January 31, 2011  nº 1.001 -  Vol. 9


"A tree that goes down makes more noise than the forest that grows."

Chinsese Proverb


Insider's view: see how local concerns shape up the global world. Read the daily press review in Migalhas International.

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  • Top News

Davos 2011: World Economic Forum sets up uncertain year

The World Economic Forum has ended with business and political leaders worrying whether the economic boom in Asia, Brazil, the US and Germany can last. Lacking a big theme, this year's meeting of the rich and powerful focused on global threats, from political turmoil to scarce resources. European leaders used the stage in Davos to drive home their message that they will do anything to save the euro. This year, company bosses showed plenty of optimism, but always tempered by warnings that the good times might not last. Government debt, especially in Europe, soaring inflation, especially for food, and scarce resources from food to energy, and cyber threats were all on the long list of worries that dominated the Davos agenda. As so often during the annual meetings in Davos, an outside crisis forced its way on to the agenda, the turmoil spreading through North Africa, from Tunisia to Egypt. A hastily organized session featured two of the technocrats now in ministerial positions in Tunisia's interim government, and throughout the hallways participants swapped the latest news from the unrest in Cairo's streets. However, with few Arab leaders in attendance this year, the discussions lacked the heft that the Davos event used to provide during previous crisis. If this year's Davos served one purpose, then it was confirmation of the fact that India and China are now fully grown players on the world stage, both politically and economically. Discussions at Davos at times appeared to measure the health of the global economy by the strength of growth in both countries.

Rising food prices can topple governments, too

Political unrest has broken out in Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt and other Arab countries. Social media and governmental policies are getting most of the credit for spurring the turmoil, but there's another factor at play. Many of the people protesting are also angry about dramatic price hikes for basic foodstuffs, such as rice, cereals, cooking oil and sugar. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says its global food price index is at a record high, above even where it stood during the last food crisis three years ago. In early 2008, rising prices caused riots in dozens of countries — several of which are now seeing uprisings once again. The problem is one of the top concerns among economists, political leaders and corporate executives, who that rising crop and meat prices will further contribute to political instability in developing and impoverished countries. Rising prices are "leading to riots, demonstrations and political instability," Nouriel Roubini said. "It's really something that can topple regimes, as we have seen in the Middle East. Experts warn that higher prices could hurt consumers and derail the economic recoveries under way in wealthier countries.

Geithner optimistic, despite high unemployment

The Treasury secretary delivered an upbeat message about the prospects for a continued economic recovery while providing little hope of substantially improved employment numbers.

12 years on, tobacco suit due in court

A big tobacco case is set to start on Monday in St. Louis involving dozens of local hospitals, the nation's biggest tobacco companies and 12 years' worth of filings that fill 43 boxes in the city's towering limestone courthouse. But it has attracted little of the intense interest that once surrounded lawsuits against major cigarette producers — a sign, specialists say, that a tumultuous period of tobacco litigation is winding down after more than a decade with little financial damage to the industry.

Arbitration Express

I Love New York (Except For Resolving Global Disputes)

International arbitration has never been hotter and New York is sick of being the sixth most favorite place for companies trying to resolve disputes. London is still the most widely used seat of arbitration.  After all, roughly 90% of cross border transactions are negotiated and drafted in English and when companies choose the laws they want to govern their contracts, English law is still the most common. New York has begun working with the New York State Bar to establish an international arbitration center in the city.  The bar wants to do away with fragmented arbitration facilities by creating a single location where international arbitrators can meet to decide cases. But while New York is trying to catch up to London, it also has to keep an eye on other venues. Geneva, Paris and Tokyo are slightly more popular for dispute resolutions. So is Singapore, which has been aggressively promoting itself as a lower-cost, more convenient alternative to other venues with its "International Arbitration Centre," whose tagline is "Where the World Arbitrates."

"1.000galhas" Gift Winners

Aline Merone, entity matters attorney at Accenture Legal Group, is the winner of "Dicionário jurídico bilingue português/inglês - inglês/português" (Saraiva, 280p.) and Alberto C. S. Fontenelle, legal manager at Repsol Brasil S/A, is the winner of "Audiolivro: inglês jurídico para profissionais" (Saraiva). Both books were written by Marina Bevilacqua de La Touloubre.

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  • MiMIC Journal

China introduces first property tax for home buyers

China has introduced its first property tax for home buyers to try to curb record house prices and tame inflation. The measure, which came into effect on Friday, will apply to those buying second homes in Shanghai and Chongqing. The tax, paid annually, is between 0.4% and 1.2% of the purchase price, depending on how the price compares with market averages.

Inflation in China may limit U.S. trade deficit

Inflation is starting to slow China's export machine as buyers from Western companies balk at higher prices.

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  • Brief News

US judge may escalate battle over healthcare reform

A Florida judge could on Monday become the second U.S. judge to declare President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law unconstitutional, in the biggest legal challenge yet to federal authority to enact the law.

France court upholds same-sex marriage ban

France's Constitutional Council on Friday ruled that the country's same-sex marriage ban does not violate the constitution. The council emphasized it may only interpret existing laws under the constitution, but that the legislature has the power to make new laws allowing gay marriage. A lawyer for the gay couple who brought the complaint said that the issue has been passed to the politicians, and that he remains optimistic that the government may yet legalize gay marriage. Corinne Cestino and Sophie Hasslauer, who have lived together for 15 years and have four children, sought for the right to marry and challenged the ban in a Reims court, saying it limited their personal freedoms. The Court of Cassation, the country's highest court of appeals, in November ordered the Constitutional Council to rule on the constitutionality of the law.

UN officials urge Egypt to respect rights of protesters

UN officials including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, on Friday urged the Egyptian government to exercise restraint and respect the rights of protesters. Navi Pillay acknowledged reports of tactics including rubber-coated bullets, tear gas, water cannons and batons, and called on the government to investigate the reports of excessive force including civilian deaths. Pillay also pressed the government to lift the emergency law that has been in force for nearly 30 years and restore the use of mobile phones and social networks.

One case down, but Guantanamo far from closing

Ahmed Ghailani, the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried in a U.S. civilian court, was sentenced to life in prison this week. But that doesn't necessarily mean that more civilian trials will follow. Efforts to close the U.S. prison in Cuba have hit a host of hurdles.

Spain judge seeks US government response to Guantanamo abuse allegations

Spanish judge Eloy Velasco on Friday set a March 1 deadline for the US government to indicate whether Guantanamo abuse allegations will be investigated by US lawyers before deciding whether to allow a controversial lawsuit against former Bush administration officials to move forward. The lawsuit, originally filed in 2009, accuses high profile lawyers including former attorney general Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Douglas Feith, Jay Bybee and John Yoo of inventing a legal cover for torture at Guantanamo. Judge Velasco provided one final month for the US to respond, noting that previous requests have gone unanswered. The judge also requested evidence that the three former Guantanamo inmates are Spanish citizens. The case, although not the only Guantanamo-related lawsuit in international courts, may further heighten tensions between the US and Spain.

Burma's parliament opens new session

The new parliament in Burma has convened for the first time since elections were held last November. The poll was widely criticised by Western governments and by democracy activists within Burma. The first sitting of the bicameral national parliament brings into effect a new constitution and officially ends nearly 50 years of military rule. But critics say the real power in Burma will still be in the hands of a few key generals.

Indonesia sex tape star is jailed

A court in Indonesia has sentenced one of south-east Asia's best known pop stars to three-and-a-half years in prison for making and distributing sex videos on the internet. The tapes of Nazril Irham, or Ariel as he is known, and two other celebrities, were made public last June. Ariel denied distributing the videos, saying they had been stolen. The 29-year-old was found guilty of "giving an opportunity for others to spread, produce and prepare a pornographic video", according to the verdict.

Egypt severs internet connection amid growing unrest

Internet connections across Egypt have been cut, as authorities geared up for a day of mass protest. Net analysis firms and web watchers have reported that the vast majority of the country's internet has become unreachable. The unprecedented crack down has left millions of Egyptians without internet access. There has been unprecedented protest in the country over the past few days - much of it coordinated via the web.

Governments go online in fight against terrorism

As officials try to counter Internet recruitment and indoctrination by radical Islamists, they are finding that the messenger used is as important as the message.

Irish finance bill passes final hurdle

A crucial finance bill has been passed by the Republic of Ireland's upper house, the senate. The finance bill is a condition of Ireland's 85bn euro bailout package. The approval leaves the way clear for a general election to be called.

EU studies Kosovo 'organ traffic' allegations

The EU mission in Kosovo has begun investigating allegations that Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) rebels engaged in organ trafficking. "Eulex prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation," the EU rule of law mission (Eulex) said. On Tuesday the Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog, approved a report by its investigator, Dick Marty. Organs were taken from prisoners killed by the KLA after the 1999 war against Serb forces, Marty alleged.

India condemns US for radio-tagging duped students

India has condemned US authorities for tagging Indian students who, it says, were duped by a fake university. External Affairs Minister SM Krishan said Indian students were "not criminals" and that radio collars put around their ankles must be removed. US authorities have shut down the Tri-Valley University near San Francisco, accusing it of an immigration fraud. The university has more than 1,500 students and reports say nearly 95% of them are from India. Most of the students are reported to be from the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh and many of them now face deportation.

US military to begin training on gay troops change

The Pentagon has begun preparing the US military for the presence of openly gay troops in its ranks and said a training program would begin in February. Gay troops could begin serving openly by the summer, once training has been completed and the White House agrees the policy will not hinder fighting. But the Pentagon warned that troops' same-sex spouses would not be eligible for military benefits. Last month the US Congress overturned the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

New lethal injection drug raises concerns

 A dwindling supply of sodium thiopental has forced states to find an alternative drug for lethal injections. Corrections officials in Oklahoma have started using pentobarbital, and Ohio says it will soon follow suit. But death penalty opponents have raised questions, since the drug hasn't been tested for this use.

For many companies, low taxes key to profits

The US tax system is broken, Obama said during his State of the Union address. Some companies pay no taxes at all, he said, while others pay among the highest tax rates in the world. Obama is only the latest government CEO to call for a fairer system.

Glaxo settles Avandia drug heart attack death suit on eve of first trial

GlaxoSmithKline Plc said it settled on the eve of trial a lawsuit alleging its Avandia diabetes drug caused a North Carolina man to die of a heart attack, avoiding a jury determination over risks associated with the medicine.

Starbucks defeats Kraft's bid to stop it from ending deal

Starbucks Corp. can't be stopped from ending a distribution agreement with Kraft Inc. in favor of a plan by the world's largest coffee-shop operator to buy companies to build up its grocery business, a judge ruled. In December, Kraft sued to prevent Starbucks from terminating the deal before the companies resolved their dispute. Seattle-based Starbucks plans to purchase businesses to expand its supermarket distribution. U.S. District Judge Cathy Seibel disagreed with the contention by Northfield, Illinois-based Kraft that it faces "irreparable harm" if Starbucks was allowed to terminate the agreement, which is required for a preliminary injunction. This ruling, at a hearing in federal court in White Plains, New York, was confirmed by Seibel's chambers. Seibel's ruling doesn't block Kraft from pursuing a claim for damages against Starbucks if the company goes ahead with its plan.

Taco Bell strikes back against suit

Taco Bell is striking back against a lawsuit that challenges the actual beef content in its beef tacos, showing how a suit's target can use social media to mount a speedy and widespread defense. Taco Bell, a Yum Brands Inc. unit with almost 6,000 stores world-wide, responded swiftly with a spicy, blitzy  and potentially risky retort to the lawsuit. Its rebuttals include full-page newspaper ads headlined, "Thank you for suing us."

AU official accuses ICC chief prosecutor of 'double standards'

African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson Jean Ping said on Saturday that International Criminal Court (ICC) Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo is guilty of double standards by targeting citizens of African states for prosecution. The comments come in the wake of a vote by Africa's foreign ministers, who on Friday supported Kenya's bid to defer the trials of numerous suspects who allegedly planned the 2007 post-election violence. Ping indicated that the AUC is not against the ICC, but just Moreno-Ocampo's involvement in it. Kenya awaits an approval from its head of state before it will invoke Article 16, which would allow the country to ask the UN Security Council to have the case deferred or suspended. Kenya argues that its citizens should not be charged with crimes against humanity when people from other countries, such as Myanmar and Iraq, are not prosecuted by the ICC. Moreno-Ocampo previously rejected such criticism, noting the role of the ICC as a court of last resort for countries unable to prosecute supsects themselves. The Kenyan cases were refered to the ICC after they failed to be prosecuted locally.

After move to cut subsidies, Bolivian ire chastens leader

Bolivia's situation reflects those faced by governments in energy-rich countries: the drain fuel subsidies put on public finances, and the political risks involved in curtailing them.

Microcredit pioneer faces an inquiry in Bangladesh

The government of Bangladesh has ordered an inquiry into Grameen Bank, the microfinance institution founded by Muhammad Yunus.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

Time
Why Obama loves Reagan. The Role Model. Barack Obama realized long ago that Ronald Reagan was a transformational President who reshaped the nation and its politics. Now Obama is fashioning his own presidency to follow the Gipper's playbook.

Newsweek
Rage Against the Regime. From Tunisia to Egypt to Yemen, a youthful uprising is challenging the Arab world’s rulers. But if the old order falls, what will take its place?

Business Week
My Way. Larry Page's Google 3.0 The company co-founder and his star deputies are trying to root out bureaucracy and rediscover the nimble moves of youth.

The Economist
The union's troubled state. A strikingly unaudacious speech from Barack Obama failed to address America’s problems.

Der Spiegel
Warum Deutschland die Frauenquote braucht - Eine Streitschrift.

  • Daily Press Review

Teenage Suicide Bomber Kills Four in Pakistan
Nahamet, Online news portal, Beirut, Lebanon

Israeli court jails Amir Makhoul for nine years for spying
The Daily Star, Independent daily, Beirut, Lebanon

Tight security at Burma parliament
Daily Express, Conservative tabloid, London, England

Light pollution disrupts sleep of wildlife and wrecks human sleeping patterns, campaigners warn
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Mobile services resume in Egypt, most of internet down
DMeurope, Online news portal, Amsterdam, Netherlands

EGYPT: Mubarak's future uncertain as army refuses to disperse protesters
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

Leaders urge Egypt reforms; evacuations planned
Hurriyet Daily News, (Liberal, English-language), Istanbul, Turkey

Exxon, Rosneft Sink $1Bln in Black Sea
The Moscow Times, Independent daily, Moscow, Russia

Illegal RI migrant worker dies in Malaysia
Antara News, News agency, Jakarta, Indonesia

Somali Pirates Must Be Dealt with Lawfully in Korea
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

Disabled athletes handicapped by poor facilities, coaching
Pajhwok Afghan News, (Independent news agency), Kabul, Afghanistan

Champions TP Mazembe retain Super Cup
CongoPlanet.com, Independent online news aggregator

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