October 13, 2010 Nº 967 - Vol. 8


"
The "what should be" never did exist, but people keep trying to live up to it.
There is no "what should be," there is only what is."

Lenny Bruce


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

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  • Top News

US ban on openly gay military personnel suspended

A US judge has ordered a nationwide halt to enforcement of the country's ban on openly gay military personnel. US District Judge Virginia Phillips last month ruled the "don't ask, don't tell" policy unconstitutional. Under the policy, gay people can serve in the military but face expulsion if their sexuality is discovered. Obama and some military leaders have called for it to be overturned. A legislative attempt to do so failed in the Senate last month. The US Department of Justice has 60 days to appeal but may opt not to do so. Last month the ban was also ruled unconstitutional by a federal court in Washington state. A judge there ordered the US Air Force to reinstate a nurse sacked under the policy. Under the policy, established in 1993 under former President Bill Clinton, the US military is forbidden to inquire about service members' sexual orientation, but can expel people discovered to be homosexual.

Five new members voted on to UN Security Council

Germany, India, South Africa and Colombia have won two-year seats on the UN Security Council. Portugal got the other available place when Canada withdrew its bid after the second round of voting at the UN General Assembly in New York. China, Britain, France, the US and Russia are the five permanent members. The 15-seat Security Council is one of the most important UN organs and is charged with maintaining international peace and security. Every year, five of the non-permanent members step down after completing two years, and other countries battle to fill the seats. Candidates are chosen by region and the main contest was among Western allies.

Profits killing personal privacy'

Personal privacy is in danger of being killed off by the profit-making motives of firms which hold our data, security expert Bruce Schneier has warned. While the death of personal privacy had been predicted for a long time, rapid technological changes posed a mortal danger to it, he said. He urged lawmakers to do more to help preserve and protect privacy. The death of privacy had been predicted before with the emergence of many different technologies, he said. But before now that threat had been largely overblown. "Just because the technology is there does not mean that privacy invasions must happen," he said. The difference now, he said, was that the falling cost of storage and processing power made it far easier to keep data such as e-mail conversations, Tweets or postings to a social network page than it was to spend the time managing and deleting the information. The migration of human social interaction from ephemeral forms that took place face to face into data that never goes away and does not allow us to forget or leave behind our past actions was undoubtedly going to change society, he said. "Forgetting is a very powerful social tool that helps us get by and get along," he said. As lives are lived more and more online or via the phone it has led, said Schneier, to a situation in which everyone has to be the guardian of their own privacy policy. "That's new and fundamentally unnatural," he said.

EU renews drive for common patent system

EU ministers are struggling to get unanimous agreement on an EU-wide patent system aimed at drastically cutting costs for European businesses. The EU's Competitiveness Council is considering a European Commission proposal to simplify patents in the EU. But some member states are unhappy about the plan to have three official languages for registering patents - English, French and German. Translation costs make patents in the EU much more expensive than US patents. The Commission says a single EU patent system would reduce translation costs from the current 14,000 euros ($19,600) on average to just 680 ($950) euros per patent. The European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich currently grants patents in the three official languages. The EPO acts on behalf of the 27 EU member states and 10 other European countries.

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  • MiMIC Journal

CNOOC buys Texas assets

Chinese oil company CNOOC has agreed to pay $1.08bn for a 33% stake in a South Texas shale oil and gas field. CNOOC announced the deal with Chesapeake Energy Corporation, which will also see it fund 75% of Chesapeake's share of the costs until an additional $1.08bn has been paid. Analysts say it could mark the start of several overseas acquisitions as CNOOC seeks to meet its growth forecasts. It is the Chinese firm's first US onshore acquisition attempt since 2005.

China trade surplus caps biggest quarter since 2008

China, the world's biggest exporter, posted a $16.9 billion trade surplus for September, capping the largest quarterly excess since the financial crisis in 2008 as pressure mounts for a stronger yuan. Exports rose 25.1 percent from a year earlier and imports climbed 24.1 percent, the customs bureau said. The third-quarter trade gap was $65.6 billion, the most since a $114 billion surplus in the final three months of 2008.

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  • Historia Verdadera

Rescate Chile

Los mineros atrapados desde hace más de dos meses en el norte de Chile comenzaron a emerger de las entrañas de la tierra en la madrugada del miércoles, mientras familiares y socorristas festejaban el emotivo rescate que quedará en la historia. Pocos minutos antes de la medianoche de este miércoles se dio inicio al operativo de rescate de los 33 mineros atrapados en el yacimiento San José. (Presione aquí)

Construcción

La constructora española Obrascon Huarte Lain (OHL) prepara la división de su filial concesionaria en México y dio un mandato a varios bancos para realizar la operación en noviembre valorada entre US$ 700 millones y 800 millones.

China – Argentina

El Gobierno de China dio ayer las primeras señales concretas de distensión en su conflicto comercial con la Argentina, que desencadenó en abril pasado en el cierre de los envíos de aceite de soja hacia aquel país y puso en peligro un negocio anual por U$S 2.000mlls. (Presione aquí)

Vuelos

La aerolínea de capitales uruguayos BQB, que iniciara sus vuelos en abril de 20110, consiguió hace pocos días el permiso para operar las rutas Montevideo/Buenos Aires (Ezeiza) y Montevideo/Madrid, con el propósito de profundizar su apuesta a destinos regionales no convencionales, con la que se diferencia del tradicional sistema aéreo sudamericano centrado en las grandes ciudades.

Ventas

Latinoamérica rebasó a Europa occidental y se convirtió en el segundo mercado más grande de celulares del mundo con 530 millones de estos equipos utilizándose en su territorio, 15 millones más que en Europa, según un estudio de la consultora Wireless Intelligence.

  • Brief News

Ban on Gulf of Mexico oil drilling to be lifted

The moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico is to be lifted, the US government has confirmed. The six-month ban was introduced in the aftermath of April's BP oil spill, but calls had been growing for it to be ended because of its economic impact. Before oil firms can resume deep-water work in the region they will first have to meet a range of new safety rules.

Joy as first Chile miners rescued

The first three of the 33 miners trapped deep underground for more than two months in northern Chile are rescued.

The role of social influence

Researchers studied the download rates of a set of apps for Facebook and explained how they follow an unusual "bandwagon effect". Apps whose downloads were advertised to the Facebook community gained slowly in popularity, and rates had no evident connection to social pressures. But at a certain popularity threshold, roughly the same across a wide range of apps, downloads began to skyrocket. The authors of the research say that in the offline world, no such "switch" is known to exist. They found that what they term "social influence" plays a role only for some of the apps on a given day. The surprising finding is that two qualitatively different behavioral patterns emerged. There appeared to be a threshold of popularity, and users only seemed to be influenced by the choices of others for apps lying above this threshold. The interesting thing about the data is that the millions of users were under no external influence, with the behavior arising spontaneously as people made independent choices based on the evident choices of their friends and other Facebook users. Social influence is strongly present in online cultural consumption but, at least in this case, only for a subset of products. It remains to be seen if a similar threshold behavior occurs in non-social network or indeed completely offline contexts. The difficulty would be in replicating the rarefied conditions of a hands-off study of millions of "cultural consumers.

Egyptian ministry officials jailed over Van Gogh theft

An Egyptian court has found 11 culture ministry employees guilty of negligence, after the theft of a Van Gogh painting from a Cairo museum. The officials include Deputy Culture Minister Mohsen Shalan, and the museum's director. They have been sentenced to three years in jail but each given bail of about $1,750, pending an appeal. The Van Gogh painting was stolen in broad daylight from the Mahmud Khalil museum on 21 August.

Supreme Court hears case on vaccine lawsuits

At the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, the justices heard arguments in a case that drug manufacturers say could open the floodgates to thousands of lawsuits -- mainly from parents who contend that vaccinations caused their children's autism.

Ireland court finds no anti-piracy laws authorizing suspension of Internet service

The High Court in Ireland has ruled that laws cutting off internet users who have illegally downloaded content cannot be enforced in the country. It is a victory for Irish internet service provider UPC which took the legal action against copyright owners, including EMI and Sony. But it will be a blow to the music and film industry, which wants the strict rules as a deterrent against piracy. It is likely to have a knock-on effect to similar policies in other countries. Justice Peter Charleton said in his judgment that illegal file-sharing was "destructive of an important native industry". But he added that there were no laws in Ireland to allow the disconnection of pirates from the net and that any attempts to do so could be in breach of European legislation.

Dutch Antilles no longer exists

The Dutch Caribbean dependency the Netherlands Antilles has ceased to exist with a change of the five islands' constitutional status. Curacao and St Maarten have become autonomous countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, joining Aruba, which gained the status in 1986. Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba are now autonomous special municipalities of the kingdom. The Netherlands retains responsibility for defense and foreign policy. The Dutch government will also have initial oversight over Curacao's finances under a debt-relief arrangement. Collectively, the islands had amassed a debt of around 2bn euros ($2.8bn), most of it owed to the Netherlands. The Dutch colonized the islands, alongside Aruba, in the 17th Century. The territory, once called the Dutch West Indies, became the semi-autonomous Netherlands Antilles in 1954. The new status, which came into effect on Sunday, followed referendums over the past few years.

Bolivia government backtracks on coca production law

The Bolivian government has said it has annulled a new coca production law which cut by two-thirds the number of coca leaves which growers could sell. The law triggered widespread protests by coca growers, who protested by blocking the main road to the city of La Paz from the Amazon region. But the repeal of the law seems to have been insufficient to end the dispute. Last month, a new coca production law was approved that said growers could sell only a little more than 2kg (5 lbs) of coca leaves per month, down from almost 7kg (15 lbs), and that sales would be controlled by the central government instead of local communities. Officials said it was designed to stop the sale of leaves to drug traffickers.

Brazil presidential hopefuls clash in TV debate

Brazilian presidential candidates Dilma Rousseff and Jose Serra have clashed in a TV debate as they gear up for the second round vote on 31 October. Serra from the Social Democratic Party accused Rousseff of being two-faced and incoherent on moral issues. During the debate, they clashed over abortion and the role of Brazil's state-controlled oil company Petrobras. Rousseff, the governing Workers' Party candidate, accused the Serra campaign of spreading lies about her. Latest opinion polls put Rousseff, who fell short of a first round win on 3 October, on 48% and Serra on 41%. Some 11% of voters say they are undecided.

Evo Morales signs controversial anti-racism law in Bolivia

Despite the vigorous protests of journalists across Bolivia, Morales has signed the Law Against Racism and All Forms of Discrimination, a controversial measure that would make it illegal for news organizations in Bolivia to report on statements or acts deemed racist. The Bolivian Senate passed the measure without any modifications to the language passed by the lower Chamber of Deputies. Journalists and Bolivia's opposition elite, centered in the wealthier eastern province of Santa Cruz, have protested two sections of the law, citing fears of government censorship. Under Articles 16 and 23 of the measure, news outlets could be shut down for publishing content deemed racist, and journalists could be jailed for the offense.

Foreclosures in 30 seconds get time out as Florida courts hit a fraud wall

Home to more foreclosures than 47 U.S. states, Florida sought to clear out its backlog with a system of special court hearings that dispensed with cases quickly, sometimes in less than a minute.

U.S. Judge finds federal gay marriage ban unconstitutional

A court ruling declaring the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act an unconstitutional violation of states rights is being appealed by the Obama administration. A federal judge ruled in two cases in Massachusetts that the law, defining marriage as being between a man and a woman, violated the right of states to regulate marriage. The U.S. Justice Department filed an appeal notice yesterday.

French pass law to strip foreign-born criminals of nationality

French lawmakers passed a controversial new bill that will strip criminals born in other countries of their French nationality if convicted of carrying out a violent crime against police officers. The National Assembly, voted 294 to 239 to pass the measure. Proposed by Immigration Minister Eric Besson, the measure will also allow European Union nationals to be expelled from France for repeated acts of theft, aggressive begging and illegally occupying land. "This is a big first step in the building of a European immigration policy," Besson said. The law is part of President Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative law and order crackdown, which critics say stigmatizes immigrants -- members of France's Roma "Gypsy" community -- as second-class citizens.

Geithner signals global currency interventions

Countries from Brazil to South Korea and Thailand have sold their currencies in recent weeks to curb gains that threaten to impede export growth and slow their economies. South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, Colombia and Russia are tightening rules on capital flows to limit swings in their currencies. "This issue, which people like to frame as uniquely an American preoccupation, is really much more important to the rest of the world and is really a global problem as a whole," the Treasury chief said.

George W. Bush 'holed up' in Texas: not much demand for former President

Former President Bill Clinton is busy on the campaign trail, helping candidates in races from Florida to Washington state. His successor, George W. Bush? Holed up in Texas. Bush left office deeply unpopular and sour on domestic politics. After leaving Washington and returning to Texas, he has kept a low profile, working on his memoir and appearing only occasionally at paid speeches. Aides say he has no plans to be a figure in this year's elections, which could see major gains for the GOP.

Attorneys general to initiate foreclosure probe

Attorneys general in about 40 states may announce this week a coordinated investigation into potentially faulty foreclosures at the largest banks and mortgage firms. The multistate investigation, which includes Maryland, Virginia, California, Indiana, and Ohio, among others, will initially focus on whether Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, Ally Financial and other large mortgage companies made misleading or fraudulent statements to evict struggling borrowers from their homes.

Brazil Court freezes Cisco assets in fraud probe

Cisco Systems Inc.'s assets in Brazil were frozen by a court of justice as part of a probe into a suspected import fraud scheme. The court decision prevents Cisco from transferring goods or bank accounts within the country. Cisco was accused of using two fake companies to import goods, as well as donating 500,000 reais ($299,000) to Brazil's Workers' Party during the 2006 presidential campaign. Cisco appealed the decision and regained access to its bank accounts in Brazil. It is now running as normal in Brazil and its operations won't be affected.

UN urges nations to assist Kenya in conducting piracy trials

The UN Secretary-General's special adviser on maritime piracy Jack Lang called Tuesday for other nations to provide assistance to Kenya in conducting piracy trials. Kenya has expressed fears that it will become a dumping-ground for pirates and allowed an agreement for conducting piracy trials in Kenya to lapse last month. The UN is negotiating this matter with Kenya. According to Lang, Kenya has received USD $4 million to date to upgrade its criminal justice system in return for agreements to prosecute suspected pirates there. Forty-three pirates have been prosecuted in Kenya, and many others are in custody in Mombasa, awaiting their trials.

UN war crimes tribunals request additional resources from General Assembly

Representatives from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) appeared before the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on Friday to request additional financial resources and institutional support on behalf of the various war crimes tribunals. The ICTY and the ICTR, founded by the UN in early 1990s to try individuals responsible for genocide in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, respectively, as well as the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), have all significantly outlived their expected life spans. As a result, the tribunals are encountering budget shortfalls and delays that have led to staff attrition and other administrative roadblocks. In the case of the ECCC, the court was expected to require only $56 million over three years to achieve its mission, but recent estimates suggest a cost of more than triple the original budget as the tribunal heads into its fifth year of operation.

Canada high court rules no right to counsel during interrogation

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled 5-4 Friday that Canadians do not have the right to have counsel present during custodial interrogations. The court held that § 10(b) of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that those under arrest have the right "to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right," is typically satisfied once the suspect is advised of the right and, if invoked, permitted "reasonable opportunity to consult counsel." The court went on to to say, however, that the charter does not extend so far as to necessitate counsel's presence for the duration of the interview. Writing for the majority, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Louise Charron declined to adopt an interpretation akin to the US Supreme Court ruling in Miranda v. Arizona, which affords suspects the right to effectively discontinue an interrogation by requesting counsel at any time.

  • Daily Press Review

Rights group asks Netanyahu to make 'no population transfer' pledge
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

Ahmadinejad lands in Beirut for first state visit
JPost, Conservative, Jerusalem, Israel

RTA to introduce touchscreen tests for driving licence
Khaleej Times, English-language daily, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai's Minerva gets nod to buy Nitel
Middle East North African Network, Online financial portal, Amman, Jordan

EU urges Israel to guarantee equality for all its citizens
The Daily Star, Independent daily, Beirut, Lebanon

German delegation visits Aden
Yemen Observer, Sana'a, Republic of Yemen

Nurse in malaria trial goes missing
BreakingNews.ie, Online news portal, Cork, Ireland

Iran president in Lebanon visit
Daily Express, Conservative tabloid, London, England

Millionaire sues MoD for GBP 143,000 after high-speed fighter jets damage historic mansion in low-flying passes
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Ukrtelecom starting sale price set at UAH 10.5 billion
DMeurope, Online news portal, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Intel forecasts strong Q4 sales
The Irish Times, Centrist daily, Dublin, Ireland

Schwarzenegger Lauds 'Gold Mine'
The Moscow Times, Independent daily, Moscow, Russia

Flood inundates hundreds of houses in Padang
Antara News, News agency, Jakarta, Indonesia

Fourth of 33 men rescued from Chilean mine
China Post, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Larijani satisfied with Central Asia visit
Gazeta.kz, Official online newspaper, Kazakhstan

Nine detained under ISA for human trafficking
Malaysian Star, Online news portal, Selangor Darul Ehsan, Malaysia

TV personality surprised at money laundering charges
Dominican Today, Independent daily, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

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