March 23, 2015 nº 1,608 - Vol. 11

"A wise man fights to win, but he is twice a fool who has no plan for possible defeat."

 Louis L'Amour

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  • Top News

Greeks investigate statistics chief over deficit figure

Greek authorities are escalating a criminal investigation against the head of the official statistics service, accused by some politicians of inflating the budget deficit to help Greece's creditors justify the country's unpopular bailout terms. The country's chief statistician, Andreas Georgiou, was summoned to testify to prosecutors late last week and faces further questioning on Monday, according to people familiar with the proceedings. The move reactivates a prosecution that was thought to be dormant and indicates that the case is likely headed for a trial, these people say. The revival of the case comes as Greece's new government—a coalition of the radical-left Syriza party and the right-wing nationalist Independent Greeks—seeks to challenge the tough austerity and free-market overhauls imposed by Greece's main lenders: the rest of the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund.

Cyber attacks upend attorney-client privilege

Security experts say law firms are perfect targets for hackers. A security breach is one of the last things a lawyer wants to admit to a client. At least 80 of the 100 biggest firms in the country, by revenue, have been hacked since 2011 but law firms of all sizes are vulnerable. Since at least 2009, the FBI, the US Secret Service, and other law enforcement agencies have warned the managing partners of big US firms that their computer files are targets for cyber spies and thieves in China, Russia, and other countries, including the US, looking for valuable information about potential corporate mergers, patent and trade secrets, litigation plans, and more. If you're a major law firm, it's safe to say that you've either already been a victim, currently are a victim, or will be a victim. The question is, what are you doing to mitigate it? Law firms aren't doing nearly enough. But that's changing as firms come under pressure from clients to bolster defenses. Many Wall Street banks, including Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, typically require law firms to fill out up to 20-page questionnaires about their threat detection and network security systems. Some clients are even sending their own security auditors into firms for interviews and inspections. Some law firms have brought in consultants to help them upgrade security policies and systems and then certify that their networks are safe. Rival law firms are even banding together to address the problem. An alliance of leading firms in New York and London will share information about threats and work with financial institutions to devise best practices for the legal industry. To mitigate potential damage, some firms are buying cyber insurance in the event of a major data breach. The market is relatively small, but more firms are asking for quotes and demand is picking up.

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Lagarde says IMF to co-operate with China-led AIIB bank

International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde has said the IMF would be "delighted" to co-operate with the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The AIIB has more than 30 members and is envisaged as a development bank similar to the World Bank. Lagarde said there was "massive" room for IMF co-operation with the AIIB on infrastructure financing.

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  • Brief News

Wal-Mart fights bid to curb gun sales

A US appeals court showdown looms next month for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in a case with potentially broad impact on how much influence investors can have over their companies. The dispute concerns Wal-Mart's sales of assault rifles with high-capacity magazines. New York's Trinity Wall Street church wants shareholders to vote on a resolution calling on Wal-Mart's board to review management decisions to sell the weapons, as well as other products that could harm the company's reputation. A district court sided with Trinity in November and said that Wal-Mart has to include the proposal on the corporate ballots it will send out this spring. Wal-Mart appealed, arguing that the shareholder resolution meddles in regular business decisions and is at odds with decades of guidance from the Securities and Exchange Commission that such affairs are off limits. The gun issue is controversial. But it is the corporate-governance question that has elevated the case from a politicized dispute between the company and a tiny shareholder into one that has drawn widespread attention from prominent law professors and big-business groups. They hope the proposal will answer a question that rarely reaches the federal court system's upper levels: How much influence should investors have over a company's day-to-day operations?

Citigroup says judge allowing two Argentina bond payments

Citigroup Inc. said a US judge is letting it process two bond payments in Argentina, giving it time to exit a custody business there that got stuck in the government's legal battle with hedge funds. Citigroup's Argentine branch can fulfill its duty to process interest payments March 31 and June 30 on bonds issued under local law in US dollars, the bank said Sunday. A judge in Manhattan signed the order March 20, allowing the payments "to the extent certain conditions are satisfied," the bank said. The filing couldn't immediately be confirmed in court records. The ruling helps Citigroup extricate itself from a dispute over the country's bond payments that was threatening to cripple one of the bank's oldest overseas units.

Early call for Ebola help 'ignored'

A "global coalition of inaction" contributed to world's deadliest-ever Ebola outbreak, the medical charity MSF says a year after it was declared. The charity says "many institutions failed, with tragic and avoidable consequences." Ebola has killed more than 10,000 people in the last 12 months.

Justice Department weighs in on assembly-line justice for children

The Justice Department for the first time is weighing in on a state court case on whether some courts are depriving juveniles of their rights to a lawyer. The department filed a statement of interest in a Georgia case that alleges that public defense in four southern counties is so underfunded that low-income juveniles are routinely denied the right to legal representation. Civil rights attorneys say that in Georgia, most young people get "assembly-line justice" that can haunt them the rest of their lives. The court case accuses the counties of failing to meet their constitutional obligations to provide effective representation. The lawyers provided to young people in these juvenile courts may meet them just 15 minutes before a proceeding, and sometimes spend much of that time convincing them to admit guilt.

Egypt should reject amendments threatening fair trials

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi Sunday to reject amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure that would interfere with the rights of defense lawyers to call witnesses during trials. The amendments, which were adopted by the Egyptian cabinet in February, give judges the sole discretion in determining what witness testimony will be heard in court. The current laws state that any witnesses with information about a case can come forward to testify, require all testimony to be presented in court unless the defendant agrees to have the evidence submitted as statements read to the court and state that judges are to comply with the testimony brought forth by the defendants. Critics of the proposed amendments say they are unconstitutional and may violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees the right to a proper defense for criminal defendants.

Holcim-Lafarge avoids jinx of Europe's mega-merger fatality rate

When Holcim Ltd. and Lafarge SA agreed on terms late last week to save their merger, they avoided for now joining a growing list of European deals that never made it over the finish line. While a return to levels of deal making not seen since 2007 may have delighted bankers last year, 20 percent of mergers worth more than $10 billion announced in the last two years have collapsed. The deals that failed wiped out about $278 billion of the total $784 billion in announced deals. One reason for the long gestation period for announced deals could be Europe's regulatory environment. The approval process is more cumbersome and complex than the American one because both the European Union and member states need to sign off on deals, and may have different requirements. Cultural differences can also play a role -- something that Swiss Holcim and Paris-based Lafarge will have learned during their months of negotiations. Though the two countries are geographically close, in practice they are as different culturally as is "humanly possible." The Holcim-Lafarge transaction, which will value France's Lafarge at 28.2 billion euros ($30.2 billion) including net debt, isn't done yet.

New Mexico passes bill ending civil asset forfeiture

The New Mexico legislature on Saturday passed a bill that will end civil asset forfeiture in the state. The bill, HB 560, was passed in the senate by a vote of 37-0. Civil asset forfeiture is a police practice in which authorities can take an individual's property without charging that person for a crime. The bill abolishes this practice, and now before police may seize an individual's property they must convict that person of a crime and prove that the property being seized was used in the commission of that crime. Additionally, the bill directs any monetary gains from the seizure of property to the state's general fund instead of the police budget. This is thought to remove any incentive police may have to seek out opportunities to seize property. The bill will now move to Republican Governor Susana Martinez's for a final signature.

EU pledges to extend Russia sanctions, delays confirming

The European Union pledged to prolong sanctions against Russia, pressuring President Vladimir Putin to support a cease-fire in Ukraine that's straining under complaints of violations from both sides. The commitment to extend the penalties until year-end stopped short of the actual approval sought by hard liners in eastern Europe and left open the possibility that the trade and investment curbs might not be renewed when they expire in July. It followed a call from Ukraine and Germany for new talks on the Feb. 12 cease-fire signed in Minsk, Belarus, after Russia accused its neighbor of putting the deal at risk. "There will be an assessment in June," French President Francois Hollande said. "We decided not to rush. We decided not to prejudge."

Obama administration publishes federal fracking regulations

US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell on Friday announced the publication of a rule regulating fracking on federal land. The rule is intended to ensure that wells are properly constructed to protect water supplies, to make certain that the fluids that flow back to the surface as a result of hydraulic fracturing operations are managed in an environmentally responsible way, and to provide public disclosure of the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluids. The rule was proposed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in May 2012 and published in the Federal Register with a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking and request for comment in May 2013. The proposed rule received more than 1.5 million comments, which were taken into consideration during the drafting of the final rule. The final rule will take effect in 90 days.

Tunisia to issue terrorism law soon

Tunisia's president said the country is preparing laws to bolster its fight against terrorism and is still seeking one suspect in last week's attack on a museum in the capital that left 22 people dead. "We're against a police state" Beji Caid Essebsi, 89, said. "But I say that liberties cease when abuses begin, and we are the victims of abuses from fanatics." He didn't give details of the new legislation.

'No way of enforcing' Airbnb law, S.F. planning memo says

San Francisco's highly touted Airbnb law — aimed at regulating short-term tourist rentals in private homes and apartments — is unworkable, according to the city department charged with enforcing it. The basic problem, according to a Planning Department memo recently presented at a Board of Supervisors committee meeting, is that "hosting platforms" like Airbnb aren't required to supply the city with the names of those renting out their homes. What the law needs, according to the Planning Department, is: (1) Booking data from the online services, so the department can cross-check to see that rentals being offered are registered with the city. (2) A straight cap on the number of days any unit can be rented out per year. The new law sets a limit of 90 days on renting out a unit if the owner isn't home — something that's "virtually impossible" to prove. (3) A way to cover the actual cost of administering the law, which the two-year, $50 registration fee doesn't come close to doing. Privately, advocates on both sides of the issue say the law's enforcement mechanism was flawed from the get-go — and that the idea of "self-policing" hosts voluntarily signing up and following the rules has little chance of working.

Small businesses struggle with health care law

Complying with the health care law is costing small businesses thousands of dollars that they didn't have to spend before the new regulations went into effect. The Affordable Care Act, which as of next Jan. 1 applies to all companies with 50 or more workers, requires owners to track staffers' hours, absences and how much they spend on health insurance. Many small businesses don't have the human resources departments or computer systems that large companies have, making it harder to handle the paperwork. On average, complying with the law costs small businesses more than $15,000 a year, according to a survey released a year ago by the National Small Business Association.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

Time
Closing the cancer gap

Newsweek
The Lawless Hotbed of Jihadism in Tunisia’s Western Mountains

Business Week
How to Make Millions by Marketing Yourself as a ‘Douche Bag’

The Economist
The war against Islamic State. The caliphate cracks

Der Spiegel
“Das Vierte Reich”

L'Espresso
Grandi opere e vecchi pirati. A colpi di mazzette

  • Daily Press Review

Ashraf Ghani is no Karzai, but he's still an Afghan
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

Belgians' fear of radical Islam takes a front seat
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

Suspended Tory could go 'within days'
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Ted Cruz announces 2016 presidential bid via Twitter
CNN International, London, England

BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Now Queen Helen is putting Blair in the hot seat
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Bamber's starter for GBP 10 Restore historic mansion: Former University Challenge host inherits 50-bed home from his elderly aunt
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Spain's†Socialists†are†set†to†win†regional†elections†in†Andalusia
EuroNews, International news, Ecully Cedex, France

Sarkozy's conservative UMP edges out far-right in French polls
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

Nevruz traditions among the Kurds
Hurriyet Daily News, (Liberal, English-language), Istanbul, Turkey

Postcard from... Benidorm
Independent The, London, England

World mourns loss of Singapore's founding father
Telegraph The, Conservative daily, London, England

Corden banks on best man in bid for US late-night crown
Telegraph The, Celebrity news, London, England

Lee Kuan Yew, founder of modern Singapore, dies at 91
China Post, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Japan Holds the Key to Improving Regional Ties
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

Putins biker gang lends muscle to rebel cause in east Ukraine
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India

Fr Raposo to be laid to rest on March 24
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

Indonesian President Jokowi visits Japan for summit with Abe
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Singaporeans mourn death of founding father Lee Kuan Yew
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

Ukraine President cancels trip over protests in eastern Ukraine
Straits Times, Pro-government, Singapore

Melbourne Storm star praises balanced attack ahead of North Queensland Cowboys clash
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

Key dates in the life of ex-Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew
Taiwan News, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

How Microsoft could make more money from Windows
The Economic Times, Business, Mumbai, India

Ted Cruz, Texas senator, confirms U.S. presidential bid
Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Ontario

Netanyahu, Obama rift ratchets up the rhetoric on all sides
Globe and Mail The, Centrist daily, Toronto, Canada

Liberty Reserve Brought Down By 'Joe Bogus': How The Feds Arrested Arthur Budovsky
International Business Times, Business news organization, New York, U.S

Lip-Service But Little Action on U.N. Business and Human Rights Principles in Latin America
IPS Latin America, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

BOJ's Kuroda: Told PM Abe Japan's long-term price trend unchanged
Reuters, Business News, New York, U.S

Modern Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, dies at 91
Reuters, World News, New York, U.S

Stephen Harper meets with NATO chief as Canada prepares new Iraq mission
Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

Early call for Ebola help 'ignored'
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

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