January 18, 2012 nº 1,133 - Vol. 10


"The less men think, the more they talk."

Charles de Montesquieu

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  • Top News

EU opens legal action against Hungary over new laws

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso announced Tuesday that the Commission will legally challenge three Hungarian laws. The laws, passed last month in conjunction with Hungary's new constitution, are viewed by Barroso and the Commission as violations of EU law. First, the Commission contends that European law has instituted an independent national central bank, but Hungary's new law allows its Minister to participate in Monetary Council meetings, thus offering a possibility of political influence. Second, the Commission argues that EU law provides an independent judiciary and prohibits workplace discrimination based on age, but Hungary will proscribe a mandatory retirement age for judges, prosecutors and public notaries at 62 years. Third, the Commission asserts that EU law recognizes the independence of data protection supervisors, but Hungary will allow for premature termination of the Data Protection Commissioner currently in office. The Commission also contends that this law creates the possibility that the Hungarian prime minister and president could dismiss the new supervisor on arbitrary grounds. To deal with these possible infringements, Barroso and the Commission have sent three formal letters of notice to Hungary as a commencement of infringement procedures. The European Commission - the EU's executive arm - has opened legal proceedings against Hungary over reforms to its central bank, data protection and judiciary. The Hungarian government said it would try to "resolve the problematic questions as soon as possible", so as to avoid an escalation of the legal dispute. The Commission launched an "infringement procedure" against Hungary on Tuesday, the first stage of which is a warning calling for changes to the controversial laws. The Commission can go as far as imposing fines and taking Hungary to the European Court of Justice.

European austerity: More pain than gain?

Credit rating downgrades fuel doubts about the merits of Europe's austerity drive. As the crisis deepens in Europe the temptation to shoot the messenger grows. There are those who advocate that Europe needs its own - perhaps tamer - ratings agencies. Perhaps the most interesting reason for the downgrade was Standard and Poor's judgment that austerity alone might be self-defeating. Some European countries and officials might retort that they were muscled into making spending cuts and raising taxes to bring down deficits by the agencies and the bond markets. Now they are being warned of the dangers of austerity. The "cult of austerity" has always been controversial. The doubts are increasing. There are those who say that Greece is now trapped in a spiral of decline. The Washington Post last week asked whether austerity was "killing the Greek economy". The assessment given to debts and borrowers by a ratings agency according to their safety from an investment standpoint - based on their creditworthiness, or the ability of the company or government that is borrowing to repay. Ratings range from AAA, the safest, down to D, a company that has already defaulted. Ratings of BBB- or higher are considered "investment grade". Below that level, they are considered "speculative grade" or more colloquially as junk. The fear extends to Italy, Portugal and Spain. Austerity is squeezing demand just as countries are heading into recession. Unemployment is already rising, leading to greater spending on benefits and a decline in revenue from taxation. That forces the countries to borrow more, so forcing up accumulated debt.

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  • Crumbs

1 - Iran cracks down on moral peril of Barbie peddlers - click here.

2 - Housemate on Brazilian version of Big Brother was 'raped on live TV' after alcohol-fueled party - click here.

3 - Obama says so long SOPA, killing controversial internet piracy legislation - click here.

4 - Law firm accused of firing secretary for serving jury duty - click here.

5 - US trade judge: Motorola does not infringe Apple - click here.

6 - Big Mac index: Burgernomics shows Brazil has the fourth overvalued currency - click here.

7 - The seven habits of spectacularly unsuccessful executives - click here.

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  • MiMIC Journal

China's rich consider leaving growing nation

Many Americans believe the future belongs to China, but the view from within the growing nation is more guarded. Recent surveys by two of China's biggest banks found most of the nation's richest people are thinking about establishing residency in another country or switching their citizenship altogether in order to protect their wealth.

China fires up Europe's luxury watch market

Chinese consumers are doing their best to support the continent's luxury manufacturers, including exhibitors at the annual watch exhibition in Geneva. The number of Chinese tourists is growing and growing and will help to "cushion the landing in case things get worse" in Europe's economy. At home, China's hunger for luxury looks insatiable too.

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  • Historia Verdadera

Inversiones

Uruguay dará prioridad a sus relaciones con Asia este año, 2012, para buscar inversiones y tratar de "cambiar la lógica comercial", confirmó el canciller, Luis Almagro. A delantó que visitará China en el mes de mayo y que tiene previsto durante al año una gira por el sudeste asiático que abarcará Malasia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapur y Filipinas.

Medición

El Gobierno peruano este miércoles designará a la firma internacional que evaluará el impacto ambiental de un enorme proyecto minero de la estadounidense Newmont, detenido tras protestas en contra de su desarrollo en el norte del país. El proyecto Minas Conga, con inversiones por US$ 4.800 mlls., fue suspendido a fines de noviembre en medio de violentas protestas de comunarios.

Banca

El Gobierno brasileño está considerando inyectar dinero al banco estatal de desarrollo BNDES por quinto año consecutivo, para ayudarlo a combatir una posible escasez de crédito de largo plazo en la economía, dijo el secretario del Tesoro, Arno Augustin. El Tesoro nacional, que es el mayor accionista del estatal BNDES, probablemente inyecte menos que los 55.000 millones de reales -US$ 31.000 mlls-.

  • Brief News

'Occupy the Courts' rally stymied in Manhattan

A federal agency has denied protesters a permit to hold a rally in front of the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, days before an "Occupy the Courts" protest planned for Friday at courthouses across the country. Organizers intended the protest to mark two years since the 2010 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which held that the government cannot ban corporate spending on political campaigns. Gideon Oliver, a lawyer representing the protesters, said the New York permit denial -- by the General Services Administration, which manages most federal buildings -- was the only one among 111 rallies scheduled on Friday.

MPs call for new gang murder law

A new, less complex law on gang-related killings is needed to ensure justice for victims and defendants, UK MPs say. The Commons Justice Select Committee said clearer law on "joint enterprise" in England and Wales would cut appeals. Under joint enterprise, groups or gangs can be charged with murder even if just one person delivered the fatal blow. Ahead of any legislation, the director of public prosecutions has agreed to issue guidelines on the level of involvement needed for a murder charge.

If the captain isn't in charge, who is?

The captain of the Italian ship, Francesco Schettino is under house arrest, accused of causing the crash. Prosecutors have also accused him of fleeing the Costa Concordia while passengers were still stranded.The dramatic recordings of the exchange between Coast Guard Capt. Gregorio De Falco's and Capt. Francesco Schettino, reveal a captain unwilling to return to the listing ship, even as De Falco mocks him. But under maritime law, what was Schettino supposed to do? While Schettino has been excoriated in the media for leaving the Costa before the evacuation was complete, it's a common misconception that captains are expected to "go down with the ship." The captain has never been expected to be the last to leave. That's a romantic notion. It is true that many captains won't leave their ship until all hope is lost, but we certainly don't expect captains to commit suicide. In some cases, the most appropriate place for a captain is, in fact, off the vessel. Schettino also shouldn't be blamed for the crew's poor training, if that emerges to be a factor in the disaster. That responsibility lies with the cruise line, Costa Crociere, in conjunction with the Italian Coast Guard and Costa Crociere's insurers. But if the captain either knew or should have known that his crew was not up to snuff — that's something certainly the captain would be expected to relay back to his superiors. That's not to say that Schettino is blameless. Civilian ship captains are ultimately responsible for their vessels, and Schettino took his ship off course, allegedly failed to sound the alarm and the distress signal, and may have failed to follow orders after ceding control of the rescue operation.

Wikipedia goes dark on protest at US anti-piracy moves

Wikipedia and other popular websites converted homepages into virtual protest banners as part of an effort to stop Internet piracy legislation being considered by the U.S. Congress. Users attempting to access the site see a black screen and a political statement: "Imagine a world without free knowledge." The user-generated news site Reddit and the blog Boing Boing are also taking part in the "blackout". However, Twitter has declined to join the shutdown.

Algeria court sentences former Guantanamo detainee to prison

An Algerian court on Monday sentenced former Guantanamo Bay detainee Abdul Aziz Naji to three years in prison for his participation in a foreign extremist group affiliated with al Qaeda. The sentence was less than the 10 years in prison and USD $6,330 fine sought by the prosecution. Naji was captured in 2002 near Kashmir and transferred to Guantanamo. In July 2010 the US extradited him to Algeria after the US Supreme Court declined to stop the transfer. Shortly following his release, the Algerian prosecutor's office indicted him but did not specify the charges. Naji's lawyer, Hassiba Boumerdassi plans to appeal the ruling, declaring that prosecuting Algerian citizens for their membership in an overseas extremist group is unprecedented in Algeria.

France judge requests access to Guantanamo to probe torture allegations

A French judge has requested access to information from Guantanamo Bay in order to investigate allegations of torture being made by three French citizens. Judge Sophie Clement requested access to documents, as well as access to individuals who had contact with the men during their arrest and detention by the US government. Clement is specifically seeking information relating to the justification for the detention of the men, who were all arrested in late 2001 near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. She is also asking for information related to US military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan that led to their arrest, as well as the treatment of the men during their arrest and detention. The men, Nizar Sassi, Mourad Benchellali and Khaled Ben Mustapha, claim to have been subject to sexual abuse, beatings and sleep deprivation during their detention. The men were returned to France in 2004 and 2005, and were sentenced to one year in prison on terrorism charges in 2011. A lawyer for two of the men indicated that Clement's actions were unprecedented and that he was hopeful her actions would allow his clients to identify the individuals responsible for their detention and alleged torture.

Flat fee deals put pressure on billable hour

Alternative fees are much more prevalent. The flexible billing philosophy is an approach that has contributed to the success of boutique law firms. The ‘rack rate’ is not the rate anymore. An American Lawyer survey of leaders at large law firms shows that more clients are seeking discounts, and asking for deeper discounts. Of the law firms that used alternative or value-based fees in 2011, 92 percent had used flat fees, 88 percent had used blended rates, 83 percent used incentive or success fees, and 82 percent used collars or caps. (a collar is an arrangement where there is an agreed-upon flat fee, and a discount when the bill exceeds the flat fee by a certain percentage.)

Supreme Court to rule on federal liability for credit card information leak

The US Supreme Court granted certiorari Friday in US v. Bormes to determine whether the federal government has sovereign immunity for damages arising from the FCRA - Fair Credit Reporting Act. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled in 2010 that the Little Tucker Act waived sovereign immunity for money claims against the US under the FCRA. Lawyer James Bormes filed the class action lawsuit after realizing that portions of his and others' private credit card information displayed on a government website following payment of federal court fees. Bormes claims that the disclosure of private credit card information violates the FCRA and is seeking damages against the government on behalf of the class.

World Bank warns developing world to prepare for shocks

The World Bank has warned developing countries they need to be prepared for shocks as global economic growth slows. The organization has slashed its growth forecasts, and is now predicting a 0.3% contraction for the eurozone in 2012. The World Bank's Global Economics Prospects report says that slower growth is already visible in global trade and commodity prices. It said that declining commodity prices were better news for the developing world, although food security for the poorest countries was still a major concern. The World Bank warns that the sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone and the slow growth in developing countries could "reinforce one another" causing even slower growth than predicted.

Pinochet judge goes on trial in Spain

Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish judge who famously indicted late Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet, has found himself in the dock for the first time. He went on trial at the supreme court in Madrid charged with illegally authorizing police to bug the conversations of lawyers with clients. Dressed in his own judge's robes, Mr Garzon, 56, sat next to his lawyer in court. He denied wrongdoing and said he had always sought to protect detainees' right to a fair defense. It is the first of three private prosecutions Judge Garzon is facing. Suspended from Spain's National Court in 2010, he could see an end to his career if convicted.

Wal-Mart seeks end to refiled gender-bias lawsuit

Plaintiffs alleging the world's largest retailer engaged in discrimination are regrouping after the high court last year dismantled a class of up to 1.5 million workers.

Europe leans toward blocking NYSE-Deutsche Borse merger

The recommendation by an antitrust advisory panel is not binding, but it is the latest sign of regulatory obstacles in the path of a NYSE Euronext tie-up with Deutsche Börse.

  • Daily Press Review

Wikipedia blackout over US anti-piracy bills
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

Syria ready to let monitors stay, Obama ups pressure
Asharq Al-Awsat, Pan-Arab daily, London, England

Assad's political, military foes step up pressure
Egyptian Gazette, English-language, Cairo, Egypt

Hamas: IAF strike on Gaza kills two Palestinians
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

'Army, rebels agree ceasefire in Syria town'
JPost, Conservative, Jerusalem, Israel

Unemployment increases to 2.685m
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Search suspended after Italian cruise ship moves
CNN International, London, England

Sarkozy holds economic crisis talks
Daily Express, Conservative tabloid, London, England

Two British soldiers arrested over allegations of sex abuse with 10-year-old children while they served in Afghanistan
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Bruno Mars to avoid cocaine conviction after serving probationary sentence
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

US web firms protest anti-piracy bill
EuroNews, International news, Ecully Cedex, France

ITALY: Concordia cruise ship captain placed under house arrest
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

Going south? Turkey's relations with neighborhood
Hurriyet Daily News, (Liberal, English-language), Istanbul, Turkey

Human head found near Hollywood sign
Independent The, London, England

Consumer rights watchdog targets McDonald's
Moscow News The, Independent, Moscow, Russia

Concordia: How the disaster unfolded
Telegraph The, Conservative daily, London, England

John Hurt: Your life is your own property
Telegraph The, Celebrity news, London, England

SET index drops 4.90 points
Bangkok Post, Independent, Bangkok, Thailand

Yahoo co-founder Yang resigns; shares jump
China Post, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Kim Jong-nam 'Trying to Position Himself as Voice of Reform'
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

Italy cruise wreck rescue halted, captain under house arrest
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India

Minor girl gang raped by two youth
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

State seeks to keep power to order No. 1 plant evacuations
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Occupy protesters storm Washington DC
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

Chinese invention becomes int'l standard
People's Daily Online, English-language, Beijing, China

Nigeria Christmas church bomb suspect escapes
Straits Times, Pro-government, Singapore

Brain over brawn
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

Dolce & Gabbana apologized for offending Hong Kong residents officially
Taiwan News, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Germany sells 3.44 billion euros of Schatz notes
The Economic Times, Business, Mumbai, India

Italian cruise ship rescuers suspend operation
Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Ontario

Divers suspend search of Costa Concordia after wreck shifts
Globe and Mail The, Centrist daily, Toronto, Canada

Rupee Turns Lower in Afternoon Trade
International Business Times, Business news organization, New York, U.S

MEXICO: Even Educated Young Women Face Poor, Jobless Future
IPS Latin America, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

Wall Street rises but ends off highs as Citi sinks
Reuters, Business News, New York, U.S

Putin aide says Kremlin must face up to protests
Reuters, World News, New York, U.S

How councillors coalesced to defeat Mayor Rob Ford
Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

Africa drought delay 'cost lives'
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

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