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Lake Stevens to halt drug testing after court ruling
Headline News | 2008/03/14 16:22
Lake Stevens School District plans to suspend student drug testing after the Washington State Supreme Court ruled today that testing of student athletes is unconstitutional.

The district’s lawyer needs to review the court decision, spokeswoman Arlene Hulten said.

“On first blush, it looks like this ruling would impact our programs and we’d have to stop our random drug testing programs for grades 9 to 12,” she said.

Lake Stevens High School is one of the few in the state that uses random drug tests. In a controversial move, the school began testing students involved in extracurricular activities for drugs in 2006.

The tests have helped motivate kids to avoid drugs, Hulten said.

The court unanimously ruled in support of a challenge brought against the Wahkiakum School District's policy of random urine tests of middle school and high school student athletes.


Man in Iced Body Probe Pleads Not Guilty
Headline News | 2008/03/11 11:00
A man arrested after police found a woman's body packed in dry ice in his hotel room pleaded not guilty Monday to two drug-related charges.

Stephen David Royds, 46, is charged with one count each of the sale or transport of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell. A prosecutor said the substance was cocaine.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Derek G. Johnson set Royds' bail at $1 million.

Royds was arrested Thursday after police found the body of Monique Trepp packed in dry ice in a large Rubbermaid container in his hotel room. Police had obtained a warrant to search Royds' room for drugs.

An autopsy concluded that Trepp's death was not a homicide and Royds has not been charged with killing her. Toxicology reports were pending, but Dennis Conway, an Orange County assistant district attorney, said it appeared the 33-year-old died of an overdose.

Royds' court-appointed public defender, Richard Carmona, did not make himself available to reporters after the brief hearing and didn't immediately return a call for comment.

In addition to finding Trepp's body, investigators found drug paraphernalia, drugs and Christmas presents in Royds' room, Conway said.

Police and prosecutors have released few other details about the case, including how long Trepp's body was kept in the room. Conway said she had been dating Royds.

Royds has a prior drug conviction in Orange County in 2002, but did not appear for sentencing. Even if he were to post the $1 million bail on the new charges, he would be held with no bail on the older case, Conway said.



US cracks multimillion-dollar piracy ring
Headline News | 2008/03/10 16:25

Two brothers in the US have been given lengthy jail terms for selling large amounts of pirated computer software. A federal court in Alexandria, Virginia sentenced Maurice Robberson, 48, to three years in prison and ordered him to pay $855,917 in restitution.

His brother Thomas Robberson, 55, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay $151,488 in restitution. Maurice Robberson pleaded guilty to conspiracy and felony copyright infringement, while his brother Thomas Robberson pleaded guilty to a single count of felony copyright infringement.

Thomas Robberson grossed more than $150,000 selling software with a retail value of nearly $1m by operating Bestvalueshoppe.com and TheDealDepot.net.

Maurice Robberson grossed more than $855,000 selling software with a retail value of nearly $5.6m through CDsalesUSA.com and AmericanSoftwareSales.com. Both brothers have agreed to forfeit all proceeds from the illegal businesses.

"People who steal the intellectual property of others for their personal financial gain, while defrauding consumers who think they are buying legitimate products, will be punished for their crimes, as today's sentences prove," said Assistant Attorney General Alice Fisher.



Pfizer Protects Celebrex Patent From Teva
Headline News | 2008/03/08 19:12

Pfizer continued to serve up the pain to Teva Pharmaceutical Industries on Friday when the company reaffirmed its patents on the arthritis pain drug Celebrex.

The U.S. Court of Appeals of the Federal District said that two of the three patents were valid, but threw out the third, saying that it was not valid for the treatment of inflammation. Teva will now have to wait until May 2014 to market the copycat. Celebrex provided Pfizer with annual global sales of $1.7 billion in 2007. Bear Stearns analyst project that it will reach global sales of $2.5 billion in 2008, an increase of 9%, and that the drug will pull in $3.1 billion by 2012.

The New York-based pharma company has been battling it out with Teva Pharmaceutical Industries to hang on to Celebrex for almost four years. Pfizer sued the Israel-based drug maker after it applied to U.S. regulators for permission to sell the generic in 2004. In March 2007, Pfizer won a ruling from a U.S. federal court over three of the main patents regarding Celebrex, barring Teva from manufacturing the generic until 2015.



US lawmaker fears open-ended US military pact in Iraq
Headline News | 2008/03/06 20:48

A top lawmaker voiced fears Tuesday that US President George Bush's administration was negotiating deals with Iraq that would amount to an open-ended commitment to stage US combat missions there.

Administration officials say formal US-Iraqi negotiations will begin later this month on a legal framework aimed at keeping security policy options open for both countries beyond 2008, when the UN mandate for US forces ends.

David Satterfield, the State Department's coordinator for Iraq, told a joint meeting of two congressional subcommittees Tuesday that "the agreements will not tie the hands of the next president or indeed this president.

"They will ensure that every policy option remains on the table," Satterfield told the lawmaking panels. "The size of the US presence in Iraq, the missions to be performed by such forces if forces are present, are decisions for the president and the next president to make," he added.

The so-called Strategic Framework and the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), he insisted, "will not include a binding commitment to defend Iraq or any other security commitments that would warrant Senate advice and consent.



Team New Zealand take Swiss champions to court
Headline News | 2008/03/06 16:58
The New Zealand syndicate for the next America's Cup race said Thursday it is seeking "tens of millions of euros" in compensation from Swiss champions Alinghi over the event's postponement.

Team New Zealand said it had filed a case with a New York court claiming damages for breach of contract arising from an agreement covering its entry for the 33rd edition of yachting's showpiece event.

The agreement included an "understanding entered into by (Alinghi boss) Ernesto Bertarelli that the America's Cup would go ahead in 2009," it said in a statement.

"It's now probable we might not see a normal regatta until 2011," Team New Zealand's managing director Grant Dalton said in the statement.

The statement did not indicate the amount of damages it was seeking. But Dalton told AFP in a telephone interview from New York that it would be "tens of millions of euros."

"We have a duty to protect the investment in the team over many years by a wide range of loyal supporters," Dalton said.

"We also have an obligation to honour the trust shown by the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who have supported the team through the years."

Alinghi retained the America's Cup by beating Team New Zealand in a hugely successful event in the Spanish port of Valencia in July.

But the 33rd edition of the race was indefinitely postponed because of a legal dispute between Alinghi and US syndicate Oracle over the rules.

Team New Zealand said it has also filed a second case in a Federal Court under US anti-trust laws.

That suit claims Alinghi "has acted to stifle competition for the Cup and for the right that goes with it of conducting future events" by accepting the Spanish syndicate Desafio as its challenger of record, "thereby enabling it to impose rules for the next event that were competely one-sided."

Oracle last July filed a lawsuit in the US against Alinghi's decision to name Desafio as its official challenger of record, which gave it the right to negotiate the format of the America's Cup with the Swiss syndicate.

In November, a New York court ruled in favour of Oracle and said the US team should be Alinghi's challenger of record.

"Bertarelli had the chance to accept a reasonable proposal from Oracle, which was also signed by the majority of the challengers, and which would have allowed the America's Cup to be held in 2009," Dalton said. "He would not do so."

Alinghi said it was "disappointed" by the action by Team New Zealand, "given their previous public acceptance and commitment to the competition.

"These actions are totally without merit, wildly miss the target and will be defended rigorously," Lucien Masmejan, Alinghi's legal counsel, said in a statement.

"We share the sailing community's frustration in the delays affecting the America's Cup but Alinghi, as trustee, is duty bound to defend its position in the current legal action and to preserve the integrity of the America's Cup."

The format of the 33rd America's Cup challenge is still subject to an imminent ruling by the New York court, with a multihull duel between Alinghi and Oracle seen as the most likely outcome, rather than a regatta involving several teams.

The two teams have begun training in catamarans in Valencia in preparation for such an event.

"The delay in staging the next America's Cup is harming every challenging syndicate as they have to stretch budgets for a two-year campaign over three or perhaps four years," Dalton said.



Court Skeptical of Passenger Rights Law
Headline News | 2008/03/06 12:57
A federal appeals panel seemed impatient Wednesday with arguments supporting the first law in the nation requiring airlines to provide food, water, clean toilets and fresh air to passengers trapped in a plane delayed on the ground.

The three judges expressed skepticism that states should be allowed to impose such a law on an industry already subject to extensive federal oversight. It was likely, they implied through their questions, that federal authority would pre-empt state laws on the issue.

New York's law requires relief for people who have been trapped in a plane on the ground for at least three hours. It was passed after passengers at Kennedy International Airport were stranded on planes for more than 10 hours with no food and overflowing toilets.

The court did not immediately rule on the constitutionality of New York's Airline Passenger Bill of Rights.

The judges said they were sympathetic to the needs of passengers on planes, but they seemed to agree that only the federal government can regulate airline services.

Judge Brian M. Cogan said New York's law might lead to multiple solutions by states nationwide that would subject airlines to all kinds of requirements.

Judge Debra Ann Livingston agreed.

"There is a patchwork problem in that every state should be concerned about this and probably would write different regulations," she said.

Even though the judges had not yet ruled, Judge Richard C. Wesley defended their apparent stance.

"This is a pre-emption issue. Judges aren't heartless people in black robes. Three judges must decide whether New York stepped over the pre-emption line," Wesley said.

The law was challenged before the appeals court by the Air Transport Association of America, the industry trade group representing leading U.S. airlines.

Seth Waxman, a lawyer for the trade group, told the judges that a dozen other states were considering laws similar to New York's law. He said Congress was considering its own legislation.

"If regulation is required in this area, it must be national to avoid what otherwise is a patchwork solution," Waxman said.

Barbara Underwood, arguing in defense of the law, said it required minimal standards and protected the public.

She said planes in line for takeoff might, after three hours, be forced to return to the gate to pick up more food and water and empty its restrooms or need to summon a delivery service to perform those chores.

A recent federal report showed that about 24 percent of flights nationally arrived late in the first 10 months of last year, which was the industry's second-worst performance record since comparable data began being collected in 1995.

Kennedy airport had the third-worst on-time arrival record of any major U.S. airport through October, behind the New York area's other two major airports, LaGuardia and Newark, according to the report.

Wesley called it a health and safety issue.

"What it really is about is human dignity," Underwood said.

Queens Assemblyman Michael Gianaris, a Democrat, the prime sponsor of New York's Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, said after the arguments that he was not discouraged by the questions posed by the judges. He said he would welcome a national law protecting airline customers.

"I'm hopeful the judges will preserve the law," he said.



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