US Congresswoman Proposes Tight Viagra Restrictions

ViagraA congresswoman in the US has proposed tight restrictions on Viagra, which would make the drug available only to married men who have permission from their wives. However, Democrat representative Mary Lou Marzian has not proposed the tight restrictions with the intent of pushing them into law, but rather as a process to highlight “intrusive and ridiculous” attempts at reforming abortion law in the US.

If Marzian’s proposals were to become law, they would restrict prescriptions for erectile dysfunction to married men only. Men would also have to have a signed, dated letter from their spouse giving permission for them to use the drug, and would have to make at least two visits to their doctor before drugs could be prescribed. On top of this, before receiving their medicine a man would have to “make a sworn statement with his hand on the bible that he will only use [the medicine] when having sexual relations with his current spouse.”

These changes mirror various reforms that have been passed, proposed, or campaigned for in order to tighten abortion laws in the US and its various states. Marzian, who is also a registered nurse, explained: “My point is to illustrate how intrusive and ridiculous it is for elected officials to be inserting themselves into private and personal medical decisions.” Speaking to her local paper, she says that she does not think the bill is going to make much progress towards becoming law, but she feels that it is important to make a point. Her proposals would represent lawmakers telling men what they can and cannot do with their bodies, and she says that she aims to highlight how ridiculous it is that lawmakers are already doing the same thing to women.

Marzian plans to put a further bill forward which, if passed, would require people who wish to buy firearms meet with gun violence victims for counselling 24 hours before making their purchase. This bill, also intended to make a point, mirrors a law that was recently signed by Republican and Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, which requires women to meet with a doctor for counselling 24 hours before having an abortion. Mr Bevin has also recently passed a law which prevents women from going ahead with an abortion until they have seen images of the foetus and listened to its heartbeat.

Regarding her upcoming proposal on firearms purchases, Marzian said: “I’m just making sure the government is taking care of your safety.”

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What are your Rights if Injured While Working Abroad?

Those who receive an injury in the course of their work as a result of somebody else’s negligence are entitled to make a compensation claim. However, this situation can become complex and unclear when the accident happens while working overseas. While your rights may or may not be changed by the fact the accident happened overseas, you will likely still have a right to claim.

Employers Based in England, Scotland, or Wales

If you were working overseas for an employer which is, nonetheless, based within the UK (excluding Northern Ireland), then the fact the accident happened abroad makes relatively little difference. Your employer still owes a duty of care to you under UK law, and if your injury was caused by a failure in that duty of care then you can bring a workplace injury compensation claim against them. This can most likely be done through the UK courts with help from a UK-based lawyer, just as if the accident had taken place within the UK instead of overseas.

The situation is somewhat more complicated if you were employed by a multinational company overseas, but that company also has a registered office within the UK. If this is the case, then it may still be possible to begin proceedings through the UK courts against their UK office. This is something you may wish to speak to your solicitor about.

In some cases, if you are working internationally for a company with a presence in both the place you are working and the UK, your contract may define whether UK or local liability will apply.

Employers Based Elsewhere

If you were injured while working for an employer based outside of the UK or in Northern Ireland, then things get more complex. Your employer will almost certainly still have a duty of care over you and be liable for any injury that occurs as a result of their negligence, but this will be according to the laws of the jurisdiction in which you were working.

It is important to be aware of what those laws are, and what your rights as an employee were under that jurisdiction. It is also important to be aware of any potential complications in establishing what laws you were subject to. For example, in the USA both state-level and national law may play a role in dictating your rights, and in some countries international workers may have different rights from local workers.

One particularly vital aspect of the law to be aware of is the window of time in which you have to make a claim. In some jurisdictions, this can be much more limited than it is under the UK’s claims time limits, sometimes as short as one year, making it vital to get things moving at the first opportunity. While international claims can be more complicated than claims against employers within the UK, your first step should still be to seek the help of a professional legal advisor.

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Australian Free Online Legal Advice Platform off to Strong Start

Online ChatAn online platform that recently launched in South Australia to provide free and accessible legal advice has proven successful through its first few months of existence. Legal Chat, a chat room where members of the public can communicate directly with lawyers in order to obtain answers to their questions, has served more than 1,000 individuals across the space of just four months.

Since October 2015, lawyers have served over 1,000 clients through the platform, which provides real-time, two-way communication much like an instant messaging service or internet chatroom. The majority of clients – around 600 – have sought advice on matters that fall under the domain of civil law. These include wills and probate matters, boundary disputes, and tenancy disputes. Around 200 individuals have sought advice on criminal legal issues, most of which were motoring offences, and a similar number have turned to the platform for help with matters of family law.

The platform is the first of its kind to launch in Australia, and its success has been taken as an indicator that this kind of venture could be useful in other parts of the world too. It has also been heralded as a good sign at a time when many countries, including the UK, are looking into ways to use digital technology to improve the way the law operates. The attraction of Legal Chat to clients is not just the fact that the advice is free, but that it is also easily-accessible to anybody with an internet connection without the need to visit a legal office in person or speak to somebody over the phone.

Indeed, accessibility is the key issue that Legal Chat was founded to deal with. Many of those living in South Australia’s rural areas struggle when it comes to accessing legal advice, and those living in smaller and more remote country towns had little or no physical access to professional lawyers without undertaking considerable travel. There is a telephone advice line provided by the Legal Services Commission, but this receives very large volumes of calls – around 80,000 over the course of 2015 – and is often overstretched.

Legal Chat provides an accessible and somewhat more manageable alternative to the telephone helpline, and could help relieve some of the pressure that line is under and reduce waiting times for those who continue to use it. Furthermore, a survey of Legal Chat’s users showed that more than three quarters (79%) found an online advice service preferable to a telephone one. For many, the major advantage of getting advice through an online chat room instead of over the phone is the increased level of privacy, allowing advice to be more readily obtained in public spaces and workplaces.

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Volkswagen Scandal Sparks Worldwide Legal Action

Volkswagen Golf TDIThe Volkswagen emissions scandal has sparked a wave of litigation across the world. This includes the automotive giant’s home country of Germany, where the company could be facing criminal charges for its efforts to manipulate emissions tests.

The scandal broke when it emerged recently that the major vehicle manufacturer had fitted a number of its diesel vehicles with software designed to alter the results of the USA’s emission testing process. These “defeat devices” enabled the cars to effectively cheat on major emissions tests, providing readings that did not represent the actual emissions levels produced by the car in use. As a result, the vehicles were able to get through the tests even though their engines produced up to 40 times the legal limit of harmful emissions at other times.

The revelations caused the company’s shares to rapidly lose 30% of their value, and led the chief executive of Volkswagen, Martin Winterkorn, to step down. According to some news reports, funds equivalent to £4.3 billion have been set aside by VW in anticipation of the costs involved in dealing with the fallout of the scandal.

The revelation of the scandal has led to legal proceedings against the company in various jurisdictions. In the US, the country where Volkswagen has so far been shown to have fooled emissions tests, the country has asked international legal firm Kirkland & Ellis to handle expected litigation. In Germany, where the company is based, it is possible that criminal charges could be brought.

Major UK legal firm Slater and Gordon predicts that the company could also face legal action on British shores. A group claim could potentially be brought against Volkswagen by the many dealerships and individuals who purchased cars which have now severely fallen in value as a result of the scandal. A prominent specialist in shareholder fraud has predicted that a group claim by shareholders could also potentially be valid, having seen nearly a third of the value of their shares wiped out by the scandal.

Environmental law specialists ClientEarth have also weighed in on the matter, asking the Department for Transport to look into whether VW’s use of software to cheat on emissions tests may be part of a more widespread practice within the automotive sector.

ClientEarth chief executive James Thornton said: “The industry has shown it cannot be trusted. We cannot wait for action from the EU. First responsibility for protecting our health lies with our own government. The public must know the full scale of the problem and urgent action must be taken to fix it. Flouting laws cannot be tolerated.”

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Lawsuit Looms for “Infidelity Dating” Site Ashley Madison

A class action lawsuit worth a total of C$760 million (£367 million or US$576 million) is being brought against infidelity dating website Ashley Madison. The lawsuit stems from recent high-profile data leaks, in which the personal information of many of the site’s users was made available on the “dark web.”

Ashley Madison is a highly controversial dating website, which specifically targets married users who are looking for affairs. The controversy has not been lessened by its marketing messages, which are anything but coy about the nature of the site. It uses the slogan “Life is short, have an affair,” and has aired television adverts which featured a number of men cheerfully singing the words “I’m looking for someone other than my wife.” The company’s adverts have also been criticised on other grounds, such as denigrating women, and in some cases have been pulled as a result of high volumes of complaints.

Ashley MadisonDespite the moral question mark that many see hanging over the nature of the site, it has proved very successful across the world. It has 37 million users from over 50 countries, including over a million in the UK.

It was the controversy surrounding the site that led it to become the target of Impact Team, a group of hackers. This group obtained data about the site’s users including names, home addresses, email addresses, and message histories from the site’s private messaging feature. They then threatened that, if the site was not taken down, they would reveal this information and publicly expose the infidelity of the site’s users. The site remained operational, and the data was leaked online.

The lawsuit is being brought against the site’s operating companies, Avid Media and Avid Dating Life, by Canadian law firms Sutts, Strosberg LLP and Charney Lawyers. The firms claim to be bringing legal action against Ashley Madison on behalf of “all Canadians” who were caught up in the data leaks.

In a statement, the two forms said they had been approached by “numerous former users of AshleyMadison.com” with enquiries about their rights to privacy under Canadian law.

“They are outraged,” the statement continues, “that AshleyMadison.com failed to protect its users’ information. In many cases, the users paid an additional fee for the website to remove all of their user data, only to discover that the information was left intact and exposed.”

While social media has seen a lot of public support for the data leak, others have criticised Impact Group. Not all critics of the leak are supportive of Ashley Madison’s infidelity dating model, as the nature of the attack raises complex concerns about individual privacy rights and vigilantism.

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Amazon Surrenders in Long-running Tax Battle

AmazonAmazon has long been one of the more prominent companies to face accusations of illegal tax avoidance practices on an international scale. Now, the company has seemingly surrendered in one of its most long-running battles and agreed to cease using one of its most lucrative tax avoidance practices.

Amazon has faced both criticism and investigations by authorities as a result of its practices of moving earnings around internationally in order to reduce the amount of tax it pays on profits made in certain jurisdictions. Large amounts of Amazon’s profits made in the UK and other European companies are redirected to Luxembourg without tax first being paid. As Luxembourg is a very low-tax jurisdiction, funnelling profits from other countries there before paying tax in the country of origin results in a much smaller tax bill – but the legality of this approach has frequently been called into question.

Now, Amazon is to start calculating profits on all sales in the country in which those sales took place. In other words, UK sales will no longer be reported in Luxembourg instead of the UK to avoid paying UK tax.

Amazon’s apparent surrender comes soon after Chancellor George Osborne announced further measures to crack down on tax avoidance and the redirection of profits made in the UK. Since April, Osborne has introduced a new class of tax known as diverted profits tax, specifically designed to catch out corporate tax structures like Amazon’s. Indeed Amazon, a company which has long denied claims that this structure is an artificial one designed to avoid tax, would certainly have been caught by the new tax had it not announced this change of heart. Under the diverted profits tax, the company would have had to pay tax on the profits diverted to Luxembourg at a punitive rate of 25%.

A spokesman speaking on behalf of Amazon said simply that the company would begin “recording retail sales made to customers in the UK through the UK branch. Previously, these sales were recorded in Luxembourg.”

Of the new diverted profits tax, Osborne said that “while we offer some of the lowest business taxes in the world, we expect those taxes to be paid.” He went on to add: “If you abuse our tax system, you abuse the trust of the British people.”

The new tax has been nicknamed the Google Tax, as prominent search and technology giant Google is another company often accused of this kind of tax avoidance practice. It is reported that a number of other countries are considering similar steps to tackle diverted profits.

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Safari Users to Sue Google

Google Logo 2010Users of Safari, Apple’s internet browser, which comes installed as standard on many of the company’s products, have won the right to sue Google over issues of privacy. A Court of Appeal bid, in which Google sought to block the legal action, has ruled against the search giant.

The users in question claim that Google misused privacy settings and bypassed security features of the Safari browser for its targeted advertising campaigns. By bypassing their security settings, Google was able to install cookies to track the internet activities of users. This information was then used to guide advertising campaigns and choose which adverts would be displayed to those users based on their browsing history.

Google took the case to the Court of Appeal seeking to prevent legal action from the claimants. The company claimed that Safari users could not sue because they had suffered no financial loss as a result of the company’s actions, and therefore there was no case for Google to answer to. However, the court ruled that the claimants’ allegations “raise serious issues which merit a trial.”

Google’s defeat in the Court of Appeal was described by one of the users seeking to sue as “a David and Goliath victory.” Google, on the other hand, said that it was “disappointed with the court’s decision” to allow the claimants to bring legal action against the company.

Safari is installed as standard on the computers produced by Apple, as well as on other devices such as the popular iPad range of tablets. Allegedly, the “Safari Workaround” was utilised by Google to get around the security settings and preferences of the browser in order to install cookies – pieces of code that can track and record data – against the wishes of the users. These then gathered information about the ethnicity, social demographic, and browsing habits of those users without their knowledge or consent so that Google could more specifically target them with advertising.

According to the Court of Appeal’s judgement, the allegations against Google “concern what is alleged to have been the secret and blanket tracking and collation of information, often of an extremely private nature… and the subsequent use of that information for about nine months. The case relates to the anxiety and distress this intrusion upon autonomy has caused.”

Should the case against Google prove successful, the millions of people in the UK who use Apple devices could potentially be able to bring similar cases against the web giant.

According to one claimant, Judith  Vidal-Hall, “The Court of Appeal has ensured Google cannot use its vast resources to evade English justice.” As a result, she said, “Ordinary computer users like me will now have the right to hold this giant to account before the courts for its unacceptable, immoral and unjust actions.”

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Lincoln to Ban Public Use of Legal Highs

Town center - Andy WeekesLincoln is to ban the use of “legal highs” within the city centre. A council report claims that Lincoln has developed a reputation as a city with “a ready and cheap supply” of legal highs, and it is hoped that the ban will help to stem the problem.

In particular, authorities in the historic cathedral city are concerned that such a reputation could lead to “legal high tourism” where people visit the area specifically to partake of legal substances that produce drug-like effects. It is hoped that banning the use of such substances in the city centre will discourage people from travelling in order to take advantage of this apparent supply.

The city’s problem with legal highs has escalated rapidly in recent years. In 2011, police only recorded seven incidents which involved the logging of the phrase “legal high.” By 2014, this had leapt to 820 incidents – more than 114 times the 2011 figure. According to research carried out by the Centre for Social Justice, the number of legal high-related incidents logged by Lincoln last year was greater than any other police force that supplied data.

The use of legal highs within the city has led to significant problems with anti-social behaviour, according to City of Lincoln Council. The ban on the public use of such substances is part of an attempt to curb these issues, and makes use of a new power recently introduced by government called a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO).

Under the new ban, people will be prohibited from using “intoxicating substances” publicly within Lincoln’s city centre, whether or not those substances are in themselves legal. Alcohol is also an intoxicating substance, and will be also therefore fall under the ban. However, the measure is only effective in public spaces. People will still be entitled to purchase alcohol or legal highs, then take them home in order to use them in private.

According to Lincoln’s manager for public protection and anti-social behaviour Sam Barstow: “The whole driver behind this for us has been about taking a proactive stance and trying to do something innovative to tackle an issue that’s really having an impact on people that live locally, people that work locally and people that might want to come and visit our city centre.”

The initiative also has the support of the city centre’s neighbourhood policing inspector Pat Coates. However, Inspector Coates feels that the measures being rolled out do not go far enough.

“We would like to see better legislation to enable us to deal with the actual sellers,” Inspector Coates said.

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Paris Mayor Announces Intention to Sue Fox News

Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, has claimed that she intends to sue American television news outlet Fox News over comments made about the city. Specifically, she was referring to claims that Paris and other European cities include areas where Islamic Law is in force and where non-Muslims cannot or do not go.

Fox News has been widely mocked around the world for a number of inaccurate comments that seem designed to provoke anti-Muslim sentiments. One “expert” guest on the network recently made several such claims about the UK which were both condemned and ridiculed. Steve Emerson, who claims to be “an internationally recognised expert on terrorism,” said that Birmingham is a Muslim-only city. He also said that parts of London feature Muslim religious police who patrol the streets physically assaulting “anyone who doesn’t dress according to Muslim, religious Muslim attire.” This provoked comments from Prime Minister David Cameron, who said “This guy is clearly a complete idiot” and that “[he should] look at Birmingham and see what a fantastic example it is bringing people together of different faiths and different backgrounds and building a world-class brilliant city”

In the light of these kinds of comments, the channel has recently been accused of scaremongering and of attempting to stir up hatred of Muslims in ways that have been generally considered absurd. However, Hidalgo’s comments represent the first time the mockery has turned into actual threats of legal action. Rumours that the City of Birmingham may launch similar legal action have been confirmed as false.

Hidalgo’s ire was drawn by comments suggesting the city of Paris featured “no-go zones” for non-Muslims, and that the city felt “a bit like Afghanistan.” Hidalgo claims that this constitutes defamation of the city, saying “The image of Paris has been prejudiced, and the honor of Paris has been prejudiced.”

Based on this, Hidalgo expressed the opinion that “When we’re insulted, and when we’ve had an image, then I think we’ll have to sue, I think we’ll have to go to court, in order to have these words removed.”

Fox News has largely dismissed the idea of this lawsuit. Michael Clemente, the network’s executive vice president, described the idea of the lawsuit as “a bit misplaced.” The highest-rated host on Fox, Bill O’Reilly, also commented on the lawsuit as part of his regular programme. O’Reilly said that the idea was “ridiculous.” He went on to make comments such as “the mayor is a socialist,” “this is an attention-getter” and “Fox News isn’t even seen in France.”

Legal experts are sceptical about the chances of the lawsuit’s success, partly because of international complications. Precedents suggest US courts do not recognise the concept of defamation against a city, and Fox’s limited presence in France gives limited power to French courts on the matter.

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Discount Air Travel Site Sued by Travel Companies

Air TravelSkiplagged, a site dedicated to finding cheap airfares is facing legal action from Orbitz and United Airlines. The two major travel companies say they are suing the site to regain lost revenue.

The site is dedicated to uncovering lower airfares by identifying cheaper flights that include a stopover in your desired destination. For instance, suppose you wanted to fly to New York. It may be cheaper to book a flight to a lower-demand destination which includes a stopover in New York than to simply book onto a New York flight. Then, when you reach the stopover you simply remain in New York rather than travelling on to the final destination. The site in question is dedicated to helping people identify opportunities to save money through using this method.

There are some catches to this approach. For a start, it only works with one-way tickets. Furthermore, those who travel with this method cannot book in any luggage. If they did, they would find they are unable to claim it in their stopover destination as it would be taken onwards to the destination they had booked. However, many travellers have found that this kind of booking is adequate for their needs and have been saving money with help from the website in question.

Orbitz and United Airlines claim that by helping customers to do this, Skiplagged is engaging in “unfair competition.” They are suing Skiplagged in order to reclaim the revenue they have lost as a result of people manipulating the system and paying less for their flights. The claim that the revenue they have lost as a result of people using Skiplagged amounts to at least US$75,000.

The two firms said, in their legal filing, that the site was making them breach contracts by “intentionally and maliciously” interfering in their operations. Furthermore, they claimed that the use of this kind of “hidden city” ticket is restricted on account of “logistical and public safety concerns,” meaning that passengers were breaking the rules when using Skiplagged.

However, the founder of Skiplagged, Aktarer Zaman, denies any wrongdoing. He claims that he has merely helped people to save money and exposed “inefficiencies” in the way airlines handle ticket prices. He also claims not to have made any profit from the site. The 22-year-old developer has launched a fundraising campaign to help raise the money needed to fight the legal battle.

In a blog post, Zaman wrote: “Everything Skiplagged has done and continues to do is legal, but the only way to effectively prove this is with lawyers.”

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