Judgments against bloggers
The Associated Press reports that bloggers have been targeted by a number of lawsuits: 100 judgments valued at $17 million have gone against bloggers in the past three years. About 60 percent of the judgments relate to defamation, 25 percent were for copyright infringement and 10 percent related to piracy, according to the report.

The article references a $25 million defamation lawsuit against a Miami real estate agent and blogger (see related Inman News article). On Friday, Inman News reported that online real estate referral and rebate company ePerks has filed a lawsuit against a former real estate agent who has posted information about the company at his blog site (read article here).

Builders’ confidence index matches record low
A builder confidence index sank back to a record low level this month, the National Association of Home Builders reported today.

The NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index, which is based on a monthly survey of builders, matched the record low of 18 set in December — the index began in January 1985. Any score below 50 represents a market in which more builders view present and future market conditions as poor than good.

NAHB released the index results during a teleconference today in which association CEO Jerry Howard asked for the U.S. Congress to pass housing stimulus legislation. "Each week that goes by, another 15,000 workers are losing their jobs and 47,000 families are entering foreclosure. Home equity has fallen by $879 billion during the past year alone. Howard said during the teleconference. NAHB’s chief economist, David Seiders, said that a "targeted stimulus such as a temporary home-buyer tax credit" would help reverse the downturn.

Builders settle claims of storm water runoff violations
Builders Centex Homes, KB Home, Pulte Homes and Richmond American Homes have agreed to pay civil penalties totaling $4.3 million to settle alleged Clean Water Act violations of storm water runoff regulations for construction sites. "The alleged violations include not obtaining permits until after construction had begun or failing to obtain the required permits at all. At the sites that did have permits, violations included failure to prevent or minimize the discharge of pollutants, such as silt and debris, in storm water runoff," according to an announcement by U.S. Justice Department and Environmental Protection Agency officials.

Centex will pay $1.5 million; KB Home will pay $1.2 million; Pulte will pay $877,000; and Richmond American will pay $795,000 to settle the four separate claims, according to the announcement. "The settlements require the companies to develop improved pollution prevention plans for each site, increase site inspections and promptly correct any problems that are detected. The companies must properly train construction managers and contractors, and are required to have trained staff at each construction site. They also must implement a management and internal reporting system to improve oversight of on-the-ground operations and submit annual reports to EPA."

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