November 24, 2008  Nº. 708 -  Vol. 6

"Drama is life with the dull parts cut out of it."

Alfred Hitchcock

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  • Top News

Sweden ratifies EU Lisbon Treaty

Sweden has become the 24th of the EU's 27 member states to ratify the controversial Lisbon Treaty. Sweden's parliament backed the reform treaty after a late-night debate, with 243 votes in favor, 39 against and 67 deputies absent or abstaining. The treaty, aimed at reshaping EU institutions to fit an enlarged bloc of 27, has to be ratified by each member state to take effect. But Irish voters rejected it and Czech and Polish ratification is stalled. The treaty was originally meant to be in place in January 2009 - well ahead of the European Parliament elections in June 2009.

Citi secures government lifeline

The US government has announced a rescue plan for the Citigroup banking giant after its shares plunged by more than 60% last week. The US treasury department is to invest $20bn in return for preferred shares in Citigroup. The treasury and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp will also guarantee up to $306bn of risky loans and securities on Citigroup's books. The plan follows a $25bn injection of public funds in the bank last month. Citigroup's market value fell to $20.5bn on Friday, compared with $270bn in 2006. Last week the company announced 52,000 job losses worldwide, on top of 23,000 job cuts previously announced.

Obama set on key cabinet nominees

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton has accepted an offer to become secretary of state. Obama tapped New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson for U.S. secretary of commerce, and New York Federal Reserve President Timothy Geithner has been asked to serve as Treasury secretary.

Lawyers seek guidance on representing 'bad guys'

When criminal defense lawyers face criticism for representing the "bad guys," they respond with a familiar refrain: Defending unpopular clients amounts to defending the constitutional right to representation and the presumption of innocence. Now, some lawyers say, that right is coming under fire in the defense of narcotics traffickers. Specifically, they say, the Justice Department has failed to provide guidance on how defense attorneys can protect themselves against prosecution for taking legal fees that turn out to be tainted by dirty money -- thus deterring them from representing accused drug dealers.

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  • MiMIC Journal

China's stimulus race sparks fears of excess

Local governments and other agencies in China are racing to come up with ways to spend the money from Beijing's massive stimulus plan, raising concerns among some economists and the central government about potential waste and corruption. The drive also is muddying the already confused picture of how taxpayer funds are being used.

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  • Brief News

Online fraudsters 'steal £3.3bn'

Hi-tech thieves who specialize in card fraud have a credit line in excess of $5bn research suggests. "This figure is indicative of the value of the underground economy and the potential worth of the market." Credit card numbers and bank details are big sellers among hi-tech thieves because they were easy to obtain and use for fraudulent purposes. Many of the methods favored by cyber criminals, such as phishing schemes, database attacks and magnetic strip skimmers, are designed to steal credit card information. The existence of a ready market for any stolen data and the growing use of credit cards also helped maintain their popularity.

The pitfalls of Africa's aid addiction

Africa, which is home to 10% of the world's population, represents just 1% of global trade. Most countries are blessed with all the elements to help compete on a global stage - abundant natural resources, a young population and the climate and conditions to be a major agricultural force. There is no doubt they have to take responsibility for their failures. But when 50 years of foreign aid has failed to lift Africa out of poverty, could corruption be the reason? People often say a nation gets the government it deserves. And Africans have certainly made some bad choices in terms of leaders, but all too often Western aid has ended up bankrolling them. Aid has offered legitimacy to corrupt and autocratic regimes, allowing them to hang on to power even when they have lost popularity with their own citizens. When half the government budget comes from aid, African leaders find themselves less inclined to tax their citizens. As a result, governments that are highly dependent on aid pay too much attention to donors and too little to the actual needs of their own citizens. Prolonged aid programs also have wider implications for developing economies. Instead of funding industry, education, innovation and creativity, aid has funded the leading class' dysfunctional lifestyle.

Nebraska restricts safe-haven law

The governor of the US state of Nebraska has signed a bill curbing its controversial "safe-haven" law allowing the abandonment of unwanted children. The new law puts a 30-day age limit on the provision permitting children to be legally abandoned at hospitals. The previous law approved in July set no age limit and had seen more than 30 children - some as old as 17 - dumped at hospitals.

EU warns against car subsidy race

EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has told France and Germany not to start a "subsidy race" with the US to save the car industry. She said the European Union's existing mechanisms could help automakers, hard hit by falling demand. General Motors has been seeking support from the German government for its local subsidiary, Adam Opel GmbH. On Thursday the Congress told US carmakers to present a recovery plan if they want a $25bn rescue. Poorly-handled subsidies would not solve the car industry's problems, Kroes said.

Presidency reform passed by Duma

A bill to extend the presidential term from four to six years has passed the lower house of the Russian parliament, the Duma, by an overwhelming majority. Some 392 deputies voted for the constitutional changes, to 57 against, in the bill's third and final reading. The measure also has to pass the upper house, but that is seen as a formality, as it is largely loyal to the Kremlin. The bill has been fast-tracked, and is being seen as a sign Vladimir Putin may return to the presidency soon. Putin became prime minister this year after being obliged under the constitution to step down after two consecutive presidential terms.

Chavez leads Venezuela vote, opposition makes gains

Chavez's left-wing party won most state races in elections on Sunday, shoring up his dominance in much of the OPEC nation, but the opposition scored victories in important power centers. The Socialist Party won in 17 of 20 states with another two races too close to call, the national electoral authority said early on Monday.

Common Law and Syariah

The issue of harmonizing Syariah and common law is a puzzle Malaysian jurists have long grappled with – one that has real consequences for Malaysians living in a pluralistic society. Controversy has arisen when it was unclear if a Syariah or common law court has jurisdiction over a case or when they seemingly have concurrent jurisdiction. Former Chief Justice Tun Abdul proposed two ways to harmonize the courts. First, combine the courts with either a Syariah or common law judge or a panel bench hearing the case as need be. Second, leave the courts as is but have two judges, one from each court, hear issues of concurrent jurisdiction. Executing either option, in his view, however, is fraught with difficulty with political parties dissenting or deeming the matter too sensitive. Of particular interest were his remarks on Syariah's meaning and mutability. As he recounted, he had elicited dismissive laughter when he stated that the definition of Islamic law was any law that is not un-Islamic. The focus in his view must not be form but substance. You do not need to be English to know common law; you need not speak Arabic to grasp Syariah.

Bush to APEC leaders: don't abandon free trade

Bush told leaders gathered in Peru for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum that the global financial crisis should not cause the nations to become protectionist. He urged the 21 nations not to impose regulations that would "stifle innovation and choke off growth."

Brazil, Ecuador in spat over debt

Ecuador filed a lawsuit to suspend debt payments on some $460 million owed to Brazil's national development bank. Ecuador says it won't pay the debt, since much of the money was used to pay a Brazilian construction firm for major infrastructure projects. The firm — Norberto Odebrecht SA — was expelled from Ecuador last month because of shoddy construction on a hydroelectric plant.

Foes of Iraqi security agreement say it can't shield assets from suits

Iraqi lawmakers opposed to the proposed security agreement with the United States have seized on a new argument that has emerged only in recent days: the accord does not explicitly protect Iraq's vast oil wealth and other assets from seizure to satisfy billions of dollars in legal claims against the former government of Saddam Hussein. An extension of this protection, which is guaranteed in the soon-to-expire United Nations resolution that the security agreement is meant to replace, will have to be negotiated separately, a wide range of Iraq and American officials who support the security agreement acknowledged Sunday.

Obama aides favoring commission on counter-terror methods

Some officials in the formative administration of US President-elect Barack Obama have said they support the creation of a bipartisan congressional commission to investigate potentially abusive US counter-terrorism policies, according to a Newsweek report Saturday. The officials have suggested that such an investigation should be similar to the 9/11 Commission, with a focus on making public the details surrounding the development and authorization of harsh interrogation techniques and other counter-terrorism policies, rather than incriminating those involved. Both Obama and his aides have said previously said that his administration is not likely to prosecute those who approved or carried out the torture or other harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects, and will instead focus on the creation of new anti-torture laws.

Burundi abolishes death penalty, criminalizes homosexuality

The parliament of Burundi voted Saturday in favor of laws abolishing the death penalty and criminalizing homosexuality in the country. The elimination of the death penalty in Burundi was a requirement for establishing a UN-led truth and reconciliation committee and tribunal in the country. Gay rights groups in the country condemned the criminalization of homosexuality, and stressed the implications of the parliamentary vote for the country's struggle with HIV/AIDS.

UK government delays telecommunications database bill

The British government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown has decided to drop from its immediate legislative agenda a controversial security database bill that would have required telecoms to keep records of all domestic phone calls, e-mails and Internet activity, according to British press reports Friday. The Communications Database Bill will not be part of the Queen's Speech to be delivered to parliament at the opening of its next session next month, but instead it or some variation will be brought forward for public consultation in January with a view to introducing it to Parliament later next year. This timetable may, however, make its future uncertain as Brown has to call an election no later than May 2010. Critics - including some inside the government - have already assailed the proposed measure as an Orwellian infringement on privacy and civil liberties. Last month, the office of Lord Carlile, the Information Commissioner, took the extraordinary step of calling the bill a "step too far for the British way of life."

Mexico ex-drug prosecutor detained for allegedly taking bribes from cartel

Mexican authorities on Thursday detained former Assistant Attorney General Noe Ramirez, one-time head of Mexico's anti-drug operation in the Assistant Attorney General’s Office Specializing in Organized Crime (SIEDO), accusing him of receiving monthly payments of $450,000 from the Pacifico drug cartel in exchange for confidential information regarding government anti-drug enforcement efforts. Attorney General Eduardo Medina determined that there were sufficient grounds to detain Ramirez after questioning him Wednesday in relation to "Operation Cleaning" investigations. Ramirez, whose arrest comes as part of an ongoing investigation into drug cartels and their connections to senior law enforcement officials, had worked for 14 years in the Mexican Office of the Attorney General.

  • Weekly Magazine Review


The Sorry State of American Health. It's hard enough to make it to your own annual physical. In this issue, TIME takes the entire nation to the doctor.


The Meaning of Michelle. The first black First Lady.

Business Week

The subprime wolves. FHA-Backed Loans: The New Subprime. The same people whose reckless practices triggered the global financial crisis are onto a similar scheme that could cost taxpayers tons more.

The Economist

All you need is cash. The increasingly desperate search for the stuff is changing modern management? Not always for the better.


La face cachee du Canard.

Der Spiegel

Wege aus dem Stress. Wie das Gehirn sich selbst heilen kann

  • Daily Press Review

G-Bissau leader survives attack
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Security Council authorizes boost to UN peacekeeping force in DR Congo, Independent online news aggregator

Ghana second in press freedom index
GhanaWeb, Online news portal, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Snap polls for Palestine?
iafrica, Online news portal, Cape Town, South Africa

'Cholera victim's brother well, shopping'
Independent Online, News portal, Cape Town, South Africa

Bok manager lauds team on arrival in SA
Mail & Guardian Online, Liberal, Johannesburg, South Africa

Spain beat Argentina to win third Davis Cup crown
Brazil Sun, Independent online news aggregator

Opposition makes gains in Venezuelan vote
The Globe and Mail, Centrist daily, Toronto, Canada

Stampeders win Grey Cup
Toronto Star, Liberal daily, Toronto, Canada

Indonesians in PNG willing to go home
Antara News, News agency, Jakarta, Indonesia

N.Korean Orchestra Could Get New York Outing
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

Five crew members of MT Stolt Valor return home
India Express, News portal, Mumbai, India

Delhi: One killed in building collapse
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

NHL-best Sharks overwhelm Capitals, remain unbeaten at home
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Dr Teng: MPSP's ‘missing' RM225mil spent properly
Malaysian Star, Online news portal, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia

Body of missing girl found in Qld
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

Spain registers highest rate of immigration among EU countries in 2007
People's Daily Online, English-language, Beijing, China

Dam tragedy: Nelani dies a week before birthday
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

62 per cent polling in J&K
The Hindu, Left-leaning daily, Chennai, India

Top earners face income tax rise
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Ex-BBC reporter on dancing show quits while ahead
International Herald Tribune, Independent daily, Paris, France

Darling unveils 45p tax on rich to fund recession package
The Guardian, Liberal daily, London, England

Footage released of gun battle which killed Gurkha
The Telegraph, Conservative daily, London, England

Rush hour bombs kill 18 in Baghdad
Times Online, Conservative daily, London, England

Daniella Weiss: Peace House Would be Amona Plus Plus
Arutz Sheva, Online, right-wing, Tel Aviv, Israel

Libya: Two Ministers Under Investigation for Disrespecting President
Asharq Al-Awsat, Pan-Arab daily, London, England

Thousands join anti-government protest in Thailand
Gulf News, Independent daily, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

RIGHTS-KYRGYZSTAN: Alarm After 'Lifers' Attempt Breakout
IPS Middle East, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency slashes repo rate to boost liquidity
Middle East North African Network, Online financial portal, Amman, Jordan

Chavez Allies Win Majority in Local Polls
Nahamet, Online news portal, Beirut, Lebanon

Meshaal chastises Arabs for silence on Gaza
The Daily Star, Independent daily, Beirut, Lebanon

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