Lawsuit without a plaintiff…or a defendant; Cities lose tobacco taxes to vaping

Lawsuit without a plaintiff…or a defendant; Cities lose tobacco taxes to vaping

Public Citizen goes to federal court to ask a judge to let a blogger intervene in a lawsuit and unravel a legal mystery: the suit has no plaintiff or defendant.


Lawsuit is puzzle wrapped in enigma
Public Citizen attorney Paul Levy will ask a federal judge in Rhode Island to allow a blogger to intervene in a lawsuit that pits an unknown plaintiff against an unknown—and possibly non-existent—defendant. If the suit were left to proceed on its own, the judge would be invited to approve a consent order that would require Google to remove items that criticize the debt-relief industry from its search results. According to Levy, plaintiff Bradley Smith claims the signature on the lawsuit is not his and that defendant Patricia Garcia is believed to be fictional.

As vaping grows, will tobacco taxes follow?
A study from the R Street Institute, a conservative economic think tank, examines regulations imposed on e-cigarettes by states and cities that rely heavily on revenues produced from sales taxes on tobacco products. The analysis “reveals a rapidly developing policy area rife with misinformation and heavily motivated by a political desire to replace declining cigarette revenues,” the study’s co-authors said.

Retailers seek review of credit card case
The National Retail Federation asked the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals to review a decision that allows the American Express Co. to impose rules that prevent merchants from steering customers to credit cards that are less expensive to use. NRF claimed the giant credit card issuer’s rules violate antitrust law because they “stifle competition” from other credit cards. So-called “swipe fees” average about 2% of a transaction’s cost, but American Express has higher fees, while Visa and MasterCard fees fall in the middle, and Discover has the lowest fees.

Post office lost $5.6 billion last year
The U.S. Postal Service posted a $5.6 billion net operating loss during fiscal year 2016 which ended last September 30. Had it not been obligated to pay $5.8 billion to fund retiree health benefits, the USPS would have finished the last fiscal year with a $200 million net operating profit.

Globalization comes to West Virginia
In order to complete a $4.2 billion merger between Germany’s HeidelbergCement AG and Italy’s Italcementi S.p.A., a cement plant in Martinsburg, W.Va., will to sold to Colombia’s Cementos Argos S.A. The Federal Trade Commission said the divestiture of the Essroc cement plant was ordered to preserve competition in the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan region.

Internet voting seen as threat to secret ballot
The Electronic Privacy Information Center and Common Cause concluded in a report that secrecy in the casting of election ballots is being eroded in states that allow voters to transmit their marked ballots over the Internet. Their report—The Secret Ballot at Risk: Recommendations for Protecting Democracy—notes that ballot secrecy is guaranteed in state constitutions and statutes nationwide, but Internet-enabled voting is putting the integrity of elections at risk.

Using technology to expose methane leaks
The Environmental Defense Fund and Google Earth Outreach released online maps showing the location and size of methane gas leaks beneath city streets in Pittsburgh, Pa. The maps were drawn using Google street mapping cars which collected hundreds of thousands of readings over 320 miles of city streets that were chosen as a representative sample. The maps will be used by Peoples Gas to prioritize repair work that is part of a 20-year, multibillion dollar pipeline modernization program.

Albanian couple apprehended near border
Two Albanian nationals, a 37-year-old male and 41-year-old female, were apprehended by border patrol agents who found them walking on a rural road near Champlain, N.Y. An investigation revealed the couple sought, but were denied, visas to enter the U.S. before they left Albania, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said.

Worker fired for zip-line safety warning
Head Rush Technologies, a company in Boulder, Colo., that manufactures climbing and zip-line equipment, was ordered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to pay $125,000 in backpay to an employee who was fired because he reported his safety concerns to the company’s chief executive officer. OSHA said the firing violated the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Final agency rules imperiled by new president
President Donald Trump and the Republican majorities in the House and Senate have authority under a 1996 law, known as the Congressional Review Act, that is found in the 1996 Contract with America Advancement Act. The law, inspired by then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) whose “Contract with America” was instrumental in breaking 46-year reign of Democrat House control, allows Congress and the President to overturn agency final rules issued after last May 30, according to a Congressional Research Service memo.

Reformers drag FEC back into court
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington thought it won a clear victory when U.S. District Judge Christopher Cooper ordered the Federal Election Commission to enforce a federal law against two so-called “dark money” political committees: the American Action Network and Americans for Job Security. Judge Cooper set a deadline for compliance with his ruling, but the FEC’s three Republican members blocked action against one of the PACs and the six-member commission took no action against the other one. “So we’re taking them back to court,” CREW said.

Rip ‘n Read is a daily compilation of press releases found on hundreds of websites that are maintained by the federal government, think tanks, watchdog groups and other national advocacy organizations. Press releases selected for this feature are, in the opinion of the editor, exceptionally newsworthy, interesting or just plain curious.

The press releases and documents linked to this report were posted on their websites on Tuesday, November 15

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