June 3, 2015 nº 1,633 - Vol. 13

"Performance stands out like a ton of diamonds. Non performance can always be explained away."

 Harold S. Geneen

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  • Top News

US Senate votes to curtail bulk data collection

The US Senate has voted to limit the government's ability to collect phone data, a policy that had been in place since the attacks of 11 September 2001. The USA Freedom Act extends the government's ability to collect large amounts of data, but with restrictions. The bill, which replaces the Patriot Act, had been backed by Obama as a necessary tool to fight terrorism. He later signed the bill into law. The new law undoes a national security policy that had been in place since shortly after the attacks on 11 September 2001. It replaces a National Security Agency (NSA) program in which the spy agency collected personal data en masse. Instead of receiving bulk quantities of data from telephone and internet companies the NSA will now be forced to request the information through a court order. The data will also be stored on telephone and internet company servers rather than government servers. The request must be specific to an individual entity such as a person, account, or electronic device.

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  • Crumbs

1 - Judge Michael Cicconetti's Unorthodox Sentences Include Walking 30 Miles, Getting 'Pepper Sprayed' - click here.

2 - Two-year-old boy from 'smoky house' to be placed for adoption - click here.


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  • MiMIC Journal

China, South Korea sign free trade agreement

South Korea and China on Monday signed a bilateral free trade agreement that will eliminate most tariffs between the two countries over the next two decades.


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  • Historia Verdadera

Pólizas falsas

Colombia investiga a tres compañías petroleras que presentaron pólizas falsas para garantizar la inversión de US$ 48 mlls. en proyectos de exploración de crudo en el país, confirmó el ministro de Minas y Energía, Tomás González. (Presione aquí)


La empresa rusa Eriell, que brinda servicios de perforación de pozos petroleros, anunció al Gobierno argentino que planea instalar operaciones en el país austral. Zemfira Djemileva, vicepresidenta de la empresa rusa se reunió en Buenos Aires con la ministra de Industria argentina, Débora Giorgi. Además la ejecutiva y otros miembros de la empresa -de la que es accionista Gazprombank- se reunirán con representantes de las petroleras YPF , Pan American Energy y Pluspetrol.


PeruPetro está en una disputa con la petrolera angloholandesa Shell sobre las regalías por la exportación de siete embarques peruanos de gas natural licuado. (Presione aquí)

  • Brief News

Motorola's global tangle in antitrust law

The US Supreme Court now must decide whether it will consider an analogous issue in the context of an antitrust suit brought by Motorola Mobility: Do US laws authorizing private antitrust lawsuits extend to cartels that sell to subsidiaries of US companies? The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in an opinion by the influential Judge Richard Posner, has said no. But even he left a loophole for an intriguing distinction between US government enforcement, which can reach foreign conduct that affects domestic commerce, and private antitrust enforcement, which can't. The background to the Motorola case starts simply. Foreign makers of LCD screens for its mobile phones formed a cartel and sold the screens at artificially inflated prices. (We know this because the US government convicted some cartel members for criminal conspiracy.) Motorola then sued cartel members for antitrust violations. But there was a twist. Motorola bought only 1 percent of its screens for US phones directly from the cartel. The rest of the screens were bought by Motorola subsidiaries registered abroad. In other words, foreign subsidiaries bought screens from foreign makers at cartelized prices. Does US law apply? The statutory structure, knows as the Foreign Trade Antitrust Improvements Act, has two requirements. First, foreign activities have to affect US commerce directly -- similar to the requirement for the government to bring criminal prosecutions or civil cases against foreign price fixing activity. Second, the effect has to "give rise to a claim" under US law.

Supreme Court rules for woman denied job over headscarf

The US Supreme Court ruled 8-1 Monday in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc. in favor of a Muslim woman who was denied a job at Abercrombie & Fitch. The question before the court was whether an employer can be liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for declining to hire an applicant based on the applicant's religion only if the employer's knowledge that the applicant required religious accommodation resulted from direct, explicit notice by the applicant. In this case, Samantha Elauf interviewed for a job with Abercrombie & Fitch while wearing a headscarf (hijab), pursuant to her Muslim faith. Elauf was not hired, purportedly due to her black headscarf, which violated Abercrombie's "look" policy. In an opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia, the court held that Title VII, which prohibits a prospective employer from refusing to hire an applicant in order to avoid accommodating a religious practice that it could accommodate without undue hardship, applies even where an applicant has not directly informed the employer of his need for an accommodation. "Instead, an applicant need only show that his need for an accommodation was a motivating factor in the employer's decision." Justice Samuel Alito filed a concurring opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.

Threatened online? Supreme Court says prosecutors must prove intent

The US Supreme Court made it harder Monday to prosecute people for making threats on social media. Justices declined to delineate exactly what sort of evidence could prove that an online post — such as "took all the strength I had not to ... slit her throat" — was intended to spark fear. The "reasonable person" standard is in place in nine of the 11 federal appeals courts, but on Monday the Supreme Court said there has to be a higher bar for criminal convictions. Writing for the seven-justice majority, Chief Justice John Roberts parsed the federal threats law, finding that it nowhere specifically allows the "reasonable person" standard. So what standard can prosecutors use? The Roberts opinion said prosecutors must show something about the mental state of the defendant, but the level of evidence required to prove intent remained unclear — whether, for instance, it would be sufficient to show an awareness that the language is so incendiary that it would be perceived as a threat. Many experts had expected the High Court to delineate some standards for evaluating threats in the digital age, and in light of the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. They definitely were disappointed.

Tobacco firms to pay billions in damages in Canada

A Canadian court has ordered three tobacco companies to pay C$15.5bn ($12bn) - the largest award for damages in the country's history. The plaintiffs were Quebec smokers who said the firms failed to warn them of health risks associated with smoking. Imperial Tobacco Canada, Rothmans Benson & Hedges and JTI-MacDonald vowed to appeal against the decision. The class-action lawsuits were filed in 1998, but only recently went to trial in the courts. The firms argued that Canadians have had a "high awareness" of smoking health risks since the 1950s. "That awareness has been reinforced by the health warnings printed on every legal cigarette package for more than 40 years," JTI-Macdonald said in a statement. But the plaintiffs argued that the companies did not properly warn their customers and failed in their general duty "not to cause injury to another person", according to the Quebec Superior Court decision. (Click here)

Fifa sponsors welcome Blatter's resignation

Fifa sponsors, including Visa, Coke, and McDonald's, have welcomed Sepp Blatter's decision to resign as president of football's world governing body. Blatter's decision to step down comes amid a corruption scandal. Blatter was re-elected last week, but on Tuesday resigned, saying that his mandate "did not appear to be supported by everybody". Now, he is being investigated by US officials as part of their inquiry into corruption at the world football body. A separate criminal investigation by Swiss authorities into how the 2018 and 2022 World Cups were allocated is also under way.

Warnings over growing IS cyber-threat

A growing band of hacktivists is helping Islamic State spread its message by attacking media organizations and websites. Supporters of IS were helping it with opportunistic attacks and more sophisticated operations. IS is known for using cyber-attack tools in conflict zones to gather intelligence about enemy forces. However, there was also growing evidence that people dotted around the world are working on behalf of IS to carry out cyber-attacks and spread propaganda. Attributing these attacks directly to IS is hard but there is no doubt they were being carried out in its name.

Hungary court orders retrial of communist-era war crimes convict

A Hungarian appeals court on Monday ordered the retrial of Bela Biszku, a high-ranking leader of the Hungarian Communist Party, who was convicted for war crimes following the 1956 uprising. The intermediate court found that the verdict rendered at trial was "unfounded" and "not suitable for revision" due to errors in the lower court's logic in reaching its conclusions, and the over-reliance of prosecutors on opinions given as testimony by a sole historian.

Russian Church becomes Islamic-finance ally as sanctions hurt

Advocates of Islamic finance in Russia have a powerful new friend: the country's biggest church. After Russia's finance ministry rejected a draft law last month that would have paved the way for more so-called alternative finance, including Shariah-compliant transactions, the Russian Orthodox Church said it's working with the lower house of Parliament and is consulting with experts in a bid to develop a system of finance that eschews the payment of interest. Support from the Orthodox Church is a boon to the Islamic finance lobby. The more than 500-year-old institution represents the predominant faith of Russia's 142 million population, of which 15 percent are Muslims, while its influence has thrived under the rule of President Vladimir Putin. New types of finance are increasingly attracting the backing of Russia's banks as the country heads for its first recession since 2009 amid US and European sanctions imposed over the Ukraine conflict. The ethical underpinnings of true Islamic finance would be appealing to the Orthodox Church. As Western sanctions continue, tapping into the $1.3 trillion of Islamic capital has become increasingly appealing to Russia.

Rousseff faces no impeachment risk, Brazil Attorney General says

Dilma Rousseff faces no risk of impeachment as opposition claims of wrongdoing lack legal foundation, the country's attorney general said. "There are no legal reasons for impeachment," Luis Inacio Adams said. "Neither in the Petrobras case, nor on supposed fiscal maneuvers." Adams comments follow a request last week by opposition parties for prosecutors to investigate Rousseff for allegedly breaking laws governing public finance. The parties allege the Rousseff administration broke the fiscal-responsibility law by using credit from state banks in 2013, 2014 and possibly 2015 to meet its budget targets, according to documents e-mailed by the opposition's Brazilian Social Democracy Party, or PSDB. "Not only has this practice been going on for 14 years, it's not illegal," said Adams, who added that the government was a net creditor to state banks.

Petrobras seeks to sell a 100-year bond

Petrobras, Brazil's troubled petroleum giant, is returning to the global capital markets with plans to sell a 100-year bond issue. The offering, which was filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday, is Petrobras's first since it sold $8.5 billion, in six different maturities, in March 2014. The company was expecting to pay about an 8.85 percent yield on the bonds. The S.E.C. filing lists JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank as underwriters. If the expected interest rate is confirmed on Monday's bond issue, Petrobras will be paying a high price. Before this offering, the company was paying an average interest rate of only 4.4 percent on its $76.4 billion in dollar-denominated debt. Its 30-year bonds sold in 2014 paid a 7.25 percent coupon.

Utah defends anti-polygamy law, saying it prevents abuse

Utah state attorneys defending the state's anti-polygamy law argue it should stay on the books because it protects women and children from abuse. The Utah Attorney General is appealing a ruling striking down key provisions of the law in the case of Kody Brown and his four wives, stars of the reality TV show "Sister Wives." The state says in newly filed court documents that monogamous marriage is an important social unit and court rulings dating back to 1878 have upheld laws against polygamy. "The United States Constitution does not protect the practice of polygamy as a fundamental right," state attorney Parker Douglas wrote.


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