August 25, 2010 Nº 949 - Vol. 8


"To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time."

Leonard Bernstein

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  • Top News

Swiss campaign for death penalty withdrawn

Swiss campaigners who won clearance to seek a referendum on reintroducing the death penalty have withdrawn their application only a day later. They said they did not really believe in capital punishment, but wanted to highlight what they called a bias towards criminals over victims. Under Swiss law, citizens can force a referendum on almost any issue if they collect 100,000 signatures. The death penalty was abolished in Switzerland in 1942. The government said on Tuesday that the campaigners could begin the process to initiate a referendum on bringing it back.

Brazil ups stakes for foreign investors in farmland

Brazil's essential role as a provider of food for the world's expanding population is at risk if the government makes good on threats to curtail foreign investment in farmland. Brazil would become the world's breadbasket in the 21st Century, as the United States was in the 20th. little doubt that food production in Brazil will expand. It has enough land to double current planted area. Even cattle and trees grow faster than in most other countries. But the government's growing fear of losing control of domestic food production could end an era of strong foreign investment in farmland, which economists say is needed if Brazil is to help avert a repeat of the global food shortages in 2008. There are simply no large-scale alternatives to Brazil's unique agricultural potential. Foreign funds have frozen land acquisition plans since June, when Lula said he was concerned about local land falling into foreign hands. "Brazilian land must stay in the hands of Brazilians," he said, adding that the government is preparing a constitutional amendment to limit and potentially annul land titles acquired by foreigners after a yet undefined date in the past. Andre Passos, a partner at Buranello Passos in Sao Paulo, dismissed talk of annulling titles retroactively as unconstitutional and political campaigning during an election year. "Brazil needs foreign investment in this sector. It cannot do it alone," he said. On Monday, the Attorney General published a finding on a 1971 law that closed a loophole allowing foreign investors to open locally registered companies and purchased land without restrictions on the size of land holdings that foreign capital is subject to. Brazil's official notary offices that register sales of land will also begin to build a database on all titles owned by foreign controlled groups. And Brazil's land reform institute Incra will have to clear new purchases by foreign-controlled companies.

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  • Crumbs

1 - U.S. judge rules against Obama's stem cell policy (Click here)

2 - Postings can lead to lawsuits (Click here)

3 - Brazilian MP wannabe pledges a strip club in every town (Click here)

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  • MiMIC Journal

China reconsiders death penalty for animal smuggling, tax fraud

China took a small step away from capital punishment Monday when it said it would consider abolishing executions for 13 nonviolent crimes and people over 75 years old. Currently, 68 crimes carry the death penalty. The 13 crimes under consideration include economic crimes such as tax-rebate fraud, counterfeiting bonds and forging letters of credit. The amendment would also eliminate capital punishment for those caught smuggling endangered species, stealing objects from ancient tombs or illegally excavating human and animal fossils. This would be the first time China has reduced the number of capital crimes since it enacted the criminal law in 1979. The move may be more symbolic than substantive, however: executions are rarely used for these crimes anyway.

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  • Historia Verdadera

Banca – Mercosur

El banco brasileño Itaú firmó un acuerdo de asociación con el Banco Nacional de Desarrollo Económico y Social (Bndes) para la creación de una línea de crédito con el objetivo de fomentar las exportaciones brasileñas de bienes de capital para los países del Mercosur. (Presione aquí)

Gasoducto

Bolivia y Argentina tendrán listo en mayo de 2011 un nuevo gasoducto binacional que permitirá aumentar los envíos de gas boliviano a ese vecino país, informó el presidente de Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB), Carlos Villegas.

Impuestos petroleros

Hay preocupación en la Asociación Colombiana del Petróleo por el anuncio del Gobierno de eliminar la exención del 30 por ciento sobre la reinversión en activos fijos de las empresas del sector.

Petrobras

La petrolera brasileña Petrobras fue la empresa latinoamericana que más perdió valor de mercado en lo que va de este año, reveló un estudio divulgado el martes por la consultora Economática, que calculó en US$ 56.200 mlls., la caída en el valor de Petrobras en bolsas de valores desde enero. (Presione aquí)

  • Brief News

I.R.S. plan to uncover companies' tax strategies

Every year, thousands of the nation's largest corporations are required to report to the I.R.S. whether they have reduced their tax bills by using questionable accounting strategies. They have to supply an estimate of how much they might owe if those strategies failed to withstand an audit. They even have to set aside enough money to pay the government if their claims are found to be improper. But the corporations are not obliged to reveal precisely what those uncertain tax positions are — and if the I.R.S. does not manage to ferret them out and challenge them before the three-year statute of limitations expires, the companies can keep the money. Now, the Internal Revenue Service is calling an end to the game. Beginning next year, the agency plans to mandate that corporations also provide a brief description of their uncertain tax positions and their rationale, offering essentially a road map for its auditors. The stakes are enormous. According to one law firm's analysis of the most recent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the companies in the Fortune 500 this year reported more than $200 billion in uncertain tax positions — exceeding the $138 billion paid in corporate taxes last year. At least 40 companies exceeded $1 billion in such reserves: Microsoft's was $5.4 billion; Bank of America reported $5.2 billion; the American International Group listed $4.8 billion; and Goldman Sachs, $1.9 billion. Douglas H. Shulman, the I.R.S. commissioner, who wrote and is promoting the plan, which has rattled the accounting world, said it was intended to make tax collection more efficient and to urge businesses to comply more closely with the law. While some companies may pay more taxes, the new procedures would also help businesses by encouraging Congress and the I.R.S. to clarify ambiguous portions of the nation's convoluted tax code more quickly. "We are moving away from what I would describe as a contentious relationship, where we spend too much of our time identifying issues, to one where we know the issues from the outset and spend our time engaging on appropriate issues," Shulman said. Though transparency may be considered a virtue by the person collecting taxes, it is viewed as a menace to the people whose job is to minimize them. Shulman's initiative, which even his critics concede he has the authority to enact, has set off an anguished response from corporations and accountants. They predict that it will make a cumbersome system even more costly and confrontational. The plan will allow tax authorities to bully taxpayers by bludgeoning them with the very advice they received from their own accountants and tax lawyers. "We barely ever see a revenue agent who doesn't find an issue and try to extract some kind of payment for its nuisance value." "Now they want you to give the enemy all the guns and walk into a tax audit ducking. And they can pester you into paying more taxes rather than taking the trouble to figure out what amount is fair."

Argentina moves to seize newsprint firm

Argentina's government intensified a campaign to wrest control of the country's largest newsprint-paper provider on Tuesday, a move top local newspapers called a brazen attack on press freedom.

Zurich Insurance fined $3.7m over customers' data loss

The UK operation of Zurich Insurance has been fined £2.27m by the Financial Services Authority (FSA) for losing personal details of 46,000 customers. It is the highest fine levied on a single firm for data security failings. Margaret Cole, the FSA's director of enforcement and financial crime, said: "Zurich UK let its customers down badly."

FSA fines Societe Generale £1.58m

The London branch of French bank Societe Generale has been fined $2.4\m for failing to provide accurate transaction reports. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) said SocGen had not submitted accurate reports for about 80% of its reportable transactions for more than two years. But it said the bank had taken steps to address the concerns.

US court halts plans to increase stem cell research

A US district court has issued a temporary injunction blocking plans by the Obama administration to increase funding for stem cell research. The court ruled in favor of researchers who say human embryonic stem cell research involved the destruction of human embryos. Judge Royce Lamberth said lawsuits brought against the new guidelines could now go ahead. Obama lifted a ban on funding for stem cell research in March.

Khmer Rouge jailer Duch submits appeal

A former Khmer Rouge prison chief found guilty of crimes against humanity has started formal appeal proceedings. Last month, judges at a UN-backed tribunal in Cambodia sentenced Kaing Guek Eav to 35 years for his role in the torture and murder of thousands of people. But the man best known as Comrade Duch has argued that he should not be held responsible. Prosecutors have also launched their own appeal.

Ireland angered by S&P downgrade

Ireland on Wednesday criticised Standard & Poor's after the credit rating agency cut the country's long-term credit rating, causing Irish government bonds to tumble in early trading.

Germany mulls employee privacy law

Germany's government is planning a new law to protect employees' privacy, including making it illegal for employers to check on job candidates' private Facebook postings. The law would make it illegal for future bosses to ask applicants to become their Facebook friend in order to check out details they would otherwise keep private. Checking postings made public on the Web would be allowed, though. The law will also prevent clandestine video surveillance in the work place—except in public spaces such as supermarkets. Cameras will be allowed if employees know about them, but not in private spaces like lavatories or locker rooms.

Fujitsu ex-president sues company

A former president of Fujitsu filed a lawsuit against the Japanese technology company and four of its executives, seeking a total of about $4.5 million in damages. Kuniaki Nozoe's lawyers said Fujitsu made false accusations of links to organized crime against his client and pressured him to resign without giving him a chance to defend himself. As well as seeking compensation, Nozoe is demanding that Fujitsu place an apology advertisement in national newspapers.

U.S., Russian patent offices strike fast-track deal

The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and its equivalent in Russia are launching a one-year pilot program on Sept. 1 to fast-track each other's approved patent applications. Such "Patent Prosecution Highway Programs" allow patent offices to use each other's work to help process applications more quickly. The PTO's pilot program with Russia's Federal Service for Intellectual Property, Patents and Trademarks of the Russian Federation, or Rospatent, means that an applicant receiving a favorable ruling from one nation's patent office on at least one claim in an application may request that the corresponding application filed with the other nation be fast-tracked for examination.

Lack of digital downtime could inhibit learning, studies suggest

Being constantly tethered to your smartphone and other digital devices may interfere with the downtime needed for learning and creativity, studies suggest. Scientists point to two studies showing that constant stimulation has a downside. "Even though people feel entertained, even relaxed, when they multitask while exercising, or pass a moment at the bus stop by catching a quick video clip, they might be taxing their brains," scientists say.

More firms get into lawyer rating game and claim profiles on Avvo

We caught up with Avvo founder and ‘09 Legal Rebel Mark Britton in Chicago to chat with him about online reputation management—a hot topic for big and small law firms as competition increases and potential clients from consumers to Fortune 500 general counsel are flooded with information via the Web. Static websites and law firm biographies will fade in importance as websites that post ratings by clients and peers, such as Avvo and Yelp, gain traction

  • Daily Press Review

Dozens dead in Iraq attacks
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

Iran says It's Ready to Sell Arms to Lebanon
Asharq Al-Awsat, Pan-Arab daily, London, England

India awaits extradition of diamond thieves from Dubai
Gulf News, Independent daily, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Iran says it successfully test-fired domestic-made missile
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

MIDEAST: This Math Class May Figure Out Israel
IPS Middle East, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

'Lebanon should build own nuclear plant'
JPost, Conservative, Jerusalem, Israel

RCA media campaign to help flood victims
Khaleej Times, English-language daily, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Iraq- Pure water tank constructed for ID64b
Middle East North African Network, Online financial portal, Amman, Jordan

42 Dead in China Plane Crash, Black Box Found
Nahamet, Online news portal, Beirut, Lebanon

Panel formed on Lebanon poll law
Saudi Gazette, English-language daily, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Hamas urges Jordan, Egypt to boycott Mideast peace talks
The Daily Star, Independent daily, Beirut, Lebanon

Bombs kill scores in attacks on Iraq s police
Times of Oman, English-language daily, Muscat, Oman

Sa'dah war, flagrant abuse of childrens' rights Part (1)
Yemen Observer, Sana'a, Republic of Yemen

Ramadan and health - I
Yemen Times, (Independent weekly), Sana'a, Republic of Yemen

Wave of deadly bombings hits Iraq
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Keogh certain to join Wolves, says McCarthy
BreakingNews.ie, Online news portal, Cork, Ireland

Tube workers to strike over jobs
Daily Express, Conservative tabloid, London, England

Killer German out-of-hours doctor Daniel Ubani WILL face fitness to practise inquiry
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Telenor, Opera to cooperate on mobile internet
DMeurope, Online news portal, Amsterdam, Netherlands

FRANCE: Bucharest officials in Paris to tackle Roma deportations
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

Iran club reinstates sacked footballer Karimi
Hurriyet Daily News, (Liberal, English-language), Istanbul, Turkey

Happy Birthday Blake Lively!
Look Magazine, London, England

Cumbrian school cleared over maggots in dinner claim
News & Star, Independent daily, Carlisle, England

Afghan Police Recruit Shot Dead After Killing Three Spanish Trainers
Radio Free Europe, Prague, Czech Republic

Don't Ask... General Jim
Sky News, Independent newscaster, Middlesex, England

Poor families bear brunt of coalition's austerity drive
The Guardian, Liberal daily, London, England

French bank fined GBP 1.6 million for reporting failures
The Independent, London, England

European shares fall on Irish downgrade
The Irish Times, Centrist daily, Dublin, Ireland

Customs Rule for Expats to Be Scrapped
The Moscow Times, Independent daily, Moscow, Russia

Bez cries 'victory is in my grasp' as he is jailed
The Telegraph, London, England

G20 protest pathologist behaved 'irresponsibly' in other cases, GMC rules
The Telegraph, Conservative daily, London, England

Two foreign ministers discuss Peninsula situation
Antara News, News agency, Jakarta, Indonesia

President picks Judicial Yuan nominees to drive reforms
China Post, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

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

Gunmen kill PPP-Sherpao's Khursani
Dawn, English-language daily, Karachi, Pakistan

Turkmenistan Warms to US, Hugs China
Gazeta.kz, Official online newspaper, Kazakhstan

US freezes assets of Osama son-in-law
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India

Delhi sees major traffic jam
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

Twitter delivers creative way for ad agencies to play
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

This year's Merdeka celebration will be moderate but joyous: Rais
Malaysian Star, Online news portal, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia

Murder probe into death of UK 'spy'
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

Commander surrenders
Pajhwok Afghan News, (Independent news agency), Kabul, Afghanistan

Gas cylinder blast kills one, injures 10 in Moscow region
People's Daily Online, English-language, Beijing, China

43 dead in attacks targeting Iraqi security forces
Sify News, Chennai, India

Spotted: secret iPad rival
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

China warns India over prime minister talks with Dalai Lama
Taiwan News, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Taiwan to host LPGA Asian tournament in 2011
Taiwan Today, Government Information Office, Taipei, Taiwan

Security up ahead of Rahul Gandhi's visit to Orissa
Thaindian News, Bangkok, Thailand

Anand declines to accept honorary doctorate
The Hindu, Left-leaning daily, Chennai, India

Arrest made in LaFortune case: report
Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Ontario

Technology helping government save
Caribbean360, Online news portal, St. Michael, Barbados

Jamaica honours Robert Hamaty with OD
Cayman Net News, Online news portal, George Town, Cayman Islands

Still no charges against Figueroa Agosto for drug trafficking in PR
Dominican Today, Independent daily, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

LATIN AMERICA: Gender Struggles and Achievements - for Men
IPS Latin America, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

'Nothing new' - Government reacts to Manatt emails
Jamaica Gleaner, Independent daily, Kingston, Jamaica

Prospects bleak for peace deal - Israel's Lieberman
Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

Minister: Labour laws main issue for trade unions
Trinidad Guardian, Independent daily, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad

S Africa bus-train crash kills eight children
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Govt explores rescue plan for Ghana Post
GhanaWeb, Online news portal, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Americans 'simple-minded'
iafrica, Online news portal, Cape Town, South Africa

'Government has been caught napping'
Independent Online, News portal, Cape Town, South Africa

American in Ethiopia arrested, jailed for "smuggling"
Jimma Times, Online news portal, Jimma, Ethiopia

The backlash against Obama's blackness
Mail & Guardian Online, Liberal, Johannesburg, South Africa

'Max protection' at rail crossing
News24.com, Online news portal, Cape Town, South Africa

Law to compel Presidency to attach ministerial portfolio underway
Vanguard, Independent daily, Lagos, Nigeria

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