Latest Developments, June 22

 

In the latest news and analysis…

Epic fail
The Guardian reports that major NGOs are slamming world leaders for their unwillingness to make firm commitments at the Rio+20 summit on sustainable development:

“ ‘They say they can’t put money on the table because of the economic crisis, but they spend money on greedy banks and on saving those who caused the crisis. They spend $1 trillion a year on subsidies for fossil fuels and then tell us they don’t have any money to give to sustainable development,’ [said Greenpeace’s Daniel Mittler]”

ACTA rejected
Reuters reports that the European Parliament’s trade committee has voted down the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which enjoyed the support of the European Commission but faced widespread public opposition:

“The cross-party vote is a signal the legislature will reject ACTA in a final vote on July 4, the first time the European Parliament would write off an international trade agreement since an increase in its powers in 2008.
[British MEP David] Martin said the European Parliament has the authority to ratify commercial treaties, meaning that rejection would preclude any EU member state from signing up on its own.”

Refugee drownings
The Associated Press reports that “scores” of people thought to be asylum seekers may have drowned after a ship capsized between Indonesia and Australia:

“Christmas Island, in the Indian Ocean, is closer to Indonesia than the Australian mainland. It is a popular target for a growing number of asylum seekers, many from Iran, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka, who attempt to reach Australia on overcrowded fishing boats from Indonesia – sometimes with deadly consequences.”

Renditions Inc.
Reprieve has released the first in a series of investigations outing companies alleged to have benefited from the CIA practice of sending suspected terrorists to “black sites,” in this case, a secret prison in Poland:

“The documents show how:
– Private military contractor DynCorp Systems and Solutions arranged the trip for the US Government at a cost of over $330,000
– A Gulfstream jet, identified as N63MU and operated by First Flight / Airborne Inc. carried out the mission
– The round trip from Washington DC passed through Anchorage and Osaka, picked up the prisoners in Bangkok, and transported them via Dubai to the remote Szymany airfield in Poland, before returning via London Luton
– Trip planners Universal Weather and Aviation arranged logistics for the trip”

New pharma plan
Intellectual Property Watch reports that a new pharmaceutical industry initiative, the HIV Medicines Alliance, ostensibly aimed at facilitating access to HIV treatments for poor people, is raising questions about whether it represents a “good-faith effort”:

“Looking at the draft charter from early June, the initiative aims to encourage companies to share in-kind support and patented products royalty-free to least-developed countries under arrangements with generics companies, and demonstrates flexibility on industry’s part.
But it could stop short of a firm commitment to lower prices and availability. For instance, the draft language states that it would ‘work to enable the availability of medicines developed through this Alliance at the lowest possible prices,’ which is perhaps different than stating that the medicines will be available and at prices poor populations can afford.
The new initiative, organised by the Wellcome Trust, reportedly involves Johnson & Johnson and Merck, two companies that have declined to enter negotiations with the [Medicines] Patent Pool.”

Robin Hood in America
Inter Press Service reports that 52 financial sector professionals have signed a letter calling on the US Congress to adopt a financial transaction tax:

“The tax would cover stock trading, derivatives and other financial instruments, but, proponents say, would have a significant impact only on so-called high-frequency trades, in which computer-driven speculators typically hold stocks for mere milliseconds.
‘These taxes will rebalance financial markets away from a short-term trading mentality that has contributed to instability in our financial markets,’ the letter stated. ‘The primary role of financial markets is to raise investment, allocate resources efficiently, and mitigate risk. However, much of today’s financial activity does not contribute to these goals.’ ”

Secret talks
The Globe and Mail’s Gary Mason expresses surprise at the apparent lack of public concern over the “clandestine nature” of Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations:

“According to Public Citizen, the trade deal would limit the extent to which signatory countries could regulate foreign firms operating within their boundaries, effectively giving them greater freedoms than domestic firms.
It also reveals that all of the countries except Australia have agreed to terms around the operation of foreign tribunals, which would arbitrate disputes. The tribunals would be staffed by private-sector lawyers who would rotate between acting as judges and acting as advocates for the investors who might be suing a particular government over a TPP-related matter. Talk about a potential conflict of interest.”

Green recession
The Land Institute’s Stan Cox argues that the fixation “at the top of the global economy” on perpetual growth and ever greater profits makes it impossible to achieve environmental sustainability:

“If we regard limitless growth of the human economy as being essential, then we are asking for the impossible. We’ll burst through all nine of those [planetary] boundaries (and others), ecosystems worldwide will crash, and that will succeed in doing what we failed to do: to put a permanent stop to economic growth.
Reversal of growth could instead be achieved preemptively, to ward off such a collapse. The burden of that intentional contraction, however, must be borne by the rich corporations, governments, and populations of the global North, because that’s where the sheer volume of growth has been greatest, with a corresponding impact on the ecosphere. Impoverished nations, on the other hand, have contributed far less to global breakdown and must be permitted some headroom for the growth required to meet people’s basic needs.”

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