August 24, 2009 Nº 808 - Vol. 7


"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most inetlligent, but the one most responsive to change."

Charles Darwin

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  • Top News

'Billable hour' under attack

With the recession crimping legal budgets, some big companies are fighting back against law firms' longstanding practice of billing them by the hour. The companies are ditching the hourly structure -- which critics complain offers law firms an incentive to rack up bigger bills -- in favor of flat-fee contracts. One survey found an increase of more than 50% this year in corporate spending on alternatives to the traditional hourly-fee model. The shift could further squeeze earnings at top law firms. The past 18 months have been brutal for some big law firms as work that hinges on vibrant credit markets, such as deal making, has flat-lined. Companies have long complained that legal fees are inflated by a business model in which law firms have high-priced junior lawyers who must be kept busy billing for work that could be handled more efficiently. With the recession, companies have the leverage to force changes, say some lawyers at both client companies and law firms. "Law firms are more receptive to change because they are in the business of needing legal work," said Daniel Fitz, chairman of the Association of Corporate Counsel. Partner profits were down an average of 4% last year at the highest-grossing firms, according to American Lawyer magazine. Their hourly rates have risen to a range of $300 to $1,000. But with the slump, firms have had to dismiss associates, reduce salaries and cut back on hiring of new graduates. "Just like the tech and housing bubbles, there was a legal-profession bubble, and now we are experiencing a correction," says David Antzis, managing partner of Philadelphia-based Saul Ewing LLP, which is doing more fixed-fee work.

Brazil calls Obama over US bases

Lula has said that the "climate of unease" in Latin America disturbs him and called on Obama to meet South American leaders to calm fears about the US military presence in Colombia. He wants guarantees that US troops will be restricted to fighting drugs and terrorists within Colombia only.

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  • MiMIC Journal

Trials due over Xinjiang riots

More than 200 people will be prosecuted on charges of involvement in the Xinjiang disturbances of last month. Charges include vandalizing public property and transport, organizing crowds to cause bodily harm to others, robbery, murder and arson. Chinese police detained more than 1,500 people after violence between ethnic Uighurs and Han Chinese left 200 dead.

China high court ex-vice president to face corruption charges

The Communist Party of China (CPC) revoked the membership of the former vice-president of the Supreme People's Court on Friday, following a graft and corruption investigation. Huang Songyou, who was originally appointed to the Supreme People's Court in 2002, allegedly took bribes to influence cases and used the profits to live a "corrupt life". He was also fired from his official position in the court, and his case has been turned over to prosecutors. Huang is just one in a line of communist leaders who have been thrown out of the party for corruption in a new campaign by the government.

China bans petitioners traveling to capital to file legal complaints

The Chinese government has banned people from traveling to the capital of Beijing to file legal complaints. The ban, issued Tuesday, prevents the common practice in which petitioners travel to the capital to seek redress for a variety of legal problems. Under the new regulations, Chinese authorities will send representatives to provinces that produce many petitioners, and petitioners will also be able to file complaints online. Chinese authorities said that anyone using the appeals process to make financial gain, damage social order, or incite mass incidents would be punished. Tuesday's ban comes as Chinese officials called this week for judicial reforms to improve the country's legal system and speed up delays in the court system.

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  • Brief News

Lockerbie minister facing critics

Scotland found itself scrambling to control political fallout from a decision to release a Libyan man convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. The Scottish justice secretary will be forced to defend his decision to release the Lockerbie bomber, as the Scottish Parliament is recalled later. Opposition parties will demand to know how Kenny MacAskill aims to repair the damage they claim has been done to Scotland's global reputation. Scotland's opposition politicians insisted he must reveal whether any deals were done "behind the scenes" in relation to the early release, and address claims Megrahi was pressurised into his decision to drop the appeal against his conviction.

Honduras court shuns Zelaya deal

Honduras's supreme court rejects a Costa Rica-brokered deal to restore ousted President Manuel Zelaya to power.

CIA 'torture report' release due

Some previously-withheld sections of a report into how the CIA treated terrorism suspects is due be released.

Ex-UBS banker sentenced to 40 months in prison for helping client hide assets

Former UBS banker Bradley Birkenfeld was sentenced to 40 months in prison Friday for helping a client avoid paying over $7.2 million dollars in taxes. Birkenfeld admitted to helping a California real-estate developer hide $200 million to avoid paying taxes and has cooperated with the government in its investigation of employees of Swiss banks that the government says take advantage of Switzerland's strict confidentiality laws to help Americans hide money and avoid paying taxes. Birkenfeld, who was sentenced by Judge William Zloch in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida, had hoped his cooperation would lead to a suspended sentence while on Wednesday, prosecutors recommended a 30-month sentence. The government may ask for a reduced sentence as Birkenfeld continues to help the government in its investigation.

Netanyahu enters Sweden organ row

Israel's prime minister has urged the Swedish government to condemn a Swedish newspaper article that claimed Israeli troops killed Palestinians for organs. Netanyahu joins broad Israeli criticism of the Aftonbladet paper over the claims troops took organs to sell. An Israeli official quoted him saying: "Statements in the Swedish press were outrageous. We are not expecting an apology - we expect condemnation." Sweden has refused to condemn the article, citing freedom of expression.

Nigeria oil rights grab 'illegal'

Nigeria's high court has ruled that the government illegally revoked exploration licenses granted to a South Korean oil consortium. The Korea National Oil Corporation (KNOC) had filed an action demanding the restoration of two offshore licenses, granted in 2005. Nigeria called off the deal in January, alleging that the consortium failed to make agreed payments. But the court said that President Umaru Yar'Adua did not have such power. The government has said it will appeal against the court's ruling.

US Justice Dept advises pursuing CIA abuses

The U.S. Justice Department has recommended reopening nearly a dozen prisoner-abuse cases, which could expose CIA employees and contractors to prosecution for their treatment of terrorism suspects. The recommendation, reversing the Bush administration, came from the Justice Department's ethics office and has been presented to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. When the CIA first referred its inspector general's findings, it decided that none of the cases merited prosecution. But when Holder took office and saw the allegations included deaths of people in custody and other cases of physical or mental torment, he reconsidered.

In Mexico, ambivalence on a drug law

Under siege by drug traffickers, Mexico took a bold and controversial step last week when it opted to no longer prosecute those carrying relatively small quantities of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other drugs. Instead, people found with drugs for "personal and immediate use," according to the law, will be referred to free treatment programs where they will be considered patients, not criminals. The decriminalization effort, which many lawmakers endorsed with little enthusiasm, is intended to free up prison space for dangerous criminals and to better wean addicts away from drugs. It is not the only legislation put forward that would probably never have been considered were the country not in the midst of a bloody and seemingly endless drug war. Capital punishment, which has not been carried out in Mexico for nearly 50 years, is now being offered by some lawmakers as an answer to the nation's ills.

Ninth Circuit strikes down California law allowing 'Armenian genocide' victims to sue

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Thursday that a California state law that allows descendants of victims of the Armenian Genocide to sue in state courts for unpaid insurance benefits is unconstitutional. The court found that California Civil Procedure Code § 354.4 "interferes with the national government's conduct of foreign relations" because the federal government has declined to describe the World War I-era killings of over one million Armenians by Turkish soldiers as genocide. The court concluded: "California Code of Civil Procedure § 354.4 is preempted because it directly conflicts with the Executive Branch's foreign policy refusing to provide official recognition to the "Armenian Genocide." Far from concerning an area of traditional state interest, § 354.4 impinges upon the National Government's ability to conduct foreign affairs." The lawsuit was brought by a California citizen of Armenian descent who initiated a class action suit against insurance companies, alleging they had failed to pay benefits. The plaintiff's lawyer said he plans to appeal the ruling.

Malaysian woman sentenced to be caned freed after detention

The former Malaysian model due to be caned this week for drinking beer has had her punishment suspended until after the fasting month, citing a religious affairs official.

Trichet, Bernanke say recovery shouldn't delay banking-regulation overhaul

Central bankers warned that a global economic recovery shouldn't delay an overhaul of financial- market regulations following the worst banking crisis since World War II.

Roubini says risk of double-dip global recession rising on exit strategies

Nouriel Roubini, the New York University professor who predicted the financial crisis, said the chance of a double-dip recession is increasing because of risks related to ending global monetary and fiscal stimulus.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

Time

The real cost of cheap food. America's Food Crisis and How to Fix It .He's raised on grass and hay and lives happily on a pasture by the ocean. His meat is free of antibiotics, but can we afford to eat it? We can't afford not to.

Newsweek

Aliens. What You Need to Know Now. Bipartisanship is bad. Hedge funds are good. And the environment has never been better, thank you very much. For these and 22 other unexpected truths, read on . . .

Business Week

The Case for Optimism. It's smart to recognize opportunity, even in bad times.

The Economist

Afghanistan. To stop the country sliding out of control, the West needs more men and a better strategy.

Der Spiegel

Der Krieg der Deutschen. 1939: Als ein Volk die Welt überfiel.

  • Daily Press Review

Africa leaders hold climate talks
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

President Kabila to Meet All DRC Governors
CongoPlanet.com, Independent online news aggregator

The Need For Fixed Commodity Prices
GhanaWeb, Online news portal, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Athens blaze still raging
iafrica, Online news portal, Cape Town, South Africa

10 killed in Cape Town taxi crash
Independent Online, News portal, Cape Town, South Africa

Aussie pundits back Ponting to stay as skipper
Mail & Guardian Online, Liberal, Johannesburg, South Africa

Scotland under fresh pressure
News24.com, Online news portal, Cape Town, South Africa

Nicaragua attains full literacy
Brazil Sun, Independent online news aggregator

Dramatic hurricane rescue
The Globe and Mail, Centrist daily, Toronto, Canada

Ryan Jenkins found dead
Toronto Star, Liberal daily, Toronto, Canada

Quake hits N Sumatra
Antara News, News agency, Jakarta, Indonesia

10th Seoul International Financial Forum Kicks Off
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

CJI says judge who disagreed on assets is 'publicity-crazy'
India Express, News portal, Mumbai, India

50-yr-old dies of swine flu in Bangalore
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

Lake Toya makes U.N. 'geopark' list
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Teoh's inquest: Coroner will rule later on letter saying it is relevant
Malaysian Star, Online news portal, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia

Aussie man glued to toilet in 'sick' prank
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

WFP food distribution in diarrhea-hit Nepali district halted
People's Daily Online, English-language, Beijing, China

Rugby, cricket, and now Miss Universe
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

Feuds at top figured at Shimla meet
The Hindu, Left-leaning daily, Chennai, India

Greece braced for more fire chaos
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Power Industry Faces Tighter Control
The Moscow Times, Independent daily, Moscow, Russia

Lockerbie bomber's release tests the 'special relationship'
The Telegraph, Conservative daily, London, England

Malaysian model released without caning
Times Online, Conservative daily, London, England

Egyptians who Overpowered Pirates Return Home
Asharq Al-Awsat, Pan-Arab daily, London, England

200 to go on trial after Xinjiang riots
Gulf News, Independent daily, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

HEALTH: Swine Flu Hits Ramadan Gatherings
IPS Middle East, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank appoints Head of Strategy
Middle East North African Network, Online financial portal, Amman, Jordan

U.S. Military chief: Qaida 'Very Capable' of More Attacks
Nahamet, Online news portal, Beirut, Lebanon

Settlements seen clouding Netanyahu visit to Europe
The Daily Star, Independent daily, Beirut, Lebanon

Yemen: Fear of failure
Yemen Times, Independent weekly, Sana'a, Yemen

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