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Posted by on in Shpoonkle News & Updates

In times of economic crisis it is not unheard of to see corporations and organizations seek methods of decreasing their overall budget. Typically such cuts are seen in lay-offs and perhaps outsourcing some areas of work. However, according to the ABA Journal there is an increase in the number of major corporations who are hiring fresh from law school graduates to act as their defense attorneys in-house.

“Although the companies are still paying hefty salaries to train the new lawyers, those salaries are presumably lower than the legal fees that young associates can quickly rack up at a BigLaw firm's billable hourly rate of nearly $300--or even a more client-friendly special billing arrangement.” For the graduate who is having trouble finding a position within a law firm this news comes as a great opportunity to practice and train to someday take up a private practice, or become an official attorney of said corporation. While these companies are not paying competitively, it is an opportunity to begin working under experienced attorneys and to have solid employment in a time of widespread unemployment.
One such company who is taking advantage of the lower salaries of recent graduates is Pfizer Inc., who recently hired on 3 new students from Yale and Harvard to their defense team. According to Amy Schulman, one of Pfizer’s counsels, as stated in the ABA Journal, “we need the services of first years and we need to train a generation of lawyers who know how to respond to what clients need." The opportunity companies are creating for these young attorneys is a dream, and saving money on legal expenses is a great bonus.

Another company which has also taken this route to staffing their legal team is Hewlett-Packard Co. According to the Wall Street Journal, “HP, which previously hired lawyers with five to seven years of experience, began to recruit at law schools in 2009. It will dispatch HP lawyers from now through this fall to 13 law schools to select about six third-year law students for full-time in-house positions, in Palo Alto, Calif., and Plano, Texas.” Students will be recruited based on their academic performance and time that is spent interning, allowing companies to select only the best students they feel are beneficial to their business.
The downturn in the economy has resulted in fewer positions available for new graduates who are inexperienced and need to be under the supervision of a seasoned attorney. “Some law school students, facing a challenging labor market, said jobs at top law firms are no longer the obvious choice.” The opportunity to have a steady position with potential room for growth within a company has become more of a hope for new graduates than a solid position in a prestigious law firm.

For those law students who graduate with the desire to work in a law firm immediately, should they be informed by their law schools that fewer graduates are being hired by law firms directly out of school? Should corporate law be a renewed focus in law school to prepare graduates for working in companies, more so than law firms?

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Posted by on in General Info

The internet is a growing virtual world nowadays. In fact, it has become a necessity in most households. Seldom will you find people who are not abreast with the power of internet. People use it to communicate with friends who are outside the country, make business deals, acquire information about anything under the sun and spend their leisure time. Because of the fast paced world, children are gradually imbibing the atmosphere created by adults. You might even be surprised to know that your kid as young as 5 years old is more knowledgeable with new computer programs than you are.

Because of the wide use of internet, even criminals update their strategies. They are no longer contented in doing their “business” in the traditional way. They have invaded the cyberspace to affect more people with just a click of a finger. Well, who can blame them? Cyber crimes can be done by anyone. You do not need to carry a deadly weapon like bombs or firearms. What you need is the basic knowledge in computer and you are ready to terrorize the whole world. Sounds scary for you? Well, this is just the ugly truth. The internet has just put crimes in a higher level – easier to perform and more difficult to track.

Kids are in no way exempted to cyber crime. They are very vulnerable to the attack of cyber criminals and they can also make crimes that they do not intend to do. Unauthorized downloading and copying of files and software are just part of the crimes that they are not aware of. Because of the easy access of information, they tend to copy another person’s work, claim it to be theirs or use it without consent from the owner. But remember, computer-related crimes do not just involve this two. There are more acts that are classified to be cyber crime. What you should do is to know all of these to avoid accidentally or unintentionally committing them.

As parents, it is very crucial that you teach your children the correct way of using the internet. Of course, it is impossible to guard them 24/7. Instead, you should inform them about their rights and responsibilities in using the technology. Ethical internet usage begins in the real world. Focus in imparting values and standards and provide them with decision-making strategies to reinforce those values. Kids with a good foundation at home will definitely bring this when he enters the virtual world.

Basically, the degree of supervision with kids depends on their age level. Of course, your teenager will not like the idea of you spying on his whereabouts in the internet but a 5 year old kid would not mind you at all. For all age groups, it is important that you set rules about using the internet. Tell them that whatever they do or say while online can be used against them. You must inform them about the laws that protect their rights and others as well. With a little effort on your part, you can make your kids practice ethics and protect them as well from cyber criminals.

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Posted by on in General Info

The trend of online shopping has increased tremendously and due to electronic transactions credit card forgery is also at an all-time high. Almost millions of transactions take place every day and with the account numbers flying from one place to another, there is a very good chance for scammers and thieves to burn a hole in your pocketbook.

Almost each day we hear of many credit card forgeries taking place in various parts of the world either on the news, online or from TV. There are plenty of credit card forgery labs, that’s right they have expanded to labs, which have been caught recently and have been sealed. Also the several suspects are believed to spend at very high class living rates, such as staying at luxurious five star hotels, purchasing thousands of dollars’ worth in a day including electronic items, expensive handbags, jewelry, clothes etc.

To eliminate your chances of falling victim to credit card forgery completely is not possible, but with the use of common sense and alertness, you can protect yourself easily. There are some important things that you should keep in mind when shopping with credit cards or while entering your information online.

Do not ever reveal your account and personal details and information to anyone, whether it is a site from where you are making a purchase or if it is a customer service person who may be asking in a pretense to help you out.

There are very minute details on the credit card such as expiration date and the three digit code at the back of the credit card. These numbers should not be revealed to anyone under any circumstances. Many of the frauds and scammers pose to be calling from your credit card company or pretend to be from the customer services to gather the information from you. Sometimes they also send you emails which is quite similar to the original credit card company’s email, do not be misled as they are fraudulent professionals. If you read that carefully you may find a loophole in it or a difference in email address. In such a situation, you should call your credit card company for confirmation.

The best way to protect you from the credit card forgery is to deal only with the reputable and reliable companies and avoid buying from unknown companies, as these scammers create some cheap sites to attract the maximum amount of customers and then take their requisite information.

There are also a number of telephonic scams going on like “You have won a million dollars”, “donation scam”, etc. All these are also a hideous way of getting your credit card information. These scam artists are charismatic and they first make their victim excited and then convince them through other information they would have gathered. So beware of all such so-called “exciting” calls as later it can leave you miserable.

Last but not least way of protecting yourself is never give your PIN (Personal Identification Number) or account number to anyone, be it your friend or family member, as they can also commit the mentioned mistakes.
If you have fallen victim to credit card scams it is important to contact your credit card company and file a police report with the local police department. Keep all statements and copies of everything you will need to help your attorney create a case in the event that a suspect is caught.

No one wants to give away their hard earned money, and you sure don’t want to know someone is shopping on your dime!
If you get victimized by credit card theft, find an affordable lawyer on Shpoonkle to help you.

Tagged in: Affordable Lawyer

Posted by on in General Info
News about prisoners going hungry does not come as a surprise to most people. Hunger strikes have been an effective way in bringing social issues into the limelight. It is a peaceful yet powerful way to get the attention of authorities regarding what they believed to be injustices of prison policies. From the prisoners’ point of view, a revision in the interrogation process which they claim forces them to self-incriminate is a must. Other prisoners are going hungry as a means to attain a more humane condition and better treatment within state facilities.

Inmates in the California Department of Corrections are currently taking action, or lack thereof, in a hunger strike against the facilities they live in. However, many people are beginning to believe that the number of inmates on strike is being severely under reported. Currently these inmates seem to have reasonable demands for their lack of eating, however some question whether their strikes are taking things too far.
There are several reasons why inmates claim they have problems with their current facilities in the CDCR, solitary confinement restriction is just one of those reasons. Solitary confinement is a form of imprisonment where a prisoner has less contact with other individuals. This is used as a form of punishment for violating regulations or as a form of protective custody for some prisoners that need critical observation. Prisoners go hungry because of the “ruthless” treatment to individuals on solitary confinement, or so they claim. They emphasize that their basic needs should be met, even during punishment. Although it is a form of disciplinary action, experts say that this is also a form of psychological torture when the confinement becomes indefinite. Ideally, it should never be more than one week. Otherwise, it can lead to severe mental problems especially among predisposed individuals.

Interrogation methods have also come under fire within California state prisons, as these techniques are commonly employed in the department to extract information from the inmates. But prisoners are now going hungry after reports of abusive use of interrogation techniques. Prisoners claim that they are forced to incriminate themselves in issues where they are innocent just to stop all forms of torture. The law protects every citizen against self-incrimination where the person can be prosecuted because of the information disclosed. Thus, the same rule applies to prisoners. With the advent of the 9/11 attack, the CIA coined the term “enhanced interrogation” to extract information from people captured during the War on Terror. However, it should never be used to ordinary prisoners, and many are claiming it is.

In a situation such as this there is always two sides to the story, and whether or not these inmates are punished in such manners is left to be questioned. However, violation or not we must keep in mind that the constitution still affords these inmates their rights to freedom from cruel and unusual punishment and self-incrimination. The real question is: are there actual violations of individual right occurring, or is there an underlying reason for not eating?
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Posted by on in General Info
There are always those laws that are up for approval which seem to be more for comedic relief than for actuality. While circumcisions are a common practice in many medical facilities across the world, and are even a part of some religious beliefs, there are some citizens in San Francisco (about 7,000) who believe that they are a form of genital mutilation and should not be permitted on any male who is not an adult and can legally consent to the procedure.
Scientifically speaking it has been found that nearly 97% of the population’s males who were born after 1995 have been circumcised. This means that the majority of men in San Francisco had this same procedure done when they were little too. Though the results are somewhat undetermined, there are some researchers who suggest that circumcisions were often tied to better hygiene in later life as well. However, there are still those people who have generalized the definition of genital mutilation to include the modification of the penis at birth as well.
This position was scheduled to hit the ballot in November, which would mean that if you were to have a son and still have him circumcised against this particular law you could be facing a fine and possible jail time. How does that make sense? How can we let the law dictate what we do with our children’s bodies, especially when there are medical reasons why you would want to circumcise a boy? The Jewish and Muslim faiths in the community were outraged at this potential law as circumcisions are often practiced as part of a religious sacrament. So, from this perspective wouldn’t the state be infringing on religion a little, contradicting the separation of church and state? Not only that, but where do a parent’s rights come in in a situation such as this?

This potential measure was actually removed from the ballot for this November by a San Francisco Superior Court Judge who claims that we have to keep in mind that the city has no right to take control over judicial components of medical procedures that should be left to the state or even the federal government. This judge seemed to see that while some may be passionate about this subject, there are too many arguments that could harm the premise of this should it ever be passed into law.

As a parent how would you feel if you were told that you couldn’t pierce your child’s ears? Or you could not allow them to have any kind of reconstructive surgery if necessary? It is quite the uncomfortable thought to think that the government can tell you how you should parent and what you can and cannot do with the child that you are responsible for creating.

While, yes, there are certainly situations in which adults must be regulated by the state for their mistreatment of children, or if they are not providing their child with the environment and the education that is mandated. However, can you really compare circumcising your child to not giving them food or not making sure that they are attending school?
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Based on what you might see on TV, you might start to believe that court proceedings are generally filled with witty remarks and dues ex machina evidences that magically solve cases. However, with the increasing amount of crime shows on TV and their continually intensifying adrenaline-filled action-packed scenes, you may start wondering whether these shows hold even a speck of reality to them. If you acquire a lawyer’s opinion on crime shows, you will witness an intense bashing of the crime shows and the consequent CSI effect that they have produced. A lawyer’s opinion is largely an actual reflection of how most crime shows use a false portrayal of the legal system.
Crime shows make the use of forensic technologies that simply do not exist. Even in the case that a crime show uses forensic technology that actually exists, the crime show hugely overestimates the technology’s operating speed. A recently popular example of such technology is acquiring DNA evidence to a case in the court. Although DNA technology is rapidly progressing, it still hasn’t reached a level wherein you can find definitive proof just an hour after submitting a saliva sample to the lab. It normally takes a minimum of 2 months to process a DNA test, and even then you can’t identify a person exactly based on DNA because not all DNA has yet been registered in the national database. The issue that arises with crime shows is not its pseudo-technologies or vastly false portrayal of the legal system, but the effect crime shows have on US citizens. This effect is known as the CSI effect.
As per the CSI effects; US citizens, each of whom is liable to be a potential juror, base their understanding of the legal system on these shows which are practically feeding them lies. Conferring to a lawyer’s opinion on crime shows, this has quite a deteriorating effect on the legal system. When a citizen who has watched such crime shows becomes a juror, he or she expects the court proceedings and evidences to be similar to these crime shows. Because of the CSI effect often the jury gives an acquittal when there is a lack of forensics evidence such as DNA or otherwise. Moreover, when forensics evidence is shown (even if it’s false), it leads to conviction. Rendering a lawyer’s opinion, most lawyers point towards the Robert Blake case where he was acquitted despite two sound eyewitness reports. His acquittal mainly came up because the jury thought forensic evidence was lacking.
However, a recent study has shown that crime shows do not have any actual effect on the legal system or the decision made by the jury. A survey of nearly 3000 jurors, undertook by two Eastern Michigan University researchers, showed that there was no relationship between the decision to acquit or convict, despite approximately 80% of the jurors being regular watchers of crime shows. This might lead you to rebuke a lawyer’s opinion on crime shows that acquittal or conviction is actually affected by the CSI effect. Nevertheless, it should also be realized that a lawyer’s opinion reflects the severity of the underlying matter that crime shows are having profound effect on public perception. The real question is: how is that public perception affecting the judicial process?
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Posted by on in General Info
According to The N.Y. Times: “As the biggest telecom deal in years, one that could reshape the American wireless landscape, AT&T’s $39 billion purchase of T-Mobile USA drew scores of supporters and critics alike.
Those backing the deal, including communications workers unions and lawmakers, echo AT&T’s arguments that the merger would create jobs and expand the nation’s high-speed cellular networks. Opponents, including competitors like #Sprint Nextel, consumer groups and other politicians, contend that the combination would hurt competition and lead to higher prices and fewer jobs.
Now that the Justice Department has sued to block the deal, here is what some of those parties have to say.

Communications Workers of America, the union that represents thousands of AT&T workers:

“The decision by the U.S. Department of Justice to seek to block the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile USA is simply wrong. “In today’s sinking economy, where millions of Americans are looking for work, the DOJ has filed suit to block a merger that will create as many as 96,000 quality jobs. In the U.S., where too many Americans, especially in rural areas, don’t have access to the tools of Internet technology, the D.O.J. is looking to block a plan to build out high speed wireless access to 97 percent of the country.

“Instead of acting to block this merger, our government should be looking to support companies that create, keep and return good jobs to the United States.”

Senator Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin:

“We applaud the Justice Department for their action to protect consumers in a powerful and growing industry that reaches virtually every American. Preserving choices means ensuring competition, and competition ultimately benefits consumers.”

What do you think?
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Posted by on in General Info
They are the absolutely the last places anyone wants to end up, but about “1.6 million people now live in nursing homes in the United States. Thirty years from now, it's expected to be 5 million,” according to a CBS report. “Many patients are at risk because one out of four nursing homes every year is cited for causing death or serious injury to a resident, according to government figures. Eighty-three percent of elderly Americans would stay in their homes until the end if they could. Thirty percent say they'd rather die than go into a nursing home. Actually, their fears may be well founded.” A CBS News analysis of the federal government's nursing home inspection

database finds more than 1,000 homes were cited last year for hiring staff with a history of abuse.

According to The New York Times, “names of more than 35,000 nursing home employees were checked against FBI records, and this study found that almost 50 percent of elder care facilities and nursing homes had five or more employees with at least one conviction.” Under federal law, it is illegal for nursing homes to employ anyone found guilty of abusing, neglecting or mistreating patients. Since 2002, 25% of abuse was committed by someone with a criminal record.

Currently, only 10 states require a check of FBI and state records; 33 states require a check of state records, and the rest don't have any specific requirements.

The Special Investigations Division of the House Government Reform Committee prepared a study of nursing home abuse, not only physical,  but emotional, sexual, identity theft, financial abuse, medicine errors, withholding or delaying of toileting and other sanitation and hygiene help, food water etc.  These abuses can be from a staff member or another patient.

Broken bones and bruises are easy to see, but if you suspect that your loved one is being abused, don’t wait, act immediately to make sure they are safe.  “Neglect is the silent killer” reports CBS news, “By some estimates, malnutrition, dehydration, bedsores and infection, caused by neglect  account for half of nursing home deaths and injuries.”

If you or you suspect someone you love is being abused in any “care” facility, Shpoonkle can help connect you to an attorney.
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Posted by on in General Info
A person has acted negligently if he or she has acted otherwise than what is normally expected of a reasonably prudent person acting under similar circumstances.

What is a “reasonable person”?  In law, a reasonable person is not any average person but a composite of the law’s view as to how Mr. or Mrs. John Q Public should act in situations that may cause harm to another.  So, in the eyes of the law, the reasonable person knows that children very well may run into the street while they are playing. So, it follows that a person who does not slow down near a playground or a school where children might run into the street, could be considered negligent if an accident occurs. There is another form of negligence where a person does not do what a reasonable person would do to prevent harm.  For example, a swimming pool, which is considered an attractive nuisance, (something that draws children to it like a magnet).  Yet, it is not fenced in.  The law may see putting in a fence as something a reasonable person might do to protect children from harm.  Not having a fence may be viewed as negligence. Trespassing is not a defense for this, since attractive nuisances eliminate the defense of trespass by children.  Both forms of negligence can result in a negligence lawsuit filed against the swimming pool owner responsible for any damage.

Under the law of torts, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, the defendant breached that duty by failing to conform to the required standard of conduct, the defendant's negligent conduct was the cause of the harm to the plaintiff, and the plaintiff was, in fact, harmed or damaged.

A person can not be found to be negligent even if they did not act with reasonable care, if they did not owe a duty to the other party. But, in a general sense, a person is under a duty to all persons at all times to exercise reasonable care for other’s physical safety. . One always has a duty to not do anything that endangers the safety of others, but usually one does not have a duty to help or prevent harm to a person from an independent cause.

Many times more than one person has acted negligently to create an injury and this is considered Contributory Negligence. The portion or percentage of the damages each party is responsible for is called Comparative Negligence.  Most states, have adopted some form of comparative negligence, rather than assessing damages to one negligent party, when more than one was negligent.

If you believe you or someone you care about has been harmed by the negligence of another person, or if you find yourself charged with negligence, let Shpoonkle connect you to an attorney who can advise and help you.
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Posted by on in General Info
If you work more than 40 hours a week, you are entitled to overtime pay unless you are an exempt employee, as long as you have not been misclassified as exempt when you are not.

Job duties, not job titles determine whether an exemption applies. Employers often give employees elaborate administrative or professional sounding job titles for purposes of exempting them from overtime pay. Many employers and employees mistakenly believe that if an employee is salaried, then regardless of what the employee does in his job, he or she qualifies as an administrative or professional employee. Not so!
To qualify as an administrative, executive or professional employee, an employer must prove both that an employee is paid on a salaried basis and that the employee performs the duties of the claimed exemption. This means that no hourly workers can be excluded from receiving overtime pay on the basis that they are an administrative, professional or executive employee. Many employees, however, who are paid on a salaried basis are entitled to overtime compensation as well, because they do not perform the duties of an administrative, executive or professional employee.

The US Dept of Labor describes the 4 qualifications that must all be met, to determine exemption, and classification as an administrative, executive or professional employee as:
The employee is paid on a salary basis, at least $455 per week (or $23,660/year)
The employee’s primary duty must be management. In other words, the employee either manages the company as a whole or a recognized department or subdivision,
The employee regularly directs the work of at least two full-time employees or their equivalent; and
The so-called manager has either actual hiring and firing authority, or at least substantial input into hiring, firing, retention, and promotion decisions.

There are many other job categories that exempt the right to overtime. If you think you were illegally denied your overtime pay, Shpoonkle can connect you to an attorney who can help.
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Posted by on in General Info
According to ABC News, “The blockbuster birth control pill with benefits, Yaz , made by Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals was pitched as the choice for women desperate for relief from severe PMS and acne. But now, new independent studies have found that Yaz carries higher blood clotting risks than other leading birth control pills“.  It also doesn’t do anything to treat common PMS.

"Yaz is the only birth control proven to treat the physical and emotional premenstrual symptoms that are severe enough to impact your life," claimed their ads. Nope, nada, not so. And, according to reports, Bayer knew it.

Tthe Food and Drug Administration wasn't amused. In 2008, the FDA said Yaz was not shown to be effective for common PMS, just a rare and serious form of menstrual symptoms, and that Yaz's success with acne was "misleadingly overstated."

And, State authorities also accused Bayer of deceptive advertising.   Duh!!

All birth control pills come with some risk. Two to four women per 10,000 on the pill will suffer blood clots, and some will die as a result. But with Yaz, several new independent studies have put that risk two to three times higher. "It's a disappointing finding," said Dr. Susan Jick, author of one of those independent studies involving almost a million women. "As a public safety concern that's not what one wants to find." Jick found it noteworthy that the studies funded by Bayer found no difference in risk, while all four of the most recent independent studies found increased risk.

“Recently, expert opinion regarding Yaz birth control was unsealed in a federal court in Illinois. The expert opinion was in the form of a 196-page document written by Dr. David Kessler. His report point-blank accuses Bayer of hiding critical data regarding Yaz’ blood clot link” reported ABC News. According to Kessler’s conclusion, “By failing to disclose all thromoembolic event risk information and marketing Yaz and the Yasmin generic needlessly exposed large numbers of women to risks of serious or fatal thromboembolic events.”  Also, An increased risk of  pulmonary embolism (PE)) and gallbladder problems have been linked to the use of Yasmin birth control, Ocella and Yaz birth control pills.

As per a report published in the British Medical Journal, “Ocella is the generic equivalent of Yasmin birth control pills, and is manufactured by Barr Laboratories. These three birth control pills that contain ethinyl estradiol and the new "fourth generation" progestin drospirenone (DRSP) have been linked to deep vein thrombosis (DVT), Pulmonary embolism (PE); gallbladder complications and gallbladder disease; stroke; heart attack and death.

If you or a loved one has suffered injury from the use of birth control pills, let Shpoonkle connect you to an attorney who will help and advise you.  You may be entitled to financial compensation.
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Posted by on in General Info
Did you know that companies doing business in foreign countries do not have to pay taxes on their profits until that money is brought back (repatriated) into the US? One of the reasons, maybe, that the government is so short of funds.

Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, recently released a report that found “that the 2004 repatriation tax break that allowed U.S. companies to bring $312 billion in offshore earnings back to the United States at an extraordinarily low tax rate did not produce any of the promised benefits of new jobs or increased research expenditures to spur economic growth.” It was not supposed to be used for executive pay increases. The report went on to state, “Despite a prohibition on using repatriated funds for executive compensation, the pay of the top five executives at the top 15 repatriating corporations jumped 27% from 2004 to 2005, and another 30% from 2005 to 2006. Average worker pay in the same years increased 3% and 11%.” Off shore earnings are outsourced earnings, profits made with cheaper foreign labor, helping to keep our unemployment rate high.

The Levin report made publicly available for the first time, detailed information from the 15 corporations that claimed the largest qualifying dividends under the 2004 American Jobs Creation Act. That Act allowed corporations a one-time reduction in taxes on offshore income brought into the United States. The report included “the top 15 repatriators were Altria, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Coca-Cola, DuPont, Eli Lilly, Google,  Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Oracle, PepsiCo, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, and Schering-Plough (which merged with Merck in 2009). The additional five repatriators surveyed by the Subcommittee were Cisco Systems, Honeywell International, Microsoft, Motorola, and Wyeth (which was acquired by Pfizer in 2009). While all 20 corporations provided the requested information, Cisco Systems also disclosed that, after repatriating $1.2 billion in 2006, it later amended its 2006 tax return to eliminate the repatriation deduction claimed for the funds in connection with an IRS audit settlement resolving various audit issues.” the report stated.

According to Bloomberg, “Twenty-seven U.S. companies surveyed report holding $538 billion in untaxed profits outside the country.   Sen. Levin, who opposes a tax break on repatriating offshore profits, released the report in Dec. 2011 to counter companies’ claims that their earnings are “trapped” outside the country by the tax system,”

The companies surveyed, including Google, Microsoft and Cisco have been lobbying Congress for a reduced tax rate on bringing back profits to the U.S.  According to Sen. Levin’s report “ The tax code lets companies invest those tax-deferred earnings, estimated at more than $1 trillion for all of the companies, in U.S. assets such as Treasury bonds, bank accounts and stocks of other companies. That is money invested to make more money for the corporations without paying the initial tax on the foreign profit. Sen. Levin has previously proposed “preventing companies from investing offshore funds in the U.S. without paying the residual tax and approximately 75% of offshore profits are currently invested that way, without the companies having had to pay the repatriated profit taxes.”

The report concludes, “That the repatriation tax break is a failed tax policy, which has cost the U.S. Treasury at least $3.3 billion in net revenue lost over ten years, produced no appreciable increase in U.S. jobs or domestic investment, and led to U.S. corporations directing more funds offshore.  Citing the report’s findings, Levin and Sen. Kent Conrad, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, sent a letter to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction urging it not to support another repatriation tax break.”
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Just about everyone has heard of the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts, but have you heard about the Dog Scouts?

According to ABCnews -- They've got badges and camp outs, cookie drives and troops in 22 states. The Dog Scouts of America even has a motto or two as the half-human, half-hound organization goes about the business of doing good deeds“.

One of the first badges for Jasper, a 3-year-old collie-lab mix, was disaster preparedness. After all, he lives with Robert and Misti Verdahl in Milpitas, southeast of San Francisco, where you have to be aware of earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Jasper and his humans belong to Troop 198 in Santa Clara and have earned 18 badges altogether. Each, the humans said, has made him a better dog.

"We go outside and I know he's going to be safe," Verdahl said. "If there's an emergency, I know he will listen to me."

There are 682 Dog Scouts who belong to 38 troops across the country. The organization has around 80 badges, but not all dogs can earn all badges, said DSA President Chris Puls of Brookville, Ind.  Originally started in in 1995 by Lonnie Olson, the Dog Scouts of America (DSA) is a non-profit organization of people who are dedicated to enriching their own lives and the lives of others with dogs and has become a highly sought out club, complete with merit badges (for the dogs), cookie sales (also for the dogs), and community service awards (for the people).

Any dog can become a Dog Scout. The only requirement is that the dog and owner must be able to pass a test proving the owner is responsible and the dog is well mannered and not a danger toward humans and other dogs.

Dogs are not required to earn badges beyond the first one, for basic obedience and appropriately called the Dog Scout badge.  Community service is part of any good Scout program, Olson said. The DSA members make about $10,000 a year for the Salvation Army and participate in several Christmas projects. Most troops also work with local groups to do whatever is needed in their hometowns.

Interested in joining a troop?  Troop Locations Look here to find one

No troop in your area?  New troop Info Look here for info to on how to start a new troop.
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Global Payments Inc. (GPN), a bankcard processor reported a security breach of credit card data, said perpetrators may have obtained fewer than 1.5 million card numbers. (Key word here is MAY)

The breach is confined to North America, the Atlanta-based company said yesterday in a statement. What is referred to as track 2 data, which is the information encoded on the back of payment cards, may have been stolen while cardholder names, addresses and Social Security numbers weren’t compromised, the firm said.

Global Payments firmly denied that it had had any previous breach, which had been reported by the New York Times, who attributed the allegation to” two individuals briefed on the investigations who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly”. In discussing the breach, Paul Garcia, Chairman and CEO of Global Payments, noted that a lot of information that had been floating around about the breach was unhelpful and “incredibly inaccurate.” Other than denying the specific allegation that this was not their first breach, they did not give specifics on what other rumors were inaccurate.

A few other details came out in the conference call, including that the breach involved only a “handful” of their servers in their North American system. Details of the attack were not disclosed as it is still under investigation by both forensics teams and criminal investigators but only Track 2 data were involved, and the firm is fairly confident in its 1.5 million estimate for number affected.

They say they are not aware of any fraudulent transactions because of the breach but have set up a web site that will go live at some point today to assist consumers:www.2012infosecurityupdate.com. At this point, the firm believes the breach has been contained and that any costs they may incur will be manageable.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “The breach underscores the mazelike network of the U.S. payment system, where little-known companies play important roles in processing billions of transactions each day. Global Payments is part of a group of companies called "third-party processors," that serve as middlemen between merchants and banks.

Global Payments was the seventh-largest "merchant acquirer" in the U.S. last year, according to the Nilson Report, a payments-industry newsletter. Merchant acquirers have contracts with retailers to handle the processing of card transactions, including debit cards, credit cards and gift cards. Such third-party processors have been the target of big hacker attacks in the past.

People familiar with the breach probe said it didn't immediately appear as large as some of the other big incidents that have been reported in recent years. More than 40 million credit-and-debit cards were exposed in 2005 when hackers breached CardSystems Solutions Inc., another company that processed transactions for merchants“.

Consumers usually aren't liable for unauthorized purchases made on their cards. Keep close track of transactions and immediately report those you have not made.

If you have been the target of fraudulent credit card use and are having problems getting it straightened out, let Shpoonkle connect you to an attorney who can help and advise you

Shpoonkle, credit cards, data breach, attorney
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The Durogesic Pain Patch (Fentanyl), is a very effective prescription painkiller, with a time release medication that allows it to continuously manage pain for three days. Fentanyl has a reported potency of about 80-100 times that of morphine.  Fentanyl pain patches are produced by many manufacturers. However, when the patch leaks or is defective in some way, it delivers an uncontrolled amount of Fentanyl, which may cause toxicity or overdose resulting in death.  This can be one dangerous medicine.

There are more reasons to worry about side effects with these patches than that. Many patients know about side effects from medications and some know which drugs may interact with other medications, but with Fentanyl, doing certain everyday things a person with sever pain may do while using the patch can kill you also. Taking a hot bath, for example.  The heat of the bath causes blood vessels to dilate which increases the absorption rate of the medicine and could cause an overdose. Fentanyl when used in a bath or in other hot conditions such as a heating pad, heated waterbed etc. is VERY dangerous.

It is an opiod and can become addictive. Certain cold medications, blood pressure medications, antibiotics, antifungal, other prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and herbal products taken while on the patch can cause nasty to fatal side effects. And there is no way to know in advance if the patch is defective. Manufacturers of fentanyl transdermal pain patches have voluntarily recalled numerous lots of their patches, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued public health advisories related to fentanyl patch dangers over the years.  It is still available because it is very a very effective prescription painkiller.

Other brand names besides Durogesic include Actiq (a Lollipop), Sublimaze, Fentora, Matrifen, Haldid, Onsolis, Instanyl, Abstral, Lazanda, Fentora Tablet) and others.

From April 2005 – March 2007, an outbreak of fentanyl overdoses and deaths occurred. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/Drug Enforcement Administration surveillance system reported 1,013 confirmed nonpharmaceutical fentanyl-related deaths. Most of these deaths occurred in Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Accordingly, the DEA immediately began the development of regulations to control the foundation chemicals used by the illegal laboratories to unlawfully manufacture fentanyl.

If you or a loved one has been injured using a Fentanyl patch or product, let Shpoonkle connect you to an attorney who can help and advise you.
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The legal term for dying without having executed a valid will is “dying intestate”.  Your belongings and property are then distributed to your heirs according to the intestacy laws of your state.  If you die without leaving a will, the legal and tax consequences can be huge, more so if you have many assets. Instead of being able to decide in advance how you want your property divided and your assets distributed among your heirs, everything you own will be distributed according to the state laws where you lived and/or owned real property when you died. This is called probate.

If you do not have a will, you still have a DEFAULT Plan.  Your default plan is letting the state decide.  Each state has defined rules governing how your assets are distributed upon your death. Without a will your estate will go to Probate court. That can be costly and can take quite some time to get things settled.  They will appoint someone to serve as personal representative of your estate; it most likely will not be anyone you know.  They will be gathering and inventorying your assets;   they will be disposing of all your debts; and distributing the balance of your estate after court costs, fees etc to your beneficiaries or heirs.  Also, all your private business will no longer be private.

Putting yourself in control of how your assets are divided up after you die is something that you should do in order to save your family excessive taxes, legal fees, legal battles, family fights, and making sure that you are the one to decide who gets what.  Yes, it will cost you some, but not nearly as much as having your estate probated will cost.

Who needs a will? You do!    No matter if your estate is large or small you should designate someone to manage your assets and make health care and personal care decisions for you if you ever become unable to do so for yourself.

So, WITHOUT A WILL, THERE ISN’T ANY WAY for that to happen. A will is one of the tools to protect you and those you love.  Trusts are another tool.  So are Powers of Attorney, Advance Health Care Directives, Durable Power of Attorney for Property and more.

Let Shpoonkle connect you with an attorney who can help and advise you how best to protect your loved ones, avoid probate and see your wishes carried out. Your attorney will carefully and fully explain it all in detail.
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In July 2011,  the FDA warned of  “increased risk of serious and painful complications related to transvaginal surgical mesh. The Transvaginal Mesh and Transvaginal Sling are medical devices that are surgically implanted to treat Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) and/or Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI). Surgical mesh is a medical device that is generally used to repair weakened or damaged tissue. It is made from porous synthetic material or absorbable biologic material. In Urogynecologic surgical procedures, the surgical mesh is permanently implanted to reinforce the weakened vaginal wall to repair pelvic organ prolapse or to support the urethra to treat urinary incontinence”

“Pelvic organ prolapse (POP) occurs when the tissues that hold the pelvic organs in place become weak or stretched. Thirty to fifty percent of women may experience POP in their lifetime.  When POP happens, the organs bulge (prolapse) into the vagina and sometimes prolapse past the vaginal opening. More than one pelvic organ can prolapse at the same time. Organs that can be involved in POP include the bladder, the uterus, the rectum, the top of the vagina after a hysterectomy, and the bowel.  Mesh shrinkage is also a  risk of transvaginal POP repair with mesh that has been reported in the published scientific literature and in negative incident reports to the FDA.  Reports in the literature link mesh shrinking  to causing vaginal shortening, vaginal tightening and vaginal pain.

Both mesh erosion and mesh shrinking may lead to severe pelvic pain, painful sexual intercourse or an inability to engage in sexual intercourse. Also, men may experience irritation and pain to the penis during sexual intercourse when the mesh is exposed in mesh erosion.

Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is a leakage of urine during activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, or exercise.  Some of the other symptoms frequently reported for transvaginal mesh complications are pain, infection, bleeding, recurring prolapse and vaginal scarring.

The complications associated with the use of surgical mesh for POP or SUI repair have not been linked to a single brand of mesh. The brands most frequently used and reported are Boston Scientific, Caldera, Sofradium, Tyco, Ethicon, C.R. Bard Avaulta, Johnson & Johnson, Mentor Corporation and American Medical Systems .

If you have been impacted by complications from transvaginal mesh or sling surgeries let Shpoonkle connect you to an attorney for advice and help.  You may be entitled to financial compensation.
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Guest Post by: Jeff Mason Clifford of Gray & Sons Jewelers

In some legal situations, establishing the true value of jewelry through expert appraisal is very important.


The jewelry appraiser serves 3 important roles - all of which are of paramount importance to you. First, as a witness to your property - your appraiser can attest in a court of law that your jewelry existed at a certain time and in a specific condition. Second, as someone who can assign a value to your property - in case of loss or theft, insurance companies will need to have an accurate valuation in order to compensate you for your loss. Finally, as an identifier of your item - the appraiser can verify the weights, serial numbers, model numbers,  materials and workmanship involved in your item and classify its worth in relation to comparable pieces.

The skilled jewelry appraiser factors all these variables into their property valuation, along with circumstances surrounding the sale or acquisition of the item being appraised. Valuation of an item will always be specific to a certain date and stated purpose - such as retail replacement or estate liquidation value, and will vary according to the situation. Maintaining an accurate and up-to-date appraisal of your jewelry has never been more important than in these volatile times in the commodities, diamond, and fine Swiss-watch marketplaces.

Like real estate valuations, appraisal of jewelry is largely a matter of researching the marketplace to establish cost of replacement, and for sales of comparable items. Any documentation you have obtained either from the acquisition or during the ownership of your jewelry will greatly assist in assessing its current value. This can include receipts, previous appraisals, warranties, original packaging & guarantees, etc. It is recommended that you choose an appraiser who can keep a copy of your ownership documentation on file - in case the originals are ever lost along with your jewelry. A copy of your appraisal should also be kept off-premises; perhaps in a bank vault in case of fire or other unforeseen calamity.

Situations where an appraisal is typically needed include Insurance Scheduling, Insurance Claims, Estates, Resale, Divorce & Bankruptcy.
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Fata Morgana is the name for a mirage associated with the enchantress Morgan Le Fay, of the King Arthur legend. The legend has it that she was a fairy enchantress skilled in the art of changing shape. She was King Arthur's half sister and learned many of her sorceress skills from Merlin the Magician. She was said to live in a castle that is half under the sea and half above it.

An ordinary mirage is the appearance of something in the distance that isn‘t really there. A  mirage is a real optical happening and can be photographed, because light rays actually are refracted to form the image that is seen. As light passes from colder air across a sharp boundary to significantly warmer air, the light rays bend. If they bend up, you have an inferior mirage, of the sky above as it appears down on the ground (inferior= below the real object).

If the light ray bends down you have a superior mirage, and so the image appears above the true object (superior=above the real object). Most mirages occur on the seas or in the deserts. But often, in hot summer weather, while driving on an interstate highway, you may think you see the road ahead looking like it is covered by a slightly undulating misty sheet of water.  If you have seen that, then you have seen an inferior mirage.

The Fata Morgana mirage, however, is no ordinary mirage. Cold air is denser than warm air (which is why hot air balloons rise) This mirage can only occur where there are alternating warm and cold layers of air near the ground or water surface. The light is bent towards the colder, denser air, than away from it, and back again as it travels and bends around these alternating layers of hot and cold air. So it appears alternately as areas of compacted and stretched zones, upright images and reversed images.

Fata Morganas occur mostly in the polar regions, in the Strait of Messina, where the legend has it that a mirage looking like castles on land lured sailors, who thought they were seeing a safe harbor, to their death. Fata Morganas have also been seen near Japan, and over the Great Lakes in the U.S.  It has also been seen in Alaska, in the winter when there are heat inversions in large valleys.
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The sense of smell is called olfaction. Many animals have a sense of smell far superior (macrosmatic) to humans. Humans are called microsmatic because of their modest olfaction abilities. Yet the human nose is capable of smelling over 10,000 different odors, some in the range of parts per trillion of air. The human nose is actually the main organ of taste as well as smell. The taste buds on our tongues can only distinguish four qualities – sweet, sour, bitter and salt -all other ‘tastes’ are detected by the olfactory receptors high up in our nasal passages.  It’s the smells of food that make them taste good or bad. We have about 5 or 6 million of these receptors while a dog, for example, has about 220 million of them.

Females, in general. have a better sense of smell than males do. Female humans are able, during ovulation, to smell some part of the HLA genes of potential sex partners and prefer partners with HLA genes different from their own. The human leukocyte antigen (HLA) system is the name of the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) in humans. They contain a large number of genes related to immune system function in humans. They are important in disease defense  and may be the reason for mate selection choices by females, as different sets of HLA genes in offspring produce healthier immune systems.

Also, odor is a valuable indicator of disease. From an abscess to viral infections and most everything in between, disease smells, though we may not necessarily all be able to smell it consciously. Sweet or strong body odors were warning clues that our ancestral females in search of good genes for their offspring may have been wired to pay attention to.  Females' better sense of smell, therefore, may well have been due to their need to carefully evaluate a potential mates’ genetic qualities. A poor mate choice for male ancestors may have meant as little as a few minutes wasted, but a human female's mistake could result in a child unlikely to survive.

Humans can identify individuals who are blood related; mothers, fathers and children. Blindfolded women and men o a lesser degree can find their spouse by smell alone. Blood related individuals have similar sets of genes.

Each of us has an odor that is, like our fingerprints, unique. Part of that odor is pheromones, which are chemical substances that the human body secretes. These unique odors change the sexual or social behavior of another individual by attracting or turning off any attraction. The “attracting” powers of pheromones, the scented sex hormones, play an important role in people finding people with whom they have “chemistry”.  A male’s appeal to a female human may depend in a large part on how many immune system genes he shares with her and the less the better.

Memories of childhood events are often triggered in great detail by smells.  The perception of smell is not only of the sensation of the odors themselves but of the experiences and emotions associated with these sensations. Smells can evoke strong emotional reactions and it can change or enhance moods, learning ability, and sleep.
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