August 24, 2016 nº 1,782 - Vol. 13

"Never let people tell you that you can't."

Dottie Herman

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

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  • Top News

VW's emissions battles around the world are heating up

Governments, investors and car owners around the world are gaining ground in efforts to pressure Volkswagen AG for settlements over its emissions-cheating scandal, aiming for terms similar to a $15 billion US agreement. From Australia to South Korea to Ireland, governments and consumers are ratcheting up legal and regulatory demands in part because such moves in the US yielded a speedy shift to contrition from combativeness. In many of the countries where Volkswagen still faces legal action, it is arguing the so-called defeat device on its diesel engines wasn't illegal or the car emissions didn't violate local rules. If the efforts succeed, the costs to resolve the diesel scandal could rise well beyond the €18.4 billion ($20.5 billion) the company has set aside. Of the roughly 11 million vehicles affected by Volkswagen's yearlong effort to cheat on diesel emissions standards, about 10.4 million are outside the US. Attorneys outside the US are striving to build on the success of American legal action against Volkswagen. European lawyers working with Michael Hausfeld, a leading US class-action lawyer who was part of the plaintiff's committee that won the US settlement, are assisting Australian and Irish attorneys. In Europe, Volkswagen has denied that its customers suffered any damages and has ignored or denied claims seeking compensation. European lawyers allege that Volkswagen is stalling. They note that the one-year statute of limitations for damages suits in many European countries expires on Sept. 18. (Click here)

  • Crumbs

1- US Committed to protecting Baltic States from Russia - click here.

2 - Bill Gates is now worth $90 billion - click here.

3 - UK court backs SABMiller plan to split takeover vote - click here.

4 - California High Court refuses to hear appeal of teacher tenure law - click here.

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  • MiMIC Journal

Chinese cyber spies may be watching you, experts warn

About a year ago, China and the United States formally agreed not to conduct or knowingly support the cyber theft of each other's intellectual property. So, how is that agreement working out? Not great, said Adm. Mike Rogers, head of US Cyber Command. "Cyber operations from China are still targeting and exploiting US government, defense industry, academic and private computer networks," Rogers said. Cyber theft of US trade secrets can easily ruin American businesses and result in higher prices for consumers. Even more worrisome, stolen American military secrets could put US servicemen and women at risk during combat.

'My job is to inspire people to tidy up'

Giving up your high-flying job as a lawyer in Shanghai to become a professional home organizer may be an unusual choice for many. But Han Yien says she wants to inspire her countrymen and women to tidy up their often-overcrowded homes to create calm and tranquil living spaces.

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  • Historia Verdadera

Fallas penales

En Hondura revelan fallas en sistema penal. Según un estudio del Instituto Universitario en Democracia, Paz y Seguridad, la situación en los presidios es preocupante, ya que los reos no condenados son tratados como culpables al permanecer hasta dos años en prisión preventiva. (Presione aquí)

Verdadero o falso ?

En México el presidente Enrique Peña Nieto habría plagiado textos de varios autores para elaborar su tesis de Licenciado en Derecho en 1991. De los 682 párrafos que componen la tesis de 200 páginas titulada "El presidencialismo mexicano y Álvaro Obregón", 197 párrafos, o el 28.88 por ciento total del texto, fue tomado de las obras de otros autores, según la investigación. (Presione aquí)

Activos fuera de balance

El BCE no exigirá "de forma general" que los bancos europeos incluyan la valoración de los activos y partidas que estén fuera de sus balances para el cálculo de sus fondos propios. De esta forma, las entidades de crédito europeas podrán seguir informando a los órganos supervisores con arreglo a sus normas contables nacionales.

  • Brief News

Professors challenging Texas 'campus carry' law suffer legal setback

A legal challenge brought by three University of Texas-Austin professors against the state's new "campus carry" law suffered a setback after a federal judge denied them a preliminary injunction. The professors' lawsuit opposes a Texas law that took effect this month permitting licensed gun owners who are at least 21 years old to carry concealed weapons on public campuses with some exceptions. The measure, which exempts private institutions, prohibits public university professors from banning guns from their classrooms, according to the state attorney general's office. Three UT-Austin professors sued the state and their school in July, asking the court to grant an injunction that would allow them to forbid students from carrying a weapon into class. The professors claim that requiring them to teach possibly armed students would "chill" their First Amendment rights by hindering free classroom discussion. The chance that a student is armed, they argue, would make the teachers afraid of exploring subjects that might provoke heated reactions.

Malian Jihadist pleads guilty to destroying Timbuktu shrines at start of ICC trial

The International Criminal Court (ICC) opened the trial of Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi Monday for the destruction of historical and religious monuments in Timbuktu. Al Mahdi admitted guilt Monday, apologizing for his actions. ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda gave an opening statement, calling the trial "historic." After the prosecution concludes its presentation, the victims' legal representative and then the defense will have the opportunity to be heard. Judges will then deliberate on Al Mahdi's guilt and possible sentence.

Venezuela public workers face sack over referendum

Venezuelan public sector workers who signed a petition backing a referendum to recall President Nicolas Maduro could face dismissal, a spokesman of the governing Socialist Party said. The spokesman said Maduro had ordered that any manager in five key ministries who signed the petition should be sacked. The petition is the first step towards a referendum which could see Maduro ousted.

Germany considers return of conscription for civil defence

Germany may reintroduce a form of national service for civilians to help the army deal with a future disaster. The role of civilians is part of a new civil defense strategy to be discussed by the government on Wednesday. Since the strategy was leaked to the media there has been intense debate about stockpiling food and water. In a crisis civilians might be obliged to help direct traffic or provide fuel and accommodation for the military, German news agency DPA reported. Germans appeared generally unfazed by what some MPs have called government "scaremongering" but the word "Wehrpflicht" (conscription) was trending on social media on Tuesday.

Prison ramen

Instant noodles, mayonnaise and Kool-Aid may not be likely ingredients in a gourmet meal, but if you are in prison, they may constitute the culinary highlight of your day. If your only food intake comes in the form of a small breakfast tray, a lunch tray and a dinner tray, and is designed, as one inmate put it "to be as inedible as possible", some creativity is needed. "In the early '90s, you'd get decent meals, good produce," says Gustavo "Goose" Alvarez, who did two stints in prison, once in the 1990s and once in the 2010s. Between those two stints, state budgets dropped, jail expenses increased, and more communities turned to privatized prisons. Food was one area where administrators looked to cut costs. "Quite frankly, it's disgusting," says Alvarez of the food now. This is where prison cooking comes in, with inmates using any food they can lay their hands. A common solution: instant ramen noodles. These provide the basis of a "spread": pieces of ramen noodles and spices mixed up a in a rubbish bag or bowl, with any other ingredients available tossed into the mixture. Ramen noodles 'are most valuable US prison commodity.’ "It's popular in prison because it's an inexpensive, quick meal," says Alvarez, who co-authored a book called Prison Ramen: Recipes and Stories from Behind Bars. "They can pretty much add whatever they want to it and make a good dish." Cooking in a cell is legal, but does require some inventiveness.

'It's about freedom': Ban boosts burkini sales 'by 200%'

The Australian woman credited with creating the burkini says bans on the full-bodied Islamic swimsuit in France have boosted sales. The clothing - which combines "burqa" with "bikini" - leaves only the face, hands and feet on show. Aheda Zanetti, who claims the trademark on the name burkini and burqini, said online sales were up by 200%. The Sydney woman said the swimsuits represented freedom and healthy living - not oppression. Authorities in several French towns have banned the garment, arguing it defies laws on secularism.

Rent-to-own homes: A win-win for landlords, a risk for struggling tenants

In many communities, housing prices have recovered from the financial crisis. At the bottom end, however, banks have all but stopped making loans for homes worth less than $100,000, leaving millions of people with few options. But these rent-to-own agreements reside in a gray area of the law. An examination of contracts and court filings, as well as interviews with housing lawyers and more than a dozen of Vision's customers across the country, found that these deals are risky, lack consumer protections and may not be enforceable in some states. Most tenants walk away with nothing, having sunk money for rent and repairs into homes they had once hoped to own. Others faced surprise evictions, having signed a contract that did not disclose what repairs were needed, yet set a deadline for making sure the home was up to local housing code. As different tenants move in and out of the same property over the course of years, many homes fall further into disrepair. A recent report from the National Consumer Law Center found similar issues with certain rent-to-own programs, calling them deceptive in nature.

Should students call law professors by their first names?

It may seem odd — and perhaps uncomfortable — for an associate to use Mr. or Ms. when speaking with a partner. But few lawyers refer to judges by their first names, even if they're friends. For law professors, the question of what students should call them can be a bit ambiguous. Shima Baradaran Baughman, a University of Utah College of Law professor, signs all her emails as "Prof B," although many students call her Shima. Some law professors prefer to be called by their first names, she acknowledges, because it could make nervous students more comfortable, and it's an equality issue. However, Baughman says the practice may encourage a familiarity that's getting out of hand. Some of Baughman's students come to class late, wear pajamas and bring snacks, she writes. They've also asked her to Skype study groups and review outlines for mistakes. "These are requests I would never have made in law school," writes Baughman, a 2004 graduate of Brigham Young University Law School. "I worry that students have an extremely casual view of their professors, and calling them by their first names may be exacerbating what I think is an already bigger issue of casual millennials and respect." If a law professor likes to be called by her first name, she needs to make clear to students that others may not, the criminal law professor writes.

Incredulous Judge tosses lawsuit accusing Starbucks of putting too much ice in cold drinks

A federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit accusing Starbucks of misleading customers about the ice-to-product ratio of its cold beverages. Ridiculing the plaintiffs and their lawyers who brought the case, the judge said no reasonable adult customer — much less a child — could be deceived by the company's beverage labeling. The lawsuit, a proposed class action filed in Los Angeles federal court in June, alleged that iced coffee and other cold beverages sold by Starbucks "contain significantly less product than advertised." It argued that the listed sizes of beverages conceal how much space in the cup is taken up by ice cubes, as opposed to coffee and tea. "Put another way, when a Starbucks employee fills a Venti Cold Drink cup to the top black line, they are only pouring about 14 fluid ounces of Cold Drink into the cup, not 24 fluid ounces," the complaint stated. US District Judge Percy Anderson wasn't buying it. His Aug. 19 decision states: "If children have figured out that including ice in a cold beverage decreases the amount of liquid they will receive, the Court has no difficulty concluding that a reasonable consumer would not be deceived into thinking that when they order an iced tea, that the drink they receive will include both ice and tea and that for a given size cup, some portion of the drink will be ice rather than whatever liquid beverage the consumer ordered. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the cups Starbucks uses for its Cold Drinks, as shown in the Complaint, are clear, and therefore make it easy to see that the drink consists of a combination of liquid and ice." Judge Anderson also said a reasonable consumer would understand that the fluid-ounce figures posted on menu signage could refer to the total size of the beverage including ice, not just the "drinkable liquid" portion.

Premier exhibitions sues France over Titanic artifacts

The company behind the "Titanic" traveling exhibitions is suing France in hopes of winning approval to sell French artifacts from the famous shipwreck

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