Latest Developments, April 18

In the latest news and analysis…

Colonial crimes
The Guardian reports that thousands of documents were “systematically destroyed” and others remained hidden until now in order to conceal crimes committed in the last years of the British empire.
“The papers at Hanslope Park include monthly intelligence reports on the ‘elimination’ of the colonial authority’s enemies in 1950s Malaya; records showing ministers in London were aware of the torture and murder of Mau Mau insurgents in Kenya, including a case of aman said to have been ‘roasted alive’; and papers detailing the lengths to which the UK went to forcibly remove islanders from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.
However, among the documents are a handful which show that many of the most sensitive papers from Britain’s late colonial era were not hidden away, but simply destroyed. These papers give the instructions for systematic destruction issued in 1961 after Iain Macleod, secretary of state for the colonies, directed that post-independence governments should not get any material that ‘might embarrass Her Majesty’s government’, that could ‘embarrass members of the police, military forces, public servants or others eg police informers’, that might compromise intelligence sources, or that might ‘be used unethically by ministers in the successor government’.”

Torture ruling
The Courthouse News Service reports that the US Supreme Court has ruled that the Torture Victim Protection Act does not apply to alleged abuses committed by organizations.
“Before courts can extend personhood to corporations, Congress must give some indication of that intention.
‘There are no such indications in the TVPA,’ [Justice Sonia] Sotomayor wrote. ‘As noted, the Act does not define ‘individual,’ much less do so in a manner that extends the term beyond its ordinary usage. And the statutory context strengthens – not undermines – the conclusion that Congress intended to create a cause of action against natural persons alone.’ ”

US transparency
Bloomberg reports the US government has announced new rules that will require banks to declare interest paid to “nonresident aliens,” despite strong opposition from Republican lawmakers.
“The regulations, adopted yesterday, are part of the government’s efforts to work with other countries on tax evasion. The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service say the U.S. should ask its banks to report information just as it is requiring overseas banks to provide information on U.S. account holders.”

Radio France International reports that Senegal’s newly elected President Macky Sall has agreed to allow the continued permanent presence of French troops on his territory, albeit in reduced numbers.
“The two men signed the defence deal, which will published “in all transparency”, according to Sarkozy, as have all such agreements with France’s former African colonies since 2008.
Its most important feature – the reduction of the permanent French troop presence in Senegal from 1,200 to 300 – was already agreed in 2010 with Sall’s predecessor, Abdulaye Wade.”

Joining the club
Agence France-Presse reports that South Sudan has become the 188th member of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
“The World Bank, an anti-poverty development lender, also hailed South Sudan’s membership, calling the impoverished country a “test case” on its principles of citizen-led state building with the support of international development partners.
‘I am very pleased to welcome South Sudan, the world’s newest country as our newest member of the World Bank Group, to help it manage and resolve its many formidable development challenges while it also builds a broad national coalition to secure lasting peace and prosperity,’ said Obiageli Ezekwesili, the bank’s vice president for Africa.”

Formula One’s 29%
The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre reports that less than a third of “firms linked to Formula One” responded when asked to respond to human rights concerns raised about the upcoming Bahrain Grand Prix.
“Forty two companies or teams failed to respond.

‘Seldom have we seen a response rate this low from a group of companies anywhere in the world’, said Christopher Avery, Director of Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. ‘And of the responses that were received, seldom if ever have we seen such a high proportion that completely fail to comment on the human rights concerns that they were asked to address.’

The usual response rate to the Resource Centre is 75% globally.”

ATT concerns
Oxfam’s Scott Stedjan expresses mixed emotions over the US position on the Arms Trade Treaty ahead of July’s UN negotiations.
“On the positive side, Assistant Secretary [Thomas] Countryman stated that the US is open to suggestions from other countries on ways to include ammunition within the treaty’s scope. This is a major shift in the right direction; prior to this speech, the US position was that ammunition must not be included in the treaty in any circumstance.

The US seems to hold the position that as long as a government ‘considers’ the impact of the arms transfer and ‘keeps it in mind,’ the treaty should allow states to transfer weapons to war criminals or human rights abusers. Such an Arms Trade Treaty would significantly lower the current international standards on respecting human rights and the laws of war, and it runs contrary to the US position on human rights and international humanitarian law at the United Nations.”

Different take on the cake
Blogger Nuclear Grrl takes issue with the accusations of racism leveled at a controversial piece of Swedish performance art that involved audience members in symbolic “female genital mutilation” by cutting a cake shaped like a caricatured African woman.
“Blackface has historically been used to dehumanize Black people. [Makode] Linde’s purposeful use of blackface in his ‘Painful Cake’ is meant to call out society for this dehumanization and show that Black women are real human beings. Blackface represents Swedish society’s view of Black women as simplistic caricatures of Black humanity rather than the real pillars of the family that they are. His performance proves his point with exemplary efficiency – no one seemed horrified by what they were seeing, at least not during the portion of the performance released on tape.”

Latest Developments, April 9

In the latest news and analysis…

Cluster bomb blacklist
The Guardian reports that in an “unpublicised but co-ordinated move,” four major UK banks and insurance companies have blacklisted corporations that manufacture cluster munitions and landmines.
“The Guardian has learned that major firms such as Lloyds Banking Group (through its investment arm Scottish Widows), Aviva, the UK’s largest insurer, and the Co-op have imposed a blanket ban on holding shares in companies that make or supply cluster munitions, purging them from nearly all their share portfolios.
Royal Bank of Scotland has banned all new lending to the same companies, and is now reviewing its defence industry shareholdings. Similar action is being taken by all the firms to clear out shares in anti-personnel landmine manufacturers, following intense pressure from human rights campaigners.
The industry is operating two parallel ‘stop lists’, which cover a dozen arms companies involved in making or supplying cluster bombs and anti-personnel landmines, including the US defence companies Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, and the South Korean industrial conglomerate Doosan.”

Bloody F1
Reuters reports on the “increasingly loud calls” for cancellation of the Formula One race scheduled later this month in Bahrain, whose regime continues to face regular protests.
“The governing International Automobile Federation FIA.L, commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone and Bahrain organisers have all said the April 22 race is on.

FIA president Jean Todt is expected to be in China, as is Ecclestone, and there are likely to be a number of meetings in the Shanghai paddock – possibly up until as late as Sunday morning.
‘Friday has been the busiest day for protests in Bahrain so Saturday looks the most likely day for any emergency meeting (in Shanghai),’ commented one team member.
Last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix was repeatedly re-scheduled and then reluctantly cancelled by organisers due to the violence in the country.”

Unfair policy
Al Jazeera reports that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has complained to her American counterpart about the impacts of US monetary policy on the world’s poor.
“Rousseff said low interest rates and other expansionist policies in wealthy nations have created an excess of global liquidity, which in turn has the unintended effect of damaging growth in poorer countries such as Brazil.
She also raised concerns with Obama that sanctions against Iran could fuel tensions in the Middle East and cause a spike in oil prices, threatening the global economic recovery, sources told Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity.”

Hostile environment
The Arizona Daily Star reports on new efforts to find and identify the bodies of migrants who die in Arizona’s desert.
“According to the Pima County Forensic Science Center, in 2011 there were 117 unidentified migrants who died in the Southern Arizona desert.

‘After a while, I started thinking: “Why do we have to just wait for the bodies? Let’s go get them,” ’ [technology liaison for the Office of the Medical Examiner and the Mexican Consulate, Engel] Indo said.
Once or twice a month, Indo plans to take volunteers into the desert on daylong searches for bodies, bones and live people.”

Solidarity tax
Reuters reports that Morocco’s government has decided to implement a “solidarity fund tax” on corporations in order to tackle social inequalities.
“Proceeds from the new tax will help raise 2 billion dirhams ($235 million) for a social solidarity fund to develop poor areas in a country that has one of the widest wealth inequalities in the region and where protesters still take to the streets over poverty, joblessness and corruption.

The 2012 budget now provides for the imposition in 2012 of a tax equal to 1.5 percent of the net profit for firms that make between 50 million and 100 million dirhams in net annual gains, Finance Ministry and parliament officials said.
Firms with annual net profits above 100 million dirhams will be subject to a 2.5 percent tax on their net profit in 2012, they added.”

Construction problems
A Libyan activist writing under the pen name Layla Ibrahim takes issue with the international community’s approach to rebuilding her country.
“The EU is responsible for media and communications training, yet that is still to start. The company, IMG international, hired to do this, is still in the needs assessment phase, for which they require a couple of months. However even when it does start, none of the ‘experts’ are Arabic speakers, which means it is unlikely they’ll be able to help shape the scripts or articles to support our journalists.

As one diplomat said: ‘The EU just about works within the EU; it has no business operating outside. The interests of one European country in Libya are not going to be the same as another, so Libya will suffer from these conflicts of interests as they fight over the same pot.’
In the meantime, Libyan professionals who are desperate to help rebuild their country are being side-lined. Internationals will hire Libyans in the main as fixers/drivers/translators but not in key positions. They will pay vast sums for hotel bills and per diems but will quibble over dinars to hire local staff.”

Ashley Judd’s face
Actor Ashley Judd analyzes a culture in which enormous media attention is focused on a woman’s face that is perceived to have become “puffy.”
“That women are joining in the ongoing disassembling of my appearance is salient. Patriarchy is not men. Patriarchy is a system in which both women and men participate. It privileges, inter alia, the interests of boys and men over the bodily integrity, autonomy, and dignity of girls and women. It is subtle, insidious, and never more dangerous than when women passionately deny that they themselves are engaging in it. This abnormal obsession with women’s faces and bodies has become so normal that we (I include myself at times—I absolutely fall for it still) have internalized patriarchy almost seamlessly. We are unable at times to identify ourselves as our own denigrating abusers, or as abusing other girls and women.”