January 23, 2012 nº 1,135 - Vol. 10


"Only great minds can afford a simple style."

Stendhal

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  • Top News

Europe heads to Davos surprising doomsayers

European leaders heading to the home of Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain sanatorium are surprising credit-ratings companies, and the economists who agree with them, as the consensus predicts another year of trauma for the euro area. In many countries, prospects for prosperity are increasingly fragile. Trust in presidents and CEOs, and the systems they represent, is drying up. Uncertainty lurks for the eurozone, and for Afghanistan, Syria and North Korea as well. And now the Occupy movement has come to the World Economic Forum, an annual gathering of 2,600 decision-makers from nearly 100 countries and hundreds of companies that starts Wednesday. VIPs in Davos are usually sheltered from critics so that they can solve financial problems in cosseted peace. This year, the global question-the-establishment wave has brought in a small band of protesters, with an igloo-and-yurt camp and anti-capitalist entreaties ready to greet the big bosses of business and world politics as they arrive. Even the weather seemed to be working in the protesters' favor. "Perfect snow to build igloos!" members of the Occupy Davos movement tweeted back. The reality of Davos is that it can achieve things and it does achieve things every year. And that is business deals. Everyone will be looking for what organizers are calling "new models." The overarching question for many government leaders will be how to restore growth despite rising debts and sinking market confidence.

EU data-privacy rules to include leak disclosure within 24 hours

A European Union proposal to simplify and toughen the region's data-protection rules will require companies to disclose data breaches within 24 hours of their occurrences. The EU will this week outline an overhaul of its 17-year- old data-protection policies addressing online advertising and social-networking sites. The bill, which includes stricter sanctions and will equip national data-protection authorities with powers to levy administrative sanctions and fines, will "become a trademark people recognize and trust worldwide." Sony Corp. was criticized last year by U.S. lawmakers for taking six days to warn customers about a cyber attack that exposed more than 100 million customer accounts, the second- largest online data breach in U.S. history. Industry groups with members including Microsoft Corp. and Google Inc. have warned the EU against setting overly strict data-privacy rules, saying that may stifle innovation. The legislations will require companies to obtain "specific and explicit" consent from Internet users to store information, and delete data unless there is a "legitimate and legally justified interest" to keep them on their servers. Google, Facebook Inc., Yahoo! Inc. are among Web companies that collect user information and get paid by clients who can use the data to better target advertisements for their products or services. Having to get approval for individual data retention and an obligation to purge files may reduce those companies' revenue.

Congress puts anti-piracy bills on ice

U.S. lawmakers stopped anti-piracy legislation in its tracks on Friday, delivering a stunning win for Internet companies that staged an unprecedented online protest this week to kill the previously fast-moving bills. Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said he would postpone a critical vote that had been scheduled for Jan. 24 "in light of recent events." Lamar Smith, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, followed suit, saying his panel would delay action on similar legislation until there is wider agreement on the issue. "I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy. It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products," Smith said in a statement. The bills, known as PIPA in the Senate and SOPA in the House, are aimed at curbing access to overseas websites that traffic in pirated content and counterfeit products, such as movies and music. The legislation has been a priority for entertainment companies, publishers, pharmaceutical companies and other industry groups who say it is critical to curbing online piracy, which they believe costs them billions of dollars a year. But technology companies are concerned the laws would undermine Internet freedoms, be difficult to enforce and encourage frivolous lawsuits.

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  • MiMIC Journal

China welcomes Year of the Dragon

The Chinese Year of the Dragon arrived with a spectacular display of pyrotechnics. The occasion is the longest and most important of the traditional Chinese holidays, with workers returning home and factories ceasing production. During China's Lunar New Year, the most important holiday, some 3.16 billion passenger trips are expected during the 40-day travel rush known as "chunyun" (spring transportation), up 9.1% from a year earlier.

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  • Brief News

Cowardice is no crime -- at least in the U.S.

When Captain Francesco Schettino hopped a life boat after the Costa Concordia hit a rock off the Tuscany coast, he violated a sacred maritime tradition: that a captain should be the last to leave his ship. The responsibilities of a captain can be traced back to a twelfth century French document called the Rolls of Oleron, which established the first known outlines of maritime law. The sailor's code that's developed from the rolls - or rules - has been celebrated in everything from Conrad's Lord Jim, about a young seaman who abandons a ship in distress, to the Gilligan's Island theme song, with the memorable lyric, "If not for the courage of the fearless crew, The Minnow would be lost!" The rule that a captain should be the last to leave a distressed ship, however, is not a criminal offense -- at least not in the United States. A Westlaw search for the phrase "abandon ship" turned up 618 decisions but none appeared to address a captain's decision to leave a ship before his passengers. The closest federal law that appears to take on the act of leaving a ship before passengers and crew members is seaman's manslaughter, which criminalizes a captain's misconduct or negligence that result in deaths. A version of the statute was used to convict a seaman in the nineteenth century who abandoned 31 passengers aboard a sinking ship on its way to Philadelphia from Liverpool. But seaman's manslaughter has rarely been invoked in recent years -- cited in just 22 court decisions since 1976, none of which involved accusations against a captain leaving a ship prematurely.

Syria rejects power transfer call

Syria rejects an Arab League plan to end months of violence that called for President Bashar al-Assad to step down and hold elections.

EU poised to ban Iran oil imports

European Union foreign ministers are expected to agree to a phased ban on the purchase of oil from Iran, as the West sends warships through the Gulf.

Trust in government has 'suffered a severe breakdown'

Public trust in government has suffered a severe breakdown across the world, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer. Governments have been blamed for the financial and political chaos of 2011. In 17 of 25 countries surveyed governments are now trusted to do what is right by less than half those questioned. Overall trust in government fell by nine percentage points to 43%. Trust in business also fell, from 56% to 53%. Although businesses saw less severe declines in trust, countries at the heart of the eurozone saw sharper decreases.

Chevron appeals Ecuador court's $18bn fine

US oil company Chevron Corp announced Friday that it has filed an appeal with the National Court of Justice in Ecuador asking it to reconsider the decision rendered by an Ecuadorian judge that would require Chevron to pay $18bn in damages from the pollution it has caused to the Amazon jungle. Chevron appealed on grounds that the lower court's decision violated Ecuador's constitution because the court failed to correct or punish the "extensive fraud and corruption" that was being committed by the lawyers representing the plaintiffs. Chevron, which inherited the case after taking over Texaco, argued that the application of law was also incorrect because Ecuador released Texaco from liability during the 1990s.

Germany prosecutors: convicted Nazi criminal should serve life sentence

The Ingolstadt Prosecutor's Office filed a motion on Thursday to jail Klaas Faber, a Dutch native who fled to Germany after being convicted in the Netherlands in 1947 of Nazi war crimes. He is one of the last on the Simon Wiesenthal Center Most Wanted list of surviving Nazi suspects who escaped punishment. Faber, 90, was accused of having participated in 22 murders and aiding the Nazis during their occupation of the Netherlands. Faber and his brother, Piet, were sentenced to death by a Dutch court, and Piet was executed while Klaas' sentence was reduced to life imprisonment. In 1952, he escaped the Netherlands and fled to Germany. Since then, the Netherlands has sought his extradition without success. It is unclear when the Ingolstadt district court will rule on the matter.

Mali becomes first African state to enforce ICC sentences

Mali signed an agreement Friday with the ICC - International Criminal Court to become the first African country to agree to enforce the ICC's sentences of imprisonment. Article 103 of the Rome Statute, which governs the ICC, states that "[a] sentence of imprisonment shall be served in a State designated by the Court from a list of States which have indicated to the Court their willingness to accept sentenced persons." Mali joins Finland, Belgium, Denmark, the UK and Austria as countries which have agreed to detain individuals convicted by the ICC. Finland, Belgium and Denmark were the most recent countries to agree to take convicts.

No bail for lawyer accused of stealing client funds and fleeing to Hong Kong

Douglas Arntsen, the former Crowell & Moring attorney accused of embezzling millions was arraigned in Manhattan Criminal Court.

A raucous hazing at a Wall St. fraternity

The chandelier-filled ballroom was teeming with 200 men in tuxedos — and a smattering of women — whose daily decisions can collectively make or break the global financial markets. Most were picking over a lavish dinner that included rack of lamb and crème brûlée. Others were preparing to sing bawdy show tunes. Kappa Beta Phi, an exclusive Wall Street fraternity whose members include big-name bankers, hedge fund billionaires and private equity titans, met at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan on Thursday night for its 80th annual black-tie dinner and induction ceremony. The night's agenda was twofold: install officers for the coming year and haze incoming members by having them don wigs, gold-sequined skirts and skin-tight tops and put on a comedic variety show for the enjoyment of other members. As always, the event was held in strict secrecy, with members being told that "what happens at the St. Regis stays at the St. Regis." Kappa Beta Phi's gatherings have become divisive among members in recent years. Some Wall Street executives, wary of taking part in an event that could be construed as tone-deaf to the economic woes facing the country, are choosing not to attend.

After a legal setback, commodity traders' complaint is to be heard by a lower court

Wall Street's legal challenge to a regulatory crackdown met a procedural obstacle last week, when a federal appeals court dismissed the case. The lawsuit, directed at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission's new restrictions on speculative trading, will now move to a lower-level court, delaying a decision on the legitimacy of the regulatory overhaul. At issue is a rule intended to curb speculative commodities trading, which some consumer advocates have blamed for inflating prices at the gas pump and the grocery store. But Wall Street says the rule will crimp legitimate trading while doing little to subdue volatile energy costs.

Time for a fresh approach to bankruptcy fees

Chapter 11 cases take place against a backdrop of employee layoffs, discontinued pension benefits and unpaid suppliers so it is perhaps not surprising that much of the debate over fees is overheated.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

Time
Obama's world. The Strategist. The question isn't whether Barack Obama has been a good foreign policy President. It's whether he can be a great one.

Newsweek
The trillion dollar woman. The truth talker. As head of the International Monetary Fund, can Christine Lagarde steer Europe and America away from the brink of the next Great Depression?

Business Week
Iraq: Under (New) Worse Management. Just a month after the U.S. withdrawal, hopes for turning the country into an economic beacon are already in shambles.

The Economist
The rise of State capitalism.

Der Spiegel
Kreuzfahrt in die Katastrophe.

L'Espresso
Come ti prendo l'evasore.

  • Daily Press Review

Syria rejects Arab League transition plan
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

Saudi withdraws Syria monitors, urges world pressure
Asharq Al-Awsat, Pan-Arab daily, London, England

Arabs set to keep Syria mission
Egyptian Gazette, English-language, Cairo, Egypt

Interior Minister approves residency for 257 foreign worker families, rejects 118 cases
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

Egypt's Islamist-led parliament to hold first session
JPost, Conservative, Jerusalem, Israel

Lords bid for welfare concessions
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Damascus rejects Arab League proposal for reform
CNN International, London, England

Giffords to resign from Congress
Daily Express, Conservative tabloid, London, England

Police search Hollywood beheading victim's home where screaming and shouting was heard before he disappeared
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Dancing On Ice 2012: Mark Rhodes is given his marching orders, as co-presenter Sam Nixon skates on
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Nigeria still reeling from Friday's bomb blasts
EuroNews, International news, Ecully Cedex, France

SYRIA: Syria rejects Arab League call for power transfer
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

Croatian canary in the EU coal mine
Hurriyet Daily News, (Liberal, English-language), Istanbul, Turkey

Costa Concordia might have had unregistered passengers
Independent The, London, England

Cash economy faces crackdown
Moscow News The, Independent, Moscow, Russia

Sunday Times emails could enforce case against Chris Huhne
Telegraph The, Conservative daily, London, England

Gordon Ramsay buys GBP 4.3m home in Beverly Hills
Telegraph The, Celebrity news, London, England

Court petitioned against B2bn compo
Bangkok Post, Independent, Bangkok, Thailand

Obama set to outline 'economic blueprint'
China Post, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Croatians Vote to Join European Union
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

Twelfth body found in Italy shipwreck
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India

Ketamine worth Rs 15 lakh seized
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

Big crowd pays tribute to Matsuda
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

No record kept of Fukushima disaster meetings
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

Death toll of boat sinking off Iranian coast rises to 17
People's Daily Online, English-language, Beijing, China

Gingrich moves to Florida savouring win over Romney
Straits Times, Pro-government, Singapore

Reality TV: K-Fed collapses
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

Human rights group criticizes West's lack of support for Arab due to political considerations
Taiwan News, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Greek PM to meet coalition backers on debt talks
The Economic Times, Business, Mumbai, India

RIM's Balsillie, Lazaridis resign
Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Ontario

Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom to remain in custody
Globe and Mail The, Centrist daily, Toronto, Canada

Obama Calls for Easing Visa Norms to Create Jobs in Tourism
International Business Times, Business news organization, New York, U.S

HONDURAS: Pressed by the U.S., Lobo Amends Extradition Laws
IPS Latin America, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

Greek uncertainty pressures euro, shares
Reuters, Business News, New York, U.S

Syria rejects Arab call for Assad to quit
Reuters, World News, New York, U.S

RIM's Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie resign
Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

Leading Kenyans await ICC ruling
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

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