April 2, 2012 nº 1,161 - Vol. 10


"Statistics are like bikinis... what they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital."

Aaron Lewenstein

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  • Top News

US lawyers tested in court over anti-terrorism act

Lawyers for the Obama administration were put to the test by a federal judge on Thursday to explain why civilian activists and journalists should not fear being detained under a new anti-terrorism law. Activists and journalists are suing the government to try to stop implementation of the law's provisions of indefinite detention for those deemed to have "substantially supported" al Qaeda and the Taliban and "associated forces." Government lawyers argued in federal court in New York that the plaintiffs did not have standing to challenge the National Defense Authorization Act's "Homeland Battlefield" provisions signed into law by Obama in December. During day-long oral arguments, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest heard lawyers for former New York Times war correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges and others argue that the law would have a "chilling effect" on their work. While the judge said she was skeptical that the plaintiffs would win a constitutional challenge to the act, she also said she wanted to "understand the meaning to the ordinary citizen." "I can't take the statute and strike it down for what it says, but can Hedges and others be detained for contacting al Qaeda or the Taliban as reporters?" she said. Hedges told the court that "I don't think we know what 'associated forces' are. That's why I'm here."

Law firms split over nonlawyer investors

The legal profession's notion that law isn't a commercial enterprise may come as a surprise, since some lawyers now charge more than $1,000 an hour. But some legal purists are aghast at a proposal that would reverse long-standing tradition by letting non lawyers own limited stakes in U.S. law firms, something allowed on a broader scale in the U.K. and Australia. Opponents worry that non-lawyer partners could push law firms to maximize profits at the expense of their obligations to clients. "Let's keep remembering the story of Arthur Andersen and Enron—how great firms can lose their way by chasing monetary gain," said Lawrence J. Fox, a partner at the Philadelphia law firm of Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP who objects to the proposal. "I'd like us to mind our knitting." Ethics rules bar most U.S. lawyers from sharing profits with non-lawyers. The theory is that outsiders not subject to the same rules of conduct could influence lawyers' judgments or otherwise erode the profession's ethical obligations of client loyalty and confidentiality. Across the Atlantic, however, new British rules intended to expand consumers' access to legal services and spur competition are shaking things up. Changes phased in this year allow British lawyers to team up with insurers or other businesses, and even to solicit outside investments. Given those developments, the American Bar Association is weighing whether to present its members with a less-sweeping option: allowing non lawyers who work at law firms to own as much as 25% of a firm.

E-books settlement talks advancing -sources

The Justice Department could reach a settlement in the next few weeks with Apple Inc and some of the major publishers suspected of colluding to push up electronic book prices, according to two people close to the negotiations. While negotiations are still fluid, the settlement is expected to eliminate Apple's so-called "most favored nation" status, which had prevented the publishers from selling lower-priced e-books through rival retailers such as Amazon.com Inc or Barnes & Noble Inc, the people said. The deal could also force a shift, at least temporarily, in pricing control from publishers to retailers, one of the people said. Such a move to a "wholesale model" would not only benefit consumers but also Amazon, which had been the leading bargain e-book retailer with its Kindle reader. The Justice Department is seeking to unravel agreements Apple secured from five publishers about two years ago, as the Silicon Valley company was launching its iPad and was seeking to break up Amazon's dominance in the digital book market.

UN calls on India to end arbitrary executions

UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns on Friday called on India's government to take stronger measures to end extrajudicial and arbitrary executions. While commending India for its willingness to listen to new ideas and improve in the area of human rights, Heyns said at the conclusion of a 12-day visit to the country that there is evidence that the Indian police has been creating "fake encounters," where they create a shoot-out in which a targeted person is killed. After the shoot-out is over, the targeted person is painted as the aggressor, so the police can claim he or she was killed in self-defense. Heyns believes the main reason these encounters happen is that there is a high level of impunity given to police officers and prosecutions are hard to obtain through the legal process. He also expressed concern over a number of other questionable execution practices, such as killing of "witches" and honor killings. Heyns encouraged the Indian government to ratify international treaties, such as the Convention Against Torture and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, and to work with other countries and develop policies to prevent these types of executions.

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  • MiMIC Journal

Exxon loses crown to PetroChina

US oil giant Exxon Mobil loses its crown as the world's biggest listed producer of oil to PetroChina, figures suggest.

China arrests over coup rumors

A ban on Internet users commenting on posts to China's two largest microblogging sites enters its third day after the government closed 16 websites and detained six people for spreading rumors of a coup attempt in Beijing.

Sino-Forest in bankruptcy filing

Chinese forestry firm Sino-Forest, accused last year of inflating its revenues and exaggerating its holdings, files for bankruptcy protection in Canada.

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  • Brief News

Chevron targeted a second time by Brazil prosecutors seeking operating ban

Brazilian prosecutors are seeking for a second time to ban Chevron Corp. and Transocean Ltd. from operating in the country after a 3,000-barrel oil spill. The two companies must be suspended from operating until they stop environmental damage from the November leak off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. The two companies should be fined 500 million reais ($273 million) a day if they don't comply with the suspension, according to Porto. Chevron is facing mounting attacks from Brazilian politicians, prosecutors and regulators after the leak at its $3.6 billion Frade project in November and a second seep in March. Federal prosecutor Eduardo Santos, who's probing the slick independently from the regulator, charged 17 executives at Chevron and Transocean with environmental crimes and called for prison sentences of as much as 31 years.

BP accuses U.S. hiding evidence on size of Gulf oil spill

A reduction in the size of the spill would lower the maximum civil fine BP could be forced to pay under the Clean Water Act, now estimated at $17.6 billion.

Cisco to invest 1 billion Reais in Rio center

Cisco Systems Inc will invest 1 billion reais ($547.4 million) to build an innovation and technology center in Rio de Janeiro. Rodrigo Abreu, Cisco's president in Brazil, will make the announcement April 2 during a company event, the newspaper said. San Jose, California-based Cisco will inaugurate the Rio technology center in the second half.

Human rights court agrees to hear Guantanamo detainee case

The IACHR - Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on Friday agreed to hear the case of Guantanamo detainee and Algerian national Djamel Ameziane. The CCR - Center for Constitutional Rights and the CEJIL - Center for Justice and International Law, co-counsel for Ameziane, states that Ameziane has been held at Guantanamo Bay without any charge or trial for more than 10 years. This is the first time that the IACHR has agreed to accept jurisdiction over a Guantanamo detainee. J Wells Dixon, Senior Staff Attorney at CCR, stated: Indefinite detention is not an option. Detained men must be afforded fair trials or released. It is long past the time for impunity at Guantanamo to end, and for the closure of Guantanamo to be addressed. Today's IACHR decision is a step in that direction. The IACHR will investigate whether the US's failure to transfer Ameziane is in compliance with international human rights law.

Top prosecutor at Guantanamo military commissions to retire

The top prosecutor at the Guantanamo Bay military commissions has asked to retire from the military after he finishes his assignment there. Brig. Gen. Mark Martins says he hopes the decision will drain some of the politics out of the chief prosecutor's position and will provide some continuity. He said the move will also allow him to make decisions without any taint of politics. Whatever decisions he makes while chief prosecutor could not be construed as being motivated by how it might affect his future military career.

Spain budget: Cuts to total 27bn euros this year

Spain is cutting 27bn euros ($36bn) from its budget this year as part of one of the toughest austerity drives in its history. Changes will include freezing public sector workers' salaries and reducing departmental budgets by 16.9%. The government says it will raise 12.3bn euros this year, aided by an increase in tax for large companies. Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria said the nation was in an "extreme situation".

Groupon's shares fall on revision

Groupon revised its financial results on Friday, an unexpected restatement that deepened losses for the daily deals site and once again raised questions about the accounting practices of the newly public company. As part of the revision, Groupon disclosed a "material weakness" in its internal controls, saying it had failed to set aside enough money to cover customer refunds. The accounting issue increased the company's losses in the fourth quarter to $64.9 million from $42.3 million. The disclosure highlights current concerns about the reliability of Groupon's financial statements. Founded only four years ago, the company has experienced astonishing growth as it came to dominate the world of daily deals. Last year, investors clamored for shares of the newly public company, which was valued as high as $20 billion.

Ahead of I.P.O., Mark Zuckerberg's lawyers expedite disclosures

Facebook's chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, is rushing to clear all his paperwork ahead of the social network's highly anticipated initial public offering. The Federal and Trade Commission disclosed in a notice on Friday that it had agreed to expedite the approval of a filing for Zuckerberg, terminating the usual 30-day waiting period. The notice relates to Zuckerberg's stock options and his plans to exercise stock options worth about $5 billion in the offering. This type of disclosure is not that common for I.P.O. stock sales; however, because of the value of Zuckerberg's options, a filing was necessary. A large portion of Zuckerberg's bounty, roughly $2 billion, will be used to pay income taxes.

Turkish MPs fight as controversial schools bill passed

Turkey's parliament has passed a bill that allows parents to move their children into Islamic schools earlier. The education reform bill extends compulsory education from eight to 12 years and allows children to switch to specialist schools from as young as 10. The ruling AK Party says the bill will mean pupils stay longer in school but secular Turks see it as part of a wider plan to increase religious influence. MPs fought during a debate on the bill, which followed days of protests.

Three US credit firms warn of security breach

Visa, Mastercard and Discover have warned that credit card holders' personal information could be at risk after a security breach. The firms said there had been "no breach" of its own system, instead blaming a third party. Industry sources believe more than 10 million cards may have been compromised. Reports suggest the stolen details had been obtained in New York. Sources believe card-processing firm Global Payments was the company that suffered the breach, but it has not responded to requests for comment. None of the three companies, which are the three of the largest credit card processors would confirm how many customers were affected.

Iran ordered to pay $44.6 million to US marines injured in 1983 Beirut attacks

A federal judge on Wednesday awarded $44.6 million from Iran to two US marines and their families as a result of injuries sustained in the 1983 suicide-truck bombing on American barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Relying on the findings of fact from Peterson v. Islamic Republic of Iran (Peterson II), Judge Royce Lamberth, Chief Judge for the US District Court for the District of Columbia, found that marines Jeffrey Paul O'Brien and Daniel Lane Gaffney had already proven that Iran's acts of extrajudicial killing and support for such killing were intended to cause their injuries, thus they were entitled to collect damages under the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, 28 USC § 1605A(c), for solatium and pain and suffering. Collection of the award may be difficult, though plaintiffs' attorney Joseph Peter Drennan is hopeful that judgment will be enforced against blocked Iranian assets in the US.

Muslim Brotherhood Egypt presidential candidate cleared to run by judges

Egyptian military judges dropped convictions against Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Khairat el-Shater, clearing the nominee of the nation's dominant political party to run in the election, the group's lawyer said.

To keep protesters away, Egypt's police put up walls

The barriers went up near the Interior Ministry in Cairo, turning vibrant neighborhoods into a maze of checkpoints. Some residents say the walls symbolize the divisions between the country's authorities and ordinary citizens.

Switzerland wants German tax investigators arrested on economic espionage

Switzerland is seeking to arrest three German tax investigators who negotiated the purchase of data on Credit Suisse Group AG clients for economic espionage, a German government spokeswoman said.

Eurozone ministers boost firewall to $1tn

Eurozone countries agreed to boost the joint lending power of the "firewall" from 500bn to 800bn euros ($1.1tn). The firewall is the permanent mechanism to bail out troubled eurozone nations. But in reality, what the eurozone countries are doing is making commitments available earlier that they had already agreed to give. As Spain and Italy's finances have looked more precarious, investors have been worried about whether the eurozone's firewall could cope with more bailouts. The new enlarged fund, combined with what the International Monetary Fund has agreed to lend to the eurozone, should be enough to cope with a new crisis.

The individual mandate's growth in unpopularity

The Supreme Court case against President Obama's health care law may come down to one big legal question: Can the government require every American to buy health insurance? Many Americans say no, but a former White House spokesman says that's because they don't fully understand the law. And an individual mandate was even once proposed by Republicans.

Airlines' treatment of passengers slowly improves

For airline passengers grappling with fare increases, canceled routes and a seemingly endless parade of new fees, "better" may not be the first word that comes to mind. But based on more traditional yardsticks — lost bags, delayed flights, lousy service and bumpings from full planes — airlines are doing a better job. Airlines are slowly, steadily recovering from their meltdown five years ago, when, under the strain of near-record consumer travel demand, their performance tanked. Industry performance for all four measurements was slightly better in 2011 compared with 2010. "Airlines realize that people are paying a lot more money, and the system is more complex than it was, and they have to do a better job." With higher fuel costs, airfares are trending up, although increases vary significantly depending on whether the passenger is flying between major airports, or is heading to or from a small or medium-sized airport. As airlines cut back service to smaller airports, the cost of air travel in small and medium cities is increasing.

Law firm restructuring its management

New York law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf is shaking up its management structure after the recent departure of nearly 40 of its 300-plus partners — including the managing partner of its Washington office. Dewey will go from having a sole chairman to a five-partner "office of the chairman" that includes leaders of the firm's most profitable practice groups: head of Dewey's D.C. lobbying practice Charles Landgraf, three practice group leaders in New York and chairman Steven Davis. Davis will relocate from New York to London to focus on the firm's international practice. The restructuring is pending approval of the entire partnership in a vote to be completed this week.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

Time
The truth about oil. The Future Of Oil. Extreme oil--from the deep Atlantic to the arctic, from fracking in the U.S. to sands in Canada--is replacing dwindling supplies. But it comes at a heavy economic and environmental cost.

Newsweek
Forget the Church. Follow Jesus. Christianity has been destroyed by politics, priests, and get-rich evangelists. Ignore them and embrace Him.

Business Week
Steve Jobs last war. Apple's jihad.

The Economist
France in denial.

Der Spiegel
Das Benzin-Kartell. Wie Öl-Konzerne die Spritpreise manipulieren.

L'Espresso
Famiglie anche noi. Conviventi. Gay. Divorziati. Aumentano le unioni di fatto, mentre calano i matrimoni. Ma per lo Stato italiano non esistono. Né hanno diritti.

  • Daily Press Review

Russian passenger plane crashes in Siberia
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

Qatar says Iraq's fugitive Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi arrives for 'official visit'
Asharq Al-Awsat, Pan-Arab daily, London, England

Syria conference: Gulf countries to fund rebels
Egyptian Gazette, English-language, Cairo, Egypt

Ultra-Orthodox man wounded in axe attack in central Jerusalem
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

PA defends detention of dissenting journalists
JPost, Conservative, Jerusalem, Israel

Events mark Falklands anniversary
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Near clean sweep for Suu Kyi's party in Myanmar
CNN International, London, England

Obama team sets sights on Romney
Daily Express, Conservative tabloid, London, England

UK weather: Sunbathers enjoy last of warm weather as Britain braces for Easter freeze
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Britain's Got Talent 2012: Ryan O'Shaughnessy's school friend was inspiration for love song
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Rescue launched to save stranded Russian fishermen
EuroNews, International news, Ecully Cedex, France

MALI: Junta reinstates constitution as rebels seize Timbuktu
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

A different voice this time from the EU Parliament
Hurriyet Daily News, (Liberal, English-language), Istanbul, Turkey

32 dead in Siberian passenger plane crash
Independent The, London, England

Arctic Cold War heats up
Moscow News The, Independent, Moscow, Russia

Bus driver arrested after fatal M5 crash
Telegraph The, Conservative daily, London, England

Mark Owen becomes third member of Take That to become father-to-be
Telegraph The, Celebrity news, London, England

Parliament session extended
Bangkok Post, Independent, Bangkok, Thailand

Suu Kyi wins parliamentary seat: party
China Post, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Philippines Protest Against N.Korean Rocket Launch
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

Russian plane crashes in Siberia with 43 aboard, 12 survive
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India

Teens abduct, kill 15-year-old for ransom in Pune
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

Okada woos opposition camp
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Aussie PM jokes with Obama on prejudices
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

Plane crash kills 41 in Russia's Siberia
People's Daily Online, English-language, Beijing, China

Woman finds maggots in Qantas snack on flight from LA
Straits Times, Pro-government, Singapore

Brynne's new reality
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

Fire-damaged cruise ship Azamara Quest safely reaches in Malaysia
Taiwan News, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Local currency transactions needed among BRICS
The Economic Times, Business, Mumbai, India

Ang San Suu Kyi hails election win
Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Ontario

A more efficient border, a more efficient economy
Globe and Mail The, Centrist daily, Toronto, Canada

World's Most Eligible Billionaire Bachelors
International Business Times, Business news organization, New York, U.S

New Generation Protests Crimes of Brazil's Dictatorship
IPS Latin America, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

Wall St Week Ahead: After stocks' first-quarter run, focus turns to data
Reuters, Business News, New York, U.S

Russian plane crash kills 31, 12 survive
Reuters, World News, New York, U.S

Juno Awards 2012: An unpredictable night
Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

Mali neighbours to mull sanctions
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

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