Latest Developments, November 21

In the latest news and analysis…

Itching for action
Le Nouvel Observateur reports that France may not wait for the UN’s green light to launch a military intervention in the Central African Republic:

“ ‘We are preparing to intervene in the Central African Republic, probably just after France hosts the African security summit scheduled for December 6 and 7, but before if necessary,’ a French official said.

Since September, in addition to the 420 soldiers already on the ground to protect Bangui’s airport, the French army has discretely pre-positioned troops in various countries in the region in preparation for a CAR intervention.

The legal basis for the planned operation has not yet been established.” [Translated from the French.]

Detention quotas
National Public Radio reports that US law requires that at least 34,000 immigrants be held in detention centres at all times:

“The detention bed mandate, which began in 2009, is just part of the massive increase in enforcement-only immigration policies over the last two decades. The last time Congress passed a broad immigration law dealing with something other than enforcement — such as overhauling visa or guest worker policies — was 1986.

‘They’re trying to pick people up for either very minor traffic violations or other minor convictions that wouldn’t be considered serious, but that they can quantify as a criminal alien,’ says Nina Rabin, an immigration law professor at the University of Arizona.”

Privatizing nature
The Scotsman reports on the debate over “natural capital accounting” that is playing out on the sidelines of a UN-backed conference in Edinburgh:

“As the two-day inaugural World Forum on Natural Capital gets under way in Edinburgh, economic justice groups have condemned its aim to put a price tag on resources such as water, air, geology and all life on earth so companies can include these ‘stocks’ in their balance sheets.
Organisers of the United Nations-backed conference claim the planet is more likely to be protected if its assets are given a financial value, but activists fighting global poverty believe this will lead to speculators buying and selling environmental assets for profit.
It amounts to ‘privatising nature’, according to representatives of European protest groups who are today hosting a counter event called the Forum on Natural Commons.”

Beyond aid
The Center for Global Development has released its annual Commitment to Development Index, which “goes beyond measures of foreign aid” to assess trade, migration, environment, etc. policies in 27 of the world’s richest countries:

“Finland does best on finance because of very good financial transparency and support to investment in developing countries. Switzerland comes last, mainly because it lacks financial transparency and does not have a national agency to offer political risk insurance. Norway takes first place on migration, accepting the most migrants for its size and bearing a large share of refugee burden, unlike the last-ranked Slovakia, which is relatively closed to migrants from developing countries.

Canada is not party to the Kyoto Protocol and has high fossil-fuel production, high greenhouse gas emissions, and low gas taxes, putting it at the bottom.

Last-ranked Sweden is proportionally the largest arms exporter to developing countries and does not help protect sea lanes.

In short, all countries could do much more to spread prosperity.”

Inconvenient laws
The Canadian Press reports that a Canadian company is demanding “expeditious” changes to Romanian mining laws so it can go ahead with what would be Europe’s largest open-pit gold mine:

“The chief executive officer of Gabriel Resources Ltd. says it needs quick progress on a new mining law in Romania or the company will be forced to do ‘something radically different’ with its controversial gold project.
A draft bill that specifically would have allowed the Rosia Montana project, one of Europe’s biggest gold mining projects, to go ahead was rejected by a Romanian parliamentary commission last week.

Gabriel Resources CEO Jonathan Henry said Tuesday that the company’s shareholders are running out of patience.

He did not say what ‘radically different’ would mean, but said the company was looking at all of its options.”

Right to privacy
Foreign Policy reports that the US is leading the charge against German and Brazilian efforts to have online privacy recognized as an international human right:

“The United States and its allies, according to diplomats, outside observers, and documents, contend that the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights does not apply to foreign espionage.
In recent days, the United States circulated to its allies a confidential paper highlighting American objectives in the negotiations, ‘Right to Privacy in the Digital Age — U.S. Redlines.’ It calls for changing the Brazilian and German text so ‘that references to privacy rights are referring explicitly to States’ obligations under ICCPR and remove suggestion that such obligations apply extraterritorially.’ In other words: America wants to make sure it preserves the right to spy overseas.

There is no extraterritorial obligation on states ‘to comply with human rights,’ explained one diplomat who supports the U.S. position. ‘The obligation is on states to uphold the human rights of citizens within their territory and areas of their jurisdictions.’ ”

Generic fears
Intellectual Property Watch reports on rich-country concerns that India’s approach to intellectual property rights could spread to other places:

“Over the past 12 to 18 months, there have been several developments in India related to patents that have stirred foreign industry and government criticism, but have been applauded by public health advocates. These include high-profile court decisions such as Novartis, in which the Supreme Court ruled that cancer drug Glivec cannot be patented in India because it does not represent a true innovation. The outcome was seen as having a potential impact beyond India’s borders.
India also issued a compulsory licence on a [cancer] medicine that caused significant concern among the patent-holding industry.”

Sweet 16
The Associated Press reports that Illinois has become the 16th US state to legalize same-sex marriage:

“ ‘We understand in our state that part of our unfinished business is to help other states in the United States of America achieve marriage equality,’ [Illinois Governor Pat Quinn] said before he signed the bill on a desk once used by President Abraham Lincoln. He said part of that mission was to ensure that ‘love is not relegated to a second class status to any citizen in our country.’ ”

Latest Developments, October 23

In the latest news and analysis…

Migrant rights
Human Rights Watch is calling on Europe to adopt a “rights-based approach” to migrants arriving by boat:

“Though framed in terms of saving lives, many of the proposed policy responses reflect the EU’s preoccupation with preventing departure and barring entry, Human Rights Watch said. These responses have brought to the fore longstanding disputes among Mediterranean EU member countries about responsibilities for rescue operations, for determining where those rescued may land, and for processing migrants and asylum seekers.
Enhanced efforts to save lives at sea need to go hand-in-hand with respect for other fundamental human rights, such as the right to seek asylum and protection against torture and ill-treatment, Human Rights Watch said.”

Dirty money
Global Financial Integrity welcomes two new pieces of legislation “aimed at stemming the flow of trillions of dollars in dirty money through the U.S. financial system”:

“Introduced by Rep. Maxine Waters, the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, the Holding Individuals Accountable and Deterring Money Laundering Act would hold top executives at U.S. financial institutions responsible for oversight of anti-money laundering compliance at their bank while increasing the penalties faced by bankers for violating AML laws—bringing them in line with the penalties faced by drug dealers on the streets.

The U.S. Department of Justice has warned that anonymous shell companies are the most widely used method for laundering criminal proceeds, and an anonymous shell company can currently be incorporated in nearly every U.S. state. The Incorporation Transparency and Law Enforcement Assistance Act, introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), proposes to fix this problem by requiring that firms incorporated in the U.S. disclose their true, human, ‘beneficial owners’ in a central registry that is accessible by law enforcement.”

Old habits
The Economist’s Schumpeter writes that despite outside pressure, Switzerland does not appear ready to do away with its famous banking secrecy just yet:

“The Swiss government recently announced its intention to sign the OECD convention on cross-border tax assistance, but this would have to be ratified by the parliament, which has shown itself to be less willing to make concessions. More importantly, the convention doesn’t require the automatic exchange of information, but rather exchange ‘on request’, which has proven ineffective (because, in a classic Catch-22 situation, the requesting country often needs much of the information it is seeking in order to put together a request that meets the requirements of the jurisdiction where the untaxed money is thought to be stashed). The Swiss are still opposed to automatic exchange.
Moreover, earlier this month the cabinet dropped plans to allow co-operation with other countries’ tax-assistance requests in cases where the data was stolen by whistle-blowers, after the proposal met with strong domestic political opposition. Weeks earlier, ministers had reiterated their view that Swiss criminal law should not be used to help foreign countries recover lost taxes or enforce any other economic laws.”

Racism for kids
Radio Netherlands Worldwide reports that the UN is investigating whether the Dutch tradition of Zwarte Piet or “Black Pete” is racist:

“On Tuesday, the chair of the UN working group, Verene Shepherd spoke on her own behalf, saying that ‘the working group cannot understand why it is that people in the Netherlands cannot see that this is a throwback to slavery and that in the 21st century this practice should stop’.
Asked for his opinion on the debate last week, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte stated that the issue is not a matter for the government. He said that ‘Zwarte Piet just happens to be black and I can change nothing about that.’ ”

Presidential spying
The Associated Press reports that Mexico claims US President Barack Obama “gave his word” there would be an investigation into apparent spying on Mexican presidential emails:

“ ‘Mexico did not ask for an explanation. Mexico asked for an investigation,’ [Secretary of foreign affairs Jose Antonio Meade] said when asked whether the US had apologized or offered any explanation about the reported National Security Agency spying.

A report by the German news magazine Der Spiegel said documents from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden indicate the US gained access to former Mexican president Felipe Calderon’s email system when he was in office. Earlier, a document dated June 2012 indicated the NSA had read current Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto’s emails before he was elected.”

Tax-deductible fines
Forbes contributor Robert Wood writes about how major American companies who misbehave can get taxpayers to pay a big chunk of fines levied by the US government:

“[The U.S. Public Interest Research Group] claims that unless JPMorgan Chase is explicitly forbidden, it will write off the [$13 billion] settlement. That would make taxpayers bear 35% of the cost of the settlement.

The tax code prohibits deducting ‘any fine or similar penalty paid to a government for the violation of any law,’’ including criminal and civil penalties plus sums paid to settle potential liability for fines. In reality, many companies deduct settlements, even those that are quasi-fine-like in character. Exxon’s $1.1 billion Alaska oil spill settlement cost Exxon $524 million after tax. More recently, BP’s Gulf spill raised similar issues.”

Containing violence
The Institute for Economics and Peace’s Steve Killelea writes about the global costs, in dollar terms, of violence:

“According to the Global Peace Index, containing violence – including internal and external conflicts, as well as violent crimes and homicides – cost the world almost $9.5 trillion, or 11% of global GDP, last year. That is 75 times the volume of official overseas development assistance in 2012, which amounted to $125.6 billion, and nearly double the value of the world’s annual agricultural production. (For further perspective, the post-2008 global financial crisis caused global GDP to fall by 0.6%.)
This means that if the world were to reduce its violence-related expenditure by approximately 50%, it could repay the debt of the developing world ($4.1 trillion), provide enough money for the European Stability Mechanism ($900 billion), and fund the additional amount required to achieve the MDGs ($60 billion).”

Small is beautiful
The Gaia Foundation’s Teresa Anderson argues that “agriculture is increasingly becoming agribusiness”, with dire consequences for both people and the planet:

“It is important to note that the global industrial food system contributes an estimated 44-57% of global greenhouse gases to climate change. In contrast, the world’s small-scale farmers – the ones keeping agricultural diversity alive – provide 70% of all food eaten globally, using just 30% of the world’s agricultural land.”

Latest Developments, October 11

In the latest news and analysis…

Immigration disaster
The Associated Press reports that another boat carrying African migrants, this time an estimated 200, has capsized on its way to Europe:

“The capsizing occurred some 65 miles (105 kilometers) southeast of Lampedusa but in waters where Malta has search and rescue responsibilities.

Last week, a ship carrying some 500 people capsized off Lampedusa, killing more than 300 people. Only 155 survived. The deaths prompted calls for the European Union to do more to better patrol the southern Mediterranean and prevent such tragedies.”

And the winner is…
RT reports that the global watchdog tasked with overseeing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons has won this year’s Nobel peace prize:

“The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was founded in 1997 to enforce the Chemical Weapons Convention, an international treaty that bans the production, storage and use of chemical weapons.
Its main job since then has been the ongoing monitoring of the process of chemical disarmament by the treaty’s signatories, particularly the US and Russia, the countries that held the largest stockpiles at the time it was signed.

Awarding the prominent prize to the OCPW came as a surprise to many. Nobel Prize watchers didn’t mention the organization as a likely laureate. Predictions favored several individuals, including Malala Yousafzai, a teenage Pakistani women’s rights campaigner who survived a Taliban attack, Dr. Denis Mukwege, a gynecologist and rape victims’ defender from Congo, Claudia Paz y Paz, the resilient mafia-fighting Guatemalan attorney general, and Sister Mary Tarcisia Lokot, a nun at the forefront of post-war reconciliation in Uganda.”

Above the law
In a New York Times op-ed, Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu argues countries (like the US) that reject membership in the International Criminal Court are “looking for a license to kill, maim and oppress” with impunity:

“Most of all, they believe that neither the golden rule, nor the rule of law, applies to them.

Perpetrators of violence must not be allowed to wriggle free.
Moreover, where justice and order are not restored, there can be no healing, leaving violence and hatred ticking like a bomb in the corner.”

Mercury treaty
The BBC reports that countries have started signing a legally binding agreement regulating the trade and use of mercury:

“The Minamata Convention was named after the Japanese city that, in the 1950s, saw one of the world’s worst cases of mercury poisoning.

The [UN Environment Programme] assessment said the concentration of mercury in the top 100m of the world’s oceans had doubled over the past century, and estimated that 260 tonnes of the toxic metal had made their way from soil into rivers and lakes.”

Falling short
Human Rights Watch’s Jessica Evans argues that the World Bank “lags behind” when it comes to mitigating human rights risks:

“The bank’s safeguard policies partially address protecting indigenous peoples’ rights and ensuring that people are resettled appropriately, but fall short of international human rights law on those areas and more generally. Moreover, the policies don’t even require the World Bank to analyze human rights risks in designing and carrying out its activities.

The World Bank is undertaking its first wholesale review of its safeguard policies. If it goes right, bank staff will be required to identify potential human rights risks and work to prevent or mitigate them, to avoid contributing to abuses.”

For-profit spying
The Guardian reports on the Canadian government’s “increasingly aggressive promotion of resource corporations at home and abroad,” which appears to extend to espionage and intelligence sharing with companies:

“ ‘There is very substantial evidence that the spying Canada was doing for economic reasons aimed at Brazil is far from an aberration,’ Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald told Canadian media on Tuesday. Greenwald hinted that he will be publishing further documents on [Communications Security Establishment Canada].
‘We’ve already seen how Canadian embassies around the world essentially act as agents for Canadian companies – even when they’re implicated in serious human rights abuses,’ said Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada, an NGO watchdog. ‘We just had no idea how far they were willing to go.’ ”

More equal than others
In the wake of the recent US military raids in Somalia and Libya, Foreign Policy’s David Rothkopf writes that America must reject “exceptionalism” in order to be a great nation:

“Exceptionalism is contrary to the spirit of the U.S. Constitution and the ideas that led to the founding of the country. If there is one lesson of human civilization, it is that equality under the law needs to apply to nations as well as people or else chaos and injustice ensue. This past weekend’s raids were more damaging not because the outcome of one was unsuccessful but because the outcome of the other was. If countries feel they can swoop in and snatch up bad guys anywhere, whenever, and however it suited them, the world would quickly fall into a state of permanent war.”

Water justice
The Blue Planet Project’s Meera Karunananthan argues that the private sector cannot provide “silver bullet solutions” for ensuring the human right to water:

“The real crisis is a political one: corporations are attempting to control water policy to guarantee secure access to scarce water resources. When governments relegate basic services, such as water and sanitation, to profit-driven multinationals that hike up the service fees and exploit scarce resources, we are dealing with a crisis generated by an unsustainable economic model.
Yet that model continues to be promoted around the world at events like the Budapest Water Summit, where governments discuss the future of the world’s water with polluters and water profiteers rather than with the communities most impacted by the global water crisis.”

Latest Developments, October 8

In the latest news and analysis…

Military solutions
The BBC reports that the European Commission is calling for migrant-intercepting sea patrols “covering the whole Mediterranean, from Cyprus to Spain”:

“The move by Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem was prompted by the deaths of at least 274 migrants whose boat sank off Italy’s Lampedusa island.

[The EU's Frontex border agency] is currently helping Italy to intercept migrant boats, but the two EU operations in the southern Mediterranean have limited resources – a total of four ships, two helicopters and two planes.
The search and rescue patrols would ‘help better tracking, identification and rescue of boats, especially migrants’ boats’, the commissioner’s spokesman Michele Cercone said.”

Watery graveyard
The Danish Institute for International Studies’ Hans Lucht argues that European policies on migration and refugees have led to “a massacre by negligence”:

“Countries like Italy routinely send rescue boats into the Mediterranean to pick up migrants stranded off the coast, but this is only a belated Band-Aid. Europe’s professed commitment to human rights, including, in principle, a duty to give refuge to those escaping persecution and misery, has not been matched by meaningful policies.

For all of Europe’s economic woes, it is well within the capacity of the European Union to resettle these migrants. The real barrier is the devaluation of African lives. For this there is no quick fix. A unified, humane policy on refugees and asylum seekers is needed. So is a long-term commitment to social and economic transformation in sub-Saharan Africa, to which Europeans owe a moral debt.

There is a growing acceptance that a watery graveyard is a necessary evil for the maintenance of a free and prosperous Europe. This is a disgrace: the suffering in the chilly waters off Sicily calls into question the moral integrity of the entire border system (to the extent it can be called one).”

Cholera compensation
The Associated Press reports that the UN’s top human rights official has called for the “right” to compensation for victims of the cholera epidemic triggered by UN peacekeepers in Haiti:

“ ‘I have used my voice both inside the United Nations and outside to call for the right — for an investigation by the United Nations, by the country concerned, and I still stand by the call that victims of — of those who suffered as a result of that cholera be provided with compensation,’ [U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay] said at an awards ceremony for human rights activists in Geneva.
The U.N. maintains it has legal immunity from such compensation claims.”

Immediate surrender
Agence France-Presse reports that Libya’s parliament has officially demanded that the US return a Libyan citizen “snatched” by American forces in Tripoli over the weekend:

“A [General National Congress] statement read out by spokesman Omar Hmidan stressed ‘the need for the immediate surrender’ of Abu Anas al-Libi and described the US operation as a ‘flagrant violation of (Libya’s) national sovereignty.’
The text, which was passed by the GNC, also calls for the ‘need to allow the Libyan authorities and their families to get in touch with him (Libi) and guarantee them access to a lawyer.’

[Libi] is reportedly being held aboard a US naval ship in the Mediterranean.”

Interrogations at sea
NPR explains why the US appears to be holding alleged terrorist Abu Anas al-Libi on a ship in the Mediterranean:

“The U.S. could send al-Libi to the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, where he could be questioned and held indefinitely while awaiting a military trial.
But President Obama wants to close the Guantanamo prison and therefore is unlikely to add to its population. The president has also barred the use of ‘extraordinary rendition,’ or sending suspects to secret prisons in third countries.

Human rights groups say the shipboard detention is just another version of Guantanamo and the secret prisons that delay or prevent fair trials from taking place. But the intelligence agencies argue that they need to question suspects to break up terror networks and guard against future attacks.
There’s no time limit for how long the U.S. could hold al-Libi on a ship outside the U.S.”

Deadly blaze
Reuters reports on another fatal fire at a garment factory in Bangladesh:

“Gazipur’s firefighting chief, Abu Zafar Ahmed, said nine employees including three company managers had died in the blaze that originated in the knitting section of Aswad Composite Mills factory, a sister concern of Paul Mall Group.

The recent string of accidents has put the government, industrialists and the global brands that use the factories under pressure to reform an industry that employs four million and generates 80 percent of Bangladesh’s export earnings.”

Unequal partnership
iPolitics reports that Canada’s top First Nations leader has described the federal government’s approach to his people as “paternalistic at best and assimilationist at worst”:

“[Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo] outlined what he’d like to see in the throne speech, set for Oct. 16. The AFN, he said, wants four things: predictable and sustainable funding based on First Nations control; First Nations authority over education; a commitment to a full national public inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women; and reform of the comprehensive claims policy, which he says is ‘deeply flawed.’ ”

Boys club
Inter Press Service reports on calls to remedy the absence of women in top UN positions:

“Despite adopting scores of pious resolutions on gender empowerment over the last 67 years, the 193-member General Assembly has failed to practice in its own backyard what it has vigourously preached to the outside world.
So far, the U.N’s highest policy making body has elected only three women as its president since 1946: Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India (1953), Angie Brooks of Liberia (1969) and Sheikha Haya Rasheed al-Khalifa of Bahrain (2006).
In a letter addressed to over 160 world leaders, who were at the United Nations last week, the New York-based Impact Leadership 21 has called for meaningful steps in establishing ‘the rights of women and the equality of their participation at all decision-making levels’.
More specifically, the letter makes a strong case for a woman as the next U.N. secretary-general (UNSG) when Ban Ki-moon finishes his current term at the end of 2016.”

Latest Development, October 7

In the latest news and analysis…

Two raids
France 24 reports that US claims regarding the legality of the twin military operations in Libya and Somalia over the weekend have left some experts unpersuaded:

“But while the Libya operation may have been permitted under the US’s own statutes, this does not make it acceptable under international law, argues Marcelo Kohen, a professor of international law at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.
‘The US operation in Libya is a clear violation of the fundamental norms of international law, namely the respect of a country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,’ he told FRANCE 24.
‘A state cannot remove a foreign citizen, from inside a foreign territory, to be judged in its own country while disregarding international law,’ he said. ‘You need permission. There are existing legal structures among states to address this kind of situation.’
Nevertheless there is little risk of the US facing legal repercussions for the military operation in Libya, said Kohen.
‘No mechanism exists that would allow Libya to go beyond a simple protest, while knowing that this will have no effect.’ ”

Day of tears
Agence France-Presse reports that the deaths of “hundreds of Africans” in a ship that sank off the Italian coast is unlikely to lead to improvements in EU immigration policy:

“For years now, the EU’s executive, the European Commission, has struggled to rouse interest in a single approach to the divisive issue of migration, time after time coming up against a brick wall of national self interest.
‘We need a new policy at the European level,’ said Michele Cercone, spokesman for home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem.
‘Migration policies are fragmented, inward-looking, left in the hands of member states and subject to domestic political considerations,’ he added. ‘Immigration is viewed as a threat, a problem, never as a potential benefit.’
The Commission wants to open new avenues of legal migration while also sharing the burden among all 28 member states as the floods of impoverished refugees wash up on the shores of southern Europe — in Italy, Malta, Greece, Spain and Cyprus.”

Oversight gaps
The Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights has released a report alleging that a Bangladeshi supplier for US retail clothing giants Gap and Old Navy is forcing workers to put in over 100 hours a week and “shortchanging” them by over $400,000 per year:

“The revelations come in the wake of a series of deadly factory fires and the Rana Plaza building collapse to which Gap has responded with promises to police its suppliers more conscientiously. ‘It is hard to believe that after decades of doing business in Bangladesh and claiming to monitor its suppliers closely, that Gap was unaware of its supplier’s practices and the horrifying conditions imposed upon the people sewing their clothing lines. The best one might say is that Gap is incompetent and failed to supervise its monitors adequately, but it is far more likely that Gap simply ignored and suppressed what its monitors reported. Either way, it calls into question the reliability of any of the company’s recent promises,’ said Charles Kernaghan, IGLHR’s director.”

Canadian spying
As a diplomatic row flares between Brazil and Canada, the Globe and Mail reports that the Canadian government’s habit of sharing intelligence with corporations “is not news”:

“In 2007, then-Natural Resources minister Gary Lunn told the International Pipeline Security Forum, an industry gathering, ‘We have sponsored over 200 industry representatives in obtaining Secret Level II security clearance. This enables us to share information with industry and their associations so that the appropriate security enhancement measures can be adopted.’
This initiative appears to have begun as a way to allow energy companies access to government intelligence on threats to infrastructure, but grew into a broader sharing of information on industry critics, according to Keith Stewart, the Climate and Energy Campaign Coordinator for the environmental organization Greenpeace, who has studied the question of who is getting access to this intelligence.”

Enemy’s enemy
The Washington Post reports that the CIA is “ramping up” its efforts to train Syrian rebels it considers moderate:

“The CIA’s mission, officials said, has been defined by the White House’s desire to seek a political settlement, a scenario that relies on an eventual stalemate among the warring factions rather than a clear victor. As a result, officials said, limits on the agency’s authorities enable it to provide enough support to help ensure that politically moderate, U.S.-supported militias don’t lose but not enough for them to win.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said the agency has sent additional paramilitary teams to secret bases in Jordan in recent weeks in a push to double the number of rebel fighters getting CIA instruction and weapons before being sent back to Syria.”

California driving
The Guardian reports that California has adopted new legislation allowing people who are in the US illegally to drive legally:

“ ‘This is only the first step. When a million people without their documents drive legally with respect to the state of California, the rest of this country will have to stand up and take notice,’ said [California Governor Jerry Brown], who officially signed the bill earlier Thursday. ‘No longer are undocumented people in the shadows, they are alive and well and respected in the state of California.’ ”

Free at last
The Associated Press reports that a Louisiana man, known as one third of the Angola Three, has died three days after being released from 41 years of solitary confinement:

“[George Kendall, one of Herman Wallace’s attorneys,] said his client has asked that, after his death, they continue to press the lawsuit challenging Wallace’s ‘unconstitutional confinement in solitary confinement for four decades’.
‘It is [Herman] Wallace’s hope that this litigation will help ensure that others, including his lifelong friend and fellow ‘Angola Three’ member, Albert Woodfox, do not continue to suffer such cruel and unusual confinement even after Mr Wallace is gone,” his legal team said in a written statement.”

Good intentions
Oxfam’s Ben Phillips argues that “posh white blokes”, even the well-intentioned ones, are “holding back the struggle for a fairer world”:

“The evidence is pretty damn conclusive. Posh white blokes aren’t just over-represented in the world of power and money – we’re over- represented in the leadership of the movements challenging that world.

Social movements exist to re-imagine the world and to challenge power relations, but their ability to do so outside is intimately connected with their ability to do so inside. Shifting power, so that decisions are increasingly shaped by people with lived experience of marginalisation, is no mere technical, instrumentalist fix. It goes to the roots of our purpose, it is central to the journey from ‘for’ to ‘with’ and ‘by’.”