Latest Developments, May 10

In the latest news and analysis…

Bleeding a continent
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan argues that stopping the “plunder” of Africa by foreign investors will require multilateral efforts:

“The scale of the losses sustained by Africa is not widely recognized. Transfer pricing — the practice of shifting profits to lower tax jurisdictions — costs the continent $34 billion annually — more than the region receives in bilateral aid. Put differently, you could double aid by cutting this version of tax evasion. The extensive use made by foreign investors of offshore-registered companies operating from jurisdictions with minimal reporting requirements actively facilitates tax evasion. It is all but impossible for Africa’s understaffed and poorly resourced revenue authorities to track real profits through the maze of shell companies, holding companies and offshore entities used by investors.

It is time to draw back the veil of secrecy behind which too many companies operate. Every tax jurisdiction should be required to publicly disclose the full beneficial ownership structure of registered companies. Switzerland, Britain and the United States — all major conduits for offshore finance — should signal intent to clamp down on illicit financial flows.”

Orders to kill
The Guatemala Times reports that the security chief of a mine owned by Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources has been caught on tape demanding that protesters be killed:

“The information reveals Rotondo making several statements: ‘God dam dogs, they do not understand that the mine generates jobs’. ‘We must eliminate these animal pieces of shit’. ‘We can not allow people to establish resistance, another Puya no’. ‘Kill those sons of bitches’.

Rotondo was apprehended at the airport La Aurora, when he trying to flee the country. Wire tapping of conversations between him and his son reveal that he planned to leave Guatemala for a while, because ‘I ordered to kill some of these sons of Bitches.’ ”

Bad suits
Bloomberg reports on the boom in investor-state arbitration which one critic likens to a “a quiet, slow-moving coup d’état”:

“Arbitration clauses were originally included in treaties to deal with the nationalization or a company’s assets. Now arbitrators hear claims for lost business or costs stemming from public-health laws and environmental regulation and financial policies, with billions of dollars at stake.
In some instances, investors are even demanding that national laws or court judgments be overturned.

A record 62 treaty-based arbitration cases were filed last year, bringing the total to 480 since 2000, according to the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development. Before then, there were fewer than three a year dating to 1987, when a Hong Kong company brought the first known case over Sri Lanka’s destruction of a shrimp farm in a military operation against Tamil separatists.”

Court politics
The BBC reports that Kenya has asked the International Criminal Court to halt the trials of newly elected president Uhuru Kenyatta and deputy president William Ruto:

“The letter, sent last week, says the prosecutions are ‘neither impartial nor independent’ and could destabilise Kenya.
The UN Security Council is able to defer ICC cases for up to 12 months.
The deferral can be renewed indefinitely, but the Security Council cannot order the court to drop a case.”

Imperial crimes
Author Pankaj Mishra discusses Britain’s apparent “collective need to forget crimes and disasters” that occurred in the time of Empire:

“Astonishingly, British imperialism, seen for decades by western scholars and anticolonial leaders alike as a racist, illegitimate and often predatory despotism, came to be repackaged in our own time as a benediction that, in [Niall] Ferguson’s words, ‘undeniably pioneered free trade, free capital movements and, with the abolition of slavery, free labour’. Andrew Roberts, a leading mid-Atlanticist, also made the British empire seem like an American neocon wet dream in its alleged boosting of ‘free trade, free mobility of capital … low domestic taxation and spending and ‘gentlemanly’ capitalism’.
Never mind that free trade, introduced to Asia through gunboats, destroyed nascent industry in conquered countries, that ‘free’ capital mostly went to the white settler states of Australia and Canada, that indentured rather than ‘free’ labour replaced slavery, and that laissez faire capitalism, which condemned millions to early death in famines, was anything but gentlemanly.”

Toxic environments
Inter Press Service reports on new evidence suggesting the health impacts of toxic waste in poor countries are “on par” with those of malaria:

“Toxic waste sites in 31 countries are damaging the brains of nearly 800,000 children and impairing the health of millions of people in the developing world, two new studies have found.

Toxic sites ‘fly under the radar’ in terms of public health awareness and action. Little research has been done on the health impacts of chemical pollutants in developing countries.”

Syrian agenda
The National reports a Syrian rebel commander’s account of US attempts late last year to pit Syria’s insurgents against one another:

“The Americans began discussing the possibility of drone strikes on [Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat] Al Nusra camps inside Syria and tried to enlist the rebels to fight their fellow insurgents.

‘I’m not going to lie to you. We’d prefer you fight Al Nusra now, and then fight Assad’s army. You should kill these Nusra people. We’ll do it if you don’t,’ the rebel leader quoted the officer as saying.

‘They [foreign governments] are not fighting for the same things as us,’ [the rebel leader] said. ‘Syrians are fighting for our freedom, while they just want us to bleed to death fighting each other.’ ”

Toothless watchdog
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting argues that many mainstream US media outlets are failing once again “to treat [weapons of mass destruction] claims with the skepticism they deserve”:

“Seeing public reticence for another war as a ‘problem’ provides a revealing glimpse into the mindset of so many pundits, who are once again rallying in support of U.S. military action based on sketchy reports about weapons of mass destruction.”

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