December 7, 2015 nº 1,704 - Vol. 13
 

 "If we choose, we can live in a world of comforting illusion."

 Avram Noam Chomsky

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Top News

Fate of Net Neutrality up in the air

Will the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality plan survive legal review? The answer was still unclear after a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., on Friday scrutinized the Federal Communications Commission’s latest proposal to impose utility-like regulations on broadband providers. Earlier this year, the FCC advanced a new set of regulations requiring equal treatment of Internet traffic. It now wants broadband Internet service to be governed by the same Title II regulations used to regulate the phone system. Providers wouldn’t be allowed to selectively slow traffic from websites such as YouTube and Netflix Inc. or offer them fast lanes at a higher price. The rules are intended to prevent broadband carriers from exploiting their considerable market power, but critics say net neutrality will stifle innovation and make Internet content more expensive for consumers. Legally, the issue is whether Congress has given the FCC the authority to impose net neutrality, and the agency has lost that argument twice before the same court, once in 2010 and again in 2014. In previous attempts, the FCC based its authority not on Title II but on a minor provision of Congress’s 1996 overhaul of the Communications Act of 1934 that encourages investment and competition in the advanced telecommunications market. Friday’s arguments featured a moment of comic relief from the potential swing vote in the case, Judge David S. Tatel. The judge, who is blind, corrected lawyers when they suggested he doesn’t use a smartphone. He said he owns a smartphone but he later added that he uses it only to make calls. “I am equivalent to someone who only owns a cellphone,” he said.

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  • MiMIC Journal

China box office grows by 48%

China's box office takings have gone up by 48% this year, with total sales now in excess of 40 billion yuan ($6.3 billion). The country has seen a huge boost in attendances in recent years, boosted by new cinemas opening every week and its vast population's increased affluence.

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  • Brief News

Hardest part remains for banks selling $15 billion of stocks

A soaring stock market and pressure from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have eroded Japanese banks’ resistance to unwinding shareholdings in key corporate clients. The largest lenders including Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. pledged last month to sell as much as $15 billion of so-called cross-shareholdings, a long-awaited move that analysts say will benefit the banks and make companies more responsive to investors. Now for the hard part. To achieve the targets, the lenders will have to discuss the plans with clients who have long relied on them as friendly shareholders to ensure financing, fend off takeover threats and keep more demanding investors at bay. While banks have been trimming their cross-shareholdings for years, past efforts were born of necessity and they were reluctant to cut stakes in the most important customers.

France elections: National Front leads in regional polls

France's far-right National Front (FN) appears to have made big gains in the first round of regional elections, estimates show. They put the FN ahead in at least six of 13 regions in mainland France. The elections are the first electoral test since last month's Paris attacks, in which 130 people were killed. The centre-right Republicans party led by former President Nicolas Sarkozy appeared to be in second place ahead of the governing Socialist Party. A second round of voting will be held on 13 December.

Obama vows to overcome terror threat

Obama has made a rare Oval Office address after the San Bernardino shootings that left 14 dead. He said the killings were "an act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people". But "freedom is more powerful than fear," said President Obama, warning that falling prey to divisiveness in American society would play into the hands of extremists. He also said the US must make it harder for potential attackers to obtain guns. Obama vowed that the US would overcome the evolving threat of terrorism, but warned that Americans "cannot turn against one another by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam".

Venezuela election: Socialists trounced

The opposition in Venezuela has won a majority of seats in the National Assembly, overturning nearly two decades of dominance by the Socialists of President Nicolas Maduro. Five hours after polling ended, the National Electoral Council announced the opposition had won 99 seats. Maduro has admitted defeat, recognizing "these adverse results".

Puerto Rico’s debt relief to get Supreme Court hearing

Puerto Rico’s lawyers had urged the court to take immediate action in light of the overall magnitude of the commonwealth’s debts, around $72 billion.

COP21: Ministers in final push for Paris climate deal

The politicians will attempt to craft a deal from a draft negotiating text signed off by delegates here on Saturday. Poor countries warned the talks would fail if the rich tried to limit their right to grow to protect the climate. One delegate said the poor could not accept starvation as the price of a successful deal in Paris. Negotiators have taken four years to produce the draft text of a long-term agreement. The ministers will have just five days to turn that text into a deal acceptable to all 195 parties here. That will not be easy. The document at the moment runs to 48 pages and contains more than 900 square brackets, used to signify areas of disagreement. Some delegates are concerned that too much is being left to the politicians.

UN rights expert stresses role of human rights in climate change negotiations

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment on Thursday spoke at the Paris Climate Conference, reminding all nations that environmental issues are human rights issues. The conference includes 190 nations discussing a new universal agreement that would work to reduce greenhouse gas to combat global warming. Special Rapporteur John Knox said that, "governments do not check their human rights obligations at the door when they respond to climate change." He reminded delegates, "[e]very State in the climate negotiations belongs to at least one human rights treaty, and they must ensure that all of their actions comply with their human rights obligations. That includes their actions relating to climate change." Knox also discussed how an increase of two degrees would affect nations that are already vulnerable to human rights issues.

Greek parliament approves austere 2016 budget

Greece's parliament has narrowly approved the 2016 budget that includes sharp spending cuts and some tax increases amid economic recession. The budget was passed with a majority of only eight votes - 153 to 145. "This budget is a difficult task for a government that wants to leave its mark with social justice," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told lawmakers.He agreed to a batch of economic reforms in August to secure a euro zone bailout of up to €86bn ($93bn). The euro zone has also held out to Greece the possibility of long-term debt relief after a review of progress under the new bailout. However, it has said that relief would come in the form of longer delays before repayments start or finish, not a reduction - or so-called "haircut" - in the amount that has to be repaid.

Samsung to pay Apple for patent violations

Samsung and Apple released a joint statement Thursday with the US District Court for the Northern District of California saying that Samsung will pay Apple $548 million by Dec. 14 for infringing Apple's patents. Samsung also stated that it expects reimbursement if it succeeds in an planned appeal to the US Supreme Court regarding its liability for particular alleged iPhone design patent violations accounting for nearly $400 million of the reward. Apple plans to appeal Samsung's "asserted rights to reimbursement." In May the US Circuit Court for the Federal Circuit upheld Apple's 2012 victory against Samsung but reduced the damages from $1.05 billion to $930 million. The agreed-upon $548 million is well below the damages set in May, but it equals the last settlement amount determined by the courts.

Dewey prosecutors intend to seek new trial of ex-executives

Three former top executives of Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP are likely to face another jury after prosecutors said they plan to retry them on charges tied to the largest law-firm bankruptcy in history. The government intends to “proceed to a retrial” of the three ex-executives, a state prosecutor said Friday, according to a transcript of a hearing in a related case. The case ended in a mistrial in October when jurors deadlocked on whether the executives lied to investors in the run-up to the bankruptcy, following weeks of deliberations during which the jury acquitted the trio of lesser charges. Vance’s probe was aided by seven former firm employees who cooperated and pleaded guilty, including the former finance director. Prosecutors called more than 40 witnesses during the trial -- none of whom were accounting experts -- while the defense called none. Prosecutors charged the defendants with grand larceny, fraud and conspiracy, alleging they inflated income as the law firm’s cash flow slowed amid the financial crisis. It’s unclear whether Vance will scale back the charges or narrow his case at the new trial. The mistrial was a third setback this year for Vance in a significant corporate crime case.

Ecuador lawmakers end presidential term limits

Ecuador's National Assembly on Thursday passed a constitutional amendment lifting presidential term limits, beginning in 2021. The 16 constitutional amendments were approved in a vote of 100-8 in a legislature where sitting President Rafael Correa's political party, Alianza Pais, has a two-thirds majority. Though Correa, who has been president since 2007 and will finish his second term in 2017, has said that he will not participate in the next election in 2017, he will be eligible to run again in 2021 under the new amendment.

Vatican appoints PwC to audit accounts

The Vatican has ordered the first ever external audit of its accounts as part of Pope Francis' efforts to reform the Roman Catholic Church. The auditor, accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers, will start work immediately, a papal spokesman said. Pope Francis has promised to make the Vatican's finances more transparent after a series of scandals. Last year he created a new ministry to oversee papal finances, headed by Cardinal George Pell. Cardinal Pell later said he had discovered millions of euros "tucked away". While he did not say any wrongdoing had occurred, he added Vatican departments long had "an almost free hand" with their finances.

New law warns delinquent taxpayers: pay up or you could lose your passport

On December 4, 2015, Obama signed into law the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or “FAST Act.” The purpose of the bill was to provide long-term funding for transportation projects, including new highways. Also tucked into the bill were a few new tax laws: one, a requirement that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to use private debt collection companies and another that requires the Department of State to deny a passport (or renewal of a passport) to a seriously delinquent taxpayer or revoke any passport previously issued to a seriously delinquent taxpayer.

Proposed French law would ban TOR in response to terror attacks

Authorities in Paris are considering banning the use of TOR, a service that anonymizes users on the internet. It would be one of a range of measures passed in response to last month’s terror attacks, and also a difficult-to-enforce attack on internet privacy. Two proposals for changes are to be brought before France’s parliament. The first addresses the use of “shared or open” Wi-Fi networks during a state of emergency: according to the police, suspects can use public Wi-Fi networks to communicate without being tracked down, so the legislation would shut down public Wi-Fi hotspots during a state of emergency (like the one established after the attacks in Paris). The second measure would propose “to block or forbid communications of the Tor network”, and not just during a state of emergency. TOR (the onion router) is a volunteer-run anonymizing network, which bounces user’s data requests around the globe, making it very difficult (but not impossible!) to find out who’s behind the computer screen.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

Time
How J.J. Abrams Brought Back Star Wars

Newsweek
The End of Turkey’s Double Game With ISIS?

Business Week
The CEO Paying Everyone $70,000 Salaries Has Something

The Economist
The speed of business: Hyperactive, yet passive

Der Spiegel
Total vermessen

L'Espresso
L’Italia della papessa

  • Daily Press Review

Turkey sacks Ankara police chief after suicide bombings
Al Jazeera, Doha, Qatar

MPs approve Osborne's budget rules
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

Israeli-Palestinian violence: What you need to know
CNN International, London, England

Heidi Klum is 'mom and a dad at the same time' since her split from Seal in 2012
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Denmark's Princess Marie denies boob job after Her & Nu magazine claimed she had one
Daily Mail, Conservative daily, London, England

Tense times in Jerusalem
EuroNews, International news, Ecully Cedex, France

Israel seals off East Jerusalem after 'Day of Rage' attacks
France 24, Issy-les-Moulineaux, France

?? Sanat to present a rich program in its new season
Hurriyet Daily News, (Liberal, English-language), Istanbul, Turkey

'Blood moon' prompts Mormon announcement: This is NOT the end of the world
Independent The, London, England

Pompeii's pilferers punished with a curse from the gods
Telegraph The, Conservative daily, London, England

The Apprentice 2015: episode 1, live
Telegraph The, Celebrity news, London, England

Hung ouster in motion, Chu calls for party unity
China Post, English-language daily, Taipei, Taiwan

Up to 10 Million People Made Sick by Their Phones
Chosun Ilbo, Conservative daily, Seoul, South Korea

Pope Francis makes historic first US visit
Hindustan Times, New Delhi, India

Minister vows to return donations from firms involved in bid-rigging
Japan Times, Independent centrist, Tokyo, Japan

Financial services startup Square files for $275M IPO
New Zealand Herald, Conservative daily, Auckland, New Zealand

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

Beat the post holiday blues
Sydney Morning Herald, Centrist daily, Sydney, Australia

Nike says expects revenue of $50 bn by 2020
The Economic Times, Business, Mumbai, India

It's official ó the 1% finally own 50% of everything
Canadian Broadcasting Centre, Toronto, Ontario

New York teen dies after beating at church during 'counselling'
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

Wall St declines as Wal-Mart's weak forecast drags on retailers
Reuters, Business News, New York, U.S

Malaysia's embattled PM facing stern test as parliament returns
Reuters, World News, New York, U.S

Blue Jays cut lead to 2-1 against Rangers in Game 5
Toronto Star, Toronto, Ontario

US troops to help fight Boko Haram
BBC News, Centrist newscaster, London, England

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