March 13, 2017 nº 1,847 - Vol. 14

"If you are wearing a purple heel, that doesn’t make your brain any less capable."

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  • Top News

VW pleads guilty to US emissions charges

Volkswagen has pleaded guilty to three charges as part of a $4.3bn agreement with the US regulators over the diesel emissions scandal. The German car maker has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud, obstruction of justice and entry of goods by false statement. VW general counsel Manfred Doess told a court in Detroit the company was "guilty on all three counts". He said the criminal acts occurred in both Germany and the United States. VW admitted that vehicles were fitted with illegal software which allowed them to cheat emissions tests over a six-year period. The devices enabled VW's diesel vehicles to emit up to 40 times legally allowable pollution. John Neal, an assistant US attorney, told the US district court that the scheme "was a well thought-out, planned offensive that went to the top of the organization". (Click here)

House Approves Bill That Would Curb Class Actions

A Republican-backed bill to restrict class-action lawsuits passed out of the US House of Representatives on Thursday with a 220-201 vote and will head to the Senate. The legislation, dubbed the Fairness in Class Action Litigation Act, would change class-actions in several big ways, perhaps most notably by restricting plaintiffs' lawyers from getting paid until members of a class collect from a settlement, and tying attorneys' fees more closely to how much actually gets distributed to consumers. Today, fees are typically tied to the amount a company agrees to put up, even if a small percentage of eligible class members actually come forward to take part in the deal. The bill also includes a section aimed at curbing alleged abuse in bankruptcy trusts that compensate victims of asbestos contamination. Backers and opponents of the legislation quickly took sides after the gavel banged. "Class action lawsuits are rife with abuse," said Lisa Rickard, president of the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, a major proponent of the proposed law. "Today, the House has done its job to ensure that class members get paid first and that plaintiffs' lawyers only earn a percentage of what class members actually receive." Plaintiffs' lawyer organization the American Association for Justice, meanwhile, decried the bill's passage.


A Mexican man has been formally removed from the U.S. Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list. The law firm Diaz, Reus & Targ showed that the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control had not met its burden of proof that he was linked to Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán as a partner and financial front-man. (Click here)

  • Crumbs

1 - Intel to buy Mobileye for $14-$15 billion - click here.

2 - Brazil's Cemig seeks partner, IPO for two main units - click here.


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  • MiMIC Journal

US dismisses China proposal on N Korea military halt

US officials have dismissed China's suggestion that North Korea could halt its missile and nuclear test in exchange for a suspension of US military activity in the region. The US state department said it was not "a viable deal" while the UN ambassador said North Korea was not "rational". China's suggestion came after North Korea launched four ballistic missiles, breaking international sanctions.

After $225 Billion in Deals Last Year, China Reins In Overseas Investment

Chinese officials are warning that they will crack down on "blind and irrational" acquisitions amid rising worries about money leaving the country.


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  • Brief News

Judge declines to reinstate ruling

A US judge has declined to issue an emergency order banning President Donald Trump's revised travel ban. The ruling came from Seattle district judge James Robart, the same judge who had issued the order that in effect halted implementation of the first ban. Judge Robart said lawyers needed to file more extensive documentation. The new 90-day ban on citizens of six mostly Muslim nations is due to come into effect on Thursday but has sparked legal action in a number of states. Lawyers in Washington state had asked Judge Robart to extend his decision on the first ban to cover the second. (Click here)

Justice Department Fires US Attorney Preet Bharara

US Attorney Preet Bharara, one of 46 federal prosecutors asked to resign Friday, refused to step down, and was fired. "I did not resign," Bharara tweeted. "I was fired. Being the US Attorney in SDNY will forever be the greatest honor of my professional life." As the federal prosecutor for the Southern District of New York, Bharara pursued a number of high-profile cases, including criminal cases against defendants like Times Square bomber Faisal Shahzad, and won a $1.8 billion settlement against SAC Capital Advisors for insider trading, shutting down the hedge fund. The Justice Department asked Bharara and 45 other federal prosecutors to resign. Such requests are standard from a new administration, as it seeks to clear out political appointees from the previous president.

What Comes Next as May Prepares to Trigger Brexit

Nine months after Britain voted to leave the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May is finally close to opening divorce proceedings. The negotiations could turn “vicious,” according to Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says they will be “very, very, very difficult." Both sides will have to determine what is and isn’t negotiable. European Council President Donald Tusk says the EU would respond to an Article 50 notification within 48 hours. After that, European leaders will probably call a summit. If Article 50 is filed this week that could happen around April 6, according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. If not, it will likely be in May. The leaders would discuss the guidelines they will give to Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s chief negotiator. After that, they may choose to delay in-depth conversations until after the French elections finish in May. Theresa intends to pull the UK out of the single market for goods and services -- a "hard" or "clean" Brexit that prioritizes securing control of immigration, laws and her budget over economic concerns. May wants the “best possible deal” for trading with the bloc although she wants the liberty she now lacks to land trade deals with non-EU countries such as the US Remaining EU members don’t want the UK to “cherry pick” the benefits of membership with none of the responsibilities (like agreeing to freedom of labor movement), lest others be encouraged to leave as well. Many European countries are going to seek a guarantee of the rights of their citizens living in the UK May wants the same for Britons living abroad and says this is an issue to resolve early on. The Republic of Ireland, an EU member, says it will fight any attempt to restore a so-called hard border with Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK Then there’s the question of the bill the UK will be asked to pay.

SEC denies request to create ETF tied to Bitcoin

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Friday announced its decision to reject an application to create an exchange-traded fund (ETF) tied to the value of Bitcoin, a virtually currency. The fund, proposed by Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, would have tracked an index of assets, but would have traded like a stock. The markets where Bitcoin is currently traded are largely unregulated, prompting the SEC to deny a Bitcoin ETF due to "concerns about the potential for fraudulent or manipulative acts and practices in this market." The Winklevoss brothers have vowed to obtain SEC regulation for Bitcoin.

EU leaders harden stance in Turkey row

Several EU leaders have criticized Turkey, amid a growing row over the Turkish government's attempts to hold rallies in European countries. Erdogan accused Germany and the Netherlands of "Nazism" after officials blocked rallies there. Dutch PM Mark Rutte called his comments "unacceptable", while Germany's foreign minister said he hoped Turkey would "return to its senses". Denmark's leader has also postponed a planned meeting with Erdogan. Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said he was concerned that "democratic principles are under great pressure" in Turkey. The rallies aim to encourage many Turks living in Europe to vote yes in a referendum expanding the president's powers. However, planned rallies in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands were blocked after officials cited security concerns or said the rallies could stoke tensions.

Australia considers childcare ban on unvaccinated children

Unvaccinated children would be banned from childcare centers and preschools under an Australian government plan. Some Australian states already have "no jab, no play" laws, but PM Malcolm Turnbull is calling for nationwide legislation. Health groups have supported the push, arguing parents and the community have an obligation to protect children. (Click here)

Iceland to end capital controls from 2008 financial crisis

Iceland will lift all capital controls on its citizens, businesses and pension funds from Tuesday. Capital controls, such as those to restrict money flowing in and out of the country, were imposed in 2008 after the country's biggest banks collapsed. The government thinks the economy has recovered sufficiently to end controls. The removal of the capital controls - which helped stabilize the currency and economy during the country's financial crash - represents the completion of Iceland's return to international financial markets.

Ousted South Korean President Leaves Presidential Palace

Park Geun-hye returned to her home in Seoul's Gangnam District two days after her impeachment. As a private citizen, she could face criminal corruption charges.

Falling Stars: Negative Yelp Reviews Target Trump Restaurants, Hotels

Now that Donald Trump is president, online reviews of his hotels, restaurants and other properties have become much more politicized. But his presidency may help offset negatives for the Trump brand.

The Law's Emotion Problem

In the 1992 Supreme Court case Riggins v. Nevada, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy acknowledged — perhaps unwittingly — that our legal system relies on a particular theory of the emotions. The court had ruled that a criminal defendant could not forcibly be medicated to stand trial, and Justice Kennedy concurred, stressing that medication might impair a defendant's ability to exhibit his feelings. This, he warned, would interfere with the critical task, during the sentencing phase, of trying to "know the heart and mind of the offender," including "his contrition or its absence." But can a judge or jurors infer a defendant's emotions reliably, as Justice Kennedy implied? Is it possible, as this theory holds, to detect remorse — or any other emotion — just by looking and listening? Some scientists believe so. A famous experimental paradigm called "mind in the eyes” purports to demonstrate this ability. You are shown a photograph of a pair of eyes, accompanied by a short list of words that describe a mental state or attitude, such as irritated, sarcastic, worried and friendly. Then you are asked to pick the word that best matches the emotions the eyes express. My lab has confirmed that test subjects perform marvelously at this task, selecting the expected word more than 70 percent of the time on average, based on a study we conducted using over 100 test subjects. My lab, however, has also discovered a hitch in this paradigm: If you remove the list of words and ask test subjects to "read" the eyes alone, their performance plummets to about 7 percent on average. The word list, it seems, acts as a cheat sheet that helps test subjects unconsciously narrow down the possibilities. People turn out to be quite bad at inferring emotions without context. This includes judges and juries. Our legal system is one of the most impressive feats of Western civilization. But psychology and neuroscience in recent years have shown many of its tacit assumptions to be out of sync with our best understanding of how our brains and minds work.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

Inside Donald Trump's War Against the State

How The 'Green Book' Saved Black Lives On The Road

Business Week
Big Tobacco Has Caught Startup Fever

The Economist
Subatomic opportunitiesQuantum leaps

Der Spiegel
Halbmond Finsternis

Il giro di Draghi


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