Only recently, the German party AfD has been asked to pay a fine totaling 402,900 euros for accepting illegal party donations, which is three times the amount inadmissibly received. This was decided by the Bundestag administration, as announced in April 2019. The party announced that it would bring an action before the Administrative Court against the decisions but had already decided to save one million euros for imminent fines. Nicolas Sarkozy is also likely to have to go to court for illegal election campaign donations in 2012. It is about 20 million euros more than the upper limit allowed, disguised with the help of a communications agency. The French Constitutional Council decided in May 2019 that the trial against the 64-year-old is justified because he may have violated the integrity expected of a candidate or an elected official. However, the sums in many European countries are peanuts measured by the dimensions of illegal campaign funding in various non-European states.
by Maria Eugenia Trombini, Mario Jorge Junior and Markus Pohlmann
It is not a new story. Yet it is still shocking. Dam breaks in the mining business happen from time to time, burying many people alive in a mudslide. In November 2015, a dam burst in the city of Mariana in the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil and the following mudslide caused the deaths of 19 people and massive environmental damage to the region. Three years later, in January 25th, 2019, around 130km from the first disaster, in the city of Brumadinho, tailings dam No. 1 at the Córrego do Feijão mine burst and a second disaster took place. Vale S.A, the world’s largest iron ore producer, owned both mines. But neither the billion-dollar penalty nor the safety regulation that became stricter deterred misconduct or guaranteed non-repetition. In 2019, the consequences were even deadlier. 246 people died with still 24 reported missing. However, this time, four months before the accident, the certification company TÜV Süd’s audit report mentioned a factor of safety of 1.09 and its engineers signed a stability declaration to Brazil’s National Mining Agency. Although best practices require a safety factor of at least 1.3 and, preferably, above 1.5, Vale was by that allowed to keep on mining. Their report already noted several draining deficiencies in the dam and according to the Prosecutor’s claims, both Vale and TÜV had long been aware of the risks and did not prevent the collapse from happening.
Probably none of us can avoid swallowing one or two pills in our lives and we rely on the prescription and recommendation of our treating physicians. However, that these physicians are courted and influenced by large pharmaceutical companies to prescribe certain medication that falls out of the official permission for the ailment and for which there is neither authorization nor empirical evidence of efficacy, is largely unknown to the public in this country. Such prescribing practices, under certain circumstances, may end fatally.
The general election has just started in India on April 11 and are scheduled to run until May 19. In terms of the sheer volume of the election – 900 million voters, spread across the continental expanse of the country – India is the world’s largest electoral democracy. It is also perhaps the most expensive insofar as the cost of electoral competition to political parties is concerned. Except for the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Communist Parties, political parties in India do not have strong organizations like European political parties. Come election: parties scramble for workers and organizers to run the campaign and gifts to motivate voters. With a huge number of parties – with thirty-one national and regional parties, 2044 registered unrecognized parties and a total of 8,251 candidates who contested for the 543 Lok Sabha (lower house) seats, the 2014 parliamentary elections involved a huge number of people. That gives an idea of why the total funds that elections cost are so enormous. It has been estimated that the funds that the parties and candidates spent in the 2009 general election were around $2 billion and the sums involved in 2014 were to the tune of $5 billion. The current parliamentary elections are likely to be the most expensive general elections in Indian history, and perhaps one of the most expensive ever held in any democratic state.
Much has been reported about the abuse in the Catholic Church and there are now numerous excellent studies on it. The Catholic Church is finally responding. Though hesitant, as became discernable at the end of the four-day crisis-summit in the Vatican, the Pope after all officially warned that the cover-up of the acts of abuse in the Catholic Church must be put to an end. Still, it remains a riddle why the Church did not simply reassign the suspected priests to administration or a convent, but often into new churches – where they again had access to children, to potentially new victims. Sometimes there were even exchanges between the dioceses, according to the motto: I take your problem case, if you help me with another problem or with my problem case. That’s the scandal behind the scandal.
Gattaca is a 1997 Hollywood film which features the distinctions between genetically improved humans and the naturally conceived ones, known as “in-valids” or “God-children”. The title “Gattaca” is composed of the abbreviations of the four nucleobases of DNA: A for adenine, C for cytosine, G for guanine and T for thymine. The sequence of these bases as GATTACA can surprisingly often be found in human DNA. Now in China, for the first time ever, the path seems to have been opened for genetically engineered humans, as the twins “Nana” and “Lulu”, were born into the world. Another genetically edited baby is to follow. This has not yet been confirmed by appropriate publications. But the Chinese authorities have not contradicted that and Dr. He Jiankui, the scientist in question, has already been kept under guard on the basis of preliminary investigations. The Chinese Ministry of Health responded to this issue in a prompt manner not typical of the unwieldy bureaucracy in Beijing and ordered any research projects of similar nature to be immediately halted.
Christmas in Jamaica means: 30 ° C, sunshine and party-non-stop. When the “CrisMus Breeze” arrives in early December, the exuberant parties and festivities for which Jamaica has been famous and notorious since the slaveholding era. On Christmas Eve there is also a big celebration and breakfast is served with ackee and saltfish, breadfruit and boiled bananas. After the Christmas fair, steel drums and reggae versions of popular Christmas carols provide the well-known Caribbean touch.
Cum-cum and cum-ex transactions (Cum/Ex) enabled “the biggest tax theft in the history of Europe”, concluded Dr. Christoph Spengel, Professor of Business Taxation at the University of Mannheim, who had prepared a report for the 4th Enquiry Committee of the German Bundestag on Cum/Ex. A German insider, who worked as a lawyer for a long time on specialized Cum/Ex transactions, spilled the beans in front of the running camera. He reports exclusively from the “engine room” of this “devil’s machine,” as he calls it. After 14 months of interrogation by the Cologne public prosecutor, he was able to convince himself that he was part of a system of “organized crime in pinstripes” between 2006 and 2011. What has actually happened and what is behind the scandal?
Imagine a world where integrity, morality and virtue rule the roost: would that be a better world? Companies, in particular, seem to be very occupied with this idea to steer their employees through the medium of morality. Would there really be no more crime in this world of saints though and would it be a better world?
It must be bedevilled. In Brazil’s presidential election, there is no genuine alternative to political corruption, except to vote for dictatorship. He who wants to know something about the culture of political corruption in Brazil just has to watch the election campaign. Geraldo Alckmin, the candidate of the rather right-wing Social Democratic Party (PSDB), who leads an eight-party coalition, is under investigation by the prosecutors for illegal party financing. He is suspected to have got roughly 2.5 million USD in illegal funding for the campaign to get him re-elected as the governor of São Paulo in 2014. The money was donated by Odebrecht, a construction company deeply implicated in various corruption scandals. Fernando Haddad, the stooge of ex-President Lula da Silva and the candidate of Labour Party (PT), is also accused by the prosecutors of illegally receiving from the construction company UTC nearly 650.000 USD for his campaign to run for the mayor of São Paulo in 2012. The prosecutors believe that these undeclared campaign donations were associated with unlawful favours enjoyed by the construction companies.