IRAN PETROL PRICES SURGE AS SUBSIDIES CUT
Iran has cut state subsidies on petrol in a move that saw prices rise at midnight by up to 75%.
Reports said Iranians rushed to fill up their cars before the deadline.
The government of President Hassan Rouhani hopes the move will bolster an economy battered by Western sanctions.
Petrol in Iran is still among the cheapest in the world but analysts say the increase will be unwelcome in a country where a quarter of adults are jobless or under-employed.
The subsidies have been blamed for making petrol cheaper than bottled mineral water.
The cost of subsidised petrol – which is available in limited amounts to each motorist – rose from about $0.16 (£0.09) a litre to $0.28 a litre at midnight.
The price of petrol sold outside that ration rose from $0.27 to $0.39 a litre. Diesel and natural gas prices also rose.
In 2007 there were riots at some petrol stations when cheap fuel was rationed for the first time. However, there have been no reports of unrest after the latest price hikes.
“We have been preparing for two months to implement these plans in provinces, cities and rural areas,” Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli was quoted as saying by state news agency Irna.
So far this year Iranians have also seen electricity bills go up by 24% and those for water by 20%.
President Rouhani is currently negotiating with world powers to scale back Iran’s controversial nuclear programme in return for an easing of international sanctions.
NETANYAHU SAYS ABBAS MUST ABANDON UNITY DEAL WITH HAMAS
Benjamin Netanyahu: “He can have peace with Israel or a pact with Hamas – he can’t have both”
Israel earlier suspended peace talks with the Palestinians in response to a unity deal between the two factions. The US has voiced its “disapproval”, but is not ready to declare the talks over and is “still making the effort”. Fatah and Hamas agreed on Wednesday to form a unity government within weeks and hold elections six months later. They have been at odds since Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in 2006, ousted forces loyal to Mr. Abbas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip during clashes in 2007 and set up a rival government.
Mr. Netanyahu told the BBC’s Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen that Mr. Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and leader of Fatah, could “have peace with Israel or a pact with Hamas – he can’t have both”.
He said Israel would only resume peace talks with Palestinians “when they decide to abandon the course of terror”. “As long as I’m prime minister of Israel, I will never negotiate with a Palestinian government that is backed by Hamas terrorists that are calling for our liquidation,” he added. The chief Palestinian peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, insisted that Palestinian reconciliation was an internal matter.
“Israel had no right to interfere in this issue,” he told the Associated Press.
The prime minister of the Hamas-led government in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, meanwhile said he was not surprised by Mr. Netanyahu’s decision. “The Israeli position was expected. This is occupation, and absolutely they do not want the Palestinian people to be united and want the division to continue,” he explained. Earlier, President Abbas said there was “no incompatibility between reconciliation and the talks” and that he was committed to peace on the basis of a two-state solution.
US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Mr. Abbas on Thursday and told him of his “disapproval”, but added that the US would remain committed to peace talks.
“We will never give up our hope or our commitment for the possibilities of peace” he said. He added that both leaders would have to make compromises in order to find a way forward. However, even before the latest announcements, no agreement had been reached on an extension to the negotiating period scheduled to end on Tuesday, reports the BBC’s Yolande Knell in Jerusalem.
Israel, along with the US and the EU, considers Hamas a terrorist group. In a statement released after a five-hour meeting of his security cabinet on Thursday, Mr. Netanyahu called the reconciliation deal “a direct continuation of the Palestinian refusal to advance the negotiations”. He said Israel would take “a number of additional measures” in response to the Palestinians’ “unilateral moves”, but provided no further details.
Israel has already said it will deduct debt payments from tax revenues collected on behalf of the PA – which governs parts of the West Bank not under Israeli control – and limit its access to deposits in Israeli banks.
That move came after Mr. Abbas applied to join 15 international treaties and conventions, which Israel said broke a commitment by the Palestinians not to join. Mr. Abbas took the step because Israel was refusing to release a fourth group of 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners. Israel had made such a release contingent on progress in the peace talks. A senior US official said the White House would be forced to reconsider its assistance to the Palestinians if Hamas and Fatah formed an administration. “Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to non-violence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties,” the official told the Reuters news agency.
RIO POLICE IN FRESH CLASHES WITH RESIDENTS AFTER BURIAL OF DANCER
Brazilian police have clashed with residents of a Rio de Janeiro shantytown that was hit by deadly protests on Tuesday.
Police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse dozens of angry protesters from the Pavao-Pavaozinho favela. The protesters were returning from the burial of a man whose death – allegedly at the hands of police – triggered the earlier clashes. Authorities say they will investigate the death of TV dancer Douglas Pereira. Rio’s public safety director, Jose Maria Beltrame, said they would proceed “with the utmost rigour and transparency”.
The latest clashes came weeks before Brazil is to host the football World Cup. On Thursday, cars were torched and hundreds of residents were unable to return to their homes as protesters blocked roads with burning barricades. Police used pepper spray and tear gas to disperse stone-throwing protesters. One person was detained, according to Brazilian G1 news portal. Authorities temporarily closed the main avenue of the nearby Copacabana district, which is famous for its sandy beach.
The residents had been walking home from Mr Pereira’s funeral. At the burial, his mother, Maria de Fatima Silva, told the BBC’s Julia Carneiro that she would seek help from the human rights group Amnesty International. “This cannot go unpunished, he can’t become just a statistic,” she said. “This story about him being a criminal is just not true. He was not a delinquent,” she told our correspondent.
According to some residents, Mr. Pereira had been trying to flee from a shoot-out between police and drug dealers and had climbed over a wall to hide. They said he had then been found by police, who, believing he was a trafficker, had beaten him to death. One person died in Tuesday’s clashes.
Officials said on Wednesday that the dancer had been killed by a bullet, contradicting an earlier version that stated he had died from a fall. The Rio authorities have promised that, if there were any indications that police were linked to Mr. Pereira’s death, swift action would be taken.
Pavao-Pavaozinho is one of the poor districts of Rio that has been part of a police “pacification” programme, in which the security forces move into an area in an effort to wrest control from the drug traffickers who run it. It is an attempt by the city authorities to drive the armed gangs away from communities and restore police authority ahead of the World Cup in June and July but the programme is controversial as Brazilian police have been accused of using excessive force, at times killing residents not connected to any gangs.
Amnesty International says some 2,000 people die every year in Brazil as a result of police violence.
APPLE, GOOGLE TO PAY $324 MILLION TO SETTLE CONSPIRACY LAWSUIT
Four major tech companies including Apple and Google have agreed to pay a total of $324 million to settle a lawsuit accusing them of conspiring to hold down salaries in Silicon Valley, sources familiar with the deal said, just weeks before a high profile trial had been scheduled to begin.
Tech workers filed a class action lawsuit against Apple Inc., Google Inc., Intel Inc. and Adobe Systems Inc. in 2011, alleging they conspired to refrain from soliciting one another’s employees in order to avert a salary war. They planned to ask for $3 billion in damages at trial, according to court filings. That could have tripled to $9 billion under antitrust law.
The case has been closely watched due to the potentially high damages award and the opportunity to peek into the world of Silicon Valley’s elite. The case was based largely on emails in which Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and some of their Silicon Valley rivals hatched plans to avoid poaching each other’s prized engineers.
In one email exchange after a Google recruiter solicited an Apple employee, Schmidt told Jobs that the recruiter would be fired, court documents show. Jobs then forwarded Schmidt’s note to a top Apple human resources executive with a smiley face.
Another exchange shows Google’s human resources director asking Schmidt about sharing its no-cold call agreements with competitors. Schmidt, now the company’s executive chairman, advised discretion.
“Schmidt responded that he preferred it be shared ‘verbally, since I don’t want to create a paper trail over which we can be sued later?'” he said, according to a court filing. The HR director agreed.
The companies had acknowledged entering into some no-hire agreements but disputed the allegation that they had conspired to drive down wages. Moreover, they argued that the employees should not be allowed to sue as a group.
Rich Gray, a Silicon Valley antitrust expert in private practice, said the companies had an incentive to avoid trial because their executives’ emails would make them look extremely unsympathetic to a jury. However, the plaintiff attorneys risked an appeals court saying the engineers could not sue as a group at all.
“An appellate court could say, ‘Hey we just don’t buy that,'” Gray said.
Trial had been scheduled to begin at the end of May on behalf of roughly 64,000 workers.
Spokespeople for Apple, Google and Intel declined to comment. An Adobe representative said that the company denies it engaged in any wrongdoing, but settled “in order to avoid the uncertainties, cost and distraction of litigation.” An attorney for the plaintiffs, Kelly Dermody of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, in a statement called the deal “an excellent resolution.”
Corporate defendants in antitrust cases often agree among themselves what portion each will contribute towards a settlement, said Daniel Crane, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. One likely formula would be to divide the damages based on how many employees each company has in the class, he said.
Apple, Google, Adobe and Intel in 2010 settled a U.S. Department of Justice probe by agreeing not to enter into such no-hire deals in the future. The four companies had since been fighting the civil antitrust class action.
Walt Disney Co’s Pixar and Lucasfilm units and Intuit Inc had already agreed to a settlement, with Disney paying about $9 million and Intuit paying $11 million.
Any settlement must be approved by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California. A hearing on final approval of the Intuit and Disney deals is scheduled for next week.
The plaintiffs and the companies will disclose principal terms of the settlement by May 27, according to the court filing on Thursday, though it is unclear whether that will spell out what each company will pay.
Some Silicon Valley companies refused to enter into no-hire agreements. Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, for instance, rebuffed an entreaty from Google in 2008 that they refrain from poaching each other’s employees.
Additionally, Apple’s Jobs threatened Palm with a patent lawsuit if Palm didn’t agree to stop soliciting Apple employees. However, then Palm Chief Executive Edward Colligan told Jobs that the plan was “likely illegal,” and that Palm was not “intimidated” by the threat.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is In Re: High-Tech Employee Antitrust Litigation, 11-cv-2509.
FROM GOD.COM TO PHOTOGRAPHY, KOREA FERRY FOUNDER HAS DIVERSE INTERESTS
The head of the South Korean family that operated the ferry which sank last week is a billionaire once jailed for fraud, a photographer who has held an exhibition at the Louvre under a pseudonym and the founder of a church which owns the website http://www.god.com.
At other times in his chequered past, Yoo Byung-un, in his 70s, has been a bankrupt and an inventor of household and health-related devices. He was investigated and cleared of complicity in the suicides of 32 members of his church in 1987.
Prosecutors have raided Yoo’s house in their investigation into last week’s ferry sinking in which hundreds of passengers, mainly school children, were killed or are missing presumed dead.
Son Byoung-gi, the lawyer representing Yoo and his family, told Reuters that they had not been summoned by prosecutors and that as far as he was aware there were no irregularities in the financing of the company.
“Yoo and his family will take all legal and social responsibility for this tragic accident if they have to as major stakeholders of the company,” Son said.
Prosecutors have also raided the shipping company’s offices and financial regulators are investigating borrowings of the company and of businesses that are part of a wider holding firm.
Financial filings show that Yoo has no stake in the shipping company Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd, which took over the ferry assets of his business empire when he went bankrupt in 1997. It is now majority owned by an investment company run by his two sons.
Son, the lawyer, confirmed that Yoo was Ahae, the pseudonym for a reclusive photographer who once hired part of the Versailles palace and the Louvre in Paris for an exhibition as well as commissioned British composer Michael Nyman to write a symphony for the occasion.
Yoo has a wide range of other business interests from organic farms to a resort in California, according to official documents and information on company websites.
Yoo’s two children Yoo Dae-kyun and Yoo Hyuck-ki are majority owners of the shipping company Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd through an investment vehicle. The ship company was formed to hold assets of part of Yoo’s empire after bankruptcy.
The investment vehicle of the two sons, I-One-I, owns a stake in Ahae Corp, a paint manufacturing company, which in turn owns 10.2 percent of Ahae Press France, according to its filing with South Korea’s Financial Supervisory Service earlier this month.
I-One-I’s shipbuilding unit Chonhaiji also owns 24.51 percent of Ahae Press France.
Ahae Press France organised the Paris exhibitions and Ahae Press Inc. maintains a publicity website for Ahae, the photographer. An official French government bulletin with the monthly listing of companies domiciled in France lists the March 19, 2012 founding of Ahae Press France in Paris, managed by Yoo Hyuk Kee.
Ahae means “little child” and was a nickname used by a church of which Yoo was a founding member, according to the church website.
Ahae was said by his website to have taken 2.6 million nature photographs over a period of years on the grounds of one of his properties.
Ahae describes himself on the website (ahae.com/) as having been born in 1941 in Kyoto, Japan where his family was displaced during Japanese colonial rule of Korea.
The photographer identifies himself as having a “broad spectrum of interests” including designing and inventing “household items; numerous health-related products; and various boats and small ocean-going ships that now plough the waters of the Han River in Seoul and further afield”.
Yoo’s corporate interests have encompassed cosmetics, organic products and Yoo’s shipping interests started with a ferry operation on Seoul’s Han River in 1986 before it expanded into a sea-going ferry company.
The website identifies Ahae as the owner of an organic farm in the United States called 123Farm at the site of the Highland Springs Resort in California. Yoo was chairman of the board of the company that bought the resort.
I-One-I subsidiary Dapanda owns 9.9 percent of the Highland Springs Conference and Training Centre at the resort, according to regulatory filings.
“Ahae has been a conservationist all his life and has done everything within his power to ensure that his business activities do not conflict with his endeavors to maintain the purity of the natural world,” the website biography states.
RELIGION AND CONVICTION
“Ahae” is the nickname used in reference to Yoo in correspondence on a Evangelical Baptist Church website EBC World (www.ebcworld.org).
The name itself may be taken from a Korean poem written under Japanese rule and is believed to refer to Jesus and his 12 disciples, among other interpretations.
The Evangelical Media Group (www.god.com) founded by Yoo said “he first began to live for the sake of the gospel in 1961” and that the shipping company founder “worked as an inventor and businessman to support the spreading of the gospel all over the world”.
Yoo was one of 11 students admitted to a bible school called the “Good News Mission” set up in South Korea by Western missionaries in 1956.
The Evangelical Baptist Church runs a rural training camp nestled between leafy mountains near Anseong, a city two hours south of Seoul. Carriages from a subway train sit in the clearing in the woods at the camp.
Men who identified themselves as members of the church refused to allow Reuters journalists access to the area, and denied they were connected to Yoo’s family, despite reports that Yoo takes photos and his subsidiary companies sell products on the site.
Ahae Press bought an abandoned French village last year, according to media reports.
BANKRUPTCY AND PROBE
The business empire built by Yoo expanded rapidly in the 1990s before Semo Co. Ltd, his holding company, went bankrupt.
According to company filings, Chonghaejin Marine Co. Ltd was set up on February 24, 1999, a day before a court approved the restructuring of the bankrupt Semo, and became a key entity to consolidate Semo’s shipping business.
Yoo was a founder of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Korea and prosecuted and jailed for four years for fraud in 1992.
The court case records show that Yoo was convicted of using the funds and property of church members to fund the expansion of his businesses.
Yoo was investigated in 1987 when 32 members of his church were found dead, bound and gagged in a factory near Seoul. He was not charged.
Yoo denied that he had any involvement in the deaths in a magazine interview after his release from jail in the fraud case.
“I feel really insulted just to think that people link me to the accident,” Yoo said in the 1999 interview with monthly magazine Chosun.
“Do you know how I feel? I feel like I’m a woman living in a small village and one day you suddenly got sexually assaulted. This is really unfair but you can’t talk about it to anyone in our (Korean) culture and there’ll be just rumors getting out of control that you are the one who screwed up.”
OBAMA WARNS NORTH KOREA ON NUCLEAR TEST: SOUTH KOREAN MEDIA
U.S. President Barack Obama warned North Korea on Friday against conducting another nuclear test, saying that it would draw a firm international response.
“If North Korea were to make the mistake of engaging in another nuclear test, it should expect a firm response from the international community,” Obama said in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper.
Obama arrived in Seoul on Friday for a visit in which he will seek to reassure South Korea that he is committed to pressuring Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Although North Korea has ramped up provocative behavior in recent weeks with talk of a new type of nuclear test and a flurry of rocket launches, South Koreans have been preoccupied with one of the worst tragedies in their history, the sinking of a ferry carrying hundreds of youngsters to a vacation idyll.
“I know my visit now comes as South Koreans are in mourning and my visit will be an opportunity to express the sympathy of the American people,” Obama said.
The U.S. president arrives in Seoul after starting a four-stop Asia tour in Tokyo on Wednesday. He is also due to visit Malaysia and the Philippines.
SEARCH FOR MISSING MALAYSIAN JET MAY TAKE YEARS: U.S. OFFICIAL
The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 is likely to drag on for years, a senior U.S. defense official told Reuters on Friday, as an underwater search for any trace of the plane’s wreckage off west Australia appeared to have failed.
The official, speaking under condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the search effort, said two weeks of scouring the Indian Ocean floor with a U.S. Navy submersible drone had turned up no wreckage.
He said the search for the jetliner, which vanished on March 8 with 239 people on board, would now enter a much harder phase of scouring broader areas of the ocean near where the plane is believed to have crashed.
“We went all in on this small area and didn’t find anything. Now you’ve got to go back to the big area,” the official said. “And now you’re talking years.”
On Friday, the undersea drone Bluefin-21 is expected to finish what may be the last of its 16-hour trips to depths of more than 4.5km (2.8 miles) searching a 10 square km (6.2 square mile) stretch of seabed about 2,000 miles northwest of Perth.
Authorities had identified the area as their strongest lead in determining the plane’s final resting place after detecting what they suspected was a signal, or “ping”, from the plane’s black box recorder on April 4.
But the U.S. official said Malaysia would have to decide how to proceed with the search, including whether to bring in more underwater drones, even with the understanding that the search could continue for years without a refined search area.
IS PISTORIUS BEING COACHED?
South African newspaper columnist Jani Allan accused Oscar Pistorius of taking “acting lessons” before his testimony at his murder trial. Pistorius has claimed that he accidentally killed his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp after mistaking her for an intruder to his home in Pretoria.
I have to admit, as a criminal defense attorney, I found his testimony unusually well-focused and on-point as he attempted to accomplish what he needed to. It was this: to convince the judge (there is no jury in this case) that he was acting out of instinct and fear–rather than anger and hatred–when he fired four fatal shots through a locked bathroom door.
Is it not Pistorius’ right to figure out how to best present that position to the judge? Is it somehow wrong for a defendant to craft or polish his presentation to positively affect the judge’s (or jury’s) decision? Yes, it is his right, and no it’s not wrong; welcome to the underbelly of litigation. However, it’s the same underbelly that exists in business and even in social interactions.
We all learn even as children to speak properly, to “mind our manners” and to “put our best foot forward.” Suggesting that people don’t prepare for or rehearse important interactions is not just folly; it goes against what we’ve been taught since we’ve learned to listen. On that first date, we try to look as good as we can, be as funny as we can, appear as insightful as we can. Before a job interview we study the employer and the industry. Before asking for a raise, we present our value in the warmest light possible.
Good lawyers have spent their careers learning how to present their clients in the most favorable light possible during litigation. It’s our responsibility. Criminal defense lawyers learn how to be persuasive and genuine when presenting their side of the story. We are trained to represent clients, any clients, as best we can and to seek the proper result for that client. Prosecutors know how to polish their presentations as well.
Pistorius trial adjourns after 25 days Pistorius cross-examination highlights Pistorius trial cross-examination ends
In civil law, when many millions of dollars are on the line, corporate representatives plan for hours, days, weeks, months–even years–to properly present their side of the case. They take part in mock trial, the sole purpose of which is to identify and correct weaknesses in their presentation, to gain insight from how that presentation worked with mock jurors.
Back to the question at hand: Did Pistorius have acting lessons? This will now sound insincere, but I have never, not in 30 years of practice, had a client take “acting lessons” or any other lessons regarding how to testify. But I have spent hours with witnesses and clients reviewing with them how to present themselves and their story in the most compelling and believable way.
But remember this: Law enforcement officers also go through extensive training in how to present themselves in a courtroom, from subtleties as simple as turning toward the jury when answering a question to presenting their testimony in simple, easy-to-understand phrases, to raising and lowering their voices at just the right time. Expert witnesses are paid well for their ability to communicate their testimony effectively and believably to a jury.
So is it any less appropriate for Pistorius to have reviewed his testimony with his lawyers? Would it be wrong if Pistorius had the benefit of a “testimony presentation expert”? The answer is no, it is not inappropriate, as long as Pistorius was telling the truth.
The important question is: Did he present his testimony in a way in which the judge believed he was sincere? Or will the judge believe he was coached and acting? Judges and jurors alike are not easily fooled, and they bring to the courtroom life experiences that prepare them to detect deception and insincerity.
It is also the duty of the advocates on both sides of the story to advise or remind the fact finders that testimony is what it is: prepared, coached, rehearsed and presented as well as possible.
My belief is that Pistorius was absolutely coached. I also believe the judge thinks so, too, and when she weighs Pistorius’ testimony, she will take into consideration that it was perhaps too well polished and that it was too well rehearsed. That was, after all, a significant goal of the blistering cross examination, to show that coaching.
I say we trust in fact finders — in this case the judge, and, in the United States, the jurors — and understand that they know how to balance the content of a testimony with the sincerity, or lack of sincerity, with which it was delivered.
By Mark O’Mara, CNN Legal Analyst
MAN LEAVES $1,000 TIP FOR DOG’S SURGERY
Good people, not to mention good tippers, do exist. Christina Summitt knows that for sure now after what happened Saturday night.
The paw-print tattoo on Summitt’s wrist often leads to conversations with strangers about her love of animals; she’s a volunteer with a pit bull rescue group and spends lots of time finding homes for animals of all kinds.
While tending bar at the Holiday Inn in Clinton, New Jersey, Summitt got to chatting with a friendly couple before the night got busy. The man asked her if she had dogs of her own; she confided that her “baby,” a Great Dane-black Labrador mix named Tucker, was at the veterinary hospital after having emergency surgery hours earlier after he swallowed a hard plastic ball. She was worried about him.
The man said something about surgery being expensive. She confided the estimate was around $2,700, but she would do whatever she had to do for the dog, whom she adopted in 2011. Summitt, 37, works three jobs — full-time as a chef at the hotel, Saturdays as a bartender, and as a food prep worker two days a week at a deli in her town. Her husband works full-time and Summitt has three stepchildren.
The couple ordered drinks and dinner at the bar. When it was time to close out their $80 tab, the man filled out the receipt with a tip — for $1,000.
Summitt said she started shaking and crying. She showed the bill to her sister, who tends bar with her, to make sure she was seeing three zeros after the 1.
“I went back over and said ‘Sir, I cannot accept this, what is this for, why would you do this?'” she said. He told her to put it toward Tucker’s medical costs.
“I just stood there in shock. I walked around and hugged this couple. They said, ‘We’ll be praying for Tucker.'”
Hotel manager Michelle Satanik told CNN she followed up with her comptroller and also tracked down the customer this week to verify that the gesture was legitimate. CNN has attempted to contact the generous tipper through Summitt, who kept his name anonymous for his privacy.
“Apparently this man does this quite frequently. Just a really nice guy and humanitarian,” Satanik said. “I have never ever seen a $1,000 tip like that.”
Summitt says she’s since gotten messages of support from all over the world.
“I would also love nothing more than to publicly thank this couple in front of the world. I’ve never seen a random act give so many people so much hope,” she wrote.
Tucker is recovering at home.
By Daphne Sashin, CNN
Taiwo Adekoya is a 500 level mechanical engineering student of Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife.
His penchant for observing global events is unusual is an environment where many hardly know anything other than when the next assignment is due. Check out his weekly compilation of global news events in Global Eyepiece.