June 20, 2011  nº 1,056 -  Vol. 9

"Impossibilities are merely things of which we have not learned, or which we do not wish to happen."

Charles W. Chesnutt

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  • Top News

Companies harness mobile phones to protect staff

The tale of the boiling frog, if you don't know it, goes thus: if you place a frog near boiling water it will sense the danger and escape as quickly as possible. If you place the frog in lukewarm water and bring that slowly to the boil it will not notice and inevitably die. This unpleasant anecdote is what lends its name to the Boiling Frog mobile phone application. It is a travel and health app created by ex-special forces and medical experts to provide advice on everything from sunburn and food poisoning, to dealing with unwelcome surveillance, being shot at and how to avoid being kidnapped. One reviewer likened its written, video and audio guides to "having Jack Bauer in your pocket". The boiling frog anecdote is often used when travelling in challenging environments. "When you are first there you will hear a mortar and you will want to take cover, but after three or four months people stop worrying, become blasé and that's when they become a casualty." The app might be useful when bullets are flying but its origins lie in a rather less exciting tale of travelling woe.

These twin concepts of staff safety and practicality explain why more companies are turning their attention to mobile phones as a way to protect their staff. Financial services group Deloitte recently launched a crisis response app called Bamboo, which it aims to roll out to the mobile phones of 100,000 staff across the world in the next two years, while also licensing it to clients. "During an incident, the majority of employees take only their personal belongings with them, such as wallets, keys and, of course, their mobile phones." "In recent incidents clients told us they found plans were out-of-date, contact details were incorrect and the telecoms network suffered failures making voice and data communications difficult." Deloitte's Bamboo app holds disaster response plans that are particular to the user of the handset. It can be updated using push technology as and when the user's company requires. It can also record individuals' responses to a disaster, creating an audit trail for regulators, along with giving companies the chance to learn any lessons from the event. Staff don't need to be in a war zone or disaster area to have their safety put at risk. Those in construction, security and health will be well aware of the inherent dangers, particularly when working alone.

In the modern business environment the physical wellbeing of staff is not the only thing under threat, it is the information in their heads as well. For example, if you are a medium enterprise doing a deal in China, how do you communicate a best and final offer to your colleagues? Over an open line? If you do you've just divulged that secret to everyone. For some companies, when staff goes to Russia or China, they take brand new phones and computers. When they come back those items are destroyed to prevent information from being stolen. Often the effectiveness of mobile phone security is predicated on the idea firms can tell exactly where their staff are at any given moment. Unsurprisingly some staff will object to having their every movement monitored.

International labor body passes new convention to protect rights of domestic workers

The ILO - International Labor Organization adopted a new convention at its annual conference in Geneva Thursday to protect domestic workers' labor rights. The 100 Session of the International Labor Conference came to a close Friday. The convention sets standards for domestic workers in line with basic labor rights as those for other workers, including reasonable work hours, weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours, a limit on in-kind payment, clear information on terms and conditions of employment, including other basic rights such as freedom of association and collective bargaining. In the introductory text, the convention says it was passed: “Recognizing the significant contribution of domestic workers to the global economy, which includes increasing paid job opportunities for women and men workers with family responsibilities, greater scope for caring for ageing populations, children and persons with a disability, and substantial income transfers within and between countries, and ... domestic work continues to be undervalued and invisible and is mainly carried out by women and girls, many of whom are migrants or members of disadvantaged communities and who are particularly vulnerable to discrimination in respect of conditions of employment and of work, and to other abuses of human rights, and... that in developing countries with historically scarce opportunities for formal employment, domestic workers constitute a significant proportion of the national workforce and remain among the most marginalized." The convention must still be ratified by the countries joining it for it to be binding. It is unlikely that the US will ratify the treaty since for the most part labor laws are controlled by the states. The US has only ratified two of the ILO's 189 conventions.

UN rights council passes first gay rights resolution

The UNHRC - UN Human Rights Council passed the "Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity" resolution with a vote of 23-19 and 3 abstentions on Friday. The resolution is the first to call for an end to sexuality discrimination worldwide and to recognize it as a "priority" for the UN. Although the resolution is "binding" to member nations of the UNHRC, it does not address any penalties for violating the act. The resolution "express(es) grave concern at acts of violence and discrimination, in all regions of the world, committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity." It also requests a study and panel to investigate international violence against homosexuals and trans-people. The resolution was introduced by South Africa, the only African nation to vote for its passage. Several African and Middle Eastern nations criticized South Africa and the bill, accusing the nation of "westernizing" and breaking from what "90 percent" of South Africans want, and decrying the UN trying to force controversial ideas with no legal basis on their countries.

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  • MiMIC Journal

Shanghai in power rationing move

Some 3,000 non-industrial businesses in Shanghai will be urged to close on the hottest days this summer because of China's electricity shortages.

Shanghai 'to become world financial centre in a decade'

Shanghai is on track to becoming the world's largest financial centre in a decade, according to a new report. KPMG and index compiler FTSE say that Shanghai will become increasingly important as China develops its stock, currency, bond and derivative markets. One key development will be launch of the Shanghai stock exchange's international board, which the report says should happen in the near future. That will allow foreign companies to raise funds by listing shares in China.

China invests in filmmaking, for image and profit

A government-owned company has hired some of Hollywood's big guns to create films that it hopes will paint the country in a positive light along the way to becoming international blockbusters.

China urged to arrest Sudan president for war crimes

Amnesty International urged China on Friday to withdraw an invitation for Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir to participate in an event there and to arrest him if he travels to the country. Al-Bashir is scheduled to meet Chinese president Hu Jintao and other government officials in China at the end of June. China is not currently a party to the ICC's Rome Statute and therefore has no obligation to the international community to arrest al-Bashir. China is, however, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which formally referred the Darfur case to Luis Moreno-Ocampo, lead prosecutor for the International Criminal Court.


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  • Brief News

Obama 'overruled top legal advice'

Obama overruled the advice of administration lawyers in deciding the US could continue participating in the Libya conflict without congressional approval. The US president opted to follow the advice of White House counsel Robert Bauer and state department legal adviser Harold Koh, who argued the US involvement fell short of "hostilities." The White House insists the president did not need congressional approval to authorize US support for Nato's mission, because the military campaign is limited in scope. Critics argue the action violates a Vietnam War-era law limiting military action without congressional approval to 60 days.

Vatican to set up clergy sexual abuse help center

The Vatican is to set up a new e-learning center to help safeguard children and victims of sexual abuse by clergy, as part of its efforts to deal with damaging scandals. The Vatican has told bishops to come up with guidelines to combat abuse, in line with local laws.

Ben Ali trial in absentia to begin

The trial in absentia of ousted Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali is due to begin later, a day after he denied all charges against him. Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia on 14 January following a popular rising. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on various charges, including corruption and drug trafficking. His lawyers said the trial was an attempt by Tunisia's interim government to divert attention from their failure to restore stability in the country. The Tunisian authorities have been preparing several legal cases against Ben Ali, but Monday's trial will initially cover charges relating to money, weapons and drugs allegedly left behind in his palaces.

Europe fails to agree on Greek aid payout

European governments failed to agree on releasing a loan payment to spare Greece from default, ramping up pressure on Papandreou to first deliver budget cuts in the face of domestic opposition. On the eve of a confidence vote that may bring down Papandreou's government, euro-area finance ministers pushed Greece to pass laws to cut the deficit and sell state assets. They left open whether the country will get the full 12bn euros ($17.1bn) promised for July as part of last year's 110bn-euro lifeline. A year after European officials bailed out Greece, investors say the region's banks haven't raised sufficient capital or cut loans enough to withstand the contagion that may follow a default. The Greek debt situation certainly has the potential to create havoc with the European banking system.

New web domain suffixes approved

A global internet body has voted to allow the creation of new website domain suffixes, the biggest change for the online world in years. The Icann - Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers plans to dramatically increase the number of domain endings from the current 22. Internet address names will end with almost any word and be in any language. This could include such addresses as .google, .coke, or even .Migalhas. Icann will begin taking applications next year, with corporations and cities expected to be among the first. It will cost $185,000 to apply for the suffixes, and companies would need to show they have a legitimate claim to the name they are buying. 

Brazil police occupy Rio favela

Brazilian security forces have occupied one of Rio de Janeiro's biggest slums as part of a major crackdown ahead of the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Brazil police occupy Rio favela in World Cup operation

IMF warns of increased risks to the world economy

The International Monetary Fund has warned that the risks facing the world economy have increased. The fund said it was concerned about the continuing Greek debt crisis, the arguments over US deficit plans and the need to curb growth in Asia. But it said it expected global growth to remain on track, though it lowered its forecasts for the US and UK. The IMF predicted that the world economy would grow at a rate of 4.3% in 2011 and 4.5% in 2012. The fund called for greater political leadership in dealing with the eurozone debt crisis and the budget crisis in the US.

Federal prosecutors drop charges against Osama Bin Laden

Federal prosecutors in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York dropped all charges against al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in a filing made Friday. The judge approved the procedural move, which is typical upon the death of a defendant. The nolle prosequi motion listed the hundreds of charges against Bin Laden and explained the government's proof of his death.

Mexico, Central American countries join challenge to Georgia immigration law

The governments of Mexico and several other countries, along with the Anti-Defamation League filed amicus briefs on Thursday in support of the ACLU - American Civil Liberties Union class action lawsuit against Georgia's new immigration law. Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru all filed briefs in support of the ACLU. In its brief, Mexico said the law will irreparably harm diplomatic interests between the US and Mexico. The suit is scheduled for its first hearing on Monday, where judge Thomas Thrash is expected to rule on the ACLU's request for an injunction and Georgia's motion for dismissal.

Abracadabra! Magic trumps math at web start-ups

Internet start-ups are using a variety of nonstandard financial approaches to spin their results into a more favorable light. Over a decade ago, Internet companies promoted new ways to measure their business performance, introducing concepts like "eyeballs" and "mindshare" to investors. Now the latest wave of Internet start-ups are adding their own particular yardsticks to the valuation vocabulary. Try "Acsoi" — a metric so new that there's no agreement on how to pronounce it. Depending on whom you ask, it's either "ack-soy" or "ack-swa." Short for "adjusted consolidated segment operating income," Acsoi is one of three yardsticks that Groupon, the online coupon giant, recommends investors use to determine how it is performing. It is essentially operating profit minus the company's large online marketing and acquisition expenses — a highly nonstandard approach that had many scratching their heads. Yet without it, Groupon would appear steeped in red ink.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

Baracketology. The GOP's New Rules (Features / Nation) 
It's the Outsiders vs. the Insiders--and the Outsiders have an in.

Bill Clinton: It’s Still the Economy, Stupid. Fourteen million Americans remain out of work, a waste of our greatest resource. The 42nd president has more than a dozen ideas on how to attack the jobs crisis.

Business Week
Fake Pot, Real Profits. The Big Business of Synthetic Highs. Synthetic drugs that use legal compounds but mimic the highs of everything from marijuana to cocaine are proliferating among do-it-yourself pharma labs across the country. Bad trips—and fatal side effects—are increasing, too.

The Economist
Sticky patch or meltdown? How politicians could carelessly turn a temporary softening of the global recovery into something worse.

Der Spiegel
Plötzlich und erwartet - Nachruf auf eine gemeinsame Währung.

  • Daily Press Review

Morocco's opposition youth group beaten in Rabat, protests in other cities
Al Arabiya, Online news, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

NATO admits civilian deaths in Libya raid
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

British veteran peace campaigner Brian Haw dies
Arab News, Pro-government, Jidda, Saudi Arabia

Somali prime minister resigns, reversing pledge
Asharq Al-Awsat, Pan-Arab daily, London, England

Fatah calls off Cairo unity meeting with Hamas
Egyptian Gazette, English-language, Cairo, Egypt

Syria's Assad to address nation as troops continue bloody crackdown
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

MIDEAST: Medical crisis worsening in Gaza
IPS Middle East, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

Limited quantities of goods to be allowed into Gaza
Ma'an News Agency, Bethlehem, Palestinian Territories

Ten al-Qaeda suspects arrested in Aden
Yemen Observer, Sana'a, Republic of Yemen

Home care elderly 'not protected'
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Crippled Japan nuclear plant airlock to be opened
CNN International, London, England

Ex-leader dubs trial a 'masquerade'
Daily Express, Conservative tabloid, London, England

Eurogroup delays decision over Greek loan
EuroNews, International news, Ecully Cedex, France

SYRIA: Assad to address nation amid further crackdowns
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

Greece 'should leave Eurozone' says Boris Johnson
Independent The, London, England

Animals don't have morality, people do
Spiked, (Alternative Internet Magazine), London, England

Owen, 6, killed by hit-run driver
Sun The, London, England

Unions threaten biggest wave of industrial action since the 1926 strike
Telegraph The, Conservative daily, London, England

Steven Spielberg 'demanded Megan Fox be fired from Transformers film'
Telegraph The, Celebrity news, London, England

Syrian president to address nation on TV Monday
Antara News, News agency, Jakarta, Indonesia

Microsoft-Skype deal gets US clearance
Computer World, IT information, Fairfax, New Zealand

Police crowned national champions after defeating Army
Dawn, English-language daily, Karachi, Pakistan

India, Pakistan to review nuclear CBMs
Hindu The, Left-leaning daily, Chennai, India

Indian origin teen arrested in NY while rescuing mother
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India

Australia to follow NZ's carbon tax example
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

11 dead as Kandahar clashes enter 2nd day
Pajhwok Afghan News, (Independent news agency), Kabul, Afghanistan

Former Colombian president Samper denies role in assassination
People's Daily Online, English-language, Beijing, China

OECD chief says nuclear energy still important
Straits Times, Pro-government, Singapore

People detained to identify Osama network: Pakistan
Thaindian News, Bangkok, Thailand

Greece confident on EU-IMF loan slice
The Economic Times, Business, Mumbai, India

Sri Lanka rejects US court summons
Times of India, Conservative, New Delhi, India

International support sought for regional health agency
Caribbean360, Online news portal, St. Michael, Barbados

President Fernandez starts three-day visit to Jordan
Dominican Today, Independent daily, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Russia's Medvedev wants second term but won't run against Putin
Globe and Mail The, Centrist daily, Toronto, Canada

Proposals to phase out live cattle export trade reach Parliament
International Business Times, Business news organization, New York, U.S

BRAZIL: Women gain more ground in the Presidential Palace
IPS Latin America, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

Demolished - KSAC destroys structure at Auburn Court after 15-year legal battle
Jamaica Gleaner, Independent daily, Kingston, Jamaica

Rabbis demand stoning of 'reincarnated' dog
Newser, News web site, Chicago, U.S

Iraq bomb hits French convoy, seven hurt - sources
Reuters, World News, New York, U.S

Making a case for HIV/Aids laws
Trinidad Guardian, Independent daily, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad

Ex-Tunisian leader trial to begin
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Ketu South: Fifi Kwetey for Parliament?
GhanaWeb, Online news portal, Amsterdam, Netherlands

NEPAL: No clear route out of servitude for indentured girls
Irin News, Humanitarian news and analysis, Nairobi, Kenya

South Kordofan fighting rumbles on amid mutual claims of victory
Sudan Tribune, Khartoum, Sudan


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