Thursday, November 29, 2012

Do Not Track Mediator Appointed

In an international effort to give consumers control over collection of their online data, law professor Peter Swire was named mediator by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The international group is developing standards that allow Internet users to keep their online activities private from advertisers. Coming up with a global standard for “Do Not Track,” a computer browser setting permitting users to signal they don't want their browsing activities tracked for marketing purposes, is proving tough amidst a fight between industry execs and privacy advocates. Parties on both sides welcomed the move, but remain doubtful Swire could bring opponents to agreement, especially at a time when some are questioning whether the W3C is the appropriate forum. It is reported that Swire, former chief counselor for privacy at the Office of Management and Budget, hopes to strike a balance palatable to both sides and views the effort as creating the digital equivalent of the Do Not Call list. Even as negotiations continue, newer versions of browsers such as Internet Explorer and Chrome already provide Do Not Track settings for their users. However, in the absence of accepted global standards, ad networks and data brokers are not yet honoring the browser tracking flags. See story at

Monday, November 26, 2012

Egypt's Justice Minister emerges as mediator in decree dispute

Just after mediating a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, President of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, claimed power beyond review of any court while drafting a new constitution, which was met with protests reminiscent of the Arab Spring that empowered him. Morsi defends his decree, insisting that it is merely temporary. Egypt's Justice Minister now looks to prevent escalating the battle between Egypt's new Islamist leaders and the institutions of its past secular government. Justice Minister, Ahmed Mekki, is an influential former leader of the movement for judicial independence. Mekki is focused on the scope of the President's decree, which opponents say could be a first step towards a new Islamist autocracy. Morsi doesn't want Mubarak-appointed judges interfering. Mekki is encouraging a much narrower edict, rather than asserting sweeping immunity from judicial review. Mekki already met with the high council overseeing Egyptian courts which was receptive to his proposed compromise. With each side mired in suspicion of the other, a deep mistrust must be overcome. The first attempt to form a constitutional assembly was annulled by judges, and the latest version has been plagued by complaints that Islamists are ignoring minority concerns. Today, Morsi is to meet Egypt's highest judicial authority, the Supreme Judicial Council, and it is reported the council has already hinted at compromise-- likely due to Mekki's mediation efforts. See news items at and

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Can Mediation Save Twinkies?

As the nation mourns the loss of Hostess treats, a bankruptcy judge eager to save thousands of jobs directed the parties to mediate in a last-ditch effort to avoid winding down the company. Hostess Brands and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Union, which represents over five thousand Hostess workers, are meeting today with a mediator to narrow their differences toward a labor agreement. If mediation succeeds, it could prevent the liquidation and save 18,500 jobs. The 82-year-old baking company filed for Chapter 11 again this year, just three years after emerging from bankruptcy. At the time, the company said it was unable to pay its debts and needed to make deep cuts in labor costs to survive. Hostess was able to reach a new contract with the Teamsters, its largest union. But talks between the company and the bakery workers deadlocked, and the union went on strike with management declaring plans to liquidate last week. Judge Robert D. Drain of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York pushed for one last round of talks. At a hearing yesterday, the judge expressed dismay that neither side had exhausted all efforts to avoid liquidation. Some thought the company was bluffing that a buyer was going to come save the company. Potential suitors include Flowers Foods and Grupo Bimbo, the world’s largest bread-baking company which already owns parts of Entenmann’s, Thomas’ English muffins and Sara Lee. Perhaps this effort can save jobs and a favorite of America's sweet tooth. See full story here-

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hamas leader on truce prospects: "Maybe never"

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stopped in Cairo on his way to Israel, joining Egyptian mediated talks between Hamas and Israel with a goal of bringing about a cease-fire. Continued instability in the region, including civil war in Syria, protests against the crown in Jordan, and the rise of militants in Libya, could be impacted by the recent fighting in Israel to further ignite the region. Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Meshaal showed no signs that an agreement was imminent, seeking demands, but saying it is Israel's responsibility to stop. While participation in talks is an encouraging sign, it seems positional bargaining could lead to intractable positions and escalation. After existing as a pariah at odds with the Palestinian Authority, and with Syria and Iran as its primary allies, Hamas is emboldened by recent support. Hamas is armed with stronger rockets and now receives backing from key regional governments formerly allied with Israel who have recently changed to Islamist control, such as Egypt and Turkey. Asked if Hamas wants a truce with Israel, Meshaal responded, "Maybe today or tomorrow," he said, "or maybe never." See

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Apple and HTC bury handset hatchet, will others?

Apple and HTC this week announced a broad ten-year licensing agreement that settles all lawsuits between the smartphone makers. Last spring, a Delaware court ordered Apple and HTC to meet before Labor Day in the hopes that they could shake hands and put an end to an escalating legal battle through mediation. Apple's CEO, Tim Cook, while reportedly not a fan of lawsuits, did take the Samsung patent case to trial this year. HTC of Taiwan was eager to eliminate handset shipping delays stemming from Apple's court wins. The global settlement to their patent battle includes current and future patents held by both companies. HTC agreed to pay Apple $6 to $8 in licensing fees for each Android phone it sells, estimated at as much as $280 million to be paid to Apple annually from HTC's expected shipments. Apple first sued HTC for infringing on patents related to the iPhone in 2010, as part of the war against Google Android phones and its manufacturing partners declared by Apple’s founder Steve Jobs. Apple and HTC have since fought in courts around the world, with Apple winning multiple decisions. Industry experts comment that the terms of this agreement could be used as a blueprint for future settlements with other Android manufacturers, including Samsung and Motorola. See more at and

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Mediation in French Google Content Case?

Google is open to the idea of appointing a mediator to help end its dispute with French media sites that desire Google pay for links to their content. French President Francois Hollande warned his government might introduce a bill to force search engines to pay for media content. French government officials proposed nominating a mediator to help dialogue between the internet company and news editors following a meeting with Google's Eric Schmidt. Google said it would exclude French media sites on search results if France were to adopt the bill requiring search engines to pay to link to news websites. Italian and German firms also demand Google share some of the advertising revenue from user searches for news on websites. Google is also fighting a billion dollar plus tax bill from France, but Schmidt remains hopeful of a settlement by year's end, and maintains compliance with tax laws in all countries of operation. A Paris appeals court already rejected a request by Google to invalidate search and seizure of documents by French tax authorities. Apparently, Google's European headquarters are based in Ireland which reduces the amount of tax it pays. See more at:

Friday, November 2, 2012

More major league sports mediation-- NHL?

This week,'s Pierre LeBrun reached out to prominent U.S. federal mediator George Cohen to seek his opinion on the state of the NHL lockout, due to his participation in ending both the NBA and NFL lockouts last year. About a quarter of the NHL hockey season has already been cancelled due to the lockout. As expected, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) director declined the interview request. However, LeBrun says Cohen mentioned he'd been in contact with both parties in the NHL-NHLPA negotiations. Fans have inquired whether a mediator could help dislodge the stalemate over NHL labor talks. However, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly only commented the parties had been in touch with the FMCS and didn't think that the introduction of a mediator into the process would necessarily further the process. As for the players' union, the NHLPA reportedly hasn't been in contact with FMCS since July. So far, according to players, the union seems willing to stick together, believing that the league is trying to wait and see if players crack. Others want NHLPA leadership back negotiating with the NHL to explore flexibility from the league on key bargaining points. See: and