Latest Developments, January 25

In the latest news and analysis…

Drone investigation
The New York Times reports that a UN expert has launched an inquiry into the civilian impacts of “drone strikes and other forms of remotely targeted killing” used by Western powers to eliminate alleged militants:

“The immediate focus, [Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben] Emmerson said in an interview, would be on 25 selected drone strikes that had been conducted in recent years in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and the Palestinian territories. That put the panel’s spotlight on the United States, Britain and Israel, the nations that have conducted drone attacks in those areas, but Mr. Emmerson said the inquiry would not be singling out the United States or any other countries.

‘This form of warfare is here to stay, and it is completely unacceptable to allow the world to drift blindly toward the precipice without any agreement between states as to the circumstances in which drone strike targeted killings are lawful, and on the safeguards necessary to protect civilians,’ [Emmerson said].”

Peacekeeping drones
Reuters reports that the UN Security Council has granted permission for blue helmets to use surveillance drones over eastern DR Congo:

“U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote to the 15-member council late last month to advise that peacekeepers in Congo planned to use unmanned aerial systems ‘to enhance situational awareness and to permit timely decision-making’ in dealing with a nine-month insurgency by M23 rebels in the mineral-rich east.
In a response to Ban, the president of the council for January, Pakistan’s U.N. Ambassador Masood Khan, said the body had taken note of the plans for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo to use drones – effectively approving the proposal.
But the council also noted that it would be a trial use ‘in line with the Secretariat’s intention to use assets to enhance situational awareness, if available, on a case-by case basis,’ Khan wrote in a January 22 letter that was released on Thursday.”

Quid pro quo
The Globe and Mail reports that Canadian police believe a Montreal-based engineering firm paid $160 million in bribes to a son of former Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi:

“The fortune that was allegedly funnelled to Saadi Gadhafi was used, in part, to buy two yachts, pay condo fees and renovate his luxury Toronto penthouse at a price tag of $200,000. One of the yachts, a champagne-coloured vessel known as the Hokulani, is 150 feet and features a private movie theatre.
The lavish gifts and payments were meant to help SNC land contracts in Libya, RCMP Corporal Brenda Makad alleged in the sworn statement. ‘It is alleged that these funds were paid to him as a reward for influencing the awarding of major contracts to SNC-Lavalin International,’ she stated.”

Hall of shame
Greenpeace Switzerland and the Berne Declaration have awarded the 2013 Public Eye Awards for “particularly glaring cases of companies’ greed for profit and environmental sins”:

“The US bank Goldman Sachs receives this year’s jury award. The public award goes, with a large winning margin, to the oil corporation Shell, in accordance with the wishes of 41,800 online voters.

Michael Baumgartner, Chairman of the Public Eye Awards jury, adds: ‘Not only is Goldman Sachs one of the main winners of the financial crisis, this bank is also a key player in the raw materials casino: it has tapped into these markets as a new source of income and destabilised raw material prices. When food prices break all records, like in 2008, millions of people are plunged into hunger and hardship.’ ”

Less militaristic
The Los Angeles Times reports that US secretary of state nominee John Kerry told those present at his confirmation hearing that America “cannot afford a diplomacy that is defined by troops or drones or confrontation”:

“Kerry, a loyal ally and occasional diplomatic representative of the administration, was giving another signal that the White House intended to close the door on a decade of war, as President Obama said at his inauguration ceremony Monday. His comments veered from the administration script only in their implications about drones, which the White House has embraced as a low-cost counter-terrorism tool but which Kerry’s statement cast in an unflattering light.”

Western weapons
Reuters reports that Russia is largely blaming the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya for the current crisis in Mali that has drawn France and a number of African countries into the armed conflict:

“ ‘Those whom the French and Africans are fighting now in Mali are the (same) people who overthrew the Gaddafi regime, those that our Western partners armed so that they would overthrow the Gaddafi regime,’ [Foreign Minister Sergei] Lavrov told a news conference.”

Boys’ club
The Guardian’s Jane Martinson writes that the World Economic Forum, currently underway in Davos, is very much a male event:

“Despite introducing a quota which insists that the biggest companies send at least one woman for every four men, the percentage of women attending the World Economic Forum (WEF) at Davos has stuck at 17% for the past two years. Many of the companies subject to the quota simply send exactly four men, thus avoiding the need for a woman delegate.

Fernando Morales-de la Cruz, founder of ItiMa, points out that this puts the percentage lower than the 20% membership of Saudi Arabia’s Consultative Council.”

Challenging power
The World Development Movement’s Deborah Doane argues that the newly launched If anti-hunger mega campaign focuses too much on policy fixes and too little on the root causes of world hunger:

“I would never argue against the G8 and international community ending tax dodging; nor would I argue against stopping land grabbing, or stopping food crops being diverted to biofuels. I fully endorse the need to support smallholder farmers. And I’m a great advocate of corporate transparency.
However, the policy solutions in themselves don’t provide the impetus to address power in our unjust globalised food system and our politics. Ensuring everyone has enough to eat is a long-term project that demands far deeper and wide-ranging policy change than that proposed by If, and needs democratic change well beyond the power of the G8. By all means, support the campaign’s individual aims, but ending hunger demands that we go further.”

Latest Developments, November 30

In the latest news and analysis…

Status upgrade
Reuters reports that the UN General Assembly has voted 138 to 9, with 41 abstentions, in favour of recognizing Palestine as a non-member state rather than an “entity”:

“Granting Palestinians the title of ‘non-member observer state’ falls short of full U.N. membership – something the Palestinians failed to achieve last year. But it would allow them access to the [International Criminal Court] and other international bodies, should they choose to join them.

At least 17 European nations voted in favor of the Palestinian resolution, including Austria, France, Italy, Norway and Spain. Abbas had focused his lobbying efforts on Europe, which supplies much of the aid the Palestinian Authority relies on. Britain, Germany and others chose to abstain.
The Czech Republic was unique in Europe, joining the United States, Israel, Canada, Panama and tiny Pacific Island states likes Nauru, Palau and Micronesia in voting against the move.”

Frozen assets
Bloomberg reports that oil giant Chevron is asking Argentine courts to lift an embargo imposed on its assets in the country because of a massive outstanding fine handed down by a judge in Ecuador:

“Judge Adrian Elcuj Miranda ordered 40 percent of Chevron’s Argentine bank accounts to be held in escrow, Enrique Bruchou, an Argentine attorney representing Ecuadorean plaintiffs, said on Nov. 7.
The plaintiffs are seeking to enforce a $19 billion award against Chevron, which they say is responsible for destroying the environment in the Lago Agrio region, damaging living conditions of 30,000 inhabitants.”

Problematic portfolio
OnEarth reports that Susan Rice, the presumptive frontrunner to become the next US secretary of state, is heavily invested in Canadian companies that stand to profit from the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which she would have the power to approve:

“The current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Rice owns stock valued between $300,000 and $600,000 in TransCanada, the company seeking a federal permit to transport tar sands crude 1,700 miles to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast, crossing fragile Midwest ecosystems and the largest freshwater aquifer in North America.
Beyond that, according to financial disclosure reports, about a third of Rice’s personal net worth is tied up in oil producers, pipeline operators, and related energy industries north of the 49th parallel — including companies with poor environmental and safety records on both U.S. and Canadian soil. Rice and her husband own at least $1.25 million worth of stock in four of Canada’s eight leading oil producers, as ranked by Forbes magazine.”

Mind the Gap
Paloma Muñoz Quick of the Danish Institute for Human Rights argues that the ongoing international negotiations on the Arms Trade Treaty focus so much on states, that the “monumental” role of the private sector is largely overlooked:

“Companies in North America and Western Europe dominate the global arms industry. Likewise, shipping companies dominate international transport in weapons, including shipments to actors involved in conflict and illicit deliveries of small arms and light weapons to non-state actors in Colombia. Private security companies (PSCs) also fuel and directly rely on the arms trade for their operations.

A joint effort therefore is necessary to address the private sector’s role in the arms trade. Accordingly, UN Member States should seek to reference the [UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights] in the ATT’s preamble, which will provide a common reference point for States to address the private sector’s central role in the arms trade, and help ensure that companies in their jurisdiction do not contribute to human rights abuses undermining development”

Image issues
Concerned about the potential for reputational damage, Barclays has said it may get out of the agricultural commodities trading business:

“Several German banks, including Commerzbank, have this year restricted their investments in agricultural products, but banks elsewhere have been slower to curb activity despite heavy lobbying by groups such as World Development Movement (WDM), which has been critical of Barclays.

Barclays, Deutsche Bank and J.P. Morgan have all built up strongly in commodities in the past decade to challenge established veterans Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. Those five banks control about 70 percent of the commodities trading pot.”

Circular economy
Science writer Gaia Vince sees signs that the tide may be turning against a consumer culture marked by planned obsolescence or worse, “replacing functioning phones simply for reasons of fashion or for technological additions that many of us rarely use”:

“And other companies are joining the move towards a circular economy, in which economic growth is uncoupled from finite-resource-use. Instead of the linear manufacturing route: mining materials, fabricating, selling, throwing them away; a circular economy is based around making products that are more easily disassembled, so that the resources can be recovered and used to make new products, keeping them in circulation. British yachtswoman Ellen MacArthur is a strong advocate of the concept and commissioned a report into the idea, which found that the benefits to Europe’s economy alone could be $630 billion, based on cycling just 15% of materials in 48% of manufacturing and just being recycled once.”

Market colonization
Inter Press Service reports on opposition in Africa to genetically modified crops, which are often touted as a solution to food shortages on the continent:

“[Friends of the Earth International’s Nnimmo] Bassey said that GM crops are neither more nutritious nor better yielding nor use fewer pesticides and herbicides. And he said they are unsafe for humans and for the environment.
‘It is all about market colonisation,’ Bassey told IPS. ‘GM crops would neither produce food security nor meet nutrition deficits. The way forward is food sovereignty – Africans must determine what crops are suitable culturally and environmentally. Up to 80 percent of our food needs are met by smallholder farmers. These people need support and inputs for integrated agro-ecological crop management. Africa should ideally be a GMO-free continent.’ ”

Changing the rules
Purpose’s Alnoor Ladha, Pambazuka founder Firoze Manji and Yale University’s Thomas Pogge argue the world’s current level of poverty and inequality is not inevitable:

“It is the outcome of active choices by people who make and enforce the rules we all live by: rules about global trade, banking, loans, investment, taxes, working conditions, land, food, health and education. These rules are made by people and people can change them.
Frederick Douglass, a leader of the 19th century abolitionist movement which brought an end to slavery, once said, ‘Power concedes nothing without a demand’. If we want to change rules that have been written by the few and for the few, we must look outside existing power structures to the power of the many.”

Latest Developments, October 16

In the latest news and analysis…

Bad timing
Oxford University’s David Priestland argues the awarding of the Nobel peace prize to the European Union at this point in time is “distinctly odd”:

“The introduction of the euro changed the EU from an institution that used economic integration to promote peace to one that is sacrificing peace on the altar of free-market economics. Brussels is being rewarded for its pacific past at the very moment it is provoking civil strife.

Nor did Europe’s eirenic outlook always extend beyond its borders. Individual countries have sometimes played a far from peaceful role in the world – especially the French and British meddling in their former empires. Europe’s protectionism has also damaged the interests of the developing world.”

Development by force
Human Rights Watch’s Jessica Evans criticizes the World Bank’s support for Ethiopia’s controversial “villagization” program:

“Once forcibly evicted and moved to the new villages, families are finding that the promised government services often do not exist, giving them less access to services than before the relocation. Dozens of farmers in Ethiopia’s Gambella region told us they are being moved from fertile areas where they survive on subsistence farming, to dry, arid areas. Ojod’s family farm was on the river, but as part of the villagization program, the government took his farm and forced his family to relocate to a dry area. There are reports that this fertile land is being leased to multinational companies for large-scale farms.
The villagization program is an Ethiopian government initiative, not one designed by the World Bank. But villagization appears to be the government’s way of implementing a certain World Bank project in five of Ethiopia’s eleven regions.”

Colonial legacy
Radio France Internationale reports that French President François Hollande has promised to hand over archives relating to a massacre of Senegalese troops fighting for France during World War II:

“ ‘The dark side of our history includes the bloody repression at the Thiaroye camp in 1944 which caused the death of 35 African soldiers who fought for France,’ Hollande told the Senegalese parliament.

In a speech where he also paid homage to the victims of the slave trade, Hollande declared that the Françafrique policy, often criticised as neo-colonialist, is over.
‘There is France and there is Africa,’ he declared, adding that he was not going to give the Senegalese moral lectures, in an indirect reference to his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy’s controversial speech in Dakar five years ago.”

Poisonous siege
The Independent reports on a new study linking the siege of Fallujah by Western forces during the Iraq War to the city’s “staggering rise” in birth defects:

“The latest study found that in Fallujah, more than half of all babies surveyed were born with a birth defect between 2007 and 2010. Before the siege, this figure was more like one in 10. Prior to the turn of the millennium, fewer than 2 per cent of babies were born with a defect. More than 45 per cent of all pregnancies surveyed ended in miscarriage in the two years after 2004, up from only 10 per cent before the bombing. Between 2007 and 2010, one in six of all pregnancies ended in miscarriage.”

Patent override
The Guardian reports that the Indonesian government has taken steps to allow seven “important” but patented medicines to be manufactured cheaply and locally:

“The biggest fights now are in India, where Big Pharma is battling to preserve its patents, arguing that India’s thriving generic companies will sell not just to the poor but to the whole world.
But what has happened in Indonesia is remarkable for its scale. It appears that the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has decided to license the entire slate of medicines its population needs against HIV. It already had an order from 2007 for three older HIV drugs (efavirenz, lamivudine and nevirapine), but the new decree states specifically that this is ‘no longer sufficient’.
The drug patents belong to Merck, GSK, Bristol Myers Squibb, Abbott and Gilead.”

Tax hike
The New York Times reports that Mongolia is considering renegotiating the investment agreement it has with Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto regarding a $6 billion copper project:

“Last Monday, the caucus of Mongolia’s Democratic Party, which leads a coalition government in place since August, passed a budget proposal, which calls for a new sliding royalty on Oyu Tolgoi’s revenue that would rise to 20 percent depending on the copper price. The 2009 investment agreement set the royalty rate at 5 percent.
The new plan would also raise Oyu Tolgoi’s effective tax rate by eliminating income-tax allowances. The government would bring in 221.3 billion tugriks, or $160 million, from the royalty and 224.5 billion tugriks, or $163 million, from corporate income tax, according to estimates in the draft budget proposal.
This week, the plan is expected to reach Parliament, which will decide whether to adopt or modify the proposal.”

Paradigm shift
Intellectual Property Watch reports on a recent roundtable where one of the participants argued that global health justice will require “a body of hard and soft laws”:

“ ‘When I first entered global health, I thought global health was mostly about making rich countries devote resources to those who lack the capacity to do it,’ [Georgetown University’s Larry Gostin] said. This ‘is a northern view based upon guilt, but it is really the wrong view,’ he said.

There are still residual international responsibilities, but they are based on a flawed idea of international development assistance for health, which is ‘very much charitable-based, with a benefactor and a recipient.’ It is not justice-based, he said, and lacks a sense of shared responsibility, adding, ‘We need to change this paradigm.’ ”

Food futures
The Observer’s Heather Stewart decries the lack of action by rich-country governments to rein in the price of food, which she says depends more on “all-but-irrelevant events in Brussels or Berlin” than on supply and demand:

“Any tougher crackdown – forcing greater transparency about who is betting on what, with whom, for example – looks highly likely to be scuppered by the same kind of concerted lobbying that sank proposals for regulating other derivatives markets in the years before the crisis.
In the US, for example, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission is facing a legal battle over its attempts to impose ‘position limits’, constraining the share of the market single investors can hold in a number of commodities, including corn and cocoa. The proposal was struck down by a court in Washington, in a case brought by several financial sector trade bodies – though the CFTC has not given up on introducing position limits in some form.”

Latest Developments, October 3

In the latest news and analysis…

What’s old is new again
Reuters reports that Somalia’s new government plans to “honour contracts signed prior to 1991 with oil majors including Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Chevron” during Mohamed Siad Barre’s two decades of military rule:

“The country hopes exploration by major oil companies will enable it to participate in the excitement over a string of discoveries in East Africa that have aroused expectations the region will become an important energy supplier.
Should companies choose to return, they will negotiate with the government over converting the old royalty-based contracts into production sharing agreements.
Any companies that signed oil exploration deals after 1991 could negotiate but would not be given priority, [Abdullahi Haider, a senior adviser to Somalia's Ministry of Energy] said.”

Fair share
The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports on Timor Leste’s struggle to control its own natural resources:

“Having fought a bitter battle with Australia over seabed borders and mineral rights it’s now taking on some of the world’s biggest private energy companies, demanding they pay their fair share of tax on the resources they’re extracting.

As Four Corners discovered, the immediate battle is to audit the energy companies that the government claims are not paying their share of taxes. The centre of this struggle can be found in an office building where a small group of public servants have been meticulously going through contracts and tax returns. This is a contest the country’s leaders say they cannot afford to lose, because if they do they will consign an entire country to poverty.”

Eco-protectionism
The South African Government News Agency reports that the country’s trade minister believes that international health and safety requirements are a threat to African products:

“Speaking at the 3rd African Accreditation Cooperation (AFRAC) General Assembly and Meetings held at the Emperor’s Palace on Monday, [Trade and Industry Minister Rob] Davies said ‘eco protectionism’ was emerging under the guise of addressing climate change concerns, particularly from advanced countries.
‘For instance, some countries are considering the imposition of border adjustment taxes on imports produced with greater carbon emissions than similar products produced domestically, and subject to carbon emission limits,’ said Davies.

The dumping of cheap, sub-standard manufactured goods on African markets has sometimes led to the collapse of local industries as well as served as a major barrier to industrial development.”

Food speculation
Metro reports that financial speculation on food, blamed by many for pushing up the world’s soaring food prices, is getting worse:

“Regulations that were previously in place to protect those who grew or sell food were removed in the 1990s. With the amount of money to be made gambling on the markets, the banks, hedge fund managers and pension funds moved in. Financial speculation on food almost doubled between 2006 and 2011. In 2006, the value of financial assets in food markets was £40billion; by 2011, it was £78billion. Financial speculators now dominate commodity markets, holding more than 60 per cent of some markets in 2011, compared with 12 per cent in 1996.”

Bad words
ABC reports that a group of linguists are arguing the US media’s use of the term “illegal immigrant” is neither inaccurate nor neutral:

“ ‘If we talk about a child who skips school, we don’t say he’s an illegal student,’ [UCLA’s Otto] Santa Ana said in reference to truancy laws. ‘We call a person who crosses the street illegally a jaywalker, not an illegal walker.’ Linguists George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson suggest in their 2006 paper ‘The Framing of Immigration’ that if the media is insistent on using ‘illegal immigrant,’ they also might consider the term ‘illegal employers,’ for those who give them work, in the name of linguistic fairness.”

Fighting patents
Intellectual Property Watch reports that Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has launched the “Patent Opposition Database” to increase access to affordable generic medicines:

“A patent opposition is a legal challenge aimed at blocking the granting of an unwarranted patent, MSF said.
The database was launched on the tenth anniversary of a landmark decision by the central intellectual property court in Thailand to overturn a patent on a key HIV drug based on opposition filed by patients. India and Brazil also have used this process.”

Demographic dividend
The Royal African Society’s Richard Dowden suggests that the extractive industry, currently “the single biggest contributor to Africa’s growth,” is unlikely to provide solutions to one of the continent’s biggest challenges:

[McKinsey and Co’s Africa at Work, Job Creation and Inclusive Growth] report says that 90 million Africans had joined the world’s consuming classes by 2011 and that the continent is about to reap a ‘demographic dividend’ by 2020 as there will be another 122 million people in the job market. Then comes the killer fact that makes the so-called dividend look more like a disaster: only 28 percent of the current labour force has stable wage-paying jobs. So technically Africa – were it one country – has a 72 percent unemployment rate. And where will new jobs come from? Resource extraction – namely mining, oil and gas – are notoriously low employers these days.

Macro malpractice
Morgan Stanley Asia’s Stephen Roach argues that so-called quantitative easing “puts central banks in the destabilizing position of abdicating control over financial markets”:

“For a world beset by seemingly endemic financial instability, this could prove to be the most destructive development of all.
The developing world is up in arms over the major central banks’ reckless tactics. Emerging economies’ leaders fear spillover effects in commodity markets and distortions of exchange rates and capital flows that may compromise their own focus on financial stability. While it is difficult to track the cross-border flows fueled by quantitative easing in the so-called advanced world, these fears are far from groundless. Liquidity injections into a zero-interest-rate developed world send return-starved investors scrambling for growth opportunities elsewhere.”

Lastest Developments, August 23

In the latest news and analysis…

First impressions
The Wall Street Journal provides a sampling of initial responses to the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s adoption of long-delayed rules regarding conflict minerals and extractive industry transparency:

“The consensus seemed to be that the business community scored some victories on section 1502 [of the Dodd-Frank financial reform package], the so-called ‘conflict minerals provision,’ that requires companies to examine their supply chains to determine and disclose if their products contain minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo or surrounding countries.
Meanwhile, good governance groups seemed happy with the rules on section 1504,which requires companies to disclose to the SEC all payments made to either the U.S. or a foreign government for the extraction of oil and minerals.”

Presidential warning
Agence France-Presse reports that South African President Jacob Zuma has warned mining companies to treat their workers better, as tensions began to radiate beyond the Lonmin facility where 44 striking miners were killed last week:

“Pointing out that the mining industry has assets valued at $2.5 trillion excluding coal and uranium, Zuma said the sector should be able to pay its workers a better wage.
‘In fact it should not be such an industry that has the lowest paid worker, given the wealth they have,’ he said during a memorial lecture to honour a former leader of the ruling African National Congress. He also noted that the government issued a directive to improve housing conditions for mine workers two years ago, but an audit conducted at mines in the North West province’s Rusternburg platinum belt showed only half were in compliance with the mining charter.
In one case, a company is housing 166 workers in a hostel block with just four toilets and four showers to share between them, the president said. ‘Sanctions for non-compliance with the charter include the cancellation of mining rights or licences,’ Zuma said.”

Extraordinary court
Human Rights Watch is calling a new agreement between Senegal and the African Union “an important step in the long campaign” to bring former Chadian president Hissène Habré to trial:

“Negotiations in July between the African Union and Senegal resulted in a plan to try Habré before a special court in the Senegalese justice system with African judges appointed by the AU presiding over his trial and any appeal. The August 22 agreement commits the parties to the plan and to a timetable that would have the court operational by the end of the year.
The new agreement calls for ‘Extraordinary African Chambers’ to be created inside the existing Senegalese court structure in Dakar. The chambers will have sections to handle investigations, trials, and appeals. The trial court and the appeals court will each consist of two Senegalese judges and a president from another African country.”

Roma restrictions
Reuters reports that the French government plans to “expand the number of sectors” where Roma people living in France are allowed to look for jobs:

“A government-approved list of jobs that are considered open to Roma people, which now stands at 150 and includes trades such as roofers, will be extended, according to a statement by [Prime Minister Jean-Marc] Ayrault’s office.
Two weeks ago, police evicted around 300 people from illegal campsites near the cities of Lille and Lyon and sent 240 of them on a plane back to Romania. The swoops recalled a crackdown two years before for which Sarkozy drew international criticism.”

Conga opposition
The Associated Press reports that a new public opinion poll suggests there is little local support for a $5 billion gold-mining project in northern Peru, which has raised fears of contaminated water supplies:

“The Ipsos-Apoyo poll in Cajamarca province found just 15 percent approve of the Conga project, with 78 percent disapproving and 7 percent with no opinion. U.S.-based Newmont Mining Co. is the mine’s majority owner.

Hundreds of Conga opponents held a second day of peaceful protests in the region Wednesday against what would be Peru’s biggest mine. They defied a state of emergency suspending the right of assembly that was imposed in early July after five people died during violent protests.”

American food
Reuters reports on a new study which found that Americans “throw away nearly half their food,” thereby wasting about $165 billion annually:

“ ‘As a country, we’re essentially tossing every other piece of food that crosses our path. That’s money and precious resources down the drain,’ said Dana Gunders, a scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council’s food and agriculture program.

Particularly worrisome, the organization said, was evidence that there has been a 50 percent jump in U.S. food waste since the 1970s.

‘No matter how sustainably our food is farmed, if it’s not being eaten, it is not a good use of resources,’ said Gunders.”

Glencore hearts droughts
The Guardian reports that the “food chief” at commodities-trading giant Glencore has said a crop-destroying drought in the US is good for business:

“Chris Mahoney, the trader’s director of agricultural products, who owns about £500m of Glencore shares, said the devastating US drought had created an opportunity for the company to make much more money.
‘In terms of the outlook for the balance of the year, the environment is a good one. High prices, lots of volatility, a lot of dislocation, tightness, a lot of arbitrage opportunities [the purchase and sale of an asset in order to profit from price differences in different markets],’ he said on a conference call .

‘They [Glencore] are millionaires making money from other people’s misery caused by the drought,’ [global food trade expert Raj Patel] said. ‘It’s the sad fact of how the international food system – that they pushed for and our governments gave to them – works.’ ”

NAM rising
As the Non-Aligned Movement prepares for next week’s Tehran summit, Trinity College’s Vijay Prashad suggests that the 120-nation group may be about to emerge from its decades in the wilderness:

“Until the last decade there have been few attempts to create an ideological and institutional alternative to neoliberalism or to unipolar imperialism.

With the arrival of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in the past few years, the mood has lifted. The much more assertive presence of the BRICS inside the NAM and in the United Nations has raised hopes that US and European intransigence will no longer determine the destiny of the world.”