July 10, 2017 nº 1.883 - Vol. 14

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.”

Marcel Proust

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Read Migalhas LatinoAmérica in Spanish every Tuesday and Thursday. Visit the website at www.migalhas.com/latinoamerica

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  • Top News

UN adopts historic nuclear disarmament treaty

UN member states voted 122-1 Friday to adopt the first ever multilateral legally binding treaty on nuclear disarmaments. The one vote against the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came from the Netherlands, while Singapore was absent at the conference. Among other things, the treaty prohibits 1) the developing, testing, production, manufacture, acquisition, possession, stockpiling, or transfer or receipt of nuclear weapons; 2) the use or threat to use nuclear weapons directly or indirectly; 3) the assistance, encouragement or inducement of anyone, or seeking assistance in any way from anyone to engage in any nuclear-weapons-related activity prohibited under the treaty; or 4) any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons in the member state's territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control. The treaty also requires declarations from member states concerning prior or current possession of nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons facilities, and a declaration that the concerned country will eliminate all such weapons and/or facilities before becoming a party to the treaty. The treaty also has various other provisions such as safeguards, environmental remediation, international cooperation and assistance, settlement of disputes, and withdrawal from the treaty.

How antitrust undermines press freedom

The rapid growth of digital connectivity has pushed demand for information to unprecedented heights. Never in history have so many people consumed so much news. This is a boon for democracy. Although reporting is often an irritant to those in power, high-quality news and analysis is essential to any political system that depends on giving citizens the facts so they can draw their own conclusions. The problem is that today’s internet distribution systems distort the flow of economic value derived from good reporting. Google and Facebook dominate web traffic and online ad income. Together, they account for more than 70% of the $73 billion spent each year on digital advertising, and they eat up most of the growth. Nearly 80% of all online referral traffic comes from Google and Facebook. This is an immensely profitable business. The net income of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, was $19 billion last year. Facebook’s was $10 billion. But the two digital giants don’t employ reporters: They don’t dig through public records to uncover corruption, send correspondents into war zones, or attend last night’s game to get the highlights. They expect an economically squeezed news industry to do that costly work for them. The only way publishers can address this inexorable threat is by banding together. If they open a unified front to negotiate with Google and Facebook—pushing for stronger intellectual-property protections, better support for subscription models and a fair share of revenue and data—they could build a more sustainable future for the news business. But antitrust laws make such coordination perilous. These laws, intended to prevent monopolies, are having the unintended effect of preserving and protecting Google and Facebook’s dominant position. The digital giants benefit from legal precedent against collective action that has a chilling effect on publishers. Yet each newspaper or magazine on its own has only limited negotiating power. Antitrust enforcers have declined to address Google and Facebook’s growing dominance, enabling the digital giants to roll up the information economy. The Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department let Google take over the online ad industry by buying Doubleclick, AdMob and AdMeld, as well as mapping competitor Waze. Regulators allowed Facebook to acquire two direct competitors, Instagram and WhatsApp.

France Inc. lauds Macron’s plan to loosen labor rules

Macron’s plans to loosen rigid labor rules drew praise from business leaders, even if some warned the measures will take time to lower the country’s chronically high unemployment. At stake, proposals to make it easier for firms to fire and hire staff. Macron is counting on France Inc. to open its purse strings, betting that private-sector hiring, rather than public spending, will fuel France’s recovery. The overall unemployment rate is nearly 10% and about a quarter of young people are jobless. However, some managers struck a note of caution, saying firms that have long avoided investing in France could still take years to rev up their activity. Many are on standby until September when Macron is expected to pass the labor measures into law. European regulators have demanded that countries boost their competitiveness by stripping away rules protecting workers from being fired, even in an economic downturn. Doing so would lower costs and legal uncertainty for firms and encourage them to hire, European officials say. Left-wing unions, however, say such measures risk opening the floodgates for massive job cuts.

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  • MiMIC Journal

China and Taiwan mixed up in White House gaffe

A formal statement from the White House was issued with a very public error - mixing up China and Taiwan. A press release following Donald Trump's meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit called him president "of the Republic of China". That is the official name of Taiwan. Xi is, in fact, President of the People's Republic of China. Earlier, the White House had also labelled Shinzo Abe president of Japan. He is the prime minister.

China shipper Cosco to buy HK rival OOIL for $6.3bn

Chinese shipping giant Cosco is set to buy its Hong Kong rival OOIL for $6.3bn. The deal would make Cosco the world's third biggest shipping company, with more than 400 vessels. OOIL's majority owner has accepted the bid, though the sale will still need regulatory approval. It would be the latest in a wave of mergers, which has left the top six shipping lines controlling almost two thirds of the market.

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  • Brief News

Donald Trump Jr met Russian lawyer who promised Clinton information

Trump's son has admitted meeting a Russian lawyer last year who he says had promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton. But Donald Trump Jr said that Natalia Veselnitskaya had provided "no meaningful information" on Clinton. Also at the meeting, were the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner and then-campaign head Paul J Manafort. US officials are investigating alleged Russian meddling in the US election. The FBI and Congress are both looking at whether Trump campaign officials colluded with an alleged Kremlin plot to undermine Clinton's campaign. The inquiries have yet to show evidence of collusion.

Offer to EU citizens 'falls short'

Theresa May's offer to give EU citizens in the UK "settled status" after Brexit has been described as being "far short of what citizens are entitled to". European Parliament Brexit chief negotiator Guy Verhofstadt and leaders of four of the parliament's main groups say the proposal is a "damp squib". It offers Europeans in the UK fewer rights than Britons in the EU, they say in a joint letter to newspapers. May has said about three million EU citizens would be allowed to stay. EU migrants who had lived in the UK for five years would be granted access to health, education and other benefits. But the prime minister's proposal would be dependent on EU states guaranteeing Britons the same rights.

Philip Morris ordered to compensate Australia

Tobacco giant Philip Morris has been ordered to pay the Australian government millions of dollars after unsuccessfully suing the nation over its world-first plain-packaging laws. In 2012, Australia legislated that cigarettes must be sold in unappealing packets with graphic health warnings. Philip Morris had tried to force the laws to be overturned, but a court dismissed its claim in 2015. The tobacco giant has now been ordered to pay the government's legal costs. The exact sum was redacted from the international Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) decision, but the Sydney Morning Herald reported it was as high as A$50m ($38m). In May, the World Trade Organization (WTO) had decided Australia's laws were a legitimate public health measure - making them more likely to be adopted overseas.

Vatican outlaws gluten-free bread for Holy Communion

Bread used to celebrate the Eucharist during Roman Catholic Mass must not be gluten-free - although it may be made from genetically modified organisms, the Vatican has ruled. In a letter to bishops, Cardinal Robert Sarah said the bread can be low-gluten. But he said there must be enough protein in the wheat to make it without additives. The new rules are needed because the bread is now sold in supermarkets and on the internet, the cardinal said. Roman Catholics believe bread and wine served at the Eucharist are converted into the body and blood of Christ through a process known as transubstantiation.

Qualcomm seeks Apple iPhone sales ban

Qualcomm, the world's biggest producer of mobile phone chips, has appealed for the sale of some iPhones in the US to be blocked. It claims that iPhones using chips by rivals, such as Intel, infringe six of its patents. Qualcomm said it had asked the US International Trade Commission (ITC) to investigate and impose an import block. It is the latest move in a series of disputes and lawsuits between Apple and Qualcomm. In January, Apple filed two lawsuits against Qualcomm, claiming it had abused its dominant market position. It also alleged the chip-maker had broken an agreement between the two companies, by denying Apple access to chip technologies it was entitled to use under the terms of a licensing deal.

New battlefield over gun rights: the courthouse itself

The national debate over where Americans can carry guns has landed, quite literally, at the courthouse door. Lawmakers in several states have expanded building access for people carrying weapons. A bill, pending in Ohio, would allow any gun owners with concealed-carry permits to come armed into courthouses and other gun-free zones without facing criminal charges. Under the measure, which was approved by Ohio’s House of Representatives last week, gun owners caught carrying weapons inside court buildings would be subject only to removal from the premises. While many county courthouses have metal detectors at entrances, security can be less tight in courthouses in rural areas.

UK court to rule on Saudi arms exports

The High Court is to rule later on the legality of UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia. The court will decide whether the British government failed to suspend weapons sales to the Saudi kingdom, which is fighting a war in Yemen. The UN claims Saudi air strikes against Houthi rebels in that country have caused thousands of civilian deaths. The Campaign Against the Arms Trade, which is bringing the case, claims the UK has contravened humanitarian law.

US laptop ban lifted on more flights

Kuwait Airways and Royal Jordanian have become the latest Middle Eastern airlines to let passengers take laptops in the cabin on US-bound flights. Both carriers said they had worked with US officials to tighten security checks on flights from Kuwait and Jordan. The US imposed the ban in March on direct flights from eight mainly Muslim countries to address fears that bombs could be concealed in the devices. Etihad, Turkish Airlines, Emirates and Qatar Airways became exempt last week.

US sanctions against Russia over Ukraine and Syria to remain

US sanctions imposed against Russia over its annexation of Crimea are to remain, Trump said. He tweeted that it would be premature to consider any relaxation "until the Ukrainian and Syrian problems are solved". The president also said he would work "constructively" with Russia after meeting Putin last week. Russia meanwhile has insisted that it will not change its policies in Ukraine and Syria because of the sanctions. "Our policy on Syria and on Ukraine has never been and will never be determined by the pressure of sanctions applied by the USA," parliamentary international affairs spokesman Konstantin Kosachev said. He said that US policy towards Russia was not determined by the requirements of international relations but by "the zigzags of US domestic policy and the confrontation between Trump and Congress".

Federal appeals court upholds First Amendment right to film police

The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled Friday that citizens have a First Amendment right to record police performing their duties. The court found that officers, "are public officials carrying out public functions, and the First Amendment requires them to bear bystanders recording their actions. This is vital to promote the access that fosters free discussion of governmental actions." The court was clear that this case was based on a First Amendment right to access of information about how public servants operate in the public realm. This decision follows the rulings by the First, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth, and Eleventh Circuits. Even with the ruling in favor of the First Amendment argument, two of the three judges ruled that the officers were entitled to qualified immunity, effectively shielding them from liability over the incidents.

Why Bitcoin Is Booming

It’s become a trusted alternative when fiat money’s value is corrupted by politics.

Spain Constitutional Court rules provision of Catalan budget illegal

The Constitutional Court of Spain ruled Wednesday that provisions of the Catallan budget that allocated funds to the upcoming independence referendum are illegal. The court held that any funds allocated to financing the October 1 referendum are unconstitutional and therefore void. The ruling aligned with the Madrid government's strong opposition to Catalian independence. The Spanish government continues to argue that not only does the Spanish Constitution not allow for secession, but that funds intended for the referendum would be used illegally.

Audi manager arrested in emissions probe

German authorities have arrested an Audi manager in connection with the VW diesel scandal. This is the first arrest in Germany related to Volkswagen's emissions-test cheating scandal. Munich prosecutors declined to comment on whether the arrested person is a current or former Audi employee. On Thursday, the US Justice Department said it had charged former Audi manager Giovanni Pamio with directing staff to design emissions-cheating software. Audi and parent company Volkswagen both declined to comment.

Forget an IPO, coin offerings are new road to startup riches

"Initial Coin Offerings" are exploding in value. Companies have raised more than $1 billion this year through this new, unregulated fundraising method that is based in the world of cryptocurrencies.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

Time
How They Make the Greatest Show on Earth (Games of Thrones)

Newsweek
Trump Jr. Promised damaging information about Clinton

Business Week
The Remaking of Donald Trump

The Economist
The world economy: the German problem: Why Germany’s current-account surplus is bad for the world economy

Der Spiegel
Essen oder nicht essen?

L'Espresso
La ambizioni di NapoMacron

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