October 31, 2016 nº 1,807 - Vol. 13

"Pleasure is oft a visitant; but pain / Clings cruelly to us."

John Keats

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  • Top News

FBI in internal feud over Clinton probe

As federal agents prepare to scour roughly 650,000 emails discovered on a laptop for possible links to Hillary Clinton's private server, the case lays bare tensions within the FBI and the Justice Department over how to investigate the Democratic nominee. The Democratic leader in the US Senate says the head of the FBI may have broken the law by revealing the bureau was investigating emails. Harry Reid accused FBI director James Comey of violating an act which bars officials from influencing an election. News of the FBI inquiry comes less than two weeks before the US election. The bureau has meanwhile obtained a warrant to search a cache of emails belonging to a top Clinton aide. Emails from Huma Abedin are believed to have been found on the laptop of her estranged husband, former congressman Anthony Weiner. Richard Painter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and the chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007, revealed on Sunday he had filed a complaint against the FBI with the Office of Special Counsel, which investigates Hatch Act violations. The Act bars officials from using their position to influence an election. He said: "I never thought that the FBI could be dragged into a political circus surrounding one of its investigations. Until this week." "The Department of Justice is trying their hardest to protect the criminal activity of Hillary Clinton," Trump said.

UN elects 14 countries to three-year terms on Human Rights Council

The UN General Assembly on Friday elected 14 member-states by secret ballot to serve three-year terms on the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) beginning January 1. The newly elected countries include Brazil, Croatia, Egypt, Hungary, Iraq, Japan, Rwanda, Tunisia and the US. Countries re-elected for an additional term were China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Maldives was not considered because it had already served two consecutive terms on the HRC. The remaining 33 states will continue in their capacity as members. (Click here)

Seeking ownership of both the information and the superhighway

The AT&T-Time Warner merger raises concerns about the combination of a huge wireless company with a major movie studio and popular cable channels. A company that controls the signal to the wireless devices of more than 130 million people, and to televisions in some 25 million households, buys a major movie studio and one of the biggest collections of cable channels in the country — potentially attaining a dominant position from which to control the information flow to a large percentage of Americans. A cultural-political Doomsday Machine is born. Mass media hegemony, or some such, follows. Or does it?

Telecoms' ambitions on targeted ads seen curbed by F.C.C.'s new privacy rules

AT&T's and Verizon's hopes of collecting and analyzing customer data to sell advertising may be dashed if they have to ask customers' permission. The Federal Communications Commission's ruling on Thursday that internet service providers must get permission to gather and share consumers' private data, including web browsing, app use and location, threw a wrench in the plans of several telecommunications and cable companies that need at least some of that information to pitch premium products to advertisers. It's an especially big deal for Verizon, which spent more than $4 billion on AOL last year and is prepared to spend billions more for its pending acquisition of Yahoo, and for AT&T, which just made a blockbuster $85.4 billion bid for Time Warner.

  • Crumbs

1 - Woman who posed as Germanwings relative convicted of fraud - click here.

2 - Court to detain Russian who played 'Pokemon Go' in church - click here.

3 - WhatsApp asked by European regulators to pause sharing user data with Facebook - click here.

4 - French lawmakers want higher taxes on Airbnb renters - click here.


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  • MiMIC Journal

Shanghai to trial unisex toilet to cut queues

Shanghai is trialling a unisex public toilet block to lower the time women have to spend waiting in queues. The toilet, in a busy park in Pudong New Area, will have 10 unisex stalls, plus some urinals and a stall for disabled people. The opening on 19 November will coincide with World Toilet Day. Unisex facilities will spare officials having to decide how to share out male and female stalls.


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  • Brief News

Turkey government dismisses 10,000 civil servants and closes 15 media outlets

According to a news report on Sunday, Turkey's government has dismissed 10,000 additional civil servants and closed 15 more media outlets for their supposed connection with US-based religious leader Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey has accused of orchestrating the attempted coup in July. These most recent sacks mean that over 100,000 people have been fired or suspended and 37,000 in the country's crackdown on terrorism. The somewhat extreme crackdown has been criticized by many within the state as opposition parties have called President Erdogan's use of emergency rule a "direct coup against rule of law and democracy." Also, many human rights groups and some of Turkey's Western allies have bemoaned Erdogan's policies as having weakened human rights safeguards. In addition to the firings and media shutdown, universities may no longer select their own heads, as Erdogan will now directly appoint candidates nominated by the High Educational Board. (Click here)

Calais 'Jungle': France urges UK to take more children

France's president has urged Britain to take its share of responsibility for migrant children who remain in Calais after the "Jungle" camp was cleared. Francois Hollande said 1,500 unaccompanied minors who were still in the port city would be taken to accommodation centers very shortly. Migrants fleeing war and poverty had used the sprawling Jungle site as a staging post to try and reach the UK. The UK has so far agreed to take in about 250 of the children from there. The Jungle had been seen as a key symbol of Europe's failure to deal with the worst migrant crisis since World War Two.

The stakes are rising in Google's antitrust fight with Europe

Margrethe Vestager, the European competition chief, has started investigations into Amazon, McDonald's and Starbucks, but three cases against Google make up the most public — and longstanding — antitrust cases in the region. Google is locked in a six-year battle with Europe's antitrust officials. And the stakes for both sides are getting higher. For Google, Europe's lengthy effort to rein in how the search giant operates in the region represents a potential threat to the billions of dollars it earns annually from selling online advertising and other, often dominant, digital services across the Continent and beyond. For Margrethe Vestager, the Danish politician turned European competition chief, the three cases against Google make up the most public — and longstanding — antitrust cases in the region. And they will very likely define Europe's at times frosty relationship with Google and other American tech giants like Facebook, Amazon and Apple for years to come. "For the European Commission, it's a case of Russian roulette," said Christian Bergqvist, an associate professor of competition law at the University of Copenhagen. "If they lose or merely settle the case, they will look weak. They have to be seen as doing something to stop Google."

EU and Canada sign long-delayed free trade deal

The European Union and Canada have signed a long-delayed landmark trade deal, following weeks of uncertainty due to opposition in Belgium. The deal was signed in Brussels by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and top EU officials. All 28 EU states approved the deal on Friday when consensus was reached. The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, known as Ceta, required all EU member states to endorse it. The deal removes 99% of tariffs - and officials hope it will generate an increase in trade worth $12bn a year.

UK employment tribunal orders Uber to provide drivers with workers' rights

A UK employment tribunal ruled Friday that Uber can no longer treat its drivers as self-employed and must provide certain workers' rights to its drivers, including minimum wage. The tribunal determined that the drivers can be classified as "workers" for Uber subsidiaries under employment legislation and are therefore entitled to minimum wage requirements from the company. The tribunal also outlined the time period in which a driver can be considered working—beginning from the time when a driver switches on the application, or in the alternative, when he or she accepts a ride. The tribunal highlighted the conclusion that Uber is a car service, that the driver supplies his or her services for the company, and that the driver deserves payment not only for carrying passengers, but for being available for passengers as well. (Click here)

Lithuania issues updated Russian invasion advice booklets

Lithuania has updated its civil defense booklet telling citizens what to do in the event of a Russian invasion. It includes large sections on survival techniques and warns that Russia would not hesitate to use military force against its neighbors. Tens of thousands of copies of the 75-page guide have been distributed. The government has also launched a telephone hotline for citizens to report anyone they suspect of being a spy. "Every Lithuanian citizen can become a target" of spying, said Darius Jauniskis, the head of the state security department. Russia's relations with its Baltic neighbors have deteriorated since 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine.

Women win 30 seats in Iceland's Parliament — more than any party

If they were a political party, women would need only two more seats to form a majority government in Iceland, after winning a record 30 seats in this weekend's national elections. Voter turnout was just under 80 percent — local media say that's a record low for Iceland. With female candidates winning nearly half (48 percent) of the 63 seats, Iceland now has the "most equal Parliament in the world" without a quota system, according to the country's Ministry for Foreign Affairs.

Swiss railway ticket machines to sell Bitcoin digital currency

Switzerland's national rail service (SBB) plans to start selling the digital currency Bitcoin at stations next month. From 11 November, customers will be able to trade Swiss francs for Bitcoins using ticket machines. They will not be able to buy tickets with the web-based currency, though. The SBB said it had been testing customer demand for Bitcoin across the country, and had decided to launch a two-year pilot project.

Combating corruption: US Customs and Border Protection seeks deep reform

The US Border Patrol expanded after Sept. 11, but was soon plagued with corruption. A new leader is trying to turn around the agency. US Customs and Border Protection—the nation's largest law enforcement agency—is attempting to reform itself. Washington spends $13 billion on border control and immigration enforcement, more than every other federal law enforcement force combined. Yet the huge agency—with 56,000 gun-toting agents—is dogged by complaints that too many of them will take a bribe or use excessive force and avoid consequences. An independent review panel named by the Homeland Security secretary faulted CBP for its "broken disciplinary process." The agency is trying to bring about more transparency and accountability, and train its personnel to de-escalate violent encounters. Agents who work on the border every day contend that it's unlike any environment in American law enforcement.

Thousands call for the resignation of the president in South Korea

Thousand of protesters called for the resignation of President Park Geun-hye after it was revealed she allowed individuals to influence state affairs. The demonstration of thousands came after the President apologized for allowing Choi Soon-sil, who is a daughter of a religious leader, to edit confidential speeches and receive funds even though she is not a political official. Choi Soon-sil is also under investigation for embezzling millions of dollars from non profits for personal uses.

Most dreaded provision of Puerto Rico law seen spurring pact

What some Puerto Rico bondholders dreaded the most under the creation of a federal oversight board may end up leading to a long-sought resolution to the first debt-restructuring agreement reached by the commonwealth. After coming to terms with creditors and bond insurers in January, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the island's main electricity provider, has been unable to close the deal, in part because of seven different lawsuits in Puerto Rico courts that oppose the $9 billion workout plan and a new customer surcharge that will repay the restructuring bonds. Both creditors and the utility had pushed forward for nearly two years on the deal under the premise that an agreement would be more beneficial to all parties rather than having the matter resolved by a judge once the oversight board was in place. It turns out that the Promesa oversight law passed in June contains a provision, called Title III, that's similar to municipal bankruptcy and forces investors to take losses while also resolving legal suits.

Defiant Poland Scoffs at EU rebuke over eroding rule of law

The European Union gave Poland three months to respond to its guidance on how to restore the constitutional court's authority or face losing its voting rights. Warsaw replied at the last minute by accusing bureaucrats in Brussels of being stupid. The European Commission has "incomplete knowledge" about Poland's legal system, the Foreign Ministry said in a late-evening statement on Thursday. "We had no choice but to assess the Commission’s recommendation as groundless." Nine months after becoming the target of the commission's first-ever probe into a member state's commitment to democracy, Poland's maverick Law & Justice party is pushing the country of 38 million people further into uncharted territory. Poland is betting that an EU already divided by Brexit, migration and tepid growth won't risk escalating the conflict that Warsaw casts as a battle between an intrusive Brussels and sovereign member countries.

She used Indiana's religious freedom law as a defense for beating her son, then got probation

An Indiana mother who beat her son dozens of times with a coat hanger - and used the state's new religious freedom law to justify the punishment - has been sentenced to a year of probation after pleading guilty to battery.

Australia weighs law banning refugees from returning

Australia announced plans to ratchet up its tough policy against refugees by banning any asylum seeker who attempts to reach its shores by boat from ever visiting the country. A previous government introduced a policy on July 19, 2013, banning refugees who arrive by boat from Indonesian ports after that date from ever being resettled in Australia. Under legislation to be introduced to Parliament next week, thousands of asylum seekers who have returned to their homelands in the Middle East, Africa and Asia would be banned for life from ever traveling to Australia as tourists, to do business or as an Australian's spouse.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

Teen Depression and Anxiety: Why the Kids Are Not Alright

FBI Obtains Warrant To Investigate Abedin's Clinton-Related Emails

Business Week
Inside the Trump Bunker, With Days to Go

The Economist
Canada's example to the world: Liberty moves north

Der Spiegel
Luther, der erste WutBuerger

Il Sindaco Ombra


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