Latest Developments, September 26

In the latest news and analysis…

World Cup slaves
The Guardian reports that migrant workers from Nepal have been dying “at a rate of almost one a day” as Qatar prepares for the 2022 FIFA World Cup:

“The investigation found evidence to suggest that thousands of Nepalese, who make up the single largest group of labourers in Qatar, face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery, as defined by the International Labour Organisation, during a building binge paving the way for 2022.
According to documents obtained from the Nepalese embassy in Doha, at least 44 workers died between 4 June and 8 August. More than half died of heart attacks, heart failure or workplace accidents.

The overall picture is of one of the richest nations exploiting one of the poorest to get ready for the world’s most popular sporting tournament.”

Iron politics
Le Monde reports that Western intelligence agencies believe French, South African and Israeli mercenaries working for a “diamond king” are planning a coup in Guinea:

“The CIA document refers to Beny Steinmetz Group Resources, owned by diamond magnate Beny Steinmetz, which is in open conflict with the Guinean government over rights to part of Simandou, the world’s biggest untapped iron ore deposit.

According to the American document quoted by Le Canard Enchaîné, an Israeli security consultant who works closely with BSG helped to form a political front organization, the National Party for Renewal, ‘without doubt funded by BSG’. The party drew up a ‘memo seized by Guinean investigators’ that pledges to maintain BSG’s Simandou mining rights if the party is part of a future government.” [Translated from the French.]

The J word
La Croix reports that France, eager to gain international support for military intervention in the Central African Republic despite opposition from the US and Rwanda, is talking up the threat of radical Islam:

“French diplomats have caught on and are no longer hesitating to talk of ‘sectarian’ confrontations between Muslims and Christians. François Hollande spoke repeatedly in such terms at the UN General Assembly. ‘You are sure to get the Americans’ attention’ if you talk about a risk of jihad, of conflict between Chirstians and Islamists,’ said CCFD-Terre Solidaire’s Zobel Behalal.” [Translated from the French.]

Toxic neighbour
The Economist reports on the tensions between a Canadian-owned gold mine and surrounding communities in the Dominican Republic:

“The investment was presented by both the government and [Pueblo Viejo Dominicana Corporation, owned by Barrick Gold and Goldcorp] as including a clean-up of Rosario’s toxic mess and the installation of systems to keep local watercourses clean. But residents are suing PVDC, claiming that the new mine is poisoning rivers, causing illnesses and the death of farm animals.

PVDC says that, together with local people, it conducts regular, public tests on water and air.
But community leaders say they have no knowledge of such tests. The company has not answered requests to provide the dates on which they were conducted. Tests by the environment ministry, released only after a freedom of information request, found the water in the Margajita river downstream from the mine to be highly acidic, as well as containing sulphides and copper above legal limits.”

Blunt talk
In a Democracy Now! interview, independent journalist Jeremy Scahill discusses US President Barack Obama’s “really naked declaration of imperialism” at the UN General Assembly this week:

“I mean, he pushed back against the Russians when he came out and said I believe America is an exceptional nation. He then defended the Gulf War and basically said that the motivation behind it was about oil and said we are going to continue to take such actions in pursuit of securing natural resources for ourselves and our allies. I mean, this was a pretty incredible and bold declaration he was making, especially given the way that he has tried to portray himself around the world.”

Unfair planet
The Washington Post’s Dylan Matthews writes that the world is 17 times more unequal than the US (which is, in turn, more unequal than Tanzania), with no relief in sight:

“It’s another reminder that, while extreme poverty in the United States is very real, the biggest inequalities, by far, are at the global level. ‘The political instruments for reducing income inequality between the richest 10 per cent and the poorest 40 per cent of the world’s population do not exist,’ author Lars Engberg-Pedersen notes. ‘Progressive taxation, provision of social security, etc. are country-level instruments, and official development assistance comes no way near addressing global inequality.’ ”

Financial complicity
The Oakland Institute’s Alice Martin-Prevel calls the World Bank “an accomplice in global land grabs” and questions some of its fundamental assumptions:

“The report rekindles the assumptions that land registration would somehow give farmers access to low-cost credit to invest in their parcels, improve their yields, and that Africa has abundant ‘surplus land’ which should be delineated and identified in order to be acquired by land developers. (In its 2012 report Our Land, Our Lives, Oxfam debunked the myth of Africa’s ‘unused land,’ showing that most areas targeted by land deals were previously used for small-scale farming, grazing and common resources exploitation by local communities.) Not only are these postulations yet to be proven, but they also assume that customary rights and traditional landownership are part of an underefficient system that needs transformation. The report’s recommendations thus include proposals such as ‘demarcating boundaries and registering communal rights,’ ‘organizing and formalizing communal groups,’ and ‘removing restrictions on land rental markets.’ ”

African drones
Peter Dörrie writes in Medium that “the future of drone warfare, both with and without actual bombs, is in Africa and the future is now”:

“Drones, both armed and unarmed, have likely been active from the U.S. military’s only permanent base on the continent at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti for some years, as well as from more recently established bases in neighboring Ethiopia. Niger is home to the latest deployment of drones to the continent and from their base at Niamey — the Reapers can theoretically cover much of western and central Africa.

While governments may rave about the potential of drones, Africans are well aware of the ambiguous role that Predators and Reapers have played in Pakistan. Especially armed drones — and inevitable civilians lives lost — will produce backlash on the streets and give armed groups an opportunity to style themselves as the underdog fighting against the evil empire.
Then there is also the slippery slope of mission creep.”

Latest Developments, May 10

In the latest news and analysis…

Bleeding a continent
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan argues that stopping the “plunder” of Africa by foreign investors will require multilateral efforts:

“The scale of the losses sustained by Africa is not widely recognized. Transfer pricing — the practice of shifting profits to lower tax jurisdictions — costs the continent $34 billion annually — more than the region receives in bilateral aid. Put differently, you could double aid by cutting this version of tax evasion. The extensive use made by foreign investors of offshore-registered companies operating from jurisdictions with minimal reporting requirements actively facilitates tax evasion. It is all but impossible for Africa’s understaffed and poorly resourced revenue authorities to track real profits through the maze of shell companies, holding companies and offshore entities used by investors.

It is time to draw back the veil of secrecy behind which too many companies operate. Every tax jurisdiction should be required to publicly disclose the full beneficial ownership structure of registered companies. Switzerland, Britain and the United States — all major conduits for offshore finance — should signal intent to clamp down on illicit financial flows.”

Orders to kill
The Guatemala Times reports that the security chief of a mine owned by Vancouver-based Tahoe Resources has been caught on tape demanding that protesters be killed:

“The information reveals Rotondo making several statements: ‘God dam dogs, they do not understand that the mine generates jobs’. ‘We must eliminate these animal pieces of shit’. ‘We can not allow people to establish resistance, another Puya no’. ‘Kill those sons of bitches’.

Rotondo was apprehended at the airport La Aurora, when he trying to flee the country. Wire tapping of conversations between him and his son reveal that he planned to leave Guatemala for a while, because ‘I ordered to kill some of these sons of Bitches.’ ”

Bad suits
Bloomberg reports on the boom in investor-state arbitration which one critic likens to a “a quiet, slow-moving coup d’état”:

“Arbitration clauses were originally included in treaties to deal with the nationalization or a company’s assets. Now arbitrators hear claims for lost business or costs stemming from public-health laws and environmental regulation and financial policies, with billions of dollars at stake.
In some instances, investors are even demanding that national laws or court judgments be overturned.

A record 62 treaty-based arbitration cases were filed last year, bringing the total to 480 since 2000, according to the United Nations Commission on Trade and Development. Before then, there were fewer than three a year dating to 1987, when a Hong Kong company brought the first known case over Sri Lanka’s destruction of a shrimp farm in a military operation against Tamil separatists.”

Court politics
The BBC reports that Kenya has asked the International Criminal Court to halt the trials of newly elected president Uhuru Kenyatta and deputy president William Ruto:

“The letter, sent last week, says the prosecutions are ‘neither impartial nor independent’ and could destabilise Kenya.
The UN Security Council is able to defer ICC cases for up to 12 months.
The deferral can be renewed indefinitely, but the Security Council cannot order the court to drop a case.”

Imperial crimes
Author Pankaj Mishra discusses Britain’s apparent “collective need to forget crimes and disasters” that occurred in the time of Empire:

“Astonishingly, British imperialism, seen for decades by western scholars and anticolonial leaders alike as a racist, illegitimate and often predatory despotism, came to be repackaged in our own time as a benediction that, in [Niall] Ferguson’s words, ‘undeniably pioneered free trade, free capital movements and, with the abolition of slavery, free labour’. Andrew Roberts, a leading mid-Atlanticist, also made the British empire seem like an American neocon wet dream in its alleged boosting of ‘free trade, free mobility of capital … low domestic taxation and spending and ‘gentlemanly’ capitalism’.
Never mind that free trade, introduced to Asia through gunboats, destroyed nascent industry in conquered countries, that ‘free’ capital mostly went to the white settler states of Australia and Canada, that indentured rather than ‘free’ labour replaced slavery, and that laissez faire capitalism, which condemned millions to early death in famines, was anything but gentlemanly.”

Toxic environments
Inter Press Service reports on new evidence suggesting the health impacts of toxic waste in poor countries are “on par” with those of malaria:

“Toxic waste sites in 31 countries are damaging the brains of nearly 800,000 children and impairing the health of millions of people in the developing world, two new studies have found.

Toxic sites ‘fly under the radar’ in terms of public health awareness and action. Little research has been done on the health impacts of chemical pollutants in developing countries.”

Syrian agenda
The National reports a Syrian rebel commander’s account of US attempts late last year to pit Syria’s insurgents against one another:

“The Americans began discussing the possibility of drone strikes on [Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat] Al Nusra camps inside Syria and tried to enlist the rebels to fight their fellow insurgents.

‘I’m not going to lie to you. We’d prefer you fight Al Nusra now, and then fight Assad’s army. You should kill these Nusra people. We’ll do it if you don’t,’ the rebel leader quoted the officer as saying.

‘They [foreign governments] are not fighting for the same things as us,’ [the rebel leader] said. ‘Syrians are fighting for our freedom, while they just want us to bleed to death fighting each other.’ ”

Toothless watchdog
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting argues that many mainstream US media outlets are failing once again “to treat [weapons of mass destruction] claims with the skepticism they deserve”:

“Seeing public reticence for another war as a ‘problem’ provides a revealing glimpse into the mindset of so many pundits, who are once again rallying in support of U.S. military action based on sketchy reports about weapons of mass destruction.”

Latest Developments, May 24

In the latest news and analysis…

Undue influence
Deutsche Welle reports that the World Health Organization, which is holding its annual general assembly this week, is coming under fire for the growing influence of the pharmaceutical industry and private donors over its policies.
“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a prime example. With contributions of about US $220 million, the foundation is the second largest donor to WHO’s current budget – after the United States and before the United Kingdom in third place. The Gates foundation generates its income mainly from fixed assets.
‘The lion’s share of the $25 billion that Gates was able to invest in health programs around the world in the past 10 years stemmed from returns from well-known companies in the chemical, pharmaceutical and food industries whose business practices often run counter to global health efforts,’ [Medico International’s Thomas] Gebauer said.
Gates has also made a fortune from defending intellectual property rights, according to Gebauer. His foundation prefers to support patented medicines and vaccines instead of promoting freely accessible and less expensive generic products.”

R&D pact
Médecins Sans Frontières has called on the world’s health ministers to start drawing up a binding agreement that would encourage research and development for medical needs in poor countries.
“Today’s system for medical R&D is flawed, in that it is predominantly driven by commercial rewards rather than health priorities. This means that research is steered towards areas that are the most profitable, leaving fundamental medical needs – particularly those that disproportionately affect developing countries like tropical diseases or tuberculosis – unaddressed.

A convention would bring significant advantages. It would create an evidence-based process to define priorities. Signatory countries would then be bound to invest towards addressing those priorities. Importantly, any research funded thanks to the convention would deliver accessible and affordable products; for example, by ensuring price and supply commitments, adopting flexible licensing policies for developers, and supporting open innovation that would make knowledge available to others.”

Migrant cancer
Haaretz reports on violent protests and inflammatory rhetoric against illegal African immigrants in Tel Aviv.
“In a speech to the demonstrators, [Member of Knesset Miri] Regev said called the illegal migrants a ‘cancer in our body,’ and promised to do everything ‘in order to bring them back to where they belong.’
[MK] Danny Danon, who heads a lobby group which seeks to deal with the issue of illegal immigration said that the only solution to the problem is to ‘begin talking about expulsion.’
‘We must expel the infiltrators from Israel. We should not be afraid to say the words “expulsion now.”’ ”

Fast-food deforestation
Mongabay reports on a new Greenpeace investigation that has found fast-food giant KFC uses packaging made partly – sometimes more than 50 percent – from Indonesian rainforest fibres.
“It isn’t the first time KFC has been criticized for its fiber sourcing practices. Campaigners — including Cole Rasenberger, a pre-teen activist — have targeted the company for using packaging from endangered forests in the United States.
But the focus of the new Greenpeace report is KFC’s relationship with [Asia Pulp & Paper], which has suffered waves of customer defections in recent years due to its environmental record. APP has cleared hundreds of thousands of hectares of rainforest and peatlands in Riau and Jambi, destroying critical habitat for endangered wildlife including Sumatran tigers, elephants, and orangutans.”

Free trade impacts
The Canadian Council for International Co-operation’s Brittany Lambert and Common Frontiers’ Raul Burbano argue the Canadian government “has shirked its responsibility” to assess the human rights impacts of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement.
“The trade deal came into force in August 2011 after being stalled in Parliament for nearly three years due to widespread concern that it could exacerbate existing human rights violations in Colombia.
The compromise that allowed the deal to pass was a treaty requiring both governments to report annually on the free trade agreement’s human rights impacts. The inclusion of such a provision in a trade deal is a global precedent, one touted by the Harper government as a meaningful way to ensure human rights accountability in trade with Colombia.”

OpenForum, Day 2
The Daily Maverick provides another roundup of discussions held at the Open Society’s “Money, Power & Sex” conference in Cape Town, with the second day’s focus being on culture.
“Where arguments about African identity flourish, the issue of language can’t be far behind – and so it proved. [Kenyan writer Binyavanga] Wainaina opened this can of worms, saying that he wrote in English, because ‘English just so happened, for all the reasons we all know. I am keen to domesticate it.’
But indigenous languages are not going away, he said, and ‘we will not be free to produce or create until we live full lives in our own languages.’ He pointed to the irony of the fact that it is the African elites – ‘we who have won scholarships’ – who have continued to impose English on the continent, and ‘it hasn’t worked.’

[South African singer Simphiwe] Dana said that to preserve all languages was impossible, which is why a continental language was necessary. If English is that language, she said, ‘We have to admit defeat. It’s over. Then they have won. Because culture and identity are maintained in our languages.’ ”

Expanding communities
In a rabble.ca interview, UC Berkeley’s Judith Butler discusses the increasing cross-fertilization of popular protest.
“Outside of our local groups or identity-based communities, we are figuring out what is our obligation to the stranger. Our commonality, whether it is anti-racism or radical democratic ideals, insists that we have obligations to one another that are not based on shared language or religion or even beliefs about humanity. Views do not have to be the same to sense that something is profoundly unjust and have strong ties of solidarity.”

The future we want
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon writes that knowing “we can not continue to burn and consume our way to prosperity” has still not led us to embrace sustainable development.
“Clearly, the old economic model is breaking down. In too many places, growth has stalled. Jobs are lagging. Gaps are growing between rich and poor, and we see alarming scarcities of food, fuel and the natural resources on which civilization depends.

Because so many of today’s challenges are global, they demand a global response — collective power exercised in powerful partnership. Now is not the moment for narrow squabbling. This is a moment for world leaders and their people to unite in common purpose around a shared vision of our common future — the future we want.”

Latest Developments, May 2

In the latest news and analysis…

May Day
The Christian Science Monitor offers an overview of May Day demonstrations around the world.
“In Argentina, small explosion went off outside the EU headquarters in Buenos Aires before dawn, breaking a few windows, but there were no injuries and no one was arrested.
Earlier, thousands of workers protested in the Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan and other Asian nations, demanding wage hikes. They said their take-home pay could not keep up with rising food, energy and housing prices and school fees.
An unemployed father of six set himself on fire in southern Pakistan in an apparent attempt to kill himself because he was mired in poverty, according to police officer Nek Mohammed.”

Food price fear
The Financial Times reports that “industry experts” are predicting food prices will continue to rise over the next two years, though “the surge is unlikely to mirror” the 2007-08 crisis that saw rioting in cities around the world.
“The cost of wheat and rice, the two most important agricultural commodities for global food security because of their status as a staple for billions of people in southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, remains stable thanks in large part to bumper crops over the past few years.

Instead, the main concern centres on the price of oilseeds, such as soyabeans, rapeseed and canola, and corn.”

Short-lived peace
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism provides a roundup of US drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia during April.
“CIA drone strikes were on hold for most of the month in Pakistan, as Islamabad continued to insist that the US end the strikes after eight years of bombing.

On April 29 the pause ended when a drone attacked a former school in Miranshah, North Waziristan. Up to six alleged ‘foreign’ militants reportedly died. Pakistan condemned the attack in particularly strong terms, describing it as ‘in total contravention of international law and established norms of interstate relations.’ ”

Unmanned outlaws
Amnesty International’s Tom Parker contests the Obama administration’s claims that drones kill 40 militants for every civilian casualty and that their use is legal.
“In short, we know that [White House counterterrorism adviser John] Brennan’s 40-to-1 metric was, at best, wrong and, at worst, a deliberate falsehood.
We know that drones do kill militants but they also kill innocent civilians.
We know that they kill both of them outside the framework of any recognized international law.
We also know that yesterday’s speech, which masqueraded as an exercise in transparency, was in fact anything but.”

Wal-Mart vote
The New York Times reports that New York City’s pension funds have announced their intention to vote against five Wal-Mart directors seeking re-election at next month’s annual shareholder meeting, due to an alleged bribery cover-up in Mexico.
“ ‘In its relentless drive for profit and expansion, Wal-Mart has paid millions to settle charges that it violated child labor laws and exploited immigrants,’ [New York City comptroller John C. Liu] said Monday, in announcing the decision to vote against the company’s directors. ‘Now we learn that not only did Wal-Mart allegedly bribe its way through Mexico, but may have tried to cover up the corruption. A select few Wal-Mart executives may benefit in the short term, but the company, its share owners and everyone else lose in the long run.’ ”

Geography of domination
Columbia University’s Hamid Dabashi pleads for the US and its allies to step back and give former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan a chance to find a diplomatic resolution to the violence in Syria.
“[Annan] is the only one in a position to give the ruling regime (not just Bashar al-Assad) a way out of this bloody cul de sac. Unconditional surrender should never be the ruling paradigms in these or any other conflict resolution – not because Gaddafi then or Assad now deserves a face-saving strategy, but because Libyan and Syrian people need it for their future.
What ultimately prevents that possibility is not just the quagmire of violence in Syria. It is the imaginative geography of world politics that has historically written Asia, Africa, and Latin America out of the vital decisions affecting the globe. The US and EU have assumed disproportionate power of decision-making in global affairs and the UN is simply a diplomatic extension of their warmongerings. It is that grotesque geography of imperial domination that must be once and for all dismantled for the world determined to liberate itself, to begin to see itself.”

Agrarian crisis
The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology’s Vandana Shiva argues the orthodox understanding of the economic concept of productivity lies at the root of today’s agricultural, ecological and unemployment crises.
“An artificial ‘production boundary’ was created to measure Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The production boundary defined work and production for sustenance as non-production and non-work – ‘if you produce what you consume, then you don’t produce’. In one fell swoop, nature’s work in providing goods and services disappeared. The production and work of sustenance economies disappeared, the work of hundreds of millions of women disappeared.

The false measure of productivity selects one output from diverse outputs – the single commodity to be produced for the market, and one input from diverse inputs – labour.”

Change of diet
In a Q&A with Inter Press Service, Worldwatch Institute’s Danielle Nierenberg calls for “a restructuring of the entire food system.”
“Factory farming or concentrated operations, this agricultural system really started here in the U.S. and in Europe, (and) is now spreading to the Philippines, Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia. The environmental, public health and animal welfare impact of this is really extreme. You have huge amounts of waste that can’t be utilised by farmlands, surface fertiliser is becoming toxic waste, there’s tropical water pollution, surface water pollution.

We really need to make sure that agriculture is something that sustains and not just some extractive industry.”

Insouciance of war
Author Daniel Richler laments the extent to which people living in a “nation at war” can be almost totally unaffected by the horrors playing out on distant battlefields.
“Is it arrogant to feel this way? To want, in one of these moments, the hockey crowd with their plastic mugs of beer and their popcorn standing for the troops, the families in attendance along the ‘Highway of Heroes’ or others at a policeman’s funeral not to stand, in silence, hands over their hearts in postures received from the movies, to wail inconsolably and furiously – and to riot, damn it, for lost lives rather than a sports result? That would bust the cliché – once, at least, before that scene, too, of thousands outraged at war’s stupidity became a standard part of the war story’s tired repertoire and was repeated, again.”

Latest Developments, February 6

Apologies for the mini hiatus. Couldn’t be helped, unfortunately. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

In the latest news and analysis…

Recipient charity
The Telegraph reports on new evidence suggesting British aid to India is more important to the donor than to the recipient who dismissed the so-called assistance as “a peanut in our total development exercises.”
“According to a leaked memo, the foreign minister, Nirumpama Rao, proposed ‘not to avail [of] any further DFID [British] assistance with effect from 1st April 2011,’ because of the ‘negative publicity of Indian poverty promoted by DFID’.
But officials at DFID, Britain’s Department for International Development, told the Indians that cancelling the programme would cause ‘grave political embarrassment’ to Britain, according to sources in Delhi.”

Earth 2.0
The Guardian reports on growing concerns that a small group of scientists advocating geoengineering and powerful backers such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson could have “a disproportionate effect” on decisions regarding the appropriate limits to impose on projects offering planet change as a solution to climate change.
“ ‘We will need to protect ourselves from vested interests [and] be sure that choices are not influenced by parties who might make significant amounts of money through a choice to modify climate, especially using proprietary intellectual property,’ said Jane Long, director at large for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the US, in a paper delivered to a recent geoengineering conference on ethics.
‘The stakes are very high and scientists are not the best people to deal with the social, ethical or political issues that geoengineering raises,’ said Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace. ‘The idea that a self-selected group should have so much influence is bizarre.’ ”

Reinforcing bad behaviour
The Guardian also reports Swiss-based commodities giant Glencore was the World Food Programme’s biggest wheat supplier over the past eight months in spite of the UN agency’s pledge to buy from “very poor farmers” and allegations that the kind of speculation of which Glencore is accused increases the likelihood of food crises.
“Glencore admitted that it bet on a rising wheat price after drought in Russia, according to investment bank UBS. “[Glencore’s] agricultural team received very timely reports from Russia farm assets that growing conditions were deteriorating aggressively in the spring and summer of 2010, as the Russian drought set in … This put it in a position to make proprietary trades going long on wheat and corn,” UBS said in a report to potential investors, disclosed by the Financial Times.
On 3 August 2010 the head of Glencore’s Russian grain business, Yury Ognev, urged Moscow to ban grain exports, according to the UBS report. Two days later Russian authorities banned wheat exports, which forced prices up by 15% in two days.”

Seed emergency
The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology’s Vandana Shiva argues seed patenting has led to huge profits for international biotech corporations but poverty, hunger and even death for India’s farmers.
“As a farmer’s seed supply is eroded, and farmers become dependent on patented GMO seed, the result is debt. India, the home of cotton, has lost its cotton seed diversity and cotton seed sovereignty. Some 95 per cent of the country’s cotton seed is now controlled by Monsanto – and the debt trap created by being forced to buy seed every year – with royalty payments – has pushed hundreds of thousands of farmers to suicide; of the 250,000 farmer suicides, the majority are in the cotton belt.”

Cuts both ways
In arguing the international community must come together to embrace sustainable development, South African President Jacob Zuma and Finnish President Tarja Halonen, who are co-chairs of the UN High-level Panel on Global Sustainability, recognize representative democracy’s potential to provide both hope and of challenges.
“The tyranny of the urgent is never more absolute than during tough times. We need to place long-term thinking above short-term demands, both in the marketplace and at the polling place.”

Central bank capture
Columbia University’s Joseph Stiglitz appears baffled and horrified by the European Central Bank’s opposition to a “deep involuntary restructuring” of Greece’s sovereign debt.
“The final oddity of the ECB’s stance concerns democratic governance. Deciding whether a credit event has occurred is left to a secret committee of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, an industry group that has a vested interest in the outcome. If news reports are correct, some members of the committee have been using their position to promote more accommodative negotiating positions. But it seems unconscionable that the ECB would delegate to a secret committee of self-interested market participants the right to determine what is an acceptable debt restructuring.

The ECB’s behavior should not be surprising: as we have seen elsewhere, institutions that are not democratically accountable tend to be captured by special interests. That was true before 2008; unfortunately for Europe – and for the global economy – the problem has not been adequately addressed since then.”

Third way
Columbia University’s Joseph Massad calls for the international community to avoid the false choice between Syrian fascism and US imperialism.
“The monumental loss of Iraqi lives and the destruction of their country as well as the ongoing destruction and killings in Libya belie the Syrian exile opposition’s call for imperial invasion of Syria as the way to peace, democracy and to stop the ongoing carnage in the country.

Unlike Fred Halliday and his pro-imperialist Arab and non-Arab acolytes, we need never choose between imperialism and fascism; we must unequivocally opt for the third choice, which has proven its efficacy historically and is much less costly no matter the sacrifices it requires: fighting against domestic despotism and US imperialism simultaneously (and the two have been in most cases one and the same force), and supporting home-grown struggles for democratic transformation and social justice that are not financed and controlled by the oil tyrannies of the Gulf and their US imperial master.”