October 08, 2014 nº 1,553 - Vol. 12

"The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand."

 Frank Herbert

Read Migalhas LatinoAmérica in Spanish every Tuesday and Thursday. Visit the website at www.migalhas.com/latinoamerica

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  • Top News

AIG failure might have caused 'mass panic'

The failure in 2008 of AIG would have caused "mass panic on a global scale," Timothy Geithner, the head of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York at the time, testified at a trial over the government bailout of the company. He conceded that he once said the government's rescue "wiped out" the company's shareholders, in a nod to the harshness of the terms. Geithner backed away from two of his more provocative assessments of the 2008 bailout of American International Group Inc. (AIG), in a day of courtroom testimony marked by careful answers and a lack of recollection about the details of the financial rescue he helped oversee. Geithner, who headed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York at the time of the bailout, shed little new light on how he set the interest rate for AIG's rescue loan, a key question in a lawsuit by Maurice "Hank" Greenberg's Starr International Co. challenging the terms of the government's assistance to AIG. Greenberg claims the bailout terms, including the government taking an 80 percent of the insurer's stock, cheated AIG shareholders and is seeking $25 billion in damages.

British parliament to hold vote on recognizing Palestine statehood

The British parliament next week will vote on whether the government should recognize the state of Palestine following its return from recess next Monday. Though the move is unlikely to influence official policy [Reuters report], it would result in increased attention towards the issue and could be favored by lawmakers should they decide that it would help in establishing peace between Palestinian territories and Israel. The debate, which will be held next Monday in the lower House of Parliament [official website], will present arguments [Haaretz report] for why the British government should recognize both the state of Palestine and the state of Israel, and will then be followed by a vote on the motion. If the motion does pass, it will be largely symbolic and will not require the government to shift its stance on the matter. Although the UN General Assembly in 2012 upgraded [JURIST report] Palestine's UN status to non-member observer state, many European countries have failed to recognize it as such.

Disease, war and terrorism are dimming economic prospects, especially in Africa

In a world already weighed down by too much debt, new troubles are bubbling up. The Ebola virus, terrorist attacks and war are undermining many countries, which means "downside risks have increased" for the global economy. That gloomy assessment was released Tuesday by the International Monetary Fund. Its forecast for this year's average global growth slid to 3.3 percent, down 0.4 percentage point from April. Stock investors, reacting to various reports about slowing global growth, sold shares. By the market's close, the Dow Jones industrial average had tumbled 272.58 points, or 1.6 percent, to 16719.33. At this point, the IMF and World Bank are still projecting most African economies will expand at a moderate pace. But for the continent, there are growing "downside risks that require enhanced preparedness" by governments. Such preparations could mean taking on more government debt and having less revenue for building infrastructure. In the Middle East, growth will be only "modest" because the region is being dragged down by "a civil war in Syria, the Islamic State's (ISIS) control of large swathes of Syria and Iraq, a devastating war in Gaza, ongoing insurgencies in Libya and Yemen; largely unfinished transitions in Egypt and Tunisia, and uncertainty about world oil prices," according to a World Bank assessment.

Here's a wrapup of IMF and World Bank assessments for other areas:

  • In Europe, growth continues to disappoint. Economists see a gradual, but weak, recovery taking hold, but also say the risk of another recession is rising.
  • In Russia, the conflict with Ukraine has brought on tough economic sanctions. Growth in 2015 will be only a miserable 0.5 percent.
  • In China, growth is expected to decline slightly.
  • In Latin America, the growth rate will decrease by half this year, to just 1.3 percent.

But if you happen to live in the United States, you should cheer up – your outlook is good.

The IMF says the U.S. economy is experiencing "robust employment growth." Economists see 3 percent growth in the United States in 2015, and expect "strong" employment growth in the coming year.

Legal costs weighed on Wall Street's first-half profits

Wall Street has long been a chief source of tax revenue for New York State. But the revenue machine is faltering. Wall Street firms earned $8.7 billion in profit in the first half of the year, a 13 percent decline from results in the period a year earlier. The trend suggests profit for the full year may not exceed last year's level of $16.7 billion, which itself was a 30 percent decline from 2012, the report said. A main reason for the declines has been the legal settlements banks have struck to resolve issues stemming from the financial crisis. Since the beginning of 2009, the six largest bank holding companies have agreed to pay $130 billion in settlement costs.

Regulation – Health surveillance

In a new article, Natalie Yoshida, lawyer at Almeida Advogados, explains methods to licensing the commercialization of medicines, drugs and pharmaceutical products. (Click here)

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  • MiMIC Journal

Hong Kong protests: Government to hold talks on Friday

Talks between pro-democracy protesters and government officials in Hong Kong will be held on Friday, officials say. The talks will discuss "legal implementations of these political reforms," said Lau Kong-wah, government undersecretary, referring to the 2017 elections for chief executive. The protesters want a fully free vote, but China says it will vet candidates for Hong Kong's top job in advance.

Chinese wary of Hong Kong protests ease pain at Macau casinos

As Hong Kong protesters were blocking roads and forcing shops to close, a record number of Chinese tourists were occupying the streets of Macau.

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  • Historia Verdadera

Stop

La Corte Suprema chilena acogió un recurso de protección presentado por comunidades indígenas en contra de la decisión de la Comisión de Evaluación Ambiental de la norteña región de Atacama, que aprobó el estudio de impacto ambiental del proyecto minero El Morro, de la canadiense Goldcorp. (Presione aquí)

Evasión fiscal

Autoridades fiscales mexicanas quieren redoblar sus esfuerzos en una investigación contra elusión fiscal de grandes multinacionales en busca de pruebas de evasión, dijeron el martes funcionarios, añadiendo que se están acercando a un acuerdo con una empresa. (Presione aquí)

Concesión

El consorcio Isolux Transmisora Peruana, formado por dos filiales del grupo español Isolux, firmó el contrato de concesión por US$500 mlls. de la línea de transmisión eléctrica de 220 kilovoltios entre las ciudades de Moyobamba e Iquitos, en la Amazonía de Perú. El contrato para la construcción y posterior mantenimiento es por 30 años.

Pago

Venezuela inició las transferencias de US$ 1.786 mlls. para honrar su pago de bonos y cupones que vencen esta semana. El país petrolero debe cancelar US$ 1.498 mlls. del bono Global 2014 y, a partir de la próxima semana, unos US$ 250 mlls. en cupones.

  • Brief News
U.S. said to ready charges against banks in Forex rigging

U.S. prosecutors are pressing to bring charges against a bank for currency-rate rigging by the end of the year, and actions against individuals will probably follow in 2015. The Justice Department may seek guilty pleas from several firms, including at least one in the U.S., said one of the people. While federal prosecutors have wrested convictions from foreign banks this year for wrongdoing, they've yet to win a guilty plea from a U.S. lender in that push, and they're preparing for strong resistance if they attempt to do so. Justice Department officials have vowed to hold more institutions and individuals accountable for criminal conduct amid public frustration over the lack of prosecutions against top Wall Street executives for the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

Lawyers, judges modify the view that adverbs are mostly bad

No part of speech has had to put up with so much adversity as the adverb. The grammatical equivalent of cheap cologne or trans fat, the adverb is supposed to be used sparingly, if at all, to modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. As Stephen King succinctly put it: "The adverb is not your friend." Not everybody, however, looks askance at the part of speech. Indeed, there is at least one place where the adverb not only flourishes but wields power—the American legal system. Adverbs in recent years have taken on an increasingly important—and often contentious—role in courthouses. Their influence has spread with the help of lawmakers churning out new laws packed with them. Words such as "knowingly," "intentionally" and "recklessly," which deal with criminal intent, pop up most frequently, but plenty of other adverbs have enjoyed the spotlight. "Contrary to the ordinary view that adverbs are superfluous, law generally, and criminal law especially, emerges through its adverbs." Justices agree "As a matter of ordinary English grammar, 'knowingly' is naturally read as applying to all the subsequently listed elements of the crime." Avoiding adverbs "forces you to confront the significance of your word choice," Justice Kennedy said. "You just discipline yourself to choose your words more carefully."

Twitter sues US government over spying

Twitter has sued the US government over surveillance laws. Under current regulations, Twitter cannot reveal certain information about government requests for users' data relating to national security. Twitter argues that this violates the right to free speech, as defined by the First Amendment to the US Constitution. The firm said it brought the case in an effort to force the government to be more transparent about personal data requests.

Google, technology firms say ungag us on U.S. spy orders

Google Inc., Facebook Inc. and other technology giants are seeking a court ruling that may allow them to disclose more about the user information they're being forced to share with U.S. spy agencies. (Click here)

Brazil's Presidential election, round 2: It's the economy, estúpido

The economy takes center stage as incumbent President Dilma Rousseff takes on business-friendly challenger Aécio Neves in a runoff election. Brazil's faltering economy will be high in voters' minds when they return to the polls Oct. 26 for a second-round face-off in the country's presidential election. Neves' resurgence can partly be explained by the worrying state of the country's economy. The country is technically in recession, having retracted 0.6% in the second quarter of this year, and 0.2% in the first. On Tuesday, the International Monetary Fund revised its prediction for Brazil's 2014 GDP growth down to 0.3%, from the 1.3% growth it had estimated in June. "In Brazil growth is very low. This puts the advance of social programs at risk," said Ricardo Ismael, a political scientist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. Inflation is also running above government targets, at 6.62%. Many voters, especially those in the upper classes, see Neves as a safe pair of hands. On Monday, Rousseff resurrected that attack, alluding to "ghosts of the past" and noting that inflation had reached 12.5% in 2002. "They never put the poor in the budget. All the social policies were restricted, made for few people," Rousseff said. Her party's flagship income support program, the Bolsa Família, or 'Family Purse,' has lifted millions of Brazilians from poverty. The president has said in campaigning her opponents would end it. Neves countered with a broadside over the stagnant economy and a corruption scandal which has linked payments to politicians from the Workers' Party and other coalition parties to inflated contracts from state-controlled oil company, Petrobras. His program maintains the Bolsa Família.

IMF calls for bond market reform

The International Monetary Fund has called for reforms to government bond markets. One of the key aims is to prevent repeats of the legal problems that have affected Argentina in US courts. The proposed reforms could help governments struggling with their debts to negotiate more sustainable arrangements with their creditors. A leading debt campaign group welcomed the proposals but says that more is needed. Governments can get into difficulty with their debts and have done for many centuries. When it happens, one option is to negotiate with creditors and search for a new agreement. Sometimes it may just reschedule the payments, but often there is a real loss for the creditors. The IMF's concern is that this could make future efforts to resolve debt crises even harder; it increases the incentive for creditors not to settle. A paper written by IMF staff says "creditors who would otherwise be inclined to accept the terms of a restructuring may now be less likely to do so". So it is calling for pari passu clauses to make it clear that they don't have the meaning inferred by the US courts. The IMF also has concerns about "collective action clauses" in government bonds. They enable creditors who accept a debt restructuring to force it on others, provided the majority is large enough. It can, in short, prevent the "holdout" strategy working.

N Korea defends rights record at UN

North Korea presents its own human rights report at a rare UN briefing, acknowledging it runs "reform through labor camps" but denying abuses. An official acknowledged the country runs labor camps to "reform" detainees, but dismissed criticism of its rights record as "wild rumors". A UN report released in February said North Korea was committing "unspeakable atrocities" against its own people on a vast scale. The country is thought to hold tens of thousands of people in prison camps.

Kenyatta in Hague for ICC hearing

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives in The Hague to appear at the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity. He will be the first serving head of state to ever come before the court. The charges concern his role in violence that followed the 2007 elections, in which more than 1,000 Kenyans were killed. He denies the charges and believes that the case should be thrown out.

Supes back 'Airbnb law' to allow short-term rentals

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to legalize the growing trend of turning homes into ad-hoc hotels by passing the "Airbnb law," which places some restrictions on the controversial practice. "The status quo isn't working; we have seen an explosion in short-term rentals," Board President David Chiu said. San Francisco has long barred residential rentals of less than 30 days. The new legislation now allows them, with several caveats. The law allows only permanent residents to offer short-term rentals, establishes a new city registry for hosts, mandates the collection of hotel tax, limits entire-home rentals to 90 days per year, requires each listing to carry $500,000 in liability insurance, and establishes guidelines for enforcement by the Planning Department. The measure, which passed 7-4, is slated to take effect in February.

Spain court upholds jurisdiction in 1989 El Salvador massacre case

The Criminal Chambers of the Spanish National Court [official website, in Spanish] decided unanimously Monday that Spain has jurisdiction to investigate the November 16, 1989, massacre of the Jesuits at the Central American University and their two employees as a crime against humanity after a reversal of legislation that had prevented Spanish jurisdiction over international crimes. Earlier this year Judge Eloy Velasco—who had previously indicted 20 Salvadoran military officials [JURIST report] for murder, terrorism and crimes against humanity—rejected the crime against humanity claim. The Center for Justice & Accountability [advocacy website] and the Spanish Pro Human Rights Association [advocacy website, in Spanish] filed an appeal, which led to the crimes against humanity claim being preserved and restated. The panel explained that having jurisdiction over a set of facts that constitute a state terrorism crime, Spanish judges have jurisdiction over all the crimes connected to these facts, including a crime against humanity.

Facebook, Twitter and Google to attend EU anti-extremist meeting

A "private" dinner between tech firms and government officials from across the EU is to take place on Wednesday. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss ways to tackle online extremism, including better cooperation between the EU and key sites. Twitter, Google, Microsoft and Facebook will all be attending. Governments are becoming increasingly concerned over how social media is being used as a recruitment tool by radical Islamist groups.

Afghan executions: Ashraf Ghani urged to intervene

Human rights groups have urged new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to stop the execution of five convicted rapists who are due to be hanged on Wednesday. The men were convicted of attacking four women in Paghman town who were returning from a wedding in August. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the trial had seen "horrendous due process violations", including lack of evidence and allegations of forced confessions. The case sparked national outrage and huge media interest in Afghanistan. Activists say violence against women is prevalent in the country but that cases rarely attract this much attention.

Fallen businessman Batista faces November trial in Brazil

The Brazilian businessman Eike Batista is accused of profiting from insider information when he sold shares in the oil company OGX, and with manipulating its stock price.

Karadzic ICTY genocide trial ends

Judges for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) [official website] on Tuesday retired to consider their verdicts in the trial of Bosnian Serb political leader Radovan Karadzic [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Prosecutors delivered their closing arguments [JURIST report, video] last month. Karadzic is charged [ICTY case summary, PDF] with genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the laws of war committed during the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre [JURIST news archive] where more than 7,000 Muslims were killed by Serb forces. The panel of three judges is expected to take months [AP report] to deliver the verdict.

Amazon faces European Union tax avoidance investigation

Amazon, the online retailer, is to face a formal investigation into its European corporate tax practices. The European Commission - the executive division of the 28-member European Union - says it will look at the tax agreement made between Amazon and Luxembourg. It suspects the deal amounts to state aid and a distortion of competition. But in a statement, Amazon said it had "received no special tax treatment from Luxembourg". Most of Amazon's European profits are "are recorded in Luxembourg but are not taxed in Luxembourg", said EU competition commissioner.

Waldorf Astoria hotel sold to Chinese insurance firm

New York's iconic Waldorf Astoria hotel has been sold by Hilton Worldwide to Chinese firm Anbang Insurance Group for $1.95bn. However, Hilton will continue to operate the hotel "for the next 100 years", including renovating the property in the coming months.

  • Daily Press Review

Deaths in Kurdish protests across Turkey
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

FBI seeks public's help in identifying Americans joining Islamic State
Haaretz, Liberal daily, Tel Aviv, Israel

WHO warns of Ebola hospital risks
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Twitter sues U.S. government
CNN International, London, England

Mel B styles her braided hair extensions in pigtails as she enjoys break with Stephen Belafonte
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Why a big car may be best when it comes to fuel economy: Research finds vehicle makers' tests may not reflect reality when car is driven on the road
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Five people are hospitalised in Spain after a nurse contracts Ebola in Madrid
EuroNews, International news, Ecully Cedex, France

Deadly clashes as Turkey's Kurds protest Kobane 'inaction'
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

Fewer, bigger defense companies for Turkey
Hurriyet Daily News, (Liberal, English-language), Istanbul, Turkey

Isis in Kobani: At least nine killed as furious Kurds protest over Turkey's inaction
Independent The, London, England

With our help, the Kurds can win this fight against Islamic State
Telegraph The, Conservative daily, London, England

David Attenborough's 5 greatest moments
Telegraph The, Celebrity news, London, England

Syria border town 'about to fall', UN envoy urges action
China Post, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

N.Korean Provocation Is a Wake-Up Call for Dreamers
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

Ebola contagion in Spain raises fears for Europe
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India

3 CISF personnel shot dead by colleague in TN
India Times, Conservative daily, New Delhi, India

Japanese win Nobel Prize in physics for blue LEDs
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Global campaign to save Ebola victim's dog
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

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

Easy come, easy go
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

EOC Limited: Approval of Norwegian Prospectus, Commencement of Application Period for the Norwegian Retail Offering and Change o
Taiwan News, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Novartis AG says expects three executive committee members to leave
The Economic Times, Business, Mumbai, India

Faithful group of protesters remain in Hong Kong as talks loom
Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Ontario

Lonely crusade of journalists who dare take on Colombia's armed actors
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

When Helping Hands Make a Disaster Worse
IPS Latin America, International cooperative of journalists, Rome, Italy

Air France puts cost of pilots strike at 500 million euros
Reuters, Business News, New York, U.S

Europe to see more Ebola cases after first transmission outside Africa
Reuters, World News, New York, U.S

Commons votes for Iraq combat mission
Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

Kenyatta in Hague for ICC hearing
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England
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