August 24, 2011 nº 1,082 - Vol. 9


"It is easier to confess a defect than to claim a quality."

Max Beerbohm

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  • Top News

Federal asset seizures rise, netting innocent with guilty

The US federal system of asset seizure has been jarring for many. Some 400 federal statutes—a near-doubling, by one count, since the 1990s—empower the government to take assets from convicted criminals as well as people never charged with a crime. Last year, forfeiture programs confiscated homes, cars, boats and cash in more than 15,000 cases. The total take topped $2.5bn, more than doubling in five years. The expansion of forfeiture powers is part of a broader growth in recent decades of the federal justice system that has seen hundreds of new criminal laws passed. Some critics have dubbed the pattern as the over-criminalization of American life. The forfeiture system has opponents across the political spectrum, including representatives of groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union on the left and the Heritage Foundation on the right. They argue it represents a widening threat to innocent people. Backers of the system say there are adequate protections for the innocent, and describe the laws as a powerful tool for returning money to crime victims. Forfeiture law has its roots in the Colonial days, when it was used to battle pirates and smugglers. In the 1970s and 1980s, Congress began giving law-enforcement officials power to go after the assets of other criminals, such as organized-crime figures.
The more than 400 federal statutes allowing for forfeiture range from racketeering and drug-dealing to violations of the Northern Pacific Halibut Act. Seizure powers were extended to about 200 of those laws in 2000 in a major congressional overhaul of the forfeiture system. Top federal officials are also pushing for greater use of civil-forfeiture proceedings, in which assets can be taken without criminal charges being filed against the owner. In a civil forfeiture, the asset itself—not the owner of the asset—is technically the defendant. In such a case, the government must show by a preponderance of evidence that the property was connected to illegal activity. In a criminal forfeiture, the government must first win a conviction against an individual, where the burden of proof is higher.
Justice Department officials say they rarely lose such cases, a fact they cite as evidence the system is working properly. Forfeiture attorneys counter that the government often settles cases, returning at least part of the seized assets, if it thinks it might lose.

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  • Crumbs

1 - UN Rapporteur calls on Brazil for immediate protection of judges and magistrates - click here.

2 - Foreign students in work visa program stage walkout at plant - click here.

3 - U.S. issues new deportation policy's first reprieves - click here.

4 - Google begins Amazon river Street View project - click here.

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  • MiMIC Journal

Groupon stumbles in China

Groupon Inc.'s joint venture in China has closed offices in some cities and laid off hundreds of employees, raising questions about the online coupon company's strategy in a big market ahead of its planned initial public offering of stock. The moves appears to mark an abrupt reversal of Groupon's aggressive expansion into China just eight months ago.

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  • Historia Verdadera

Feed lot

La Unión Europea habilitó a Uruguay a acceder al contingente de carne bovina de alta calidad que abrió en el marco del litigio comercial con Estados Unidos por la carne con hormonas. Ahora el país sud americano competirá con 4 países por las 20.000 toneladas sin arancel. Ahora el Ministerio de Ganadería - MGAP, apura el sistema de certificación del reglamento exigido y la habilitación de las empresas que se dedican al feed lot que están operativas. (Presione aquí)

Oro

Después de tanto anuncio, el Presidente venezolano, Hugo Chávez, firmó la ley que nacionaliza las actividades de "exploración y explotación" de oro, durante un consejo de ministros transmitido por radios y televisoras del país. El Mandatario aseguró que la medida ayudará a impulsar la producción, fortalecer el control del Estado sobre el sector y proteger la economía del país en medio de la crisis financiera mundial.

Sentencia

Una jueza de Florida ordenó a Cuba pagar US$ 2.800 mlls., a un ex agente de la CIA que ayudó a perseguir al líder revolucionario Che Guevara, un premio que abogados dijeron es el más grande en una demanda civil contra el gobierno comunista de la isla. (Presione aquí)

  • Brief News

New lawyers, new classes

In a novel effort to keep junior lawyers busy and make them more valuable to clients faster, some major law firms are sending their fledgling attorneys to lengthy training seminars in business and finance. The programs promise to train the junior lawyers in financial analysis, valuation and practical skills, such as creating PowerPoint presentations and computer-spreadsheet analysis. The move comes on the heels of a recession in which many firms' corporate clients were so eager to reduce their legal costs that some made it a policy not to pay for time billed for work by first-year associates, because part of that time may have been spent getting the novice up to speed. Historically, billing for work by junior lawyers at big law firms has been a major profit center for the firms. Dozens of associates at a time can work on a single case, and some firms bill as much as $700 an hour for their time.

Defiant Gaddafi vows to fight on

Libyan rebels raised the opposition flag over Moammar Gadhafi's Bab al-Aziziya compound, as signs began to emerge that an outright victory against government forces was only a matter of time. Col Gaddafi vows "martyrdom or victory" in a speech after scenes of celebration following Libyan rebels' seizure of his Tripoli compound. If Gadhafi has indeed lost power, the U.S. and European nations are prepared to give new Libyan leaders access to Libyan government accounts that have been frozen. But sorting out individual assets that were controlled by Gadhafi and his family will take some doing.

European bank job 'bloodbath' surpasses 40,000

UBS AG’s decision to cut 5% of its workforce brings to more than 40,000 the number of jobs cut by European banks in the past month as the region's worsening sovereign debt crisis crimps trading revenue. European banks are slashing jobs this year six times faster than their U.S. peers. Concerns about the creditworthiness of Italy, Spain and France roil financial markets and reduce income from fixed- income trading, stock and bond underwriting as well as mergers and acquisitions.

Finland court hears Rwandan genocide appeal

A Finnish appeals court on Monday began hearing the appeal of former Rwandan pastor Francois Bazaramba, convicted last year on charges relating to his involvement in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Although Bazaramba had denied charges of involvement in the genocide, the court found that he ordered the killing of at least five Tutsis and sentenced him to life in prison. He was also acquitted of several charges.

Earthquake rattles US east coast

A magnitude-5.8 earthquake has rattled the east coast of the United States. The quake centered on the state of Virginia but was felt in Washington, where the Pentagon and US Capitol were evacuated, and shuttering most of the city's legal institutions, as well as in New York. The quake disrupted a news conference on the Dominic Strauss-Kahn affair given by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

Strauss-Kahn New York sexual assault case dismissed

A New York judge dismissed the sexual assault case against the former head of the International Monetary Fund. The charges were officially dismissed after a New York appeals court denied the accuser's request for a special prosecutor. Prosecutors asked the judge to drop the charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn, because of issues with the credibility of his accuser. "Our inability to believe the complainant beyond a reasonable doubt means, in good faith, that we could not ask a jury to do that," Assistant District Attorney Joan Illuzzi-Orbon told Judge Michael Obus. The ruling means he is a free man, though he still faces a civil suit Diallo filed this month. DSK was later freed from his restrictive bail conditions. The former IMF chief says he is looking forward to resuming a "normal life."

Clergy sues to stop Alabama's immigration law

A growing number of critics say that the law that criminalizes all kinds of contact with undocumented residents — including harboring illegal immigrants — violates their religious freedom to be a good Samaritan. A U.S. district judge is considering Wednesday whether to stop the law from going into effect Sept. 1. Business leaders in the state say the measure is undermining Alabama's economy even before it takes effect.

UN rights expert urges Thailand to combat human trafficking

UN Special Rapporteur on human trafficking Joy Ngozi Ezeilo on Monday urged the government of Thailand to improve measures to combat human trafficking, as well as protect the rights of migrant workers. The trafficking trade in Thailand is predominantly used for sexual and labor exploitation, with child trafficking especially rampant. Individuals are forced into prostitution, pornography, domestic work and surrogacy, among other abuses. Ezeilo described Thailand as a "source, transit and destination" country, meaning citizens are recruited in Thailand and the country both receives and sends individuals through trafficking channels.

Facebook changes privacy options

Facebook has announced a major revamp of how users control their privacy on the site. Among the changes, items posted online will each have their own sharing settings determining who can see them. It is the latest in a long line of attempts by Facebook to streamline how members manage their personal information. In the past, the social network has been criticized for seeming to bury privacy settings in obscure menus.

Moody's cuts Japan's debt rating

Rating agency Moody's cuts Japan's debt rating citing concerns about the size of the country's deficit and borrowing levels.

Standard & Poor's president steps down

Standard & Poor's - S&P president Deven Sharma has stepped down just weeks after the agency downgraded its credit rating of the US. S&P has been criticized by US authorities for the credit rating cut. Timothy Geithner, the US Treasury Secretary, in an interview with NBC said the agency had shown terrible judgment and handled themselves poorly.

Somali pirates given life in US prison

Two Somali men who pleaded guilty to piracy for a hijacking that ended in the deaths of four American sailors have been sentenced to life in prison.

New rules aim for more passenger-friendly skies

Passengers who get involuntarily bumped will be entitled to more compensation, and airlines face stiffer penalties for long tarmac delays on international flights, thanks to US government rules that took effect Tuesday.

Federal judge sets September hearing on graphic cigarette ads

A federal judge set a hearing on the tobacco industry's request to block FDA requirements for new graphic labels and advertising that warn consumers about the risks of smoking.

BP fund has paid out $5bn to Gulf spill victims

BP paid out more than $5bn to 204,434 victims of last year's massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The sum amounts to roughly 25% of the $20bn fund.

Another attorney charged in RICO case

An Austin attorney has been federally indicted concerning his alleged role in a Texas court corruption scheme in which a former state district judge and two other lawyers have already taken pleas. Marc Garrett Rosenthal, 49, is accused in a 13-count indictment unsealed yesterday of paying ex-Judge Abel Corral Limas for favorable rulings, as well as bribing witnesses, conspiring to file state and federal personal injury cases relying on false testimony and directing others to pay non-lawyers for referrals of cases to his firm. Rosenthal faces charges of conspiracy to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, witness-tampering and fraud charges, among others. Rosenthal is also accused of arranging for others to manipulate the Cameron County District Court case assignment system, so that cases went to the courts they preferred.

  • Daily Press Review

Gaddafi vows to fight as rebels close in
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

All Tripoli prisoners freed - Libyan rebels
Asharq Al-Awsat, Pan-Arab daily, London, England

Abbas to meet top US official in Doha: diplomat
Egyptian Gazette, English-language, Cairo, Egypt

Syria security forces kill two in Deir el-Zour, activists say
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

Gaddafi: Withdrawal from Tripoli HQ a 'tactical move'
JPost, Conservative, Jerusalem, Israel

Defiant Gaddafi vows to fight on
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Libya regime eyes yearslong fight
CNN International, London, England

Strauss-Kahn 'may sue accuser'
Daily Express, Conservative tabloid, London, England

Libya: Gaddafi's bust stamped on as rebels scream they'll get him
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

X Factor 2011: Take that, Robbie! New judge Gary Barlow revels as Mr Nasty
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

US East Coast rattled by rare earthquake
EuroNews, International news, Ecully Cedex, France

LIBYA: LIVE: Gaddafi calls Tripoli compound retreat 'tactical'
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

Turkey seeks morale in cup before Eurobasket
Hurriyet Daily News, (Liberal, English-language), Istanbul, Turkey

Afghan government official assassinated
Independent The, London, England

Avianova faces license threat
Moscow News The, Independent, Moscow, Russia

Libya: the siege of the Rixos hotel
Telegraph The, Conservative daily, London, England

Anne Hathaway: I watched Emmerdale to help learn accent for One Day
Telegraph The, Celebrity news, London, England

MPC raises key policy rate
Bangkok Post, Independent, Bangkok, Thailand

French Socialists celebrate expected dismissal of Strauss-Kahn rape case
China Post, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Can Park Geun-hye's N.Korea Policy Work?
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

US still backs India on UNSC seat despite Syria vote
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India

Youth kidnaps boy to avenge his failing love affair
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

Leaks in Armstrong case addressed
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Slain SAS soldier returns to NZ
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

Hurricane Irene displaces over 11,657 in Haiti, Dominican Republic
People's Daily Online, English-language, Beijing, China

Prostitute scandal threatens Australian prime minister
Straits Times, Pro-government, Singapore

Hidden camera warning
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

BHP annual profit up 86% to $23.6bn
Taiwan News, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Global crisis: Reports point to growth slowdown in China & Germany
The Economic Times, Business, Mumbai, India

Gadhafi claims 'tactical' retreat from compound
Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Ontario

Gadhafi vows victory or martyrdom after fleeing Tripoli HQ
Globe and Mail The, Centrist daily, Toronto, Canada

Merrill Lynch: Australia Slows Down; 100,000 Jobs on the Brink
International Business Times, Business news organization, New York, U.S

Fragmented Efforts to Save Honduran Mangroves
IPS Latin America, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

European stocks seen up Asia rally runs out of steam
Reuters, Business News, New York, U.S

Gaddafi flees Tripoli HQ ransacked by rebels
Reuters, World News, New York, U.S

Jack Layton's message resonates with cancer patients
Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

Defiant Gaddafi vows to fight on
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

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