World and Nation

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Governor Proposes Closing 8 Courts In New Hampshire

Gov. John Lynch of New Hampshire on Thursday proposed closing a quarter of the state’s district courts as part of a plan to deal with a $500 million two-year budget gap.

The plan, which would close eight of New Hampshire’s 33 district courts, comes as the state’s superior courts are halting jury trials for a month because of the state’s fiscal woes. The pause in trials, which will continue on a rotating basis until April, is expected to save the state about $73,000.

Closing the small district courts and sending their cases to larger courts has been mulled for years. It is expected to save $2 million a year for two years, mainly the cost of leasing court buildings, without layoffs.

Even so, some worry the consolidation could change the judicial landscape.

“A lot of them seem like they could be easily done,” said Chuck Temple, a professor at Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H., and director of the school’s criminal practice clinic. “But it’s going to be a fairly drastic change to a system I think has been working well, both civilly and criminally, for a long time.”

IRS Study Tries to Assess Whether Hospitals Earn Their Tax Breaks

Nonprofit hospitals vary widely in the amount and type of charitable benefits they provide the communities they serve, an Internal Revenue Service study released Thursday found.

The two-year study also found that most hospitals followed proper procedures in establishing salaries and benefits for their executives.

Over the last several years, members of Congress have raised concerns over whether nonprofit hospitals provide enough free care and other community benefits to justify their tax exemptions.

There is, however, no test for measuring how much community benefit is enough or even what constitutes community benefit. The bulk of one hospital’s community benefit may be producing pamphlets on the importance of prenatal care, while another’s may be the cost of treating uninsured patients.

“There are no bright lines,” said Lois G. Lerner, director of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt organizations.

The almost 500 hospitals responding to the IRS survey reported spending an average of 9 percent of their total revenues on providing community benefits, including free medical care, education and research.

Britain Refuses Entry To Dutch Lawmaker

A Dutch member of Parliament who has compared the Quran to “Mein Kampf” and blamed Islamic texts for inciting the 9/11 attacks was detained by immigration officials at Heathrow Airport on Thursday and forced to board the next flight back to the Netherlands. His deportation had been ordered by Britain’s home secretary on the grounds that his presence in Britain endangered public safety.

The lawmaker, Geert Wilders, had been invited to the House of Lords for a screening of his film “Fitna,” which caused outrage in the Muslim world after it appeared on the Internet last year. It juxtaposes images of the Quran with reports of the 9/11 attacks, as well as gruesome images of the Madrid, Spain, bombings in 2004, the London transit attacks in 2005 and other atrocities. It also suggests that parts of the Quran have contributed to provoking violence by Muslim extremists.

Wilders’ deportation — an action British officials said had occurred only a handful of times in the case of a citizen from another European Union nation — attracted widespread attention. Although he had been informed of the Home Office ban by the British Embassy in The Hague this week, Wilders boarded a flight in Amsterdam and arrived at Heathrow to the accompaniment of live television coverage by Britain’s main news channels.

“This is something you’d expect from Saudi Arabia, not Britain,” he said before his flight from Amsterdam.

Wilders, whose Freedom Party holds nine seats in the 120-seat Dutch Parliament, had framed the affair as a test of freedom of speech and as a demonstration of what he has called the “Islamicization” of Europe.

Together with his host for the London screening, Malcolm Pearson, whose United Kingdom Independence Party campaigns for the preservation of Britain’s traditionalist culture, he has succeeded in stirring a strident debate in Britain.

U.S. Agents Scrutinize Texas Firm

For years, R. Allen Stanford, a flamboyant Texas billionaire, richly rewarded the well-heeled clients of his private investment empire.

But now federal authorities are investigating whether those rewards were simply too good to be true.

Several federal agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service, have spent “many months” looking into the business activities of the Stanford Financial Group, which is based in Houston, and Stanford’s bank based in Antigua, which issues high-yielding certificates of deposit, according to two individuals briefed on the investigations who were not authorized to speak publicly.

The focus of the investigations appears to be how the bank could issue CDs that pay interest rates that are more than twice the national average.

A spokesman for Stanford Financial said the company had been told by the SEC and by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a securities industry oversight group, that “their visits to our offices were part of a routine examination.”