May 4, 2016 nº 1,739 - Vol. 13
 

"Zeal without knowledge is fire without light."

Thomas Henry Huxley

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

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  • Top News

Brazil's crusading corruption investigation is winding down

The crusading federal judge behind Brazil’s explosive corruption investigation, facing the limits of his mandate and signs of political pushback, sees his role in the case winding down by the end of the year, a turning point in a probe that has helped push the president to the brink of impeachment. For more than two years, Judge Sergio Moro and his team of prosecutors and police in the southern town of Curitiba have tracked the $1.8-billion graft scandal across four continents. They uncovered a crime ring so epic that it shattered Brazil’s political and economic leadership and helped tip the nation into its worst recession in a century. Now, legal challenges are chipping away at Moro’s jurisdiction over executives amid criticism that he’s over-reaching. Brazilian law also bars him from going after sitting politicians accused of graft. So he expects significantly fewer new operations under his watch starting next year. The press-shy judge declined to comment. That doesn’t mean corruption investigations will end but it probably means a substantial drop in their intensity and speed. The Supreme Court has sole jurisdiction over lawmakers. Its exhaustive caseload, political ties and past aversion to prosecuting legislators are the foundation for a long-held belief that crooked leaders are all but untouchable in Brazil. While that’s beginning to change, there’s no doubt that the top court -- responsible for ruling on everything from impeachment challenges to state debt relief -- won’t be as steadfast in its pursuit of corruption as the dogged 43-year-old judge with jet black hair. “Moro is a judge with a single focus -- extremely capable, very disciplined and efficient,” said Floriano Azevedo Marques, a professor of law at Sao Paulo University. “That’s why he’s been so fast.”

TTIP trade talks 'likely to stop', warns French minister

Talks between the US and EU over the wide-ranging TTIP trade deal are likely to grind to a halt, according to France's trade minister. Matthias Fekl said a freeze in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks was the "most likely option" without a change from the US. The French minister, who threatened to leave talks last year, said Europe was offering a lot with little in return. It comes a day after Greenpeace leaked documents from the talks. The environmental group released 248 pages of classified documents, which it said showed how EU standards on public health risked being undermined by the major free-trade agreement. TTIP could "unravel" the international climate change deal agreed in Paris last year, he warned. France is also concerned TTIP does not offer safeguards for French agriculture or better access for its small and medium-sized companies in the US. The latest TTIP negotiating round took place last week and the European Commission says it hopes to achieve a deal later this year. That could avoid any political risk posed by the US presidential election in November.

Tobacco firms lose top EU Court case over bloc's packaging rules

Tobacco companies including Philip Morris International Inc. and British American Tobacco Plc lost challenges at the European Union’s highest court against EU orders to cover cigarette packs with graphic pictures and warning signs. The measures don’t go “beyond the limits of what is appropriate and necessary,” the EU Court of Justice said. The Luxembourg-based court’s decision can’t be appealed. The case stems from a UK court case. In 2014, British judges sought the EU tribunal’s view on whether the new European rules are valid. Philip Morris, BAT, and Japan Tobacco Inc. went to court again, this time claiming British measures violate the companies’ intellectual property rights. The contested EU rules replaced a 2001 EU tobacco law forcing cigarette makers to put health warnings at the top of packages. Nations must ensure firms apply the measures, which also include a mandatory information message that tobacco smoke contains more than 70 cancer-causing substances. Tobacco kills as many as 695,000 people a year in the EU, or one person every 45 seconds, according to the European Commission, which says a third of European adults still smoke. Smoking is the largest avoidable health risk in Europe, causing more problems than alcohol, drugs, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or obesity, according to the EU’s executive body, which proposed tougher rules in December 2012.

  • Crumbs

1 - Saudi Arabia gives women the right to a copy of their marriage contract - click here.

2 - Florida's high court urged to throw out death sentences - click here.

3 - St. Louis jury awards $55M in Johnson & Johnson cancer suit - click here.

4 - China to investigate Baidu over student's death, shares dive - click here.

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  • MiMIC Journal

China said to explore taking stakes in some news websites

China is considering taking board seats and stakes of at least 1 percent in operators of some Internet portals and mobile apps in exchange for granting news licenses. The government would issue the licenses in exchange for stock and a board seat, according to the people, who asked to not be identified because the details haven’t been made public. Government representatives could monitor and block content distributed by Internet providers, although they wouldn’t be involved in other day-to-day business decisions.

China's military release action-packed rap recruitment video

"Are you afraid? No! Are you afraid? No! Just need the order to kill kill kill!" So go the lyrics in the People's Liberation Army's (PLA) slick new recruitment video. With fast cuts and a rap-style sing-along tune, the Chinese military is reaching out to the young people it needs to fill its enormous ranks. The lyrics appear on screen so there's no mistaking the message: "Always think about the mission; the enemy forever in your eyes." And there's the question: "Wars can break out at any time. Are you ready?" China's ever-expanding military has been putting an ever-expanding effort into its public image here. All the negative comment prompted somebody to quip: "I feel relieved that it's not as easy to brainwash Chinese people as it used to be."

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  • Historia verdadera

Minera

Fiscales federales en Brasil presentaron una demanda civil por US$ 43.500 mlls contra la minera Samarco, y sus dueños Vale y BHP Billiton, por el colapso de en Marinana, estado de Minas Gerais. (Presione aquí)

Privacidad

En junio se reestrablece tráfico transatlantico de datos, el acuerdo hace referencia a la protección de privacidad a la información entre la Unión Europea y Estados Unidos. (Presione aquí)

Multa

La Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente de México multó con US$ 1 millón a la unidad local de Ford Motor Company por vender 4,690 vehículos que no contaban con un certificado de cumplimiento de normas ambientales.

  • Brief News

Lula 'played key role' in Petrobras corruption

Brazil's Attorney General Rodrigo Janot has asked the Supreme Court to authorise an investigation against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for alleged corruption, along with 29 other senior politicians, officials and businessmen. He has acted on new information from suspects who agreed to a plea bargain. Janot accused Lula of playing a key role in the huge corruption scandal at the state oil company, Petrobras. Prosecutors say the complex ‘Car Wash’ corruption scheme is estimated to have cost the company more than $2bn. Janot said the corruption could not have taken place without the participation of the former leader. Lula, who was in office between 2003 and 2011, denies the allegations. Janot also requested that current President Dilma Rousseff be investigated as she is suspected of obstructing the corruption inquiry. However, there has been no official confirmation yet of the request for investigation of President Rousseff. Lula returned to frontline politics in March, when Rousseff nominated him as her chief of staff. But within an hour of being sworn in, a judge suspended his nomination saying it had been aimed at protecting him from possible prosecution on corruption charges. Under Brazilian law, members of the cabinet can only be investigated by the country's top court, the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has yet to rule on whether he can take up his post.

EU Commission to recommend Turkey visa-free deal

The European Commission is set to recommend granting visa-free travel for Turkish citizens inside Europe's passport-free Schengen area, despite unease among some EU lawmakers. The change could take effect from July, but first it requires approval by the European Parliament and member states. EU officials insist that Turkey has yet to meet some key EU criteria. The deal was offered in return for Turkey taking back migrants who crossed the Aegean Sea to Greece. The EU fears that without this deal, Turkey will not control migration.

Trump set for Republican nomination

Donald Trump has become the US Republican presidential nominee in all but name after victory in Indiana forced rival Ted Cruz from the race. Trump, unpopular with many in his own party, now has a clear path to the 1,237 delegates needed to claim his party's crown. That would mark a stunning victory for a businessman few took seriously when he launched his campaign last year. He is the first nominee since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 to lack any previous experience of elected office. It is now increasingly likely that Trump will face Clinton in the autumn in the battle to succeed Obama. Trump is well behind Hillary Clinton in national polls and is struggling to reunite voters who supported Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in the 2012 election. Republicans have expressed reservations about Trump's outspoken remarks, which have offended women and Hispanics. There are also concerns about some of his policies on immigration and national security, like building a wall on the southern US border paid for by Mexico, a ban on Muslims coming to the US and the killing of the families of terrorists.

Apple loses trademark fight over iPhone name in China

Apple has lost a trademark fight in China, meaning a firm which sells handbags and other leather goods can continue use the name "iPhone". The Beijing Municipal High People's Court ruled in favor of Xintong Tiandi Technology, said the official Legal Daily newspaper. Xintong Tiandi trademarked "IPHONE" for leather products in China in 2010. Apple filed a trademark bid for the name for electronic goods in 2002, but it was not approved until 2013. The higher court ruled that Apple could not prove it was a well-known brand in China before Xintong Tiandi filed its trademark application in 2007. The Legal Daily (in Chinese) is widely recognized as the official mouthpiece for the country's Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission. Its report came out in late April but has only just been widely circulated.

Italian court rules food theft 'not a crime' if hungry

Stealing small amounts of food to stave off hunger is not a crime, Italy's highest court of appeal has ruled. Judges overturned a theft conviction against Roman Ostriakov after he stole cheese and sausages worth €4.07 ($4.50) from a supermarket. Ostriakov, a homeless man of Ukrainian background, had taken the food "in the face of the immediate and essential need for nourishment", the court of cassation decided. Therefore it was not a crime, it said. (Click here)

Argentina prosecutor urges investigation of former president for illegal enrichment

An Argentinian federal prosecutor on Monday made a formal request to a judge to conduct an investigation of former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her son for illegal enrichment. Federal prosecutor Carlos Rivolo has been overseeing an ongoing investigation into a real estate company run by the former president and her son that has ties to two businessmen who have been accused of tax evasion and money laundering. The real estate company was linked to the illegal enrichment charges by renting properties from one of the businessmen who has been formally charged. The entire investigation was launched after a legislator reported the alleged corruption.

Spain hunts 'mafia-linked' Russians including state officials

A top Spanish judge has issued international arrest warrants for 12 Russians suspected of organised crime, including high-ranking state officials. The 12 are accused of links to Gennady Petrov, an alleged Russian mafia boss arrested in Spain in 2008 who later fled back to Russia. Some of the accused are officials close to Putin's circle. One of them, Nikolai Aulov, deputy head of the Russian Federal Anti-Narcotics Service (FSKN), dismissed the Spanish move as "political".

Chanel stages fashion show in Cuba

French fashion house Chanel has staged its show in the Cuban capital Havana - the first international fashion show since the 1959 communist revolution. World celebrities gathered at a leafy promenade turned into a catwalk for the firm's Cruise collection, even though Chanel goods are not sold in Cuba. Ordinary Cubans were held behind police lines around the event venue, and many voiced their frustration. The show is the latest sign in Cuba's warming relations with the West.

Judge lifts WhatsApp suspension of messaging service

An appeals court judge in Brazil has lifted a suspension on messaging service WhatsApp, which was blocked on Monday affecting millions of users. Judge Ricardo Mucio Santana de Abreu Lima ordered phone operators to restore the service immediately. The original suspension was ordered because WhatsApp's owner Facebook failed to hand over information requested in a criminal investigation. The service is widely used in Brazil where mobile owners face steep charges.

Australia budget: Multinationals to be hit with 'Google tax'

Multinational companies that move profits offshore to avoid tax will be penalised under new measures in Australia's budget. Companies caught shifting profits will be taxed at a penalty rate of 40%, rather than the usual 30% rate. Treasurer Scott Morrison's first budget doubles as the government's pitch to voters at an early election slated for 2 July. The government is seeking to raise additional revenue to pay for tax cuts.

ECB warns on US economic data leaks

US investors may have earned millions of dollars in profits from early access to leaked economic data the European Central Bank (ECB) has alleged. Researchers at the bank studied the movements of trades ahead of several market-moving US economic reports. They included a US consumer confidence index, home sales data and initial US GDP data among others. The study found "strong" evidence of pre-announcement price moves in at least seven cases. The ECB research paper, Price Drift Before US Macroeconomic News, studied investment trading patterns in the case of 21 market-moving economic indicators between 2008 and 2014. It found that in the case of a third of the economic announcements, there was strong evidence of what is known as pre-announcement price drift, in which investors correctly bought or sold stocks or bonds in apparent anticipation of an economic announcement and its impact.

Supreme Court to rule on copyright protections for cheerleader uniforms

The US Supreme Court granted certiorari in two cases Monday. In Star Athletica, LLC v. Varsity Brands, Inc. the court will rule on the appropriate test to determine when a feature of a useful article is protectable under section 101 of the Copyright Act. The case deals with designs on cheerleader uniforms, but the case is expected to have a broader impact. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that Varsity Brand's designs were copyrightable.

Lack of capital to lead law firms to seek help

Seventy-five percent of outside lawyers predict litigation financing will grow in the next five years, says a survey by a litigation lender.

Big Law warms up to litigation funding

A new survey released Tuesday by litigation funder Burford Capital Ltd. has found that litigation finance is growing increasingly popular among large law firms. More than a quarter of respondents at law firms—28 percent—said that their firms have turned to outside funders to underwrite cases, according to the survey. That proportion is more than twice the percentage two years ago and four times the percentage in 2013. And it’s only likely to increase, given that nearly half of law firm respondents said that they are confident that firms will increasingly utilize outside finance to grow their litigation dockets. The survey, conducted over the past six months, drew on submissions from 80 US-based companies and from 60 of the top 500 largest global law firms, including both US- and non-US-based firms. (The 142 respondents included in-house counsel and financial executives and staff at the companies, and law firm leaders, partners, administrators and associates.)

BHP, Vale face $44 bn lawsuit Over Brazil dam disaster

Brazilian federal prosecutors filed a civil lawsuit demanding that mining companies responsible for a catastrophic dam failure shell out up to $43.55 billion for cleanup and remediation, far more than the government initially estimated.

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