Latest Developments, November 15

In the latest news and analysis…

Suspicious behaviour
Radio France Internationale asks if France, despite official denials, is preparing for military intervention in the Central African Republic:

“A French Navy vessel, the projection and command ship Dixmude, is slated to sail soon from Toulon with approximately 300 troops for a position in the Gulf of Guinea. This large amphibious ship will also be carrying vehicles and helicopters.

And from the port of Douala, Bangui is only 1,400 kilometres away. French military commanders know the route well, since their troops passed through Cameroon during the 2008 European Union Force mission in Chad and CAR.” (Translated from the French.)

Lowering the bar
The Guardian reports on trouble at the COP 19 climate talks as rich, polluting countries seem to be losing their appetite for reducing carbon emissions:

“The UN climate talks in Warsaw, Poland, were faced with a new crisis on Friday, after Japan, the world’s fifth largest greenhouse gas emitter, slashed its plans to reduce emissions from 25% to just 3.8% on 2005 figures.
The move was immediately criticised as ‘irresponsible’ and ‘unambitious’ by developing countries and climate groups at the talks.

The Japanese announcement follows open criticism by Australia and Canada of policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in their countries, and reluctance from the US and Europe to aim for more ambitious emissions cuts.”

More migrant deaths
Reuters reports that 12 migrants have drowned off the Greek coast, “adding to the hundreds of deaths this year” as people try to reach Europe via the Mediterranean:

“The coastguard found fifteen survivors on the shore opposite the Ionian island of Lefkada and recovered 12 bodies, four of them children aged between three and six, another official said.

Crisis-hit Greece, Italy and Malta, the EU’s gate-keepers, have repeatedly pressed European Union partners to do more to solve the migrant crisis, which the Maltese prime minister said was turning the Mediterranean into a ‘cemetery’.”

History matters
The Overseas Development Institute’s Jonathan Glennie argues that rich countries must start viewing development finance as “reparation for damage done” rather than aid:

“Furthermore, it is widely known that trade rules and conditions past and present, set by rich countries, continue to have devastating effects on poor countries and poor people within them. Even Bill Clinton, the former US president, has publicly apologised for policies that ruined rice production in Haiti, to the benefit of US producers.
Rather than making a song and dance about how much aid we are sending countries where production has been decimated by rules serving rich-country interests, such money should be offered in compensation for harm done (most importantly, of course, the rules on protection, subsidies and quotas should be urgently changed).

Now it is an accepted UN principle that the west should fund the investments required in other countries to respond to climate change, it is logical that the same principle should be extended to other areas, including not only other forms of environmental damage such as overfishing, but also slavery, colonisation and unfair trade and finance rules.”

Developed economies?
Mongabay reports on the release of new data that suggests G8 countries account for three of the world’s four top deforesters since 2000:

“Dan Zarin, program director of the Climate and Land Use Alliance, an association of philanthropic foundations, says trading natural forests for planted forests represents a net loss for the planet.
‘You can’t “net out” deforestation by planting trees,’ said Zarin, ‘because newly planted forests are far less valuable for carbon, biodiversity and forest-dependent people than standing native forests.’
Malaysia’s rate of forest loss during the period was nearly 50 percent higher than the next runner up, Paraguay (9.6 percent). Its area of forest loss ranked ninth after Russia, Brazil, the United States, Canada, Indonesia, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Australia.”

Drone decline
The Federation of American Scientists reports that the US military’s investments in drones are on “a distinctly downward slope”:

“The FY 2014 budget request included $2.3 billion for research, development, and procurement of unmanned aerial systems, a decrease of $1.1 billion from the request for the fiscal year 2013.
‘Annual procurement of UAS has gone from 1,211 in fiscal 2012 to 288 last year to just 54 in the proposed FY14 budget,’ according to a recently published congressional hearing volume.”

Not good enough
Human Rights Watch calls on Western clothing brands to do more to prevent worker deaths in Bangladeshi garment factories:

“Seven people died in the fire at Aswad Composite Mills on October 8. Aswad supplied fabric for other Bangladeshi factories to turn into garments for North American and European clients such as Walmart, Gap, H&M and Carrefour. The Bangladesh government and one of the retailers, Primark, said they had uncovered safety violations at the factory prior to the fire but no action was taken. Other companies said they had not inspected Aswad because they did not have a direct relationship with it.

In the wake of the collapse of the Rana Plaza complex, which killed more than 1,100 garment workers in April 2013, most foreign retailers operating in Bangladesh have pledged to help improve the fire and building safety standards of hundreds of factories that directly make their clothes. But their commitments do not extend to subcontractors and suppliers like Aswad that play a major part in the supply chain.”

Dangerous delay
EurActiv reports on concerns that a proposed EU law on conflict minerals could end up getting shelved after delays for “undisclosed reasons”:

“The EU’s trade directorate had been expected to publish a regulation that would secure uniform compliance across the bloc – and beyond – by the end of this year.
Brussels is known to have been in contact with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) about creating a list of internationally recognised and audited smelters for use by European mineral extraction firms.

Some fear that the proposal could wither in the Berlaymont building’s corridors, if it does not bear fruit before the institutional changing of the guard that will follow European elections next May.”

Latest Developments, April 18

In the latest news and analysis…

Radical revision
The New York Times editorial board calls the US Supreme Court’s decision in a case pitting Nigerian plaintiffs against oil giant Shell “a giant setback for human rights”:

“The court declared that a 1789 law called the Alien Tort Statute does not allow foreigners to sue in American courts to seek redress ‘for violations of the law of nations occurring outside the United States.’

But Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, said that even where claims of atrocities ‘touch and concern the territory of the United States, they must do so with sufficient force’ to overcome a presumption that the statute does not apply to actions outside this country.
That presumption radically revises and undermines the way the statute has been applied for a generation. It has been limited by the types of human rights abuses it covers — but not by where they take place. The effect is to greatly narrow the statute’s reach.”

Silver lining
Reuters’s Alison Frankel writes, however, that human rights lawyers found some glimmers of hope in the Kiobel ruling:

“In the concurrence, [Justice Stephen] Breyer disputed the majority’s presumption against the extraterritoriality of the [Alien Tort Statute], though he agreed that the Nigerians’ case does not belong in U.S. courts. He laid out a different standard for ATS litigation: ‘I would find jurisdiction under this statute where (1) the alleged tort occurs on American soil, (2) the defendant is an American national, or (3) the defendant’s conduct substantially and adversely affects an important American national interest, and that includes a distinct interest in preventing the United States from becoming a safe harbor … for a torturer or other common enemy of mankind.’ ”

Senators heart guns
Former US Congresswoman and shooting victim Gabrielle Giffords excoriates the senators who have voted against increased gun control:

“We cannot allow the status quo — desperately protected by the gun lobby so that they can make more money by spreading fear and misinformation — to go on.

The senators who voted against background checks for online and gun-show sales, and those who voted against checks to screen out would-be gun buyers with mental illness, failed to do their job.
They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby — and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing.”

Big debarment
The Globe and Mail reports that the World Bank has banned Canadian engineering firm SNC-Lavalin and 100 of its subsidiaries from bidding on World Bank contracts for the next 10 years:

“The World Bank’s announcement about SNC, which was made Wednesday, also expanded the list of countries where the embattled engineering company has been accused of corruption. The bank said it has uncovered evidence that SNC conspired to bribe public officials in Cambodia and that it has passed that information along to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who are already probing the company’s activities in Libya, Algeria and Bangladesh.
The 10-year prohibition was negotiated between the company and the bank and is the largest debarment that a company has agreed to as part of a settlement since the bank began sanctioning firms that seek to corrupt public officials.”

US torture
A new report by the Constitution Project alleges it is “indisputable” that the US practiced torture after the 9/11 attacks:

“The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been ‘the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody.’ ”

Bad guest
A group of NGOs is calling on Canadian mining company Infinito Gold to stop its “decade-long harassment” of Costa Rica’s people and government, harassment they say includes the new threat of a $1 billion lawsuit:

“The [Costa Rican] courts told the Canadian company it could not develop the Crucitas mine, and told Infinito to pack up and go.
Instead of leaving, the company ratcheted-up a campaign of intimidation, attempting to censor a University of Costa Rica course focussed on the mining project and launching defamation suits against two professors and three other Costa Ricans who have spoken out publicly about the potential impact that this mining activity could have on a fragile environment.”

A tale of two archipelagos
The Guardian reports that a controversial UK official is going from administering the Chagos Islands, all of whose inhabitants Britain deported decades ago, to governing the Falkland Islands, for whose inhabitants Britain went to war a few years later:

“A US embassy cable published in the Guardian in December 2010 quoted a senior Foreign Office official, Colin Roberts, telling the Americans that as a result of imposing the marine reserve, there would be no ‘human footprints’ or ‘Man Fridays’ on the islands.
He said the plan would ‘in effect, put paid to resettlement claims of the archipelago’s former residents’, according to the cable.
The case is the first resulting from the leak of classified US cables in which UK officials have been ordered to appear.
Roberts, commissioner of the [British Indian Ocean Territory] at the time of his meeting with US officials in May 2009, will take up a new post next year as governor of the Falkland Islands, the high court heard on Monday.”

Carbon bubble
Environmental author Duncan Clark asks if we “can we bring ourselves to prioritise a safe planet over cheap fuels, flights, power and goods”:

“Blithely ignoring the fact that there is already far more accessible fuel than can be safely burned, pension fund managers and other investors are allowing listed fossil fuel companies to spend the best part of $1tn a year (comparable to the US defence budget, or more than $100 for every person on the planet) to find and develop yet more reserves.
If and when we emerge from this insanity, the carbon bubble will burst and those investments will turn out to have been as toxic as sub-prime mortgages. Don’t take my word for it. HSBC analysts recently concluded that oil giants such as BP – beloved of UK pension funds – could have their value cut in half if the world decides to tackle climate change. Coal companies can expect an even rougher ride, and yet our financial regulators still allow them to float on stock markets without mentioning in their share prospectuses that their assets may soon need to be written off.”

Latest Developments, September 24

In the latest news and analysis…

Françafrique lives
Le Figaro reports that France’s involvement in the looming international fight for northern Mali may go beyond the “logistical support” discussed by the country’s defence minister:

“About 100 members of the French special forces have already been deployed to the region. They should receive reinforcements shortly, most notably from Navy commandos. French assistance also includes naval patrol aircraft, which gather intelligence, and a surveillance system based in Niger. The plan, from Paris’s perspective, would be to assemble an action force of several hundred troops to reconquer northern Mali, which has been occupied for several months by armed Islamist groups.” [Translated from the French.]

Liberalizing Egypt
Jubilee Debt Campaign’s Nick Dearden argues that Western media portrayals of Egypt “through the prism of political rights versus Islam” ignore the potential impacts of policies being pushed by organizations such as the International Monetary Fund:

“The IMF says it has changed its ways since working with [former Egyptian president Hosni] Mubarak to restructure the Egyptian economy in the 1990s, and won’t ask for many conditions this time around.
However, many people remain sceptical about the IMF’s agenda – privatisation, indirect taxation, removal of subsidies (many of which are corrupt, but some of which do genuinely support the poor) and an economy based around exports. As one government insider said last week: ‘In Egypt, we call privatisation what it is – stealing.’ A propaganda campaign aims to convince Egyptians that ‘there is no alternative’.

‘The question is not whether to take a loan, but who will run this country for the next five years,’ Amr Adly from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights told an anti-privatisation conference in Cairo. He’s right because the IMF’s plan is to extend and promote new loans to Egypt so that it can continue to pay (rather than question) Mubarak’s debts, and use this influence to impose a whole host of liberalisation policies.”

Oil spills
The Observer reports that Shell’s efforts to clean up a pair of oil spills in Nigeria’s Niger delta are described as “totally amateurish” in a new assessment:

“Shell, which made £19.1bn profit last year, accepted responsiblity and pledged to fully restore the damage done by spills from its rusting pipelines near the Ogoni village of Bodo in 2008.
But an assessment has found only small pilot schemes were started and the most contaminated areas around Bodo and the Gokana district of Ogoniland remain untouched. The impoverished Ogoni fishing and farming communities say they still cannot return to work and have received no compensation. They have accused Shell of applying different standards to clean-ups in Nigeria compared with the rest of the world.”

Carbon controls
Reuters reports that the US Senate has voted unanimously for a bill meant to ensure the country’s airlines will not have to pay for the carbon they emit on European flights:

“The bill increases pressure on the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to devise a global alternative to the EU law.
Connie Hedegaard, the European Climate Commissioner, said on Saturday that while the bill encourages the United States to work within the U.N. organization for a global deal on aviation emissions, she is skeptical that Washington will accept such a deal.
‘It’s not enough to say you want it, you have to work hard to get it done,’ she told Reuters on Saturday. ‘That means that the U.S. needs to change its approach in ICAO and show willingness to actually seal a meaningful global deal that will facilitate action.’ ”

Exclusive growth
The Globe and Mail reports on the uneven benefits of a Swiss-owned sugar plantation for nearby communities in Sierra Leone:

“The 700 villagers [in Lungi Acre] have been boxed in by the Swiss project, their huts surrounded by the vast plantation. Rice and cassava fields were bulldozed, and people were left with so little water and farmland that they say they must buy imported rice in the markets. Just outside the village, a water reservoir is fenced off with razor wire, and guards patrol to chase villagers away from the sugar cane.
‘Addax [Bioenergy] is making the situation much worse,’ says Abdullah Serry, an elder. ‘There’s no water for the little land we have left. We were dependent on those lands for all these years. We depended on them for survival. Now, we rely on Addax for everything.’ ”

Bank transparency
The Tax Justice Network argues it would be “a disaster” for Italy, Belgium and Greece to sign so-called Rubik tax deals with Switzerland:

“These deals are the centrepieces of a plot by Swiss bankers to sabotage progress on a major global initiative on financial transparency, the EU Savings Tax Directive which is in the process of being strengthened.  As we noted earlier, the [Swiss Bankers’ Association] said the initiative was designed as an ‘independent counter-concept’ to prevent the global emergence of the gold standard of transparency, automatic information exchange”

America’s forgotten war
Agence France-Presse reports that despite the ongoing violence of the conflict, America’s war in Afghanistan is virtually absent from the US presidential campaign:

“ ‘To the extent that we are waging this war without a public debate, I think that is a mistake,’ said Stephen Biddle, professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.
‘I understand that the economy will be a dominant issue (but) we are killing others, and suffering casualties ourselves and spending billions of dollars.’

Polls reveal that by two-to-one margins, Americans don’t think the Afghan conflict is worth fighting.
But there are no peace marches on the White House from a weary public content to ignore the war, so there is little direct pressure on politicians.”

Show me your papers
A Washington Post editorial describes as “obnoxious” an immigration law that came into force in Arizona last week and predicts its impacts will be similar to those of controversial Alabama legislation implemented about a year ago:

“There, according to a recent report by the National Immigration Law Center, an immigrant advocacy group, law enforcement officers have created an ‘environment of racial profiling’ that has encouraged private citizens to discriminate and abuse people they regard as foreign. The report, based on thousands of calls to a hotline, recounted instances of Hispanics, including legal residents, who were repeatedly stopped by police on flimsy pretexts and, in some cases, subjected to prolonged roadside detentions.”

Latest Developments, May 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Thriving havens
The Guardian reports on a new study suggesting the G20’s attempted crackdown on tax havens has “largely failed” so far.
“Despite unprecedented action from political leaders, and a blizzard of bilateral co-operation treaties entered into by offshore centres, deposit data from the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) shows bank accounts in tax havens still held $2.7tn (£1.7tn) last year – about the same amount as in 2007.

However, [the study’s authors, Niels Johannesen and Gabriel Zucman] also noted that those withdrawing deposits around the time of co-operation treaties – possible tax evaders – were frequently shifting their wealth to other, similarly secretive, offshore centres where no such equivalent treaty existed.”

With donors like these…
Inter Press Service reports on a new Center for Economic and Policy Research paper that suggests policies being prescribed by the IMF and other donors could send Jamaica’s economy into a downward spiral.
“Jamaica is currently paying more debt interest than any other country, including those in Europe that have been reeling under the near collapse of the euro. In total, the island owes around 18 billion dollars.
‘Pro-cyclical macroeconomic policies, implemented under the auspices of the IMF, damaged Jamaica’s recent and current economic prospects,’ the report warns.
‘This policy mix risks perpetuating an unsustainable cycle where public spending cuts lead to low growth, exacerbating the public debt burden and eventually leading to further cuts and even lower growth.’ ”

Climate investment
The Financial Times reports on a new initiative that will ask the world’s 1,000 biggest institutional investors to report on their portfolio’s carbon footprint.
“Julian Poulter, executive director of the [Asset Owners’ Disclosure Project], says these investors manage more than $52tn, ‘and of this less than 2 per cent is invested in low carbon assets, while 50-60 per cent is invested in high carbon assets, whether that’s in energy, transport, agriculture, mining or property’.

‘The AODP is the last piece in the puzzle. The [Carbon Disclosure Project] has done a lot to generate a database of emissions and investors signed up to the [UN] Principles for Responsible Investment are demonstrating their intent to invest sustainably,’ Mr Poulter says. ‘What is missing is the driver that will make asset owners implement better investment practices. It is really important that we have some measurement of what the owners are doing.’ ”

Destroyed tapes
The BBC speaks to former senior CIA official Jose Rodriguez about his decision to destroy video documentation of his agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
Three days after the tapes had been shredded, a CIA memorandum, since released under America’s Freedom of Information Act, reported comments by Jose Rodriguez:
‘As Jose said, the heat from destroying [the tapes] is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes got into the public domain – he said that out of context they would make us look terrible – it would be devastating to us. All in the room agreed.’
I put this to Rodriguez and he was typically upfront about it.
‘I said that, yes. If you’re waterboarding somebody and they’re naked, of course that was a concern of mine.’

Questionable friends
The Guardian reports on an upcoming parliamentary inquiry into the British government’s “involvement in supporting dubious practices overseas” over the last 40 years.
“The bosses of the world’s biggest multinational defence and oil companies, including BAE Systems and BP, will be asked to account for why hundreds of millions of pounds of government money was used to help military dictators build up their arsenals, and facilitated environmental and human rights abuses across the world.

The inquiry has no legal power to force industry executives or former politicians to provide evidence.”

IP’s uncertain future
Intellectual Property Watch reports that members of the World Intellectual Property Organization are engaged in a struggle to shape the UN agency’s “development orientation.”
On the first day [of WIPO’s Committee on Development and Intellectual Property meeting], an attempt was made again by developing countries to create a permanent agenda item on “IP and development,” which developed countries again resisted on the grounds that it is repetitive with the title of the committee itself. But developing countries’ concern is that broader issues of IP and development do not have a place in a committee that spends most of its time working through specific projects. They have raised this issue for several years.

Medical impartiality
Roehampton University’s Martin Stanton asks how it is that Briton Khalil Dale could have been kidnapped and killed, not in spite of his being a humanitarian worker, but because of it .
“First of all, the US Anti-Terror Law judges the provision of medical aid to ‘terrorists’, or negotiation with ‘terrorists’ to gain access to wounded, starving or destitute civilians, to constitute a major criminal offence. This has actively removed any identifiable ‘neutral’ status for doctors, nurses or allied health professionals in battlefield, conflict or famines zone. You are either for the ‘terrorists’ or against them.

It is alarming indeed to contemplate that troops might open fire on ambulances and hospitals, but it is truly terrifying to observe the covert removal of the basic human right of everyone to receive healthcare, irrespective of their social, religious, financial or political status.”

RIP Poco
Columbia University’s Hamid Dabashi argues the Arab Spring marked the end of postcolonialism.
“These uprisings have already moved beyond race and religion, sects and ideologies, pro- or anti-Western. The term ‘West’ is more meaningless today than ever before – it has lost its potency, and with it the notion, and the condition, we had code-named postcoloniality. The East, the West, the Oriental, the colonial, the postcolonial – they are no more. What we are witnessing unfold in what used to be called ‘the Middle East’ (and beyond) marks the end of postcolonial ideological formations – and that is precisely the principal argument informing the way this book discusses and celebrates the Arab Spring. The postcolonial did not overcome the colonial; it exacerbated it by negation. The Arab Spring has overcome them both.”

Latest Developments, December 21

In the latest news and analysis…

Corporate liability
Lawfare reports the Obama administration has filed a brief with the US Supreme Court supporting Nigerian plaintiffs in the Kiobel lawsuit against oil-giant Shell, arguing corporations can be held liable under federal law for abuses committed abroad.  
“The brief –signed by State Department Legal Adviser Harold Koh and (somewhat surprisingly) by Commerce General Counsel Cameron Kerry in addition to Solicitor General Don Verrilli – argues that the question of corporate liability under the Alien Tort Statute is governed by federal common law, not by international law, although international law “informs” the issue.  And the brief goes on to argue that under federal common law, corporations may be held liable for violations of both domestic and international law: “[C]orporations have been subject to suit for centuries, and the concept of corporate liability is a well-settled part of our ‘legal culture.’”  The brief states that the United States is not aware of any international law “norm” that would prohibit corporations from being sued for violations of international law.”

Agence France-Presse reports a provincial branch of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party has voted in favour of a resolution calling for land expropriation and mine nationalization. 
“ ‘All productive land must be nationalised. Compensation must not be paid on the land itself but on improvements. The price must be determined by the state through the state evaluator,’ the party’s Limpopo provincial chairman Soviet Lekganyane was shown as saying by the eNews channel.

‘We reiterate our call for nationalisation of mines and other key strategic sectors like Sasol and ArcelorMittal,’ Lekganyane was quoted as saying by the Sapa news agency, referring to major oil and steel activities.”

Air battle
The Associated Press reports that an EU court has upheld a law charging airlines flying to Europe for their carbon emissions but a US trade group, Airlines for America, is vowing to continue fighting the “unilateral” and “counterproductive” measures. 
“The European Court of Justice in Luxembourg dismissed arguments that imposing the European Union’s cap-and-trade carbon credits program on flights to and from European airports infringes on national sovereignty or violates international aviation treaties. U.S. and other non-European airlines had sued the EU, arguing that they were exempt from the law.”

Selling development
The Institute of Development Studies’ Spencer Henson raises some concerns over NGO efforts to “sell development” by promoting the idea that buying certain products will benefit poor people half a world away.
“First, it is very much based on the notion of benevolence of the (powerful) rich towards the (powerless) poor. UK consumers can decide how to spend their money at Christmas whereas the poor have little money to spend on anything. Further, as a wealthy donor the consumer can decide who is ‘deserving’ of their charity, however they might judge this.
Second, and more importantly, efforts to sell development do little or nothing to challenge the very reasons that people are poor…and the need for benevolence by the rich in the first place. Thus, how is it that such global inequality exists, and what can be done about it? The act of buying a goat, a charity Christmas card or a handicraft fails to challenge the status quo. Some would even argue that buying development perpetuates the very systems that make people poor in the first place.”

IFI reform
PIMCO’s Mohamed El-Erian argues the economic convergence that is changing the previously Western-dominated global order is unpredictable and requires “deep reform of the multilateral system” and its institutions.
“Multilateral institutions, particularly the IMF, have responded by pumping an unfathomable amount of financing into Europe. But, instead of reversing the disorderly deleveraging and encouraging new private investments, this official financing has merely shifted liabilities from the private sector to the public sector. Moreover, many emerging-market countries have noted that the policy conditionality attached to the tens of billions of dollars that have been shipped to Europe pales in comparison with what was imposed on them in the 1990’s and early 2000’s.”

Food speculation
The Guardian speaks to a food expert whose research predicted the Arab Spring and forecasts high food prices will trigger global riots and revolutions in the next two years unless something is done to rein in speculation. 
“[The New England Complex Systems Institute’s Yaneer Bar-Yam] believes the time has come for global regulators to step in and manage the global market. Their first task would be to guarantee transparency and make public information previously shrouded in secrecy – such as who holds the biggest stakes in global commodities. Transparent accounting practices would have made the disappearance of $1.2 bn worth of customer money from the books of MF Global less a matter of sleight of hand and more a matter of international crime.
The second part of the speculation solution hinges on a return to traditional position limits in commodities, limits enforced by international laws geared to stop bankers, hedge funds and sovereign wealth funds from going long on the world’s food supply and, in effect, gambling on hunger.”

Charter cities
Oxfam’s Duncan Green expresses concern over the life-size radical experiment with charter cities Honduras is about to undertake. 
“On the basis of the Economist piece, at least, the Trujillo charter city looks like a mess. The government is going to bypass constitution, laws etc, outsource the lot to private interests and rely for good governance on a commission of overstretched VIPs. If the hyperactive [Center for Global Development president Nancy] Birdsall is typical, they will have so many other commitments that they really are not going to be able to invest the time to micromanage a potentially chaotic period of institution-building. I emailed Nancy about this and she replied that yes, there are big risks, but the world needs more experiments like this not least because ‘we don’t know in the development community how to ‘produce’ good governance’. She points out that there are resources, e.g. to pay at least one aide per member of the transparency board. But that still seems like a pretty skeletal arrangement and many of the criticisms I quoted in my original post apply in this case too. Got a bad feeling about this one.”