October 4, 2010 Nº 964 - Vol. 8


"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen."

Winston Churchill


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  • Top News

World economy decoupling from U.S.

Just three years since America began dragging the world into its deepest recession in seven decades researchers are forecasting that this time will be different. Goldman Sachs predicts worldwide growth will slow 0.2 percentage point to 4.6 percent in 2011, even as expansion in the U.S. falls to 1.8 percent from 2.6 percent. Underpinning their analysis is the view that international reliance on U.S. trade has diminished and is too small to spread the lingering effects of America's housing bust. Providing the U.S. pain doesn't roil financial markets as it did in the credit crisis, Goldman Sachs expects a weakening dollar, higher bond yields outside the U.S. and stronger emerging-market equities. "So long as it doesn't turn to flu, the world can withstand a cold from the U.S.," The U.S. will expand 1.8 percent next year, compared with 3.9 percent globally. That may provide comfort for some of the central bankers and finance ministers from 187 nations flocking to Washington for annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank on Oct. 8-10. "The world has already become partially decoupled," Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, said. Sixteen months after the world's largest economy emerged from recession, the U.S. recovery is losing momentum, with declining factory orders, a slowdown in pending home sales and rising unemployment. Emerging markets are showing more strength. Manufacturing in China accelerated for a second consecutive month in September, and industrial production in India jumped 13.8 percent in July from a year earlier, more than twice the June pace. While Bric countries’ exports account for almost 20 percent of their gross domestic product, sales to the U.S. compose less than 5 percent of GDP. That means even if U.S. growth slowed 2 percent, the drag on these four countries would be about 0.1 percentage point, the economists reckon. Developed economies including the U.K., Germany and Japan also have limited exposure. Developing nations aren't only decoupling, they also are undergoing a "switchover" that will make them such locomotives for the world economy, they can help rescue advanced nations. Among the reasons for the revolution are greater trade between emerging markets, the rise of the middle class and higher commodity prices. Links to developing countries are helping insulate some companies against U.S. weakness.

Second round for Brazil election

Dilma Rousseff polls most votes in Brazil's presidential election, but fails to reach the 50% threshold needed for an outright victory. With 98% of votes counted, President Lula's former cabinet chief has 47% with Jose Serra trailing on 33%. The two will contest a run-off vote in four weeks' time. A strong showing by the Green Party candidate, Marina Silva, who polled 19%, may have cost Rousseff a first-round win. "This is an electoral climate that favors the incumbent party," political analyst Luiz Piva said. "Brazilians are generally very happy with their government." What happened? A critical mass of support seems to have fallen away in the days immediately before polling - partly the consequence of a corruption scandal involving a former adviser, and partly the fall-out of a row over Dilma's stance on abortion. Evangelical Christians reacted badly to reports that the presidential favourite planned to liberalise Brazil's strict abortion law - a claim she denied - and some appear to have shifted their loyalty to the Green Party candidate, Marina Silva, who is herself a devout evangelical Christian. If Rousseff wins that final round, she will become the first woman to lead Brazil, Latin America's largest country, with 200 million people, and a rising economic power known as a major exporter of everything from grain to meat, sleek airplanes to iron ore. Under Lula, Brazil became the world's eighth-largest economy, more than 20 million people rose out of acute poverty and Rio de Janeiro was awarded the 2016 Summer Olympics, the first time the Games will be held in South America. So much oil has been discovered off Brazil's coast that energy experts talk of this country becoming a major exporter of crude.

Germany marks 20 years as reunified nation

Germany has been celebrating the 20th anniversary of its reunification. Capitalist West and communist East Germany merged on 3 October 1990, nearly a year after the fall of the Berlin Wall which divided them. Sunday is also the day Germany makes the last payment on debt stemming from reparations imposed after World War I.

Side effects may include lawsuits

For decades, antipsychotic drugs were a niche product. Today, they're the top-selling class of pharmaceuticals in America, generating annual revenue of about $14.6 billion and surpassing sales of even blockbusters like heart-protective statins. While the effectiveness of antipsychotic drugs in some patients remains a matter of great debate, how these drugs became so ubiquitous and profitable is not. Big Pharma got behind them in the 1990s, when they were still seen as treatments for the most serious mental illnesses, like hallucinatory schizophrenia, and recast them for much broader uses, according to previously confidential industry documents that have been produced in a variety of court cases. Anointed with names like Abilify and Geodon, the drugs were given to a broad swath of patients, from preschoolers to octogenarians. Today, more than a half-million youths take antipsychotic drugs, and fully one-quarter of nursing-home residents have used them. Yet recent government warnings say the drugs may be fatal to some older patients and have unknown effects on children. The new generation of antipsychotics has also become the single biggest target of the False Claims Act, a federal law once largely aimed at fraud among military contractors. Every major company selling the drugs — Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson — has either settled recent government cases for hundreds of millions of dollars or is currently under investigation for possible health care fraud. Two of the settlements, involving charges of illegal marketing, set records last year for the largest criminal fines ever imposed on corporations. One involved Eli Lilly's antipsychotic, Zyprexa; the other involved a guilty plea for Pfizer's marketing of a pain pill, Bextra. In the Bextra case, the government also charged Pfizer with illegally marketing another antipsychotic, Geodon; Pfizer settled that part of the claim for $301 million, without admitting any wrongdoing.

Lawyer as Business and Strategic Advisor

Georgetown Law CLE & Lex Mercator invites Miglhas readers to attend the online lecture: "Lawyer as Business and Strategic Advisor" on Tuesday, October 5th at 4 p.m. Washington, D.C. time. It's free of charge for readers of MI (see below for reservation). Professor Andrew Sherman, law partner at Jones Day in D.C. and professor at Georgetown Business School, has created this lecture and the corresponding 8-week course, whose purpose is to help lawyers better understand the perspective of their business clients and thus become better prepared as advisors for those clients. The 8-week course begins on Monday, October 25. Migalhas readers are entitled to a 10% discount on the 8-week online courses. For information and reservation please click here.

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  • MiMIC Journal

China promises support for euro and euro bonds

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says his country will continue to support both the euro and European government bonds. He also promised not to cut China's investment in European bonds, despite the recent crisis, which has weakened the value of many such bonds. Greece's red tape and corruption have scared away investors for years, but China appears undeterred. Wen Jiabao has promised to buy Greek government bonds the next time they go on sale. China has said it needs to diversify its foreign currency holdings and has bought Spanish government bonds. Later in the week, the Chinese leader will attend an EU-China summit, where the subject of the yuan is almost certain to come up.

Key UN climate talks open in China

The final round of UN climate talks before this year's summit in Mexico, which begins at the end of November, has got under way in China. The meeting is expected to produce a draft negotiating text that nations will debate at the Cancun summit. Last year's summit in Copenhagen, billed as a make-or-break year, ended in disarray without a legally binding deal to curb global climate change.

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  • Brief News

Supreme Court is told human law should reflect God's law

Five of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices have been told at the annual Red Mass for the legal profession that they're subject to a higher law. On the eve of their new term, Chief Justice John Roberts and justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer sat in the front row of St. Matthew's Cathedral in Washington, along with Vice President Joseph Biden. In the homily, Vatican Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia indirectly denounced abortion, euthanasia and same-sex marriage. He said laws should reflect divine principles, including what he called "the inviolability of innocent life from conception to natural death" and "the sanctity of marriage." He said the legal profession is charged with protecting rights that come from God, not from government.

Law firm diversity slowed by economy

Law firms are struggling mightily to diversify their ranks. The percentage of minority partners (6%) at the 260 firms surveyed remained flat in 2009, the first time in seven years that the percentage of minority partners had not increased. Minority recruitment was also down at all levels. About 19% of the attorneys hired last year were minorities, down from 21.7% in 2008.

Sanofi begins $18.5 billion hostile offer for Genzyme

Sanofi-Aventis SA began an $18.5 billion hostile takeover offer for Genzyme Corp. after the U.S. biotechnology company spurned Sanofi's $69-a-share bid as too low and refused to negotiate. The offer expires on 11:59 p.m. in New York on Dec. 10. Genzyme, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, rejected the original offer as too low and has since "blocked at every turn" all of Sanofi's efforts to negotiate. Genzyme's stock sank as much as 43 percent from its 2008 high after manufacturing glitches led to product shortages, leaving the company vulnerable to a takeover. Conversations with investors who own more than 50 percent of Genzyme "revealed that those shareholders were frustrated with Genzyme's persistent refusal to have meaningful discussions regarding Sanofi-Aventis' proposal. "

Police arrest 600 in Latin America counterfeit probe

Police across South America have arrested more than 600 people in a wide-ranging anti-counterfeiting operation. Products worth $50m were seized in more than 300 raids in 13 countries. The goods included fake satellite receivers, sports shoes, toys, car parts and soft drinks. Interpol and the World Customs Organization (WCO) said their joint operation was aimed at breaking up criminal counterfeiting networks. Counterfeit and sub-standard products "not only pose a significant threat to the health and safety of consumers, but also affect national economies which during these times of global financial crisis can have even more serious consequences".

US medical tests in Guatemala 'crime against humanity'

US testing that infected hundreds of Guatemalans with gonorrhoea and syphilis more than 60 years ago was a "crime against humanity", Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom has said. Obama has apologized for the medical tests, in which mentally ill patients and prisoners were infected without their consent. Syphilis can cause heart problems, blindness, mental illness and even death, and although the patients were treated it is not known how many recovered. He told the 1940s-era experiments ran contrary to American values, Guatemala said. The US has promised an investigation.

Dutch anti-Islamist MP Geert Wilders to go on trial

The Dutch anti-Islamist MP Geert Wilders is to go on trial in Amsterdam on charges of inciting racial hatred against Muslims. If found guilty, Wilders could face up to a year in jail or a fine of up to 7,600 euros ($10,000). The controversial politician is set to become a shadow partner of the next coalition government. He claims that he has said nothing offensive.

Steel demand 'to hit fresh highs'

Global demand for steel will hit record highs in 2011, beating levels last seen before the economic crisis , a trade body predicts. It said continuing steel demand was being led by China, but that Europe was also consuming high volumes of steel. t said continuing steel demand was being led by China, but that Europe was also consuming high volumes of steel.

U.S. alerts American travelers in Europe

The Obama administration on Sunday warned Americans of potential terrorist threats in Europe and urged them to be vigilant in public places, including tourist spots and transportation hubs. "Current information suggests that al-Qaida and affiliated organizations continue to plan terrorist attacks,'' it said. "European governments have taken action to guard against a terrorist attack and some have spoken publicly about the heightened threat conditions.''

Historic audio at risk, thanks to bad copyright laws

The Library of Congress has released a sobering new report on the state of digital audio preservation in the United States. The Library's National Recording Preservation Board concludes that most of the nation's audio libraries are ill-equipped to handle the complex array of streams and digital formats by which music and other recorded sounds are released today. "It is relatively easy to recognize the importance of recorded sound from decades ago," the survey notes. "What is not so evident is that older recordings actually have better prospects to survive another 150 years than recordings made last week using digital technologies."

Tech firms step up patent battles

Microsoft's lawsuit Friday against Motorola is the latest sign that technology giants are more aggressively wielding patents against key rivals, seeking strategic advantages as well as financial rewards.

Verizon Wireless to pay millions in refunds

Verizon Wireless said on Sunday that it would pay up to $90 million in refunds to 15 million cellphone customers who were wrongly charged for data sessions or Internet use, one of the largest customer refunds by a telecommunications company.

Cheap debt for corporations fails to spur economy

As many households and small businesses are being turned away by bank loan officers, large corporations are borrowing vast sums of money for next to nothing — simply because they can. Corporations are raising billions of dollars by issuing bonds at ultra-low interest rates, but few of them are actually spending the money on new factories, equipment or jobs. Instead, they are stockpiling the cash until the economy improves. The development presents something of a chicken-and-egg situation: Corporations keep saving, waiting for the economy to perk up — but the economy is unlikely to perk up if corporations keep saving. This situation underscores the limits of Washington policy makers' power to stimulate the economy. The Federal Reserve has held official interest rates near zero for almost two years, which allows corporations to sell bonds with only slightly higher returns — even below 1 percent. But most companies are not doing what the easy monetary policy was intended to get them to do: invest and create jobs.

US court to rule on state laws

The question of whether federal standards trump state laws will be paramount during the US Supreme Court's new term, including a case that pits the Chamber of Commerce against Arizona over the state's immigration policy. The business lobby group, with the backing of the Obama administration, is challenging an Arizona law that forces state employers to check job applicants' immigration status in a federal database – even though federal law states that such checks should be voluntary. The Arizona law also gives the state the power to revoke a company's state licences if it has hired undocumented workers. The justices' deliberations in the case will be closely watched nationally because it could provide clues about how the US high court might interpret a separate and highly controversial Arizona immigration statute that requires state police to check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being an illegal immigrant. The Obama administration is challenging the law.

Docs seek clarity on embryo import law

In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) experts have for the last few years been implanting embryos, couriered to India from abroad, into wombs of surrogate mothers for childless couples. Are there grey areas in the law on importing human embryos ? The verdict is split. Many doctors say there is "no specific prohibition" in law on importing human embryos. Some Customs officials say there is a restriction on importing them without permission. Legal experts and advocates say the law needs to be made clear. Customs officials in India are relying on its import tariff manual, especially chapter Mumbai: A human embryo in a container filled with liquid nitrogen was declared to be unacceptable baggage by the Mumbai Customs and was packed off on the next flight to the US on Wednesday. A day later, the incident sparked off a medico-legal debate and put the spotlight on Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) Bill, which is yet to become a law in India.

Claims to BP fund attract scrutiny

Kenneth R. Feinberg, who is overseeing the $20 billion BP fund to compensate victims of the oil spill, spent part of his summer barnstorming towns near the Gulf of Mexico, urging people who felt they had suffered financial hardship because of the oil spill to apply for a share of the $20 billion BP fund. The point of the fund was to pay claims rather than litigate them in court. "It's my opinion you are crazy if you don't participate," Feinberg told a crowd at one stop in Louisiana. And participate they did. Feinberg has seen applications that could bring a tear to the eye. Others are likelier to raise eyebrows. Take the businessman who explained that his part of the $20 billion fund should be ... $20 billion. His income last year? Fifty thousand dollars. A restaurant worker asked for $5.9 million in emergency payments, even though his earnings before the spill were just $18,000. And then there are the 4,000 claims, using a one-page form letter, that flooded in from Plaquemines Parish a couple of weeks ago, some hand delivered to local claims offices. They asked for grocery money, from $150 a month to hundreds of dollars, to make up for the fish they would have pulled from the gulf waters had there been no spill. Few offered any substantiation for the claim, though one person brought a dead fish. In all, about 31,000 claims have little or no documentation, and the people who filed them have been asked to provide more information. And 1,000 more are "very, very suspicious," Mr. Feinberg said, and are being held for further examination. "They're not just sitting there," he said. "We can't pay them without more documentation — minimal documentation, but enough to process the claim." Suspicious claims are perhaps inevitable whenever a big fund is set up after a natural disaster. "When these disasters strike, sadly, some small group of people will act with criminal intent." "Individuals who simply make honest mistakes in the application process do not have to fear criminal investigation or prosecution," Mr. Letten, the United States attorney in New Orleans, said. But investigators "will actively pursue" anyone who commits intentional fraud, he added.

U.S. government said to near decision on Visa, MasterCard antitrust probe

The U.S. Justice Department may decide as early as this week how to resolve its two-year antitrust probe of merchant restrictions imposed by Visa Inc. , MasterCard Inc. and American Express Co. , three people briefed on the matter said.

Afghanistan government dissolves eight private security firms

The Afghan government on Sunday began the process of assuming responsibility for the country's security by disbanding eight Afghan and foreign private security firms and confiscating their weapons and ammunition. The banning of the firms is being conducted in accordance with a decree issued by Afghan President Hamid Karzai in August which called for the firms to disband within four months, with the aim of paving the way for the Afghan government to take over all security responsibilities for the country by 2014. Among the firms that were Xe Services, formerly known as Blackwater, White Eagle Security Services and Four Horseman International. Afghanistan currently has 52 registered security companies tasked with guarding embassies and convoys, as well as training Afghan security forces. A spokesman for Karzai indicated that the dissolution of the firms would not affect the use of private security firms to train national security forces or protect of various buildings.

Ecuador to revise austerity law following unrest

The Ecuadorean government will revise a controversial austerity law following unrest and a suspected coup attempt, government officials announced Saturday. The announcement came after days of unrest, during which protesting police officers fired tear gas at President Rafael Correa, surrounded the hospital at which he was being treated, and trapped him there for 12 hours. The police were protesting the Public Service Law, which they feared would reduce their pay and benefits as part of nationwide austerity measures. The National Assembly denied this claim on Friday, arguing that the law "includes important benefits for the Armed Forces, Police and Fire Department, including overtime, in recognition of their effort and sacrifice made for the country."

Halliburton seeks extension to prepare defense for Deepwater Horizon oil spill claims

Halliburton Energy Services and several other companies being sued in connection with April's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico filed a request on Friday seeking more time to prepare their defense, the AP reports. The motion, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, seeks to postpone the trial until 2012 citing a need resolve limitation and liability allocation issues. US District Judge Carl Barbier has not yet issued a decision on the request. In August, the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation selected Barbier to hear more than 300 lawsuits filed against British Petroleum (BP) and other defendants in connection with the Deepwater Horizon accident.

Three-nation stock exchange deal agreed

Chile, Colombia and Peru, three of Latin America's emerging economies agreed to integrate their stock exchange operations as part of a strategy to draw investors to the region. Mercosul is in talks with the European Union to secure a deal that will grant member countries access to EU markets. A Mercosul-EU deal will also open the South American region to stiff competition. Plans for the integrated stock market demonstrated renewed economic confidence following early signs of recovery in Chile, Colombia and Peru.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

Time
Locked And Loaded. The secret world of extreme militias. On the Web and in militia groups, antigovernment extremism is on the rebound. A special investigation.

Newsweek
Anatomy of a tragedy. School bullying in the digital age can have tragic consequences. But should it be a crime?

Business Week
Germany Unified: The Story of a Modern Economic Juggernaut. Germany is the wheelhouse of Europe, driving regional growth, safeguarding stability, and often footing the bills. An in-depth look at the uneasy—and fruitful—marriage of east and west.

The Economist
How India's growth will outpace China's. The country's state may be weak, but its private companies are strong.

Der Spiegel
"Ich wünschte, ich wäre tot" - Marilyn Monroe - Aus den Aufzeichnungen einer Unsterblichen.

  • Daily Press Review

Key Sunni: Iraq Facing 'Last Chance' for Democracy
Asharq Al-Awsat, Pan-Arab daily, London, England

Woman denies forging marriage contract
Gulf News, Independent daily, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Palestinian mosque torched, vandalized in suspected 'price tag' operation
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

US, UK raise terrorism threat level in Europe
The Daily Star, Independent daily, Beirut, Lebanon

BRAZIL: Presidential race goes to run-off
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

Are The Tories Encouraging Divorce?
Sky News, Independent newscaster, Middlesex, England

Conservatives scrap child benefit for high earners
The Guardian, Liberal daily, London, England

Four Britons killed in Peru plane crash
The Independent, London, England

Dutch MP goes on trial for inciting hate
The Irish Times, Centrist daily, Dublin, Ireland

Cathay Pacific, WestJet expand services through code-share agreement
Gazeta.kz, Official online newspaper, Kazakhstan

Looking to Japan as a millennium goal maker
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Former Fiji PM released on bail
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

Wages subsidy for small quake-hit firms extended in New Zealand
People's Daily Online, English-language, Beijing, China

U.S. to build a new embassy compound in Santo Domingo
Dominican Today, Independent daily, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

BRAZIL: Voters Likely to Elect First Woman President
IPS Latin America, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

Brady sues Bruce: PM to vigorously defend Manatt mess claims
Jamaica Gleaner, Independent daily, Kingston, Jamaica

Family search party finds bodies of missing women
Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

Prestige Holdings' after-tax profit up 27 per cent
Trinidad Guardian, Independent daily, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad

Nigeria bombing suspects named
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

72 boxers languish in jail
GhanaWeb, Online news portal, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Oromia: Agreement for reconciliation and unification of OLF

Jimma Times, Online news portal, Jimma, Ethiopia

Dengue fever still a worry
Mail & Guardian Online, Liberal, Johannesburg, South Africa

Zille blamed for Hout Bay violence
News24.com, Online news portal, Cape Town, South Africa

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