March 19, 2007 no. 467 - Vol. 5
 

"For a list of all the ways technology has failed to improve the quality of life, please press three."

 Alice Kahn

Insider's view: see how local concerns shape up the global world. Read the daily press review in Migalhas International

  • Top News

US blocks environment progress: "We find that very regrettable"

A three-day conference ended Saturday with a general consensus on most points from members of the Group of Eight industrialized nations and five key developing countries — China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa. Germany says the United States, the world's heavyweight polluter,  has blocked progress on two key issues to protect the global environment. The issues were carbon emissions trading and rewarding developing nations for protecting their natural assets. Ministers stressed that the meeting had shown that there was a good deal of consensus on the scale and nature of the problem of climate change - but a lack of agreement on the tools to tackle it. According to one delegate the United States was "not subtle" in its opposition to carbon trading, and to another proposal that would pay developing countries to preserve rainforests.

$4.4bn debt relief for L America

Five of the poorest countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are to have their national debts cancelled by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Bolivia, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua owe a total of more than $4bn. The debt relief initiative is part of the IDB's goal to cut poverty in half in Latin America by 2015. Some pressure groups have called for more measures to help these nations improve education and health systems.

Senator insists Bush aides testify on firing of attorneys

The Democratic senator leading the inquiry into the dismissal of U.S. prosecutors insisted Sunday that Karl Rove and other top aides to President George W. Bush must testify publicly and under oath, setting up a confrontation between Congress and the White House, which has said it is unlikely to agree to such a demand. Some Republicans have suggested that Rove testify privately, if only to tamp down the political uproar over the inquiry, which centers on whether the White House allowed politics to interfere with law enforcement.

EU developing international criminal fingerprint database

The European Commission (EC)  plans to develop a common fingerprint database that includes data collected from criminals convicted of serious crimes within member states, a spokesperson announced Friday. EC spokesperson Ana-Paula Laiss denied claims made in the London Times that the database would require fingerprints even from people released without charge . The fingerprint plan was mentioned as part of the European Union (EU) Counter-Terrorism strategy  last week. Sharing criminal information, including fingerprints and DNA, was the goal of the 2005 Treaty of Prüm , which was ratified by Germany, Spain, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Austria, and Belgium. On Thursday, Finland announced its support for ratification.

Make way for copyright chaos

Last week, Viacom asked a federal court to order the video-sharing service YouTube to pay it more than $1 billion in damages for some 150,000 videos that Viacom claims it owns and YouTube users have shared. "YouTube", the complaint alleges, "has harnessed technology to willfully infringe copyrights on a huge scale", threatening not just Viacom, but "the economic underpinnings of one of the most important sectors of the United States economy". Yet as federal courts get started on this multiyear litigation about the legality of a business model, we should not forget one prominent actor in this drama largely responsible for the eagerness with which business disputes get thrown to the courts: the Supreme Court. For most of the history of copyright law, it was Congress that was at the center of copyright policy making. As the Supreme Court explained in its 1984 Sony Betamax decision, the Constitution makes plain that "it is Congress that has been assigned the task of defining the scope of the limited monopoly," or copyright. It has thus been "Congress that has fashioned the new rules that new technology made necessary". The court explained that "sound policy, as well as history, supports our consistent deference to Congress when major technological innovations alter the market for copyrighted materials". In the view of the court in Sony, if you don’t like how new technologies affect copyright, take your problem to Congress. The complex balance of interests within any copyright statute are best struck by Congress. While I remain a skeptic about deferring to Congress on constitutional matters, this case is a powerful lesson about the costs of judicial policy making in an area as complex as copyright. The Internet will now face years of uncertainty before this fundamental question about the meaning of a decade-old legislative deal gets resolved. No doubt the justices are clever, maybe even more clever than Congress. But however clever, it’s hard to believe that their input is worth the millions in economic value that will be wasted long before they announce their decision. - Op-Ed by Lawrence Lessig in the New York Times. 

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  • Brief News

LatAm migrants' money exceeds aid

The amount of money sent home by Latin American migrant workers to their families has reached more than $62bn. This figure now exceeds the combined total of all direct foreign investment and foreign aid to Latin America. According to the Inter-American Investment Bank, the figure could reach $100bn in four years' time. The biggest share of money, $23bn, was sent back to Mexico, mostly from workers living in the United States remitting small sums each month. The bank says it wants people to get away from what it calls cash to cash flows and into account to account transfers but the bank says the recent crackdown on illegal immigrants by the US authorities could hinder efforts to get migrants to use banks. 

US 'resolves N Korea funds row'

The US says it has resolved a financial row with North Korea, as talks on Pyongyang's nuclear programme resume. The US said $25m of North Korean funds, which were frozen in a Macau bank amid money laundering allegations, would be transferred to an account in Beijing. The North had warned it would not proceed with a deal to shut its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon without the money.

Bolivia move to protect coca name

International firms like Coca-Cola may have to stop using the word coca in brand names if Bolivia's coca leaf farmers get their way. The growers say the leaf is part of Bolivia's cultural heritage and merits protection like regional products such as champagne and feta cheese. A resolution by the farmers has been endorsed by a panel that is helping to rewrite Bolivia's constitution. Coca-Cola said in a statement its name is protected under Bolivian law.

EU 'agrees' cap on mobile charges

The price of using a mobile phone in another EU country could be capped at 50 cents ($0.66) a minute. EU telecoms ministers agreed in principle to the limit at the CeBIT hi-tech fair in Hanover. The European Parliament will debate the issue in May and ministers are understood to want the new law to come into effect at the beginning of July. Mobile operators have vociferously opposed capping, saying it will reduce investment in network infrastructure.

Brazil in talks for CAF membership

Brazil's government is negotiating with the Andean Development Corporation to become a fully-fledged member, which would require an investment of about US$1 billion (euro 0.75 billion). Lula has already agreed to proceed with this operation. Brazil is looking to resolve problems at the Financial Fund for the Development of the River Plate Basin, known as FONPLATA, whose other members are Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.

U.S. and Israel Differ on Palestinian Contacts

The US says it has decided that it will have contact with some of the new ministers in the Palestinian unity government, sworn in on Saturday. A US consular official in Jerusalem said the US would maintain contact with ministers it feels it can work with. US officials deny this amounts to a shift in policy, saying they will still not deal with Hamas. Israeli PM Ehud Olmert urged the international community to have nothing to do with the new government.

Mexico City's gay couples get new rights but still face hostility

The first civil partnerships among same-sex couples in Mexico City have been celebrated under new legislation. Civil unions were approved by the city council in November despite opposition from the Roman Catholic Church. Some MPs of President Felipe Calderon's conservative party are filing a court challenge against the gay unions. They argue that the partnerships violate constitutional protection of the family.

Second UN rights expert calls on Iraq not to execute Saddam VP after faulty trial

UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers  Leandro Despouy  has urged the Iraqi government not to execute Saddam-era Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan  because of "grave shortcomings" in his legal process. Despouy is the second UN special rapporteur to make such a request. Last month, Phillip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said judicial misconduct, official statements declaring Ramadan guilty before his sentence, and the admission of evidence without allowing Ramadan to rebut, combined with other procedural irregularities, rendered Ramadan's death sentence illegitimate. The appeals chamber of the Iraqi High Tribunal (IHT)  on Thursday upheld the death penalty for Ramadan rejecting his appeal  of the sentence handed down in the Saddam Hussein Dujail crimes against humanity trial. Ramadan was convicted  by the IHT alongside Saddam Hussein in November and originally sentenced to life in prison.

US in second day of Iraq rallies

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of US cities for a second day of protests against the war in Iraq. Rallies were held in New York, San Francisco, Portland and in other cities ahead of Tuesday's fourth anniversary of the start of the conflict. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died as well as some 3,200 US troops. Organizers said thousands marched through Manhattan calling for troops to come home and for President George W Bush to be impeached.

French court convicts doctor in euthanasia case

A French court convicted a doctor for the poisoning death of a terminally ill cancer patient Thursday. Dr. Laurence Tramois was sentenced to a one-year suspended prison sentence for prescribing a fatal dose of potassium chloride that resulted in the death of Paulette Drualis in August 23, 2003. The case has stirred debate over the issue of euthanasia in the current French presidential race.

Boom Times Ahead for Bankruptcy Lawyers?

Chapter 11 filings have fallen to their lowest level in more than a decade. Still, there’s good news for all those budding bankruptcy lawyers. Big law firms are ramping up their restructuring practices. Why the boost? For several years, troubled companies haven’t had a lot of trouble getting access to capital. But those days might be ending: The recent meltdown in the subprime mortgage industry has made restructuring professionals more confident that a spate of filings might be on the way. "You are seeing more firms looking toward needing to shore up their groups after a period of allowing attrition".

US judiciary approves pilot program to release court recordings online

The federal judiciary has approved a pilot program that will allow the public to download free audio recordings of court proceedings over the internet. US District Judge Thomas F. Hogan , executive committee chairman of the policy-making Judicial Conference of the United States , said he views the program as an attempt to make court proceedings more transparent. Court participation in the program, which is set to begin in the next few months, is voluntary. Hogan said the pilot program is not a move toward allowing cameras in courtrooms, which has been a controversial issue.

  • Daily Press Review

Africa

Study ties pay awards to election campaign
East African Standard, Liberal daily of Nairobi, Kenya

Somali insurgents attack Mogadishu
Mail and Guardian, Liberal daily of Johannesburg, South Africa

Boy,14, shoots cab driver
Times of Zambia, Government-owned daily of Lusaka, Zambia

Americas

Arthurs give-a-ways
Barbados Advocate, Independent daily of St Michael, Barbados

Chlorine bombs poison 350
Buenos Aires Herald, Liberal daily of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Anti-war protests grow in U.S.
The Globe And Mail, Centrist daily of Toronto, Canada

Pakistan cricket coach dies
Jamaica Gleaner, Centrist daily of Kingston, Jamaica

World's 3rd richest man won't throw cash at poor
The Guadalajara Colony Reporter, Independent weekly of Guadalajara, Mexico

Asia Pacific

Most sick kidney transplants inappropriate
Daily Yomiuri, Conservative daily of Tokyo, Japan

China gives go-ahead to develop large passenger jets
People's Daily Online, Pro-government daily of Beijing, China

Doctor on call's carjack terror
The Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily of Sydney, Australia

Pak Coach Woolmer Dies in Jamaica
The Himalayan Times, Independent daily of Kathmandu, Nepal

High crime-solvers
The Sun, Independent daily of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Europe

Governing Coalition Partners Slam US Missile Shield
Deutsche Welle, International broadcaster of Cologne, Germany

Big gains for opposition national coalition party; SDP suffers defeat at polls
Helsingin Sanomat, Centrist daily of Helsinki, Finland

25 air crash survivors remain in hospitals
Interfax, Government-owned news agency, Moscow, Russia

Black weekend as roads claim six lives
Irish Examiner, Centrist daily of Cork, Ireland

Tu-134 Flips Over in Samara, 6 Dead
The Moscow Times, Independent, English-language daily of Moscow, Russia

Al-Qaeda attack on video
The Scotsman, Centrist daily of Edinburgh, Scotland

A desolate fountain searches for a new corner
Turkish Daily News, Independent daily of Istanbul, Turkey

Middle East

Before the vote
Al-Ahram Weekly, Semi-official, English-language weekly of Cairo, Egypt

Alwaleed Lauds SRMG's Achievements
Arab News, Pro-government, English-language daily of Jidda, Saudi Arabia

Mubarak urges both camps in Lebanon to compromise
The Daily Star, Independent, English-language daily of Beirut, Lebanon

Pakistan cricket coach Woolmer dead
Gulf News, Independent daily of Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Israel: International aid freeze on PA to continue
Ha'aretz, Liberal daily of Tel Aviv, Israel

President underlines strengthening ties with Iranian expatriates
Islamic Republic News Agency, Government-owned news agency of Tehran, Iran

'Egypt killed Israeli POWs during Yom Kippur War'
The Jerusalem Post, Conservative daily of Jerusalem, Israel

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