June 13, 2011 nº 1,053 - Vol. 9

"In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die."

Dorothy L. Sayers

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  • Top News

Legal-claim buyers bail out lawyers and clients

Banks, hedge funds and other buyers of legal claims are effectively bailing out lawyers and their clients. U.S. court cases like the Lehman Brothers and Bernard Madoff bankruptcies can take years to resolve. But Wall Street's latest breed of investor offers quick cash for claims -- and useful jobs for lawyers in a sluggish legal market. The idea behind the business is that many people can't afford to enforce their legal rights. So they can cash out at a discount if they hold a patent or bankruptcy claim. If they filed a lawsuit, they can sell a share of the prospective settlement or judgment. They get money upfront, and the buyer takes the risk of pursuing the claim for a bigger payout.

And the payout is sometimes enormous. In the 2008 bankruptcy of poultry producer Pilgrim's Pride, investors who paid pennies on the dollar for claims made millions after Brazilian beef producer JBS bought an $800m stake in the company while paying creditors in full. Hoping for similar success, distressed-asset firms like Contrarian Capital bid for victims' shares of the potential Madoff recovery. Silver Point Capital and other hedge funds have similarly traded in Lehman bankruptcy claims. Lawsuit investors are also cashing in, in the US and the UK. Counsel Financial, backed by Citigroup, and other lenders put about $35m into lawsuits filed by Ground Zero workers after the Sept. 11 attacks. The suit settled last year for more than $700m, and the investors profited to the tune of $11m. Patent trolling -- buying patents and seeking payment from alleged infringers -- is booming as well. Former Kirkland & Ellis partner John Desmarais started his own law firm last year to enforce patents he acquired from chip maker Micron Technology. Lawyers, in fact, are flocking to the business as experts in valuing legal claims. Last month, the top bankruptcy lawyer for Lehman quit his firm to join bankruptcy-claims trader Claims Recovery Group.

Critics fear that more capital for legal disputes fuels litigation -- and creates financial pressure to settle cases quickly. But many states overturned laws against funding lawsuits, recognizing that smart investors have little incentive to back frivolous claims. Litigation requires gobs of time and money, and many people with worthy cases have neither. They deserve a little grease on the grinding wheels of justice.

Hackers and clouds: how secure is the web?

Hackers are joining forces with the FBI to combat cyber attacks. But even with their inside knowledge, protecting information online is challenging. Two new victims took a hit in the Wild West world of computer hacking this week: Citibank, where 200,000 credit card holders were victimized, and the International Monetary Fund, which reportedly also endured a cyber attack. The FBI is on the case — so much so that 1 in 4 hackers may now be an informant. The hacker community is one of paranoia and fear as more and more of them join the other side to get out of trouble. They don't really who know who's doing what. " It seems such an extraordinary contradiction. Here is this community which in popular vision is a community of anarchists, anti-establishment people, and yet here are so many of them actually acting as the eyes and ears, as virtual spies, on behalf of FBI and Secret Service. The overriding atmosphere in the hacker community is one of paranoia and fear as more and more of them join the other side to get out of trouble. As more and more personal and financial information has wound up on the Web, hackers have increasingly banded together to attack that information. Informants are essential to America's defenses. There is almost always an informant in any case, which involves computer hacking where there were multiple defendants charged.

The main group is the carders. They specialize in breaking into databases of credit cards, usually held by banks or credit card companies. They can do millions of dollars of damage in terms of stealing directly from bank accounts, or going out with fraudulent credit cards that they create using this database of information. They do this with very sophisticated attacks. But the FBI has managed to fight them using an old-fashioned trick. "It's the trick they use against drug gangs, it's the trick they use against mobsters and the mafia: You catch a little guy doing a little thing. He becomes essentially a honey trap for big carders and identity thieves in the hacking community." Another tech company hackers were watching closely this week was Apple. CEO Steve Jobs announced the iCloud, a new service that will allow Apple users to store all their email, photos, music and documents on one central server. "By centralizing their data, they've really painted a target on their back." Apple's iCloud is actually a bank of servers in a building the size of two football fields in North Carolina. Though it may be tough to break into the server's headquarters, breaking in online could be another story. There are things everyday Internet users can do to protect their information, like using a VPN client or more secure browsers like Google Chrome, but anything out there is vulnerable to attack given enough time and resources.

Almost 20% of home computers, 7% of corporate ones are botnet slaves

In all probability, it may not be Big Brother that's watching you through your home computer. With nearly one in five machines in individual homes infected by inadvertently downloaded malware, the greater likelihood, it appears, is that a band of cybercriminals has added your home computer to its army of so-called botnet slaves controlled by an offsite master machine. Although corporate computers are usually better protected from infiltration, about 7% of those machines are infected, too. School computers are also a target. Such computer networks are often used to commit financial crimes, but are also employed to steal sensitive information and coordinate attacks in which a website can be flooded with contacts that render it inoperative. Authorities are fighting back, and recently won an unprecedented court order allowing the Federal Bureau of Investigation to briefly take over individuals' enslaved computers in the so-called Coreflood botnet.and cleanse them of malware. While some question the legality of this tactic, experts perceive it as having been effective.

Vague law will hobble economy

CEOs’ persistent complaint that uncertainty about new regulations discouraged investment and job creation was met with a presidential eye roll. In the White House view, the new health care overhaul and Dodd-Frank financial service regulation gave them all the certainty they needed. If the economy is currently enjoying the benefits of certainty, we should all be worried, not just the CEOs. A closer look at derivatives regulation — just one piece of the Dodd-Frank financial bill — brings into focus the consequences of vague legislation written by politicians who don't understand how the economy works.

Derivatives are a kind of financial instrument used in one form or another by nearly every major corporation. This is not just an issue for the J.P. Morgans of the world; Caterpillar, Ford, Procter and Gamble, and Boeing all depend on derivatives to manage business risks. Currency and interest-rate swaps protect companies from changes in interest rates and foreign exchange values. For American firms selling tractors in Japan or gas turbines in Europe, that's a big deal. Enter the Congress. Last year's Dodd-Frank law contains over 100 different provisions dealing with derivatives and swaps. These changes involve things like securities registration, margin requirements, counter-party credit checks, and new compliance officers. Every firm in America — without exception — has been told that it must comply with the new laws beginning July 16. Oh, and by the way, the final rules haven't been written yet. It doesn't take Warren Buffett to realize that when companies don't know what new rules will look like, it affects their ability to commit capital and create new jobs. When I was the operations director for a small electronics firm in Manchester, N.H., I could feel how an uncertain business environment made us less willing to spend money. Businesses delay plant expansions, hold off on equipment purchases, or hire more cautiously throughout the year.

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission are spearheading the rule-writing effort. Displaying a lack of both calendars and business sense, they've assured the markets that "guidance" will be posted on their website — "soon." Allowing just five weeks to finalize and implement dozens of new rules is the height of arrogance and poor planning. It leaves the distinct impression that no one within 500 yards of the White House has ever held a job in the private sector. Without clear rules, market participants can't answer the most basic questions: Can non-financial firms such as farms or manufacturers purchase over-the-counter derivatives? Who is a legal swap dealer? Is my company in compliance with the new law? Poorly written rules will also introduce higher costs for hedging risk, complying with regulations, and defending against swarms of trial lawyers descending on any company that appears vulnerable to claims of "non-compliance." Sensible rules shouldn't be this difficult to finalize. If the legislation is calling for unworkable standards, the regulators should admit it.

Letter to the editor

Sir, I want to give my humble opinion about the political moment that Brazil is: is somewhat fragile structure of government, as Mr Palocci, a few years ago was involved in corruption schemes and the story was the same, although not are analyzing so anachronistic: it leaves the power, but back when voters forget ... this is actually the applicant in a country that does not press for defending their rights and does not fulfill his duties, there is corruption anywhere, on any scale, the that differs is the means by which a government is dealing with this evil, in the case of Brazil, it is rooted from the beginning. Only the political consciousness that we are responsible for our country can be a way of coping in the face of cases like: rule also want is good of the nation. Thanks. C.S. Claudia Sinibaldi is a law graduate with post-graduate degree in politics and international relations, and a frquent commentator in Migalhas International.

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  • MiMIC Journal

China's bank lending dips sharply

China's banks extend fewer than expected new loans in May as the country keeps up its efforts to rein in rising prices.


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  • Brief News

IMF hit by 'very major' cyber security attack

The IMF - International Monetary Fund says it has been targeted by a sophisticated cyber attack. Officials at the fund gave few details but said the attack earlier this year had been "a very major breach" of its systems. Cyber security officials said the hack was designed to install software to create a "digital insider presence". The IMF, which holds sensitive economic data about many countries, said its operations were fully functional. The cyber attack took place over several months.

Iceland drafting new constitution using website, social media

The government of Iceland is letting its general population help shape its new constitution through a number of new media formats, including the Constitutional Council website, where new parts of the working draft are put on the site and rewritten to include public consensus. There are also Twitter and Facebook pages for comments, as well as a YouTube channel dedicated to the drafting process.

Turkish PM vows to seek consensus

The conservative party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won with a strong showing that critics fear will be used to further consolidate its power.

To curb malpractice costs, judges jump in early

Justices work in a new way to handle medical malpractice suits bring about settlements long before the cases moved toward trials. The approach, known as judge-directed negotiation, is seen by the Obama administration as offering states a way to curb liability expenses that have sharply increased health care costs nationally. Getting judges involved earlier, more often and much more actively in pushing for settlements, is its crucial ingredient — evident in the recent session watched by this reporter, one of many that are usually not attended by the public. New York officials say the program bypasses years of court battles, limiting legal costs while providing injured patients with compensation that is likely to be less than a jury would award but can be paid out years earlier, without lengthy appeals.

Breaking up Morgan Stanley

Bernstein's Brad Hintz, in a report titled "Is The Firm Worth More Dead or Alive," values the various pieces of Morgan Stanley.

After wild weather, higher food prices on horizon

This spring, U.S. farmers faced floods, tornadoes, downpours and droughts — all of which made planting difficult. Now in June, intense heat has been sweeping over much of the country. The harsh weather likely will reduce the fall's harvest, which in turn could further drive up grocery bills.

Rights group urges stop to Saudi executions

AI - Amnesty International called Friday for a halt to executions in Saudi Arabia, claiming there is often a lack of basic procedural due process. AI cited a disturbing increase in executions in 2011, which they claim often rely solely on the basis of confessions obtained under duress or deception.

Colombia president signs victims compensation law

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Friday signed legislation to compensate victims of the country's armed conflict. The Victims' and Land Restitution Law, approved by the Senate last month, seeks to compensate millions of individuals by providing damages to relatives of those killed during the armed conflict, which has spanned over 40 years. The law will also help to return land stolen throughout the conflict to its rightful owners.

UN: sexual violence emerges as common war weapon in Libya

UN officials expressed concern on Friday that the heightened rape cases in many war-torn nations indicate that rape is being used as a war weapon to terrorize citizens and cause them to flee because of fear. Recent concerns follow ICC - International Criminal Court claims that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi ordered mass rapes against his rebel opposition. Additionally, the ICC claims that they posses evidence that Gaddafi supplied his troops with contraceptives and Viagra to promote rape and help execute these orders. The Libyan government denies use of rape as a weapon, but the investigation of these alleged crimes will determine whether the ICC will charge Gaddafi for war crimes.

EU lawmakers urge US not to seek death penalty in USS Cole trial

The EP - European Parliament on Thursday urged the US not to seek the death penalty for high-value Guantanamo Bay detainee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, accused planning the USS Cole bombing in 2000. The US DOD - Department of Defense announced in April that al-Nashiri would be tried in a military court and would be subject to capital charges. The EP emphasized in a resolution the importance of the parliament's relationship with the US and restated its opposition to the use of torture, ill-treatment and the death penalty under all circumstances, reiterating that the "abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights." The resolution also noted that al-Nashiri alleged he was held and tortured in a secret CIA prison in Poland.

The hunt for weapons of mass corruption

As the U.S. draws down its combat forces in Iraq, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction is ramping up its investigation and prosecution of soldiers and civilians accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars since the fighting began in 2003.

Croatia to join European Union in 2013

The EC - European Commission officially recommended Croatia for accession to EU - the European Union and announced on Friday that Croatia will become the 28th member of the EU on July 1, 2013. EC President Jose Barroso stated that Croatia has made significant enough improvements in their final four "chapters," Competition, Judiciary and Fundamental Rights, Financial and Budgetary Provisions and Other Issues, to allow closure of the chapters and ultimate accession.

Pakistan high court demands explanation of security force killing

The Pakistan Supreme Court on Friday demanded an explanation of an incident in which Pakistani security forces shot and killed an unarmed man. Several paramilitary soldiers opened fire on an unarmed, 22-year-old man in Benazir Park, then stood by as he died. The incident was caught on tape and disseminated by television and Internet media sources. The rangers filed a FIR - First Information Report detailing the events of the incident. Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry said the rangers' version of the story contradicted the video footage, and ordered the attorney general, the head of Pakistan's Rangers paramilitary force and other government officials to appear in court with a complete record of the incident.

ACLU sues State Department for failure to disclose 'war on terror' documents

The ACLU - American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday filed a lawsuit against the US DOS - Department of State for failing to disclose information about the government's "War on Terror" efforts, even though Wikileaks has already released the desired documents. The ACLU filed a FOIA - Freedom of Information Act request for 23 embassy cables, to which the government has yet to respond. The embassy cables contain information about diplomatic responses to US abduction, interrogation, detention and rendition practices and President Obama's decision to withhold photographs of US interrogations, as well as information about the prosecution and release of Guantanamo Bay detainees and use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

Zuckerman fund loses fraud claims against Madoff auditors

Investors who sunk more than $25m into a fund tied to convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff cannot pursue claims for fraud and negligence against the auditors who signed off on those investments.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

What recovery? Don't Hold Your Breath. This is not your father's recovery. It might not even be a recovery at all. Debunking the myths of the new American economy.

Exodus. They are the new ‘boat people’— migrants and refugees forced to flee for Europe from Africa. Many have died making the journey.

Business Week
Try this! Fixing America's Economy: Nine Ideas from Around the World. Countries as diverse as Germany, Brazil, Singapore, and Thailand can offer ways for the U.S. to shore up its economy.

The Economist
A beatable president. But only if a Republican candidate starts laying out a sensible plan for the American economy.

Der Spiegel
Hitler gegen Stalin - Bruder Todfeind

  • Daily Press Review

Rebels back with vengeance at key oil port near Tripoli
Al Arabiya, Online news, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Bahrain medics on trial over protests
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

Jordan king bows to demand for elected Cabinets
Arab News, Pro-government, Jidda, Saudi Arabia

Iraqis blast US congressman's war repayment idea
Asharq Al-Awsat, Pan-Arab daily, London, England

Jordan Islamists sceptical about king's reform vow
Egyptian Gazette, English-language, Cairo, Egypt

Police arrest operators of extreme right wing website
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

Gallery: Erdogan wins third term as Turkish PM
JPost, Conservative, Jerusalem, Israel

Rights group calls for investigation of Gaza murder
Ma'an News Agency, Bethlehem, Palestinian Territories

Army takes seaport back from Al Qaeda,kills scores of leaders
Yemen Observer, Sana'a, Republic of Yemen

Review to recommend NHS changes
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Four killed in Iraq suicide attack
Daily Express, Conservative tabloid, London, England

Syrian army smash rebel stronghold in Jisr al-Shughour: Thousands flee to Turkey
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

TURKEY: Turkey's ruling AKP wins general election
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

Turkish winery looking up to Michelin stars
Hurriyet Daily News, (Liberal, English-language), Istanbul, Turkey

Some Australian flights resume after ash cloud
Independent The, London, England

Russian oil export duty cuts in the pipeline
Moscow News The, Independent, Moscow, Russia

Who's really afraid of the working classes?
Spiked, (Alternative Internet Magazine), London, England

Universities 'complacent' over Islamic radicals, Theresa May warns
Telegraph The, Conservative daily, London, England

Ryan Giggs: Manchester United star 'preparing for crisis talks with brother after abortion claims'
Telegraph The, Celebrity news, London, England

EC allows EU to observe July 3 polls
Bangkok Post, Independent, Bangkok, Thailand

Syria's army seizes back restive town after mutiny
China Post, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Turkish PM Wins 3rd Term
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

Mobile networks holding up in Christchurch following aftershocks
Computer World, IT information, Fairfax, New Zealand

Syrian forces attack northern town, residents flee
Daily Jang, Left-wing daily, Karachi, Pakistan

Couple charged with fencing stolen Picassos
Dawn, English-language daily, Karachi, Pakistan

Hazare, Ramdev trying to dictate terms to Centre, says Pranab
Hindu The, Left-leaning daily, Chennai, India

Black money: 18 Indians on Liechtenstein List
India Express, News portal, Mumbai, India

New York adds its voice to global no-nuke demos
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Syrian lesbian blog a hoax
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

Syrian forces attack northern town, residents flee
News The, Left-wing, Karachi, Pakistan

8 dead in Quetta sectarian attack
Pajhwok Afghan News, (Independent news agency), Kabul, Afghanistan

Five killed, 25 wounded in Iraq blast
People's Daily Online, English-language, Beijing, China

Jordan's King promises to speed democratic reforms
Straits Times, Pro-government, Singapore

Qantas flying into trouble
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

New Zealand: Strong quakes again rock damaged New Zealand city
Taiwan News, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Arrest police for girl's death, says child panel chief
Thaindian News, Bangkok, Thailand

China confess-a-kickback websites draw inspiration from India
The Economic Times, Business, Mumbai, India

Pashupatinath temple under threat from mice and cockroaches
Times of India, Conservative, New Delhi, India

Agents arrest 187, seize motorcycles and cars in national raid
Dominican Today, Independent daily, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

No willpower: JPS officials rejected suggestions to make electricity cheaper - cable
Jamaica Gleaner, Independent daily, Kingston, Jamaica

Stock index futures signal slight rebound
Reuters, Business News, New York, U.S

How will Afghan women fare in Taliban reconciliation?
Reuters, World News, New York, U.S

Ontario's top court set to hear prostitution challenge
Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

PM pledges equality for Tobagonians
Trinidad Guardian, Independent daily, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad

Libya 'repulses rebels' in Zawiya
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

SOUTH AFRICA: Promise and peril in ARV-based prevention
Irin News, Humanitarian news and analysis, Nairobi, Kenya

Darfur peace talks face new divergences in Doha
Sudan Tribune, Khartoum, Sudan


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