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.”

Latest Developments, May 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Big deal
Inter Press Service reports that closed-door talks are set to resume around the multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership – potentially the biggest trade deal ever signed by the US – with major implications for global health.
“While U.S. global health policy has seen significant strengthening over the past five years, passage of the TPP ‘would start rolling this back,’ warns Peter Maybarduk, director of the Access to Medicines Program at Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group here.
Worldwide over the past 10 years, prices for HIV-related medicines, for instance, have fallen by 99 percent, largely driven by competition from generic drugs. While the fight against generics by large pharmaceutical interests has largely shifted away from the WTO, Maybarduk suggests, the TPP agreement signals the next iteration of that effort.
‘The TPP could well be the worst that we have seen,’ Maybarduk says. ‘Not only does it run contrary to the U.S.’s own pledges on global AIDS work, but the TPP will set the template for the entire Asia- Pacific region. That could have an impact on half of the world’s population.’ ”

Tackling overfishing
The Guardian reports that Senegal’s new government has revoked the fishing licenses of 29 foreign trawlers.
“Hunger is growing in Senegal and other Sahelian countries, but much of the catch by the foreign fleets ends up in Britain and the EU after being exported from ports like Las Palmas in the Canary Islands. Local fishing industry leaders in Senegal, Cape Verde, Mauritania and elsewhere say catches from inshore fishing have been decimated in the past 10 years because of overfishing. In addition, many other ‘pirate’ trawlers operate illegally in west African waters, further decimating stocks.
‘Senegal’s only resource is the sea,’ said Abdou Karim Sall, president of the Fishermen’s Association of Joal and the Committee of Marine Reserves in West Africa. ‘Unless something changes there will be a catastrophe for livelihoods, employment and food security.’ ”

Financial services hype
Juraj Dobrila University’s Milford Bateman argues that the “financial inclusion agenda” promoted by the World Bank is “nonsense.”
“First, as ever, there is the overarching effort to try to get the poor to uncritically accept the tools the rich have used to acquire their great wealth and become powerful. Finance is one of these tools. By claiming that helping the poor to ‘manage their money better’ will rapidly lead to economic and social benefits, the promoters of the financial inclusion agenda hope the poor will abandon any possible interest in supporting the collective capabilities and initiatives that history shows have massively empowered them. I would include here trade unions, social movements, strongly regulated labour markets, universal healthcare, public sector employment, a ‘developmental state’ and, most of all, the programmed redistribution of wealth and power.”

Islamophobia
The East London Communities Organisation’s Muhammad Abdul Bari writes that Europe’s “counter-jihad movement” poses a serious threat to the continent’s communal harmony.
“It is disheartening that a continent that had learnt many lessons in such a hard way, after the devastation of the two World Wars, and which prides itself in equality and human rights, is allowing itself to be influenced by the forces of intolerance and hate. It is now open season to malign Muslims because of their religious and cultural practices. Yet Muslim immigrants arriving after the war joined in the effort to rebuild the economies of war-torn Europe in the 1950s. In almost every field of life, Muslims have been an integral part of the European tapestry. Muslims are today at home in Europe, have been contributors to its past and are stakeholders in its future.
Yet the language and rhetoric used by the Far Right and the level of political expediency in mainstream European politics is mind boggling. The hate mongers are apparently succeeding in swapping a racist agenda for an Islamophobic one. The lacklustre response from European leaders has paved the way for anti-Muslim bigotry to move closer to the mainstream.”

Bribery’s cost
In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, Global Financial Integrity’s Clark Gascoigne argues that the sort of bribery Wal-Mart is alleged to have committed in Mexico is neither victimless nor unavoidable.
“Environmental regulations exist for many reasons—to protect the health, safety and well-being of the community. If environmental laws were circumvented to build a new Wal-Mart supercenter too close to an important watershed, for example, drinking water could be contaminated and people could become sick or die.

While bribery is pervasive in Mexican society, it is very difficult for small businesses and local residents to escape paying up. They don’t carry the weight needed to change an entire society. However, a major company like Wal-Mart—with the promise of bringing thousands of jobs to local Mexican communities—has the leverage needed to say no to corruption and still conduct business. The company, apparently, chose not to do that.”

Immigration targeting
The Globe and Mail reports on concerns that Canada’s immigration policy is moving away from 50 years of trying to remove race and national origin from the equation.
“Overall it would be a mistake, says [Dalhousie University’s Howard Ramos], to conceive of the uneven outcomes for different immigrant groups as evidence that immigration was failing.
‘Immigrants in Canada have a high degree of integration. This [language] policy doesn’t reflect that success at all. It’s creating a problem where I don’t necessarily think a problem exists,’ he says. ‘The points system was introduced to correct the injustices of focusing on culture and language too heavily. It was a society and a time that was much more ethnocentric – and I don’t think it’s a time we should try and return to.’ ”

Democracy undone
Inter Press Service reports on some of the problems bilateral investment treaties pose for governments wishing to implement sound public policy.
“ ‘Foreign investors may challenge, in an international arbitration process, any change in law and policy to protect the environment and public health, to promote social or cultural goals, or to grapple with financial or economic crises. However, it is impossible to predict the outcome with any precision because each will depend in large part on the composition of the arbitral tribunal deciding the case, which consists of three highly-paid individuals, typically specialized in commercial rather than public law,’ [according to the International Institute for Sustainable Developments Nathalie Bernasconi].

‘A lack of transparency, unpredictability and conflicts of interest have simply become unacceptable. This discontent has led countries like Australia to disfavor investor-state dispute settlement entirely and others to terminate their investment treaties.
‘Watching these developments, countries like Brazil, which never ratified any of its investment treaties, must count themselves lucky,’ she added.”

Latest Developments, March 29

In the latest news and analysis…

Migrant deaths
The Guardian reports that the lead investigator into the maritime deaths of dozens of African migrants has called Europe’s talk of human rights “meaningless.”
“Despite emergency calls being issued and the boat being located and identified by European coastguard officials, no rescue was ever attempted. All but nine of those on board died from thirst and starvation or in storms, including two babies.
The report’s author, Tineke Strik – echoing the words of Mevlüt Çavusoglu, president of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly at the time of the incident – described the tragedy as ‘a dark day for Europe’, and told the Guardian it exposed the continent’s double standards in valuing human life.

The incident has become well known due to the harrowing accounts of the survivors, but the report makes clear that many similar ‘silent tragedies’ have occurred in recent years. Last year a record number of migrant deaths were recorded in the Mediterranean. ‘When you think about the media attention focused on the [Costa] Concordia and then compare it to the more than 1,500 migrant lives lost in the Mediterranean in 2011, the difference is striking,’ Strik said.”

Yemen drones
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports there has been a sharp increase in “covert US strikes against alleged militants” in Yemen since the start of the Arab Spring.
“At least 26 US military and CIA strikes involving cruise missiles, aircraft, drones or naval bombardments have taken place in the volatile Gulf nation to date, killing hundreds of alleged militants linked to the regional al Qaeda franchise. But at least 54 civilians have died too, the study found.

At least five US attacks – some involving multiple targets – have so far taken place in Yemen this month alone, in support of a government offensive to drive militants from key locations. In comparison, Pakistan’s tribal areas, the epicentre of the CIA’s controversial drone war, have seen just three US drone strikes in March.”

Sweden’s Saudi scandal
Agence France-Presse reports Sweden’s defence minister has resigned in the midst of controversy over a secret arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
“Earlier this month public broadcaster Swedish Radio said the Swedish Defence Research Agency (FOI) had secret plans since 2007 to help Saudi Arabia build a plant for the production of anti-tank weapons.
The radio said part of the so-called Project Simoom involved the creation of a shell company called SSTI to handle dealings with Saudi Arabia in order to avoid any direct links to FOI and the government.

Sweden has in the past sold weapons to Saudi Arabia, but classified government documents state that Project Simoom ‘pushes the boundaries of what is possible for a Swedish authority,’ the radio said when it broke the story on March 6.”

Apple/Foxconn promises
Reuters reports that Apple has promised to work with Foxconn to increase wages and improve working conditions in their Chinese factories.
“The moves came in response to one of the largest investigations ever conducted of a U.S. company’s operations abroad. Apple had agreed to the probe by the independent Fair Labour Association in response to a crescendo of criticism that its products were built on the backs of mistreated Chinese workers.

Apple, the world’s most valuable corporation, and Foxconn, China’s biggest private-sector employer and Apple’ main contract manufacturer, are so dominant in the global technology industry that their newly forged accord will likely have a substantial ripple effect across the sector.”

Patent objection
The Economic Times reports that the US has criticized India for greenlighting the manufacture of a generic version of a cancer drug for which Germany’s Bayer holds the patent.
“The compulsory licence would allow the company to make a generic, or copycat, version of the patented cancer drug bringing down prices by about 30 times. ‘[US Commerce Secretary John] Bryson said pharmaceuticals was a competitive area and heavy investments went into R&D every year. Any dilution of the international patent regime was a cause for deep concern for the US,’ the official said.
Defending the move, [Indian Commerce & Industry Minister Anand] Sharma said the compulsory licence strictly complied with the flexibility norms provided in the Trips (trade-related intellectual property rights) Agreement of the WTO since a large number of cancer patients died in the country every year as they could not afford treatment.”

Widening Kimberley
Reuters reports that the Kimberley Process is considering expanding the definition of “conflict” it uses in monitoring of the global diamond trade.
“ ‘What we would like to see is in essence that there be a clear agreed understanding amongst the membership that conflict is something more than only a rebel group seeking to overthrow a legitimate government,’ [Kimberley Process chairwoman Gillian Milovanovic] said.”

Madagascar anniversary
Le Monde marks the anniversary of “one of the most significant colonial massacres” which killed tens of thousands in Madagascar over the course of nearly two years.
“This Thursday, March 29, Malagasies commemorate the 65th anniversary of the start of the insurrection. Independent since June 26, 1960 – after 65 years of French colonization – the Red Island remembers a ‘pacification’ that consisted of torture, burned villages, summary executions and a French expeditionary force composed mainly of colonial troops. Some 18,000 soldiers landed in April 1947. Their numbers reached 30,000 in 1948. ” (Translated from the French.)

Extreme extractivism
Human rights lawyer Magdalena Gómez points to the recent deaths of anti-mining protesters as evidence of the excessive power transnational corporations have gained in Mexico.
“We have already heard the usual arguments that attribute the attacks to rifts in the community—and they do exist–but no one stops to analyze that these divisions are promoted by the alliances forged by the mining companies.
The truth is that, beyond the investigations required to arrest and prosecute the masterminds and perpetrators of these crimes, it’s urgent that we look into the devastating effects of the policy of granting mining concessions without regard to the territorial rights of the peoples.

Until the fallacy that transnational corporations are simply private actors is rejected and what has been called “the architecture of impunity” is deconstructed, peoples’ rights will be impossible to guarantee in the face of the reality of governments subjugated to transnational capital.” (Translated by the Center for International Policy’s Michael Kane)

Latest Developments, March 12

In the latest news and analysis…

The backlash continues
As reactions to the Kony 2012 mega-viral video keep pouring in, Warscapes’ Dinaw Mengestu’s contribution – in which he blasts Invisible Children’s saviour complex and “doctrine of simplicity” – drew rave reviews on Twitter.
“In the world of Kony 2012, Joseph Kony has evaded arrest for one dominant reason: Those of us living in the western world haven’t known about him, and because we haven’t known about him, no one has been able to stop him. The film is more than just an explanation of the problem; it’s the answer as well. It’s a beautiful equation that can only work so long as we believe that nothing in the world happens unless we know about it, and that once we do know about it, however poorly informed and ignorant we may be, every action we take is good, and more importantly, ‘makes a difference.’ In the case of Kony 2012, this isn’t simply a matter of making a complicated narrative easier to understand, but rather it’s a distortion, or at worse, a self-serving omission of the extensive efforts made over the past decade by the UN, US, Ugandan and South Sudanese governments, and numerous religious and civil organizations across Uganda, to bring Kony to justice.”

Water world
The Guardian reports on concerns over the priorities of the World Water Forum, currently underway in France, that is calling itself a “platform for solutions” to global water issues.
“But critics say the forum, which costs as much as 700 euros for full access, caters to the interests of big business and gives corporations opportunities to advance their interests by facilitating direct access to high-ranking government officials. Starting on Wednesday, activists are staging an Alternative World Water Forum to promote alternatives to privatisation and share experiences on how to promote public and community-led water management from the bottom-up.
On Friday, UN special rapporteur Catarina de Albuquerque warned that government delegates to the WWF appeared to be watering down their human rights commitments to water and sanitation. These rights, formally recognised by the UN in 2010, must form the basis of any proposals to expand access to essential services, said De Albuquerque in a statement.”

Public support for Anonymous
Web consultant Jon Blanchard makes the “perhaps career-limiting admission” that he supports the Anonymous international hacktivist movement.
“Hactivism, as undertaken by Anonymous, sees no buildings burned, no kids are clubbed and no officers pelted with rocks. It is non-violent protest that deliberately targets nothing more, and nothing less, than reputation.
The most dangerous outcome of the Anonymous movement, perhaps the most important thing it can do, is the embarrassment of people unaccustomed to being embarrassed.”

Patent precedent
Intellectual Property Watch reports an Indian court has ruled that a domestic generic drug manufacturer can produce a patented cancer medication despite the objections of Bayer, the German pharmaceutical giant that first developed the drug.
“Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors without Borders) said the ruling ends Bayer’s monopoly in India on the drug and could set precedent for making more expensive patented drugs available for compulsory licensing.
‘But this decision marks a precedent that offers hope: it shows that new drugs under patent can also be produced by generic makers at a fraction of the price, while royalties are paid to the patent holder. This compensates patent holders while at the same time ensuring that competition can bring down prices,’ Tido von Schoen-Angerer, director of the MSF Access Campaign, said in a statement.”

Ethics of obesity
Arguing that “an increase in weight by some imposes costs on others,” Princeton University’s Peter Singer calls for public policies that would discourage obesity.
“Taxing foods that are disproportionately implicated in obesity – especially foods with no nutritional value, such as sugary drinks – would help. The revenue raised could then be used to offset the extra costs that overweight people impose on others, and the increased cost of these foods could discourage their consumption by people who are at risk of obesity, which is second only to tobacco use as the leading cause of preventable death.
Many of us are rightly concerned about whether our planet can support a human population that has surpassed seven billion. But we should think of the size of the human population not just in terms of numbers, but also in terms of its mass. If we value both sustainable human well-being and our planet’s natural environment, my weight – and yours – is everyone’s business.”

Evolving IMF
Boston University’s Kevin Gallagher writes that despite the International Monetary Fund’s continued pushing of austerity measures in recent agreements with Latvia, Ukraine and Pakistan, there are signs that the 65 year-old institution is changing its ways.
“The IMF is in a period of what economist Ilene Grabel refers to as ‘productive incoherence’. There is a lot of very productive debate and change within the organisation, but it is often inconsistent and contradictory. New thinking about inflation targeting and capital flows has indeed crept into stand-by arrangements, but not the new thinking and hard evidence on austerity.
That said, the changes in the wake of the financial crisis are not to be overlooked and deserve applause. Part of the reason the institution is changing is due to the rising economic power of its developing members, such as China, Brazil and India. Along with this newfound power will come more voting power at the Fund.
If strategic coalitions are built, they can coalesce to make the institution more development-friendly – and live up to the promise laid out by its founders.”

Multilateralism and poverty
Oxfam’s Stephen Hale sees little short-term prospect of international cooperation that would fundamentally alter a global economic system whose rules are “stacked against the interests of the poorest countries.”
“A third cause is the poverty of current global governance structures, which do not foster the common approach we need to manage global risks and deliver prosperity and security for a world of 9 billion people.
In truth, it was ever thus. Despite progress on development aid and on climate change in better economic times, the pace of global collective action has always been profoundly inadequate for the scale of the challenges we face.”

Latest Developments, February 12

In the latest news and analysis…

End of cheap drugs?
Unitaid’s Philippe Douste-Blazy and Denis Broun argue the free trade agreement currently being negotiated by India and the EU threatens to end access to cheap medicines for patients in poor countries.
“The medicines-related issues discussed in the FTA are not only a question of public health, but of ethics, justice and reason. The result will either be a win-win situation that will also benefit the poor or a lose-lose proposition that may kill the poor. It would be unthinkable that private interest pressure from European pharmaceutical companies to preserve an obsolete business model could prevail over common sense, common interest and the health of millions of people.”

Open letter to Tim Cook
China Labour Watch’s Li Qiang has written an open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook, in which he argues the reasons for the poor working conditions in its supplier factories are “deeply rooted in your company’s business model.”
“We believe the most basic cause of the problems at your supplier factories is the low price Apple insists on paying them, leaving next to no room for them to make a profit. The demand for astronomically high production rates at an extremely low price pushes factories to exploit workers, since it is the only way to meet Apple’s production requirements and make its factory owners a profit at the same time.

There is a simple solution for the problems we have observed in Apple’s supply chain, and it doesn’t even involve raising the prices for consumers. Apple needs simply to share a larger proportion of its sizeable profits with the supplier factories it contracts with and, by extension, the people who make its products.”

Anti-drug vaccines
Inter Press Service reports on experimental trials of drug addiction vaccinations going on in Mexico and the US, which although touted as an alternative to the war on drugs, have attracted little interest from pharmaceutical companies.
“After taking office in December 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderón deployed thousands of soldiers and police to fight drug trafficking in a repressive campaign that has left more than 47,000 dead, according to the latest government figures, although journalists put the death toll at over 50,000.
A preventive clinical approach is therefore an urgent priority, although vaccine development requires financial backing for production on an industrial scale.
‘It’s not a profitable product for the pharmaceutical industry, and the same is true for many other diseases. The state would have to subsidise it. We have already heard more than once that a vaccine is on the way, but then nothing happens,’ said [Dr. Rogelio] Rodríguez, who tried unsuccessfully to introduce his [cocaine and alcohol dependency] treatment in Mexico City prisons – ‘but there were too many conditions and requirements.’ ”

Beer suit
The Associated Press reports that an “American Indian tribe” is suing a handful of major beer makers for knowingly contributing to addiction on a reservation where alcohol is banned.
“The Oglala Sioux Tribe of South Dakota said it is demanding $500 million in damages for the cost of health care, social services and child rehabilitation caused by chronic alcoholism on the reservation, which encompasses some of the nation’s most impoverished counties.

‘You cannot sell 4.9 million 12-ounce cans of beer and wash your hands like Pontius Pilate, and say we’ve got nothing to do with it being smuggled,’ said Tom White, the tribe’s Omaha-based attorney.”

Happy planet
Reuters reports on the results of a new global survey that suggests the world is happier than it was before the financial crisis hit, with people in Indonesia, Mexico and India being the happiest of all.
Perhaps proving that money can’t buy happiness, residents of some of the world biggest economic powers, including the United States, Canada and Britain, fell in the middle of the happiness scale.
‘There is a pattern that suggests that there are many other factors beyond the economy that make people happy, so it does provide one element but it is not the whole story,’ said [Ipsos Global’s John] Wright.

Uneconomics
The University of Oxford’s William Davies argues that although the financial crisis was triggered in part by a system he describes as “a mineshaft crammed with canaries, scarcely any of whom had any inclination or ability to sing,” the resulting fallout has actually increased the power of economics in public life.
“It is time to acknowledge an uncomfortable truth about the public status of economics as an expert discipline: it has grown to be far more powerful as a tool of political rhetoric, blame avoidance and elite strategy than for the empirical representation of economic life. This is damaging to politics, for it enables value judgements and political agendas to be endlessly presented in ‘factual’ terms. But it is equally damaging to economics, which is losing the authority to describe reality in a credible, disinterested, Enlightenment fashion.”

Ecosystem services
The International Institute for Environment and Development’s Kate Munro highlights one of the potential downsides to “making carbon into a commodity.”
“It gives national governments title to the carbon sequestered in a country’s soils and forests for the purposes of trading on international carbon markets, which could pose an additional barrier to the efforts of individuals and poor rural communities to demarcate, and gain title to the land on which their livelihoods depend.”

Word and deed
Oxfam’s Ian Gary rails against the “yawning gap” between what oil companies say and do regarding corporate transparency.
“Many of the same companies praising transparency have been actively lobbying since the law passed to gut implementation by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The hypocrisy is out there in the open if you know where to look. Senate lobbying disclosure forms show that Chevron, Exxon, Shell, Conoco Phillips, Marathon, Occidental, the American Petroleum Institute (API), and others have been very active in Washington on this provision, targeting not only the SEC, but the House of Representatives, Senate, Department of State, Department of the Intertior, and the National Security Council.
As I wrote last week, API (revenues of more than $198 million in 2009) has now threatened to sue the SEC unless the agency withdraws its proposed rule and starts from scratch to meet big oil’s secrecy wishes rather than the law and Congressional mandate.”