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April 2007 Archives

Study Looks at Trends in Traffic Stops

African-American and Hispanic drivers were more likely than white drivers to be searched by police and were more likely to experience police use of force during traffic stops in 2005, according to a study released Sunday by the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ) Bureau of Justice Statistics. Data also showed that, of persons issued a ticket as a result of a traffic stop, black drivers were twice as likely as white drivers to be arrested. The study looked closely at contacts between police officers and a nationally representative survey of more than 60,000 residents age 16 or older.

FDA Rejects Potential Vioxx Successor

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck & Co., Inc. announced that it has received a "non-approvable letter" from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in response to Merck's efforts to market its painkiller Arcoxia in the U.S. An anti-inflammatory drug called a "Cox-2 inhibitor", Arcoxia was seen as a potential successor to Merck's Vioxx, another Cox-2 inhibitor which was withdrawn from the marketplace in September of 2004 after it was linked to increased risk of heart attack and stroke. Arcoxia will continue to be available outside of the U.S., according to Merck.

Acer Notebook Computer Batteries Recalled

A recall of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries containing Sony-made cells used in Acer notebook computers was announced by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Acer America Corporation. The CPSC Press Release contains detailed product information and photgraphs. The lithium-ion batteries can overheat, posing a fire hazard to consumers. Consumers should only use the notebook computer using AC power until a replacement battery pack is received.

NY Times: OSHA Leaves Worker Safety to Industry

An article in Tuesday's New York Times reports on the Occupational Health and Safety Administration's (OSHA) current role in promulgating and enforcing workplace safety rules and regulations. The article (the second in a three-part series on federal deregulation) examines chemical dangers faced by workers at microwave popcorn plants (due to a butter flavoring additive used in the production process), and assesses OSHA's recent record of standard-setting around this employee safety issue.

Spinach Lawsuits Reach Settlement

Lawsuits filed in connection with the deaths of three women who became ill and died after eating contaminated spinach have reached a settlement. The families of the three women (from Maryland, Nebraska, and Washington) reached an out-of-court agreement with California companies that processed and sold spinach that was later found to be tainted with e. Coli. Terms of the settlement were not made public. In September of 2006, several produce companies recalled their spinach products after testing revealed that fresh spinach was contaminated with e. Coli. Illnesses were reported in at least 25 states, and over 200 people were sickened.

E. Coli Linked to Recalled Ground Beef, Tainted Steaks

Over 100,000 pounds of frozen hamburger patties and ground beef have been recalled in five states (Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington), according to an announcement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service. The recall was initiated voluntarily by Richwood Meat Co., Inc. (of Merced, CA) after three California children were sickened by hamburgers that may have been contaminated with e. Coli. According to the Associated Press, "the recalled products are hamburger patties and ground beef sold under the brands Fireriver, Chef's Pride, Ritz Food, Blackwood Farms, California Pacific Associates, C&C Distributing, Golbon and Richwood." Tests are still being conducted, and at least two other cases of illness may be linked to tainted ground beef. Read the Recall Announcement from the USDA (PDF file).

In Pennsylvania, the USDA and the state Department of Health are investigating five cases of e. Coli sickness that may be linked to consumption of steaks at "Hoss's Steak and Sea House" restaurants between March 24 and March 29. The illnesses are believed to be linked to meat produced by Pennsylvania beef company HFX, Inc., which has recalled over 250,000 pounds of beef products due to possible e. Coli contamination. Read the Recall Announcement from the USDA (PDF file).

Magnetic Toy Sets Recalled

More than 4 million units of Magnetix Magnetic Building Sets are being recalled by manufacturer Mega Brands America, Inc., according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The recall includes all sets (except newer Magnetix sets sold since March 31, 2006) that are age-labeled 6+ and sets that contain the following caution label:

    "CAUTION: Do not ingest or inhale magnets. Attraction of magnets in the body may cause serious injury and require immediate medical care."

These magnetic toy sets were initially recalled in March 2006, but increasing reports of serious injuries have prompted expansion of the recall. CPSC states that one death, one aspiration and 27 intestinal injuries are associated with the magnetic toy sets, and at least 1,500 incidents of magnets separating from the building pieces have been reported.

Consumers should stop using the recalled magnetic sets immediately and contact Mega Brands for a comparable replacement toy. If consumers are uncertain as to whether their product is being recalled, they can contact Mega Brands at (800) 779-7122 between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm's Web site at www.megabloks.com.

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Partial-Birth Abortion Ban

On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal ban on "partial-birth abortion" procedures in the U.S. In Gonzales v. Carhart (a 5 to 4 decision), the Court held that the "Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act", passed in 2003, does not impose an undue burden on a woman's right to abortion."

IRS Announces Filing Extension for Storm Victims

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is giving victims of this week's major storms in several Northeastern states until April 26, 2007 to file their 2006 tax returns without incurring late filing and payment penalties. Power outages and public transportation problems made it impossible in some cases for some taxpayers and tax professionals to meet the April 17 filing deadline. Affected taxpayers can mark their paper tax returns with the words "April 16 Storm." Taxpayers who e-file their returns can use their software’s "disaster" feature, if available.

FDA Issues "Urgent" Warning on Olives

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is "urgently warning" consumers about health risks posed by potentially contaminated olives produced by Charlie Brown di Rutigliano & Figli S.r.l, of Bari, Italy. The olives may be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium which can cause botulism, a potentially fatal illness. The olives were recalled by the manufacturer on March 27.

The recalled olives are sold under the following brands: Borrelli, Bonta di Puglia, Cento, Corrado's, Dal Raccolto, Flora, Roland and Vantia, and have codes that start with the letter "G" and are followed by 3 or 4 digits. All sizes of cans, glass jars and pouches of Cerignola, Nocerella and Castelvetrano type olives are affected.

Symptoms of botulism include general weakness, dizziness, double vision, trouble with speaking or swallowing, difficulty in breathing, weakness of other muscles, abdominal distension and constipation. People experiencing these symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

IRS Warns on "Free File" Scam

A new tax scam on the Internet is luring taxpayers into filing tax information on a site masquerading as a member of the Free File Alliance. As a result, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is reminding taxpayers that the only place to access the Free File program is through the official IRS.gov Web Site. According to the IRS Announcement, these fraudulent web sites may accept tax information from taxpayers, then change the taxpayers' bank account numbers to their own before filing the return through a legitimate Free File partner. Taxpayers can avoid this problem by using the official Free File Site on IRS.gov. Seventy percent of the nation’s taxpayers are eligible to use the free electronic filing system.

North Carolina Legislature Apologizes for Slavery

The state of North Carolina's legislature has joined those of Maryland and Virginia in approving a resolution apologizing for slavery.  Senate Joint Resolution 1557 was approved by both the North Carolina House of Representatives and North Carolina Senate.  An excrept from the resolution reads as follows:

SECTION 1.  The General Assembly issues its apology for the practice of slavery in North Carolina and expresses its profound contrition for the official acts that sanctioned and perpetuated the denial of basic human rights and dignity to fellow humans.

SECTION 2.  The General Assembly urges schools, colleges, and universities, religious and civic institutions, businesses and professional associations to do all within their power to acknowledge the transgressions of North Carolina's journey from a colony to a leading State, to learn the lessons of history in order to avoid repeating mistakes of the past, and to promote racial reconciliation.

SECTION 3.  The General Assembly calls on all North Carolinians to recommit their State, their communities, and themselves to the proclamation of their nation's Declaration of Independence and their State Constitution that "all persons are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights" – to work daily to treat all persons with abiding respect for their humanity and to eliminate racial prejudices, injustices, and discrimination from our society.

In addition the North Carolina House of Representatives approved House Joint Resolution 1311.  An excerpt from this resolution is:

The General Assembly formally apologizes for the injustice, cruelty, and brutality of slavery, cites its historical role in perpetuating slavery and racism, and expresses its profound regret for the practice of involuntary servitude in this State and for the many hardships experienced, past and present, on account of slavery.

Learn more:

A reminder -- the deadline for filing federal taxes this year is April 17 (not April 15).  Taxpayers across the U.S. have this extra time to file and pay because April 15 falls on a Sunday and the following day, Monday, April 16, is Emancipation Day, a legal holiday in the District of Columbia.  Related resources:

FindLaw Selected as Webby Award Nominee

It was announced today that FindLaw is one of five websites nominated for the Webby Award in the Law category.  The Webby Awards, the leading international honor for Web sites, received 8,000 entries from more than 60 countries in the various categories for this year's awards.  More information on the Webby Awards is at http://www.webbyawards.com/.

As a nominee for a Webby Award, FindLaw is eligible to receive a People's Voice Award, which is given based on votes from internet users.  You can vote from April 10 - April 27 at http://pv.webbyawards.com/.  We appreciate the honor of this nomination and will continue to work to deliver the best possible services to our users.

April 2007 Spotlight: Taxes

As April features the deadline for filing personal income taxes, this month's FindLaw for the Public topic spotlight is taxes.  From the taxes spotlight page you'll find quick access to federal and state resources, including IRS forms and state tax agencies.

Today in Legal History is a new feature that is a collaboration between FindLaw and Justice Talking.  Each day we'll document an event relevant to law or government.  You can contact us if you have feedback on this feature or suggestions for events that should be highlighted.