Latest Developments, July 23

In the latest news and analysis…

Legal first
The Globe and Mail reports that a Canadian court has ruled that Canada’s HudBay Minerals can be sued in Canada over alleged human rights abuses in Guatemala:

“The decision opens the door to other cases in which companies could face liability on their home turf for incidents that happen overseas.

In the Guatemalan lawsuits, one case involved the alleged beating, machete hacking and killing of a local Mayan community leader who voiced opposition to the mine: Adolfo Ich Chaman. Another man was shot and now uses a wheelchair. There are also allegations that 11 women were gang-raped by men in mine security uniforms.”

Mortal sin
The New York Times reports that UK pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline’s ethical lapses in China may go well beyond recent bribery allegations:

“The [auditors'] report revealed that the drug’s project leader belatedly learned the results of three studies of ozanezumab in mice. During their investigation, auditors came across six studies whose results had not been reported, even though early trials in humans were already under way.

‘If that’s true, it’s a mortal sin in research requirements,’ said Arthur L. Caplan, the head of the division of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center. He served as the chairman of an advisory committee on bioethics at Glaxo from 2005 to 2008. ‘No one could approve human trials without having that information available, scientifically or ethically. That’s kind of a Rock-of-Gibraltar-sized ethics violation.’ ”

Bad treaties
Lee Sheppard writes in Forbes that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s new “action plan” on corporate tax avoidance, endorsed by the G20, is unlikely to help poor countries:

“Multinationals are doing business and extracting resources from poor countries without paying for the costs of their activities or otherwise contributing to the cost of government. Insufficient corporate tax payments are not the full extent of their depredations.
A couple decades ago, many developing countries signed OECD model treaties with developed countries that are home to multinationals. They didn’t realize the full ramifications of the concessions they were making. They were told that a tax treaty is good for inbound investment. The fact is that multinationals will do business in any country where there is money to be made, tax treaty or not. Ask Brazil, which has no tax treaty with the United States.
Developing countries should not sign OECD model tax treaties.”

Criminal words
The Independent reports that a French politician is under investigation for “apologising for crimes against humanity” after allegedly making anti-Roma comments:

“Gilles Bourdouleix, who is also the MP for Cholet, near Nantes, made the comment after 150 traveller caravans moved on to a municipally owned field near his town on Sunday.
The gypsies refused requests to move on and made Nazi salutes at the mayor, according to reports. A regional newspaper, the Courrier de L’Ouest, reported that Mr Bourdouleix then turned away and said: ‘Maybe Hitler didn’t kill enough of them.’ ”

Secret war
Foreign Policy reports on what appears to be an undeclared, escalating and illegal war waged by the US in Somalia:

“Last year, according to [the UN Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea], the United States violated the international arms embargo on Somalia by dispatching American special operations forces in Russian M-17 helicopters to northern Somalia in support of operations by the intelligence service of Puntland, a breakaway Somali province.

Two U.S. air-charter companies linked to American intelligence activities in Somalia have increased the number of clandestine flights to Mogadishu and the breakaway province of Puntland by as much as 25 percent last year.

The flights — which have not been reported to the U.N. Security Council — suggest a further strengthening of American cooperation with Somalia’s National Intelligence Agency in Mogadishu and the Puntland Intelligence Service, which has been cooperating with U.S. counterterrorism operations for more than a decade.”

Corrupting perceptions
The Center for Global Development’s Alex Cobham argues that Transparency International’s oft-cited corruption ranking of countries provides “an unhelpfully distorted reflection of the truth”:

“[University of Minnesota law professor Stuart Vincent] Campbell writes that, in contrast to the [Corruption Perceptions Index] ranking which in 2010 put Brazil 69th, behind Italy and Rwanda, ‘The 2010 Global Corruption Barometer [based on a broader survey of Brazilian citizens] found that only 4 percent of Brazilians had paid a bribe, which is a lower percentage of bribe-givers than the survey found in the United States or any other country in Latin America.’

The CPI embeds a powerful and misleading elite bias in popular perceptions of corruption, potentially contributing to a vicious cycle and at the same time incentivizing inappropriate policy responses. The index corrupts perceptions to the extent that it’s hard to see a justification for its continuing publication. For the good of the organization, its important aims and the many people committed to its success, Transparency International should drop the Corruption Perceptions Index.”

Raw deal
Oxfam’s Jennifer Lentfer reproduces US Congressional testimony, including that of NFL star Anquan Boldin, on whether there is such a thing as an “African resource curse”:

“Meanwhile, the community that lost its land sees little benefit from the enormous mine in what was once their backyard. No percentage of the revenue from the mine, which is bigger than several football stadiums and brings in untold revenues, ever makes its way back to the community. The mining company did leave the community with one gift though. Because the mining company also took ownership of the community’s water source, they built a brand new well in the middle of the community. They now have access to water whenever the company decides to turn on the water (which is rare), and assuming they’ve paid their monthly bill to the mining company. This is the definition of a raw deal.”

Latest Developments, May 27

In the latest news and analysis…

European arms
The Guardian reports that EU sanctions against Syria have “collapsed” due to disagreement over supplying arms to rebels:

“Michael Spindelegger, the Austrian vice-chancellor and foreign minister, voicing anger at the outcome, directly blamed the collapse on the UK, with the sanctions regime ending at midnight on Friday.

He added that France joined Britain in demanding a lifting of the arms embargo, in order to supply weapons to what they call the ‘moderate’ opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s regime, but that the other 25 member states were opposed”

Mali election
Agence France-Presse reports that Mali will hold the first round of presidential elections on July 28, keeping to a timetable insisted upon by France, whose troops have led the fight against Islamist rebels in its former colony:

“Acting president Dioncounda Traore has said that neither he nor his ministers will stand in the polls, which will go to a second round on August 11 if required.

Paris has said about 1,000 soldiers will remain in Mali beyond this year to back up a UN force of 12,600 peacekeepers that is to replace [the International Mission for Support to Mali] gradually from July and will be responsible for stabilising the north.

The international community hopes the July elections will produce an effective government but Mali’s national electoral commission has voiced concerns about the tight timeframe.”

French intervention
Reuters reports that French special forces helped kill suspects in the twin bombings of a Nigerien military camp and a French-owned uranium mine, meaning that French troops have now killed people in at least four African countries (after Mali, Somalia and the Central African Republic) so far this year:

“The coordinated dawn attacks killed 24 soldiers and one civilian and damaged machinery at Areva’s Somair mine in the remote town of Arlit, a key supplier of uranium to France’s nuclear power programme. The attacks raised fears that Mali’s conflict could spread to neighbouring West African states and brought an Islamist threat closer to France’s economic interests.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told BFM television that special forces had intervened at the request of Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou. France stationed special forces in northern Niger to help protect its desert uranium mines, providing one-fifth of the fuel for France’s reactors.”

Pascua Lama on hold
The Associated Press reports that Chile has blocked a mining project owned by Canada’s Barrick Gold and imposed the maximum fine over “very serious” environmental violations:

“After a four-month investigation, the Environmental Superintendent said all other construction work on Pascua-Lama must stop until Barrick builds the systems it promised to put in place beforehand for containing contaminated water.

Chile’s regulator noted that while Barrick itself reported failures, a separate and intensive investigation already begun by the agency’s own inspectors found that the company wasn’t telling the full truth.
‘We found that the acts described weren’t correct, truthful or provable. And there were other failures of Pascua Lama’s environmental permit as well,’ said the superintendent, Juan Carlos Monckeberg.”

Racialized justice
Reuters reports that Ethiopian prime minister and current African Union chairman Hailemariam Desalegn has denounced the International Criminal Court for its seemingly exclusive focus on Africa:

“The Hague-based court was set up to bring the perpetrators of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity to justice – a mission that Hailemariam said it has lost sight of.
‘The intention was to avoid any kind of impunity but now the process has degenerated into some kind of race-hunting,’ Hailemariam told reporters at the end of African Union summit in Addis Ababa. ‘So we object to that.’
During the summit, African leaders backed a Kenyan proposal for the tribunal to refer its cases against President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy for alleged crimes against humanity back to Kenya.”

Food protests
The Associated Press reports that organizers said protests against US agribusiness giant Monsanto took place in more than 50 countries over the weekend:

“Organizers said ‘March Against Monsanto’ protests were held in 52 countries and 436 cities, including Los Angeles where demonstrators waved signs that read ‘Real Food 4 Real People’ and ‘Label GMOs, It’s Our Right to Know.’

Protesters in Buenos Aires and other cities in Argentina, where Monsanto’s genetically modified soy and grains now command nearly 100 percent of the market, and the company’s Roundup-Ready chemicals are sprayed throughout the year on fields where cows once grazed. They carried signs saying ‘Monsanto-Get out of Latin America’ ”

Hoarding secrets
Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia has said its response to a deadly “SARS-like virus” has been hampered by a Dutch lab’s patent rights:

“[Saudi Arabia's Deputy Health Minister Ziad Memish] said [the coronavirus] was taken out of the country without permission and Saudi Arabia only learned of its discovery from ProMED, a U.S.-based internet-based reporting system.
The Rotterdam-based Erasmus lab then patented the process for synthesizing the virus, meaning that anyone else who wanted to use their method to study it would have to pay the lab.
The patenting had delayed the development of diagnostic kits and serologic tests for the disease, Memish said.”

Asylum denied
A new report by Amnesty International accuses governments around the world of enacting immigration policies that threaten the rights and even the lives of people fleeing conflict in their home countries:

“The European Union implements border control measures that put the lives of migrants and asylum-seekers at risk and fails to guarantee the safety of those fleeing conflict and persecution. Around the world, migrants and asylum-seekers are regularly locked up in detention centres and in worst case scenarios are held in metal crates or even shipping containers.
The rights of huge numbers of the world’s 214 million migrants were not protected by their home or their host state. Millions of migrants worked in conditions amounting to forced labour – or in some cases slavery-like conditions – because governments treated them like criminals and because corporations cared more about profits than workers’ rights. Undocumented migrants were particularly at risk of exploitation and human rights abuse.”

Latest Developments, April 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Thatcher’s legacy
The Guardian reports on some of the ways that the news of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s death was met in South Africa, “a country where she found herself on the wrong side of history”:

“ ‘My gut reaction now is what it was at the time when she said my father was the leader of a terrorist organisation,’ [Dali Tambo, son of the African National Congress president Oliver Tambo] said. ‘I don’t think she ever got it that every day she opposed sanctions, more people were dying, and that the best thing for the assets she wanted to protect was democracy.’ ”

Publish what you pay
The Irish Times reports that the European Union has agreed on rules requiring “large companies and public-interest entities” in the extractive industries to report payments they make to governments around the world:

“The legislation, which is unlikely to enter into force before 2016, could have implications for companies such as Tullow Oil, which have a significant presence in Africa. The US introduced similar legislation last year. However, some NGOs had argued that telecommunication and construction companies should also be included in the directive.”

Arms for peace
The Associated Press reports that US President Barack Obama has issued a memo calling for the US to restart arms sales to Somalia in order to “promote world peace”:

“The move follows a decision by the U.N. Security Council, after an appeal from Somali officials, to partially suspend the arms embargo on Somalia for 12 months. The council preserved a ban on exports of a list of heavy military hardware, including surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank guided weapons and night-vision weapons.
The U.S. government has provided funds and training to African Union forces fighting al-Shabab in Somalia, and has also provided more than $133 million to Somalia since 2007 in security sector assistance, intended to help the country build up and professionalize its security forces. Obama’s memorandum on Friday opens the door for military-to-military relations, allowing the U.S. to provide equipment, training and other assistance directly to Somalia’s government and military.”

Word vs. deed
McClatchy has undertaken “the first independent evaluation of internal U.S. intelligence accounting of drone attacks,” which suggests the Obama administration is not doing what it says it is:

“Micah Zenko, an expert with the Council on Foreign Relations, a bipartisan foreign policy think tank, who closely follows the target killing program, said McClatchy’s findings indicate that the administration is ‘misleading the public about the scope of who can legitimately be targeted.’
The documents also show that drone operators weren’t always certain who they were killing despite the administration’s guarantees of the accuracy of the CIA’s targeting intelligence and its assertions that civilian casualties have been ‘exceedingly rare.’

‘The United States has gone far beyond what the U.S. public – and perhaps even Congress – understands the government has been doing and claiming they have a legal right to do,’ said Mary Ellen O’Connell, a Notre Dame Law School professor who contends that CIA drone operations in Pakistan violate international law.”

Going home
Reuters reports that France has taken a first, small step towards pulling its troops out of Mali, though it does not intend to withdraw all of them:

“Paris aims to complete the withdrawal of 3,000 soldiers this year and will keep a permanent 1,000-strong combat force in the former colony to support a U.N. peacekeeping mission of African forces.

‘It’s the start of the pullout,’ [army spokesman] Thierry Burkhard said. ‘The aim is to be down to 2,000 in July.’
Burkhard said that about 100 men from a parachute regiment that had been based in Tessalit, in the foothills of the Adrar des Ifoghas mountain range, had now left Mali.”

New weapon
The New York Times reports the US Navy is deploying a prototype “laser attack weapon” to the Persian Gulf:

“The laser will not be operational until next year, but the announcement on Monday by Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, the chief of naval operations, seemed meant as a warning to Iran not to step up activity in the gulf in the next few months if tensions increase because of sanctions and the impasse in negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program. The Navy released video and still images of the laser weapon burning through a drone during a test firing.
The laser is designed to carry out a graduated scale of missions, from burning through a fast-attack boat or a drone to producing a nonlethal burst to ‘dazzle’ an adversary’s sensors and render them useless without causing any other physical damage.”

History lesson
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urges the international community not to take sides (or at any rate, not to supply arms to one faction or another) in the Syrian conflict:

“Accordingly, we oppose all transfers of weapons, to both the government and the opposition, and we are working to ensure that our airspace and territory are not used for such transfers.
Further militarization of the conflict will only increase the suffering of civilians and strengthen radical groups, including our common enemy, al-Qaeda. We have been mystified by what appears to be the widespread belief in the United States that any outcome in Syria that removes President Bashar al-Assad from power will be better than the status quo. A Syria controlled in whole or part by al-Qaeda and its affiliates — an outcome that grows more likely by the day — would be more dangerous to both our countries than anything we’ve seen up to now. Americans should remember that an unintended consequence of arming insurgents in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets was turning the country over to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.”

Unwanted help
The Telegraph reports that pop icon Madonna was stripped of her VIP status during her latest visit to Malawi, where she is involved in controversial charitable efforts:

“The country’s education minister accused Madonna of ‘exaggerating’ the extent of her charitable work in the country and a request by Madonna for an audience with President Joyce Banda was ignored.

‘She just came unannounced and proceeded to villages and made poor people dance for her. And immigration officials opened the VIP lounge for her just because previously she enjoyed the VIP status,’ the president told a journalist covering the visit.”

Latest Developments, March 14

In the latest news and analysis…

Measuring inequality
The UN Development Programme has released its 2013 Human Development Report, which argues that the vast majority of countries have made progress in recent years but “national averages hide large variations” within countries:

“[Human Development Index] comparisons are typically made between countries in the North and the South, and on this basis the world is becoming less unequal. Nevertheless, national averages hide large variations in human experience, and wide disparities remain within countries of both the North and the South. The United States, for example, had an HDI value of 0.94 in 2012, ranking it third globally. The HDI value for residents of Latin American origin was close to 0.75, while the HDI value for African-Americans was close to 0.70 in 2010–2011. But the average HDI value for an African-American in Louisiana was 0.47. Similar ethnic disparities in HDI achievement in very high HDI countries can be seen in the Roma populations of southern Europe.”

Arming rebels
Time reports that France is pushing hard to lift a European embargo that is preventing the provision of arms to rebels fighting to topple Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad:

“In the most emphatic sign yet that Paris intends to get weapons and ammunition flowing to anti-Assad fighters, French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius said March 14 that if the E.U. and other international partners fail to heed that call, France may act on its own to bolster rebel fighting capacity.
‘The position we’ve taken, with [President] François Hollande, is to demand a lifting the arms embargo… [as] one of the only ways to get the situation moving politically,’ Fabius told France Info radio Thursday morning. Asked what France would do if its partners refused that request, Fabius indicated Paris would act unilaterally, reminding listeners that ‘France is a sovereign nation’.”

Outsourced borders
Jeune Afrique reports that Médecins Sans Frontières has alleged the European Union bears much of the responsibility for the grim conditions migrants endure in Morocco, where it is shutting its operations:

“ ‘In the last 10 years, Brussels has toughened its border controls and externalized its migration policy more and more. From a transit country, Morocco has also become a destination country by default,’ [the MSF report said]. As a result, a large number of undocumented migrants from south of the Sahara, 20,000 to 25,000 according to local organizations, are now waiting in Morocco for a hypothetical journey to European soil via Spain. According to MSF, their vulnerability increases with the length of their stay.” [Translated from the French.]

Chemical contamination
Reuters reports that oil giant Shell and chemical manufacturer BASF have agreed to pay hundreds of millions in compensation to former workers in Brazil for exposure to toxic substances:

“Brazil’s public labor prosecution service said 60 people were killed from prolonged exposure to chemicals used to make pesticides at the plant. The factory began operating in the 1970s in Paulinia in Sao Paulo state until government authorities ordered it to shut down in 2002.

Gislaine Rossetti, a spokeswoman at BASF, told Reuters the companies would not disclose the proportion of the total compensation each would pay. Shell would be solely responsible for reparations linked to soil pollution, she said.”

Gold on hold
Reuters also reports that a shipment from a mine owned by Canada’s two biggest gold mining companies is being detained in the Dominican Republic whose president recently demanded a renegotiation of the mine’s operating contract:

“Fernando Fernandez, director of customs in the Dominican Republic, said the shipment was halted because of a problem with documentation.
‘When it is resolved, the shipment will go out,’ he told reporters.
Pueblo Viejo, one of world’s largest new gold projects, is jointly owned by Barrick and Canada’s second largest gold miner, Goldcorp Inc.
On Feb. 27, in a speech marking the 169th anniversary of the Dominican Republic’s independence, Mr. Medina said the terms of the contract with the two Canadian miners were unacceptable and demanded more benefits from the mine. The contract was negotiated before Mr. Medina took office last August.”

Silent torture
A UN torture expert has called for an investigation into the use of solitary confinement in the Americas:

“ ‘Despite the fact that many examples show that the region of the Americas is not an exception to the global trend of abuses in the use of solitary confinement, I am concerned about the general lack of official information and statistics on the use of solitary confinement,’ Mr. Méndez said, recalling the harmful effects of this widespread practice he comprehensively documented in his 2011 global report to the UN General Assembly (see below).
‘The use of solitary confinement can only be accepted under exceptional circumstances, and should only be applied as a last resort measure in which its length must be as short as possible, it should be duly communicated and it should offer minimum due process guarantees when it is used as a disciplinary sanction,’ the Special Rapporteur said.

He called for the absolute prohibition of solitary confinement on juveniles and persons with mental disabilities and for an equally absolute prohibition on indefinite or prolonged solitary confinement. For purposes of defining what constitutes prolonged solitary confinement, he suggested the benchmark of any term exceeding 15 days.”

Global pillage
Oxfam’s Ben Phillips is happy to report that the issue of land grabs – or “pillage” (on a “truly staggering” scale) as he calls it – has arrived on the agenda of the upcoming G8 meeting:

“Every six days land the size of London is bought and sold – often by people who have never even visited it, sometimes in an online click-and-buy. Some of those who take over the land will grow crops – often for biofuels rather than for food and, when for food, often for export rather than for locals. Others just put up a fence and wait for the price of the land to go up while around them people go hungry.”

Diplomatic anachronism
A Los Angeles Times editorial argues that the US should stop maintaining Cuba on its list of terrorist-sponsoring countries simply because “it disagrees with the United States’ approach to fighting international terrorism, not because it supports terrorism”:

“None of the reasons that landed Cuba on the list in 1982 still exist. A 2012 report by the State Department found that Havana no longer provides weapons or paramilitary training to Marxist rebels in Latin America or Africa. In fact, Cuba is currently hosting peace talks between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and President Juan Manuel Santos’ government. And Cuban officials condemned the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

Clinging to that designation when the evidence for it has passed fails to recognize Cuba’s progress and reinforces doubts about America’s willingness to play fair in the region.”

Latest Developments, March 6

In the latest news and analysis…

Presidential death
The University of London’s Oscar Guardiola-Rivera argues that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose death was announced Tuesday, made his country more inclusive during his 14 years in power:

“Chávez’s Social Missions, providing healthcare and literacy to formerly excluded people while changing their life and political outlook, have proven the extent of such a transformative view. It could be compared to the levelling spirit of a kind of new New Deal combined with a model of social change based on popular and communal organisation.
The facts speak for themselves: the percentage of households in poverty fell from 55% in 1995 to 26.4% in 2009. When Chávez was sworn into office unemployment was 15%, in June 2009 it was 7.8%. Compare that to current unemployment figures in Europe.”

Meddling allegations
The Associated Press reports that a British diplomat has been accused of “shadowy, suspicious and rather animated involvement” in Kenya’s presidential election by supporters of Uhuru Kenyatta who is currently leading as ballot counting continues:

“Kenyatta’s party also asked the high commissioner, Christian Turner, to explain what it called ‘the sudden upsurge of British military personnel’ in Kenya. British troops attend a six-week training course near Mount Kenya before deploying to Afghanistan. A new battle group arrived the week before Kenyans voted.
Britain’s Foreign Office said claims of British interference ‘are entirely false and misleading.’ It said the British soldiers in Kenya are part of a regular training program planned nine months ago ‘completely unrelated to the Kenyan elections.’ ”

New gun market
Reuters reports that the UN Security Council has voted for a British-drafted partial suspension of the longtime arms embargo on Somalia:

“The Security Council resolution would allow sales of such weapons as automatic assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, but leaves in place a ban on surface-to-air missiles, large-caliber guns, howitzers, cannons and mortars as well as anti-tank guided weapons, mines and night vision weapon sights.

Human rights group Amnesty International called one the U.N. Security Council on Monday not to lift arms embargo on Somalia, describing the idea as premature and warning that it could “expose Somali civilians to even greater risk and worsen the humanitarian situation.”

Violent mine
The Daily News reports that two more people have died in clashes at a Tanzanian mine owned by Canadian giant Barrick Gold:

“The [North Mara Gold Mine] has been experiencing frequent invasions carried out by mostly young men targeting gold sand. The intruders have often been clashing with police officers guarding the mine 24 hours. In 2011 five civilians were shot dead after hundreds of people invaded the mine and clashed with anti-riot police.
The mine is also guarded by private security guards. The Canadian miner is currently setting up a multimillion wall fence at Gokona pit in a bid to boost safety and security in one of the country’s largest gold mine located at Nyamongo area.”

Toxic fog
Etiame reports that Togolese fishermen have said they encountered a suffocating cloud at sea, near a coastal area where the World Health Organization noted reports of a “strange” outbreak of coughing and chest pains last month:

“ ‘We were on the high sea that day. It was as if someone had launched tear gas. It stung our nostrils. It was probably toxic discharge from a ship. If it had been pollution from a neighbouring country, it would have dissipated by that point,’ said a visibly perturbed Koffa.” (Translated from the French.)

Protecting assets
The Globe and Mail reports that Canada has negotiated “so-called foreign investment promotion and protection agreements” with Cameroon and Zambia, bringing to seven the number of African countries that have made such deals with Ottawa:

“The FIPAs are meant to give businesses greater confidence to invest at a time when resource nationalism has become one of the leading concerns of the global mining industry. The trend became especially pronounced in recent years as emerging nation’s sought to renegotiate terms of mining investments in the wake of booming prices for metals like gold and copper, trading several times where they were a few years ago even.

Canada has 24 FIPAs in force around the world. It has also concluded the agreements with Benin, Madagascar, Mali, Senegal and Tanzania and is pursuing FIPAs with Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Tunisia.”

Killer deal
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières has said the Trans-Pacific Partnership, currently in its 16th round of negotiations in Singapore, could become “the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines in developing countries”:

“The negotiations are being conducted in secret, but leaked drafts of the agreement include aggressive intellectual property (IP) rules that would restrict access to affordable, lifesaving medicines for millions of people.
Proposed by U.S. negotiators, the IP rules enhance patent and data protections for pharmaceutical companies, dismantle public health safeguards enshrined in international law, and obstruct price-lowering generic competition for medicines.”

Nothing to see here
Reuters reports that Western observers will not be welcome in Zimbabwe during this year’s constitutional and presidential votes, purportedly due to the punitive policies their countries have imposed:

“Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, from Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, told the state-controlled Herald newspaper that Harare would bar U.S. and European Union observers because of sanctions on Mugabe and his inner circle for alleged human rights abuses.
‘To be an observer, you have to be objective and once you impose sanctions on one party, your objectivity goes up in smoke,’ Mumbengegwi, who is responsible for inviting and accrediting foreign observers, was quoted as saying.
‘I do not see why they need to be invited when they have never invited us to monitor theirs.’ ”