July 28, 2014 nº 1,523 - Vol. 12

"A determined soul will do more with a rusty monkey wrench than a loafer will accomplish with all the tools in a machine shop."

 Robert Hughes

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  • Top News

Gaza officials accuse Israel of war crimes at ICC

Top Palestinian officials on Friday filed a complaint to the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing Israel of war crimes in Gaza. Palestinian Justice Minister Saleem Al-Saqqa and Gaza court public prosecutor Ismail Jabr started legal proceedings over the 18 days of fighting between Hamas and Israel that has killed over 800 Palestinians and 35 Israelis. The complaint accuses Israel of war crimes, including apartheid, attacks against civilians, excessive loss of human life and colonization. The ICC must next decide whether it has jurisdiction in the Palestinian Authority. The territory is not a member of the UN. However, the territory became an observer in 2012, a status which the ICC prosector said was required for Palestinians to sign up to the court.

Brazilian central bank frees up $13bn to boost economy

Brazil's central bank has announced plans to reduce the amount of money commercial banks keep in reserve, in a bid to boost economic growth. The bank says the measure will free up some $13bn, which banks could lend to businesses and individuals. The Brazilian economy is expected to expand by 1% this year - the fourth consecutive year of sluggish growth. The central bank announcement comes less than three months before presidential elections. President Dilma Rousseff will seek a second four-year term in October. In 2010, when she was elected, Brazilian gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 7.5%. Growth dropped to 2.7% in 2011, 1% in 2012 and 2.5% last year. The government is forecasting 1.8% growth this year, but independent economists expect the GDP to grow by only 1%. "The central bank decided to adopt measures to improve the distribution of liquidity in the economy," the bank announced. The decline in Brazil's fortunes, cutbacks in public services, continuing corruption and what is seen as excessive spending on the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics have brought protesters out on to the streets over the past year. The economy had become over-dependent on exports to China under former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, analysts say. Exports to China grew at roughly four times the rate of total exports between 2000 and 2010. As Chinese demand fell away, Brazilian growth stuttered, weighed down by poor infrastructure, high consumer debt and sagging business confidence.
(Click here)

Are opponents of the death penalty contributing to its problems ?

Kevin Cooper was convicted of murdering a married couple and two children, and was sentenced to die. That was back in 1985. Cooper is still awaiting execution on California's death row. San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos, who is handling the case, blames the long delay on Cooper's multiple appeals in state and federal courts. "This is all a big strategic plan to really manipulate the system to attack capital punishment, not just in California, but in the United States," Ramos says. The death penalty is under considerable pressure, both from court decisions and a series of problematic executions. Six states have abolished the death penalty over the past seven years. Death penalty supporters such as Ramos say this is no accident. They believe opponents intentionally toss sand in the gears of the execution process, and then complain that the system doesn't work. "It's a delaying tactic that then allows them to scream it's unconstitutional because it's been delayed too long," Ramos says. Defense attorneys dismiss this as nonsense. The problems with the death penalty, they say, were not created by its opponents. "It's not the defense attorneys who are holding executions up," says Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University. "Not by a long shot." Last week, US District Judge Cormac Carney found California system of capital punishment unconstitutional because executions are delayed for too long and are "arbitrary" in terms of which condemned prisoners are ever actually executed. Death penalty supporters argue that it's the killers - and their attorneys - causing most of the delays.

Lew can use tax rule to slow inversions, ex-official says

The US Treasury Department should use immediate stopgap regulations to make offshore transactions known as corporate inversions less lucrative, said the department's former top international tax lawyer. The administration can unilaterally limit inverted companies from taking interest deductions in the US or from accessing their foreign cash without paying US taxes. "If you take away the incentives, a large portion of these deals would not happen because they are indeed tax-motivated," said Stephen Shay, who left the Obama administration in 2011 and is now a professor at Harvard Law School. Companies including Medtronic Inc. and AbbVie Inc. have pending inversion transactions in which they purchase a smaller foreign company and then move the combined corporation's legal address outside the US In most cases, companies barely change their operations and don't move their executives. The administration has been pressing Congress for retroactive action to make it harder for companies to invert and insisting that Treasury can't act on its own. Congress is deadlocked on the issue and is set to leave Washington late this week for a five-week recess. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew has said the government can't address inversions without legislation.

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  • MiMIC Journal

Sharp falls in China property market

After a decade of rapid rises, property prices have recently been falling fast in many Chinese cities, and some say a property bubble could be bursting. China's government is authorizing developer debt sales for the first time in five years in a bid to avoid bankruptcies as the property market cools.

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  • Brief News
Are shippers responsible for legality of goods they transport ?

A key test of how much responsibility shippers like FedEx Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) bear for the contents of the packages they deliver will begin this week in federal court. The Justice Department indicted FedEx earlier this month, charging conspiracy to distribute controlled substances because of the shipper's alleged role in transporting painkillers and other prescription drugs that had been sold illegally. FedEx is scheduled to be arraigned in the proceeding Tuesday morning in San Francisco. UPS signed a non-prosecution agreement in March 2013 in connection with the same probe by the Drug Enforcement Agency and federal prosecutors into its dealings with prescription-drug shippers. It agreed last year to pay $40 million in a deal that required it to admit to its conduct and to start an online-pharmacy compliance program. The crackdowns are relatively new in the shipping industry, and they mark an aggressive push by the government to combat the prescription-drug black market. They come amid the government's broader efforts to address the escalating prescription-drug problem, which has also involved targeting drug providers and pharmacies as a result of investigations over the past several years.

Banks accused of rigging silver price

Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Bank of Nova Scotia have been accused of attempting to rig the price of silver, in a lawsuit filed in the US. The plaintiff alleges the banks, which set the price of silver each day, abused their position in the market. Deutsche Bank and HSBC have not commented on the filing, while Bank of Nova Scotia told Bloomberg news agency it would "vigorously defend" itself. The lawsuit follows similar filings in the gold price-fixing market. Earlier this year, Barclays Bank was fined £26m ($44m) by UK regulators after one of its traders was discovered attempting to fix the price of gold. Investor Scott Nicholson from Washington said in the filing against the three banks for price-fixing: "The extreme level of secrecy creates an environment that is ripe for manipulation. "Defendants have a strong financial incentive to establish positions in both physical silver and silver derivatives prior to the public release of silver fixing results, allowing them to reap large, illegitimate profits." He is hoping other investors will come forward to launch a class-action lawsuit.

US 'will send migrant youths home'

Obama has told Central American leaders that migrant children flooding into the US without legitimate legal claims will be sent home. The presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador met Obama at the White House on Friday to discuss the crisis at the US southern border. More than 50,000 children, many unaccompanied, have been detained at the border since October. Obama said they must deter more children from attempting the journey.

UN calls for immediate Gaza truce

The UN Security Council calls for an "immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire" in Gaza after the quietest night in weeks. An emergency session backed a statement calling for a truce over the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr "and beyond". Both the Palestinian and Israeli envoys to the UN criticized the statement, for different reasons. The UN Security Council endorsed a statement from Rwanda, the current president of the council, calling for a "durable" truce based on an Egyptian initiative - under which a pause in hostilities would lead to substantive talks on the future of Gaza, including the opening of Gaza's border crossings.

Fighting near MH17 crash site in Ukraine thwarts investigators
 
Since Flight MH17 crashed on July 17, killing all 298 aboard, access to the debris field has been hampered by gun-battles between Ukrainian forces and rebels blamed for shooting down the plane with a surface-to-air missile. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says sending out an international military force to secure the site of the downed Malaysian Airlines plane in eastern Ukraine is "unrealistic". The site is currently controlled by pro-Russia rebels who have been accused of shooting down flight MH17. Separately, the US has released images to back its claim of Russian firing into Ukraine. The images, showing marks on the ground and impact craters, suggest fire from multiple rocket launchers, the US state department says. The pictures also indicate the separatists are using heavy artillery supplied by Russia, it added. Russia denies supplying the rebels with heavy weaponry or firing across the frontier with Ukraine.

Judges overturns D.C. ban on handguns in public

A federal judge has overturned a District of Columbia ban on carrying handguns in public, concluding that the Second Amendment protects a person's right to firearms outside the home. In a 19-page ruling that was written on Thursday, but only released late Saturday, Judge Frederick J. Scullin Jr. ordered the city to allow residents to carry handguns - a milestone in a case that has been dragging on for five years. "There is no longer any basis on which this court can conclude that the District of Columbia's total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny," Scullin of the District of Columbia District Court said. "Therefore, the court finds that the District of Columbia's complete ban on the carrying of handguns in public is unconstitutional."

After completing a 12-year sentence, a Texas man is cleared by DNA

There aren't many cheery occasions in criminal courts. But on Friday morning, Judge Gracie Lewis' courtroom in Dallas, Tex., was packed with reporters, well-wishers and other exonerated men. And joy filled the room. Michael Phillips was exonerated for a rape he pled guilty to more than two decades ago, becoming the 34th person whose name has been cleared in the county since 2001. But he's also thought to be the first exoneree who didn't push for his own exoneration. Prosecutors said a project to review untested rape kits proved the innocence of Michael Phillips, who says he pleaded guilty to a 1990 rape because his attorney advised him to avoid trial. "This is a great day for Mr. Phillips, but this is a terrible day for our Justice System."

World War One : Every Man Remembered database launched

The Royal British Legion has started an online campaign to gather tributes to every Commonwealth serviceman and woman who died in World War One. A total of 1,117,077 service personnel from what was then the British Empire died in the war, which began in 1914. The Every Man Remembered database allows people to commemorate relatives or someone they knew, or find a person for whom no-one has yet left a tribute. The legion called it the "greatest act of remembrance" to mark the centenary. The people being remembered came from the UK and numerous parts of the British Empire - from which the Commonwealth emerged - including Africa, Australia, India and the West Indies. The Every Man Remembered campaign was inspired by a British Explorer Scout who wrote to the legion after visiting a war cemetery in Belgium. The Scout asked why some of the graves had dozens of poppies and crosses next to them, while others had none.

Congress passes legislation legalizing cell phone unlocking

The US House of Representatives on Friday passed a bill that would make it legal for individuals to open the digital locks on their cellphones. The process, known as unlocking or jailbreaking, is currently illegal, punishable by fines of up to $500,000 and five years in jail for unlocking cellphones without the authorization of wireless carriers. The bill, known as the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act, was passed by the Senate earlier this month. President Barack Obama has vowed to sign the legislation into law. Advocates of the bill argue that the bill would benefit consumers by allowing lower income individuals to buy used cell phones more easily and lower prices through increased competition.
(Click here)

Aruba frees Venezuelan official Hugo Carvajal wanted by US

Top Venezuelan official Gen Hugo Carvajal has been released by the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba, after being detained over US accusations of drug-trafficking activities. The US Treasury said he had been protecting drug shipments by Colombian Farc rebels. But a judge on the island said Gen Carvajal had a diplomatic passport and that his arrest was illegal. He had been appointed by Venezuela as its consul in Aruba.

Wikipedia blocks 'disruptive' page edits from US Congress

Wikipedia administrators have imposed a ban on page edits from computers at the US House of Representatives, following "persistent disruptive editing". The 10-day block comes after anonymous changes were made to entries on politicians and businesses, as well as events like the Kennedy assassination. The biography of former US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld was edited to say that he was an "alien lizard". One staffer said they were being banned for the "actions of two or three". Edits from computers using the IP address belonging to the House of Representatives have been banned before, following similar acts of vandalism. The latest block comes after rogue edits were brought to light by a Twitter feed, @congressedits, which posts every change made from the government-owned address.

Russia's surprise interest rate rise 'to curb inflation'

Russia's central bank has unexpectedly raised its key bank interest rate over concerns about inflation and "geopolitical tension". "The main reason for inflation acceleration was the effect of the observed rouble depreciation on prices of a wide range of goods and services," the bank said. The bank's board decided to raise the interest rate by 50 basis points, or half a percent, to 8% per year. Analysts said that they had not expected the move. The rate hike will come after Western sanctions over the crisis in the Ukraine were boosted. Domestic stocks and the rouble tumbled earlier this year after sanctions were implemented. The Central Bank of Russia said on Friday that it will raise the interest rate on Monday to ease inflationary pressure. Russia's economy is more vulnerable to sanctions (or even the mere threat of sanctions) than most still seem to believe."

Bidding starts for UK fracking licences

The bidding process for licenses to extract shale gas - using the controversial process fracking - will begin later on Monday. About half the UK is open to exploration, but tightened rules cover areas of outstanding beauty. Companies granted a license to begin test drilling will also need planning permission and environmental permits. The coalition sees shale gas as a major potential energy source. Critics of fracking warn of environmental dangers.

Ukraine crisis : More Russians face EU sanctions

The EU has added 15 individuals and 18 entities to its sanctions list targeting Russians linked to the separatist uprising in eastern Ukraine. The names have been published in the EU Official Journal. The number of Russians subject to EU asset freezes and travel bans is now 87. The EU says it is targeting those who "actively support or are benefiting from Russian decision makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea or the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine".

California manhunt for tuberculosis-positive patient

Authorities in California are searching for a fugitive homeless man who has refused treatment for tuberculosis and may be contagious. An arrest warrant has been issued for Eduardo Rosas Cruz, 25, of Mexico, who was diagnosed with the illness at a local emergency room in March but fled when asked to remain in the area for treatment. Health officials are concerned he may be infected with a drug-resistant strain of the illness. After he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, he was told to stay in a nearby motel and wait for a health worker to deliver medication. He did not comply, prompting government officials to add him to a state-wide law enforcement database and later obtain an arrest warrant. Health officials cannot, by law, force a person to be treated for tuberculosis. They can however isolate the infected person from the public. "We're interested in this guy because he broke the orders of the health officer," San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney said.

S.E.C. says Citigroup unit failed to protect customer trading data

Citigroup will pay $5 million to settle charges that LavaFlow, a unit that operates an alternative stock trading venue, allowed another bank subsidiary to access customer trading data.
(Click here)

  • Weekly Magazine Review

Time
Cold war II The West is losing Putin's dangerous game

Newsweek

Tel Aviv Diary: Israelis Wary of Cease-Fire

Business Week
Burger King's young buns

The Economist
Russia, MH17 and the West. A web of lies

Der Spiegel
Stoppt Putin jetzt!

L'Espresso
Il mondo in guerra

  • Daily Press Review

UN Security Council calls for Gaza ceasefire
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

Boko Haram kidnaps local mayor and the wife of Cameroon's vice PM
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

Jewish Schindler rescues Iranian Christians, Syrians and Iraqis
JPost, Conservative, Jerusalem, Israel

Bidding starts for fracking licences
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Lawyer: Marine's Tijuana counsel blew it
CNN International, London, England

Lady Gaga cuts a striking figure in hot pink evening gown as she takes dog for a walk
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Celebrity chef Ross Burden dies at age 45
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Libya in crisis as violence intensifies between armed militias
EuroNews, International news, Ecully Cedex, France

UN Security Council calls for immediate Gaza ceasefire
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

California freak lightning: Man dies and 14 people left injured after freak storm hits beachgoers
Independent The, London, England

Ebola outbreak: Second US worker fighting for life after contracting deadly illness in Liberia
Telegraph The, Conservative daily, London, England

Let's change the rhetoric on 'three-parent' children
Telegraph The, Celebrity news, London, England

Student survivors testify in Korea ferry trial
China Post, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

National Security Must Be Top Priority in Missile Defense
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

Foreigners urged to leave Libya amid rising violence
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India

Delhi: AAP activists held for defacing public property
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

Tiger, tiger, dying out: a majestic animal on its knees
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

Ukraine President cancels trip over protests in eastern Ukraine
Straits Times, Pro-government, Singapore

The Block Glasshouse angers viewers
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

Your Top Plays for Today
Taiwan News, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Reckitt Benckiser to spin off pharmaceuticals business
The Economic Times, Business, Mumbai, India

Investigators renew bid to access Malaysian jet crash site despite fighting
Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Ontario

Canadian embassy in Libya still operational despite violence
Globe and Mail The, Centrist daily, Toronto, Canada

Liberty Reserve Brought Down By 'Joe Bogus': How The Feds Arrested Arthur Budovsky
International Business Times, Business news organization, New York, U.S

U.S., Regional Leaders Convene over Migration Crisis
IPS Latin America, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

Hague court rules in favor of Yukos shareholders vs Russia, awards $50 billion: source
Reuters, Business News, New York, U.S

Gaza fighting abates as diplomatic tension flares
Reuters, World News, New York, U.S

Toronto philanthropist and former Ryerson University Chancellor passes away
Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

'Boko Haram abductions' in Cameroon
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

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