. Williams’ late husband, Jesse, began smoking in 1950 while serving in the Army during the Korean War. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1996, and he died the following year. After a jury trial, she was awarded $821,485 in actual damages and $79.5 million in punitive damages.

A series of appeals followed where punitive damages were temporarily reduced to $32 million before the original figure was reinstated by an Oregon appeals court. That ruling was affirmed by the Oregon Supreme Court in February 2006.

The U.S. Supreme Court, if it issues a full opinion in the case, could further clarify the circumstances under which a jury can consider harm to non-parties in the lawsuit when setting punitive damages. The justices spent very little time, however, asking questions about the ideal ratio for punitive damages, an indication the court isn’t likely to issue broad new guidelines on punitive damages ratios.

The case is Philip Morris v. Williams, 05-1256.

By Mark H. Anderson, Dow Jones Newswires

US Regulators OK Deal Involving YouTube Founders, Google October 31, 2006

Posted by notapundit in Economic News.
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WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–U.S. antitrust regulators on Tuesday announced the approval of a transaction involving YouTube Inc. co-founders Steve Chen and Chad Hurley, who agreed to sell the online-video company to Google Inc. (GOOG) earlier this month for $1.65 billion in stock.

The Federal Trade Commission released a document showing that either it or the Justice Department’s antitrust division had ended its review of the transaction involving the two founders and Google Inc. The FTC didn’t specify the nature of the transaction or say which government authority reviewed the deal.

A Google spokesman didn’t immediately return a phone call.

Chen and Hurley started the company in Hurley’s garage last year.

By Siobhan Hughes, Dow Jones Newswires