Latest Developments, March 13

In the latest news and analysis…

Systemic atrocity
Former US marine Ross Caputi wonders why Americans who are so outraged at the murder of 16 Afghan civilians by a rogue US soldier do not seem to notice when entire families are wiped out by US drones.
“It is believed in the west that some innocent death is excusable in war, as long as the deaths are not intended, and even if those deaths are foreseeable. But if civilian deaths are foreseeable in a course of action, and we take that action anyway, did we not intend them? I doubt Afghans would feel much consolation knowing that their family members were not directly targeted; rather, we just expected that our actions would kill a few people and it happened to be their family members – an unfortunate side-effect of war.

The consequentialist will argue that the good results outweigh the bad, that democracy, freedom and the liberation of Afghan women will improve the lives of Afghans so much that the deaths of a few are justified. This is an easy judgment for westerners to make from the comforts of their own homes; but it stinks of the same patriarchy and arrogance of the white man’s burden that justified colonialism for so many years. Has anyone consulted Afghans and asked them if they think the good that the west has promised will come of this occupation is worth the lives of their family members?”

Transparency flaws
The Tax Justice Network has released a new report in which it calls into question the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s mechanism for assessing the financial transparency of the world’s countries and territories.
“At the time of writing, for instance, the OECD is running a ‘black, white and grey’ list of jurisdictions, according to its internationally agreed tax standard. The blacklist is empty. The grey list consists of three jurisdictions – Nauru, Niue and Guatemala. On this measure, everyone else is clean! Including some of the world’s dirtiest secrecy jurisdictions, such as Panama, the British Virgin Islands and the UAE (Dubai.)”

GOP climate change
The Financial Times looks at the shifting climate-change positions of leading US Republicans.
“[Mitt] Romney and [Newt] Gingrich, along with many other Republicans, had previously supported both the scientific case for climate change and the need to address it, as did the party’s 2008 presidential candidate, John McCain.
Observers have attributed the party’s shift since the last election to a range of factors, including the rise of the anti-regulatory Tea Party and fears about unemployment. Others suggest the change is due to fossil fuel interests using so-called super PACs – the new generation of political action committees empowered by a 2010 Supreme Court ruling allowing businesses and unions to spend much more on political campaigns than previously permitted.”

Sovereignty issues
Former NATO secretary general Javier Solana argues the world must move beyond “certain antiquated ideas about sovereignty.”
“On a global scale, this complex and interdependent world needs an organization of states and structures of governance oriented towards responsible dialogue, the aim being to mitigate abuses of power and defend global public assets. Without such structures, the world risks a competitive and disorderly race to the bottom among states – as often occurs with taxation – together with a protectionist backlash. History has shown that such developments often lead to disastrous conflicts.

Indeed, the dynamics of interdependence have become well established – so much so that they cannot be reversed. To adhere to a narrow Westphalian concept of sovereignty in this world is an unwise anachronism at best, and a dangerous gamble at worst.”

Eternal pollution
Dow Jones Newswires reports that opponents of Newmont Mining’s controversial Minas Conga copper and gold project in Peru have released a paper detailing their environmental concerns.
“ ‘Effluents from the Conga waste rock piles and the tailings will need to be collected and treated forever,’ the report says. ‘Thus, the Conga site will require active maintenance of the remaining facilities and operation of active water treatment facilities, not simply for 50 or 100 years post-closure, but forever.’ ”

Owning workers
The Center for Global Development’s Michael Clemens takes exception to a recent New York Times piece that suggested health workers are being stolen from Africa.
“That article approvingly cites a horrific proposal to put recruiters of health workers on trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity. This is breathtakingly misguided. Recruiters do not ‘steal’ people. They give information to people about jobs those people are qualified for. The professional ambitions of those people have equal value to yours and mine, and those ambitions cannot be realized without information. International recruiters allow African health workers the chance to earn ten to twenty times what they could make at home. In other words, recruiters allow them access to professional opportunities that people like me and Times journalist Matt McAllester take for granted by luck of birthright citizenship.”

Natural solutions
Smallholder farmers hold the key to sustainable food security if they practice “climate-smart agriculture” that often bears little resemblance to the Green Revolution of the 20th Century, according to Rwandan President Paul Kagame and International Fund for Agricultural Development head Kanayo Nwanze.
“On a larger scale, farmers across Rwanda are replacing greenhouse-gas-producing chemical fertilizers with manure. In some areas of the country, smallholders are also now terracing their land and using other natural techniques to improve the soil’s water-retention capacity and quality, as well as to increase their crop yields.
Using these approaches, Rwanda has quadrupled its agricultural production over the past five years. Indeed, thanks to such remarkable progress in such a short time, Rwanda is now a food-secure country.”

Wrong changes
In a Q&A with Al Jazeera, Pambazuka News editor Firoze Manji discusses the likely impacts of the controversial viral video Kony 2012.
“What meaningful change will this bring about, other than reinforcing prejudices about ‘the African savage’, someone who needs to be civilised by the white man?
What difference will it make to those villagers and farmers who have been locked up in protected villages? What meaningful change will this bring about to the grabbing of vast territories of land for oil exploitation by multinational corporations?
What this story will legitimise is the greater presence of US troops on African soil seemingly to deal with the [Lord’s Resistance Army], an already defeated entity.”

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