May 3, 2017 nº 1,861 - Vol. 14

"I'm not interested in preserving the status quo; I want to overthrow it."

Niccolo Machiavelli

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  • Top News

Trump orders review of trade agreements, WTO membership

US President Donald Trump on Saturday signed an executive order directing the Commerce Department and the US Trade Representative to review all US trade agreements and membership in the World Trade Organization to determine the cause of the US trade deficit. The order calls for a comprehensive review of whether previous free trade agreements and membership in the WTO have brought the benefits that were predicted. The order comes three days after Trump announced he would not order a withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement, but would rather renegotiate its terms with Canada and Mexico. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross responded to the order, and stated that an analysis of NAFTA will be a significant part of the required study.

Appeals court declines to reconsider net neutrality decision

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said on Monday that it will not reconsider its ruling to uphold the government's "net neutrality" rules that require internet providers to treat all online traffic equally. This means that the rules put in place by the Federal Communications Commission under former President Obama will remain in place for the time being. Last year, a three-judge panel ruled 2-1 to uphold regulations that bar service providers from favoring certain content or allow rival video-streaming companies to pay more money for faster streaming. In its decision, the appeals court likened Internet service providers to utilities, saying that they should act as "neutral, indiscriminate platforms for transmission of speech." Service providers asked the court to revisit this decision, but the court declined to do so. The FCC under President Donald Trump, who has indicated his intent to remove this Obama-era policy, could refuse to enforce the rules or change the rules completely.

  • Crumbs

1 - France election: Le Pen accused of plagiarising Fillon click here.

2 - German male escort's data hidden from woman with baby click here.

3 - U.S. top court rejects 'gay conversion' therapy ban challenge click here.


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  • MiMIC Journal

China's HNA raises Deutsche Bank stake

Chinese conglomerate HNA has overtaken Blackrock to become Deutsche Bank's biggest shareholder after increasing its stake in the firm to nearly 10%. HNA became a major shareholder in Europe's largest investment bank after acquiring a 4.8% stake in March. Its financial unit, HNA Capital, reportedly has ambitions of becoming a global investment bank. Deutsche Bank has been looking to raise funds after incurring major losses due to legal probes and misconduct charges.

'Chinese Wikipedia' to go live in 2018

China is to launch an online version of its national encyclopedia next year, to compete with Wikipedia. Officials said more than 20,000 people had been hired to work on the project, which will feature 300,000 entries at about 1,000 words each. Unlike Wikipedia, it will be created by selected scholars from state-run universities rather than being openly editable by volunteers. Wikipedia is available in China, but some of its content is blocked.

China gives human rights lawyer three-year suspended sentence

The Second Intermediate People's Court in Tianjin on Friday gave human rights lawyer Li Heping a three-year suspended sentence for subversion. He has been in jail since being detained in the summer of 2015. Heping represented many high-profile defendants including practitioners of the banned religion Falun Gong. His subversion conviction stemmed from a charge of endangering national security and social stability by working with religious groups and other lawyers to "attack" the government. The trial was closed to the public to prevent the disclosure of state secrets, according to a statement from the court. Heping's sentence was suspended for four years, which means he may be released but effectively prevents him from returning to his job as a human rights lawyer.


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  • Historias Verdaderas


Argentina volverá a exportar limón a Estados Unidos a partir del 26/5. Es un negocio que supera los US$ 50 mlls anuales.


El regulador antimonopolio de México autorizó a Pemex, buscar socios extranjeros para los campos de extracción en tierra Cárdenas-Mora y Ogarrio. La paraestatal no será operadora en ninguno de los dos campos, ubicados en Tabasco, y tendrá una participación del 50% en cada proyecto, de acuerdo con lo presentado en la sesión de la Comisión Nacional de Hidrocarburos, en la que se aprobó la subasta. Los ganadores de los contratos de licencia, que tendrán vigencia de 25 años prorrogables por dos periodos de cinco años cada uno, serán anunciados el próximo 4 de octubre, junto con el resultado de otra licitación para buscar socio a Pemex en el área Ayín-Batsil en aguas del Golfo de México.


El CEO de Petrobras, Pedro Parente, planea poner otros 40 activos en venta, por valor de cerca de US$ 42,000 mlls., para reducir la enorme carga de deuda y desarrollar algunos de los mayores hallazgos petroleros. En el paquete la empresa incluirá algunas refinerías. La compañía ya ha recaudado US$ 13,600 mlls. desde 2015 mediante la venta de yacimientos petrolíferos, oleoductos y otros activos.

  • Brief News

Supreme Court rules cities can sue banks for predatory lending practices

The US Supreme Court ruled 5-3 Monday in Bank of America Corp. v. City of Miami that cities can use the Fair Housing Act to sue banks for predatory lending practices. At issue were the questions of whether Miami qualified as the kind of party that could bring claims under the FHA and whether the harm the city said it suffered (lost tax revenue) was necessarily tied closely enough to the lending practices for the city to bring the claims. Writing for the majority, Justice Stephen Breyer said that the city could bring claims under the FHA, but that a lower court had failed to properly assess whether lost tax revenue was linked closely enough to the lending practices to be covered by the act. The case was sent back to a lower court to decide how closely linked the harm and the lending practices must be to be covered by the FHA. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy and Samuel Alito, arguing that the kind of harm the city claimed was not the kind for which the FHA intended to provide a remedy. Justice Neil Gorsuch did not take part in the decision. (Click here)

NSA collected Americans' phone records despite law change

The US National Security Agency collected more than 151 million records of Americans' phone calls last year, even after Congress limited its ability to collect bulk phone records. The report was the first measure of the effects of the 2015 USA Freedom Act, which limited the NSA to collecting phone records and contacts of people US and allied intelligence agencies suspect may have ties to terrorism. The NSA had warrants from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court to spy on only 42 terrorism suspects in 2016, in addition to a handful identified the previous year. The NSA has been gathering a vast quantity of telephone "metadata," records of callers' and recipients' phone numbers and the times and durations of the calls - but not their content - since the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Political turmoil is high, but Wall Street's fear gauge is very low

It has become one of the knottier puzzles on Wall Street. As political risks have increased at home and abroad, complacency among investors has rarely been so widespread. This trend, which began soon after Trump’s victory in November, culminated on Monday, when the VIX index, known widely as Wall Street's fear gauge, dipped briefly below 10 — the first time it had done so in more than 10 years, in the months before the financial crisis. The VIX measures investor expectations that stock markets will move sharply up or down. On Tuesday, the VIX turned up, to close at about 10.6 — but still sharply lower than its historical average of roughly 20. At current levels, the VIX reflects a striking sense among investors that the persistent rise in stocks would continue, regardless of election fears in Europe and concerns that Trump might not deliver on his ambitious economic agenda. "The pricing of risk is at near historic lows, and the pricing of the stock market is at near historic highs. And all of this at a time when political risk is very elevated — at home and abroad."

Appeals court rules employers can use prior salary to justify paying women less

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled on Thursday that calculating salaries based solely on prior salaries does not violate the Equal Pay Act even when it results in women being paid less than men for the same job. The case involves a math consultant working for a school district in Fresno County. The county's salary policy dictates that the starting salary of new employees is the employee's previous salary plus 5%. After working for three years at the school district, she found that her salary was lower than all the other male math consultants, even one who had just started. The court ruled that a pay differential based on prior salary can be maintained only if its use of the prior salary "effectuates some business policy" and it is used "reasonably in light of the employer's stated purpose as well as its other practices." The lower court had previously denied the county's request for summary judgment stating "a pay structure based exclusively on prior wages is so inherently fraught with the risk . . . that it will perpetuate a discriminatory wage disparity between men and women that it cannot stand, even if motivated by a legitimate nondiscriminatory business purpose.

Hillary Clinton joins the 'Trump resistance'

The election may be over, with Donald Trump's presidency more than 100 days old, but Hillary Clinton isn't ready to let go. In a brief but frank interview Clinton said that she has conducted an "excruciating analysis" of her failed presidential campaign as part of a book she is writing. What has she learned? While admitting that she made mistakes and that her campaign had "challenges", "problems" and "shortfalls", she pointed the finger at two men - FBI Director James Comey and Russian President Vladimir Putin - as the proximate cause of her defeat.

UK will 'not pay 100bn euro divorce bill'

The UK will not pay a 100bn-euro "divorce bill" to leave the EU, Brexit Secretary David Davis has said. He said UK would pay what was legally due, "not just what the EU wants". It comes amid claims that the settlement sought by the EU had risen from 60bn euros. Davis said the UK treated its EU "rights and obligations" seriously but it had "not seen any number", adding the EU was playing "rough and tough". The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier is due to publish his guidelines for the talks later although they are not likely to include any financial demands. EU officials in Brussels will not enter into a discussion about potential figures for a final bill, likely to be one of the hardest-fought and most sensitive areas of the Brexit process.

South Africa president signs anti-money laundering law

South African President Jacob Zuma signed the anti-money laundering Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment on Saturday to combat tax evasion and money laundering in the country. The global Financial Action Task Force organization had threatened to oust South Africa if the amendment had not been passed before June 20. Supporters say the law is a tool against international financial crime, making it easier to identify the actual owners of accounts around the world and would apply to Zuma and other prominent figures in South Africa. The legislature passed the bill last year, but Zuma originally refused to sign it, citing concerns about its constitutionality. In February the Legislature approved changes to the bill to meet Zuma's concerns. (Click here)

Turkey blocks Wikipedia as threat to national security

Turkey blocked the website Wikipedia on Saturday deeming it a threat to national security. Opponents say Turkey's choice to block the website further supports rights groups and Turkey's Western allies opinion that the country prohibits freedom of speech and other basic rights. Turkey supported its decision stating a law permits it to block access to individual web pages or entire websites for the protection of the order, national security, or general welfare. Turkey's communications ministry alleged that Wikipedia was attempting to run a "smear campaign" against it. Under the law, allowing them to ban Wikipedia, the government has to submit its ban to a court within 24 hrs and the court then has two days to determine if the ban should be upheld. (Click here)

Greece agrees to tighten belt again in return for further bailout funds

The preliminary deal with international creditors would allow Athens to receive emergency funds in exchange for promises of higher taxes and lower social spending. (Click here)

Alitalia slides into administration

Italy's troubled flagship airline Alitalia has gone into administration after the Italian government formally approved the move. The company said its flight schedule would continue to operate as planned, while administrators examine whether the firm can be turned around. Alitalia has received more than $7.7bn from the Italian state over the last decade. But without further support, it may end up permanently grounded. Last week, airline employees voted against a plan to cut jobs and salaries that would have allowed it to secure new funds.

Retailers scrambling to adjust to changing consumer habits

Nine US chains have filed for bankruptcy this year. Store closures are accelerating, and 89,000 retail jobs have been lost since October. "The disruption is just unfolding," a former executive says.

European Commission says it won't require American travelers to get visas

Responding to a call to end visa-free travel for Americans who want to visit Europe, the EU said progress has been made toward full reciprocity. (Click here)

Airbnb settles lawsuit with its hometown, San Francisco

Airbnb agreed on Monday to settle a lawsuit against the city of San Francisco, putting to rest litigation that could have hampered the company's efforts to expand and go public. In the settlement, Airbnb essentially agreed to San Francisco's demand to be more transparent about its hosts and to help enforce existing registration laws. It followed the company's dropping of a lawsuit in December over a New York law that fines people who illegally list their homes on short-term rental platforms. Taken together, the actions mean Airbnb has cleared up outstanding litigation in two of its biggest markets in the United States. The latest settlement removes a regulatory cloud over the company as it readies itself for a public offering, even though Airbnb, which is based in San Francisco and has a valuation of about $30 billion, still faces legal disputes in a handful of markets.

Legislation would make cruise lines pay more for deaths at sea

Legislation introduced in Congress on Wednesday would expose cruise operators to broader damages for passenger deaths, bringing the industry in line with airlines and land transportation companies. The Cruise Passenger Protection Act would allow the families of passengers who die in international waters as a result of negligence to recover damages for loss of care, comfort and companionship of their loved ones.


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