April 22, 2015 nº 1,618 - Vol. 11

"The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity."

Rollo May

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  • Top News

UN rights experts: EU must develop solutions to stop migrant deaths at sea

UN rights experts warned the EU on Monday that repression of irregular migration cannot be the only solution to the recurrent grave problem of masses of people drowning at sea. The experts said they were encouraged by the decision to hold an EU summit on the issue and urged states to use the summit to tackle the issues in a way that would comply with their international human rights obligations. Monday´s statement comes in response to the more than 1,000 deaths of irregular migrants that have occurred at sea in the past week. UN experts stated that front-line states, like Italy, should not be left with the sole responsibility of saving lives and that Europe needs to create innovative mobility avenues that will incentivize migrants to avoid having to resort to smugglers to get them into the country or other perilous routes. UN experts recommended that Europe create safe legal channels for migration so migrants can be registered, provided with information on labor markets, and be warned of the risks of irregular migration. The UN hopes that this will lead to more migrants finding legal ways to enter Europe and will reduce the number of illegal border crossings through criminal smuggling rings.

US Supreme Court declines to hear case against Chiquita over Colombia violence

The US Supreme Court on Monday denied certiorari in a case in which relatives of guerrilla conflict victims in Colombia sought to sue Chiquita Brand International for human rights abuses. Family members of several thousand victims of paramilitary violence in Colombia filed suit in April 2010 against Chiquita Brand International, which has admitted to funding United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a right-wing paramilitary group. Chiquita admitted to making payments to paramilitaries but argued it was a victim of extortion and was not responsible for any crimes, including torture and murder, committed by the paramilitaries. The US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit threw out the charges against Chiquita last year, finding that American courts have no jurisdiction because the events in question occurred in Colombia. The Supreme Court´s denial to hear the case means that the decision of the appellate court remains in place.

UN rights expert urges states to strengthen criminal justice systems

In closing remarks at the 13th UN Crime Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Sunday in Doha, Qatar, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Yury Fedotov called on member states to implement the Doha Declaration to combat transnational crime and bolster criminal justice systems around the globe. The declaration on "integrating crime prevention and criminal justice into the wider United Nations agenda to address social and economic challenges and to promote the rule of law at the national and international levels, and public participation" was unanimously adopted at the opening of the Congress on April 12. Fedotov urged the representatives from 149 member states to fully embrace the recommendations in the declaration, stating, "[a]s you take the journey back to your capitals and to your homes, I call on you, in the name of justice and fairness, and human rights, to turn this powerful document into the action that can help people ... everywhere." Fedotov also acknowledged the recent migrant tragedies in the Mediterranean citing the events as a compelling example of the need for adopting the Doha Declaration.

Climate change lawyers

Parties to the Climate Convention have decided to develop a new international climate agreement, to be signed by the end of 2015 in Paris. According to Caroline Dihl Prolo, attorney at Silveiro Advogados, "this is a work for lawyers, and it is not an easy one". (Click here)

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  • MiMIC Journal

China property developer Kaisa defaults

Kaisa Group has become the first Chinese property developer to default on its overseas debt, which is estimated to be about $2.5bn. The Shenzhen-based company said it missed two interest payments, raising concerns that more of its creditors could demand their money back. Kaisa has borrowed billions in order to pay for large land purchases in China. But the firm ran into trouble after the government froze some of its projects as part of a local corruption probe.

China readies for Islamic finance with a little help from Gulf

The most populous country in the world may be poised to get serious about Islamic finance, and banks in the Gulf Cooperation Council are taking note. Qatar International Islamic Bank QSC and QNB Capital LLC last week signed an agreement with China-based Southwest Securities Co. to develop Shariah-compliant finance products in the country. Seven months after Hong Kong sold its debut sukuk, China is exploring Islamic finance for projects from hospitals to metro stations, according to London-based Dome Advisory Ltd., which is working with a government-owned fund in Shanghai to finance five projects.

Venezuela ´receives $5bn in finance from China´

Venezuela has received $5bn (£3.4bn) in financing from China, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says. The money was for "development", he said, but gave no details. Venezuela is suffering from an acute economic crisis, as the price of its main export, oil, has almost halved over a year. The opposition accuses the government of mismanagement.

Hong Kong election candidates to be screened

Hong Kong´s government has revealed proposed reforms for the next election, which do not concede to pro-democracy demands for a fully free vote. The electoral blueprint complies with guidelines from China´s legislature that candidates for the 2017 election will be screened. Democracy activists say that means the elections will not be democratic.

China jury trial plan would appoint citizens to help weigh cases

China will appoint citizens to help judges decide some local court cases, in the Communist Party´s broadest yet experiment with jury trials. The nation´s highest court has submitted a legislative proposal to create "people´s juries" in 50 courts across 10 provinces, the official Xinhua News Agency said Monday. The jurors would be selected every five years from local residents older than 28 years, according to a summary of the proposal posted on the website of the Supreme People´s Court.


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  • Brief News

Supreme Court: police may not detain traffic violators longer than necessary

Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said a traffic stop becomes "unlawful if it is prolonged beyond the time reasonably required to complete the mission of issuing a warning ticket."

Insurers take on more risk in search of returns

Insurance companies just get can´t enough for their money these days. Interest rates are at all-time lows and even the United States stock markets haven´t mustered much steam. Flush with trillions of dollars, these once staid institutions are taking on bigger, flashier and riskier investments. The industry is poised to take on more risk this year, shifting investments into private equity firms, real estate deals and hedge funds. "They really don´t have the luxury of sitting on cash," said Michael Siegel, of Goldman Sachs. "The business is built on investing and getting positive returns." Among the most attractive investments for insurers are businesses that were once the domain of large banks, like lending to companies. Banks are getting squeezed out of these businesses under new regulation in the wake of the financial crisis. More lightly regulated investment firms like hedge funds and private equity have stepped in to fill the void.

Russian economy shrinks 2% as sanctions bite

Russia said its economy shrank by 2% in the first three months of this year, the first contraction since 2009. Medvedev attributed the shrinkage to the pressure of sanctions and the weak oil price. But, addressing MPs, he said the economic situation was not as bad as in 2009 and was stabilizing. He said Russia faced "a new reality". Sanctions are causing significant economic problems.

New York City buses must show ´killing Jews´ ad

A judge has ruled that New York City´s buses must display a controversial ad that refers to Muslims killing Jews. New York´s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) had opposed the advertisement, arguing it could incite terrorism and violence. But Judge John Koeltl rejected the argument and said the ad was protected under the US constitution, which enshrines the principle of free speech. The ad is paid for the American Freedom Defense Initiative. The advert shows a threatening-looking man with his head and face wrapped in a scarf, next to a quotation attributed to a music video from the militant Palestinian group Hamas. The quote says: "Killing Jews is worship that draws us close to Allah." The advert asks: "That´s his Jihad. What´s yours?"

Brazil fiscal tactics not grounds for impeachment

Attempts by opposition members of congress to use an audit court´s decision as grounds to impeach President Dilma Rousseff are signs of "compulsive desperation," according to Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo. "All the juridical institutions of the administration, including the central bank, understand that there was no violation of the fiscal responsibility law," Cardozo said. "This situation has been going on since 2001 in the government of the opposition." Brazil´s audit tribunal this week asked to hear 17 current and former members of Rousseff´s cabinet, including central bank President Alexandre Tombini and former Finance Minister Guido Mantega, to explain an operation in which the government delayed payments of 40 billion reais ($13.2 billion) to public banks in order to meet its fiscal goals. Aecio Neves, the president of the opposition Social Democrats Party and who lost to Rousseff in last year´s election, said the audit court´s finding could be grounds to begin impeachment proceedings.

Foreign companies at risk from proposed Chinese law

Major foreign companies and several Chinese Internet companies with US stock-exchange listings are using a corporate structure in China in a way that may be rendered illegal under a proposed law. Companies that appear to be at risk from the proposed law include Chinese operations of Amazon.com Inc., Pearson PLC and CBS Corp. They also include three major US-listed Chinese Internet companies: Sina Corp., Autohome Inc. and Weibo Corp. , which are threatened because foreign investors control them. Most Chinese Internet companies listed abroad, such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Baidu Inc., also use the structure but don´t seem to be at risk because they are ultimately controlled by Chinese nationals. All these companies use a structure called a variable interest entity, or VIE, to do business in sectors of the economy where foreign investment is restricted by the Chinese government. But under the law, proposed by the Ministry of Commerce of the People´s Republic of China, known as MOFCOM, in January, they may not be able to continue those operations or may have to sell controlling stakes in the operations to Chinese nationals, attorneys say. VIE structures are especially common among US technology companies. Typically, a company based outside of China sets up what is called a Wholly Foreign-Owned Enterprise in China. The WFOE in turn signs contracts with a Chinese-owned operating company, the VIE, which invests in the restricted sector. The contracts give the WFOE effective control of the operating company but not ownership.

African Bank debt holders fail to strike deal on law changes

African Bank Investment Ltd.´s subordinated debt holders, who are at risk of losing all their money after the lender´s 2014 collapse, failed to reach agreement with the government over changes to bank laws they say are prejudicial. The National Treasury is seeking the passage of amended banking laws, drafted after African Bank´s August collapse, to give administrators of failed lenders the right to sell bank assets and liabilities and change capital structures without investors´ consent. While senior debt holders, who will take a 10 percent loss on their investments, have agreed to the changes, junior bond holders say the amendments undermine their contractual rights and may be unconstitutional.

New York court issues habeas corpus writ for chimpanzees

A judge in New York has issued a writ of habeas corpus in a case brought by animal rights activists on behalf of two chimpanzees. The order means the university holding the chimpanzees will have to respond to the activists´ petition in court. The activists said the court had "implicitly determined" that the two chimpanzees are legal "persons". However, other experts say the writ may simply be a way for the court to gather more information at a further hearing.

ECB squeezes Greek Bbnks, tightening access to loans

As Greece scrambles to secure a financing deal with Europe before running out of cash, the European Central Bank is tightening the vise on the country´s ailing banks by curtailing access to desperately needed emergency loans. The European Central Bank is now demanding that the value of the collateral that Greek banks post at their own central bank to secure these loans be reduced by as much as 50 percent. If the Greek government and Europe remain at an impasse on an agreement about austerity measures, these so-called haircuts could increase further. The move highlights the hard-line approach taken by the E.C.B. toward Greece as it presses the new government to reach an agreement with its creditors. With the value of the collateral being reduced so significantly, banks will be hard pressed to obtain the money they need to survive.

Blue Bell Ice Cream expands listeria-related recall

US ice cream firm Blue Bell has expanded a recall to include all of its products because of a potentially lethal bacteria contamination. In a statement, the Texas-based firm said its ice cream, frozen yoghurt and other products could be contaminated with listeria. The bacteria can cause "serious and sometimes fatal infections".

Accussed Nazi officer goes on trial, admits moral guilt

Oskar Groening, a former Auschwitz guard, admitted in his opening statement before a court in Germany Tuesday that he shared the burden of moral guilt for his role at Auschwitz, which earned him the title, "Accountant of Auschwitz," but left it to the judges to determine if his actions were sufficient to be convicted as an accessory to murder.

DEA administrator Michele Leonhart is reportedly going to resign

Earlier this month, lawmakers said they had no confidence in Michele Leonhart after a watchdog agency found Drug Enforcement Administration agents cavorted with prostitutes paid for by drug cartels.

Supreme Court hears arguments on knowledge requirement for drug conviction

The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in McFadden v. United States to determine what level of knowledge is required for a narcotics conviction. The question originally before the court was whether, to convict a defendant of distribution of a controlled substance analogue, the government must prove that the defendant knew that the substance constituted a controlled substance analogue. A controlled substance analogue is a substance with a chemical structure that is "substantially similar" to a schedule I or II drug and has a "substantially similar" effect on the user.

Supreme Court declines Rajat Gupta´s insider trading appeal

The US Supreme Court on Monday denied certiorari in appeal brought by Rajat Gupta, the former director of the Goldman Sachs Group Inc, for his 2012 insider trading conviction. The petition submitted to the Supreme Court argued erroneous utilization of Federal Rule of Evidence 403 and noted a circuit split on jury instructions for character evidence. Gupta appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit early last year, but his conviction was ultimately upheld. This is the second time the Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal brought by Gupta, the first being a challenge to a permanent ban from acting as a public company officer brought January of this year.

  • Daily Press Review

Hong Kong unveils Beijing-backed electoral reform plans
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

Polish fashion guru slammed for posing with Nazi SS symbol
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

Tesco posts record GBP 6.4bn annual loss
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

U.S., allied ships prepared to intercept Iranians
CNN International, London, England

Kim Kardashian takes the plunge in stunning black dress as she attends Time 100 gala with husband Kanye West
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Yousef Saleh Erakat poses as a homeless man and offers people money on the street
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Spain arrests murder suspect on Britain´s most-wanted list
EuroNews, International news, Ecully Cedex, France

Hong Kong unveils vote plan, pro-democrats walk out
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

Can?m Istanbul newsletter brings love of city to your door
Hurriyet Daily News, (Liberal, English-language), Istanbul, Turkey

Migrant boat disaster: Charity predicts 2,500 children could die this year unless a unified rescue mission is resumed in the Mediterranean
Independent The, London, England

Major Ukrainian TV provider drops Russian channels
Moscow News The, Independent, Moscow, Russia

Team Freedom: The league of international freedom fighters
Telegraph The, Conservative daily, London, England

The world is your lobster: Arthur Daley´s guide to life
Telegraph The, Celebrity news, London, England

Wild weather smashes Australian state for third day
China Post, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

A Massive Embarrassment for Park
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

Britains royal family Fourth in line for the Game of Thrones
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India

Green fetish holds up plans to clear city´s worst traffic mess
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

Diet to get check on SDF missions abroad
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Rights group demands protection for Bangladesh workers
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

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

Beat the post holiday blues
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

Privacy advocates seek more openness on NSA surveillance
Taiwan News, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Nokia bets software revolution will help avoid past merger errors
The Economic Times, Business, Mumbai, India

Hong Kong election reforms bring few surprises, could spark new protests
Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Ontario

Drone with ´small quantity´ of radiation lands on roof of Japanese PM´s office
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

Tailings Ponds Pose a Threat to Chilean Communities
IPS Latin America, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

ECB to fund Greek banks as long as they stay solvent - Coeure
Reuters, Business News, New York, U.S

Japan says PM Abe will meet China´s Xi in Indonesia
Reuters, World News, New York, U.S

Raptors do little right in dropping second straight to Wizards
Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

SA army to tackle foreigner attacks
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England


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