September 18, 2017 nº 1,906 - Vol. 14

"A committee is a group of people who individually can do nothing, but who, as a group, can meet and decide that nothing can be done."

Fred Allen

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  • Top News

Trump at UN General Assembly

Trump is about to make his debut at an institution he has often berated. For the first time, he will attend the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York, which brings together leaders of the 193 member nations for a week of meetings and speeches. As president-elect, he called the U.N. "just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time." Trump will push a message of "reform," calling for more transparency and accountability at the U.N. "The United Nations, of course, holds tremendous potential to realize its founding ideals, but only if it's run more efficiently and effectively." Previous administrations have pressed the U.N. to embrace change. But, unlike past presidents, Trump is promoting his "America First" agenda, and he has called for slashing US financial contributions to the U.N. There is no shortage of issues, with North Korea being front and center. Iran will be an issue. Syria will certainly be talked about. Climate change is another one. Terrorism efforts and how we counter that is a huge topic.

UN rights expert: climate change poses heightened threat to impoverished persons

UN Special Rapporteur on the right to development Saad Alfarargi said on Thursday that escalating climate change and the global economic crisis are posing increasing threats to the world's impoverished persons. Alfarargi filed a report with the UN Office of the High Commissioner in August in which he argued that the general negative impacts of the two converging crises are having the most dramatic impact on developing nations and the poor. Alfarargi focused his remarks on developing, landlocked nations and small islands. To combat these effects, Alfaragi is urging the UN, member organizations and grassroots organizations to focus on the "right to development". The right to development, as described by the UN, is an attempt by the international community to ensure that the environmental and economic needs of developing nations are met. Alfarargi argued that as the climate continues to change and natural resources become increasingly scarce, nations around the world should concentrate their efforts on protecting the right to development for all persons. By mandate of the UN, Alfarargi will continue to monitor and regularly report on the state of the right to development around the world for the next three years.

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1 - Rolling Stone magazine up for sale. (Click here)


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China PBOC to draft package for financial market opening

China's central bank is drafting a package of reforms which would give foreign investors greater access to the nation's financial services industry. While the details of the plan have yet to be finalized, it may include permission for foreign institutions to control their local finance-sector joint ventures, as well as raising the current 25 percent ceiling on foreign ownership in Chinese bank. It may also allow foreign firms to provide yuan-denominated bank card clearing services. The China Banking Regulatory Commission is also involved in the proposal.


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  • Brief News

Equifax data breach: Credit rating firm replaces key staff

US credit report giant Equifax has replaced two senior staff after revealing last week it had suffered a massive data breach. Data on up to 143 million Americans, about 400,000 Britons and a number of Canadians may have been stolen by hackers between mid-May and July. The chief information officer and chief security officer have both stood down. Equifax faces dozens of legal claims over the breach, which the US Federal Trade Commission is investigating. Social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driving license numbers for up to 143 million Americans were exposed. Equifax has failed to provide the necessary information describing exactly how this happened, and exactly how your security systems failed. Equifax's initial efforts to provide customers information did nothing to clarify the situation and actually appeared to be efforts to hoodwink them into waiving important legal rights. Lenders use data amassed by firms like Equifax to assess the credit worthiness of customers seeking to acquire houses, cars and credit cards.

Elizabeth Warren introduces investigation and bill in relation to Equifax breach

US Senator Elizabeth Warren on Friday introduced a bill and announced an investigation into the recent Equifax breach. The proposed legislation is said to give consumers the ability to freeze their credit for free when such attacks take place. This is a response to the massive breach of Equifax, which left the data of 143 million people unprotected.

Will Germany's new law kill free speech online?

In October a new law comes into force in Germany that will impose huge fines on social networks if they don't delete illegal content including hate speech. It's touched off a huge debate over freedom of expression and has attracted an unusual collection of opponents. The law is called Netzwerkdurchsetzungsgesetz - NetzDG for short. It obliges the biggest social networks - those with more than two million German users - to take down "blatantly illegal" hate speech within 24 hours of it being reported. For material that's less obviously violating the law, networks such as Facebook and Instagram will have seven days to consider and, if appropriate, delete posts. Failure to meet these deadlines could lead to fines of up to €50m. Critics argue the short timeframes coupled with the potentially large fines will lead social networks to be overly cautious and delete huge amounts of content - even things that are perfectly legal. But the law's supporters, and the German government, argue that it will force social media companies to proactively deal with online incitement and hate speech.

Bakers can be artists, but they still can't discriminate

The Supreme Court should recognize that, however symbolic their products, Colorado businesses aren't allowed to be anti-gay. Cake baking is an art. Or, so says a group of professional wedding cake bakers who have filed a friend of the court brief with the US Supreme Court in what promises to be the blockbuster case of the upcoming term, Masterpiece Cakeshop Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. The brief is obviously intended to support the claim of a baker to be exempt from anti-discrimination laws that say he must serve gay customers. It’s all together reasonable to think that a professional baker is an artist. The thing is, that shouldn’t matter. Artists are just like anyone else who has a business open to the public: They have to comply with anti-discrimination laws.

Indonesia AG's office rescinds policy barring LGBT individuals

The Office of the Attorney General of Indonesia announced Thursday that it would rescind a policy that banned lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals from becoming employees. The controversial policy had been denounced by human rights groups, who have expressed concern that the LGBT community has faced continued persecution at the hands of the government over the past year. Muhammad Nurkhoiron, commissioner of the Indonesia's National Human Rights Commission, spoke critically of the policy, including the portion that likened being LGBT to having a mental illness.

Snapchat blocks Al Jazeera in Saudi Arabia

Social media platform Snapchat has blocked access to Al Jazeera content in Saudi Arabia. Snapchat said it was asked by the Saudi authorities to remove the Qatari-backed broadcaster's Discover Publisher Channel because it violated local laws. Qatar is in an ongoing dispute with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the UAE. The four countries cut ties with Qatar earlier this year, accusing the country of supporting terrorism. Saudi Arabia has one of the world's most restrictive media environments, according to human rights groups and media freedom advocates.

Estonia wants to ICO, but is currency law a deal-breaker?

There's a new party interested in initial coin offerings: global governments. This time, though, they aren't just out to warn citizens or regulate the new mechanism. Instead, at least one progressive government is considering whether it can take advantage of the technology. The Baltic nation of Estonia made a splash last month proposing a government-supported token – the "estcoin" – as an extension of its e-Residency program. As detailed in a blog post that quickly vent viral, the proceeds would be used to create a type of public-private sovereign wealth fund that would invest in Estonian digital infrastructure projects and technology startups. The idea won equal praise and derision, getting lambasted by European Central Bank president Mario Draghi.

Litigation funder Longford raises $500 million as industry surges

Investors apparently can’t get enough of financing US litigation. Litigation funder Longford Capital Management LP was expected to announce Monday it closed a $500 million fund that will be used to back corporate lawsuits in exchange for a cut of any eventual settlement or judgment. Competing litigation-finance firms have raised and deployed hundreds of millions of dollars more in recent months. The industry has accelerated as investors--including pension funds, family offices and wealthy individuals--are drawn to a new asset that isn’t tied to the broader markets.

May in Canada for post-Brexit trade talks

The PM will meet Justin Trudeau to discuss trade terms for when the UK is excluded from an EU deal.

US may shut Cuba embassy over 'attack'

Diplomatic staff suffered health problems blamed by Washington on a sonic attack, which Cuba denies.

Brazil President faces more criminal charges

Brazil's top anti-corruption prosecutor has charged Temer with obstruction of justice and racketeering. It is the second set of criminal charges he faces and is based on the plea-bargain testimony of the owners of the meatpacker JBS. They accused Temer of taking bribes and of conspiring to buy the silence of a witness. Temer has strongly rejected all allegations of wrongdoing. The earlier corruption charge was blocked by Congress, which has the power to decide whether the president should stand trial. In the second round of charges, Temer is accused along with six other political allies. The Chief Prosecutor Rodrigo Janot said in a statement that Temer "acted as leader of a criminal organization" made up of senior members of his PMDB party. He said the group had allegedly taken $190m in bribes in return for contracts at public companies. The charges derive in part from testimony given by the owners of the world's largest meat packer, JBS.

Trump 'open to staying' in Paris accord

The US secretary of state backs up reports Trump may soften his stance on the climate pact. The White House has reaffirmed its position on the climate pact "unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable to our country."

Tunisia ends law banning Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men

On Thursday, Tunisia's presidency spokeswoman, Saida Garrach, announced that the country's ban on Muslim women marrying non-Muslim men has come to an end. The prior law had required men to convert to Islam and submit a certificate of the conversion before they were allowed to marry Muslim women. The ban has been in place since 1973. (Click here)

Guatemala lawmakers approve reduced penalties for campaign finance crimes

The Congress of Guatemala approved legislation that decreases the penalties for campaign finance crimes on Wednesday by a vote of 105-19. The reform reduces the maximum sentence for illegally funding an election from 12 to 10 years, as sentence which can be commuted to a fine.

Drone makers and operators clamor for Federal regulation

Despite White House directives rolling back regulations affecting most industries, drone proponents are clamoring for more federal rules as the way to open up the skies for unmanned aircraft.

  • Weekly Magazine Review

The Angels of Irma

New Ken Burns Doc Dismisses Origins Of The Vietnam War

Business Week
Surviving Irma

The Economist
Heathcare: closing in on cancer

Der Spiegel
Klüger Wählen



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