March 30, 2016 nº 1,725 - Vol. 13

"Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hate, and hate leads to violence. This is the equation."

 Averroès (1126-1198)

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  • Top News

Brazil's PMDB party quits ruling coalition

The PMDB, the largest party in Brazil's ruling coalition, has voted for an "immediate exit" from Rousseff's government. The move could hasten impeachment proceedings against President Rousseff. Opposition lawmakers want to remove Rousseff over claims she manipulated accounts to hide a growing deficit. Following Tuesday's vote, the embattled president cancelled a trip to attend a summit in Washington this week. At its leadership meeting on Tuesday, the PMDB decided that its six remaining ministers in Rousseff's cabinet must resign or face ethics proceedings. Rousseff could now be temporarily suspended from office by Congress as early as May. She would be replaced by Vice-President Michel Temer, leader of the PMDB, while the Senate decides if she should permanently leave her post. The impeachment process centers on the question of whether Dilma Rousseff used illegal accounting maneuvers or not. But in practical terms, MPs and senators are looking mostly on whether she has the strength and legitimacy to rule Brazil, as the country faces a severe economic crisis as well as a political one. The PMDB was the first major coalition partner to jump ship. It is also the group that has most to gain should Rousseff be impeached. Temer has reportedly been talking to opposition leaders and working on forming a cabinet. But despite her weakened stance, Dilma and her Workers' Party still have support from many in Congress and in the streets. There will be a lot to play for in the coming days.

Why have IS jihadists targeted Belgium?

Why was Brussels targeted on 22 March and how have IS jihadists been able to carry out their attacks? After Abdeslam's arrest, rumors spread that he might co-operate with Belgium's justice department even before he did. What is likely is that the same IS network that planned and executed the Paris attacks decided to expedite attacks that had already been planned in Belgium. As with Paris, these would probably have taken months to organize. At least 31 civilians were killed and another 271 were wounded, some severely. Emergency doctors said the shrapnel used in the explosives caused devastating injuries. IS followed one of their proven strategies, deployed in earlier attacks. The ultimate aim was to kill as many people as possible. The effect of such attacks is, as always, to be found in what al-Qaeda ideologue Abu Bakr Naji described as "tawahhush" (savagery or chaos). The idea is to destabilise society, create disorder and chaos and take profit from it. IS thrives on chaos and disorder and, in Belgium, hopes to drive a wedge between Muslims and non-Muslims. In a way, they hope for what Samuel Huntington described as the clash of civilisations. And by creating a sphere of Islamophobia, they seek to create a fertile breeding ground.

Looking at how Islamist networks in Belgium have operated, there has always been one grievance they cite: the feeling that Belgium has treated them as second-class citizens. The ban on wearing the full face veil in public and the fact that ritual halal slaughter of animals is no longer allowed on private grounds have been named as reasons to leave the country by Belgian jihadist fighters. At the start, some went to fight Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while others were enticed by family or friends. Now they leave to live, fight and die for the IS "caliphate". The most active networks in Belgium were Sharia4Belgium (with 79 ex-members in Syria or Iraq) and the Islamist cell around Khalid Zerkani (45 recruits including some of the Paris attackers).

Their networks worked as catalysts and it is only because groups like these were active that Belgium now has per capita the highest number of jihadists from Western Europe. And in both the Paris attacks and the Brussels bombings, at the core of the Islamist cells were mostly Belgian or Belgium-based IS fighters. It would be easy to say the Belgian security forces made errors in their inquiry, however it is certain that no effort was spared in investigating the jihadist networks. Although the authorities always appear to be a few steps behind the IS networks, Belgium may not be to blame. Neighboring countries may have failed to share essential information. Initially, Belgium was successful, interrupting an IS cell of Belgian jihadists in Verviers in January 2015. But that has changed with the Paris and Brussels attacks, and the threat is probably not over yet.

Brussels attacks: Have blunders hampered Belgian investigation?

Belgian authorities have admitted several errors before, during and since the Brussels attacks. Brussels had already been prepared for an attack, as several of the Paris attackers had come from Belgium and it had already been placed under lockdown weeks earlier. And yet, security forces were often a step behind the suspects, and operational failures on the day of the bombings meant that reactions were sometimes too slow.

  • Crumbs

1 - Utah becomes first US state requiring anesthesia for abortions at 20 weeks - click here.


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  • MiMIC Journal

China considers tightening control over Internet websites

China’s government is moving to tighten its grip over the Internet as it rolls out draft rules that will effectively ban Web domains not approved by local authorities, including possibly the most widely used .com and .org addresses. The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology is seeking feedback on regulations proposing that Internet domain names offering “domestic access” should only be provided by services supervised by the government.

China editor resigns over media censorship

A top journalist at a Chinese newspaper says he is resigning because of the authorities' control over the media. Yu Shaolei, an editor at Southern Metropolis Daily, posted a resignation note online, saying he could no longer follow the Communist Party line. He also uploaded a message wishing those responsible for censoring his social media account well. Chinese media outlets are subject to censorship, with government control tightening in recent years.

Chinese man pleads guilty to US military hack

A 50-year-old Chinese man has pleaded guilty to being involved in a plot to hack into systems containing sensitive US military data. Su Bin is believed to have been part of a group targeting data relating to fighter jets, cargo aircraft and weapons. The US Department of Justice (DoJ) said in a statement that Su sought "commercial gain" from his actions. The DoJ stopped short of saying the Chinese government was involved in buying the secrets from Su and his co-conspirators.

Maserati recalls nearly 21,000 cars in China over defect

Italian luxury car maker Maserati is recalling nearly 21,000 cars in China over a design defect that could increase the risk of a collision. China's quality watchdog claims a design problem with the floor mat and accelerator could lead to the pedal getting stuck in the working position. Maserati will replace the pedals. Luxury car brands have seen sales suffer in China in recent years due to the slowing economy and a government crackdown on corruption and overt displays of wealth.


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  • Historia Verdadera


La petrolera estatal colombiana presentó una demanda ante la Cámara de Comercio Internacional contra de Chicago Bridge & Iron Company (CB&I) por US$ 2,000 mlls.s, debido a sobrecostos en la ampliación y modernización de la Refinería de Cartagena. (Presione aquí)


La corporación estadounidense General Mills anunció la venta de todos sus negocios en Venezuela, que incluyen Underwood y las marcas de alimentos Rico Jam y Frescarini, al inversionista privado Lengfeld Inc. Según la empresa, como resultado de la venta de sus operaciones se registrará una pérdida de US$ 35 mlls.


Siete empresas de energías limpias —dos de México y una de Holanda, Canadá, Estados Unidos e Italia, además de una española - ganaron la adjudicación para instalar una capacidad conjunta de 1,720 megawatts para la venta de energía eólica y fotovoltaica a la estatal eléctrica para el suministro básico de todo el país. (Presione aquí)

  • Brief News

US cyber-attacks: Iranians charged by Department of Justice

The US has charged seven Iranians for allegedly hacking nearly 50 financial companies and a New York dam. The attacks, occurring from 2011 to 2013, are believed to have been coordinated from Iranian companies. The US Department of Justice revealed an indictment against the seven, believed to be working for their government from inside Iran. The indictment calls them "experienced computer hackers" and officials said the attacks were a "wake-up call". It is the first time the US is charging people associated with a national government with hacking into US infrastructure for major industries like finance and water. The attacks "threatened our economic well-being and our ability to compete fairly in the global marketplace - both of which are directly linked to our national security," said US Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

UK Businesses face charge for non-EU worker

Businesses in the UK will have to pay an annual charge of £1,000 ($1,400) for every skilled worker brought in from outside Europe. The Home Office move, to be brought in by next April, follows a recommendation by the Migration Advisory Committee. It is one of a number of reforms to Tier 2 - the official name for the main migration route for skilled workers coming to the UK from outside Europe. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) warned the charge could hold businesses back from accessing talent.

US and Russia want draft Syrian constitution by August

The US and Russia have agreed to aim for a draft version of a new constitution for Syria by August, US Secretary of State John Kerry has said. He was speaking after four hours of talks at the Kremlin with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He said they also agreed to press the Syrian government and rebels to speed up talks on a political transition. A round of indirect peace talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and opposition concluded on Thursday. UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said he had found a lot of common ground between the two sides.

Karadzic jailed for Bosnia war Srebrenica genocide

Former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic has been convicted of genocide and war crimes in the 1992-95 Bosnian war, and sentenced to 40 years in jail. UN judges in The Hague found him guilty of 10 of 11 charges, including genocide over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Karadzic, 70, is the most senior political figure to face judgment over the violent collapse of Yugoslavia. His case is being seen as one of the most important war crimes trials since World War Two. He had denied the charges, saying that any atrocities committed were the actions of rogue individuals, not the forces under his command. The trial, in which he represented himself, lasted eight years.

Zika 'World Cup theory' dismissed

The Zika virus arrived in South America a year before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, say British and Brazilian scientists. Their study effectively dismisses one of the most popular theories about the outbreak's origins - that it was brought over by football fans. The findings, published in the journal Science, suggest the virus arrived between May and December 2013. That is long before any cases were first detected in 2015.

Fed should 'proceed cautiously' with rate rises

US Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen said the Fed should "proceed cautiously" before raising interest rates. She said global risks were not expected to have a deep impact on the US, but caution was still appropriate. Global developments and risks had led policymakers to project a slower path of rate rises than initially expected in December. US markets rose during her speech at the Economic Club of New York.

The FBI has successfully unlocked the iPhone without Apple's help

The FBI has managed to unlock the iPhone of the San Bernardino gunman without Apple's help, ending a court case, the US justice department says. Apple had been resisting a court order issued last month requiring the firm to write new software to allow officials to access Syed Rizwan Farook's phone. But officials on Monday said that it had been accessed independently and asked for the order to be withdrawn. The FBI said it needed access to the phone's data to determine if the attackers worked with others, were targeting others and were supported by others. There's a new ethical dilemma: Should tech companies be made aware of flaws in their products, or should law enforcement be able to deploy those bugs as crime-fighting tools? (Click here)

Brazil has nearly 60,000 murders, and it may relax gun laws

Though gun violence takes a huge toll in Brazil, there's a push to relax gun laws. And many of the arguments are similar to the ones in the US.

UN commission: Falkland Islands in Argentina waters

The UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) ruled on Monday that Argentina's maritime territory includes the area surrounding the Falkland Islands. Argentina had previously submitted to the commission a report fixing the territory at 350 miles from its coast instead of 200. The commission made clear that it was not in a position to consider and qualify parts of the submission that are subject to dispute. The commission's findings expand the maritime territory of Argentina in the South Atlantic Ocean by 35 percent and have been welcomed by Argentina. Susana Malcorra, Argentina's foreign minister, maintained that the findings reaffirm the country's sovereignty rights over the resources of its continental shelf. The findings have been dismissed by the UK as recommendations that are not legally binding.

UN deeply concerned over crippling of human rights efforts in Egypt

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein expressed grave concern on Wednesday over the closure of hundreds of Egypt's civil society organizations and the prosecutions of numerous human rights activists in Egypt for their legitimate work since November 2014. The High Commissioner stated that, "this looks like a clampdown on sections of Egyptian civil society and it must stop. ... NGOs who have played a valuable role in documenting violations and supporting victims will see their activities completely crippled if this continues." The High Commissioner directed attention to two prominent human rights defenders, Gamal Eid and Hossam Bahgat, who have been accused of illegally receiving funding of USD $1.5 million from a foreign government without a license. Earlier this week, Muzen Hassan, director of the Nazra Centre for Feminist Studies, was also summoned for investigation concerning "foreign funding" of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) by an examining magistrate. The High Commissioner stated that, "[e]veryone has the right to receive funds to promote human rights through peaceful means. The Egyptian authorities must stop all prosecutions targeting legitimate human rights activities."

France top court: Sarkozy wiretap legal

France's highest court, the Court of Cassation, ruled Tuesday that phone tapped conversations between Nicolas Sarkozy and his lawyer were legal. Beginning in 2013, investigators recorded conversations between the former French president and his lawyer for a case involving suspicious Libyan funding for Sakozy's successful 2007 presidential bid. The conversations led investigators to a new set of charges for corruption. The court deemed the recordings admissible even though lawyers for Sarkozy argued they broke lawyer-client confidentiality and went beyond the scope of the initial investigative purpose of the tap. (Click here)

US Supreme Court likely split on contraception case

The US Supreme Court appeared to be evenly divided over a case about faith-based groups indirectly providing contraception in employee health plans. Under the Affordable Care Act, employers are required to cover the cost of contraception with insurance. Religious groups argue that they should be exempt from the requirement because it violates religious liberty. A tie would uphold lower court rulings in support of the administration but not set a national precedent.

Doubling up prisoners in 'solitary' creates deadly consequences

This seems like a contradiction: Put a dangerous prison inmate into solitary confinement, and then give him a cellmate. Imagine living in a cell smaller than a parking space or a king-size mattress. Now add a roommate. The result for some inmates forced to live together in solitary can be murder. this practice — called double celling — is widespread in state and federal prisons. And as we learned, those cellmates often fight, attack and, sometimes, kill.

Google fined by French privacy agency for not removing links

Google was fined 100,000 euros ($112,000) by France’s data-protection authority for failing to remove “right-to-be-forgotten” requests from global search results. The agency, CNIL, ordered Google to remove links after it got several complaints from people who wanted the search engine to delete search results that pointed to personal information about them. While Google removed links from its French ".fr" domain, it didn’t take them off the ".com" domain visible to European web users. The right for people to have these links removed "must be carried out on all of the data processing and thus on all search engine’s domains," CNIL said in a statement on its website Thursday. "Contrary to what Google asserts, delisting on all domains doesn’t limit the freedom of expression in that it doesn’t involve any removal of Internet content." (Click here)

Obama blames media for Trump's success

Obama has said the media is partly to blame for the rise of Republican Donald Trump as a political force. Speaking at an event for political reporters, Mr Obama said it was not enough to give "someone a microphone".

FTC sues Volkswagen over diesel car advertisements

US consumer protection agency the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed a four-count legal complaint against carmaker Volkswagen (VW). The FTC claims the German firm falsely advertised that hundreds of thousands of diesel vehicles were environmentally friendly, when this was not the case. In court filings, the FTC says US customers suffered "billions of dollars in injury" as a result. VW has admitted using hidden software to bypass pollution-limit test levels.

Venezuela Congress passes amnesty law to free jailed politicians

Venezuela’s opposition-controlled congress upheld a campaign promise and approved an amnesty law late Tuesday that is likely to deepen an institutional standoff with President Nicolas Maduro. Voting across party lines, the National Assembly passed the Law of National Amnesty and Reconciliation, aimed at freeing dozens of jailed politicians and activists, many of whom were imprisoned during a wave of anti-government protests two years ago. The ruling socialists decried the bill as a grant of blanket-freedom to “coup mongers” and have pledged to block its passage. “This law has not been made so that those who committed crimes in 2014 will not be punished, on the contrary, this law is made to give justice to the country,” opposition Popular Will deputy Juan Andres Mejia said during the debate.

Physician group calls on government to rein in drug prices

The American College of Physicians will lobby Congress to allow the re-importation of medicines from other countries and to let Medicare bargain with drugmakers over price. Will lawmakers go along?

Supreme Court deadlocks on challenge to union fees

An equally divided US Supreme Court on Tuesday affirmed a 2014 decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in favor of unions concerning First Amendment rights of public teachers who do not wish to pay union fees. In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association the court was asked to decide whether public employees who have opted out of a union that represents their interests must still affirmatively opt-out of paying the portion of the union dues that are not directly used for collective bargaining. The petitioner's argument hinged on the idea that a nonmember should not be required to subsidize an outside advocacy group such as a union. The petitioner also argued that an opt-out policy is burdensome, and that collective bargaining is inherently political. The defendant union relied on precedent from Abood v. Detroit Board of Education where the court established the legality of such "agency fees" to be levied on non-union members in support of collective bargaining.

New twist on the sex-offender registry: financial crime

Utah is expanding the sex-offender registry into new territory, with a registry that lists people convicted of financial crimes such as tax, credit-card or insurance fraud; thefts from employers or friends; and bilking investors.


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