October 24, 2011 nº 1,105 - Vol. 9

"Audacity augments courage; hesitation, fear."

Publilius Syrus

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

Nigeria village files $1bn water pollution suit against Shell

A Nigerian village on Tuesday filed a lawsuit in US federal court against Royal Dutch Shell PLC alleging the oil company polluted a drinking water well with benzene at levels 900 times the limits set by the WHO - World Health Organization. The lawsuit is based on a UNEP - UN Environment Programme report assessing the impact of oil contamination on the environment and public health in Ogoniland, a village in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. The report, which was published in August, found high levels of the carcinogen benzene as well as several inches of refined oil floating in groundwater that the village uses for drinking water. The UN investigators suggested that both Royal Dutch Shell and the Nigerian state-run oil company were responsible for the pollution, though Royal Dutch Shell abandoned the area in 1993. The complaint, which was filed in the US District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan, contends that Royal Dutch Shell's actions were willfully negligent in contaminating groundwater. The plaintiffs filed suit on ATS - Alien Tort Statute grounds and are asking for $1bn in damages, an injunction and immediate cleanup.

EU leaders discussing 'limited' changes to treaty

Europe's leaders have agreed to change the EU treaty if necessary to help resolve the eurozone's debt crisis and stop the region sinking into recession. Although no proposed details were given, any change is likely to involve closer fiscal and economic cooperation. The members would "explore the possibility of limited change" not a general overhaul of the institutional architecture. This would require the agreement of all the 27 member states before they can decide on a treaty change.

Unfinished business

What happens when a law firm dies but its debt lives on? It's a question that could come up more frequently as the grim economics of the legal industry forces firms to weigh all options – even if that means, alas, shuttering its doors. San Francisco law firm Heller Ehrman dissolved three years ago and the firm sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2008 several months after it announced its dissolution. The firm's lawyers naturally dispersed and took positions in several dozen other law firms – but now those firms are being asked to pay for Heller Ehrman's old debts. Why? Under the so-called unfinished business doctrine, a bankruptcy trustee has the right to sue for profits generated by work that partners took on at their old firms and then brought with them to their new jobs. Many unfinished business lawsuits don't advance to the trial stage. There's little case law, leaving many unanswered questions on just how to go about declaring a numerical value for the damages sought. Given the cost and risk of litigation, these matters tend to settle.

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  • MiMIC Journal

China must curb prices, Wen says

China's Premier Wen Jiabao says the country must control food and property inflation, in order to ensure social stability. China's central government has implemented a number of measures to control inflation and slow economic growth.

Chan denied final bid for Chinachem billions

Deceased property tycoon Nina Wang's multibillion-dollar fortune will go to the charity she founded after Hong Kong's top court refused to hear a final bid for the estate from Tony Chan, her former feng shui adviser.

China cracks down on leaks, officials jailed

China sentenced two officials to jail for leaking secret economic data, as the government warned it will "strike hard" against disclosures that enable insider trading in the world's third-biggest equities market.

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  • Brief News

EU rules out ECB help in boosting fund

EU leaders made some progress toward a strategy to fight the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis on Sunday, nearing agreement on bank recapitalization and on how to leverage their rescue fund to try to stop bond market contagion. European leaders ruled out tapping the European Central Bank's balance sheet to boost the region's rescue fund and outlined plans to aid banks, inching toward a revamped strategy to contain the Greece-fueled debt crisis. Sarkozy backed down in the face of implacable German opposition to his desire to use unlimited European Central Bank funds to fight the crisis. Instead, the euro zone may turn to emerging economies such as China and Brazil for help in underpinning its sickly bond market. Europe's 13th crisis-management summit in 21 months also explored how to strengthen the International Monetary Fund's role. The leaders excluded a forced restructuring of Greek debt, sticking with the tactic of enticing bondholders to accept losses to help restore the country's finances. The complete blueprint won't come together until a summit on Wednesday. Elsewhere, David Cameron clashes with Sarkozy, who says he is "sick" of the UK offering advice on the euro.

Obama: All US troops leaving Iraq

The president's re-election prospects will benefit from the announcement that all US troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year, Obama rose to power, in part, because of his opposition to the war in Iraq. Now he has promised that it will finally be over by the end of the year. The date was actually negotiated by the Bush administration in 2008. But many expected that the deal would be fudged and a substantial number of troops would remain. The reason that all the troops are coming home is that the Iraqis wouldn't promise to give any who remained immunity from prosecution.

EU launches drug firms collusion investigation

The European Commission has launched an investigation into whether Swiss drugs firm Novartis and its US rival Johnson & Johnson colluded to keep a generic painkiller out of the Dutch market. It is investigating whether the companies' actions are "hindering the entry onto the market of generic versions of Fentanyl". "Pharmaceutical companies are already rewarded for their innovation efforts by the patents they are granted. Paying a competitor to stay out of the market is a restriction of competition that the commission will not tolerate," the EU Competition Commissioner said.

Federal judge dismisses Arizona counterclaim over immigration law

A federal judge for the US District Court for the District of Arizona on Friday dismissed a counterclaim filed by Arizona governor Jan Brewer and state attorney general Tom Horne against the US government in the lawsuit challenging the controversial Arizona immigration law. While the court ruled that Arizona had standing to bring the counterclaim, the court barred several counts in the claim because they had already been litigated before the court in a 1995 case. The court also held that Arizona failed to state valid claims and the claims would be dismissed, even if they had not already been precluded from litigation, because they offered political instead of legal questions.

Argentina's Cristina Fernandez celebrates landslide win

Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has won a landslide election victory. With votes counted from 75% of polling stations, Fernandez has won 53% of vote, enough to secure re-election in the first round. Her closest challenger - the socialist Hermes Binner - had just 17%.

Corporate governance issues grow more complex

It's time to take stock of the corporate governance movement. While corporate governance has made great strides in recent years, it is becoming more complex as companies take the corporate governance fight to a new terrain. Here are two examples: Companies are increasingly leveraging the value of incorporating outside of Delaware. Chesapeake Energy recently lobbied the Oklahoma Legislature to adopt a provision requiring all Oklahoma corporations to have a staggered board through Jan. 1, 2015. Iowa and Indiana have also recently adopted provisions requiring their companies to have staggered board provisions. For those who complain about Delaware, it is much worse for corporate governance advocates outside that small state. Second, corporations have also realized that the process for initial public offerings includes a corporate governance loophole. Institutional Shareholder Services and the other proxy advisory services do not assess companies' corporate governance at the I.P.O. stage. Prospective shareholders also do not seem to care. Most purchasers in an I.P.O. quickly flip their shares. So we get LinkedIn, which has both a dual-class share structure and a staggered board, among other shareholder unfriendly provisions. LinkedIn also adopted a provision in its charter requiring that its staggered board provision could only be repealed by 80 percent of its votes. This is an almost impossible threshold to meet. And it is not only hot Internet stocks that raise these issues. Bankrate, a recent I.P.O., has a similar locked-in staggered board provision. These changes show how corporate governance is becoming more complex, and with complexity, there are unintended consequences.

Groupon IPO may arrive Nov. 4

Investors will soon find out if the comatose IPO market can snap back to life. Since midsummer there's been little demand for newly public companies, but now hopes are high that the initial public offering of online bargain site Groupon could reignite interest. After months of speculation, Groupon's IPO is expected to start trading on Nov. 4.

Libya's transitional leader declares liberation

Mustafa Abdul-Jalil also told thousands of supporters at a ceremony on Sunday that Islamic Sharia law would be the "basic source" of legislation in the country and that existing laws that contradict the teachings of Islam would be nullified. He said new banks would be set up to follow the Islamic banking system, which bans charging interest.

Bahrain court hears appeals of 20 convicted medics

A Bahrain court on Sunday began hearing the appeals of 20 medical staff members convicted last month of participating in the country's pro-democracy protests against the ruling regime. The 13 doctors, one dentist, nurses and paramedics who were jailed for providing treatment to injured protesters all worked at the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama, which was stormed by security forces in March after they drove protesters out of the nearby Pearl Square—the focal point of protests inspired by uprisings that have swept the Arab world. Among other terrorism charges, the 20 were accused of having possession of an AK-47, Molotov cocktails and other weapons for the purposes of ousting the ruling regime, confiscating medical equipment, spreading lies, inciting hatred against the regime and violating various other laws and regulations with an aim to disturb public security.

UN rights expert warns lethal force during arrests could violate international standards

United Nations Special Rapporteur on on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, on Thursday urged respect for international standards concerning the use of lethal force during arrests and warned that the growing use of targeted killings with unmanned drones is legally problematic. Heyns made a report to the UN the General Assembly saying that "International standards provide adequate room for States to pursue their legitimate security interests, both at home and abroad," and warned that abusing these standards to reach short-term goals could cause "long-term damage to the protection of human rights." Heyns said that: “While it is correct that lethal force should not be used unless there is a reasonable suspicion that the suspect has committed a crime involving serious violence, or has threatened to do so, that is not enough. For deadly force to be used by the police, there must be an immediate or ongoing threat to the public if the person were to escape."

Brazil doctors found guilty of killing patients

A jury convicted three Brazilian doctors of killing four patients by removing their organs, which prosecutors said were used for transplants at an expensive private clinic. Sao Paulo state Judge Marco Montemor sentenced doctors Rui Sacramento, Pedro Torrecillas and Mariano Fiore Junior to 17 years and six months each in prison.

Brazil seeks investors to overhaul airports

Right now many of its airports are barely up to the task of handling rapidly growing domestic air traffic, but Brazil has begun a process of inviting in private investors and granting concessions to renovate and manage airports across the country. Infraero, a government corporation that runs many Brazilian airports, will maintain a 49 percent stake in the joint ventures formed with investors.

Arts giving is up, but hold the applause

While the overall U.S. economy seems to be stuck in neutral, one bright spot is that charitable giving to the arts is up 5 percent more than last year. It's good news, but a new study cautions that much of that support serves audiences that are wealthier and whiter than the country as a whole.

Baker & Hostetler awarded another $44.7m for Madoff work

The firm, via trustee Irving Picard, has filed more than 1,050 lawsuits on behalf of Bernard Madoff's victims since the notorious Ponzi scheme was discovered.

Canada court expands rights of gay non-biological parents

A judge for the Queen's Court Bench of Alberta has granted legal rights to a non-biological father of a child—the ex-partner of the biological father—over the biological father in a child custody case. While the judge stated that the biological father, identified as "H", would remain the legal parent of the unidentified eight-year-old girl, the non-biological father, identified as "R", will maintain physical guardianship over the girl. R has been acting as the primary caregiver of the girl since 2006. In order for R to obtain parental status, the judge stated that he will have to pursue a constitutional challenge over the limitations placed on rights of gay non-biological parents. The girl's biological mother, identified as "D", also maintains her parental status. In her decision, the judge stated that a clear gap exists in Alberta's Family Law Act, which fails to legally define gay men as fathers.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

Time
The China bubble. Be Very Afraid of The China Bubble. Its economy grew on real estate mania and easy money--does this sound familiar?

Newsweek
Candid Condi. The Bush 'Freedom Agenda' Won. As the war in Iraq ends and Gaddafi falls, this week’s Newsweek, to be published tomorrow, extracts former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s new memoir, No Higher Honor.

Business Week
The Sports Issue. Dynasties, trades, superrich athletes—it’s all part of the spectacle of sports business.

The Economist
Rage against the machine

Der Spiegel
"Er kann es" - Helmut Schmidt über seinen Kanzlerkandidaten Peer Steinbrück.

L'Espresso
Provenzano e il ministro Un nuovo pentito accusa Saverio Romano: lo conosco bene, il padrino ci ha ordinato di farlo eleggere in Parlamento. E la procura di Palermo scrive: "Si è messo a disposizione per aiutare Cosa nostra. Intascando mezzo milione".

  • Daily Press Review

'Hundreds still trapped' after Turkish quake
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

US senator talks about military option in Syria
Asharq Al-Awsat, Pan-Arab daily, London, England

Kuwait appoints new foreign minister
Egyptian Gazette, English-language, Cairo, Egypt

Knesset speaker: Cabinet, not legislation, must dictate prisoner swap deals
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

Blair: Arab Spring may endanger Mideast peace
JPost, Conservative, Jerusalem, Israel

MPs set to rebel over referendum
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Major earthquake kills at least 217 in eastern Turkey
CNN International, London, England

Japan reports strong export figures
Daily Express, Conservative tabloid, London, England

Jerzy Bieleck dies: Hero who escaped Auschwitz with girlfriend by dressing up as an S.S. officer
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

TOWIE's Sam Faiers rushed to hospital for brain scan after girl gang attack
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Death toll rises in Turkish quake
EuroNews, International news, Ecully Cedex, France

TURKEY: Over 200 killed in deadly 7.2 quake in eastern Turkey
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

217 dead, more than 700 wounded in eastern Turkey: Interior Minister
Hurriyet Daily News, (Liberal, English-language), Istanbul, Turkey

Argentinian president re-elected in landslide victory
Independent The, London, England

Transparency International to check Russian state companies
Moscow News The, Independent, Moscow, Russia

Joanna Yeates murder trial: Vincent Tabak denies he was injured in struggle when strangling landscape architect
Telegraph The, Conservative daily, London, England

Strictly Come Dancing victory over X Factor in ratings battle
Telegraph The, Celebrity news, London, England

Tollway Lak Si outbound entry closed
Bangkok Post, Independent, Bangkok, Thailand

Strong 7.2-magnitude earthquake occurs in eastern Turkey
China Post, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

21 S.Korean Abduction Victims 'Living in Pyongyang'
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

Libyans can celebrate 'new era of promise': Obama
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India

Man run over, mob torches KSRTC bus
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

All Blacks capture World Cup
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Illegal elephant tusk smuggling uncovered in Vietnam
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

U.S. jobs bill aims at getting economy moving: Biden
People's Daily Online, English-language, Beijing, China

Queen Elizabeth praises Australia's courageous flood victims
Straits Times, Pro-government, Singapore

Well, hello Sydney
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

West Australian Government orders to kill shark after fatal shark attacks
Taiwan News, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

China Vice-Premier Li: Global risks rising
The Economic Times, Business, Mumbai, India

Turkish earthquake death toll tops 200
Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Ontario

The man who would be French president
Globe and Mail The, Centrist daily, Toronto, Canada

Australian Stock Market Report - Afternoon 10/24/2011
International Business Times, Business news organization, New York, U.S

DEVELOPMENT: Disgruntled Activists Meet in Seoul Ahead of Summit
IPS Latin America, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

European stocks seen up on China, EU summit hopes
Reuters, Business News, New York, U.S

Turkey quake death toll reaches over 200, set to rise
Reuters, World News, New York, U.S

York Region bus drivers to strike Monday, GO bus strike averted
Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

Tunisia counts votes in key poll
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

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