April 25, 2016 nº 1,736 - Vol. 13
 

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyer."

In King Henry VI (Part 2, Act 4, Scene 2)
William Shakespeare

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  • Top News

New food safety law gives states big role

With the most extensive food safety regulations in history set to take effect soon, state agriculture officials across the country are preparing to enforce the federal law. But say their ability to inspect farms and enforce the new standards depends on the receipt of promised federal funds. The law — which Congress approved in 2011 following several high-profile outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, linked to contaminated spinach, tomatoes and peanut products — comes at a time when demand for fresh vegetables is increasing. And it marks a shift in focus for the nation’s food safety system, from containing foodborne illnesses once they occur to preventing those outbreaks in the first place. It gives the US Food and Drug Administration new authority to regulate the production of fresh fruit and vegetables. It also imposes the same food safety standards on imports as it does on domestic foods, and includes provisions to create a more integrated food safety system across all levels of government — federal, state and local. The law, known as the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act and set to take effect gradually through 2020, applies to all farms except meat, poultry and egg producers. Farms that have less than $500,000 in annual sales are not covered, although their buyers may insist that they adhere to the same standards. And the FDA reserves a key role for states in ensuring that farmers comply with new standards for water quality, sanitation, the handling and composition of compost, and worker training and hygiene. That means on-site inspections and laboratory testing water used in irrigation and soil used in planting.

Business or activism? Corporate America could condemn North Carolina anti-LBGTQ law to failure

When North Carolina’s legislature passed a law requiring transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding to the sex specified on their birth certificate, rather than their current gender identity, some of the protest was typical and expected. Famously activist rock musicians like Bruce Springsteen and Pearl Jam cancelled shows in solidarity with those for whom the simple act of urination would invite political controversy and legal peril, to say nothing of awkward glances. Ringo Starr and Cirque du Soleil did the same. State governors in more lefty northeastern states like New York and Connecticut called a halt to non-essential government travel to North Carolina. But some of the most effective protest — the law may yet fail, for both legal and political reasons — came from less obvious quarters. Titans of corporate America, including executives with Google, Apple and Facebook openly voiced their disagreement with state-sanctioned gender discrimination. PayPal and Deutsche Bank cancelled expansion plans in Raleigh, for a combined 600 jobs. An unnamed technology company cancelled a planned 1,000 jobs, according to the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, which put the economic fallout from the law in the tens of millions of dollars, plus perhaps $5-million in lost tourism. A spokesperson for drug giant GlaxoSmithKline contacted Republican Gov. Pat McCrory “to express our concern that policies that impede inclusion and diversity harm North Carolina’s competitive business ecosystem and hinder our ability to recruit and retain key talent.”

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  • MiMIC Journal

China's banks may see profit fall

Some of China's biggest banks are releasing first quarter numbers this week, and we may see their first annual profit declines in more than a decade.

China wealth manager Yang Weiguo denies taking money

The chairman of a Chinese wealth management company whose disappearance last week sparked alarm has strongly denied taking investors' money. Last week Wangzhou Fortune said Yang Weiguo had gone missing and taken 1 billion yuan ($153m). But Yang sent a video and a letter to journalists on Monday saying he had gone for a short personal trip, and rejected the accusations. Authorities are investigating the case after Wangzhou made a police report.

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  • Brief News

EU to draw up tax haven blacklist

EU nations have agreed to draw up a blacklist of tax havens in the wake of the Panama Papers leaks. Finance ministers have endorsed the move, which is to be completed by the end of the summer. The European Commission says nations on the tax blacklist should be sanctioned if appeals for change go unheeded. The leak of millions of files from Panama law firm Mossack Fonseca revealed how the rich and powerful use tax havens to hide their wealth. Plans for a single EU list of "non-cooperative jurisdictions" have been blocked in the past by conflicting national interests. Currently the 28 EU states have different national lists of tax havens and can decide individually whether to impose restrictive measures. Negotiations on the new common list are expected to be complex and the number of jurisdictions to be included remains unclear. Ministers have also agreed to exchange information on the beneficial owners of companies and the EU is planning a crackdown on banks and tax advisers who help clients hide money offshore.

Germans rally in Hannover against US-EU TTIP talks

Thousands of people have marched in the German city of Hannover against a proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal. They say the deal would drive down wages, and weaken environmental protection and labor rights. Obama - who is pushing hard for the agreement to happen before the end of his mandate - says it would create millions of jobs and increase trade by lowering tariffs. The demonstrators have also been voicing their anger over the secrecy surrounding the ongoing TTIP negotiations. The negotiations were launched three years ago, and the next round is due to open on Monday in New York.

Brazil crisis: Rousseff may appeal to trade bloc over impeachment

Dilma Rousseff has said she could ask the South American trade bloc Mercosul to suspend the country if she is removed from office. She has repeatedly described the impeachment process as a political coup by her rivals to oust her. She is accused of manipulating budget figures ahead of her re-election in 2014, but has denied any wrongdoing. Mercosul has a provision which can be triggered if the elected government of a member state is overthrown. It could lead to a series of sanctions by the bloc against the country, including trade benefits.

Commission to examine law on contesting Wills

The Irish Law Reform Commission is calling for submissions in relation to a law which deals with children, including adult children, who contest a parent's Will. The Commission is to publish a paper outlining its understanding of Section 117 and whether it is still relevant. Section 117 of the Succession Act was enacted in 1965. It says that if a person who makes a will has failed to make proper provision for their child as per their moral duty, that child can take a case to court to amend their share of the estate. The LRC is now looking to see if the law needs to be changed to take into account changing family relationships and demographics in Ireland. It will also examine the criteria to be applied about whether "proper provision" has been made in the Will.

Lawyer takes aim at Volkswagen in Europe

A US class-action attorney has launched a website to sign up disgruntled European customers, investors and other parties damaged by the Volkswagen emissions scandal

Obama dismisses N Korea proposal to 'halt' nuclear tests

Obama has dismissed North Korea's proposal to suspend nuclear tests if the US ends its annual military exercises with the South. On Sunday he told reporters that the US did not take such a proposal seriously and that Pyongyang would "have to do better than that".The North's foreign minister Ri Su-yong made the offer in a rare interview. Annual military drills conducted by the US and South Korea routinely inflames tensions with the North.

Mexico missing students: Government 'hampered' independent inquiry

A panel of international experts investigating the disappearance of 43 Mexican trainee teachers in 2014 says the government of President Enrique Pena Neto has hampered its inquiries. In its scathing final report, the experts also dismissed the conclusions of the official inquiry. They said officials failed to pursue the investigative lines they suggested. The case provoked outrage in Mexico, leading to street protests against perceived impunity.

Virginia restores voting rights to over 200,000 convicts

The governor of the US state of Virginia has issued a sweeping executive order, restoring the right to vote to more than 200,000 convicts. In the US, many states restrict the voting rights of people convicted of serious crimes upon their release. Critics say the policies are unfair and disproportionately affect black men. Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, said the move was meant to help undo the state's long history of trying to suppress the black vote. Almost six million Americans cannot vote because they were convicted of a felony - typically a charge that carries a prison sentence of more than one year.

Worldwide celebrations on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death

People are celebrating the Bard's life and enduring legacy around the world. Shakespeare used lawyers as figures of derision on several occasions. In "Romeo and Juliet", Mercutio uses the line "O'er lawyers' fingers, who straight dream on fees;" In "King Lear", the fool defends a speech in riddles by comparing it to an unfee'd lawyer: “Then 'tis like the breath of an unfee'd lawyer,- you gave me nothing for't.- Can you make no use of nothing, nuncle?” As long as there are lawyer, there will be "lawyer jokes". And lawyers will show how those jokes ring true by trying to explain how such lampooning really constitutes praise for their profession, thus by example justifying the jokes more than ever.

Federal judge rules lawsuit against creators of CIA interrogation program may proceed

A federal judge on Friday ruled that a lawsuit against two former military psychologists who developed the CIA's interrogation program under George W. Bush may proceed. US District Court Judge Justin Quackenbush of the US District Court of the Eastern District of Washington decided that the three plaintiffs, who claim that they were tortured in secret overseas military prisons, may continue with their lawsuit which claims that the two psychologists encouraged the CIA to adopt torture as an official policy and made millions of dollars doing so. The lawsuit was filed in October by Suleiman Abdullah Salim, a Tanzanian taken into custody in Somalia, Mohamed Ahmed Ben Soud, a Libyan captured in Pakistan, and Gul Rahman, an Afghan who died in CIA custody in 2002.

Fiat Chrysler to recall 1.1m vehicles worldwide

Fiat Chrysler is to recall 1.1 million vehicles worldwide over fears they may roll away after drivers get out. There have been as many as 41 injuries because drivers mistakenly believed they had put the automatic cars in "park". The recall covers cars and SUVs whose gearshifts could be confusing to drivers. More than 850,000 vehicles in North America are affected, along with just over 250,000 elsewhere.

Danger signs in the world's top housing market

At first glance, the world’s best-performing housing market bears few of the usual hallmarks of a bubble about to pop. Reliance on mortgages is low, and Turkish homeowners reliably repay their loans, helped by house prices that rose faster than in any other country last year. The risk, at a time when construction has grown to make up a bigger share of the country’s investments than in China, is with the builders rather than the buyers. The share of Turkey’s borrowing represented by developers is higher than at any time in the last decade, and represents almost a fifth of all corporate loans, according to the nation’s banking association. An increasing portion of those debts is going bad, with the industry’s portion of non-performing loans nearly doubling in the past five years. Mortgages are not the problem; Developer leverage is.

Argentina bans on bond payments dropped by US judge

Argentina’s officially back in the international credit markets. A judge overseeing lawsuits tied to Argentina’s 2001 sovereign debt default dropped orders barring the nation from issuing bonds and sanctioning its return to the global debt markets after a 15-year absence. US District Judge Thomas Griesa’s order came after the world’s eighth-largest country said it dropped a law barring payment to holdout creditors and paid bondholders who settled earlier this year, including a $2.3 billion deal with Paul Singer’s Elliott Management Corp. The judge set those conditions for the orders to be dropped. Argentina now can go ahead with a planned $15 billion bond sale to pay off the holdout creditors from a 2001 default.

$10 billion loan to Saudi Arabia carries risks

Bankers should be punching the air. Saudi Arabia is close to agreeing to terms on a $10 billion loan with a syndicate of banks including JPMorgan, HSBC and Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi. Normally, getting the nod to lend to Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s largest holder of crude oil reserves, for the first time in 25 years would be easy money. But banks may be ignoring the risks. Despite running up a 15 percent budget deficit last year, which is expected to grow further in 2016, the Saudi government has found it easy to borrow money. It will probably borrow at 120 basis points over the London interbank offered rate, or Libor, a rate far below the risk implied by its credit-default swaps. The terms may be in line with recent debt deals secured by its neighbors Qatar and Oman, but the risks associated with the kingdom could be much bigger. Pushed on by its energetic but inexperienced deputy crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom is fighting on four fronts. The prince wants to win a global oil price war that is stretching the kingdom’s finances to their breaking point, while opposing Iran in proxy conflicts in Syria and Yemen.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

Time
Meet the 2016 TIME 100

Newsweek
Obama To Send Up To 250 More US Troops To Syria

Business Week
The $2 Trillion Project to Get Saudi Arabia’s Economy Off Oil

The Economist
Hillary Clinton’s plans for the economy: Can she fix it?

Der Spiegel
Der Terror Experte (William Shakespeare)

L'Espresso
Democrazia impotente, governo personale

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