Saturday, October 31, 2015

Arbitration Everywhere, Stacking the Deck of Justice

On Page 5 of a credit card contract used by American Express, beneath an explainer on interest rates and late fees, past the details about annual membership, is a clause that most customers probably miss. If cardholders have a problem with their account, American Express explains, the company “may elect to resolve any claim by individual arbitration.”

Those nine words are at the center of a far-reaching power play orchestrated by American corporations, an investigation by The New York Times has found.By inserting individual arbitration clauses into a soaring number of consumer and employment contracts, companies like American Express devised a way to circumvent the courts and bar people from joining together in class-action lawsuits, realistically the only tool citizens have to fight illegal or deceitful business practices.

The sanctions against Russia will lift only after full implementation of the Minsk Agreements and liberation of Crimea

The developed countries will lift sanctions against Russia only after full implementation of the Minsk Agreements and liberation of Crimea.

U.S. Ambassador to the OSCE Daniel Baer said this at the OSCE Permanent Council meeting, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.

"The United States and other countries have repeatedly stressed that the sanctions against Russia are linked with the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements and the end of the occupation of Crimea," Baer said.

He stressed that Russia's refusal to meet its obligations would only strengthen the confidence of the international community in the need for countermeasures. "The Russia’s refusal to withdraw troops, to stop obstructing the work of the OSCE SMM, to remove restrictions on humanitarian aid deliveries, to engage in the political process, and to release the Ukrainian hostages will only strengthen the international consensus against its actions," the U.S. Ambassador said.

SBU suspects Korban of organized crime activity, confirms detention

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) confirm the detention of the leader of a political party Ukrainian Union of Patriots – Ukrop, Hennadiy Korban, and declare that he is suspected of creating a criminal group, according to Olena Gitlyanska, SBU spokeswoman, and PGO spokesman Vladyslav Kutsenko, an UNIAN correspondent reported from a briefing in Kyiv.

"Yes, information about the detention of Korban is true. He was detained among other suspects from a criminal group," said Gitlyanska.
In turn, Kutsenko added: "We are now considering request for the immediate arrest of Korban, we are studying the question as to his leadership of this criminal organization."

EU and U.S. Suspend Sanctions on Belarus

The EU and the United States are to temporarily suspend major sanctions against one of Russia's closest allies, Belarus, and will also drop personal sanctions against its leader Alexander Lukashenko, whom the Bush administration once described as "Europe's last dictator."

The decision comes in response to Minsk's decision in August to free six political prisoners, who had been detained because of their anti-government activism.

Belarusian state businesses and Lukashenko himself have been under Western sanctions since 2006, when he swept to victory in a presidential election that independent observers deemed unfair, while there were also reports of a brutal crackdown against opposition groups by the Lukashenko administration.



 Strasbourg, 24 July 2015

Back to the judiciary – or more to the precisely an increasingly feckless Verkhovna Rada

On 26th July 2015, an entry relating to the generally positive Venice Commission “Opinion” toward judiciary reforming constitutional amendments was published.

That full opinion can be found here and is well worth reading in its entirety.

However, to summarise the positives – The removal of the power of the Verkhovna Rada to appoint the judges; the abolition of probationary periods for junior judges, the abolition of the “breach of oath” as a ground for dismissal of the judges, the reform of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the guarantees for its independence (notably the removal of the power of the Verkhovna Rada to express no confidence in the Prosecutor General) and the removal of its non-prosecutorial supervisory powers.

Likewise with the negatives – While the ceremonial role of the President to appoint judges seems well justified, this is not the case for his power to dismiss judges, which should be removed from the text, and in addition, not only the President, but also the Verkhovna Rada should have a role in the election/ appointment of a limited number of members of the High Judicial Council.

Russian airliner crashes in central Sinai - Egyptian PM

A Russian airliner has crashed in central Sinai with more than 200 people on board, the office of Egypt's prime minister has confirmed.
The Airbus A-321 had just taken off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, on its way to the Russian city of St Petersburg.
There were conflicting reports about the fate of the plane, some suggesting it had disappeared over Cyprus.
Most of the passengers are said to be Russian tourists.
The plane was operated by the small Russian airline Kogalymavia, based in western Siberia. Latest reports say it was carrying 217 passengers and seven crew.
A "Russian civilian plane... crashed in the central Sinai", the office of Egyptian Prime Minister Sharif Ismail said in a statement.

Границы нормы. Почему не получается договориться с Россией

Любые споры с ребятами из России сводятся к одному и тому же итогу. Они убеждают тебя, что Россия – это нормальное государство с островками девиантности. А ты пытаешься им объяснить, что они живут в девиантном государстве с островками нормальности.
И в этот момент ты очень остро ощущаешь, насколько у вас разное понимание «нормы».
Чисто по-человечески я их могу понять. Наверное, это такой себе формат психологической самозащиты. Уверить себя в том, что вокруг стандарт с червоточинами, а не наоборот. Ведь иначе придется признать очень многие вещи, которые признавать не хочется.

Constitutional Commission approved draft constitutional amendments on justice

The Constitutional Commission has approved the final version of draft constitutional amendments on justice endorsed by the Venice Commission.

Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration and Secretary of the Constitutional Commission Oleksiy Filatov noted: “Today, we have made an important step towards the implementation of full-scale judicial reform and renewal of judicial corps, restoration of trust in judiciary and ensuring the right of everyone to a fair trial. 

Draft amendments to the Constitution on justice are unprecedented for Ukraine, in terms of both the support from the international experts and consolidation of Ukrainian society. The draft has passed several stages of discussion and approval by the Ukrainian and international experts, representatives of the coalition factions, civil society activists. I am grateful to all colleagues who have been working over this fundamental issue for 5 months. We hope the draft law will be submitted for consideration by the Parliament shortly”.

Forming of Bureau for combating drug crime triggered in Ukraine

On Friday, October 30, there has been launched a competitive selection of applicants to the Bureau for combating drug crime. In late January of 2016 first employees of the Bureau will commence work.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, the creation of an entirely new structure - an Office for combating drug crime, is another step in the process of shaping the National Police structure.
The main function of the Bureau is the fight against drug trafficking at all levels, collecting and processing information for criminal prosecution of persons accused of drug-related crimes.
The changes in the structure enable to minimize corruption risk for the BCDC employees to use their position to bribe: the agents will work in mobile groups of 10-15 people not being tied to a particular administrative-territorial unit.

In Japan, adultery can cost you your job as well as your marriage

Fūkibinran. Now that is a Japanese expression you don’t see around much these days. I bet many young Japanese readers don’t even know how to read the four kanji that make up this word: 風紀紊乱.

It means something akin to “an affront to public morality,” “a breakdown in customary discipline” or, perhaps, “compromising love relations.” But there are simpler and more direct ways to render this expression in English — how about “adultery,” “cheating” or “having multiple partners”?

In 1996, actor Junichi Ishida found himself embroiled in a scandal due to his illicit affair with a young model. At one point he tried to fend off the paparazzi pestering him with the following comments: “You don’t hesitate to denigrate adultery, yet the bitter sadness and sweetness of secret love are themes in works of great literature and art. They have long been a source of the highest culture.”

Migratory crisis: EU Council Presidency steps up information sharing between member states by activating IPCR

The Council has taken over the last weeks a number of decisions to respond to the current migratory crisis. The scale of migratory flows has demonstrated the need for a more coordinated information sharing.
The Luxembourg Presidency therefore decided on 30 October 2015 to trigger the Integrated Political Crisis Response (IPCR) arrangements on an "information sharing mode". The aim is to monitor the development of migratory flows, to support decision-making and to better implement the agreed measures.

Entitlement vs. worthiness

Seth Godin
Entitlement is the joy killer.
Halloween is hardly what it could be. Any other day of the year, hand a kid a chocolate bar and he'll be thrilled. Do it on Halloween and it's worth almost nothing.
When you receive something you feel entitled to, something expected, that you believe you've earned, it's not worth much. And when you don't receive it, you're furious. After all, it's yours. Already yours. And you didn't get it. Whether you're wearing a hobo costume or showing up as a surgeon after years of medical school, entitlement guarantees that you won't get what you need.
Worthiness, on the other hand, is an essential part of receiving anything.
When you feel unworthy, any kind response, positive feedback or reward feels like a trick, a scam, the luck of the draw. It's hardly worth anything, because you decided in advance, before you got the feedback, that you weren't worthy.

Regulation Crowdfunding

Posted in CrowdfundingExchange Act Registration ThresholdsSEC News
Today, the SEC voted to adopt final rules permitting crowdfunding.  Regulation Crowdfunding allows issuers to engage in securities-based crowdfunding through the internet pursuant to Section 4(a)(6) of the Securities Act.  The final rules reflect an effort to address some of the concerns raised during the comment process, and appear to provide some greater flexibility for issuers.
As required by statute, the Regulation allows an issuer to raise up to $1 million in any 12-month period.  An individual who invests in crowdfunded offerings is subject to an investment limitation; if the individual’s annual income or net worth is less than $100,000, then the greater of $2000 or 5% of the lesser of their annual income or net worth, but not to exceed $100,000.   If both annual income and net worth are over $100,000, then 10% of the lesser of the individual’s annual income or net worth.  This limit applies to crowdfunded offerings generally, not a specific crowdfunded offering.

The Third Man

Ukraine, Turkmenistan sign agreement on agriculture cooperation

An agreement between the governments of Ukraine and Turkmenistan on agriculture cooperation was signed on October 29 during the visit of a Ukrainian delegation headed by the president of Ukraine.

"We've signed an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in agriculture, because we see great potential in different areas. The most basic sphere and we are working in it, is education," Minister of Agricultural Policy and Food Oleksiy Pavlenko said during his visit to Turkmenistan.

According to him, the second area of cooperation with Turkmenistan is agricultural sciences.

"There is a considerable interest in our selection, for instance, selection of durum wheat, plus biosecurity, irrigation, and others. With regard to irrigation, we are interested in the experience of Turkmenistan because five regions in the south of Ukraine are in need of irrigation systems," the minister added.

US-Ukraine Business Ties: US business sector optimistic over Ukraine's government

Friday, October 30, 2015

Joint Statement by the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Need for Deeper Economic Reforms to Expand the U.S.-Ukrainian Business Ties

Today, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk issued the following statement regarding discussions on October 26th in Kyiv to accelerate economic reform and increase the U.S.-Ukrainian bilateral trade and investment.
In the spirit of the close partnership between our two countries, we continued our fruitful dialogue on Ukraine’s ambitious economic reform efforts and the important role of the American private sector to increase business ties with Ukraine. Both sides noted with satisfaction the U.S. announcement of the Obama Administration’s intention to work with Congress to move forward with a third $1 billion loan guarantee designed to support progress on Ukraine’s anti-corruption and economic reform agenda. This new support builds upon two previous $1 billion U.S. loan guarantees and nearly $570 million in U.S. security, technical, and programmatic assistance provided since February 2014. Both sides affirmed that meeting all of Ukraine’s commitments in its International Monetary Fund program is essential to both near-term economic recovery and long-term economic growth.
Despite Russian aggression in Eastern Ukraine and the occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea, the IMF supported reform progress continues. In the last year, Ukraine has doubled its foreign currency reserves to more than $12 billion and signs of economic stabilization are emerging.

Ukraine ends pumping Russian natural gas to its storages

Ukraine has accumulated in its underground gas storage facilities 17.125 billion cubic meters of gas.
The data is reported by the Association of European operators of underground gas storage (UGS).

According to data issued by the Association, on October 30 underground gas storages have accumulated 17.125 billion cubic meters of, accounting for 55 percent of the total capacity of the UGS. The gas is piped at the volume of 74.16 million cubic meters per one day while no gas drawdown occurs.

As reminder, on Saturday, October 31 Naftogaz Ukraine finishes pumping 2.2 billion cubic meters of gas purchased from Russia.

Roman Polanski Won’t Be Extradited After Polish Court Rejects U.S. Request


KRAKOW, Poland — A judge in Poland on Friday turned down a request by the United States for the extradition of the filmmaker Roman Polanski, who is wanted over a 1977 conviction for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.
At a hearing in Krakow, Judge Dariusz Mazur ruled that turning over Mr. Polanski would be an “obviously unlawful” deprivation of liberty, and he added that California was unlikely to be ready to humanely incarcerate the 82-year-old filmmaker, given his age.

Mr. Polanski, a citizen of France and Poland, has been working on a film in Poland about Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, who was wrongly convicted of spying for Germany in 1894. He was in Krakow on Friday, but he did not appear at the hearing, the latest chapter in a 38-year trans-Atlantic legal controversy.

Over the years, prosecutors and judges in Los Angeles have said that Mr. Polanski must return to the United States to face sentencing. His lawyers have asserted that improprieties by the trial judge — now deceased — and others had violated his legal rights.

That “decentralisation” multilevel governance thing


There has been much mention of governance “decentralisation” with regard to Ukraine – often with a nod to Kremlin designs to enforce “federalisation” upon the nation, which simply won’t happen as those in the Kremlin may have initially hoped – officially or otherwise.

Yet “decentralisation” is quite necessary for Ukraine.  It is an understatement to state that the nation is far too centralised when it comes to governance and power.  It is also beyond time that Ukraine actually made a genuine attempt to meet (at least some of) its obligations under the European Charter for Self-Government.

Shifting budgetary governance, some tax raising powers and administrative responsibilities and accountability from the centre to the periphery however, appears to be all that is talked about – and is of course this has been the driver behind the interest of those behind the national political curtain.  Bigger provincial financial troughs to control and from whence to gorge cannot be ignored.

Nevertheless, such things aside, how will it work?

President’s address on local elections

Fellow Ukrainians!

Local elections held on Sunday have completed the restart of the government initiated last year. First of all, I would like to thank everyone for coming to the polling stations and demonstrating concern for the future of the country.

Although, amendments to the Constitution regarding decentralization have been adopted only in the first reading, we have broadened financial opportunities of local self-government approximately by 40% through amendments to the Budget and Tax Codes. That is why you have chosen not simply “assessors”, but full-fledged representatives that gained real opportunities to solve local problems and responsibility.

The election campaign was characterized by a high level of competition, great number of participants and active campaigning.

Poland and UNDP to assist startups for settlers in Ukraine

The government of Poland and the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP) in Ukraine have signed a joint agreement to finance the project aimed at assisting entrepreneurship among population suffered from a conflict in Donbas. The budget of the project totals $230,000. 

The agreement on the development of entrepreneurship among population suffered from the conflict” was signed today, on October 30, in Kyiv.

“We are ready to further assist Ukraine in this difficult time and are grateful to the government of Poland for significant financial aid. As of today, the UNDP is realizing a comprehensive program to resume and establish peace. A crucial component of the Program is aimed at broadening employment assistance to the forced settlers,” UNPD Country Director Janthomas Hiemstra said during the ceremony of the document signing.

Ukraine My Home. Oleg Prylutskyi

Державна аудиторська служба з'явилась в Україні

Кабмін ухвалив постанову про утворення Державної аудиторської служби України.

"Утворити Державну аудиторську службу України як центральний орган виконавчої влади, діяльність якого спрямовується та координується Кабінетом Міністрів України через Міністра фінансів, реорганізувавши Державну фінансову інспекцію шляхом перетворення", -- йдеться у документі.

Мінфін має подати Кабінетові Міністрів протягом двох тижнів проект акту щодо утворення комісії з реорганізації Державної фінансової інспекції; А за два місяці Мінфіну також необхідно подати проект Положення про Державну аудиторську службу України та пропозиції щодо внесення до актів законодавства змін, що випливають з постанови.

3 Keys to Better Conversations and the Strategic Innovation of Your Business Development Plan

There is a reason so many of the issues we face today are the same ones we faced last week. Or last year. Or three years ago. Or . . . you get the idea.
From individual relationships to global politics…personal finance to marketing a business, often the solution on which we land is little more than a reordering of the same old talking points. A mashup of things tried, but unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, real improvement is negligible. And experience tells us we’ll be back at the table to rehash the same issue again. Soon.
The difficulty doesn’t stem from a shortage of time or resources, though the latest silver bullet usually calls for more of both.

Remarks by Ambassador Pyatt at the US-Ukraine Business Council and Kyiv School of Economics Conference on Legal and Governance Reform

October 30, 2015
Kyiv School of Economics
Kyiv, Ukraine

Thank you, Irina, for your kind introduction.  I'd like to thank the President of the US-Ukraine Business Council Morgan Williams, and you, Iryna, for the invitation to be here with you today.  I'm pleased to be in the company of such distinguished speakers and guests: Bohdan Vitvitsky, Former Federal Prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice and my friends and colleagues Andreas von Beckerath, Ambassador of Sweden and Luc Jacobs, Ambassador of Belgium.

What a difference a year makes. 
When we gathered here last year, the Kremlin-backed war in the East was in full force.  The battle for Donetsk Airport was in its third week.  Political leaders were campaigning for parliamentary elections – elections that voted in the most reformist government in Ukraine’s history. 

Russia's Gulag camps cast in forgiving light of Putin nationalism

Shaun Walker in Yagodnoye

Many Russians regard the horrors of the forced labour camps as a necessary evil during a difficult period of Soviet history

Ivan Panikarov has spent the past two decades living with the Gulag: his small two-room apartment in the town of Yagodnoye is filled with artefacts from the camps. Rusting tools, handcuffs and photographs of prisoners cover the walls of his living room, while stacks of boxes in the hallway contain transcripts of interrogations taken down in meticulous purple handwriting.

Yagodnoye feels like the end of the earth, and in many ways it is. In the heart of the Kolyma region, one of the coldest inhabited places on the planet, it is an eight-hour drive from the regional centre of Magadan, which itself is a seven-hour flight from Moscow.