BHL Bogen

BHL Bogen
BridgehouseLaw LLP - Your Business Law Firm

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Green Apple in North Carolina

Maiden, North Carolina, is home to Apple's largest and most recent data center, which in turn is at the heart of the company's latest push into cloud storage and cloud computing through its iCloud service.

The North Carolina data center will also showcase “the nation's largest end-user-owned, onsite solar array,” as the company's' 2012 environmental update report boasts. When completed, the 100-acre, 20-megawatt facility will produce 42 million kWh annually.

That's not it, though. Apple is also building a fuel cell installation that is planned to go online sometime this year. It will be the largest non-utility fuel cell installation operating in the United States. The 5-megawatt facility is located directly adjacent to the data center and will be powered by 100 percent biogas. It will provide more than 40 million kWh of around-the-clock baseload renewable energy annually.

The data center already is exceptionally energy efficient and has earned the LEED Platinum certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. The environmental report states some of the energy-efficient elements of the facility to be:
  • “A chilled water storage system to improve chiller efficiency by transferring 10,400 kWh of electricity consumption from peak to off-peak hours each day.
  • Use of “free” outside air cooling through a waterside economizer operation during night and cool-weather hours, which, along with water storage, allows the chillers to be turned off more than 75 percent of the time.
  • Extreme precision in managing cooling distribution for cold-air containment pods, with variable-speed fans controlled to exactly match air flow to server requirements from moment to moment.
  • Power distributed at higher voltages, which increases efficiency by reducing power loss.
  • White cool-roof design to provide maximum solar reflectivity. ñ High-efficiency LED lighting combined with motion sensors.
  • Real-time power monitoring and analytics during operations.
  • Construction processes that utilized 14 percent recycled materials, diverted 93 percent of construction waste from landfills, and sourced 41 percent of purchased materials within 500 miles of the site.”

Apple is not alone in establishing energy-hungry data centers in North Carolina's foothills. Google and Facebook are neighbors. The reason is that the area was once home to the state's textile and furniture industry and thus already wired for heavy industry. Also, electricity in North Carolina is very cheap, particularly for industrial customers. A further incentive is that state and local authorities gave Apple an attractive ten-year tax deal.

It is not clear how much energy the Maiden data center will use, but it's unlikely that its renewable energy sources will suffice. A large percentage of its energy will be produced by Duke Energy's nearby coal powered plants. In 2011, Greenpeace ranked Apple's data center energy as the dirtiest among 10 technology companies.

Nevertheless, the greening of Apple is certainly welcome. It's good for the state economy, it's good for the environment.

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Volkswagen Plant in Chattanooga Completes 50,000th Passat

Congratulations are due! Volkswagen Chattanooga completed its 50,000th car this month, a fully loaded white 2.5 liter, 170 horsepower Passat SE. This milestone was achieved less than a year after the plant's official opening on May 24, 2011.

"An incredible amount of care goes into each vehicle we produce in Chattanooga," said Frank Fischer, CEO and Chair of Volkswagen Chattanooga. "Producing 50,000 cars at this level of quality is a huge accomplishment for our team."

The 50,000 cars manufactured include pre-series cars, technical training cars, dealer experience cars, export cars to Mexico and Canada and customer cars for the US.

The Chattanooga, TN, plant employs around 2,500 people, 2000 directly by Volkswagen and 500 by Aerotek, a staffing partner. Volkswagen recently announced the hiring of another 200 full-time workers.

To read the full story, please click here.

(c) Picture: Volkswagen of America

Reminder: H-1B Filing Season Approaching

USCIS will start accepting petitions for H-1B visas on Monday, April 2, 2012, with employment commencing October 1, 2012, at the earliest. This date marks the beginning of fiscal year 2013.

U.S. businesses use the H-1B program to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields, such as scientists, engineers, or computer programmers. The beneficiary of the visa must have at least a bachelor's degree or its equivalent and the degree must be related to the job being offered.

H-1B visas are subject to a yearly cap of currently 65,000, subject to some exemptions, such as for beneficiaries who obtained a U.S. master's degree or higher. The resetting of the cap marks the beginning of the new filing season.

In 2011, the cap was reached on November 22. Any cap-subject petitions that arrived after this date were rejected. In 2009 and previous years, however, the cap was reached within the first few days of the filing season. Petitions were subjected to a random lottery.

It is difficult to guess when the cap will be reached. Generally speaking, the better the economy, the quicker the cap is reached. With the economy slowly gaining momentum, it is best to submit H-1B visa petitions as early as possible to be on the safe side.

Please click here for more USCIS information on the H-1B Fiscal Year 2012 cap season.

Should you have any Immigration Law related questions or concerns, please visit our website.

(c) Picture: USCIS

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Facebook Friend Request Leads to Jail

To follow up on our previous blog post: Facebook cannot only get you in trouble in Germany these days, but also in the United States...

A Florida juror, who claims he mistakenly sent a friend request to the defendant in an automobile negligence case, was dismissed when the defendant showed the request to her lawyer, who then took the matter to the judge.

Following his dismissal from the case, the juror decided to post the following message to his Facebook account: "Score ... I got dismissed!! apparently they frown upon sending a friend request to the defendant ... haha.”

The presiding judge was not amused. After a two hour hearing, she said: "I cannot think of a more insidious threat to the erosion of democracy than citizens who do not care." The judge ultimately found the former juror guilty of criminal contempt of court.

Befriender beware....

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Facebook-Account als Beweismittel beschlagnahmt

Was in den USA schon gang und gäbe ist, könnte nun auch in Deutschland Eingang finden. Ein Richter in Reutlingen hat den Facebook-Account eines 20-Jährigen beschlagnahmt, weil dieser über Facebook den entscheidenden Hinweis für einen Einbruch gegeben haben soll. Durch die Beschlagnahmung des Accounts des Angeklagten, der unter dem Pseudonym „El Capone“ agiert, soll versucht werden, dies zu beweisen.

Bisher griffen Strafverfolgungsbehörden nur auf die öffentlichen Facebook-Pinnwände von Beschuldigten zu. Private, zwischen einzelnen Mitgliedern verschickte Nachrichten waren dem Zugriff entzogen.

Bei den über soziale Netzwerke versandten Direktnachrichten drängen sich jedoch Parallelen zu Emails auf. Und Emails werden auch in Deutschland beschlagnahmt.

Liegt ein richterlicher Beschluss vor, händigen deutsche Betreiber von Emaildiensten die gewünschten Emails an den Ermittlungsbehörden aus. Der Reutlinger Amtsrichter kontaktierte Facebook Deutschland in Hamburg, wurde aber auf die Kollegen in Irland mit dem Hinweis verwiesen, nur diese hätten Zugriff auf die gewünschten Daten.

Ein Rechtshilfeersuchen nach Irland ist schon ergangen. Dieser Weg kostet aber Zeit und Geld. Womöglich wird der Angeklagte die gewünschten Informationen daher freiwillig herausgeben. Das zumindest hofft der Richter, der einen entsprechenden Hinweis an den Angeklagten gegeben hat. Für die Fortentwicklung des Rechts wäre das nicht zu wünschen.

Es ist wahrscheinlich nur eine Frage der Zeit, bis der nächste Fall dieser Art kommt. Insbesondere die jüngere Generation zieht die Nachrichtenfunktion von Facebook herkömmlichen Emails vor.

Es bleibt spannend. Selbstverständlich werden wir Sie über die weiteren Entwicklungen auf dem Laufenden halten.

(c) Picture: facebook

Caterpillar Strikes Deal to Build Georgia Plan

Caterpillar Inc. said it chose a site near Athens, Georgia, for a new $200 million factory that will employ about 1,400 people and make construction equipment currently produced in Sagami, Japan.

The selection came after the Peoria, Illinois, maker of heavy equipment reviewed proposals from "more than 100 communities in three dozen states plus Canada and Mexico," a spokesman said on Friday.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal hailed the plant as "a game changer" for the Athens area in northeast Georgia.

To read the full article, please click here.

(c) Picture: Caterpillar

Monday, February 20, 2012

Arizona Rethinks Immigration Policy: it's the Economy, Stupid!

Arizona, once a trailblazer in cracking down on illegal immigration, is rethinking its ways.

While a number of states jumped on the Arizona bandwagon and copied the state's illegal immigration laws in an effort to reduce their unemployment rate and rev up the local economy, it's becoming clear that the laws' unintended consequences, in particular to the economy, have been severe. Studies show that jobs are being lost, GDP is shrinking, and tax revenue is declining.

To stop the downward spiral, public and private leaders in Arizona introduced what is called the “Arizona Accord” last month, which seeks to recognize the contributions immigrants have made and strike a more conciliatory tone towards both the federal government, which took the states to court over the laws, and immigrants themselves.

Indeed, the architect of the original 2010 Arizona immigration law, Republican state Senator Russell Pearce, was ousted from office last November. His electorate preferred Jerry Lewis, a Senate candidate who promised less confrontational immigration policies.

The last Arizona legislative session also saw five illegal immigration proposals defeated. The current session has broadly supported bills circulating that would soften existing illegal immigration laws. Still, there are also two bills that call for stricter measures. Their sponsor, Republican state Senator Steve Smith explains, “I don't have to listen to the business community and CEOs.”

That may be true. In the end, though, it is often enough the economy that makes the ultimate decision.

(c) Picture: Arizona Secretary of State

Friday, February 17, 2012

Charlotte im Wandel – Die Wiederbelebung der Industrie

Dass Charlotte, North Carolina, nach New York City die Finanz- und Bankenmetropole der USA ist, ist mittlerweile hinreichend bekannt. Während New York aber noch von Wall Street beherrscht wird, entsinnt sich Charlotte jedoch ihrer Wurzeln und wendet sich zunehmend auch der Industrie zu.

"Der Zusammenbruch des Finanzsystems hat uns vor Augen geführt, dass wir unsere Abhängigkeit von den Banken reduzieren müssen", so Bob Morgen, Chef der örtlichen Handelskammer.

Mit einer Kombination von Anreizen für Industrieunternehmen, einem hervorragendem Talentpool und einer guten Infrastruktur kristallisiert sich Charlotte immer mehr als eine der attraktivsten Städte im Süden der USA heraus. Der jüngste Erfolg ist die Ansiedlung einer neuen Siemens-Fertigungsstätte für 60-Hertz-Gasturbinen.

Charlotte kümmert sich aber auch um die Familien der herziehenden Fachkräfte. Die Waddell Language Academy bietet vom Kindergarten bis zur Mittelschule Unterricht in vier verschiedenen Sprachen an. Das Programm ist einzigartig in den USA, aber ein voller Erfolg. Die rund 1300 Schüler weisen einen weit höheren Notendurchschnitt als der nationale Durchschnitt vor. Und am Wochenende lockt mit dem ImaginOn eine preisgekrönte und innovative Bibliothek für Kinder.

Klicken Sie bitte hier für den ursprünglichen Hörbeitrag beim ORF.

Wir haben Ihr Interesse an Charlotte geweckt und Ihre Firma bzw. Familie will von Deutschland nach Charlotte, NC umsiedeln? Kein Problem, unser deutsch-amerikanisches Anwaltsteam bei BridgehouseLaw Charlotte hilft Ihnen gern! Besuchen Sie einfach unsere Webseite oder rufen Sie uns an (+1 704.333.5230).

(c) Picture: CNNMoney

USA verklagen älteste Schweizer Bank

Die USA verklagen die Schweizer Privatbank Wegelin & Co., die 1741 gegründet wurde und damit älter als die USA ist. In der Klageschrift wird der Bank vorgeworfen, dass sie geholfen hat, über $1,2 Milliarden USD von wohlhabenden US-Staatsbürgern vor dem amerikanischen Fiskus versteckt zu haben. Es ist das erste Mal, dass die USA deswegen eine Bank und keine Einzelperson verklagt.

Zudem haben amerikanische Behörden über $16 Millionen USD von einem Wegelin-Konto bei der Schweizer UBS AG beschlagnahmt; Wegelin & Co. hat keine eigenen Filialen außerhalb der Schweiz.

2009 hatte die UBS im Rahmen eines Vergleiches mit den USA zugegeben, US-Staatsangehörigen bei der Steuerhinterziehung geholfen zu haben. Um nicht strafrechtlich belangt zu werden, zahlte die UBS $780 Millionen USD und nannte die Namen von mehr als 4.000 ihrer Kunden in den USA.

Wir werden Sie selbstverständlich über den weiteren Verlauf des Verfahrens informieren.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

BridgehouseLaw Internship Program

BridgehouseLaw ist eine internationale, wirtschaftsrechtlich ausgerichtete Kanzlei mit Standorten in Atlanta, Charlotte, Köln und München. Wir beraten schwerpunktmäßig Mandanten bei internationalen Transaktionen, insbesondere im Handels- und Gesellschaftsrecht, Immobilien- und Bankrecht sowie im Investment- und Steuerrecht. Darüber hinaus begleiten unsere Anwälte Mandanten bei transnationalen Rechtsstreitigkeiten und beraten im Einwanderungs- und Staatsangehörigkeitsrecht.

Zur Mitarbeit und Ausbildung in der Anwalts- bzw. Wahlstation suchen wir engagierte und qualifizierte Rechtsreferendare sowie Studenten der Rechtswissenschaft, des Unternehmens- und Wirtschaftsrechts für eine Wahlstation oder ein Praktikum in den USA. Die Ausbildung erfolgt wahlweise in unserer Kanzlei in Atlanta (Georgia) oder Charlotte (North Carolina). Ziel ist es ausländischen Juristen praktische Erfahrung in Bezug auf eine Vielzahl US-amerikanischer Rechtsgebiete zu geben.

Sie haben Gelegenheit, mit allen Anwälten interessante Projekte zu bearbeiten, wobei wir versuchen, Ihren Neigungen und Qualifikationen zu entsprechen und Ihnen Projekte entsprechend zuzuteilen. Das BridgehouseLaw Internship Program zeichnet sich durch seine “hands-on experience“ aus, das heißt Sie haben die Möglichkeit ein Projekt aktiv mit zu betreuen.

Aussagekräftige Bewerbungen in englischer Sprache sind an Rechtsanwältin Judith Haensel in Charlotte bzw. Rechtsanwalt Sebastian Meis in Atlanta zu richten:

Judith S. Haensel, LL.M.
The Johnston Building, Suite 325
212 South Tryon Street
Charlotte, NC 28281

Sebastian Meis, LL.M.
1170 Peachtree Street N.E.
Suite 325 Suite 1750 – The Proscenium
Atlanta, GA 30309

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Debate Continues: Tweets Get UK Tourists Arrested by U.S. Border Authorities

We previously reported on our blog about two British tourists who were detained and prevented from entering the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program due to a couple of unfortunate tweets. Forbes now quoted a spokesperson from U.S. Customs and Border Patrol stating that the tweets were not the original basis of heightened interest in Mr. van Bryan and Ms. Banting, but apparently a concerned citizen:

“Based on information provided by the LAX Port Authority Infoline – a suspicious activity tipline – CBP conducted a secondary interview of two subjects presenting for entry into the United States,” and that “[i]nformation gathered during this interview revealed that both individuals were inadmissible to the United States and were returned to their country of residence.”

According to the form issued to Mr. van Bryan upon denial of entry, “Mr. Bryan confirmed that he had posted on his Tweeter [sic] website account that he was coming to the United States to dig up the grave of Marilyn Monroe. Also on his tweeter account Mr. Bryan posted that he was coming to destroy America.”

As things stand now, U.S. authorities might not have stumbled across the tweets themselves after all. But was their discovery the result of a concerned citizen taking action – or of a practical joke gone wrong?

(c) Picture: Twitter

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Alabama's Immigration Law – The “Law of Unintended Consequences”

Crops rotting in fields, long lines at courthouses to renew car tags, massive amounts of paperwork for companies doing business with the government, and the shrinking of GDP between $2.3 billion USD and $10.8 billion USD (1% to 6% of GDP, respectively).

Alabama has a problem, and that problem is House Bill 56.

State legislature passed the bill last year. It is considered to be one of the toughest immigration laws in the nation, requiring, inter alia, schools to record the immigration status of all students and proof of citizenship to renew a driver's license.

So, joining the ranks of those who oppose the law and would have it repealed or tweaked on humanitarian grounds are now those who feel its economic and bureaucratic pinch is too strong. NPR has even called it “the law of unintended consequences."

A number of provisions have already been ruled unconstitutional, and several bills have been introduced to modify it. It remains to be seen what HB 56 develops into.

For more information on this topic, please click here.

(c) Picture: Alabama Department of Archives and History.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Summer Work Program Set for Overhaul After Systematic Abuse of Foreign Students Discovered

The Council for Educational Travel, USA, has been removed from the U.S. State Department's summer work program. The council, known as Cetusa, may no longer sponsor foreign students coming to the United States looking for summer jobs. The removal of the company follows a walkout by hundreds of foreign students from a Pennsylvania plant packing Hershey's chocolates last summer to protest low pay and dangerous work conditions. The students had been placed there by Cetusa.

A review of the entire program had already been ordered in 2010 by Hillary Rodham Clinton, but the students' strike accelerated the audit of whether companies were abusing the program by “putting the labor aspect in the primary position, when it should be the cultural aspect,” said Rick Ruth, acting deputy assistant secretary of state. He also said that the Department would be issuing new regulations during the next couple of months aimed at banning a number of the statistically most hazardous jobs.

To read the full story, please click here.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Tweets Get UK Tourists Arrested by U.S. Border Authorities

“Free this week, for quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America?” is what Leigh van Bryan, 26, tweeted to friends about his upcoming trip to Hollywood, California. While “destroy” means “party” in British slang, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security flagged him as a potential threat, ultimately leading to his arrest after a five hour interrogation and spending 12 hours in a cell with Mexican drug dealers before being placed on a plane back home.

Because he had also tweeted “3 weeks today, we're totally in LA p****** people off on Hollywood Blvd. and diggin' Marilyn Monroe up!”, a quote from the popular US animated comedy series “Family Guy”, U.S. authorities also decided to search his suitcase for digging tools.
His friend Emily Banting suffered the same treatment. She was supposed to act as Leigh's lookout while he set to work on Marilyn Monroe's grave.

In the future, both Leigh and Emily will have to apply for visas if they want to visit the US, as they are no longer eligible for the visa waiver program.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been criticized for scanning social networks such as Twitter and Facebook for certain terms such as “drill”, “strain”, “illegal immigrant”, “virus”, “strain,” and “collapse.”

To read the full story, please click here.

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